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Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects off to the Hottest Starts This Year

Ryan GauleCorrespondent IJune 25, 2016

Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects off to the Hottest Starts This Year

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    Brian Blanco/Getty Images

    The Pittsburgh Pirates have gotten off to a rough start in 2014.  The offense hasn't yet awakened from its offseason hibernation, and pitchers aren't getting run support. 

    While Pittsburgh has not fared well in 2014, there are a number of prospects in the minors who are making their case for a potential call-up. 

    Here is a look at five minor leaguers who have gotten off to the hottest starts in 2014 for the Pirates' organization. 

    *This ranked list is based solely on player performances in 2014.  All statistics are courtesy of Baseball Reference.

5. Casey Sadler, RHP

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Right-handed starting pitcher Casey Sadler has been outstanding early on for the Indianapolis Indians, going 3-0 with a 1.67 ERA in four starts. 

    Sadler has allowed just 17 hits in 27.0 innings pitched, and batters have been held to just a .185 batting average against him.  His 0.85 walks and hits per inning pitched is sixth-best in the International League. 

    Sadler was drafted by the Pirates in the 25th round of the 2010 June MLB Amateur Draft.  If his numbers translate to the big leagues, that would be one great steal for the Pirates. 

    The Pirates have been struggling as of late, so it is possible that Sadler could get the call-up this season to make a few spot starts for Pittsburgh.  If so, it will be interesting to see what he can do in the majors. 

4. Andrew Lambo, 1B

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Andrew Lambo made his major league debut with the Pirates in 2013, batting .233 with one home run in 30 at-bats. 

    The 25-year-old first baseman was optioned to AAA prior to the start of the 2014 regular season.  In 22 games, Lambo is fifth in the International League with a .354 batting average. 

    Lambo has shown that he has tremendous power, blasting 32 home runs in the minors last season.  With the acquisition of first baseman Ike Davis via trade, the Pirates probably aren't looking to fill that position right now.

    If Lambo continues to produce, however, there is no reason he shouldn't be playing for Pittsburgh by this summer.

3. Adrian Sampson, RHP

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    Pirates prospect Adrian Sampson has done a stellar job on the mound for Altoona in 2014.

    In five starts, Sampson is 3-2 with an ERA of only 1.82 and a WHIP of 1.05.  He has also averaged nearly a strikeout per inning, striking out 23 batters in 24.2 innings pitched. 

    Sampson could be another one of those guys who could make a spot start for the Pirates in 2014, especially if Pittsburgh's Wandy Rodriguez continues to struggle with both performance and staying healthy. 

    Sampson was ranked 27th among all Pirates prospects after the 2013 season according to Baseball America.

2. Tyler Sample, RHP

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    Perhaps the hottest pitcher in Pittsburgh's minor league system is Tyler Sample of the Class AA Altoona Curve.

    In four games pitched, Sample is 2-0 with an earned run average of just 1.00.  He has allowed just seven hits in 18.0 innings pitched while striking out 18. 

    His 16 walks may raise some eyebrows and be a cause for concern, but he is finding ways to keep the runners from scoring, which is all that really matters at the end of the day. 

    Still, Sample will need to work on lowering the amount of free passes he issues before he moves up in the system.  For now, he is one of the hottest pitchers in the minor leagues, and he is really making a name for himself down there.

1. Gregory Polanco, OF

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Undoubtedly the most exciting young player to watch in Pittsburgh's farm system, Gregory Polanco should probably already have been called up. 

    The 22-year-old is leading the International League with a .400 batting average in 24 games played.  He has hit six doubles, two triples and four home runs while also stealing four bases and scoring 21 runs. 

    Simply put, there's nothing this kid can't do, and he's showing it early on in 2014. 

    Polanco was ranked the No. 1 prospect in Pittsburgh's organization by Baseball America after the 2013 season.  It is easy to see why, and when he finally does make his major league debut, all eyes will be on the future star. 

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