P2Daily: The Promotion of Prospects to the Majors

I continue to be intrigued by how the Pirates are using their prospects in the majors.

Yesterday’s games, for example, featured four players who you might not have expected in the majors this soon. Diego Castillo and Jack Suwinski both appeared in the lineup, while Beau Sulser and Max Kranick both pitched.

We’re still in the early stages of understanding how the Pirates will handle prospect promotions under Ben Cherington. The four players above are key data points in understanding those promotions.

Castillo was acquired last July in a trade with the Yankees. At the time, he was in Double-A for his first appearance. He made it to Triple-A for 18 games at the end of the year, and made the Opening Day roster in Pittsburgh this year.

Jack Suwinski was also acquired in a trade last year, this one with the Padres. Suwinski was in Double-A at the time, and returned to the level this year, where he hit for a 1.107 OPS before being called up as an injury replacement.

Sulser was called up when the Pirates needed pitching, and has thrown 5.2 innings without an earned run, though he has five unearned. He’s been in the system since 2017, and spent last year as a starter in Triple-A. Sulser returned to the level this year, before his callup.

Finally, Kranick isn’t a surprise, since he’s pitching in a role similar to what we saw from him last year. Kranick has now pitched 40 innings in the majors, with a lot of trips back and forth to the minors. He might be the best example of how the Pirates will handle their prospects.

Ben Cherington has indicated as much, saying that the Pirates are viewing Triple-A as MLB depth, regardless of “prospect” tags. We saw that this year when Roansy Contreras was brought to the majors as an injury replacement, despite being the organization’s top pitching prospect.

Of course, Contreras is now down in the minors, where he will need to work on his game until he is ready, or has an extra year of service time, whichever comes first.

It should also be noted that the four players above all grade as 40-45 future value prospects, with each having a small chance to be an average MLB starter. When you’re dealing with bench and bullpen guys, is there really a risk of bringing anyone up too early? Worst case, they show that they are ready to be a starter right now, and that’s not really a problem. The more likely case is they get a bit of experience to take back to the minors to prepare for their next attempt at the big leagues.

That’s the part that intrigues me. How much will Castillo, Suwinski, Sulser, and Kranick benefit from these brief looks, and how will they contribute to these players being in the big leagues long-term?

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