The Pirates have not gotten off to the kind of start they would like to have had in 2014, going 9-13 in their first 22 games.
Batters throughout their lineup have struggled, and a number of pitchers have had difficulty getting outs.
With that, they will likely give playing time to a number of current minor leaguers, as changes will be needed if they continue to play this way. Let's take a look at five players who may break onto the major league scene in 2014.
Gregory Polanco, OF
Ranked No. 1 among all prospects in the Pirates' organization according to Baseball America, Gregory Polanco will likely make a lot of noise when he is called up to the major leagues.
In 18 games with the Indianapolis Indians in 2014, the 22-year-old slugger is batting .419 with four doubles, two triples and three home runs. He is growing quickly as a player, and he deserves to be the first call-up on offense in 2014.
With left fielder Starling Marte and right fielder Travis Snider both struggling at the plate, Polanco could be given a shot in the majors relatively soon. The Pirates need a spark on offense, as they have not been able to get much done so far in 2014.
According to the same report from Baseball America, Polanco was rated the most athletic prospect after the 2012 season, as he is a five-tool player.
Polanco has stolen 78 bases over his last two minor league seasons. When he gets on base, which is often, he has the ability to put himself in scoring position and produce runs.
Nick Kingham, RHP
The Pirates' pitching staff has shown pretty good control in 2014, walking 60 batters in 196.0 innings pitched. That is tied with the Washington Nationals for the third-lowest amount in the National League.
Control is so important, and righty Nick Kingham was rated by Baseball America as the prospect with the best control in the Pirates' organization.
In 2013, Kingham walked just 44 batters in 143.1 innings pitched. He also owns a 1.165 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) over five minor league seasons.
If the Pirates ever need a reliever such as Stolmy Pimentel to make a spot start, it would not be surprising to see them give Kingham an opportunity to pitch out of their bullpen in 2014.
Andrew Lambo, RF
Andrew Lambo made his major league debut on August 13, 2013 against the St. Louis Cardinals. In 18 games with the Pirates, Lambo batted .233 while blasting one home run.
According to Baseball America, Lambo is the best power hitter in the Pirates' farm system. That is no surprise considering he hit 32 home runs in 2013 as he split time between Altoona and Indianapolis before being called up to the major leagues.
After a rough 2014 spring training in which he batted .095 in 42 at-bats, Lambo was optioned to Triple-A for the beginning of the regular season. Although he has yet to hit a home run in 54 at-bats, Lambo is batting .315 with six doubles and one triple.
Lambo will likely be given another chance to in the majors sooner rather than later, especially if the Pirates continue to struggle at the plate.
Daniel Schlereth, LHP
In 94 appearances, Schlereth has been hit around a lot, owning an ERA of 4.35 while allowing 85 hits in 93.0 innings pitched. However, he has shown the ability to get batters out in big spots.
Schlereth has not made a major league appearance since 2012 with the Tigers, as he was injured and limited to only 12 minor league games in 2013.
This season with Indianapolis, the 27-year-old lefty has allowed two earned runs in six innings pitched while also striking out an impressive seven batters. He has been dominant in the majority of his outings, and he may provide insurance to the Pirates' bullpen this season.
As long as he is healthy and continues to perform, Schlereth should make his Pirates debut some time during the 2014 regular season.
Blake Davis, IF
Shortstop Blake Davis made his major league debut with the Baltimore Orioles in 2008. In 59 major league at-bats that season, he batted .254 with one home run.
To date that is the only season Davis has played at the major league level. However, his versatility makes him an enticing player to consider calling up at some point in 2014.
Although he is listed as a shortstop, Davis can also play both second and third base, meaning the Pirates could use him as a utility man off the bench.
In 41 at-bats this season with Indianapolis, the 30-year-old is batting .268 with three doubles, two triples and a home run. He is seeing the ball well right now, which is something the Pirates have to do better in order to be successful.
Perhaps 2014 will be the season Davis is given another chance to play at the major league level.
Young prospects have been making noise all over the league over the last few seasons. The Pirates have had their fair share of young players coming up through the farm system and helping the team win games.
That trend should continue for the Pirates to be successful and make it back to the postseason in 2014.
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