First Pitch: Prospect Status Updates

Our Prospect Guide update that was completed in February is still 99% accurate as far as the players included. Yesterday the Pittsburgh Pirates picked up Ka’ai Tom on waivers from the Oakland A’s and he’s a player who will be in our next update to our prospect list (likely mid-season/after the draft signing period), UNLESS he is no longer around or he graduates from the prospect list. Both of those are possibilities because he was a Rule 5 pick, so if he sticks with the Pirates, he’s going to get some playing time. Anyway, I just wanted to give prospect status updates for players from our guide who have played in the majors this season already. The list is probably bigger than you think, and it grew by two players yesterday.

The Graduates

JT Brubaker and Phillip Evans both came into this year as top 50 prospects and both are performing well. Both of them also graduated from prospects to grizzled MLB vets. For those who don’t know, we only use 130 at-bats, 30 games pitched or 50 innings as our cutoffs, service time doesn’t matter to us. You can reach any of those three numbers and remain in our prospect rankings, but once a player goes over, they are out of our guide. Brubaker surpassed that mark in his first start. Evans needed a little help from Ke’Bryan Hayes getting injured to get him in the lineup regularly, then he made sure he stayed in the lineup with his bat. He crossed the 130 at-bat mark last week.

Close But Not Yet

Speaking of Ke’Bryan Hayes, it feels almost like we were asking for it by saying he would quickly lose his prospect status by mid-April and we would have a new top prospect in the system. He got hurt, but he is due back very soon. At that point, he will continue his quest for the Rookie of the Year award. It was nice of him to give others a chance to compile some stats. He has 90 at-bats, so he will hopefully get there in about two weeks…unless he got hurt yesterday and we found out about it this morning.

David Bednar made his 26th big league appearance yesterday. He’s a good example of a player who looks better than advertised, but since we never saw him, we had to go off old reports to rank him. We discussed him for the back of the top 50 before releasing our list, but he didn’t make it. If you’ve seen him pitch, then you know he has quality stuff and he should be in the top 50. He’s not going to get a chance to get ranked (no jinx) because he needs just five more appearances to move out of the prospect rankings.

Still Have Some Time

Anthony Alford is close to graduating from the prospect ranks but I’m putting him here because he’s either going to be claimed on waivers or go to Triple-A, where he will need to prove something to get back. For the record, he has 107 career at-bats. Would be nice if he got 24+ more with the Pirates because it means that he did something to deserve them.

Luis Oviedo has shown flashes of potential in his outings, but he’s going to be on this list for a long time because he isn’t getting much use. He’s thrown 6.2 innings in four outings. Me personally, I’m thinking towards the future this season and I’d rather see him get stretched out and put down a nice building block of innings so he can work regularly as a starter in the minors next year. I also know that I would hate trying to figure out how to rank someone with a year of big league time who is probably going to Double-A next year. So I’m hoping he doesn’t finish with exactly 50 innings over 30 appearances, which would be done just to spite me obviously.

Sean Poppen is another odd one, in that if he doesn’t graduate from this list, then does he still stick around with the Pirates after this season? He’s 27 and had 18 innings over 11 appearances in his big league career. Who knows if he will stick, especially with Michael Feliz likely returning soon when his 10-day IL stint is up.

Miguel Yajure looked good for most of his start yesterday, which obviously didn’t end well. He probably shouldn’t have been going into the fifth inning, but his pitch count was good, so it was an understandable decision. Anyway, he had just seven big league innings coming into this season and he went 4.1 innings. He will be back in the majors at some point this season, though I wouldn’t guarantee him putting in another 39 innings this year in the majors.

Wil Crowe is basically in the same situation as Yajure. Crowe pitched once for the Pirates before being optioned early in the season. He has a total of nine big league innings now. He will be back at some point this season, but will he get at least 41.1 innings? Probably going to be close, with a majority of his work coming after the trade deadline.

Rodolfo Castro made his big league debut yesterday and went 0-for-3. It was nice to get him a small taste of the majors, but he’s not losing his prospect status this year. He was in the right place at the right time. That doesn’t make him big league ready though, and I don’t think anyone would claim that he was ready. Still nice to see.

The aforementioned Ka’ai Tom belongs here, though he obviously wasn’t included in our guide. He’s 1-for-16 in the majors. You would hope that he gets a chance to see at-bats. There’s no reason to baby him either, he turns 27 years old next month and he already had Triple-A experience, so if he’s not ready now, then you really don’t need to worry about prospect status (though every player in the system qualifies for it, even if you wouldn’t classify them as legit prospects).

Yesterday’s Links

Game(s) Recap: Pirates Split Doubleheader with Tigers

Pirates Claim Ka’ai Tom and Promote Rodolfo Castro; DFA Anthony Alford

This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: April 21st, Kip Wells and Ronny Paulino

Card of the Day: 2004 Upper Deck First Pitch Kip Wells

1925 Pirate Replay, September 12: Pirates’ Blanked by Cards’ Sherdel