So far, it hasn’t been the best of all possible seasons for the farm system. Few of the team’s hitting prospects are having good seasons and one of the ones who is can’t seem to get any recognition for it. On the pitching front, if you’re not in AAA and not named Jameson or Gerrit, you’re probably not pitching well at all. Still, there are a few guys showing encouraging signs lately.
Jose Morales, C (AAA): As Tim has chronicled, Morales can become a free agent if the Pirates don’t bring him to the majors by June 1. Morales should be tempting for the Pirates because he does have one ability that’s badly lacking on the major league squad: he gets on base. Over the past week he’s gone 7-18 (.389) to improve his average to .309 and his OBP to .385. No, he doesn’t have much power, but that OBP is well over 100 points higher than the Pirates’ OBP, which is last in the NL by a huge margin.
Jordy Mercer, IF (AAA): In his past seven games, Mercer has gone 12-29 with a double and a HR, leaving him at 298/376/409 on the year. Yet while Josh Harrison, Matt Hague, Gorkys Hernandez and Yamaico Navarro are getting opportunities, and while Clint Barmes is putting up offensive numbers that would have embarrassed Rafael Belliard, Mercer seems to have been overlooked as a possible callup.
Tim Wood, RHP (AAA): Wood got off to a rough start this year, but has been nearly unhittable in May. In 17.1 IP, he’s allowed just four hits and two walks, while fanning 15. Unfortunately for him, the Pirates’ bullpen has been strong and they have other options in the minors who are on the 40-man roster, most notably Evan Meek and Bryan Morris. They also have Chris Leroux, who should be getting ready to go on rehab. Wood’s path back to the majors may not be easy.
Doug Slaten, LHP (AAA): The Pirates face the same decision with Slaten as with Morales. His ERA is sitting at 0.39 and he’s allowed only 14 hits and six walks in 25.1 IP, but he’s fanned only 15. He has just a marginal major league track record. Beware of veteran relievers dominating in AAA.
Brock Holt, SS (AA): In the past week, Holt has gone 11-27 (.407) with two doubles and a triple to improve his season’s numbers to 307/365/431. He’s in his second AA season after playing well enough in 2011 to earn a promotion, but he’s blocked by Chase d’Arnaud and Mercer, who in turn are blocked by . . . nothing (except in d’Arnaud’s case his own injuries and poor performance).
Quincy Latimore, OF (AA): Latimore returned to AA this year to work on his plate discipline and got off to a dismal start. He’s been coming around lately, including an 8-24 (.333) showing with four doubles and two HRs in the last week. He still has a long ways to go to establish any sort of prospect status, as he’s hitting 231/281/374 on the year.
Willy Garcia, OF (Low A): Garcia has been slowly climbing farther and farther above the Mendoza line after finishing April at .214. In the past week he’s gone 9-21 (.429), raising his season numbers to 262/296/410. In May he’s hitting 303/349/495. The walk and strikeout numbers (10 and 50, respectively) remain a significant barrier, but Garcia is making progress.
Nick Kingham, RHP (Low A): After struggling for about the first six weeks of the season, Kingham has pitched well in three straight starts. In 16 innings he has an ERA of 1.69 and 17 strikeouts, with only ten hits and one walk allowed.
Evan Chambers, OF (High A): Chambers came into the year needing to establish a more productive approach at the plate, as his extreme patience, while leading to a lot of walks, also was leading to difficulties making contact. He hasn’t found a viable approach yet, as a 3-20 (.150) week left him at 194/330/245 for the year. He’s still drawing tons of walks, but his power has almost completely disappeared.
Jameson Taillon, RHP (High A): Taillon has mostly struggled in his last three starts, posting a 7.63 ERA in 15.1 IP. Control and the longball have been most of the issue, as he’s allowed eight walks and three HRs in that time, after allowing only seven walks and no HRs in his first 36.2 IP. Still, there’s no reason to consider it anything other than a blip. The most likely impact is to delay Taillon’s eventual promotion slightly.