MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — As the baseball season winds toward its end, fans of teams across the board have been vocal about what they would do if they served as their favorite team’s general manager — making cuts at the top of the ladder, securing a top pitcher, promoting a young defender, etc.
What I write in this space once a week has no bearing whatsoever on what the Pirates do with any Triple-A players, though I had a running joke with Jarrod Prugar, who covers Double-A Altoona, that whoever I wrote about would be called up soon after that article came out (the joke took off when long-shot Jake Elmore got a call). Still, though, I’m going to take a look here and give my take on who deserves a Pirates roster spot in 2020, who could be better off with at least another half season in Indianapolis and who could be seen in different colors next season.
For the purpose of this column, I will assume that anyone not named Bryan Reynolds called up in 2019 has not earned a full-time MLB roster spot.
CALL ’EM UP
Mitch Keller — Bad MLB debut or not, Keller needs to be in the Pirates rotation next season. With Jameson Taillon expected to be out until 2021 after undergoing his second Tommy John surgery, there’s a full-time spot open in the rotation. Despite his down year, Chris Archer is expected to return and be in the rotation, but the status of other current starters Trevor Williams, Joe Musgrove and Steven Brault could be up in the air. Then there’s Chad Kuhl, who could make a return in 2020 after his own Tommy John surgery.
Either way, Keller deserves to be in that mix and deserves a spot on the MLB roster. In his most recent start, he threw 6.0 innings of one-run ball and struck out nine while scattering six hits. He’s 1-1 in three MLB starts in August, and on two occasions allowed only a single run while striking out a total of 13 batters.
I very much see Keller as a No. 4 or 5 guy next season.
Ke’Bryan Hayes — Really, this is almost a no-brainer. If Colin Moran stays with the club, the two can compete at third base, and maybe Hayes can ease into things. But Hayes has made valuable strides the second half of the season, namely after rehabbing a broken finger around the midway point. Over his past 10 games with Indy, Hayes is hitting .378 with 14 hits, two home runs and seven RBIs. He’s currently on a four-game, multi-hit streak.
If Hayes’ bat can withstand major league pitching, his defense should carry him to at least a platoon role with the Pirates next season. He’s done nothing but magnificent work with the leather and is on his way to his third consecutive Gold Glove.
JUST A LITTLE MORE TIME
Dario Agrazal — He’s right in the cusp, in my opinion. He’s shown some flashes, and maybe he could be a bullpen arm. He’s 1-1 in two MLB starts in August, but he’s given up nine runs combined in those two starts and only struck out six. He pitched just 5.0 innings in each of those outings. His Triple-A numbers aren’t eye-popping either as he has a 4-4 record with a 4.78 ERA.
Still, Agrazal is a work in progress who I believe shows great potential. He began the season in Double-A, pitching four games before moving to Triple-A. Since, he’s made 12 appearances with the Indians and 10 with the Pirates. They're interested.
Cole Tucker — I think Tucker has a shot to be an everyday shortstop in the MLB by the end of the next season. His glove is pretty handy, and he’s shown to be a great character around the clubhouse. But his bat leaves much to be desired.
After wowing the crowd with a home run in his MLB debut, Tucker has struggled. His MLB average in 41 games came out to be .195 with just two home runs, eight doubles and 10 RBIs. In 70 games at Triple-A, he’s hitting .264 with eight home runs, 13 doubles, two triples and 28 RBIs. He’s also got 11 stolen bases with the Indians.
A few more months could be what Tucker needs, unless he kills it this offseason and blows people away in spring training.
Will Craig — If the Pirates are going to make any noise in the trade market, I believe they’ll have to use Craig. It makes sense on their end, because, where would you put him on the Pirates roster? Craig could likely use the change of scenery, too, and head to the American League as a designated hitter.
Craig showed power in his bat this year, and is a former first-round draft choice, giving teams enough intrigue that they may be willing to offer something solid in return. Craig has hit .249 this year with 21 home runs, 22 doubles and 71 RBIs. He carries a full line of .249/.323/.431.
James Marvel — Marvel, I think, has pitched well enough to catch some other teams’ eyes. He’s 5-0 at the Triple-A level this year with a 2.72 ERA in nine starts. He’s given up just two home runs and teams are hitting a meager .202 against him.
I could see Marvel making a push for a MLB roster spot come spring training, though it could be with another team.
TRIBE’S TOP HITTERS
Here’s who I’ve identified as the Tribe’s top hitters over the last week:
Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B — 12 for 23 (.521) with a home run, a double and four RBIs.
Jake Elmore, UTIL — 7 for 26 (.269) with two home runs, a double and four RBIs.
Will Craig, 1B — 6 for 24 (.250) with a double and four RBIs.
TRIBE’S TOP PITCHERS
Best starting performance: Cody Ponce pitched a 5.0-inning gem against Toledo in the second game of a doubleheader Wednesday. He gave up two hits but didn't surrender a single run while striking out eight batters in his second Triple-A game.
Best reliever: Yacksel Rios made two solid appearances last week, picking up the save after Ponce’s solid start in the process. He went a total of 4.0 innings and gave up just one run over that span while scattering five hits.
8/20: INF Cole Tucker returned to Indianapolis as the 26th man from Pittsburgh.
LHP Sean Keselica placed on 7-day IL with left shoulder strain.
8/21: RPH Dario Agrazal, RHP Parker Markel recalled by Pittsburgh.
8/22: INF Kevin Kramer reinstated from 7-day IL.
RHP Blake Cederlind transferred from Double-A Altoona to Indianapolis.
C Francisco Cervelli ends MiLB rehab assignment.
8/23: UTIL Darnell Sweeney placed on 7-day IL with right oblique strain.
RHP Montana DuRapau optioned by Pittsburgh (8/20), active in Indianapolis.
RHP Blaker Cederlind is wearing No. 3.
RHP Cody Ponce is wearing No. 35.
The Indians late slide continued with a 3-4 showing this week. The Tribe took one of four from Toledo and two of three from Louisville. The final full week of the season includes four games with Toledo at home followed by two games with Columbus at home. The season will end on the road Sunday and Monday at Louisville.
THE INDY FUN THING
You want Ninja Turtle uniforms? Of course you do:
— Indianapolis Indians (@indyindians) August 25, 2019
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