Prospect Trends — Turning Around Flagging Careers

Hafner has fanned 12.8 hitters per nine innings.

The Pirates have several minor leaguers working to revive stalled careers.  Surprisingly, the organization now has better depth in hitters than pitchers at the upper levels.  Or maybe I should say “healthy pitchers.”

The Good

Chase d’Arnaud, SS (AAA):  It’s a step forward for d’Arnaud just to be back on the field, but he’s hit well since returning.  That’s good to see, because hitters often take extended periods of time, even after returning to action, to recover from hand injuries.  D’Arnaud is hitting 288/373/485 with nine walks and 11 strikeouts in 16 games.  Even more importantly, the addition of another infielder probably made the Pirates feel comfortable parting ways with John McDonald, whose presence on the roster served no apparent purpose.

Andrew Lambo, OF (AAA):  Lambo deserves kudos just for being in AAA.  After flopping at that level in 2011 and missing most of 2012 with an injury, he made his sixth trip to AA to open this season.  He seemed doomed to becoming an Altoona institution, but a power surge brought him a promotion.  His next goal will be to give the Pirates a difficult roster decision prior to the Rule 5 draft.

Mel Rojas, Jr., OF (AA):  Rojas was very raw and toolsy when the Pirates drafted him, but has never capitalized on his perceived ability.  After a slow start this year, his prospect days appeared to be a thing of the past.  He’s come around some, though, with his monthly OPS going from .628 in April to .736 in May to .958 in nine June games.  He still has a ways to go, but his 263/323/406 line is at least respectable.

Willy Garcia, OF (High A):  Garcia got off to a dismal start at Bradenton, posting an OPS of .538 and .667 in April and May.  In June, though, he’s hitting 324/361/765, with four HRs in his last nine games.  There’s still the matter of his 9:74 BB:K ratio.  If he can’t stop swinging at bad pitches, he’ll get eaten alive in AA.

Ryan Hafner, RHP (Low A):  The 6’6″ Hafner easily fits the Pirates’ preferred model of tall, projectable RHPs.  He had a largely disastrous 2012 season, though, walking 75 in 74 innings and striking out fewer than half as many as he walked.  Hafner added a slider to his repertoire for 2013 and the new pitch, along with a move to the bullpen, seems to be paying dividends.  He’s fanned 53 in 37.1 IP and opponents are hitting just .182 against him.

The Bad

Andy Oliver, LHP (AAA):  Superficially, Oliver is having a good year.  His ERA is 3.27, he’s fanned 72 in 66 innings, opponents are hitting .200 against him.  But he’s walked 57 and the problem is getting worse rather than better.  He hasn’t walked fewer than four in a start since April, and he’s totaled 34 free passes in his last 27.2 IP.  Even worse, he’s doing this at a time when the Pirates are in need of a starter to replace A.J. Burnett.  Oliver’s probably taken himself out of the running for that role.

Bradenton Starters:  The Marauders have several pitchers in their rotation who came into the season with at least a decent chance of establishing themselves as prospects.  Unfortunately, Adrian Sampson (5.82 ERA, .315 opponents’ average), Robby Rowland (4.34 ERA) and Zack Dodson (5.23 ERA) aren’t stepping forward.  All three are striking out only a little above one batter every two innings.  Fortunately, they’re all still young enough (Dodson is 22, the other two are 21) to turn things around.

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Wilbur Miller joined the site in July 2010. He has long been known for his excellent Player Profiles, which he brought to the site in February 2011, combining them with the existing Pirates Prospects Player Pages. Wilbur maintains the player pages section of the site, and provides regular articles to the main portion of the site, including a weekly Prospects Trend piece, featuring the best and worst prospects from the previous week.

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Does Tony Sanchez Have a Throwing Problem?

  • Susanne Klich Langford

    One more thing on d’Arnaud. He had his first error in 15 games at SS at Indy last night. Less errors and a better BB:K ratio could mean a serviceable player after all.

    – Fred Langford

    • Lee Young


  • Susanne Klich Langford

    Lambo has a whopping 1750 plate appearances at AA & AAA in his career. Combine that with at least two AZFL appearances (…or was it 3?) and I think he is close to a finished product. It’s not like his game is going to evolve a lot more after that many upper level ABs. I think this year he has been healthy and has managed not to get suspended so he hopefully is finally maturing. It is probably a shock to some that he is still only 24. He played in AA at 19. I definitely think he can be something for us. Maybe a Garret Jones type. We will see him in Sept barring injury and he will have to be a 40 man decision. Definitely a guy that someone could grab and have be a 5th OF.

  • Susanne Klich Langford

    Rojas’ OPS so far in his career: .559, .646, .657, .729…nothing impressive but slow and steady improvement. I don’t think he is anything special but he might be around a 5 or so on the scouting scale at every skill. He does a little bit of everything decently and his improvements at his first shot at the AA level show he is not overmatched. I thought he might stall out at Altoona but he has really played well the last month or so.

    – Fred Langford

    • WTM

      Scouting 5s —

      Yeah, that’s about right. He’s not light years away and it helps that he can play any OF spot. Arm is probably better than 5.

  • leadoff

    d’Arnaud is an energy type player and would fit in Pittsburgh at this point in time, probably better than Inge, but the problem with Inge is that he did very poorly 3/4 of the year last year and the last quarter he was good, seems he is taking the same course this year. Should the Pirates gamble that Inge will get it together like he did at the end of last year?

    • Monkshot

      I was wondering the same thing in respect to Inge. I think Hurdle loves him way too much for him to be released.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD

    I would cut or send down McKemry, Inge, and Zagurski – replace with d’Arnaud, Sanchez, and Welker (or Black if he is healthy).

    I am happy for guys like Lambo and Haffner – really rooting for both of them to make it.

    Is it safe to say that JVR is a non-prospect now? How about Tim Alderson – any hope for him to still become a successful MLB pitcher, even if its in the bullpen?

    • Stephen Brooks

      You’ll get your wish on Zagurski, probably tomorrow.

      Fort has an option remaining, so he could go down, but I don’t think it’s imminent. If Sanchez keeps hitting .300 with power by the All Star Break, I could see it.

      Inge is a good luck charm, he’s not going anywhere.

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