The Pittsburgh Pirates have promoted catcher Arden Pabst to Altoona on Thursday afternoon.
Pabst played for Indianapolis briefly earlier this season, but that was when they were short three catchers in the farm system. He just needed to be there until Jackson Williams was eligible to come off the disabled list. This move to Altoona seems like a legit promotion because catcher John Bormann was in Altoona already and he was sent back to Bradenton to take Pabst’s spot. Altoona catcher Jin-De Jhang returned last week from a concussion and lasted just three innings before a foul ball off the mask ended his night.
Jhang isn’t on the DL yet, but you would assume that there should be extreme caution with him right now. He’s also a free agent at the end of the year, so his time in the organization might be running short.
Regardless of the reason that he is there or whether it’s a permanent move, Pabst has earned this promotion. His defense has been his strong point during his first two seasons, after he was drafted in the 12th round out of Georgia Tech in 2016. His hitting was bad each year, with a .574 OPS in Morgantown in 2016 and a slightly improved .646 OPS in West Virginia last year. He really showed no signs of a potential breakout either.
This season, he has a .287/.323/.517 slash line in 47 games, playing 46 of those contests in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. He has shown some power, has a low strikeout rate and his defense is as strong as ever. Pabst has thrown out 46% of potential base stealers.
The Pirates really like Christian Kelley, who is the #1 catcher with Altoona. He has shown some potential with the bat and his defense is solid. He also works well with the pitchers. Pabst has definitely closed the prospect gap between the two of them and he’s 1 1/2 years younger. So it will be interesting to see how they split the playing time if they’re both there the rest of the season.