Every year I say I'm going to do better at writing regular minor league updates and every year that plan falls apart by mid-May. But it's still mid-April and it's been a loooong time since I've written about any prospects besides Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon, so let's make a trip through the minor league system and see how the Pirates' affiliates have started off their 2013 campaigns.
Obviously all eyes here are (and should be) on Gerrit Cole. His season has gotten off to an uneven start. He gave up three runs in four innings in his first start of the season, then got pulled after two innings in his second start due to a very high pitch count. That pitch count was due to giving up four hits and striking out five batters in his two innings. Last night he made his third start against Toledo and got off of a very shaky start, walking two batters in both the second and third innings. He settled down after that and mostly breezed through the fourth, fifth, and sixth before hitting an unlucky rough spot (a bunt single against an infield playing way back, a double that was mostly just a very soft line drive that found the hole between first and right) and getting pulled in the seventh. After three starts, he's gone 12 1/3 innings, striking out 12, walking six, and allowing 13 hits to go with his 3.65 ERA. I think last night's start was mostly encouraging, though, so hopefully he'll start to find a groove soon.
Also last night, Tony Sanchez hit his first home run of the season and brought his line up to .290/.344/.483. This is obviously a huge year for him; he's 25 and he hasn't hit since his first year in the system, but I still think his defense is good enough that he can carve out a nice big league career if he can find some way to hit even a little. On the pitching side of things, Victor Black is striking out tons of guys in the bullpen (10 Ks but five walks in 7 1/3 innings over five appearances) and Andy Oliver has made two nice starts and one bad one. Kyle McPherson got bombed in his only start and is now on the disabled list with arm trouble, which is very bad news for a team with a thin rotation like the Pirates.
Before the season started, I figured that Jameson Taillon was either going to finish the year as one of the five or so best pitching prospects in baseball or his prospect stock was going to drop like a rock. Through two starts for him, it's been so far, so good. In his first start, he tossed five shutout innings, striking out four, walking one, and scattering four hits. In his second start, he went six, struck out ten, and allowed two runs (including a solo homer). Since Taillon didn't strike a ton of guys out in Bradenton last year, this is certainly an encouraging start to the season.
Stolmy Pimentel is off to a good start, too, throwing 12 1/3 shutout innings over his first two starts, striking out 11, walking four, and only giving up seven hits. He's 23 and this is his third go-round at Double-A, so hopefully he'll head to Indianapolis soon and we'll get an idea of what we can do at a higher level. In terms of hitters, Alex Dickerson is off to a decent start with a .268/.318/.463 line with a homer, three doubles, and a triple. Andrew Lambo hit for the cycle last week and is hitting .295/.392/.523 right now. He's been in Double-A since, no joke, 2008 (he only played eight games at the level since 2008, but still), but is somehow only 24 years old, which means that if he goes to Indianapolis soon and hits there, he'll be mildly interesting.
The Alen Hanson and Gregory Polanco show has pulled into Bradenton, and things aren't off to a great start. The Marauders are 2-10, Hanson's hitting just .191/.224/.255, and he's been benched once for having some terrible games in the field. Polanco's off to a slightly better start, hitting .286/.321/.408. It's certainly early for these guys, though, so I'm not going to worry too much about anything other than the persistant worries about Hanson's defense.
Zac Fuesser and Zack Von Rosenberg and Nick Kingham are all on Bradenton. We'll probably all feel better if I don't mention their numbers to this point. Robby Rowland, who was acquired for Brett Lorin after the 2011 Rule 5 draft, is off to a pretty nice start so far. There are a few other interesting players here (Willy Garcia, Adrian Sampson), but there aren't any performances worth talking about quite yet. I think that there will be plenty to talk about from this team eventually, it just hasn't happened yet.
Now here's an intriguing team. In 13 games thus far, Stetson Allie has hit six home runs and four doubles (!!!), driving in 18 runs with his .411/.469/.804 line. Obviously he'll come back to earth at some point and 22 is a little old for Single-A, but he's still clearly got some potential and so maybe the Stetson Allie As A Position Player experiment isn't quite as doomed as it seemed to be last year. Maybe even more encouraging is that Josh Bell is off to a strong start, too, hitting .280/.321/.500 with a homer and eight doubles. Shortstop Dilson Herrera is an on-base machine at .310/.423/.429, with nine walks in 42 plate appearances. Eric Wood, last year's sixth round pick who seemed like a signability pick to save money for Mark Appel, is hitting .318/.348/.614 with three homers. The only news from the offensive side of the plate there that's not great news is that last year's second rounder Wyatt Mathisen is off to a slow start, hitting just .220/.273/.244. Of course, all of the usual small sample caveats apply here since most of these guys have only played 9-13 games.
The pitching staff here has both Clay Holmes and Tyler Glasnow, who are definitely sleeper prospects to watch this season. They both have solid ERAs and bunch of strikeouts after three and two starts, respectively, but they've both also had some control problems thus far (Holmes much moreso than Glasnow). In any case, West Virginia is where most of the Pirates' "high upside" middle-round draft pick high school pitchers have started their flameouts in past seasons, so it's nice to see both Holmes and Glasnow at least get off to decent starts. They're two guys I'll be monitoring closely as the season progresses.