First Pitch: How Are Last Month’s Promoted Prospects Doing at New Levels?

About a month ago the Pirates made a ton of promotions throughout the minor league system. The promotions saw several prospects moving up in the system, plus the 2013 debut of Luis Heredia in West Virginia.

With about a month in the books for all of these moves, now would be a good time to get some first impressions. None of these guys have accumulated enough playing time to the point where their stats say a lot about their potential. Gregory Polanco is off to a good start, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to move up. Stetson Allie is off to a bad start, but that doesn’t mean he’s a bust. There’s really no rhyme or reason as to who stays hot after a promotion, and who starts off slow before adjusting to the level.

Since we do have a month in the books on these promotions, plus two months left in the minor league season, I thought I’d take a look at how each player was performing, along with some thoughts on where each player could end up by the end of the year and what they have to do to get there.

Stolmy Pimentel – 2.88 ERA in 25 IP, 21:9 K/BB ratio

Pimentel has had three great starts and one horrible start. That’s kind of how he started the year with Altoona, although pretty much every start at the beginning of the year was great, followed by a month long slide of horrible starts. I could see him being an option out of the bullpen in September, and maybe even serving as an emergency starter before that if he’s needed and if he has more good starts than bad ones.

Andrew Lambo – .302/.384/.628, 7 HR in 86 AB

Lambo hasn’t missed a beat since his promotion. In fact, he’s improved over his Altoona numbers. He had a .910 OPS in Altoona, and a 1.012 OPS with Indianapolis. That’s important, since his Altoona numbers were clouded by the fact he had spent so much time at the level. He’s going to need more time in Triple-A to show that this is legit. That should coincide with the amount of time the Pirates need to give Jose Tabata to see if he can be the answer in right field.

Gregory Polanco is off to a good start in Altoona.

Gregory Polanco is off to a good start in Altoona.

Gregory Polanco – .319/.397/.464, 2 HR in 69 AB

Polanco is starting to heat up. In the month of July he is 8-for-19 with a double and a homer. He has also carried his advanced plate patience over to Double-A, with an 8:11 BB/K ratio. Polanco is an advanced hitter and doesn’t have much to work on, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t need time against upper level pitching. He should be given at least until September before being moved up to Indianapolis. That would line up with Indianapolis and their expected playoff games. As for whether he would be an option for the majors this year, I’ve had a few people point out that Yasiel Puig was promoted from Double-A to the majors. Puig also had a .313 average, a .982 OPS and eight homers in 147 at-bats. If Polanco does that, and if right field is still an issue in September, then we might be able to revisit that topic. I’d much rather see Andrew Lambo get a shot in the short-term.

Nick Kingham – 3.86 ERA in 25.2 IP, 24:6 K/BB ratio

It was almost a month ago that Kingham was promoted, and so far he’s doing great. He had a bad start tonight, but his start in Altoona is very similar to his start with Bradenton. With the Marauders he had a 3.86 ERA in 21 innings over his first four starts with a 20:4 K/BB ratio. He eventually started to dominate, and had a 2.10 ERA in 30 innings over his last five starts, with a 26:5 K/BB ratio. If he does the same through July and August, I could see Kingham in Indianapolis by the end of the year.

Eliecer Navarro – 6.14 ERA in 22 IP, 16:11 K/BB ratio

Navarro is off to a rough start with Altoona after dominating in Bradenton. He’s a guy who I thought was maxed out at high-A, and wouldn’t do much beyond the level. The biggest concern is that he has 11 walks in 22 innings after 13 walks in 69.1 innings. There is no one pushing him out of the rotation, so he should continue to get opportunities to turn things around.

Stetson Allie – .236/.338/.400, 1 HR in 55 AB

Allie is off to a slow start in Bradenton after being on fire to start the year in West Virginia. When he’s hitting the ball, he’s hitting the ball hard, with six doubles and a homer. The downside is that he’s striking out way too much, with 23 strikeouts in 55 at-bats. I wouldn’t write him off due to a slow start. It’s more common for a guy to jump to a new level and have a slow adjustment than it is for a guy to carry over his hot hitting from one level to the next. He’s got a five game hitting streak with three doubles and a homer in that span, so hopefully that’s a sign that he is heating up.

Joely Rodriguez – 2.93 ERA in 15.1 IP, 6:5 K/BB ratio

Rodriguez hasn’t been bad from a runs perspective, but he hasn’t really been dominant with a lot of strikeouts. He is getting a lot of ground ball outs, and the walks are still at a reasonable rate. I’ve only seen him once since he was promoted, and will see him a second time tomorrow.

Orlando Castro – 6.00 ERA in 15 IP, 11:6 K/BB ratio

Castro and Rodriguez were both dominating in low-A, with Castro having the better numbers. I liked Rodriguez better because I felt he had the stuff needed to have success in higher levels, while Castro was benefitting from good command, which wouldn’t play in the higher levels. I don’t want to say that Castro’s rough start is a sign that he will fade out in high-A. I still like him more than most lefties who rely on command. I’d chalk this up more to a slow start. Like Rodriguez, I’ve only seen Castro once since he was promoted, and should see him again on Monday.

Luis Heredia – 1.93 ERA in 14 IP, 11:9 K/BB ratio

Heredia has gotten off to a good start. There are encouraging signs and there are warning signs. The encouraging thing is that he’s got a low ERA and has more strikeouts this year. He made the switch to a slider last year in an attempt to get more strikeouts. So far it is working with a 7.1 K/9, compared to a 5.4 K/9 in the NYPL last year. The big warning sign is that he has nine walks in 14 innings. Commanding his pitches is going to be a big issue, as it is with all young pitchers. He’s like Tyler Glasnow in that regard, except he’s not striking out two batters per inning like Glasnow.

Links and Notes

**Download the newest episode of the Pirates Prospects Podcast: P3 Episode 12: Prospect Analysis on Jameson Taillon, Luis Heredia, and Tyler Glasnow. Also includes an interview with 2013 first round pick Reese McGuire.

**The newest episode of the Pirates Roundtable is up. This week we had Jim Rosati from North Side Notch, Ed Giles from In Clemente Weather, and David Manel of Bucs Dugout stopped by.

**2013 Pittsburgh Pirates Draft Pick Signing Tracker.

**2013 Pittsburgh Pirates International Signing Tracker.

Prospects

**The Upcoming Rule 5 and Minor League Free Agency Eligible Players.

**Prospect Watch: Allie Hits a Walk Off HR; Jamestown Scores 29 Runs in a DH.

**Minor League Schedule: Top Prospects Set For Sunday.

**DSL Prospect Watch: Both Win Streaks Snapped, Rodriguez Pitches Gem.

**Pirates Agree With 11th Round Pick Erich Weiss.

Pirates

**McCutchen, Grilli, Locke, Alvarez Named to All-Star Game.

**Pirates Offense Goes Flat Again in 4-1 Loss to Cubs.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

Share This Post On
  • emjayinTN

    Tim: I like Gregory Polanco a lot, as do you in picking him as our No. 3 Prospect for 2013 behind only Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon. He had a monster year at Lo A, continued that strong all around play at Hi A, and is now 70 AB’s into AA and continuing the strong overall play. Comparing him to Yasiel Puig is a positive for him, because he is only 21 as compared to Puig who is 22. The difference in physical size is much greater – Puig is 6’3″, 240 while Polanco is 6’4″ 175. Polanco received a $75,000 Bonus while Puig received a 6 year $42 mil contract in 2012 that included a $12 mil signing bonus. That is just a little higher than the contract of Andrew McCutchen! The Dodgers have $16 mil invested in Puig already, so you can see he was an absolute lock to skip AAA and get to MLB immediately. I am also one of those folks who think that AAA is just a refinement stop, or, in today’s world of MLB contracts, a 2 month stay before being moved up to the majors. That way, the player cannot achieve a year of service that first year, which extends the years of control. If he continues to mature at AA, I think the Pirates will move Polanco up to PNC in Sep and then start him at AAA for his first 2 months in 2014. He is an excellent defensive OF with great speed – I think he currently has 25 + SB’s so far this year, and still has 15-20 HR power with an excellent grasp of the strike zone. Eventually, (possibly June 2014) we could see an OF of Starling Marte batting 1st, Gregory Polanco batting 2nd, and Andrew McCutchen batting 3rd.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      “Comparing him to Yasiel Puig is a positive for him”

      I want to stress one thing very clearly. I am not comparing Polanco to Puig. At all. I don’t do player comps, and I wouldn’t make one like this.

      The reason I brought up Puig is stated above. I keep getting comments about how he made the jump to the majors from Double-A. I pointed out his numbers above as something Polanco would have to get to consider that jump. Zero comparisons.

      • BostonsCommon

        Re: player comps…. Do you really not do them, or just prefer to shy away be a use if the expectations they create, good or bad? That said, for those who haven’t seen him play, including me, it would be nice to have one regarding Polanco… We looking at a Dominic Brown type? Is he really that skinny, I thought we’d heard that he’d finally added weight to his frame and that’s where the power was coming from. I was thinking he was closer to 225 than 175.

        • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

          I don’t do them. Why say that a player is only limited to being like one other player?

          If I get a player comp, I’ll report it. But I don’t see much value in them and I don’t seek them out. I’d rather give an estimate of what a player can do and let you draw your own conclusions.

        • Kevin_Young

          I don’t care about comps either, but Dominic Brown type he is not

      • emjayinTN

        OK, I’ll own it. I had never even thought of the two of them in a comparison, but your article caused me to do some further research into Puig, and I drew the conclusions and comparisons all on my own. And it made me appreciate Polanco even more than I already had. Just listened to Curt Schilling talking about Puig’s inability to be selective, and pitchers should not even try to get him out by throwing strikes.

  • Heckler1

    To say that Stetson Allie’s performance has been disappointment since he arrived here in Bradenton is being kind. His much-ballyhooed arrival seemed to fall flat almost from his first at-bat and things have not imporved demonstrably since then. I some times wonder if kids who are touted so intensely aren’t being expected to over produce from the get-go. Look at how Steven Strausburg has fallen flat on his face after all the hype about him being a wonder-kid. The same may be in play with Stetson – a kid trying to live up to lofty expectations. I would suggest that to reduce some of the pressure on him to perform that Pirate Prospects and other “expert” analysis lay off the speculation of where these kids are going. Report facts – 8 doubles, 1 home run, 22Ks. and leave it at that. Putting it in print that his performance is not what everyone expects only adds to the pressure. You’re not helping.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      First of all, Strasburg has a 2.24 ERA this year, and a 2.74 ERA in 351 innings in his career. If that is the definition of “fallen flat on his face”, then I hope Gerrit Cole falls flat on his face too.

      Second, are you suggesting that it’s my fault Allie is struggling? The irony of your comments is that when Allie was crushing low-A, I kept pointing to the strikeouts and saying he could struggle in higher levels. And then it was “you need to believe in him”. Now it’s “you’re adding too much pressure”.

      I’m going to do my job, which is analyzing the minor league system. I’m not going to make an exception for anyone when doing that. If I compromise what I do, then the quality of my site goes down, and that hurts my career. I have no plans of doing that out of the hopes that if I don’t provide any analysis on one player, he will have a better career. That’s kind of ridiculous.

    • https://profiles.google.com/113824087346904673399 Dom DiDominic

      Hun? Are these comments to live up to your ‘Heckler’ name?

  • jaygray007

    hmmm. Name’s Heckler. Maybe that means he’s just trolling.

    I hope he’s trolling…

    • jaygray007

      dang it i was just beat by Dom on the “Heckler” name analysis

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      I didn’t even notice the name. I read the comments in the dashboard, and don’t usually look over to the name column.

  • http://www.finner.smugmug.com finner68

    It is nice to see the Farm System doing so well. It is nice to see so many potential “bats”. Too early to say what Allie is going to be but he has put a good effort in so far. Looking forward to Polanco, Hansen, Bell , etc. I would love to see Lambo get a chance in right but that is Tabta’s job to lose. Snider didn’t do anything to hold it. I would prefer to see a platoon in left at this point.