First Pitch: Pirates Loaded Farm System Highlighted by Indianapolis

With the vast wealth of prospects in the Pirates system, there may not be a more exciting opportunity than right now in Indianapolis.

I can say that Gregory Polanco may be the best prospect that I have ever seen. That is saying a ton because I have been watching minor league baseball since before I can remember. He is off to a start that has to rival any prospect in their first couple of weeks in Triple-A, making the decision to keep him down an even more difficult one. I am not even sure if five-tool player is enough to describe Polanco, as he adds a maturity beyond his years to his game. His frame and speed remind me of Starling Marte at the same level. However, the power numbers remind me of Andrew McCutchen.

Combining the three will make for one of the most exciting outfields in baseball for years to come. With McCutchen and Marte locked up long-term, it makes the painful decision to leave Polanco in Triple-A until June that much more necessary. With the speed of the trio, I don’t think that it is possible to have an outfield with more range, while still being able to put up the incredible offensive numbers that they will produce for years to come.

In addition, all three of the players are home-grown, which is almost unheard of these days. The ‘develop from within’ model, which Pittsburgh continues to stick to, has the Pirates set up offensively as contenders for years to come.

Then there is Andrew Lambo, who was given every chance to take an opening day spot out of Spring Training. However, after a rough spring and a frosty start, Lambo lost out on this opportunity and worried many Pirates fans. While it took a few games, Lambo has turned it on. Coming into Tuesday, in their past seven games, both Lambo and Polanco have an even .500 average each.

Though Lambo hit 33 long balls last year, he does not appear to always be a home run threat. However, he does possess the skill set to drive the ball to any field, while hitting enough gaps to be a doubles machine.

While the home run numbers may lack, the Pirates have a lineup that makes it possible to play Lambo at a traditional power position. They get big power numbers from a position that does not typically produce them in a lineup – center field with McCutchen. Also, the scary home run numbers that Pedro Alvarez is possible of putting up can allow having a first basemen that may only hit 10 to 15 home runs in a season.

The pitching depth at the level is another astounding topic. Many organizations would have suffered an enormous set back when it was announced that Jameson Taillon would require Tommy John surgery. While it was a large blow to the organization, this team still has several starters who could legitimately get an opportunity in Pittsburgh, if not this year, than next.

Brandon Cumpton started that season with two quality starts, though he did run into some trouble in his last outing, allowing three runs in six innings. Cumpton showed last year that he has the stuff that can get major league hitters out. In his two starts and six games total with the Pirates last year, he allowed just five earned runs in 20.1 innings of work. He also stuck out 12 hitters in that span. The only concerning stat was that he allowed over a hit per inning. Despite this, Cumpton could work his way into a possible spot start or two in Pittsburgh this year if needed.

Casey Sadler is off to just as quick of a start. In 13 innings this season, Sadler has allowed just 3 runs on nine hits. Though Sadler did go 11-7, with a 3.31 ERA at Altoona last season, his K/9 dropped steadily and ended at 4.6. He also got a start at Indianapolis at the end of the season. In 2012, his K/9 number was at 6.4 in Bradenton, as he worked his way into the rotation there. Sadler could be an option to provide depth for the Pirates as the season goes along if he continues the strong start.

Phil Irwin is looking to recover from an ulnar nerve transposition surgery on his elbow in July of 2013, but had worked his way to Pittsburgh prior to that. Irwin, who is known for his curveball, is off to a rough start this season. This includes a 1.1 inning outing where he allowed seven earned runs and walked three on Saturday. However, Irwin only threw three innings in the spring and is still working back into shape and creates an interesting option if he works back into form.

Then there is the enigma that is Jeff Locke. Locke went from being an all-star to left off the playoff roster last season. The difference in his numbers in the first half of last season and the second half are staggering. If Locke can get back to form, he also provides a nice option for the Pirates, especially as a southpaw.

All in all, this is a great season to begin my writing career for Pirates Prospects, a role that I cannot explain how excited that I am for. I have honestly waited my entire life for this and am completely living a dream right now. I will be providing insight from Indianapolis all season. For more in-depth coverage, please follow me on Twitter @RyanPalencer. I will answer questions that I receive and am always open for ideas that would be interesting for stories.

Links and Notes

**Development Is Coming Quickly For Gregory Polanco

**Prospect Watch: Pat Ludwig Throws Five Shutout Innings

**Draft Prospect Watch: Kyle Freeland Matches Up With Pirates In New Rankings

**Prospect Highlights: Willy Garcia’s Third Homer

**Links:International Spending, Marte’s Extension Value, MLB Blackouts

**Minor League Schedule: Borden and Dickson In West Virginia Doubleheader

Ryan Palencer

Author: Ryan Palencer

Ryan joined Pirates Prospects as the Indianapolis Triple-A writer in 2014. Prior to joining Pirates Prospects, Ryan covered high school, college and professional sports in the Indianapolis area. For more updates throughout the season, follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanpalencer.

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  • Macchamp74

    Houston calling up George Springer today. No Super 2 concerns for them apparently.
    Possible they sign him to long term deal soon.

    • John Dreker

      They actually tried to sign Springer to a long-term deal before calling him up last year and when he didn’t agree, they didn’t call him up. I think when that story got out it may have been some bad press for a team that already was getting bad press. Not sure if that factored into. Plus the Astros have enough room on their payroll and enough young players coming up soon that Super Two status shouldn’t go into their thinking. They don’t have much as far as long-term payroll yet. I think that’s one of the reasons it got so many people mad. Saying all that, I wouldn’t be surprised if he signs a long-term deal. There is a difference between Polanco and Springer right now. Polanco is on the 40-man roster and if the Pirates called him up today, he would get credit for a full season in the majors, meaning he would reach free agency a year earlier than if they waited until Sunday. So there isn’t a chance in this universe that they would call him up today-through-Saturday and lose a full season down the line for a couple extra days now. Springer isn’t on the 40-man right now, so if he gets called up, he only gets credit for the days on the roster and that leaves him short of a full year of service time.

      • Macchamp74

        Good info John. Thanks

      • ElGaupo77

        Also, people don’t realize how big a market Houston is. It’s LA, Chicago big. I don’t know when their TV contract is up but they are a billion dollar one eventually.

        That being said, once Springer proves he’s a good player in the majors his extension is a foregone conclusion…. even if it’s an overpay.

        • leowalter

          They have had two televised games already this season where the have drawn a 0.00 % of the Houston audience. They had better call up Correia ASAP also.

          • Macchamp74

            I think they are having issues with cable contract.

    • stickyweb

      Of course the Astros OF wOBA (weighted for PAs) is .272, while the Bucs is .331, so there’s a slight difference. Plus do we really want the Pirates to start emulating the Astros? I’ll stick to admiring the way STL and TB do things. BTW, the Cards OF wOBA is .267, and Allen Craig’s is less than half of Snider’s, yet no Oscar Tavares yet. Where’s the outrage? Oh, plus the Astros need to “make a splash” while the Bucs just need to worry about winning.
      It will be interesting to see if they do a long term deal with Springer, considering how the offer last month went.

      • Kevin_Young

        Well considering that the astros are run by Luhnow, that is kind of the Cardinal way that everyone speaks of.

    • leowalter

      Though darned good,Springer is not the prospect that Polanco is either. Strikeout concerns follow him around.

  • Leefoo Rug Bug

    Welcome aboard Ryan!

  • KauaiCoffee

    I am not sure why there would be resistance on either side for the Pirates to sign Polanco to an 8 year, $56 million contract. He would earn every penny of it and more, and the Bucs would get a huge discount over the length of the deal. In what world is Polanco unlikely to produce more than 1.5 WAR/season? Sign him and bring him up.