In the top three levels of the minors, the Pittsburgh Pirates have three first base prospects who look close to deserving a promotion.
In Triple-A, Jeff Clement has been on a tear this year. Clement hit his 14th homer of the year on Friday night, and currently has a .297/.360/.529 line in 333 at-bats this year. A big difference this year is that his knee is finally healthy, giving some credit to the numbers. He comes with the disclaimer that he’s in his seventh season in Triple-A. But with inconsistent play from Casey McGehee in the majors, the Pirates couldn’t lose anything by giving Clement a shot. I doubt it would happen if they add a hitter via trade, although the Pirates could turn to Clement as a September callup regardless of who they add.
In Altoona, Matt Curry is hitting for a .299/.365/.503 line with eight homers and 27 doubles in 288 at-bats. In April and May he had an OPS just under .800. He was on fire in June, with a .385/.455/.821 line, although it was only 39 at-bats in an injury shortened month. He’s carried his hitting over to July, with a .288/.372/.493 line in 73 at-bats. He’s been slumping in his last ten games, with a .697 OPS in 31 at-bats. That span does include two of his three homers this month.
Alex Dickerson is in a similar situation to Curry. He struggled in April and May, although his struggles were worse. He had a .668 OPS in April, and a .727 OPS in May. In June he turned things around, with a .316/.369/.537 line in 95 at-bats. He’s been even better in July, with a .333/.387/.576 line in 99 at-bats. That includes his .361/.439/.667 line in 36 at-bats over the last ten games.
The potential for a Clement promotion depends on the availability of a roster spot in the majors. You could argue that Curry is the least deserving of moving up. He’s got a smaller sample size of success, and is slumping recently. Alex Dickerson might be the most deserving of a promotion, and the easiest to promote. Even with Curry in Double-A, Dickerson could move up and fill time as the designated hitter.
Moving Dickerson up at this point might not make a lot of sense. He’s going to start in Altoona next year regardless, so the one month might not help. Dickerson and Curry both need continued work defensively at first base, and one would be left out of the mix each game. Plus, with Dickerson/Curry taking up the DH spot, you’re bumping someone like Drew Maggi or Oscar Tejeda from the lineup. Bradenton is in a playoff race in the second half, so it might benefit Dickerson to stick around and play the final month in high-A, trying to get some playoff experience.
The only promotion that makes sense would be Clement. You’re not making any significant changes to the long term plans by moving Dickerson or Curry up for one month to end the season. Clement, on the other hand, could provide a power bat off the bench for the Pirates down the stretch, with the outside chance to pull a Garrett Jones 2009 and show that there’s some merit to his Triple-A numbers this time. There’s not much value in giving Dickerson or Curry one month at a new level, but there’s definitely value in promoting Clement if he can help the big league team during the final month of the season.
Links and Notes
**The Pirates beat the Astros 4-3.
**Prospect Watch: Sanchez Hits 6th Homer; Three Hits Each For Santos and Dickerson.