First Pitch

First Pitch: After Gregory Polanco, Who is Next?

First Pitch: After Gregory Polanco, Who is Next?

Kind of informal tonight, because I just spent 15 hours on the road driving back up to Virginia, and just remembered why I hated making that drive 3-4 times per year. I’m half taking a break this week, after the draft last week, and half handling some family business. We’ve got a lot of articles lined up this week from other writers on the site, and I’ve got a few that will appear as well, including this nightly article.

Tomorrow we will be releasing our updated top 20 prospect list. This is our annual mid-season update, where we add in the newly drafted players, and update the rankings with all of the results and new reports from this season. Since Gregory Polanco was promoted today, and is expected to remain in the majors for good, he will no longer be the top prospect when we release the rankings. So tomorrow, we will take a look at who is next at the top of the prospect list.

But what about the other “who is next” questions following Polanco’s promotion? Here is a quick summary.

Who is next to be promoted?

With Jameson Taillon out for the year, the Pirates don’t have any remaining impact prospects to promote in the majors. Their pitching depth is in Pittsburgh, with Jeff Locke and Brandon Cumpton in the rotation, and Casey Sadler in the bullpen. They’re probably going to need a starter with Francisco Liriano suffering an oblique injury, and I’m not sure that Sadler could handle that, since his last start was two and a half weeks ago.

The top choice would be Vance Worley, who has been a pleasant surprise for Indianapolis. Worley has a 4.30 ERA in 46 innings, but a very impressive 43:4 K/BB ratio in that span. He spent most of the first month of the season working on his mechanics with Jim Benedict. He was a decent MLB pitcher as recently as 2012, and if he gets back to that, he’d be a good replacement for Liriano in the short-term.

Jake Brigham has also been a surprise this year, with a 3.32 ERA in 62.1 innings, along with a 52:22 K/BB ratio. Worley seems like he’d be first in line for a promotion.

Beyond the immediate need for pitchers, the rest of the potential promotions would be of the depth variety. Tony Sanchez is available if a catcher goes down. Chris McGuiness is depth at first base. Matt Hague could be depth for Gaby Sanchez against lefties. Jaff Decker and Chris Dickerson are outfield depth options, with Dickerson getting the edge. Mel Rojas could end up being added to that group by the end of the year.

In Altoona, the only possible option would be Nick Kingham. He has been performing much better lately, with a 2.57 ERA in 28 innings over his last four starts, with a 19:4 K/BB ratio. Walks were a big issue at the start of the year, but he looks like he has gotten past those issues lately. Kingham hasn’t pitched in Triple-A, so he looks like an option for later in the season, at the earliest.

Who is the next Super Two candidate?

The big focus on Polanco all season was Super Two. The Pirates have a lot of top prospects in their system, and could be lined up for at least one Super Two situation next year, if not more.

Jameson Taillon was going to be in that situation this year, and will probably be in the situation next year. It takes about a year for a player to fully return from Tommy John surgery, and Taillon had his in March. He should be ready for the majors by mid-season next year.

Tyler Glasnow is another candidate to be up, although the move would be aggressive. Glasnow has been showing nice strides this year with his fastball command, along with developing a changeup. It’s more likely that he’s up in 2016, after spending extended time in Altoona. Then again, this time last year, Gregory Polanco was just getting promoted to Altoona, where he didn’t have the best numbers. It doesn’t take much for everything to click, and when it does for Glasnow, he should move quickly.

Alen Hanson has seen his OPS hovering around .800 since the second week of the season. That’s similar to what he did in Bradenton last year. I expect him to remain in Altoona for most of the 2014 season, making the jump to Indianapolis next year. He could be up by mid-season, especially if he gains some consistency on his defense.

Kingham is another Super Two candidate, depending on how quickly he bounces back, and how high the Pirates are on his upside. He was hitting 97 in his last start, and that’s not the first time this has happened. He’s a very underrated arm.

I don’t know if the Pirates will have a situation exactly like Polanco, where the Super Two issue becomes a hot topic for two months. I think the closest to that could be Taillon, especially if the rotation has some big question marks heading into the 2015 season.

Who is the next Polanco-level breakout?

I don’t know if we can peg someone to be the next Gregory Polanco. The odds of having two guys like that in the same system, in such a short amount of time are very slim. But check the updated top 20 tomorrow, and we’ll give you a rundown of the top prospects, including a few sleepers and potential breakout candidates.

Links and Notes

**The Five Tools of Gregory Polanco. John Dreker takes a look at video showing off all of Gregory Polanco’s tools.

**James Santelli makes his return to the site, just in time for Gregory Polanco debut coverage. Here is his recap of the night: Polanco Debuts to Warm Reception, Lukewarm Start.

**Sixth Round Pick Tyler Eppler Signs With Pirates

**Pirates Sign Two More Draft Picks

**Prospect Watch: Josh Bell Homers, Lots of Poor Pitching in the System

**Minor League Schedule: Adrian Sampson Continues to Dominate For Altoona

  • emjayinTN

    Have to agree that there will probably be no further long term movement of players from the minors to the majors. The Pirates have a solid group of players at present and the work to repair 1B and RF has been accomplished. At SS, Mercer is hitting better, but long term? I like Alen Hanson’s bat, legs, athleticism, and the fact that he is still in his age 21 season, but you are right, the defensive consistency is missing. He made improvement last year, but has been awful lately and now has 20 errors in the first 60+ games. That whole group at Altoona just does not seem to be able to get it together. That is why I have suggested often that they get Hanson to AAA with a much more mature group of teammates, put someone with him one-on-one to work on his mental prep and on-field defense. Mel Rojas, Jr. moved up and is hitting as well at AAA as he was at AA, so I think Hanson could handle that promotion as well. I know that would place Robert Andino (.175?) at risk, but I would not let that stop me from doing anything necessary to try to salvage this kid as a SS.

    • lonleylibertarian

      Work to repair first base is still a work in progress IMHO…

      One home run by Ike does not compensate for a sub .700 OPS and a ,212 BA over the past month.
      Davis is a very streaky hitter – I would hope we could do better at 1st base long term

  • impliedi

    Josh Bell – (obviously won’t be the next one to be promoted!), but I could see him being the answer to the other questions (next Super 2 concern and next Polanco-style breakout.) I assume we could be looking at June 2016 for his arrival, and the endless Super 2 questions that come with it!!

    • impliedi

      Although, in a non-Super 2/arbitration clocking-ticking world, I could imagine an aggressive move with a very early Altoona promotion next spring (or even end of the season this year), followed by a mid-season promotion to Indy, completed with a September call-up. Of course, those days of September call-ups for superstar prospects are long gone.

  • lonleylibertarian



    We love it – and you can now get WIFI in the lounge!

    Looking forward to the updated rankings…

    I am curious were you see Mel Rojas a year from now…


    That might be an interesting article in itself – where do you see each of the top 20 a year from now and 2 years from now…

First Pitch

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, 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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