Prospect Notebook: Edgar Santana, Austin Meadows, Kevin Newman, Nick Kingham

Neal Huntington met with the media on Sunday, including our own Alan Saunders, for his weekly press conference. During this week’s session, he discussed a few prospects briefly. There wasn’t a lot said on any specific player, but enough that I wanted to share and give some notes on each guy.

Two of the prospects discussed were the top two position player prospects in the system. However, I wanted to start off with a guy who is close to the majors, as he could be the first from this group to make an impact.

Edgar Santana

Santana is having an amazing season out of the Triple-A bullpen. He has given up just one earned run this year, and has gone 22.2 innings without an earned run, striking out 21 in the process. He’s got dominant stuff, with a mid-to-upper 90s fastball that has movement, and a sharp breaking slider that gets a lot of swings and misses.

It makes you wonder why the Pirates aren’t giving him a shot in the bullpen first, over guys like Johnny Barbato and Jhan Marinez. Huntington didn’t really elaborate much on the specifics of what Santana needs to work on, but said he could help sooner than later.

“He’s an interesting one in that he’s putting up dominant numbers and then you watch the stuff and the stuff is really good as well,” Huntington said. “He’s a mature young man. He doesn’t have a ton of innings under his belt. We’re looking for him to continue to learn how to be able to pitch the game, learn how to make adjustments on the fly, learn how to recognize swings and continue to with his development. He’s certainly doing everything we’ve been wanting him and needing him to do. He’s going to help us at some point here and maybe sooner than later.”

One of the things I’ve seen from Santana is his tendency to over-throw in some cases. His stuff is good enough to get outs, but sometimes he tries to over-power hitters by adding a bit more. Still, that’s not an alarming issue, and may not be a big problem. He looks like he’s ready now.

Austin Meadows

Meadows got off to a slow start in April, hitting for a .195/.247/.256 line in 89 plate appearances. He’s been doing better in May, hitting for a .267/.337/.400 line in 83 plate appearances so far. And in a smaller sample size, he’s hitting for a .296/.356/.444 line in his last 59 plate appearances. I’ll get to why that is notable in a second. First, here’s Huntington on how Meadows is reacting to the early slump.

“Hitters don’t like to look up and see .200, .210 or .187. They don’t like to do that and we’d rather them just relax and be the hitter that they can be and trying to do more. He’s better at just letting his natural ability play, trusting his ability and trusting if he does what he’s capable of, those numbers will turn around.”

Part of the struggles from Meadows could be attributed to him not playing his game. However, a bigger part of the struggles are that his swing was off early in the season, putting his timing off and slowing his bat speed. He also was having trouble adjusting to how the upper level pitchers were throwing to him, which was partially due to the slower bat speed.

I saw Meadows from 5/9 through 5/14, which was the start of that small sample size I mentioned above. During that time he was working with Indianapolis hitting coach Butch Wynegar on his timing, and on staying back longer. His manager, Andy Barkett, said that he was showing his best bat speed of the year during those games. So while that’s a small sample size, it all started with some very encouraging signs. Hopefully the hitting continues this way going forward.

Kevin Newman

Newman is not off to a great start in Altoona right now. He’s hitting for a .243/.310/.347 line in 158 plate appearances, and was hit in the head with a pitch earlier this month. Despite the low numbers, Newman is showing some positive signs at the plate, with a 13.8% strikeout rate and a 6.3% walk rate. The walks are lower than normal, and the strikeouts are a bit higher than before. But he’s not looking over-matched.

“There’s some Adam Frazier similarities in that it’s a very basic, compact, simple swing,” Huntington said. “He uses the whole field. He can hit a line drive to the opposite field in his sleep. He’s learning to use his legs and drive the ball the way Adam has done as he’s gotten to the upper levels and recognized the pitches. He makes pitchers come to him. He rarely expands the zone. It’s just a solid, professional at-bat.”

What Huntington describes is what I’ve seen from Newman in the past. He’s got a great swing and a strong ability to make contact and use the whole field. He is also working on adding some power to his game and driving the ball more, which could be why he is currently seeing a drop in his stats. That’s a good transition to make, as it will allow him to be more than a singles hitter in the future when he eventually makes the majors.

Nick Kingham

Nick Kingham made his 2017 Triple-A debut last week, giving up two runs in 5.2 innings of work, while allowing six hits, three walks, and striking out four. The walk total was high, and not in character with where Kingham was before his Tommy John surgery. He had better control this spring during his build-up, walking just one batter in all of his starts between extended Spring Training and with the Marauders.

“Knocking off the rust a little bit,” Huntington said of the start. “He probably didn’t trust his fastball the way he needs to and didn’t get the consistency in the off speed pitches that he’ll get as he’s got his feet back on the ground. But a very positive first outing at that level and some good things to build on.”

Kingham goes again for Indianapolis tonight, giving a second look at the right-hander in the higher levels this year. He’s got a shot to make the majors in the second half, but will need to show his usual good control going forward to receive that opportunity.

  • rickmontgomery
    May 23, 2017 5:47 pm

    We all have ideas. Bring up Santana. Cut Jaso loose. Trade Cole for a top prospect plus throw-in(s). Bundle Cutch with whoever just to open space for Meadows. And on and on. Any one of those ideas would look like genius if they work and like sheer idiocy if they don’t. What if we released Jaso, another team signed him and he hits .300 (which he is capable of doing)? What if we bring up Santana, he gets shellacked a couple times, looses his confidence and heads south? I know this is going to be horribly unpopular, but this is why NH gets paid big money. Let the man do his job.

  • When Cutch was not moved, that to me was a good indicator he was heading south with his decline. That changed the dynamic of trading for Quintana as you may need to keep the prospects and develop young arms like Glasnow. White Sox also may not realize the package they may have this spring for Quintana. But I was in go get him camp. Can’t give up Bell and Glasnow as they are the investment in the roster of the future. At the very least Frazier, Meadows, and Kingham are also guys who can add talent to the PBC.

  • pierogieking
    May 23, 2017 2:34 pm

    DFA Linblum, bring up santana. DFA Jaso and bring up Rogers. Send Ortiz back down where he belongs, bring up Bostick.

    • WillyMoGarcia33
      May 23, 2017 2:36 pm

      Lindblom was added to DL days ago…

    • Darkstone42
      May 23, 2017 2:38 pm

      I know everyone loves to hate on Jaso, but after an abysmal April, he’s got a 109 wRC+ in May. He’s starting to hit, and he was an above-average bat last year for the season, too.

      And bringing up Rogers does nothing to solve the issue of not having enough actual outfielders, and as the not-outfielders go, he’s been the best defensively.

      • WillyMoGarcia33
        May 23, 2017 2:51 pm

        Last 2 weeks, he’s been the 2nd best hitter on the team: 320/452/640 slash, all good for 2nd on the team in last 2 weeks.

        • Darkstone42
          May 23, 2017 2:55 pm

          The sooner he becomes a bench bat instead of a regular again, the better, but he’s not useless, for sure. And we’d be hard-pressed to find a better left-handed option off the bench, I suspect.

          • WillyMoGarcia33
            May 23, 2017 3:48 pm

            The team having injury and personnel issues that they’ve had, make it a tough issue/solution. If his recent hitting trend continues, may try to flip him like Cards did with Adams, once Super 2 hits. A healthy team, and Jaso really has no position. You’d be almost assured a lefty bench bat if you have a healthy Polanco, Frazier, and Meadows (assuming he’s called up).

            • Darkstone42
              May 24, 2017 4:39 pm

              He doesn’t really need to have a position if he’s hitting. He’s been not a disaster in right, and he’s a pretty sound defensive first baseman, so they can find plenty of chances for him to start a couple times a week to rest guys, on top of which he’d be the best pinch hitting option, which isn’t nothing.

      • The most serious problem with Jaso, beyond his lack of a solid defensive position and that his offense, while better recently, has been putrid, is that he has no future with the Bucs beyond this season. Every inning he is on the field is an inning not invested in making the 2018 team better.

        • Darkstone42
          May 23, 2017 3:23 pm

          But who, exactly? Osuna, maybe? Is there anyone else he could actually be considered as blocking? And Osuna’s been getting reasonably regular at bats pinch hitting and giving other guys days off despite the existence of John Jaso.

          • I would place Bostick on the team instead of Jaso, or if not him, then Moroff.

            • Darkstone42
              May 24, 2017 4:38 pm

              I’d drop Ortiz for Bostick or Moroff before Jaso. He’s good in the outfield, but he can’t hit, and Jaso is a proven hitter.

      • Jaso had the highest RE24 of any Bucs regular/semi-regular last year. Higher than Kang. If Jaso is finally getting it going, and it looks like he is, he shouldn’t be coming out of the lineup. Offense is impotent enough already.

    • They need to keep Ortiz in the majors right now as he is one of only 2 active players that are actually outfielders.

  • is santana on super 2 watch?

    • I doubt it. Non closer relievers never are. Their arbitration salaries wouldn’t get high enough to warrant worrying about super 2.

  • Meadows and Santana are two examples why the Pirates are Neanderthal in their t treatment of young players and look ever worse because they are playing and losing–everyday–lesser players over these kids.

    Cutch should be moved…period! He’s unhappy and his indifferent play shows it

    Santana’s numbers speak for themselves. (BTW, use him to move Watson, right %&*%#@ now, in a package with Cutch.)

    This franchise is not gaining any support keeping kids in AAA when they could be employing them in the “bigs.”

    Fie on BN and NH.

    BTW, has anyone seen or heard from Nutting lately??

    • Cutch wouldn’t fetch a Primanti Brother sandwich at this point.

      A guy with a .468 OPS vs RHPs and negative DRS in CF? Sign me up!

      • Looking more and more like we will have to just release him mid-summer.

    • You have bought up one of the solutions about Cutch…..package him with a current more valuable player. It would still be difficult IMO with Cutch’s declining skills and pricey contract for a player of his current value. I have a hard time seeing him dealt because he would devalue the return for the player packaged with him and/or as a stand alone would bring very little in return.
      I think the best solution is the Pirates keep Cutch and decline his option. All of this assumes he continues his slide, which has some possibility of being reversed.

      • I have to believe with the right situation and possibly a better hitting coach then branson, Cutch returns to a form close to who he use to be. That would make him a very valuable player for a team in the playoff hunt who may need an OF. I think we still could get a really good or two good ML players for him

  • Darkstone42
    May 23, 2017 1:23 pm

    Regarding the Meadows story, it seems like Wynegar does decent work with our hitters at AAA. If the Pirates’ offense continues to struggle, what are the chances he takes over for Branson at some point this year?

    • Don’t see any changes coming during the season. I have liked Butch since his playing days and believe he’d get a shot if there’s a shakeup.

  • Darkstone42
    May 23, 2017 1:20 pm

    I wondered if the new leg kick was going to give Newman a bit of trouble. That can affect timing and swing path both, so I’m not surprised he’s off to a slow start. Is he sticking with it? And is he starting to get more comfortable with it? It looks from his batted ball profile that he’s still hitting as many line drives as usual, but ground balls have turned into pop ups, which I assume is a result of trying to put the ball in the air more to add a little power.

    • Patience, my man. BABIP-dependent guys will always fluctuate. Frazier himself sucked for an entire year in Bradenton.

      This is temporary.

      • Darkstone42
        May 23, 2017 2:36 pm

        I’m not worried. It takes time to adjust to a new swing (unless you’re Josh Bell). The pop ups are just interesting to me. I don’t recall him ever popping up in college, but he was such an extreme ground ball/line drive hitter in college, I assume that’s why. If he’s trying to add power, even gap power, he needs to elevate the baseball, and when you’re not used to doing that, especially while you’re modifying your swing, pop ups are a possible outcome.

        I think we’re going to see those pop ups turn into fly balls (and doubles) soon, and then the Altoona middle infield will be an absolute force offensively.

        • Why are we changing a guys swing who is hitting well over 300? I get trying to add power but I am not sure thats the right move. Watched a Pete Rose thing on hitting and he said he NEVER changed his swing he only changed where he stood in the box.

  • Just a note…Jose Quintana hasn’t had the best start this year.
    2-5, 3.92 ERA. Still better than Kuhl or Glasnow.

    • pierogieking
      May 23, 2017 1:11 pm

      Man, that trade would be interesting in Hindsight. Quintana is sick, and it would be nice to control his contract for a few more years. On the other hand, this season has been a disaster because of Marte, Kang and Cutch. I’m not sure how I’d feel if our season was going like this AND our farm system was blown up.

      • WillyMoGarcia33
        May 23, 2017 1:39 pm

        Yeah, Quintana being here is with the notion that that’d involve Bell and/or Meadows being shipped out. The offense would have been possibly been even deeper in the mud, with not much on the horizon.

        • Darkstone42
          May 23, 2017 3:28 pm

          Whenever I see folks complain about still having Glasnow and not trading him for Quintana, I think about Josh Bell and how he’s basically the best hitter on a team which doesn’t have many good hitters.

          • I think Bell has a bright future. Just wish a certain manager would leave him in the lineup for a full 9.

            • Not until Jaso retires or goes to the DL. And even then I bet you Freese comes in for the 8th and 9th.

            • Joe Nastasi
              May 24, 2017 10:00 am

              I wish there was a certain manager not here anymore

    • Has Quintana been 1 Meadows Bell or Keller better?

    • I would’ve put Glasnow or Keller along with Meadows in that deal.

  • Hopefully these guys can bounce back from some slow starts. Good to have Kingham pitching again.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    May 23, 2017 12:41 pm

    Any other MLB team would have had Santana up in majors a month ago. The choice is so obvious it really makes you wonder about the competence of the FO. Instead, we place a guy on the 25 man roster who was cut by Milwaukee and is on his 5th or 6th organization….there is no defending such moronic decision making.

    • WillyMoGarcia33
      May 23, 2017 12:42 pm

      Did you poll the other 29 front offices?

      • Some teams would have had him up. Many small market teams would not. It’s typical of the original poster to ignore facts.

      • At least the six with worse records than the Bucs who all passed on him.

        • BuccosFanStuckinMD
          May 24, 2017 2:47 pm

          Year after year the Pirates try to fix a half dozen tried and failed veteran pitchers and almost all of them fail miserably.

    • Darkstone42
      May 23, 2017 1:12 pm

      How many innings would he get, though? The way Rivero, Nicasio, Leblanc, and Watson are all pitching right now, he’s not going to see a ton of chances. Most of the time, our starters are getting deep enough into games to not have to worry too much about that, too. And Hudson is going to find himself, I’m sure. He’s too talented and has had too much success in the Majors not to. That’s a lot of established Major Leaguers to leap frog.

      Let him keep throwing in AAA. Call him up if one of our steady arms gets hurt or traded. There’s no need to dump perfectly useful assets to call up a guy who’s only got 30 AAA appearances.

      There are a lot of good things to like about what he’s done. Nice GB%, not walking many, hasn’t given up a dinger, but he’s only been about an average strikeout reliever, and his numbers are probably at least in part due to really good batted ball luck (.200 BABIP, 88.2% LOB%, none of the flyballs reaching the seats). He’s been really good, but you seem to assume he’d come up and immediately be a back-of-the-bullpen arm, and I’m not sure that’s true. And if he’d only be a middle reliever, I don’t know they can get him the innings he needs to take that next step.

      • You’re kidding, right?

        • Darkstone42
          May 23, 2017 1:50 pm

          No, not with the way Hurdle handles his bullpen and young players, I’m not sure he’d reliably get the innings he needs to figure out how to whiff more guys. The stuff is electric, but he doesn’t even strike out a batter an inning in AAA. That tells me he needs to work on sequencing or further develop an out pitch. He needs regular action to do that. Hurdle probably uses Santana slightly more than Barbato if he gets called up. I don’t think that’s enough.

          Huntington might think Santana is ready, but I think he’s holding off on promoting him until he’s sure he’d get high leverage innings with regularity.

          • “Santana sits 94-98 and will touch 100 with the occasional tail, but he didn’t miss many bats with his fastball in my Fall League looks at him and I wonder if hitters see the ball well out of his hand and can time it. His mid-80s slider flashes plus, with tight, two-plane movement. It’s a max-effort relief delivery with a long arm action. I think this is a middle-relief profile because of the way the fastball plays, even if it looks like a late-inning arm on the surface.”

            Regardless, Huddy/Watson/Lindblom have combined for four meltdowns in the last two weeks alone. Rivero has been unavailable in leverage situations multiple times, and Nicasio is the only other guy on the roster Hurdle is going to in leverage situations.

            Even if some specific mix of appearances for a rookie upon first being called up were actually a thing, the Pirates current bullpen would provide that opportunity in spades.

            • Santana may be one of the few career relief pitchers that show enough promise that they are concerned about starting his clock early, preferring to delay arbitration another year. It’s not like the Bucs are going anywhere this year in any event.

              • WillyMoGarcia33
                May 23, 2017 3:50 pm

                Only note I’ll mention to this, outside him starting his pitching career late and wanting innings, he’ll be 26 this October. So, I don’t think longevity of control would be of the utmost importance.

            • Nicasio is someone I had huge reservations about before the season. He has been steady and done a very good job. If he can continue as he has, I’d like to see him resigned if it’s a reasonable contract.

        • Quite honestly, bullpen is the least of Pirates problems these days. Whether or not Santana is promoted soon matters not to me. Pirates need the bats of middle of order players, and arms of SP’s to be consistently better.

          • Isn’t that all the more reason to strengthen what they do have going well?

            This club was a fringe contender to begin with, and now have put themselves further behind. If you agree with pirateaddict above, that the season is already lost, then sure. There’s no reason to promote him, nor Meadows later on for that matter. But if you think this is a team that still is in contention, then I don’t want to see half the current pen take the ball in a leverage situation one more time while Santana is still in AAA. No excuse for that, IMO. They don’t have games to give away at this point.

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD
        May 24, 2017 2:48 pm

        He’s a huge upgrade over LeBlanc

    • There’s no defending moronic posts either. Trust me, I’ve tried.