Pittsburgh Pirates: More On Call Up Jordan Luplow
Unofficially the Pittsburgh Pirates have called up outfield prospect Jordan Luplow. No corresponding move has been made yet, but the outfielder seems likely to be joining the team in San Diego. Here is some analysis on Luplow’s minor league career.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are looking for a fourth outfield option as this year’s trade deadline approaches. However, they may hold off on a move until they get a better look at their internal ones first. The Bucs decided it was time to give Jordan Luplow a shot at the current right field spot with Gregory Polanco out. The need for a better outfield option became clear after this past series when the Bucs saw multiple balls fall in around Jose Osuna. Meanwhile, Adam Frazier does not rate that well as an outfielder. The third option, John Jaso, is not only a defensive liability in the outfield, but he is also 1 for his last 36. Luplow brings more experience to playing the corner outfield and brings the hottest bat the Bucs have had in the minors this year.
Background on Luplow
Since Jordan Luplow has joined the Pittsburgh Pirates organization back in 2014, he has been kind of over looked. This has mainly happened to him because he does not have one skill that sticks out like most prospects do. Still, he has been very consistent in all aspects of the game since joining the organization.
Luplow was drafted in the third round out of Fresno State in 2014. Originally drafted as a third baseman, he under went surgery that pushed him to the outfield. This may have been the best move for him anyhow, as he was considered an average third baseman. What he was really known for coming out of college was his bat. Moving him to the outfield would let him focus on his offense while expediting his time in the minors if he was performing.
As mentioned earlier, up until this year Luplow has been a productive all around hitter, but he has never had one skill that really jumped out. The California native has a career slash line of .272/.367/.465. Right off the bat, his batting average of .272 is not overly impressive, but it is solid.
However, when seeing his on base percentage is nearly 100 points higher, it shows that Luplow is a disciplined hitter who puts the ball in play and finds ways to get on base. He has never had a season with an on base percentage lower than .360. Also, in his career, he has a 0.73 walk to strikeout ratio which is very good. Although he has struck out 19% of the time in the minors, he has made up for it with a great walk rate of 14.5%. All in all, Luplow is intriguing in the sense that he strikes out at an average clip but walks at an above average rate.
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If there is one tool that was believed to be above average it was Luplow’s power. Now he has never projected as a big time home run hitter, but at least a potential doubles hitter with about 15 home runs a year. From 2014-2016 he hit a combined 28 home runs in 272 games. That averages out to be 9.7 home runs per 90 games played and would put him on pace for about 17 home runs in a 162 game schedule. So that puts him on pace for what was expected of him. In terms of doubles, he has averaged 42 based on a 162 game schedule. In general, Luplow has shown above average power, posting an ISO of .165 or higher each of his last three seasons.
This year has been a lot different for Luplow in terms of his power numbers. His slash line for the year is .296/.377/.543. All these numbers are an improvement on his already solid career slash line. He has really taken a step forward in the power department. He has seen a lot of those doubles turn into home runs. At Double A Altoona, the Fresno State product hit 16 home runs in 73 games. What is impressive about this is that the Curve’s stadium is notorious for being a ballpark that is tough to hit home runs in, and in general the Eastern League is very pitcher friendly.
The numbers carried over to his short stint in Triple-A. For the Indians, Luplow swatted five home runs in just 20 games. He also added 15 doubles in Double A and 3 doubles in Triple-A. So it seems that Luplow has actually developed into a bigger power threat than originally expected. This is backed up by his impressive ISO, which is around .250 for both leagues.
When players start hitting for more power they often show a decrease in plate discipline and an increase in strikeouts. This is not the case for the Pittsburgh Pirates new outfielder. On the year at Double-A, Luplow was striking out at a rate of 15.6%, the league average for the Eastern League is 19.6%. In a smaller sample size at Triple-A, he struck out 19.4% of the time, but league average in the International League is 21.2%. So he essentially he has not fallen into the trend of striking out more while hitting for more power.
Big League Expectations
All in all, I am very excited about Jordan Luplow getting a shot at the big league level. With the Pittsburgh Pirates current outfield situation, it will be good to get a player with more outfield experience in right field. He is more athletic than Jose Osuna and John Jaso, and has had more time playing corner outfield spots than Adam Frazier. He should provide an upgrade defensively, although do not expect a high-quality defender. Also, he has always shown a solid approach at the plate. While he will strike out some, he will take a disciplined approach at the plate and not swing at pitches out of the zone. Furthermore, he has shown a consistent increase in power through the minors and it should translate to the Major League level.
The former third round pick has been one of my favorite prospects to follow over the last few years for all the reasons listed above. He has been ranked in our Top 30 prospect list over the last two season, including this year being ranked at number 17 overall. He will likely get the start in right field tomorrow against the Padres. It is somewhat of a home coming for Luplow who was raised in California. Hopefully, it will be a very exciting first series for the outfielder. If it is, the Bucs may have their Polanco replacement and new fourth outfielder.