Despite a strong start to the season, Indianapolis seemed to hit a wall in July. After earning a hefty advantage in the International League West early, Indianapolis finished six games behind Columbus and missed the playoffs. While the last two seasons they had made the playoffs, Indianapolis had been an early exit due to the Pirates being competitive late in the season. This season, injuries at the big league level and several transactions throughout created lots of player movement at the level.
After posting a .309 average with an .886 OPS, Dickerson was traded to Cleveland for cash consideration in July. While Dickerson appeared to be a call-up option much of the first half of the season, injuries and timing were not in his favor. With an opt-out in his contract, the Pirates found the best option in trading Dickerson. However, before they did, he worked as a role model for the top prospect Polanco.
Polanco dominated the Triple-A level, as he led the International League in most offensive categories in the 2014 campaign. After all of the attention, he earned a June call-up to Pittsburgh. After the promotion, Polanco hit the ground running, as he hit in his first 11 games of his big league career. After a lengthy slump, he spent the last week of the season with Indianapolis to find his swing again. Between the two stints, Polanco hit .328 with 29 extra base hits and 16 stolen bases, while posing an .894 OPS.
Despite injury struggles, Lambo posted an identical .328 average as Polanco. When he was healthy, he was just as impressive, if not more, as he posted a team-leading .952 OPS in 61 games. Lambo missed about a month and a half in the middle of the campaign with a broken thumb. After a tough spring training, he lost out on the first base platoon in Pittsburgh and he struggled the first week of the season with Indianapolis before finding his swing. Lambo also regained his power stroke in August, as he hit six home runs in his last eight games with Indianapolis.
After earning a promotion from Altoona, Mel Rojas, Jr. was solid at the Triple-A level. Rojas posted a .277 average with a .768 OPS. He was consistent all season and should get a look at the Triple-A level again next season.
Jaff Decker was also solid with Indianapolis, earning a pair of promotions throughout the season. Decker posted a .257 average, despite an extremely slow start to the season. However, he was left off of the roster after it expanded for September, which doesn’t speak well for his future with the Pirates. Decker also added 15 outfield assists to lead the squad.
Chase d’Arnaud earned a September call up after hitting .250 and stealing a team-high 30 bases. After spending limited time in Pittsburgh early in the season, Tony Sanchez also joined the Pirates when the rosters expanded. Sanchez really struggled with both the bat and behind the plate in Indianapolis, as he hit only .235 and threw out only 13 percent of base stealers.
Elias Diaz joined the team from Altoona in August as well. While he struggled with the bat, hitting just .152, Diaz had a strong 2014 campaign with Altoona and will gain some much earned Triple-A experience next season, as he will likely start the season with Indianapolis.
Casey Sadler paced the staff 3.03 ERA in 21 starts. Sadler earned some looks in the Pittsburgh bullpen, but spent most of the season with Indianapolis. After starting the season strong, he showed some wear as the season went on, but still put together a strong campaign. In 124.2 innings, Sadler posted a 77:24 K/BB ratio.
Though he spent more time in Pittsburgh, Brandon Cumpton was also strong with Indianapolis, as he posted an identical 3.03 ERA in Triple-A. While Cumpton walked 20 hitters in 71.1 innings, he also posted 37 strikeouts. Sadler’s stat lines were a bit stronger, but Cumpton showed more life on his fastball.
Vance Worley was strong in seven starts before joining the Pittsburgh rotation. Jeff Locke had some ups and downs with the Indianapolis rotation before joining Worley in the rotation when it endured several injuries. Locke walked 22 hitters in 50 innings with Indianapolis. Despite the walks and a 4.14 ERA, Locke showed good stuff and had 6.7 K/9.
Nick Kingham joined the rotation in June. After getting off to a strong start, Kingham really struggled in July. After allowing just one earned run in June, while working 26.2 innings, Kingham inflated to a 5.76 ERA in five starts in July. The International League went from hitting .165 against him in June to .237 in July. In addition, Kingham allowed three home runs in July and two more in August, after allowing none in June. Kingham will head to the Arizona Fall League to work on his craft.
A.J. Morris had three strong starts with Indianapolis before going to the DL with a forearm strain. He rejoined the squad late in the season, but did not show the same form.
Rafael Perez joined the Indianapolis rotation from the Mexican League in July. While Perez never made it out of the low to mid 80’s, he had a great deal of success. In 56 innings, he posted a 1.77 ERA. Despite the soft tossing, Perez earned a 5.5 K/9, while only walking 12 hitters.
Adrian Sampson also joined the Indianapolis rotation toward the end of the season and was able to get in four starts after a strong season with Altoona. Sampson struggled to a 6.16 ERA, but will likely get another shot at Triple-A next season after joining Kingham in the Arizona Fall League.
Despite showing flashes at times, Adam Wilk, Jake Brigham and Jay Jackson really struggled at other times. Wilk tossed a team-high 146.2 innings, but also posted a 4.72 ERA, while allowing 166 hits. Between a pair of DL stints, Jake Brigham posted a 4.29 ERA in 92.1 innings. Jay Jackson really struggled early, but was strong toward the middle of the season. However, the struggles returned and he was traded to Milwaukee in August after posting a 4.89 ERA in 84.2 innings. Jackson did have 9.2 K/9, but allowed 91 hits and 36 walks.
The bullpen had several strong performers, including Andy Oliver, Vin Mazzaro and John Holdzkom.
Oliver led the team with 13 saves and was named a Triple-A All Star. While the control issues were not as extreme as they have been in past years, Oliver still had his tough stretches, as he had 6.6 BB/9. However, there is no doubt in the stuff of Oliver as he also had 12 K/9.
Mazzaro posted a 2.52 ERA in 31 games over 50 innings. Mazzaro also spent two separate stints in Pittsburgh, but was DFA’d and cleared waivers twice. He was also not added to the expanded roster in September.
After a strong start in Altoona, Holdzkom earned a promotion to Indianapolis in July. The tall right-hander was strong from the offset, as he was consistently lighting up the radar gun in the mid to high 90’s. He posted a 2.49 ERA in 21.1 innings with Indianapolis while having 11.2 K/9. After not playing higher than High-A prior to this season, Holdzkom earned a September call up and got off to a strong start in Pittsburgh.
Bobby LaFromboise was claimed on waivers and made five appearances with Indianapolis. He didn’t give up a run, while striking out four. He earned a September call up when the rosters expanded to provide the Pirates another lefty in the bullpen.
In a team-high 47 appearances, Josh Kinney posted a 3.38 ERA and had 9.1 K/9. Tyler Waldron had an up and down campaign, but ended with a 3.79 ERA in a mix between starting and relieving. After nine appearances, Duke Welker joined Taillon and had Tommy John surgery, ending his season. He was later released.
Top 10 Prospects
The cutoff for eligibility on this list was 140 at-bats, 40 innings pitched, or 20 relief appearances. The cutoff excluded Elias Diaz, Adrian Sampson, John Holdzkom, and Jameson Taillon due to their lack of playing time at the level. Because of these exclusions, the list was very weak at the bottom. Some of the players on this list no longer have prospect eligibility (Gregory Polanco, Brandon Cumpton). Those players are included because they had prospect eligibility coming into the year.
1. Gregory Polanco
2. Nick Kingham
3. Andrew Lambo
4. Tony Sanchez
5. Brandon Cumpton
6. Casey Sadler
7. Mel Rojas
8. Jaff Decker
9. Andy Oliver
10. Chris McGuiness
Ryan has been following Indianapolis baseball for most of his life, and the Pirates since they became the affiliate in 2005. He began writing for Pirates Prospects in 2013, in a stint that ran through 2016 (with no service time manipulation played in). Ryan rejoined the team in 2022, covering Indianapolis once again. He has covered the Pirates in four different big league stadiums. Ryan was also fortunate enough to cover the 2015 Futures Game in Cincinnati.