With Indianapolis’ season ending today it made sense to expect some more callups and thanks to Danny Moskos’s twitter account, we know who at least two of the callups are going to be: Jared Hughes and Jeff Locke. (Sidenote: the Pirates hate this sort of stuff getting out on Twitter through the players. Moskos is going to get in trouble for that, I’m sure, and it’s possible the tweet will be deleted.)
Of the four pitchers that the Pirates had the highest hopes for in the upper minors in 2011 (Locke, Rudy Owens, Bryan Morris, Justin Wilson), Locke, who is 23 and was acquired in the Nate McLouth trade, had the best season by quite a bit. He posted good strikeout numbers in Altoona with a decent walk rate and a great homer rate, then kept up the good work after a late-season call-up to Indianapolis. He’s not going to be an ace, but I think it’s reasonable for the Pirates to hope that he can replace Paul Maholm and hold down a spot in the middle of the rotation in the future. In fact, he’s not much past his 2010 inning count (144 last year, 148 1/3 this year), so I’d love to see him get a spot start or two down the stretch in place of someone like Brian Burres, even though he’s only got four starts above the Double-A level right now.
Hughes is a bit older (he’s 25, Locke is 23) and it seemed like he’d stagnated a bit when he started 2011 at Double-A, where he’d been since 2008. He pitched pretty well with Altoona, then went to Indianapolis and moved into the bullpen and put up some great strikeout numbers to go with his groundball tendencies. He’s a big guy (6’7″) and Wilbur Miller noted last year that his velocity increased a bit when he went to the bullpen, so there’s reason to believe that he could stick there in the long run for the Pirates.