With so much attention focused on the major league club and the trade deadline, it’s easy to overlook the progress being made by prospects further down the system. At a glance, the system might look as if it’s down, as Kevin pointed out recently, but there is life and a number of top guns and under the radar guys showing well from AAA to the GCL. Many of these players would do well to spend the final month of the season at the next level. Here are my thoughts on who should be promoted before too long.
No one – There are a number of prospects itching for a September call up, but none who really jump off the page as guys immediately ready. Alen Hanson tops the list as the most worthy. He’s had an up and down season at the plate, but should be a no brainer when rosters expand in September. Gift Ngoepe might fill the September role previously played by Chase d’Arnaud as a middle infield defensive replacement and pinch runner. He’ll need to be added to the 40-man roster by the end of the season or the Pirates risk losing him to minor league free agency. Radhames Liz is excelling in his AAA stint and hopefully the Pirates have worked their magic on the struggling righty. He’d be in line for a call up now, but there isn’t anywhere to put him. Even if he’s underperforming, Tony Sanchez is a given in September. I’d draw the rest of the call ups from the usual suspects who’ve ridden on the I-70 taxi all season.
Josh Bell – He could probably hold his own in the majors right now and no one is blocking him at first base in AAA. As a guy who the Pirates likely hope to help the big league club next season, PA’s against AAA pitching could be very helpful.
Adam Frazier – Frazier’s still a bit fringy due to his lack of power, but the contact skills and his ability to hit to all fields appears legit. He’s a guy who teams simply won’t be able to employ shifts against, and he provides solid defense at a number of premium defensive positions.
Dan Gamache – A little overage in AA, Gamache appears due for a promotion. He spent a good chunk of 2014 in Altoona, so he has nothing left to prove there.
Of course, all three might stay put just to help the Curve make a playoff push.
Montana DuRapau – I’m not sure if there is a more intriguing player in the system right now. DuRapau has already earned one promotion this season and he’s continued to dominate posting a 1.00 ERA and a 10.33 K:BB in 36 innings. This could be a case of smoke and mirrors with an advanced pitcher with solid breaking stuff dominating raw A ball hitters. Or the Pirates have a fast moving finesse reliever. Either way, more time in Bradenton is doing him no good and Altoona needs pitching to stay in the playoff race.
Harold Ramirez – The Pirates can afford to take it slow with Ramirez, but there is a place for him in center field in Altoona. If he’s not shooting up your prospect list, he should be.
Stephen Tarpley – Altoona needs pitching and Tarpley has dominated A ball to the point where I believe he could skip the FSL entirely. This would be a very aggressive promotion, but I don’t think it would hurt to challenge Tarpley now and have him repeat the level next season.
Clay Holmes – As I’ve pointed out before, pitchers who’ve had Tommy John have an expiration date. The Pirates should push Holmes hard given his solid start in Bradenton. It’s not a lot of time there, but why waste what innings he has left in A+? The faster they can get him to the majors, the better off they are.
Yeudy Garcia – He might be the best Pirates prospect in a long time that hardly anyone seems to be talking about. He’s a power pitcher with tons of upside who has showed success in an aggressive promotion to full season ball. Because he’s already gotten one aggressive push this year, maybe he’d do well to spend the entire year in A ball. Then again, he’s a little old for the level.
Jerrick Suiter – Here’s a guy who’s been quietly consistent. He’s a little old for the SAL and with the promotion of Barrett Barnes to Altoona, there is room for him in the Bradenton outfield.
Sam Street – Not a major prospect, but again he’s too old for the level and he’s doing good things. Excellent control and he’s getting enough K’s to think he no longer belongs.
To Low A West Virginia
No one – I think there are players who have earned a promotion to full season West Virginia, but there just isn’t anywhere to put them. If Suiter gets promoted, either Ty Moore or Logan Hill should get a taste and then a spot in the FSL next spring. Carlos Munoz has crushed Appy League pitching to the point where a full season trial would be interesting, but 2014 supplemental pick Connor Joe needs all the reps he can get at first base. The best bet might be Nick Hibbing who, as a drafted senior from Iowa, would ideally move quickly if he’s any kind of prospect.
To SS West Virginia
Carlos Munoz – It’s easy to want to promote a guy immediately following a three home run night, but he was dominating the Appy in 90+ PA’s even before that. I have no idea what the Pirates have in Munoz, but the .287 ISO, 8.4% K rate and the BABIP lower than his batting average he carried at the time this piece was written makes me want to find out more.
Ke’Bryan Hayes – As it stands right now, Hayes will have a much better pro debut than his dad Charlie did. There isn’t a lot of room for him in short season, but I suspect he’ll be the full time 3B in the other WV next spring meaning the Pirates will need to find AB’s for Mitchell Tolman somewhere else anyway.
I don’t really believe in promotion between rookie leagues so I won’t bother talking about Bristol.
As you look over the list, the Pirates have a considerable amount of players busting out or, at the very least, maintaining some high level performances from previous seasons. While there is plenty to worry about with injuries to important pitchers, there are an awful lot of good young players making moves. Some of these could be traded at the deadline, but those that remain should be challenged in a new city before the end of the season.