Indianapolis was one of the most successful teams in the Pirates’ system this year, fueled by Starling Marte and a strong pitching staff. By the time the playoffs came around, all of the players who got them to the post-season had been promoted to the majors, which resulted in a first round loss. Here are the results from the individual players, as well as the top ten prospects at the level this year.
The top hitting prospect in the system spent most of the season in Indianapolis. Starling Marte put up impressive numbers in Triple-A, and really caught fire starting at the end of June. Marte ended up with a .286 average and an .847 OPS prior to his promotion to the majors.
Another player who saw a promotion to the majors this year was Brock Holt. The infielder was on fire in his 95 at-bats in Triple-A, with a .432 average and a 1.013 OPS. That was enough to make him a surprise September callup, where he received a lot of playing time with injuries to Neil Walker.
Tony Sanchez arrived in Triple-A in the second half of the season, and finally displayed some power after seeing that part of his game disappear the last two seasons. Sanchez hit eight homers in 206 at-bats, which would be a pace of about 19 in a full season. His average was still low, but the increase in power was a good sign.
Jose Tabata and Alex Presley were both sent to Triple-A at different points in the year, after struggling in Pittsburgh. Yamaico Navarro, Matt Hague, Jordy Mercer, and Jeff Clement were other players who spent time in the majors this year, but had better numbers in Triple-A. The Pirates were relying on Tabata and Presley to handle their corner outfield spots, while the hopes were for some of the other guys to take some infield spots. No one from this group has emerged as a major league starter yet.
The end of the season saw Ramon Cabrera and Matt Curry promoted to Triple-A, although neither player got significant playing time. They should both start in Indianapolis next season.
Heading into the year, the Triple-A pitching staff was supposed to provide depth for the majors. The staff was projected to have Jeff Locke, Justin Wilson, Brad Lincoln, Kyle McPherson, and Rudy Owens in the rotation at some point in the year, plus Bryan Morris in the bullpen. Owens was part of the trade to bring in Wandy Rodriguez. Lincoln was a key member of the bullpen, and was then dealt for Travis Snider. Locke and McPherson helped in the rotation late in the year, although neither secured a future rotation spot. Wilson and Morris served out of the bullpen in the majors late in the year.
Heading into next year, the pitchers from Triple-A should play a bigger role. McPherson and Locke could compete for rotation spots on Opening Day. Morris should be in the bullpen, as he’s out of options. Wilson is expected to move back to the rotation, but could find his way back to the majors as a reliever.
The other guys who arrived in Triple-A this year should make the majors later next year. Gerrit Cole is the top guy from that list. He made one regular season start and one playoff start, with poor results in the latter outing. Cole will need some time in Triple-A, but should arrive in the majors by mid-season.
Phil Irwin had impressive numbers in his limited time in Triple-A, highlighted by a 28:7 K/BB ratio in 21 innings. Irwin could provide depth next year as a back of the rotation starter, or a reliever if needed. Duke Welker should also enter the mix as a relief option. He struggled with his control in Indianapolis, but he’s got a great arm and the potential to be a late inning reliever.
Top 10 Prospects
The cutoff for prospects was 140 at-bats, 40 innings pitched, or 20 relief appearances. The cutoff prevented a lot of the top prospects at the level from making the list. Brock Holt, Kyle McPherson, Gerrit Cole, Matt Curry, Ramon Cabrera, and Phil Irwin were all excluded due to their playing time. Guys who are no longer in the organization, like Rudy Owens, were also excluded. Some of the players on this list no longer have prospect eligibility (Starling Marte, Jeff Locke). Those players are included because they had prospect eligibility coming into the year.
1. Starling Marte
2. Jeff Locke
3. Justin Wilson
4. Tony Sanchez
5. Bryan Morris
6. Jordy Mercer
7. Duke Welker
8. Yamaico Navarro
9. Chase d’Arnaud
10. Matt Hague