Over the weekend, Ryan Palencer stepped in to write an Indianapolis Indians themed First Pitch, looking at the depth options on that team, and the lack of playing time for all of the available options. The two specific areas he focused on were catcher and the outfield.
The catching situation is pretty well confined to the Triple-A level, and a debate over how to split up playing time between Elias Diaz and Tony Sanchez. Currently the Pirates are going with a two-on, two-off game schedule, while getting each player at-bats as a DH when they’re off.
The outfield situation is where things get interesting. The Pirates have Jose Tabata, Jaff Decker, Gorkys Hernandez, and Mel Rojas for the three spots. Normally you could have one of those options as a DH, but as noted above, Diaz and Sanchez will be taking up that time. This means one of these four outfielders will most likely be on the Indianapolis bench most nights, despite the fact that all four could be MLB depth options this year.
This is a situation that spans beyond Indianapolis, and it was something I was thinking about after Ryan’s article on Saturday. We already saw Keon Broxton held back in Altoona at the start of the season, due to the lack of space at the Triple-A level. Willy Garcia and Stetson Allie take the other two outfield spots in Altoona, although those two are likely being held back more because of the bat and the strikeouts, rather than a lack of opportunity.
Because the Altoona outfield is also full, Jose Osuna has no room to move up to Bradenton. He wouldn’t be getting time at first base, and the lack of outfield spots left him in High-A for the third year in a row, despite solid numbers at the end of last season.
The Pirates are starting to have these types of situations at every position. As an example, look at what could happen at the second base position in the next year. Max Moroff is off to a good start in Altoona, and has the upside to play in the majors, possibly as a starter if he puts it all together and breaks out this year. But Alen Hanson is a much better prospect, and is currently ahead of him, playing in Indianapolis. Hanson is held back this year by Neil Walker, Sean Rodriguez, and Jung-Ho Kang in the majors, making it unlikely that he will get a significant look.
Hanson could always make the jump to the majors next year, replacing Rodriguez in that utility infielder role. Something needs to happen, because Moroff will be pushing from Altoona. Moroff will have Erich Weiss pushing from Bradenton. Weiss is going to most likely have Pablo Reyes pushing from West Virginia. Not all of those guys are on the same level as prospects, but they’re all guys who should be challenged to see what they have, in hopes that they might put it all together and exceed expectations.
This is going to be the case for a lot of positions. It’s the sign of a good system, and should lead to a good flow of talent to the majors, or the possibility of further trades to help the majors (although I don’t subscribe to the theory that a trade is absolutely necessary, since depth isn’t a real problem that needs to be solved by moving someone). And if there are more stories like Moroff so far this year, or Diaz last year, then the Pirates are going to be in good shape in the future.
**At the end of last week I mentioned that I would be updating the theme to a cleaner look that had fewer ads. As you saw today, the new theme is live. If you notice any issues with the theme, let me know. I already received word that the first article on the main page on mobile devices was cutting off part of the headline. That issue has now been resolved.
I like how the new look turned out, especially with some of the smaller features like the images in the menu bar at the top of the page, the fact that the menu bar is always at the top of the screen, and the slideshow feature used in today’s Top Performers article, which should make some information much easier to browse through.