Maybe it’s the record warm . . . no, hot temperatures being set everywhere, but the Pirates continue to have a lot of hot hitters in the farm system, especially at the upper levels and at West Virginia.
Tony Sanchez, C (AAA): In the past week Sanchez finally started to show some of the power the Pirates expected him to have. He hit his first three HRs of the year in three consecutive games and is hitting 346/414/769 in July, with two doubles and three HRs.
Jeff Locke, LHP (AAA): Locke’s last two starts have been outstanding. He allowed just one run in 13 innings on just five hits and five walks. He fanned 12. In fact, in his last 48 innings he’s fanned 48. His ERA is now 2.92.
Justin Wilson, LHP (AAA): Wilson had an outstanding string of five starts in which he allowed just six runs, five earned, on a mere 12 hits in 30 innings, with 31 Ks. Maybe more importantly, he walked only eight, hinting at progress on his big weakness. Unfortunately, he had a control meltdown on Sunday, but after walking four in the first two innings, he recovered to last five without walking any more. On the season opponents are batting just .191 against him and he’s striking out a batter an inning.
Matt Curry, 1B (AA): Curry stayed hot, with a four-hit game on Friday and a 12-25 (.480) performance for the week, with two doubles, a triple and a HR. On the season he’s now hitting 320/374/523.
Alex Dickerson, 1B (High A): Dickerson has gradually been turning around a disappointing season. After posting a .906 OPS in June, he’s hitting 387/400/677 so far in July.
Casey Sadler, RHP (High A): A sidearm thrower, Sadler looked like he’d try to make his way in the bullpen, but he’s mostly been used as a starter since the end of May and has made the transition very well. In six starts he has an ERA of 2.79, and he’s allowed only 25 hits and six walks in 29 innings.
Colton Cain, LHP (High A): Cain has struggled during much of the season and also missed a month. In his last four starts, though, he has a 1.50 ERA and only 16 hits allowed in 24 IP.
Alen Hanson, SS (Low A): Hanson just keeps hitting. So far in July he’s hitting 368/385/684, with three doubles and three HRs. He also earned himself the top spot on Baseball America’s prospect hot sheet.
Gregory Polanco, OF (Low A): Polanco’s had a bigger month than Hanson so far, hitting 500/563/857. Not only is he showing the power the Pirates hoped to see, he’s stolen 28 bases in 36 tries.
Taylor Lewis, OF (Low A): Lewis is an interesting player. He was considered very toolsy when drafted, but he played at a northern college, the University of Maine, and didn’t see the best competition. He struggled in his debut last year and stayed in extended spring training until mid-June. He’s hit well since being assigned to West Virginia, though, including a 348/500/478 line so far in July. He struggled with the strike zone in his first couple weeks, with just two walks and 13 Ks in June, but in July he’s posted seven walks and five Ks.
Barrett Barnes, OF (Short Season A): After signing Barnes started slowly, but he went on a three-game tear starting on Independence Day. For the week he went 8-18 (.444) with three doubles and two HRs.
Joely Rodriguez, LHP (Short Season A): Rodriguez has a good arm, but pitched surprisingly little before this year, even though he’s 20. In his last two starts he’s thrown five scoreless innings each time, allowing only four hits and one walk. He’s not striking out many batters, but he’s made big strides with his command, which was an issue before this year.
Luis Heredia, RHP (Short Season A): Heredia has been impressive in his four starts so far, especially if you remind yourself that he’s still only 17 and still growing. His control, which was something of an issue last year, has improved immensely: he’s walked only three in 19 IP. He’s fanned 14 and has an ERA of 0.95.
Willy Garcia, OF (Low A): Garcia takes a big cut and chases a lot of bad pitches, with the result that he’s been extremely streaky all year. Right now he’s in a down phase. In his last ten games he’s hitting 205/222/273 with one walk and ten strikeouts.
Nick Kingham, RHP (Low A): Kingham seemed to have turned things around after a bad start to the season, but in his last three starts he’s struggled, with an ERA of 8.40, with 20 hits and seven walks allowed in 15 IP.
Ryan Hafner, RHP (Low A): Hafner has struggled all year, especially with his control, and things didn’t improve in his two starts during the past week. In the first he lasted only a third of an inning. Between the two, he gave up nine hits and six walks in just 4.2 IP. His ERA was 13.50.
Yhonathan Barrios, 3B (Short Season A): Barrios was considered a strong prospect when the Pirates signed him out of Colombia, but he was hampered by injuries until this year. Now he’s just not hitting. He went 1-15 (.067) in the past week, leaving him at 154/214/154 on the season.