As Kristy Robinson reported tonight, the Pirates will call up five players tomorrow when rosters expand, including infielder Brock Holt. To serve as an introduction to some of these players (or a refresher), here is a brief summary of each player. I included Kyle McPherson in this list, even though he was called up yesterday and threw in tonight’s game. I included him because there were a few people who were surprised at how hard he was throwing tonight, even though all of our reports on him have been in the 92-95 MPH range with his fastball. So I figured a refresher for McPherson, and the other guys coming up, would be good to have.
Chris Leroux - We saw a lot of Leroux last year in the majors. He missed a lot of time this year with an injury, and was eventually outrighted to Indianapolis. It was surprising that he cleared waivers, considering his success in the majors last year. Over the off-season he worked in the international winter leagues as a starting pitcher, with the main focus for the assignment set on improving his secondary pitches. After being outrighted to Triple-A, he requested to be a starter, this time to add value in the role. As a starter he’s been getting ahead in the count with his two-seam fastball, and he throws his slider as a strikeout pitch. He could get some consideration for a spot start in Pittsburgh, but as a reliever he probably won’t need much more than the fastball/slider combo.
Jeff Locke - We saw Locke last September, but the version this year is a totally different pitcher. One big difference is experience. Locke had just five starts in Triple-A before his promotion last year. A bigger difference is his delivery. Locke added a new turn to his delivery, which has given him better command of his pitches. He gets the “soft-tossing lefty” tag, but that doesn’t really fit. He cn throw his fastball 90-93 MPH, and pairs that with a nice curve and changeup. He doesn’t have a plus pitch in his arsenal, but he has great command of all of his pitches, especially now with the new turn in his delivery. That increases his effectiveness, and allows him to potentially be a middle of the rotation starter. His numbers will only benefit as a left hander in PNC.
Justin Wilson - Wilson has some of the best stuff in the organization, but struggles with his control. As a starter he usually sits in the 93-95 MPH range, and he’s been clocked higher than that in the past in relief. In his one appearance this year he was working low-90s out of the stretch. The control has been a big issue throughout his career. He tried to reduce the walks by going to more of an overhead delivery this year. That worked for a while, but he’s seen the walks come back toward the end of the year. He has a nice curveball, which paired with his fastball will make him a talented left-hander out of the bullpen. Long-term you’d like to see him get a shot as a starter, since his control issues aren’t solved with a move to the pen. He can be boom or bust in either role, and when he’s on his game, he looks like an ace.
Brock Holt - Holt has been one of the bigger surprises this year. He returned to Double-A to start the year, mostly because he was blocked in Triple-A by Chase d’Arnaud and Jordy Mercer. He hit for a .322/.389/.432 line in 382 at-bats, showing some improvement over his 2011 numbers at the level. Since moving up to Triple-A, he’s been on fire. Holt has hit for a .432/.476/.537 line in 95 at-bats, and recently had four straight games with three hits per game. He can play shortstop, but he doesn’t have the defense to start at the position. He’s better defensively at second base, but he might not have the bat to be an every day starter. He’s obviously opened some eyes with his hitting in Indianapolis, but he hasn’t hit for a lot of power. Holt has a lot of speed, so he’d have value as a top of the order guy if he could hit for average and get on base in the majors. I wouldn’t expect anything close to his Triple-A numbers though, as his career numbers are a better bet for his offensive upside.
Eric Fryer - The Pirates will need a third catcher, and Fryer will fill that role. He might not see a lot of playing time, but his presence should allow them to use Michael McKenry as a pinch hitter when Rod Barajas is starting. Fryer also has a laser for an arm, so he could help shut down the running game when he does play.
Kyle McPherson - A month ago, McPherson was still rehabbing in Altoona, and struggling at times compared to his numbers at the level in 2011. Since then he’s made three starts with Indianapolis, posting a 0.98 ERA in 18.1 innings, with a 17:4 K/BB ratio. He’s also made two appearances in the majors, giving up one earned run on two hits in 3.2 innings, with a 5:2 K/BB ratio. McPherson has a great three pitch mix, throwing a fastball that usually sits 92-93 and touches 95 as a starter. He also has a curve and a change, which are both above-average pitches. He pounds the strike zone, has great command of all his pitches, and throws on a downward plane, making his stuff harder to hit. He profiles as a middle of the rotation starter, and could have a shot at being a number two starter as a best case scenario.
With Jeff Karstens injured, and with a spot currently open after releasing Erik Bedard, it would be good to see Locke and McPherson getting some time in the rotation.
Links and Notes
**The Pirates lost to the Brewers 9-3.