Pirates Promote Six Players from Indianapolis: Some Expected, a Few Surprises

INDIANAPOLIS — Six players from Triple-A Indianapolis are expected to be promoted to the Pittsburgh Pirates now that their minor league season has finished.

Durham’s comeback win in Game 4 of the Governor’s Cup Semifinals matchup with Indianapolis ended that series and the seasons for many potential Pirates call-ups.

Pirates Prospects has learned from multiple sources there will be six players promoted: starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow, catcher Jacob Stallings, relief pitchers Johnny Barbato, Jack Leathersich, Dan Runzler and Edgar Santana.

Nick Kingham and Clay Holmes are notable exclusions from that list.

Some of those names are no-brainer selections, such as Glasnow, Santana and Stallings – based on performance and already being on the 40-man roster.

One move makes sense: the organization needs to get a good look at recently acquired Leathersich.

On paper, promoting Barbato is a move that should be too surprising. Barbato is on the 40-man roster, has pitched with the Pirates already and can throw 95 MPH. You can’t teach the latter.

The surprise promotion is Runzler but you won’t find anyone inside the Indianapolis clubhouse that disagrees with the move in this situation. He’s a leader in the clubhouse and has previous major league experience as a member of the San Francisco Giants’ 2010 World Series championship team.

But Runzler is 32 years old and has spent the past five seasons in Triple-A, including with a new organization in each of the last four seasons.

Now, he’s back in the major leagues after posting a 3.05 ERA in 40 appearances with Indianapolis this season. But his career path isn’t that unique, even if not the most desired. He made 89 relief appearances with the San Francisco Giants from 2009-12, posting a 3.03 ERA in 41 appearances during their 2010 World Series championship season.

“It’s my own. It’s not more unique than anyone,” Runzler said earlier in the season prior to being promoted. “I think I’ve had a lot of things go for or against me, but at the same time it’s not better or worse than anybody. It’s just mine. I’d be lying if I’d say this is where I thought I would be eight years ago today. But I’ve enjoyed it and have learned to embrace it and understand my journey is different than anyone else, and at the same time it has helped me grow as a man and as a ballplayer.”

Spending five consecutive seasons at the Triple-A level could allow doubt creep into some players’ minds on their chances of once again reaching the major leagues. Runzler is no exception, but he never lost faith in his abilities for a long stretch.

“I think everyone does at some point,” Runzer said. “I don’t think it creeps in too much. I kind of know how I’m pitching and I know my stuff. If I felt like I had to change the way I threw because my stuff wasn’t there – but I know my stuff is there it’s just been a consistency issue for lack of a better term.”

Runzler has a 1.57 WHIP, with only Antonio Bastardo, Cody Dickson and Casey Sadler posting a higher WHIP with the Indians this season, outside of position players who made a spot appearance on the mound. But Runzler’s WHIP dropped to 1.11 during 11 appearances in August and he had a 1.00 ERA during that month.

“He has weapons and he knows how to use them,” Indianapolis manager Andy Barkett previously said. “He’s pitched in high-leverage situations as a young man. He has some dirt in his cleats, he’s been doing this for a while. He has weapons. Intelligence is a weapon. Arm strength is a weapon. Confidence and conviction in both make a difference.
“I don’t think he’s had that until this year. He had some injuries, trying to come back from some injuries last year and find his delivery. I think he’s found a spot where he can be comfortable and be who he was both on and off the field. The guy has legitimate major league weapons that are getting attention.”

Runzler has been on the organization’s radar for most of the season. In an interview several weeks ago, Barkett said “That’s not the first time I’ve heard (Runzler’s) name today. I think he’s getting attention to potentially make a name for himself in our big league bullpen.”

Add in his leadership in the clubhouse throughout the season and Runzler’s promotion can be based on performance and reward. Steven Brault previously credited his success in a start to Runzler, for giving the advice of not being afraid to change game plans in the middle of a game if one pitch is working better than others.

“He’s been tremendous and he’s been a leader since Day 1,” Barkett said, noting Josh Lindblom also filled that role before departing overseas. “It’s hard to have that voice when you’re not doing your job, but to his credit he’s done his job. He’s earned his right in the clubhouse not just as a human being in the clubhouse, but with the way he’s pitched, too. Guys look to him and we look to him for leadership and on and off the field.”

The surprise, in a bad way for many, will be the organization not promoting Nick Kingham. They still could at some point over the next few weeks, but that is probably unlikely.

Kingham couldn’t have done too much more to make his case over the last few months of the Triple-A season. He pitched seven shutout innings in a must-win elimination playoff game on Friday. Plus, he’s out of options which will require the Pirates to start Kingham in the major leagues next season if they want to keep him around.

He did have two shaky outings to finish the regular season, but had pitched at least seven innings in five of his previous six starts. He threw an 85-pitch 9-inning complete game and came within one out of throwing another one.

UPDATE 12:15 PM: The moves have been made official. Josh Harrison has been transferred to the 60-day DL to open up a 40-man roster spot for Runzler. Harrison wasn’t going to be back this season, so that was the obvious move to create the opening. The other five players were already on the 40-man roster.

  • After chirping off about Nicasio, does anyone believe Mercer will be back next year? The PURGE is coming.

    • Hmm. I just searched that. Wonder if other outlets will run with the story. I remember him having breakfast with Morton when he got the call he’d been traded and shouldn’t show up to piratefest.

  • So they finally found a leader.

  • Note to NH: See if you can also lose Nova on waivers, too. Just as with Nicasio, no need to get a return. 🙂

  • I am really looking forward to seeing Glasnow pitch Wed vs the Brewers. It would really help him cement a starting job next year if he pitches well? Or, will he remain a AAAA enigma? I think that pitching from the stretch has really helped his consistency, so
    I am cautiously optimistic.

  • One big reason not to bring Kingham up is that he pitched 7 innings 2 days ago, even if he came up, he would be unavailable for 2-3 days.

  • Runzler – BIG need for lefty relief
    Hutch – is gone
    Barbato – is getting one last look before they cut him loose
    Leathersich – see Runzler
    Kingham – no idea hope there’s a really good reason

  • Wasn’t there a path where a team could petition the league for an extra option year due to e tenuating circumstances (like injury)?

  • I would have liked to see Eric Wood get a cup of coffee to get him acquainted with MLB pitching but I wasn’t counting on it .

  • justinblain1996
    September 10, 2017 11:16 am

    Surprised Ngoepe wasn’t brought back.

  • Michael Sanders
    September 10, 2017 11:01 am

    Where is Drew Hutchison?

    • My perception is that the Pirates fail in these “little things” fairly often:
      – Kingham should not be released in the offseason, so he needs to get some experience in now
      – By not promoting Hutchison, they are signaling that they will release him in the offseason. Why not promote him and see if he catches fire in the bullpen and can return a minor prospect from some team
      – Ngoepe is the only qualified back up SS we have. Maybe that will help one of these young pitchers late in a game or on Mercer’s days off
      – We released Nicasio because there wouldn’t enough innings, yet Benoit and LeBlanc are still on the team

  • I’m assuming Kingham will still get to Pittsburgh someday but he’s not major league ready yet. Brault was much better then him this year and Brault isn’t ML ready.

    Kingham isn’t dominating AAA, he’s giving up no runs. Big difference. The IL is crap this year.

    I like how being out of options isn’t a guarantee. Gotta earn it.

    • I don’t know if Kingham’s major league ready. But with him being out of options, you’d think it’s better to get him prepared now, when we’re playing meaningless games, than to go through that adjusting process next season. Brault learned what to improve&fix by actually pitching in the majors.

      • Didn’t he walk 5 hitters in his last outing? Why would letting him get destroyed by a ML lineup teach him something he should already be doing?

        • He walked three and didn’t give up a run. I don’t understand your question. Are you saying AAA hitters are the same level as MLB hitters? Because they are not. Getting destroyed by MLB level hitters at least teaches Kingham what works up here, how to attack and what not to do, just like what Brault and Glasnow learned.

          • He’s not ready, he didn’t earn it by dominating AND we don’t need him.

            We had to bring up Brault and Glasnow last year.. we were out of starters.

            • Kingham’s out of options and will be with the Pirates next season. If he’s not ready now, he won’t be ready next season either. I’d rather see him not ready and give up bunch of runs now than to see him doing that same thing next season.

              So let’s agree to disagree.

    • That’s a little harsh saying he has to earn it. He missed the first two years of his 40-man status with an injury.
      This isn’t about earning anything, it is about league rules that force us to put him on the 25-man roster or put him through waivers. And some team will take a chance on a starter with his potential who made real progress while staying healthy this year.
      He doesn’t have to pitch often and he doesn’t have to start. But he can train with the major league staff and then be put in a few spots where he is likely to get some confidence

  • I don’t understand… they have innings to give to Leathersich, Runzler and Barbato but not Kingham? They don’t want Kingham to throw from the pen AT ALL?

    • Doesnt make much sense to me. Even if they were limiting his innings, what’s a few innings out of the bullpen or one start?

    • Typically poor decision by the Bucs? SMH.

    • My prediction, based on nothing but my own stupidity, is that Kingham will never play for the Pirates…he’ll be part of a package this off-season.

      • I can see that happening, but honestly wouldn’t trading someone like Williams fetch us more value? Not that I want them to trade Williams, I just think Kingham’s value wouldn’t be high.

        • This is where you would like to believe our GM would dump someone who has over performed their long term projection and keep some one who under performed them.
          To be honest, I can’t tell if Williams (or even Kuhl) will be better, worse or the same as this year.

          • If Kuhl/Williams are better or the same next season…the Pirates will be lucky to have them.

            Both were victims of “The One Bad Start”. Take away Kuhl’s and he’s sitting on a 3.70 ERA and 3.83 since the beginning of May.

            Williams got torched in his first start and has been pitching at a 3.83 clip since then.

            Point being, they both got clipped early and rebounded to have solid seasons…no reason to think they can’t continue the success.

            It’s Taillon and Nova I’m really worried about.

            • Taillon is mechanically out of sync, and Ray will fix him. Nova has mentally lost his edge. That is harder to fix.

            • Williams is no better than a good #4, but gives the Bucs innings more often than not. Kuhl may have upside, but his continued lack of pitch efficiency makes him less viable as a starter, IMO.

              • Sure, I’ll take that they’re back of the rotation arms…but every rotation has a back and it needs to be filled. If these guys keep putting up 4.00 FIPs and are dirt cheap for years to come…I have no complaints. The 1-3 slots are the ones that are bothersome. If Taillon can unclutter himself and Glasnow delivers as hoped….that’s a solid 4/5 of a rotation.

                Granted, those are big ‘if’s.

          • They will be better, both progressed through this season.

      • Could be. If the package brings a quality starting 3B that would be great.

    • Kingham pitched 7 innings 2 days ago. If he were called up, he would still be unavailable.

    • This is the Pirates, follow the $. Someone said he just pitched. I’ll bet by waiting those extra few days or not calling him up at all, they avoid super 2 next year or something like that. Has to be a financial gain. There is no way they want a SP going thru Super 2.

  • How is Kingham out of options?

    • Because he was added to the 40 man roster back in the fall of 2014. So he was optioned in 15,16,and 17 leaving him with no options left. Once a player is added to the 40 man roster, if they don’t make the 25 man roster out of spring training, they have to be optioned to whatever affiliate they are assigned to.Its quite rediculous that he wasn’t called up. Maybe because he just pitched and will be called up later?

    • I get that the consensus is that he’s out of options. I only wonder if the org believes they can get more options through a hardship exception – I’m making this up but I hope it’s true.

      • There is (or used to be) an exception for players out of options who had less than 30 days service time due to injury in a season when an option was burned. Doesn’t seem to apply to Kingham as I believe he was active >30 days in 2015 & 16.

        • Hopefully they’re not rolling the dice and have obtained some confirmation from MLB at this point. Or they’ve already decided he’ll be on the team in 18……?

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