Austin Meadows was sidelined for half a season with hamstring issues, but showed off some strong hitting in West Virginia when he returned.

First Pitch: Can the Pirates Farm System Stay Healthy in the Second Half?

The first half of the 2014 season for the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system was full of injuries. More than half of the top ten prospects suffered an injury at one point in time, with a few of the top 20 guys going down for the year. The good news was that Gregory Polanco developed as planned, and there were a few breakouts, such as JaCoby Jones and Josh Bell at the plate, along with Adrian Sampson on the mound.

Over the last few weeks the Pirates have started seeing a lot of their injured players returning on rehab appearances. Austin Meadows has been rehabbing, and is on pace to return to West Virginia by the start of next week, if not earlier. Barrett Barnes will wrap up his rehab this week, and could get a push up to Bradenton. Andrew Lambo is playing full games after being out with thumb surgery, and will get some time in Jamestown before moving up to Indianapolis after their All-Star break.

The Pirates lost Gregory Polanco as a prospect this year, along with other guys like Tony Sanchez, Brandon Cumpton, and more. Despite this, they still have a top farm system, ending up with 4-5 of the top 50 prospects in the game in the mid-season updates.

It would definitely help if the Pirates continued to improve on those numbers. It’s obviously hard for prospects to develop when they’re injured. The injuries have already taken their toll on the system this year. Tyler Glasnow might be in Altoona right now if he hadn’t missed a month at the start of the season. Andrew Lambo could have been an option to join the majors a few different times had it not been for his thumb surgery. Austin Meadows might have to return to West Virginia next year, after missing the first three months of the 2014 season. Barrett Barnes hasn’t had a chance to get consistent playing time and development, which has prevented him from moving higher than West Virginia. Luis Heredia missed two months with a shoulder injury, preventing him from pitching a full season and improving his fastball command and his stuff in the process. Jameson Taillon (Tommy John) could have been in the majors by now. Clay Holmes (Tommy John) could have been in Glasnow territory, either close to a promotion to Altoona, or in Altoona.

There’s still two months remaining in the minor league season, and it looks like the Pirates will have most of their guys coming back (with the exception of the guys who are out for the year) for the final stretch. Here are a few things that could be key for the farm system in those final months.

Austin Meadows – Can he hit enough in two months to propel himself up the prospect ranks? This was supposed to be a potential breakout year for him, but a breakout would be hard with two months remaining.

Barrett Barnes – Can he stay healthy and make it to Bradenton? He’s got a lot of tools and talent, but hasn’t had much time on the field, leading to poor numbers. His prospect status has fallen because of the injuries. If he can return, stay healthy, and have success at a level higher than West Virginia, then he could see a rebound to his prospect status.

Andrew Lambo – What will his role be? He was hitting well before his injury. He could be a depth option for the Pirates at first base or in the outfield. Or he could be a trade chip at the deadline if he re-establishes his value right after his return.

Tyler Glasnow/Josh Bell – When will they move up to Altoona, and how will they do? To the first question, I think it will be soon. As for the second question, that’s something that we don’t know. It’s also something that could propel them even higher in the rankings if they have success in Double-A.

Luis Heredia – The last two years the West Virginia rotation has seen second half improvements from Nick Kingham, Clay Holmes, and Tyler Glasnow. Can Heredia do the same thing? Right now his first half has been pretty disappointing, which was kind of the case with Kingham and Holmes.

Harold Ramirez – He currently has his second leg injury of the season. He’s got a lot of potential with the bat, but has lacked consistency with his hitting this year, and hasn’t added much power.

Adrian Sampson/JaCoby Jones/Mel Rojas/Elias Diaz/Anyone Else Having a Breakout First Half – Can they continue over the final months and be a breakout prospect?

Of that list, Glasnow and Bell are the only guys locked into the top 100 rankings, although their question marks could allow them to move much higher if they have success in Altoona. The rest of the guys might not become top 100 prospects by the end of the year, but they could have a chance to give the Pirates’ system a boost, and maybe a future top prospect in the game. The Pirates just need guys to stay healthy this time around, and avoid the injury bug that was so common and harmful to the system’s development in the first half.

Links and Notes

**Prospect Watch: Five Home Runs in Five Games For JaCoby Jones

**Minor League Schedule: Morning Start Time For West Virginia Power Today

**Andrew Lambo Could Return to Indianapolis After the All-Star Break

**First Round Pick Cole Tucker Suffers a Minor Thumb Injury

**Barrett Barnes Close to a Return From His Hamstring Injury

**Pirates Sign Colombian Catcher Roberto Noguera

**Top 10 Pitchers: A Group of Lefties at the Top of the Pitching Ranks Last Week

Enjoy this story? Pirates Prospects will be switching to a subscription site on 4/13, so that we can continue bringing you the best Pirates coverage there is. For a very small monthly price, you can continue getting articles like this, along with coverage from every minor league city. Get more information here, and subscribe today!

Share This Article

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, 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.

Prospect Watch: Five Home Runs in Five Games For JaCoby Jones

Next Story »

A.J. Morris Gears to Return After the Indianapolis All-Star Break

  • R Edwards

    Hurdle blows another game by stubbornly using pitchers who cannot get anyone out – did this with Grilli a few times, and now twice with Frieri. Its not like Frieri is a huge mystery – he was terrible all year in LA – especially susceptible to HRs. So, what does he do – gives up a HR in the 9th inning of a tie game.

    Frieri needs to be sent to Indy – if he won’t accept it, DFA him. If Pimentel and Gomez cannot be trusted in close games, than neither of them should be on team. Mazzaro and Oliver would be improvements over at least 2 of these 3.

    • deacs

      I can’t pretend to know half as much as Ray, Jim or Clint but in Frieri’s few appearances he hasn’t really sparkled and didn’t warrant getting in the 9th last night. I would’ve gone to Gomez I guess because you “need” Melancon to save the game on the road. Although that’s debatable I understand the logic of not bringing Melancon in just yet. And I feel Mazzaro could go a couple innings and I’m not sure Frieri can. Some people get bent out of shape about the 7th reliever and others will say who cares – it’s the 7th reliever. But if that last guy out of the pen is costing you games is it really worth trying to fix him at the cost of losing games?
      That being said if he gets DFA-ed someone will definitely take a shot at him so management probably knows he’s gone if they do that.

      • deacs

        And if they DFA him has he been around long enough where his salary is guaranteed or does he risk losing that by not accepting an assignment to AAA like Tabata?

        • R Edwards

          if someone is foolish to claim him, so be it – no big loss. It cost us little and he is of little value to the team. Replace with Mazzaro and move on.

          • deacs

            My thought was they use him when they’re down, get his confidence back up, fix……….whatever Jim Benedict and Ray need to fix and we’ve got our next Hanrahan, Melancon or whomever maybe. But even if Mazzaro is only slightly better than Gomez and can go multiple innings I say make that move. Just my two cents. I realize Frieri’s upside is higher than Mazzaro’s but they need a little stability after Watson, Melancon and Hughes.

            • R Edwards

              Makes the Morris trade all the more worse….

              • leadoff

                No it doesn’t, Morris could not get the job done here either, nothing from nothing equals nothing. Morris has nothing to do with it, the Pirates refuse to upgrade the back of their bullpen because they don’t see the same problems that we see, they see pitchers with good arms and upside and they are willing to wait for them to get it together, we are not willing to wait, make some moves Neal.

                • R Edwards

                  It was a knee jerk, impatient kind of trade – and we’re paying the price now. Morris has been lights out in Miami since the trade, and would have been here if the Pirates had just stuck with him – and instead gotten rid of guys like Grilli, Gomez, etc if they needed to free up a bullpen spot.

                  And then we made the bad trade horrible, by selecting a corner outfielder who cannot hit for power.

                  We will regret this trade for years.

  • deacs

    Does the fact that Cutch, Marte and Polanco are locked up through 2018 play a part in Meadows location next year (Low A vs. A) or do they just look at him and his development and ignore what’s on the major league team?

    • jaygray007

      I’m not Tim, but my guess is that they will ignore what’s on the major league team until he earns his way AAA or so.

  • Thom

    Does Felipe Gonzalez count in the “Anyone Else Having a Breakout First Half”?

  • leadoff

    Why not give Oliver a chance in the back of the pen? He is vastly improved over the course of this year. We groom these prospects then when they are ready we bring in someone from the outside that is a project that can’t get the job done while we might have a prospect that can do the job.

  • leadoff

    If you look deeper into the Pirates bullpen you will notice that there are actually only 2 pitchers that have been steady and reliable lately. Melancon gave up a home run his last time out in the 9th followed by two different pitchers that gave up home runs in the ninth. What is wrong with these guys that they can’t pitch the ninth inning.

    • deacs

      How has Oliver’s control been lately?

      • leadoff

        Very good as a closer.

        • deacs

          Then why not. I don’t think the bullpen can handle two Justin Wilsons but if his control is better then it’s a good question that you asked earlier – why groom someone if you’re not going to use them?

Latest Analysis

  • Nick Kingham f

    Improving His Two-Seam Fastball will Make Nick Kingham a More Effective Pitcher

    17 hours ago

    With Jameson Taillon returning from Tommy John surgery, and unlikely to make an impact at the Major League level early in the year, the top prospect to ...

    Read More
  • Arquimedes Caminero 3

    The Roster Situations That Could Impact the Makeup of the Pirates Bullpen

    3 days ago

    There are less than two weeks remaining in Spring Training, and the one area where the Pittsburgh Pirates had actual position battles is heating up. There were ...

    Read More
  • Jordan Luplow

    How the Pirates are Trying to Stay Ahead of the Curve With the New Draft Rules

    4 days ago

    The 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement brought a lot of changes to Major League Baseball. The biggest change for the Pittsburgh Pirates came in the draft. From 2008-2011, ...

    Read More
  • Alen Hanson

    The Key For Alen Hanson to Help the Pirates in the Majors This Year

    4 days ago

    When the Pittsburgh Pirates moved Alen Hanson to second base last year, part of the plan was to get him to the majors faster by putting him at ...

    Read More
  • Tyler Glasnow 2

    What the Stats Don’t Tell You About Tyler Glasnow

    6 days ago

    The stat line for Tyler Glasnow’s start at Pirate City yesterday looked great: 3 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K. The lone run ...

    Read More
  • JaCoby Jones Josh Bell

    JaCoby Jones Did Fine in the Move to Shortstop, But Needs to Cut Down on Strikeouts

    1 week ago

    The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted JaCoby Jones as an outfielder in the third round of the 2013 draft, then surprised everyone the following year when they moved him ...

    Read More
  • Cody Dickson is a lefty with the upside of a middle of the rotation starter. (Photo Credit: Mark Olson)

    The Mental Adjustment that Led to Cody Dickson’s Dominant 2014 Second Half

    1 week ago

    Trusting his stuff and not trying to do too much — that has been the key for left-handed pitcher Cody Dickson so far in his professional baseball ...

    Read More
  • Third Base Mathisen Luplow Joe

    Who’s on Third? In the Pirates’ Farm System, It Could Be Anyone

    1 week ago

    If you have ever played third base in your life — professional, college, high school, slow pitch softball — then the Pittsburgh Pirates might be contacting you ...

    Read More
  • Jason Creasy

    Another Pitcher to Watch From the Pirates’ 2011 Draft

    2 weeks ago

    The 2011 draft is shaping up to be a great class for the Pittsburgh Pirates. They picked first overall that year, so naturally you’d expect good things ...

    Read More
  • Peacock Nevarez

    Will One of These Pirates Minor League Pitchers Be the Next John Holdzkom?

    2 weeks ago

    By now you probably know that John Holdzkom rose from independent ball last year and made it to the majors. It was one of the best stories in ...

    Read More
  • Browse More Articles