First Pitch: Several Indianapolis Indians Making a Case For a Promotion

Last night I wrote that I wouldn’t make any changes with Clint Barmes or Rod Barajas for at least one more month, giving both players until the end of May to break out of their early season slumps. While that’s my stance on most players after just one month in the season, there are a few moves that I would make now, bringing some of the top early season performers up from Indianapolis to provide an upgrade to the Pirates.

Here is a look at the guys I would bring up now, along with some guys I’d consider in about a month from now. Note that you won’t find Starling Marte on either list. He’s currently day-to-day with a bruised hand, but he wasn’t dominating Triple-A prior to the injury. He needs more time at the level, and there’s no need to rush him. At this point it wouldn’t hurt to give him an entire season in Triple-A.

Jake Fox – Fox can play catcher, but his defense is horrible. So I wouldn’t suggest him as a regular option behind the plate. I do agree with Charlie and David at Bucs Dugout that he would be a good option off the bench. Fox plays almost every position on the field, although he doesn’t play them well. What he does well is hit for power. I don’t like making a lot about 45 at-bats in Triple-A, so I’m not putting Fox on this list for his .378/.462/.600 line during that span. Fox makes the list because in his major league career he has a .714 OPS, mostly fueled by his power, with 20 homers in 489 at-bats. I’d take that off the bench, although I wouldn’t want to see him getting a lot of playing time in the field, unless it was at first base.

Jeff Locke/Rudy Owens – Both left handers are throwing well, and could make the jump to the majors today if needed. I’d personally swap out Kevin Correia and give one of these two a shot right now until Jeff Karstens returned. And then maybe keep them there if they are pitching well when Karstens returns. Correia is only under control through the end of the year. Locke and Owens have six years of control remaining beyond the 2012 season. They’re also putting up strong numbers, and their stuff looks legit, backing up those numbers.

Daniel McCutchen – The Pirates don’t have a bullpen problem in the majors, but if they do, Daniel McCutchen has been pitching well in Indianapolis. He has a 2.49 ERA in 21.2 innings, with a 14:6 K/BB ratio.

Doug Slaten – Slaten is a good option if the Pirates need a left handed reliever. In 15.2 innings with Indianapolis this year he has a 0.57 ERA and a 9:4 K/BB ratio, spending most of his time as the closer.

Jo-Jo Reyes – There have been a lot of complaints about Reyes this year, wondering why they keep giving him starts. Part of that is because Kyle McPherson remains injured. Another part is because Reyes has a 2.03 ERA in 31 innings, with a 23:7 K/BB ratio. What’s notable to me is that he has a .137 BAA against left handers, compared to a .309 BAA versus right handers, making him another left handed relief option.

Guys who are playing well, but need more time in Triple-A…

Jordy Mercer – Mercer had a .239/.304/.385 lie in 226 at-bats in Triple-A last year. This year he started off slow, with a .238/.347/.375 line in 80 at-bats during the month of April. He’s been on fire in May, with a .412/.429/.529 line in 34 at-bats. He’s currently riding a nine game hitting streak, which has spanned since the last day of April. He’s also cut down on his strikeouts, going from 21 in 80 at-bats in April, to three in 34 at-bats in May. You want to see more than two weeks of good hitting before calling him up. If he keeps up this hot hitting, he would be a prime candidate for a call up this time next month.

Jose Morales – Morales is a similar situation to Jake Fox. He doesn’t have many at-bats this year, but he does have major league experience. In 218 career major league at-bats, Morales has a .289 average and a .709 OPS. He’s got a good arm, and decent defensive skills behind the plate. If Rod Barajas is still struggling by the end of May, the Pirates would be smart to go with a combination of Morales and Michael McKenry behind the plate.

Bryan Morris – You could make a case for Morris to come up now. His 3.60 ERA isn’t special, but his secondary numbers are dominant. Morris has a 15:2 K/BB ratio in 15 innings. He throws his fastball in the mid-90s, and has developed a nasty cutter that he’s using as a strikeout pitch. I listed him here because he needs more than 15 innings in Triple-A. However, this is his final option year, which means he needs to be up at some point this season to show what he can do in the majors.

Links and Notes

**The Pirates won 5-4 on a walkoff homer from Rod Barajas. Game story here.

**Prospect Watch: Another good start for Rudy Owens, and Jordy Mercer gets three hits.

**The Pitch F/X preview for the Washington Nationals’ probable starters.

**Kristy Robinson wrote about how the Pirates need to get the power bats rolling. They responded with three homers. Tomorrow’s article: the Pirates need to win the World Series.


  • Justin Wilson pitched another very good game for Indianapolis today. 6 innings, 3 hits, 6 Ks, and, most importantly, only one walk.

  • Doesn’t Morales have an out clause that comes into play in June 1? I’d like to see him available as an option in case Barajas continues to put up these horrific numbers, but it’s not time just yet.

  • I agree that Fox should be up with the major league club, he is doing well and is the type of player they need on their roster at this point.
    I think the pitching staff of the Pirates will still have to be sorted out before they bring anyone up from the minors.

  • Sorry. I didn’t read your statement on Morales before writing my previous comment.

  • Tim,
    Would you want Locke/Owens in the starting rotation rather than Lincoln?
    I think Fox should be promoted immediately. The team’s biggest need is power and he has 20 homeruns in about one full season’s worth of MLB plate appearances. Do you think he could handle the samll right-field at PNC Park?
    Is Jose Morales an option at catcher? In 250 career MLB plate appearances he has a .269 BA and a .365 OBP. He has zero power, but he has shown the ability to get on base.