Normally there are certain time periods for a mass wave of minor league promotions. There’s the pre-season, where players start at new levels. The next wave comes around the middle of June, which is the half way point for the five month minor league season. There can be individual promotions here and there surrounding that period, but you don’t see those chain reaction moves where everyone is shifting up a level until mid-season. After that, the only other mass-wave period for promotions is at the end of the year with the minor league playoffs.
The Pirates currently have four teams in line for the playoffs with two weeks left in the minor league season. That doesn’t include the DSL Pirates2 team, since you don’t see many promotions from the DSL to the GCL in-season, due to travel issues. It also doesn’t include the obvious team that is in a playoff race, the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The teams that are currently in line for the playoffs are the Indianapolis Indians (AAA), West Virginia Power (A), Jamestown Jammers (A-), and the GCL Pirates (RK). In previous years, all of those teams would get a boost at the end of the year with some new promotions for their playoff run. The promotions might be limited this year due to the three lower level teams all in line to make the post season. Below I’ll detail some of the possible moves we could see.
Altoona to Indianapolis
Last year the Indians were raided for September call-ups when the calendar flipped over and rosters expanded in the majors. I expect the same to happen this year. We will have a preview of the possible September call-ups as the time gets closer. For now, let’s just assume that Indianapolis will lose a lot of players and will need help from Altoona, since the Indians once again will be making the post-season.
I could see a few major leaguers helping Indianapolis in the post-season. If Wandy Rodriguez, Jason Grilli, or Travis Snider need rehab work, they could handle that in the Triple-A playoffs. That might give Indianapolis an unfair advantage, but it would be no different than when I saw Andy Pettitte pitching against Altoona in the 2010 Eastern League playoffs.
Outside of the major leaguers, I think we’ll see the following upper level organizational guys get the call to Triple-A for sure:
David Bromberg, RHP
Ethan Hollingsworth, RHP (Depending on the status of his injury)
Zack Thornton, RHP
Ali Solis, C
Oscar Tejeda, IF (Like Hollingsworth, it depends on his injury)
All of those guys have gone up to Indianapolis when needed at some point this season. There are other players who could be possibilities, but let’s now focus on the top prospects.
Nick Kingham, RHP – He is following the same path Gerrit Cole took last year. Dominate the first two months in high-A. Dominate in Double-A until the end of August. Then get promoted in time for the Triple-A playoffs. I don’t know if the Pirates will do that last part with Kingham, but I could definitely see it happening.
Casey Sadler, RHP – He has pitched well this year, with a 3.46 ERA in 117 innings, and a 1.71 GO/AO ratio from his sinkerball. Sadler threw 130.1 innings last year, so he’s definitely got something left. He could also be a candidate to start the 2014 season in Triple-A if there is a rotation spot, so getting him up for the post-season wouldn’t be a bad move.
Alex Dickerson, RF – Dickerson has been on fire since the start of June. He has spent the entire year in Altoona, and I could see him being called up to Indianapolis, much like Matt Curry was called up last year at the end of the season for the playoffs.
Justin Howard, 1B – Another guy who has been on fire this year, and who has been with Altoona all year. Howard has a surprising .335/.431/.461 line in 230 at-bats.
Adalberto Santos, UTIL – He is in his second year with Altoona, after missing a lot of time due to injuries last season. He’s got a .282/.384/.401 line this year, showing a good ability to hit for average and get on base.
Gregory Polanco, OF – He’s not exactly dominating Double-A, and doesn’t look ready for a promotion yet. Polanco has a .282/.374/.420 line in 188 at-bats with Altoona. He currently has an eight game hitting streak, and a .343/.395/.571 line in 35 at-bats over his last ten games. If he keeps this up the final two weeks of the year, he could be an option to move up to Indianapolis for their playoffs.
GCL to Jamestown to West Virginia
It would be difficult for the Pirates to make promotions for the lower level teams. If they promote guys to West Virginia, they would have to take them from Jamestown. If they promote guys to Jamestown, they would have to take them from the GCL.
None of these teams are locked into the playoffs like Indianapolis. West Virginia has a half game lead in the SAL North. They still could make the playoffs if they lose that half game lead to Hagerstown. The SAL playoffs are made up of the first half winner and the second half winner. Hagerstown won in the first half, and is half a game back in the second half. If they win, the second half winner would go to the team with the best overall record. West Virginia currently has a 2.5 game lead on Hickory this season. So even if they lose the division lead to Hagerstown, they’re still in line to make the playoffs.
Jamestown currently has a one game lead in their NYPL division over State College. State College has a half game lead in the Wild Card standings. So Jamestown is in a tight playoff race with a one game lead over the Spikes, and two teams within two games of the Wild Card.
The GCL Pirates are one game back in the GCL Northwest. They’re also 24-26, and the only reason they’re competing is because they are in a bad division.
If West Virginia doesn’t make the playoffs, it wouldn’t have any implications on the other playoff races. If Jamestown or the GCL Pirates miss the playoffs, it could impact the other teams if those teams do make the post-season. Here are some of the top prospects who could move up in that scenario.
It’s hard to predict this one, because the Pirates haven’t had a playoff team in West Virginia with the current management group. When the Pirates promoted guys from the GCL to Jamestown in the past, it was always guys who would probably start at that level the following year, or possibly be promoted to a higher level. So I’ll mostly be focusing on college prospects here. I think anyone from the roster could be a possibility, but keeping it limited to top prospects, here are some names who could be on the move when the playoffs start.
Buddy Borden, RHP
Shane Carle, RHP
Cody Dickson, LHP
Chad Kuhl, RHP
Dovydas Neverauskas, RHP
Isaac Sanchez, RHP
Danny Collins, 1B
Erich Weiss, 3B
Harold Ramirez, OF
I think it’s mostly going to be pitchers, with the possibility of a few top position players. I only mention Collins, Ramirez, and Weiss because I’m thinking of the specific needs for the West Virginia roster.
Once again, pretty much everyone could be on the move here. And if the GCL team doesn’t make the playoffs, I think we’ll see some promotions to Jamestown for the final few days of the season, even if Jamestown doesn’t make the playoffs. If the GCL team doesn’t make the playoffs, but the other two teams do, I could see the GCL guys going to either level.
Melvin Del Rosario, LHP
Oderman Rocha, RHP
Jon Sandfort, RHP
Wei-Chung Wang, LHP
Reese McGuire, C
Ulises Montilla, 2B
Beau Wallace, 3B
Austin Meadows, CF
I’m not sure how they would handle the first year prep players like Neil Kozikowski. I don’t see those guys moving up, even if they will likely start off with Jamestown next year. I do think McGuire and Meadows will move up to Jamestown if the GCL Pirates are out of it. Most of the pitchers who have a shot of moving up are the guys who have spent the entire season in the system. The Pirates have moved a lot of international players up in previous years, possibly to give them their first exposure of playing under the lights and playing in an actual stadium with actual people watching them.