Reasons To Care
One of the few comforts in rooting for a very bad baseball team is thinking about what's going on in the minor leagues. The guys the Pirates have down there mostly aren't very good either, but at least they're interesting. Let's take a look at how some of the Pirates' more intriguing farmhands are doing so far.
Ryan Doumit 7 HR .333/.416/.680
Graham Koonce 7 HR .264/.341/.583
Doumit is similar to J.R. House in that he's hit very well as he has climbed the ladder, despite not actually playing very much at some spots due to injury. Unlike House, he's healthy now, and he's hitting better at AAA than House ever did. If he keeps this up, Doumit might make the Bucs' complicated catching situation even more complicated in a few months. Koonce continues to mash at AAA; his upside is low, but he might provide a fearsome bat off the bench for a Pirates team that badly needs offense. The Pirates should call him up now.
Ian Snell 38 IP 36 K 6 BB 3.55
Zach Duke 37 IP 24 K 8 BB 3.41
After a rough start for Indianapolis, Duke has performed better recently, but his ERA is way up from last year. The Pirates were right to send him back to the minors; he needs a couple more months there. Snell deserves to take the next opening in the rotation in Pittsburgh. In the last few years, many Pirates' pitching prospects have received more hype (Duke, Sean Burnett, John VanBenschoten, and even Bryan Bullington), but none have been as consistently good as Snell.
Well, actually, no one currently at Altoona has played very well there. Brad Eldred punished the ball as usual for a month, then got promoted to Indianapolis; infielder Craig Stansberry was good at Lynchburg and recently got promoted to Altoona. After that, there isn't much to report. However, this line is nothing if not interesting:
Matt Peterson 21.1 IP 9 K 22 BB 9.70
No, I didn't get those K and BB numbers backwards. Ouch.
Javier Guzman 3 HR .333/.384/.510
The entire Lynchburg team is hitting well, but most of its players are so old that they have no chance of making the majors. Guzman isn't one of those; he's young, he plays middle infield, and he hit well for contact last year at Hickory. He was left off the 40-man roster last winter, but no one took him in the Rule 5 draft. He's hitting like crazy right now, and people who've had the chance to watch him have reported that the numbers aren't fluky - he's hitting the ball with more authority this year. Of the Hillcats' other hitters, only Mike McCuiston bears watching - he's a bit old for his level, but he has showed some on-base skills in the past and he's currently hitting .314/.435/.549.
Wardell Starling 30.2 IP 24 K 9 BB 3.52 ERA
Josh Sharpless 14 IP 23 K 6 BB 0.00 ERA
Starling is a real prospect - a tall 22 year-old with mid-90s heat and a good breaking ball. Watch out for him. Sharpless is 24 and he's a reliever, but his performance so far is too good to be ignored. He's not getting any younger, so the Pirates might want to consider promoting him aggressively.
Yeah, this isn't so good. The most intriguing lines belong to Antonio Sucre and Kyle Bloom. Sucre, an outfielder who was acquired for J.J. Davis, has a .400 OBP but has shown no power at all. Bloom is a promising pitcher who has had a good strikeout rate and great ERA so far, but has walked 13 batters in 23 innings. Neil Walker has hit .279/.330/.433, which isn't bad for a kid his age in Class A ball.