Austin Meadows, Tyler Eppler, and Montana DuRapau Promoted to Altoona

The Pittsburgh Pirates have promoted Austin Meadows to Altoona for the last six days of the season, plus a likely trip to the playoffs for the Curve. He agent tweeted the promotion this morning. We found out yesterday that Meadows will be part of the group of Pirates’ players going to the AFL in October. He leaves the FSL with a .307/.357/.407 slash line in 121 games. Meadows leads the FSL with 156 hits and he is second with 72 runs scored.

There are more moves expected today, as Altoona will be sending players to Indianapolis to cover their empty roster spots after the September call-ups. Check back for any updates on the roster shuffles.

UPDATE 12:04 PM: Pirates Prospects has learned that right-handed pitchers Tyler Eppler and Montana DuRapau have also been promoted to Altoona. Analysis to follow on all three moves. – Tim Williams

UPDATE 12:09 PM: Meadows was having a great season in Bradenton this year, posting a .307/.357/.407 line in 508 at-bats. The power was down for most of the year, but that is primarily due to the fact that the Florida State League suppresses power. The league average ISO was .089, so the .100 mark from Meadows is above-average. He got better as the year went on, with a .338/.366/.450 line in the second half, and a .319/.333/.440 line in August.

Meadows has a short, quick swing and drives the ball to the gaps. He’s got a lot of raw power, but at this stage in his career that is only showing up as line drive power. He added some muscle to his frame prior to the season, and could continue adding strength going forward, which could lead to more home runs. He’s got the range to play center field, but doesn’t have the best arm strength in the system, and profiles best as a left fielder in PNC Park one day.

I wrote about Eppler earlier this month, noting that he’s in a special group of early round college starters who skipped over West Virginia. The other guys in that group were Justin Wilson, Adrian Sampson, and Chad Kuhl. The Pirates are obviously high on Eppler, and for good reason. He sits 92-94 MPH with his fastball, and can touch as high as 96-97. He’s got a big frame at 6′ 6″, 220 pounds, and put up outstanding numbers in Bradenton this year, with a 2.58 ERA and a 46:14 K/BB ratio in 66.1 innings. That included an amazing month of August where he had an 0.85 ERA in 31.2 innings, with a 20:6 K/BB ratio.

As I noted earlier in the month, Eppler found a lot of success after a relief appearance in July. That changed his mindset heading into starts, where he started carrying over the mentality of protecting a small lead from the start of each game. It appears the results were working for him. His season was shortened this year with some elbow issues in Spring Training, but that’s no longer an issue at this point.

DuRapau might be one of the better stories in the lower levels this year. He’s having a breakout season as a relief prospect, and has now moved from West Virginia to Altoona in one year. He started with a 1.40 ERA in 19.1 innings in West Virginia, with a 19:1 K/BB ratio. He followed that up with another 1.40 ERA in 51.1 innings in Bradenton, with a 48:7 K/BB ratio. He started off in a long-relief role, but eventually moved to take over as Bradenton’s closer.

Typically, relief prospects in the lower levels don’t become relievers who reach the majors. That could be different in this case. DuRapau sits 90-93 MPH with his fastball, and has a cutter, curveball, and changeup. He can command all of his pitches for strikes, but has had a lot of success relying on a fastball/cutter combo out of the bullpen.

DuRapau is a good story because he was overlooked last year in the draft, going in the 32nd round as a college senior. That might have been due to his small frame, at 5′ 11″, 175 pounds. However, he’s done nothing but put up good numbers in pro ball, and the results look to be legit. The jump to Double-A will be a big test for his prospect status, but he shouldn’t have much trouble as a reliever who throws 90-93 with a good cutter and strong command of the strike zone. – Tim Williams

UPDATE 12:35 PM: Pirates Prospects has also learned that Mel Rojas and Matt Benedict are being promoted from Altoona to Indianapolis.

UPDATE 12:42 PM: Not as much excitement on the other end of these moves, as Rojas and Benedict profile more as upper-level organizational guys who might get a call-up to the majors at some point. Rojas has the best chance of that happening, but would have a difficult time making the majors in a Pirates’ system that is crowded with outfield talent. He didn’t help himself out this year, posting a .608 OPS with Indianapolis, and then getting demoted to Altoona and putting up a .715 OPS. Rojas has strong defense in center field and good speed. He also has a lot of raw power, but has never been able to carry that over to the games on a consistent basis. Last year he posted a .794 OPS, and looked like a guy who could get a shot at the majors soon, but he ended up taking a step back this year.

Benedict has been up to Indianapolis for a spot start this year. He’s a sinkerball pitcher who has been used as an organizational starter throughout the year, and will likely continue that role with Indianapolis now that they’re down a few pitchers. He didn’t put up good numbers in Altoona, with a 6.03 ERA in 97 innings. He’s got a good frame, and gets a lot of ground balls, but that’s pretty much his entire game. He might have success one day moving to a relief role, but for now he’ll continue pitching in this organizational role, which doesn’t give him a strong chance of reaching the majors. – Tim Williams

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    September 2, 2015 8:36 pm

    Its about time for DuRapau – he should have been promoted a month ago. Meadows has had a nice season, and I don’t have an issue with him being promoted. However, it would seem Ramirez would have been promoted before or at the same time – as you could argue Ramirez has had the better season at Bradenton, despite his later start.

    • It’s amazing that nobody has hired you to run a club’s minor league system, since it apparently only takes a cursory glance at statistics to make these calls.

  • Still a year too early to get excited…but Meadows seems to be getting really close to complicating things in the P’burgh OF…and that’s not a bad thing.

    My thought…hope…dream…is that Polanco and Marte keep progressing and Cutch stays the stud he is…and Meadows is good enough to allow for a record monstrous prospect haul for Cutch at the 2017 trade deadline. It may be blasphemous, but…

  • My favorite quarterback was named Montana. I have never been to Easter Island so Montana Durapau is like a Twix Bar.

  • Meadows will at least not be rushed through any of the levels like polanco was in aaa.

    • My opinion, I would never say Polanco was rushed. Some players adjustment periods are longer than others. The Royals roster is full of examples. Statistically, it took Polanco a full year to adjust. I never expected him to be Mike Trout. He was a guy with a long swing and had to learn how to adjust as teams did to him.

  • Also, is it just me or is Meadows underrated? He is quietly one of the best prospects in the minors and is already in AA having just turned 20 in May.

    • Depends who you ask. Keith Law loves him. Others probably focus on his lack of power and put him around 40-50. From what I read he has limitless potential at the plate.

      • Sickels and McDaniel had him high too. He’s rated but no one seems to talk about him. Not a lot of hype.

        • Should I make a joke about if he was a Cub, Red Sox or Yankees prospect or is that outdated?

          • No, I think it applies. I also think the Pirates current outfield situation has something to do with it too.

            • It’ll be interesting seeing as how Meadows will most likely get a cup of coffee in Indy this time next year.

              • If he rakes like he did in A in AA, I think he’ll be AAA by June or July.

                • I could see that.

                • To me the only question is what type of hitter they ultimately want him to be. If they’re happy with what he currently is, a contact-oriented hitter with a line drive swing, then I truly don’t see why he couldn’t be Major League ready at the start of 2017. The hit tool is there, the plate discipline is there, all that’s really left is tightening his game up against good lefties.

                  But just like we learned this year with Josh Bell, additional strength *will not* translate to more over-the-fence power. Both players power production isn’t limited by strength or ability, it’s limited by swing and approach. Josh Bell has not and will not hit for appreciably more power until he gears his swing for more fly balls, and neither will Meadows. Just not how this works.

                  Now Meadows will provide enough value in the field and on the bases that he certainly doesn’t *have* to make that adjustment like Bell does, but if that’s the route they take then I think you add at least another year to his development.

                  • Just did a quick check over at fangraphs and looked at Cutch’s minor league numbers. Bell and Meadows both look like way better prospects than Cutch. Cutch didn’t look like a power hitter either and he now has 5 straight seasons with 20+ homers. Looking at his minor league numbers, you would’ve never thought Cutch would be a future MVP and best player in the NL. I remember how excited we were about him but I think that said more about the Pirates’ system at the time than Cutch himself. Anywho, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Bell and Meadows both develop into 20+ home run hitters in the majors. Actually, just go into fangraphs stats and click on names and it shows their minor league and major league stats. It’s interesting to look at some of today’s stars and see what they did in the minors. Goldschmidt was drafted in the 8th and destroyed the ball over 3 levels before coming to the majors. He was immediately successful yet every team passed over him at least 7 times. That’s crazy.

                    • But it’s not like Cutch just kept doing what he was doing in the minors and eventually turned into a perennial 20 home run player.

                      Remember this guy?

                      Yeah, that guy didn’t just all the sudden start hitting home runs. That guy added 30+ pounds and significantly changed his swing.

                      My point all along with Bell and Meadows is that they’re *not* 160 lb kids. Bell is an absolute monster of a human, and Meadows is a 200 pounder himself. The strength is already there for more home runs, the swing is not. If either player adjusts as Cutch has, then I have absolutely no doubt they’d equal or top his power production.

                      But we can’t just keep saying it’ll happen just because. There has to be an actual change.

    • Baseball Prospectus was the only reputable outlet to have him outside the Top 50 heading into the season, and at that point no matter where you’re at in said Top 50 can really be considered “underrated” unless we’re talking about a consensus Top 5-10 guy barely squeaking in.

      BP finally came around and moved him up to #46 in their mid-season Top 50 update, although they’re still the relative low man on him. That’s still probably 10+ spots too low, but it gets hard to quibble between spots that relatively close.

  • You gotta think Meadows, Bell, and Glasnow will give the Pirates 3 top 20 prospects this offseason. I think Bell’s lack of power may hold him back a tad but he is raking in AAA. Bell and Meadows look like 2 future .300/.400/.450+ guys.

  • BallHeadWonder
    September 2, 2015 1:08 pm

    #AltoonaMontana has come true!! Super Happy for this kid!! Can he be Mark The Shark 2.0??? We will see!! He has the exact same stuff as Melancon. With command of all the pitches!! I’m just glad to see a 32nd round draft pick out of a HBCU get some love!! I remember Tim or John writing about him when he was in Rookie Ball, about how much of a long shot he was!! Trust me, not throwing it back in your chops, because I trust you guys and what you see about prospects. Just excited about how much the long shot has come along and produced. Just your write-up in this article about him is AWESOME!! To see this guy in PNC come running out of the Bullpen in the 7th or 8th would be an UNBELIEVABLE Event!!! Hope he can keep flying under the radar and put up ZEROS!!!!

    • There’s my man!

    • I wrote about it saying that throwing 86-88 won’t cut it, so he needs to add velocity if he is going to make it. He added velocity, sitting 90-93 this year

    • The thing is, every year we see college pitchers come in and dominate the NYPL, especially college seniors who were late round picks. And most of those guys don’t go on to have the same success DuRapau has shown this year in the upper levels. Thus, we’re usually skeptical at first. That’s why I mentioned it’s such a good story. Aside from the 32nd round aspect, he’s proving to be the exception so far.

  • Montana DuRapau sounds like a stripper’s name. I propose going forward, that given the quality of his stuff, he heretofore be known as Steve Montana.

    • But if he becomes a Major League closer, he could come in to some burlesque music or something, and it would totally mess with the hitters.

      Montana DuRapau is a solid 65+ grade name, I think.

  • Happy to see Montana get a chance this year in AA. I still think with his command of the strike zone that he has a chance to make it to the show.

  • If he throws up solid stats in AA, he could end up being a huge trade chip if Pirates don’t see a future outfield spot for him given the status quo

    • I think it’s very possible he replaces #22 one day, if he continues to progress. (ducks)

      • Fans response

      • Tim said this last summer and effectively ruined my Christmas. I said it was my dream to make a prospect for prospect deal. He said it wasn’t going to happen and threatened to kick me off the website if I mentioned it again. It was a sad day…………..but let’s be honest. Trading Cutch before his contract is up and moving Marte to CF isn’t nuts. It’s just upsetting and would make some sense seeing as how he’ll never be extended past 2018.

        • I think, if anything, Meadows having success at the higher levels with his strike zone judgement makes Marte a trade chip. With Marte’s contract and success in majors, the Pirates could really get a good package for him.

          • Yeah……..but do you really see Cutch re-signing in Pittsburgh? I’d love it if they could get him on a 5 or 6 year deal if he holds up but I don’t see it happening. He’s entitled to cash in and probably will. The Pirates won’t spend that kind of money. The Cano contracts are over (or should be) but I could see Cutch getting something close to 25 mil a year for 6 or 7 years if he continues to hit like this. You could argue that he’s not worth that in the last couple years but that’s not a concern to any team that can afford that type of deal. And if that’s the case you have Marte for 3 years past Cutch’s departure that I think and at a very reasonable price. I say enjoy him while he’s here. Not impossible for him to resign but I doubt it.

            • I think the first $100MM+ contract the Bucs ever divvy out will be to Cutch. He’s an icon in Pittsburgh. I think management will approach him regarding a contract extension before the current lets up.

              • I think they’ll approach him, as they should. And I would bet they’d offer him the biggest contract in franchise history. But if they get into a bidding war, even though he’ll be 32 when he’s a free agent, they’ll lose. Anything’s possible but the discount that Cutch would give the Pirates would have to be massive I’d imagine for them to be able to afford his contract.

                • He’ll be a free agent at 32, part of his game is speed, judging by the current mega-contracts, handed out, I don’t think teams will be so quick to jump at giving McCutchen a Cano-like contract. I think if the Pirates can offer him a 6yr, $150MM deal, he might be inclined to take it.

                  • I think if were being honest then speed isn’t a big part of his game at this point. Hes certainly not slow but he doesn’t have the same burst or top end as he used to.

                    That being said ill be extremely bummed if/when he leaves or is sent off but unfortunately it is looking more and more logical.

        • Haha

          • That was a rough day. I tried to say maybe they could trade Meadows for a Kris Bryant EQUIVALENT (this was before J Hay took off last year and the Kang signing). Then people ignored the equivalent part and responded by saying Meadows straight up for Bryant would never work. I’m sure there was laughter behind the scenes seeing as how Bryant was the #1 prospect in baseball at the time. By the time I tried to explain not Kris Bryant specifically, but basically a highly touted corner infield bat or equivalent people stopped paying attention to me. I was quiet at the dinner table that night………

        • Cutch is a class guy and I would not be wailing and gnashing my teeth if we sign him to finish his career as a Pirate. Then watch him on Root Sports telecasts till I die! Class guy.

      • That’s the other reasonable option. They have another year or two to evaluate both players if they really want to. I’m honestly okay with either option. Using Meadows as the centerpiece of a deal to bring in a good player with years of control would be great, but having a good replacement for Cutch if he can’t be re-signed allows us to trade him for a massive haul before the start of his last season under contract. I’m not advocating for either at this point, it’s just nice to know that there will be options.

  • Pretty aggressive considering the ages of these players. And an excellent sign !

  • This will make the DuRapau fan club very happy.

  • A star is born.