June 29, 2010

More Help at Indy?

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / June 29, 2010

Conventional wisdom said that the Pirates had played all their cards after calling up their top prospects - Walker, Lincoln, Tabata and Alvarez. With the MLB record at 26-50, I estimate a 63-23 finish is necessary to make the playoffs. Thus we cannot afford to leave any stone unturned. Three Indianapolis players who started the season with Altoona have shown the potential to contribute this year at the MLB level.

Danny Moskos
After a couple of mediocre-to-bad years as a starter, which induced Baseball America to drop his prospect ranking to #30 in the organization, the Pirates converted their 2007 first round pick into a closer this year. Moskos has been lights out ever since.

The 24-year-old lefthander had an outstanding half season this year at Altoona, with a 1.45 ERA and 17 saves. In 31 innings he gave up 21 hits, nine walks and struck out 30. This earned Moskos a promotion to Indianapolis where he's only thrown one inning so far.

Moskos has an above average major league fastball, topping out at 95 mph. He also has a good slider and a changeup which needs work. Considering his excellent command this year, Moskos becomes the organization's best lefthanded reliever in the likely event that Javier Lopez is traded in July. I would call him up at that point; the Pirates will not.

Jim Negrych
A sixth round pick in 2006, Negrych has played second and third base. He had a breakout year in 2008 when he hit .359/.438/.482 between Lynchburg and Altoona, but he slumped in 2009 and 2010 to become just an average hitter at Altoona.

Called up to Indianapolis to replace Neil Walker at second base, Negrych has had a renaissance at Indianapolis - hitting .411/.459/.625 there. Now, this is only over 16 games, but those stats are still showing a certain level of skill.

The knock on Negrych is that he's a below average fielder with little power. Having developed neither of those skills at age 25, it looks like he's not going to become an MLB regular. Yet if Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker are going to play almost every day, there would appear to be a role in 2010 and 2011 for a backup at those positions who would play primarily as a pinch hitter. If he can hit .280 to .300 in a major league backup role, Negrych will be a valuable bench player.

Alex Presley
An eighth round pick in 2006, Presley did nothing in his first four professional seasons to establish himself as a prospect. The center fielder hit only .257/.305/.379 last year in his second season at Lynchburg and looked like nothing but organizational filler.

Out of nowhere, Presley hit .350/.399/.533 at Altoona this year, necessitating his callup to Indianapolis. He's only played four games there, but he already hit for the cycle in one of them.

In 145 plate appearances over 51 games, Ryan Church has hit a putrid .175/.221/.292. Could Presley possibly do worse as a lefthanded bench bat? Church will certainly be gone after this season, so nothing is gained by giving him more playing time. Finally, based on my Google Image search Alex Presley adds value by being the name of two different hot chicks.

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