Williams: Here Are the Young Players Who Should Be Getting Juan Nicasio’s Innings

I heard from a source last night that the Pirates aren’t going to be calling anyone up from Indianapolis today, with rosters expanding at the start of September. MLB teams are limited to 25 players on the active roster all year, except for September, when they can have up to 40 players on the active roster, as long as those players are also on the 40-man roster.

The Pirates could change their plans, but it would make sense for them to avoid callups on September 1st. I’d expect them to add to the team by activating relievers Joaquin Benoit, George Kontos, and Wade LeBlanc. Those three might not all get activated today, although they are all eligible to come off the disabled list.

I’d expect the Indianapolis guys to come up eventually, and most likely when their playoff run is over. That could be as early as September 8th, which is a week from today, or it could be later if they advance and make a run. It would make sense for the Pirates to have those prospects playing in the Triple-A playoffs, since those are high pressure games, and probably a better source of innings and plate appearances at this point versus what they’d see in the majors.

But I do expect the young players to arrive at some point this month. And as I wrote yesterday, the Pirates need to give playing time to the young players this month. Here are the players who I think will be up, along with the role I see them playing (or hope to see them playing) when they arrive.

Definitely Getting Called Up

Drew Hutchison – He’s not a young player, but the Pirates are paying him $2.3 M, and he has posted good numbers in Indianapolis. I’d expect him up when the Triple-A season is over. I would almost put him in the next section with the depth options, but I feel he’s closer in potential usage to the guys in this list, compared to Johnny Barbato.

Tyler Glasnow – He’s actually scheduled to start tonight. He looks ready for another shot at the big leagues, but could get easier innings in the rotation in the playoffs. I’d expect him to get some starts once he does arrive in the majors. I will point out that Glasnow has had some issues in the playoffs in previous years, so if the Pirates are keeping him down for a playoff start or two, it might not be a bad approach. Give him some higher pressure starts for the first few weeks, then make him a starter in the majors for the second half of September.

Nick Kingham – He’s out of options next year, so I think we’re going to see him in September. I’m not sure how he would be used, and wouldn’t be surprised if he started out in the bullpen, with Tyler Glasnow and Steven Brault getting any starts.

Edgar Santana – He’s not eligible to return to the majors until tomorrow. I’m not sure if he’ll come up at that point, but when he does come up, I’d hope that he would be getting some of the innings the Pirates freed up by letting Juan Nicasio leave.

Depth Options

I could see several players coming up who are already on the 40-man roster, and who have already served depth roles throughout the year. I could see that continuing in September. Johnny Barbato would be the lone member of the pitching staff from this group. Gift Ngoepe, Jacob Stallings, and Chris Bostick would help out from the position player side.

The Pirates have one 40-man roster spot open, so if they needed to add one person from the next list, they would be fine. However, if they want to add two players, I’d expect one of these four to be designated for assignment. Then again, they could just move Gregory Polanco to the 60-day DL if he is indeed out for the season.

40-Man Roster Issues

Clay Holmes – Holmes is the one player from this group who is on the 40-man roster, although I’m not sure if he would come up. With Glasnow, Kingham, Brault, and others making their way up, there might not be enough innings for Holmes. I could see him as rotation depth next year, but I can’t see him getting many innings this year if he’s called up in September after the playoffs.

Tyler Eppler – Everything I said about Holmes applies to Eppler, with two differences. First is that he’s not on the 40-man roster, which means they would have to add him to call him up. That’s not a huge deal, and it’s inevitable, as they will need to add him this offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. I also think that Eppler has a bigger chance to end up in the bullpen compared to Holmes, and while he could be rotation depth next year, it might make sense to give him a few innings in relief in the majors, just to get his feet wet.

Casey Sadler – Sadler is different from the previous two players because he’s a pending free agent. If the Pirates want to keep him, they will need to add him to the 40-man roster by the end of the season. That doesn’t mean he will come up. The Pirates have called some of their pending free agents up in previous years. Other players have been added to the 40-man roster after the season. Sadler’s recent performance and stuff would warrant a look though.

Already Up

I wrote about this yesterday, but the Pirates already have young players in the majors who should be getting more playing time in September. On the pitching side, Steven Brault would be a good choice for a start or two while Indianapolis is in the playoffs. Dovydas Neverauskas and Angel Sanchez would be good options to get the innings that Juan Nicasio would have pitched.

On the hitting side, I think Elias Diaz should be getting starts over Chris Stewart. I think Jordan Luplow, Jose Osuna, and Max Moroff should be getting more playing time, while guys like John Jaso shouldn’t see another start. For more of my thoughts on this, check out yesterday’s article.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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and another thing. it would be one thing if jaso and stewart were good…..BUT THEY’RE NOT.

like, fuck, man. this shit is absurd


is anybody aware of if being loyal to veterans to the bitter end (Jaso and Stewart this year. Joyce and SeanRod last year, etc) actually has an effect on how players view particular franchises? any articles out there on fangraphs or something? interviews with players? I can’t imagine it’s much of an effect…

Then again… what effect does 25 games in September really have on the young players…. probably not much.

That said… i have to think that giving guys who will be out of options… like kingham… some MLB time would be beneficial. Getting as much data on him as possible would be a priority to me. other prospects, i understand keeping them in AAA for playoffs or even the bench for a month. Kingham? not so much.


That’s usually the narrative for ridiculous decisions like giving Ryan Vogelsong enough meaningless starts to trigger big incentives, but it’s either bullshit or uprooting Juan Nicasio for a month in order to save $600k ain’t exactly following their own logic.


i mean… Neal isn’t filling out the lineup card. But if this continues another day or two, it’s time for Neal to force Hurdle’s hand by giving Jaso and stewart the Nicasio treatment.

i almost wonder if Hurdle is just trolling us. i which case, i totally approve haha. that would be kinda badass.


I guess i can buy the argument that Glasnow is well-served getting a few playoff starts in Indy. He has the upside to become a playoff-caliber pitcher, after all But the kid has really earned at least a few MLB starts.

Kingham getting MLB time should be the priority since he has to make the team out of spring training next year. He should be up now. oh well.


Oh and even better, they expect Cervelli and Polanco to be activated off DL within a week. So even lesser chance for Diaz and Luplow to start. Great.


don’t worry, they’ll get hurt after a few games




not sure if i can convey this sentiment correctly but……..you gotta wonder if the pirates recent history is coming into play here. i know the front office shouldn’t care what fans think….but they do need fans to come to the game.

baseball is cyclical. you’ll have your good years and your bad years. with the pirates recent history, management appears gunshy about possibly rebuilding….a fans sentiment will say ‘oh we were go again’….even though a rebuild is what they should do. they’ve gotten as far as they could have with the current core. now it’s time to start over again.

instead, management would rather string this out as long as it can, basically they’d rather be mediocre, rather than straight up bad. and that’s just making things worse.

i hope i explained that well enough…lol


This is the central tenant of Huntington’s team-building strategy, the Never-ending Window Theory.

Worse than trying to appease fans with mediocre baseball, he genuinely thinks the way to win championships is by building mediocre baseball clubs that could luck into a World Series title. Anything can happen in the playoffs, right? Right?


What is wrong with your theory is that if Kang and Marte had played the whole year, and Cutch and Cole had been consistently good the Pirates would be in 1st place in the division with the Cubs chasing them. Stop blaming the GM for the failure to perform by the team’s top four stars. It’s the players who play the games. If your four stars tank no GM will look good. This season’s results need to be put at the feet of Kang, Marte, Cutch and Cole.


in theory, it makes sense. every team wants to compete every year. it’s just not realistic. teams take a step back sometimes. rebuilds occur all the time.



In theory, it made sense to draft a million high school pitchers and trade the ones you don’t need for bats. (Okay, no, this one was batshit crazy from the start. LOL at any team ever having too much pitching.)

In theory, it made sense to load up on high-contact OBP hitters.

In theory, it made sense to develop a ton of utility players.

Huntington is the policy wonk of GM’s. Full of theories, short on execution.


I don’t know what theory supports focusing exclusively on high OBP hitters or utility players. Looking at who they drafted at the positions in the draft they held it might look like that. Or they could have looked at the minor league system and observed that they were bereft of quality middle infielders and for a couple of years in a row drafted the best available SS at their draft position. Two different ways to interpret the same results.


yep. and unfortunately execution is tough. but even still. you gotta get results. who’s the best hitter huntington has drafted and developed? alvarez? lol

that’s just unacceptable.

Thomas H

Adam Frazier. Small sample size I know but I’d say he’s the best hitter NH drafted and developed. Now if he could just field a position. Has NH ever drafted a player who could field a position?


Maybe Mason? Maybe Luplow (when you stop laughing consider what he has done this year. He won’t really be ready for MLB for another year, but so far so good).


Luckily we can pretty much assume Bell will take that over, but yeah, pretty much.


you hear the recent statements from the cardinals and tigers, saying they the roster has to get younger, and they’re looking towards next year. the pirates need to send a similar sentiment.

only fans/media would freak out thinking things are going to go back to the way they were in the early 2000s

John W

Writing has been on the wall for well over a year but this organization is in even more trouble than I imagined. NH and Clint Hurdle are both major problems.


Well the lineup is up and the world is about to burn.


Aaaand, we have Stewart and Jaso on the lineup. I don’t know what more to say.


No good reason not to play Diaz and Luplow!


i know huntington doesn’t fill out the lineup card, but the gm and manager need to be on the same page here going forward. if huntington wants to see what the young players can do (not entirely sure this is the case), and hurdle keeps playing the vets. he needs to go asap


When something doesn’t make sense, the simplest answer is usually correct.

Juan Nicasio was a pure salary dump.

Hurdle isn’t disobeying some order from Huntington to prioritize young players over the last month, Huntington simply used that as a rationalization for dumping salary.

Every other vet was undoubtedly on waivers for free as well but Nicasio was the only one who was actually valuable, therefor, he went along with his salary.


while probably true, i don’t really care if they salary dumped him or not. i just want them to play the young players, to see what they have in them. i want them to have a plan.

they don’t.


Tim’s migraine has a migraine.


I’d love to see them commit to pseudo-bullpen games for the last month.

Starter gets 75 pitches to go as far as he can, then it’s bullpen arms from there. If they consider themselves contenders next year, they have 6 bullpen slots to fill. Better to find out now which starters have the stuff to miss big league barrels.

Banal Lefty



John Jaso is a possibility as a pitcher. I understand that he is projectable. Being projectable is BIG!

David N

I can’t believe The Pirates don’t already know who will be leaving the 40-man roster at the end of the season. Adding Eppler and Sadler to the 40-man shouldn’t be an issue, imo.


I question what more we’ll find out about Glasnow and Kingham in the AAA playoffs. Does “high pressure” outweigh major league competition? Aren’t the games in the major’s high pressure too — at least for playoff teams that we encounter? I don’t think Brealt thinks his appearances down the stretch are less than high-pressure. He’s literally playing for a spot in the bigs next year. Why bring Benoit back at all? That’s a waste of a spot although management may want to achieve some kind of face-saving by activating him. Keeping those guys in AAA vs. majors is just more of the middle-ground path that gets this team nowhere.

John W

We will find out nothing , regardless if they are good or bad. What was the narrative? Glasnow gets nervous for triple a playoffs…so if he pitches well this year that means he wasn’t nervous!

As if triple a playoffs are higher pressure than facing cubs, etc.

John Dreker

I don’t agree with leaving Kingham down, but at least with Glasnow, he has a history of pitching very poorly in playoff games in the minors, so doing well in that situation would be another step in the right directions. Not that I’m saying I would leave him down, but it can accomplish something. If it were up to me, he would be starting tonight vs Reds


This might be a stupid question (which it probably is…) but it’s not playoffs till 6th, no? Why can’t he be called up and pitch a game up here and then go down for a “higher pressure” playoffs game, if it’s really necessary, then come back when it’s over?

John Dreker

I’m guessing they could do that, but I don’t imagine that would ever happen. Very rarely does a player get sent down in September and it would usually be for something they did wrong


I honestly don’t understand how MLB game would be a lower pressure game than an AAA playoff game (my guess, a lot tougher lineup in MLB and bigger crowd too) but looks like he’ll pitch at least two more games with the Indians. Hey, but Brault’s starting next Tuesday!

John Dreker

Playoff games at any level have pressure built in because losing means a lot more. If you look at it from a fan perspective, it may not mean much, but these guys are still team oriented since little league. If he lost a September 6th start with Pirates, he still has five more of those games, plus the off-season and Spring Training to make an impression with the team. You lose on September 6th in Indy and you put your team in a hole in a short series and every player and coach there wants to win.


Okay now I’m persuaded and it might benefit Glasnow a bit, even though that means he’ll at least lose two start opportunities. I still want to see him up here, but it looks like everyone’s going to play the playoffs first.

John W

Exactly. Guys like kingham with no options should definitely be up getting an audition vs MLB hitters asap.


Now that I think of it, the AAA playoff rosters will probably be diluted anyway, with better talent in the bigs in September anyway.


Tim sorry you have not been well! Can you explain the inexplicable decisions to activate and not DFA LeBlanc and Benoit and to not play Osuna and Diaz????


I can’t say I blame you, it’s not like he was even noticeable when he was still with the Pirates.

Scott K

Based on some of the Nicasio comments, I’m not surprised you have a migraine.


My daughter suffers from the same ailment, she lives in Iowa. I sympathize with your disability!

IC Bob

Well we have lots of extra innings for Benoit! Glad we had to clear the deck. Assuming your reasons for the Pirates is accurate and if we knew all the youth was not going to come up for a couple of weeks wouldn’t have been prudent to keep Nicasio until the AAA playoffs are over? I mean if we give up another 15-20 runs we may have to trot Rodriguez out (wouldn’t that be fun).

John W

Sometimes the truth is painful.

John W

I think some of us are quite aware of the truth regarding this front office. I’m not sure you will ever get there but anything is possible.


Well for when you wake up – does Hutchinson have any role on this team going forward? Is there anything about his repertoire that might work out for him in a move to the bullpen?




I think he could be a tradeable commodity for the Pirates over the Off-Season. 30-21 in 74 MLB Starts in the AL East has to count for something. With one less bat in the lineup in the NL, somebody could take the chance.

Unless I am missing something, he will not get a start in the AAA Playoffs, so why is he not in Pittsburgh already?

Ngoepe and Stallings will both be 28 before next season starts – why are they still on the 40? Moroff, Bostick, Newman – since we already have Super SRod for 2018, can 2 of these 3 be taken off the 40? Add Sadler and Eppler.

Brian Z

Nope they won’t play any thing guys for whatever stupid reason. We’ll see Jaso and Stewart every day

Scott K

That stupid reason has a name…VETERANOSITY! Learn it, live it, love it Pirates fan!


My guess with Santana is that it’s been only 9 days since he was optioned so he is ineligible to be recalled until tomorrow so maybe tomorrow he will be up

John W

NH needs to polish up this 2017 season with a big playoff performance by the Indians!! Will really pay dividends going into 2018.


Did we claim Gosselin again? I thought he was with the Rangers

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