4 Prospects the Pittsburgh Pirates Could Promote in September
We’re almost at the point in the season where rosters expand to 40 players and teams call up all sorts of minor league prospects to supplement their rosters.
Some of these September call-ups go a long way in helping their teams qualify for the playoffs. Others flame out and ride the bench until the end of the season. Either way, these prospects have the chance to make their mark while also giving a much-needed boost to weary rosters at the end of a long season.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have a slew of potential prospects in Indianapolis who could make an impact in the big leagues when rosters expand in two weeks. Some have been here before; others have spent their entire careers in the minors.
One thing is for certain. This team needs help on several fronts in order to remain in contention for a second consecutive playoff berth. Let’s hope these prospects can help push the team over the top in September.
Pirate fans are well acquainted with Andrew Lambo, the man who blasted 32 home runs last year in the minors. Unfortunately, fans are also familiar with the same Lambo who had four hits in 42 at-bats this year in spring training, good for a .095 batting average.
The front office had probably been hoping Lambo could step in and become the everyday first baseman this year. He faltered in a big way, and the result was the Gaby Sanchez-Ike Davis platoon at first base.
It’s not a stretch to say the team could use a power source like Lambo, especially when the bench is still full of names like Jayson Nix and Brent Morel.
It’s not like he’s slumping in the minors, either. Lambo hit two home runs in a game on Aug. 18 and currently has a .324 batting average and a .921 OPS in 54 games this year with the Indianapolis Indians.
Despite the fact that Lambo only hit .233 in 30 Major League at-bats last year during his September call-up, the front office still has its eyes on a man who could help the team down the stretch.
"His versatility to play left, right, first, pinch-hit, be a regular bat, he's got a lot of upside, a guy we were excited about going into spring training,” general manager Neal Huntington told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's RJ Schaffer. “It didn't go the way we had thought it would, but he is certainly still in our plans."
The 22-year-old righty has split time between both Double-A and Triple-A this year, compiling impressive stats at both levels.
The starter has a 3.14 earned-run average in 12 games for Indianapolis. He most recently pitched eight innings, giving up only four hits and two runs in a game on Aug. 18.
Before that game, Kingham ranked first in the International League with a .205 batting average against, sixth with a 3.25 ERA and 10th in strikeouts with 52 since making his Triple-A debut in June, according to the Indianapolis Star.
Kingham, a top prospect in the Pirates system, struggled mightily in July and posted a 5.76 ERA in that month. However, things have settled down in August, where he has posted a 3.00 ERA in three starts.
A slew of injuries, inconsistencies and other questions have arisen in the Pirates' pitching rotation and bullpen in the last week. Don’t be surprised to see an arm like Kingham’s get called up for the stretch run.
Another arm that could make an appearance in September is Indianapolis closer Andy Oliver, an All-Star in the minor leagues this year.
Left-handed relievers are always in demand on the major league level, especially down the stretch when arms tire toward the end of the season.
Oliver has a 2.55 ERA in 60 innings pitched this season and has accumulated 13 saves so far for Indianapolis.
The 26-year-old lefty also has prior major league experience with Detroit, although it didn’t go too well. Oliver pitched in games during 2010 and 2011, accumulating a 7.11 ERA in 31.2 innings.
Justin Broyles of Rant Sports predicted recently that Oliver will be a September call-up, being that he is a lefty who has 77 strikeouts in just 60 innings.
The Indians have a closer named Andy Oliver who was an All-Star this season. He is a left-handed reliever that has been striking out a ton of batters, just like the Pirates were looking for on the trade market. Oliver also has major-league experience pitching for the Detroit Tigers.
Another option could be reliever Vin Mazzaro, who pitched 73 innings in the majors last year with a 2.81 ERA. He currently has a 2.66 ERA in 44 minor league innings this year. His experience in the big leagues could be huge to a bullpen that has faltered in a big way lately.
Jose Tabata is the least likely of these options to be called up, but he has significant major league experience working in his favor.
Tabata began this season in the big leagues, where he’s played in 464 games since 2010. His career .275 batting average isn’t a poor mark, but that's about where the praise stops for Tabata.
The front office got rid of Tabata in late June and banished him to the minors. It seems his poor mental focus possibly prompted the demotion, per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Karen Price.
Another strike against Tabata is the fact that the team already has a crowded outfield, with Travis Snider likely being the latest man out of the mix depending on how soon Andrew McCutchen returns from the disabled list.
But to Tabata is a better option off the bench than Morel or Nix. That alone could make him an option for promotion once September rolls around and the team’s regular starters get healthy again.