First Pitch: Along With Gregory Polanco, Who Should Be Promoted Soon?

In about two weeks, Gregory Polanco could be playing in the majors. The month of June is usually when we start to see a lot of promotions throughout the minor league system, and sometimes the promotions are a chain reaction. Once Polanco moves up, that opens a spot in Indianapolis for an outfielder from Altoona. The newly vacated spot in Altoona opens a spot for someone to move up from Bradenton. And so on.

Usually you will see the chain reaction type promotions with pitchers. You’re not usually going to have a group of position players all in line for a promotion at the same time, and all playing the same position.

Last year, the promotions started around the second week of June. Here were the dates for each of the major promotions:

June 7th: Andrew Lambo to Indianapolis

June 10th: Nick Kingham to Altoona

June 11th: Gerrit Cole to Pittsburgh

June 13th: Gregory Polanco to Altoona

June 15: Stolmy Pimentel to Indianapolis

June 17th: Eliecer Navarro to Altoona, Stetson Allie/Joely Rodriguez/Orlando Castro to Bradenton, Luis Heredia to West Virginia

In the span of about ten days, we saw ten players promoted to various levels. This doesn’t include minor promotions, such as brief recalls to the majors, or organizational players being added to the bottom of the system.

This year, Polanco will definitely be part of the wave of promotions, and he might even start things off. So who else deserves a promotion in the minor league system in the next few weeks?

Indianapolis

Aside from Polanco, Chris Dickerson looks like he deserves a promotion to the majors. Polanco will take the starting right field spot, which means Dickerson would be limited to a bench role. I don’t really see the Pirates cutting both Travis Snider and Jose Tabata, which is what would be needed to bring up Polanco and Dickerson. If an injury occurs to an outfielder, after Polanco gets promoted, then Dickerson makes the most sense as an injury replacement.

Altoona

The choice here is easy. Mel Rojas has been good at the plate this year, with a .301/.372/.435 line in 186 at-bats. This is his second season in Altoona, so his numbers will start to come with the disclaimer about repeating a level. Rojas is a very toolsy player, and a solid defender in center field. He’s always had some projection in his bat, but he’s been raw, and hasn’t carried his hitting skills over to the game. That looks to be changing in the last two years, which I wrote about on Monday. Once Polanco gets promoted, the Pirates should give the open outfield spot in Indianapolis to Rojas.

As for pitchers, there are guys with good numbers who I don’t think will be promoted yet. A.J. Morris is more of an organizational filler than a prospect, so I’d expect him to remain in Altoona. Adrian Sampson will need more than 55 innings at the level. I could see Nick Kingham getting moved up, especially if he continues what he’s been doing over his last two starts, where he has just three walks in 14 innings. The walks have been an issue for Kingham this year, which is unusual for his game. If he doesn’t move up in June, I could see the Pirates challenging him with a promotion by the end of July.

Josh Bell has the numbers for a promotion, but a weakness against left-handers.

Josh Bell has the numbers for a promotion, but a weakness against left-handers.

Bradenton

Josh Bell is an interesting case. He’s dominating right-handers, with an .876 OPS. He’s struggling against lefties, with a .673 OPS, although he’s been doing better with that lately. Overall he has an .812 OPS, and an .855 OPS in the month of May. I could see him moving up at some point this year. He definitely has the numbers to make that happen sooner, rather than later. The timing of the promotion really depends on how much the Pirates want him to focus on his hitting from the right side, and whether they think he can do this in Altoona.

On the pitching side, I could see Orlando Castro being promoted. He has a 2.91 ERA in 55.2 innings, with a 41:7 K/BB ratio. This is similar to what he was doing last year in West Virginia, before getting promoted to Bradenton in the middle of June. If Kingham moves up to Indianapolis, then Castro would be my bet to replace him. This would be a good move, as it provides a real test for whether Castro is a prospect. He comes with the disclaimer of being a lefty with great control and strong secondary stuff, which usually plays up in A-ball, and doesn’t do so well in the upper levels.

I don’t see Tyler Glasnow moving up this early, mostly because he missed the first few weeks of the season, and has been working through some issues with his control in Bradenton. With 20 walks in 27 innings, he doesn’t look like he has the numbers to make the jump in the next few weeks.

West Virginia

Usually the guys who get promoted from West Virginia are college age guys. So don’t expect Reese McGuire to move up, as the Pirates will want him playing with the same team for a full season. On the pitching side, there are a few candidates who could move up. Shane Carle doesn’t have a lot of upside, but he’s a college pitcher who is posting good numbers in West Virginia, and could join the Bradenton rotation in the second half. Buddy Borden has much more upside, and is dominating West Virginia. He does have some control problems, and I could see the Pirates leaving him in West Virginia to try and fix those issues.

On the offensive side, Erich Weiss is having a great season, with an .823 OPS. He was drafted as a third baseman, and given an above slot bonus for his bat in last year’s draft. Weiss was moved to second base when Wyatt Mathisen was moved to third, but the bat has lived up to expectations. He has a .320/.417/.406 line in 175 at-bats, and has easily been the best hitter in West Virginia this season. He’s also a college hitter, so he’s not going to show much by continuing to dominate in low-A.

Links and Notes

Prospects

**Prospect Watch: 17 Game Hitting Streak For Reese McGuire

**Prospect Highlights: Alen Hanson’s Sixth Homer, Tony Sanchez Returns to Indianapolis

**Minor League Schedule: Wednesday Morning Start For Tyler Glasnow

Pirates

**With His Improved Offense, Is Neil Walker Due For an Extension?

**Why You Shouldn’t Expect to See Josh Harrison as the Pirates Shortstop

2014 Draft

**Neal Huntington Speaks About the Upcoming Draft

**Keith Law’s Second Mock Draft Has High Upside Prep Arm For Pirates

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.

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  • emjayinTN

    I agree with your selections and have a few others. Alen Hanson from AA to AAA; in his age 21 season the switchhitter is hitting around .263 on the year, but has a .900+ OPS in May after a very slow start in April. No doubt he can hit, but now it is time to get him around some better fielders at AAA, and possibly a dedicated fielding coach. As a SS, a position of need at the MLB level, we have to put him on a faster track and hope he can improve his fielding/throwing enough to possibly see him in 2015.

    Andy Oliver from AAA to the Pirate BP in place of Jeanmar Gomez. A SP last year with 24 starts, he now is in the BP throwing some games of 3+ innings, but most as single innings. In the past, his control has been his problem, but now, in his age 26 season, he has reached the plateau of twice as many K’s as Walks. In 27 innings he has K’d 41 batters, walked 20, and in his last two outings he has pitched an inning each game with 3 K’s each game. The Pirates got him for a “bag O balls”, therefore he is all upside as a Pirate and/or a valuable trading chip if he does well. Is now the time?

    • bucsws2014

      20 walks in 27 innings is still awful, despite the K ratio.

  • BallHeadWonder

    Is there ANYONE to replace Bryan Morris on our Major League Roster??? The way Vic Black looked last nite, we made a mistake in letting him go!! That kid is going to be a Beast!! Kept us off balance the 2 innings he was in!!!

    • leowalter

      If trading Black was that big a mistake, why was he in the PCL and Valverde signed ? I can tell you why,he was averaging a walk an inning for one thing, and for another, his mechanics are telling every one there are arm problems on the way…again.

      • BallHeadWonder

        He was in the PCL because the Mets are HORRIFIC!! Management sucks and they can’t make decisions!!

        • leowalter

          Can’t dispute the argument you are using, but there is more to it than that.

        • Cato the Elder

          “Management sucks and they can’t make decisions!!”

          Would that be the same management that smart enough to acquire Vic Black, or some other management?

    • StevePegues

      Yeah… the Mets shoulda given us Marlon Byrd and John Buck for nothing!!! I can use more exclamation points than you!!!!

    • Y2JGQ2

      Bryan Morris is going nowhere, his upside is huge. His results suck lately, but he will get better.

    • mysonisnamedafterRoberto

      Vic Black is a mess. He will always be a high strikeout, high walk guy. The last thing Pittsburgh needs is more walks!!! That was the right call, if it came down to Black or Morris. Morris hasn’t look good over the last month, but Black was handed a position in the bullpen with the Mets in spring training and lost it to two retread mid 30 something former closers; Valverde and Farnsworth. Who now have both been released, which is the only reason Black is in the Majors. He has pitched 28 innings this year, in Spring Training, Minor and Majors. He has allowed 26 hits and 29 walks to go along with the 29 Ks. That is a recipe for runs. He had 17 walks in 18 innings of triple AAA. If it wasn’t for a hot streak over the last couple of weeks in Vegas, he had 14 BB in 10 innings. The only thing that has saved him, is he went back to a more athletic stands and holding his hands lower, something the Mets changed when he came over in the trade. Go Figure.
      I think the one that hurts is Dilson Herrera. The middle infield depth looks somewhat thin in our Organization and he is having a good season at High A. 7th in hitting at .321, 7th in SB with 11 and just below Josh Bell in OPS at .785. It would have been nice if we could have kept him and not got Buck, but I sure there was never talks of a one for one involving Byrd.

  • Monsoon Harvard

    I think Rojas Jr needs to go to triple A. I also thought he should have been the outfielder called up for a couple days this past month.
    They knew the call-up was only an emergency replacement and would only get a small amount of playing time.

    It would have given Rojas a nice taste of what he’s working for, and would have been a good confidence boost, and at he worst shown him what weaknesses of his that he needs to work on to make it in the big leagues.

    Also Jeff Locke deserves to be in the majors.

    And Alen Hansen to triple A by next month wouldn’t hurt.

    • http://www.facebook.com/andy.prough.3 Andy Prough

      Rojas isn’t on the 40 man roster – Polanco and Lambo are the only outfield prospects on the 40-man. Probably wouldn’t make sense to have to remove someone from the 40 man to give Rojas a few days as an emergency replacement in Pittsburgh. Wouldn’t have been a problem if Lambo hadn’t been on the DL at the time.

      • Monsoon Harvard

        Didn’t know he wasn’t on the 40 man.

    • Jared

      Locke deserves to be in the majors based on what? His absurdly high walk rate? If his strand rate wasn’t so high (which as we saw last year he cannot continue indefinitely) he would have a troublesome ERA. He had 5 BB and a HBP last outing…after, what 5 or 6 BB in the previous outing? Cumpton throws strikes and is efficient…what had Locke done to prove he’s going to be an efficient starter in the majors again? I don’t hate Locke. Nor do I think he’s awful…but I also think he is struggling with his control and that is not what this team needs right now.

      • lfhlaw

        Exactly, we already have Morton, Volquez, and Liriano who can’t seem to find the strike zone at times and I feel like tearing my hair out so adding another pitcher like Locke to that mix seems very volatile to me.

        • Jared

          After watching the Pirates give up, what 3+ runs over this recent series with the Mets with wild pitches that were thrown in counts and to hitter where/when they had no business throwing a breaking ball to begin with…I am more than comfortable with saying we do not need another wild project pitcher in the majors right now. This pitching staff needs a lot more Brandon Cumptons and a lot less wildness. Throw strikes and trust your stuff…I would say trust your defense but that’s been very suspect recently too.

        • Y2JGQ2

          Locke’s issue is literally NEVER that he can’t “find” the strike zone. He has good control. He nibbles. He doesn’t wonder where the ball is going when he throws it, he just tries to be too perfect, and when his mechanics are a little off, instead of hitting his area, he misses outside of the strike zone

          • Jared

            Having seen Locke pitch a lot, I would have to contest that description of him. His walk rate lately has been terrible and Tim has even addressed this as an area of concern. He has to pitch his way back onto the roster and this far he hasn’t.

      • Y2JGQ2

        Based on his all-star game last year and that he’s healthy. You really don’t need more than that to deserve a second chance

        • Jared

          That is one of the dumbest things you could possibly say. Liriano was comeback player of the year. So I guess we shouldn’t be questioning whether he still gives us the best chance to win going forward? Liriano is even more talented than Locke. Locke had a 4.59 BB/9 (if I remember my stats correctly) last year in the majors…and when his strand rate came back down to average he got bombed…and lately he is walking a ton of guys in AAA…so, again, what has he done to deserve being back in the majors?

        • freddylang

          Locke’s walk #’s and peripherals were not good even during the all-star capped performance. He was proven to be a little if not a lot lucky. You are on here telling people to use their brain then you use an all-star game as some type of basis of value. It is not a metric. It is not measurable. Mike Dunne and Jack Armstrong were all-star pitchers due to a decent few months. Remember them? Yes Locke nibbles…but so does Paul Maholm and Zack Duke…difference is they had much lower walk numbers.

  • R Edwards

    Rojas to Altoona. Schwind to Altoona. Borden and Castro are deserving, as well as possibly Harlan.

    • leowalter

      ” Rojas to Altoona ” ??? Did you mean to Indianapolis ?

      • R Edwards

        Yes, my bad…..he is in his second year of AA and has really progressed from last year – he is probably the most deserving of a promotion, next to Polanco and Dickerson (why he isn’t brought up, and Snider cut I don’t understand – Snider is awful).

        • leowalter

          I thought that is what you meant. I don’t think you will have to worry much about Snider after mid June. As for Dickerson, just my opinion, but I think if they are any where close to contention later, you might see him. But that looks pretty dim to me, in which case, what would be the point after Polanco is called up ? Dickerson is 32 and certainly not prospect, but a AAAA guy who would just be blocking prospects like Rojas and Lambo, if he ever recovers that is.

          • R Edwards

            If Dickerson has been in Pittsburgh instead of Snider for the past 8 weeks, we may have won 3-5 more games and would be in a lot better situation than we find ourselves now. he is not a prospect obviously, but he is far more capable than Snider in the field and at the plate.

            • mysonisnamedafterRoberto

              All respects, but I can’t image that Dickerson would have performed better than Harrison has over the month. Not to the tune of 3 to 5 wins. I will admit Snider is going to be the odd man out, I think. Just look at the last 30 days. Harrison 69 ABs, Tabata 54 ABs, and Snider 35 ABs Snider hasn’t been play, so Dickerson would be replacing Harrison’s performance, which is replacing a .816 OPS over that period.

            • leowalter

              You are entitled to your opinion on how Dickerson might have affected the Pirate’s performance so far this season, but what that would have to do with adding him to the 40 man and having him in MLB on an out of contention team going ahead is beyond me.And I doubt if any one player,even a Mike Trout,would have added 3 to 5 wins to a team’s total whose starting rotation has a combined win total of less than 4 over that 8 week period.

  • stickyweb

    It’s truly amazing to remember that Polanco was still in high A just a year ago. You hear stories about guys progressing quickly, but if they call him up before June 13 it’ll be from high A to starting in MLB in less than a year. Wow! Can’t wait for that.
    What about challenging JaCoby with a promotion? The Brandenton MIs look to be doing their best Jordy impersonation with the bats, and sending Frazier there was pretty agressive and probably wouldn’t have happened if they didn’t draft JaCoby at the same time.

    • Jared

      Love the JaCoby suggestion. That was going to be my suggestion as wel. Hanson to AAA and then move up JaCoby as well…challenge him and see how he responds. He’s been hitting well. Or maybe don’t promote him if he’s the PTBNL in Ike deal. Haha

      • mysonisnamedafterRoberto

        Jones still needs some time at SS. I think the concern of the Major league level creates that feeling, but looking at him, without the organizational needs. He still needs to command the strike zone better. His strikeout rate is 25%. That is 150 over 600 at-bats. His rate is the same as Willy Garica’s was at West Virginia and outside of Allie that is the highest rate among the top 20. Plus his needs more experience in the field at this position.

  • Monsoon Harvard

    Also I would move Wyatt Mathisen & Josh Bell up faster because they both missed practically a whole year due to injuries.

    • lfhlaw

      Actually injuries would slow the progress i would think. Missing a full year of at bats and experience doesn’t mean you move them up faster. That’s what gets players into trouble and over their heads is advancing them too quickly….think Bautista, and possibly Alvarez (though he had a 30 HR year last year). Age also plays into it as well. Bell and Mathisen are fairly young i believe and it’s okay to let them play a full year at a level they didn’t play at because of injury. If they start to excel at that level then you move the up mid year or late in the season.

      • mysonisnamedafterRoberto

        When you think about it both only have about 1 year of professional at-bats right now. Neither play college ball and Mathisen is trying to learn a new position on a professional level. Of the two, Bell would be the choose. He has improved against lefty, .294 and also cut his strikeouts down to about 1 every 6 at-bats, without any change in his OPS.

        • Jared

          Bell should definitely get a promotion before the end of the year. He is putting up good numbers for his age and experience, although not a ton of HRs. That HR power will come with age. Normally power is the last thing to really round out…and he’s hitting to the gaps. He could be a future 1B option.

    • freddylang

      They were both aggressively pushed to begin with so they are not behind. Mathisen is hardly dominating so no reason for him to go anywhere yet. Bell will probably move at some point but he doesn’t have many AB yet in the minors. Plenty of time for these young guys to get where they are going.

  • Luke Yurchak

    Say Rojas is called up and hits this well in AAA for the next year. Do you think he would be called up as a fourth outfielder replacing Tabata(if he still is even on the team) or potentially traded? Could the bucs get anything substantial?

    • lfhlaw

      No you don’t bring up a hitter that’s hitting well in AAA to sit on the bench as a 4th OF. That’d be like bring Polanco up because he’s hitting well and sitting him on the bench.

      Also if he hits well like Polanco, I don’t think you trade Rojas, due to fact that you have Marte, Cutch, and Polanco. However, Cutch’s contract will be up sooner so you may see him go first in a trade especially as we get closer to the end of his contract unless he resigns with the Pirates. Also, the Marte deal is still something we are going to look at. Say Marte falters and struggles and becomes the next Tabata then you have Rojas to play in that position. Doubtful it happens but you never know.

      Injuries play a role. If Cutch, Marte, or Polanco were to go down, it’s nice to have a Quality OF to plug in instead of Tabata/Snider/Harrison.

  • blainehwl

    No mention of JaCoby Jones getting a promotion?

  • mysonisnamedafterRoberto

    You know the person getting lost in the shuffle, because he is hurt, is Lambo. He was doing well in AAA and there was a few that were calling for his call up at the beginning of the month. He is a man without a country. If Dickerson’s hamstring is serious or even lingering, Lambo is still on the DL and Polanco gets promoted the Indy’s outfield goes from having three OFs with OPS. over .920 to Decker and who knows. Rojas is the right pick here.