The Pirates are facing a potentially significant roster crunch this off-season, with numerous prospects becoming eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Adding to the pressure are one or two players who probably wouldn’t have been in line for consideration a short while ago, but who are making late pushes. Late season performances could have a lot of impact on the Pirates’ thinking.
Jose Ascanio, RHP (AAA): The Pirates started getting Ascanio stretched out in the past week and he showed signs that he may be nearly all the way back from shoulder surgery. He threw three scoreless innings on Wednesday and six on Sunday. In the nine innings he allowed just four hits and a walk, and fanned ten. In August so far he’s fanned 13 in 12 innings and allowed no runs. The Pirates may need to consider putting him back on the 40-man roster. He had outstanding stuff before the injury.
Pedro Ciriaco, UT (AAA): It’s been a miserable year for Ciriaco, as his .520 OPS shows. The last week, though, has been about as good a stretch as he’s had. He’s gone 9-for-21 (.429) with a double and a triple. He fanned only twice, but of course didn’t draw a walk. It’s probably not going to be enough to save his roster spot.
Jared Hughes, RHP (AAA): Since moving to the bullpen full-time, Hughes may be putting himself in line for a roster spot during the off-season. In the past week he appeared in four games and allowed no runs on one hit and one walk in four innings. He recorded eight of his twelve outs on strikeouts. Hughes has always been a strong groundball pitcher, but he never missed many bats as a starter. Since the move he’s reportedly been throwing in the mid-90s. He’s appeared in 29 AAA games and has an absurd 4.64 groundout to air out ratio, with 42 strikeouts in 36.1 innings. The Pirates’ front office loves the combination of groundballs and strikeouts, so Hughes is probably making an impression.
Brock Holt, SS (AA): After some mediocre hitting for much of the summer, Holt has gotten hot in August, batting 359/455/484 for the month, with ten walks and only nine strikeouts. In the past week he went 10-for-23 (.435).
Dan Grovatt, OF (A): Grovatt’s hitting gradually dropped off in June and July, but he’s gotten hot in August. He’s batting 368/392/605 for the month and went 11-for-23 (.478) in the past week. After hitting just two HRs in his first 72 games, he’s hit six in his last 46. He seems to be sacrificing walks for power, which he’s going to need to do as a corner outfielder. He walked 47 times in his first 72 games, but just 11 in 46 since then.
Nick Kingham and Ryan Hafner, RHPs (A-): Kingham and Hafner are both tall, projectable prep pitchers from the Pirates’ 2010 draft, and they’re having remarkably similar seasons. Their ERAs are 2.57 and 2.56, respectively, and both are doing a good job of keeping runners off base while not striking out a lot of batters. In the past week, they threw a combined ten innings, allowing seven hits, three walks, and two runs (one earned), with no strikeouts. Considering how inexperienced they are, the strikeouts are probably not a big concern yet.
Chase d’Arnaud, SS (AAA): Since returning to AAA following his DL stint with a broken finger, d’Arnaud has struggled some. In ten games he’s 8-for-42 (.190). Considering that he was out for a while, it probably doesn’t have any lasting significance, but it’ll probably mean the Pirates won’t want to recall him until September.
Eric Fryer, C (AAA): Fryer has struggled badly since returning from his stretch as the Pirates’ backup catcher. The lack of playing time may have had an impact, because he’s hitting .107 in nine games, with nine strikeouts in 28 at-bats.
Dan Moskos, LHP (AAA): August has not been a good month for Moskos. He’s allowed 11 runs in 11 innings for a 9.00 ERA, thanks to 16 hits and seven walks. He may be pitching himself out of a September recall.
Matt Curry, 1B (AA): Curry has dampened a lot of the enthusiasm that accompanied his promotion to AA. After 72 games he’s batting just 247/314/382, with only five HRs. He’s been heading in the wrong direction in August, batting 149/276/170, with strikeouts in a third of his at-bats.
Tim Alderson, RHP (AA): After a strong first two months, Alderson’s season has gone south in a hurry. August has been the worst month of all. After allowing four earned runs in two-thirds of an inning on Thursday, his ERA for the month stands at 15.19. Opponents have batted .533 against him for the month.
Having followed the Pirates fanatically since 1965, Wilbur Miller is one of the fast-dwindling number of fans who’ve actually seen good Pirate teams. He’s even seen Hall-of-Fame Pirates who didn’t get traded mid-career, if you can imagine such a thing. His first in-person game was a 5-4, 11-inning win at Forbes Field over Milwaukee (no, not that one). He’s been writing about the Pirates at various locations online for over 20 years. It has its frustrations, but it’s certainly more cathartic than writing legal stuff. Wilbur is retired and now lives in Bradenton with his wife and three temperamental cats.