This was a somewhat short week for some of the Pirates’ affiliates, due to the usual April rainouts. Altoona got some strong starting pitching, but the other affiliates mostly didn’t. Some hot hitters stayed hot, but not a lot of others got hot.
Justin Wilson, LHP (AAA): Wilson pitched only one time during the week, but he had an outstanding outing. He threw six shutout innings, allowing only two hits and two walks, while striking out four. Opponents are batting .185 against him on the year. The main question is whether he’ll manage to find the strike zone consistently.
Starling Marte, OF (AA): Continuing his strong start, Marte went 8-for-23 (.348), including a six-RBI game on Friday. Importantly, he fanned only once, and even managed two walks.
Aaron Pribanic, RHP (AA): He had only one start during the week, but it was an outstanding one: seven innings, three hits, one run, and no walks. For the year, Pribanic has an ERA of 1.89, an opponents’ batting average of .188, and only one walk allowed. The main concern is the low strikeout total: eight in 19 IP.
Jeff Locke, LHP (AA): Locke also continued a strong start. In his only outing of the week he allowed just three hits and no walks, while fanning six, in 6.1 IP. He allowed two runs, both of which scored after he was out of the game. His ERA now stands at 2.30 and he’s fanning a batter an inning.
Mike Dubee, RHP (AA): Dubee had three scoreless outings, totalling four innings. He’s now had seven straight since he allowed a run in his first game. Overall, he’s allowed just six hits and two walks in 10.1 IP, while fanning twelve. He’s now been in AA since mid-2009. You have to wonder whether the Pirates will ever give him a shot at AAA.
Tom Boleska, RHP (AA): Boleska has yet to allow a run in six games on the year. He had two scoreless outings in the last week, the second one covering three hitless innings. He’s allowed only three hits and four walks in 8.2 IP, while fanning five. It’s puzzling that the Curve don’t use Dubee or Boleska as closer instead of Noah Krol, who hasn’t done well in the role.
Elevys Gonzalez, 3B (A+): Gonzalez went 9-for-21 (.429) with three doubles, and is now hitting 367/439/490. His hits seem to come in bunches; he had seven in two games. Scouts aren’t wild about Gonzalez because he lacks any plus tools, but he’s steadily improved after opening last year as a utility player at West Virginia.
Benji Gonzalez, SS (A+): He didn’t exactly tear up the league in the past week, going 5-for-16 (.313), and he only has one extra base hit all year, but Gonzalez is an excellent defender at short who won’t have to hit a ton to reach the majors. Last year he struggled mightily to adjust to low class A, taking until after mid-season to get above the Mendoza line. So far this year he’s hitting .277 with an OBP of .375, so that’s encouraging progress.
Kyle McPherson, RHP (A+): McPherson has opened the season with four outstanding starts. He made only one in the past week, but went seven shutout innings, allowing five hits and fanning six. Through 23.2 IP, he has yet to walk a batter. He’s struck out 22 and opponents are hitting .216 against him. He has a reverse split; lefties are batting only .156 against him, which is probably a testament to his changeup.
Matt Curry, 1B (A): Curry continued to wreck Sally League pitching, going 10-for-22 (.455), with two doubles, a triple, two HRs, and seven RBIs in six games. He’s now hitting 400/485/782 overall, with ten walks and only five strikeouts.
Justin Howard, 1B (A): A darkhorse prospect who had a breakout senior season in college last year, Howard went 8-for-21 (.381), with two doubles, a triple and a HR. With Curry on the same team, he’s played more in the outfield than at first, which may work long-term because he has average speed.
Jason Townsend, RHP (A): The Pirates are intrigued by Townsend, a late-round draft pick, due to his upper-90s heat. He’s having little trouble with low-A so far. He had two more scoreless outings during the week and is unscored-upon in five games this year. Overall, he’s fanned eleven while allowing six hits and no walks in seven innings.
Jarek Cunningham, 2B (A+): Cunningham still has issues with making contact and taking walks (although his BB and K rates so far are a little better than last year’s), but he’s generating plenty of pop with the bat. Of his fifteen hits on the year, thirteen have gone for extra bases (8 doubles, one triple, 4 HRs). In the past week he had one game with two HRs and five RBIs, and another with three doubles (both on the road, so it wasn’t the McKechnie winds). He’s only hitting .238, but he’s slugging .587. The lack of singles may be partly due to bad luck. His batting average on balls in play is only .256, which is 70-80 points below previous years.
Andrew Lambo, OF (AAA): Lambo struggled at the beginning of the season, then got hot for about a week, then cooled off again just as suddenly. All this in a season that’s only two-and-a-half weeks old. In the last week he went 2-for-18 (.111), including 0-for-13 in his last four games. He also has yet to homer.
Eric Avila, 3B (A): Avila went just 2-for-17 (.118) on the week and is now hitting 182/246/200 overall. He’s obviously struggling with the jump from rookie ball, but he only fanned twice so he doesn’t seem to be completely overwhelmed.
Zack Von Rosenberg, RHP (A): After a strong first start, Von Rosenberg got hammered twice in the last week. He allowed 18 hits and ten runs, all earned, along with three HRs, in 8.2 IP. It’s obviously going to raise questions about his stuff if he continues to get hit hard.
Tyler Waldron, RHP (A): Waldron had two weak starts, allowing sixteen hits and eight earned runs in 11 IP. As a draftee from a major college program, he shouldn’t be struggling at this level.