Isn ?t it a little surprising that people are now just admitting that the season is over? I mean, it is over, but did it really take a three game sweep at the hands of the Cubbies (including Wednesday ?s 17-3 curb sandwich) for people to throw in the towel? There ?s a fine line between holding onto whatever hope there is and letting Drago kill Apollo.
So let ?s look forward to everybody ?s favorite part of the baseball schedule: meaningless September games where just about everybody on the 40-man roster is promoted. We ?re only a day away from throwing out all of the pace of play initiatives in favor of making a dozen pitching changes a game. A day away from unleashing the Pedro Florimons of the world to pinch-run every eighth inning. A day away from seeing has-been pitchers in the minors get traded for an Arby ?s coupon so they can eat garbage innings (hi, Wade LeBlanc in 2016!).
Ol ? Abner Doubleday would be proud.
So let ?s break down the guys currently on the 40-man roster and see who should be promoted, and who should play. Yes, some of these guys are already in the majors, but they aren ?t playing as much as they should. And yes, there will undoubtedly be at least one more spot opened up between Juan Nicasio being placed on waivers, Joaquin Benoit and Wade LeBlanc being DFA candidates and a potential shift to the 60-day DL for either Francisco Cervelli or Gregory Polanco. This list may need updated in a week or so. And not all of these guys will be promoted on the first. Expect it in waves, with the big one coming after Indianapolis’ season is over.
Until then, here are 14 guys to keep an eye on.
Please, try to contain your excitement. Barbato has mopped up a good chunk of innings in the majors so far, and he ?ll get another crack again this September. He is a non-tender candidate, so this may be his last chance to prove he deserves to be a Pirate.
Brault is already in the majors, but he needs to make some starts. WIth Ivan Nova and Jameson Taillon fading fast and Chad Kuhl and Trevor Williams pitching in their first full season, a six man rotation for the final month of the season would benefit everyone. Brault is part of the pitching logjam I recently wrote about, and he ?s earned a chance to try to unseat one of the current backend starters. I don ?t see his stuff working well out of the bullpen, so he needs to prove himself as a starter now.
Bostick had a brief cameo with the Bucs in May thanks to a torrid first half in AAA. He cooled off in the second half, but a promotion seems likely. With Austin Meadows perpetually on the disabled list, there ?s a good chance that Bostick will get a call to be a fourth outfielder at some point in 2018. Here ?s a chance for him to prove that the first half of the season was not a fluke and he deserves to reach the majors.
Diaz is likely the backup catcher next year, and he deserves to get the majority of the playing time while Francisco Cervelli on the DL. He has the better glove, arm and bat when compared to Chris Stewart (but let ?s not get too carried away about the bat. He hasn ?t homered at any level since June). If the Pirates still had playoff hopes, Stewart would probably be starting. Instead, Diaz should take over the starting gig again for the short term.
Glasnow ?s promotion is imminent. The only question is if the Pirates will use him as a starter or out of the bullpen. If the goal is to just get him more comfortable on a major league mound and more confident– which I think is keeping him from reaching his potential– a reliever role may be better. It could potentially get him into extra games, plus it would allow him to just focus on his fastball and curve rather than trying to mix in a third pitch.
I still believe he has the potential to be an ace, but after a disastrous leap to the majors, some baby steps may suit him better.
My money is on the Pirates being content with Holmes ? season and sending him home after Indianapolis ? playoff run. He went eight straight starts from July to August without throwing more than 80 pitches as precaution for irritation in his shoulder. He ?s already had Tommy John surgery in his career, so they ?re probably going to leave well enough alone.
To Holmes ? credit, he quietly had a nice season in AAA, with a 3.36 ERA, 7.9 K/9 and a 65.1% groundball rate. If he can tone down his walks and stay healthy, he probably will make his debut in 2018.
Hutchison did alright in AAA this year, but he dropped from the front runner for the number five job during spring training to about eighth or ninth on the depth chart now. But somebody needs to eat innings in September, so they may as well give the guy on the payroll one last Hail Mary at sticking with the big team. Don ?t expect it to amount to much, though.
Kingham is out of options next year and is pitching in his first full season since Tommy John surgery. Rock, meet hard place. If his elbow is at risk, he needs to be shutdown. If it ?s not, he needs to get his feet wet in the majors. His 2017 was not fantastic, but he did have a strong finish to the season– his most recent start notwithstanding. Finding him a couple outings where he could go multiple innings could give the club an indication of what he could do in the majors, but they ?re likely going to have to trade him, roll with him in the majors or pray he passes through waivers next year.
He ?s a good talent and one of the best pitching prospects in the farm system, but he ?s running out of time. For that reason, he ?s probably the guy who could benefit the most from a September call-up.
Luplow jumped all the all way from AA to the majors in the span of a couple weeks, which is shocking considering the Pirates ? history of being meticulous with their prospects ? development. Unfortunately, he hit a wall once he got to PIttsburgh. He should stick in the majors just to get a better feel of a major league routine, but he probably shouldn ?t play much. Between Frazier, Bostick, Rodriguez, Jaso and potentially Harrison, there is a mini log jam in right field for the time being. Other prospects are more deserving of starts right now, but he should at least pinch-hit a couple times.
I see a vaudeville hook coming my way, so I ?ll keep this brief: Moroff has put together some nice at-bats in his most recent stint in the majors. Those at-bats are too few and too far between, though. A handful of starts would do him good.
Neverauskas is widely regarded as the Pirates ? best bullpen prospect. Fans have seen why in his 11 major league outings, recording a 2.77 ERA and 10 strikeouts. He has pitched in mostly low leverage situations so far, but September would be a great opportunity for him to get some reps in the seventh or eighth inning, especially if Nicasio is leaving town.
Ngoepe is never going to be a full time starter with the Pirates, especially with all of the middle infielders in the majors and on the horizon. His glove is golden, though, so he probably will make a few more major league cameos before his time is through. For now, he should probably only get to field rather than hit.
Santana has the potential to be in the opening day bullpen next year, but he has not lived up to the hype so far. Finding him some innings won ?t be difficult, and it will give him a chance to shake off a few poor outings early in his major league career. He and Neverauskas could very well be in competition for a job next year. So far, Neverauskas has the advantage because of his mostly solid work in the majors. If he can get his slider working like it has been in AAA, it ?ll be a healthy competition.
A promotion is a no-brainer. Every team could use another major league catcher come September. The Pirates are no exception, especially with Cervelli on the DL again. Stewart and Diaz seem to be dueling for the backup job right now, so Stallings won ?t see much playing time. Regardless, if Stewart does not return in 2018, Stallings will be the emergency catcher in AAA. Improving his relationship with the staff for a month would be beneficial if that situation arose.