The Pittsburgh Pirates have some prospects who are deserving of a promotion to the next level of the minor leagues
The Pittsburgh Pirates have an extremely deep farm system, but many of the prospects currently housed are demanding a promotion to the next level right now. That doesn’t mean that they need to get the big league promotion just yet, but there’s no doubt that the Pirates need to get these guys to the next level, whatever that may be.
At this point, I don’t think there’s a more deserving pitching prospect than Po-Yu Chen. The right-hander is one of the Pirates’ hottest pitching prospects, pitching to a 2.78 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over his last 87.1 innings. He’s struck out 27.6% of opponents while holding down a respectable 8.8% walk rate. The only stat in which he lacks is HR/9 at 1.24, which inflates his FIP to 4.54. All his other numbers are above average.
If Chen isn’t the most deserving prospect, it’s Braxton Ashcraft. Since reaching Double-A, Ashcraft owns a microscopic 1.35 ERA, 1.89 FIP, and 0.95 WHIP. He’s yet to allow a home run and has struck out nearly 30% of the opponents he’s faced (29.1% strikeout rate). The icing on the cake is his 6.3% walk rate. That’s all after a phenomenal start to the season with Bradenton and Greensboro, where he had a combined 3.03 ERA, 3.45 FIP, 1.16 WHIP, 29.9% strikeout rate, 4.5% walk rate, and 1.16 HR/9.
The one thing to note about Ashcraft is the Pirates have yet to use him in a traditional starting pitcher role. Despite starting 19 games, he’s only tossed 52.2 innings. The most innings he’s pitched in one game is four, and he hasn’t done that since June 15th. He’s only pitched 20 innings for Altoona. The Pirates are spoon-feeding him innings because he pitched less than 50 from 2020 to 2022, and the last time he pitched at least 50 was back in 2018.
Another pitching prospect at Double-A who is likely ready for a promotion is Jackson Wolf. Wolf, acquired in the Rich Hill/Ji-Man Choi trade, pitched to a 4.08 ERA, 3.88 FIP, and 1.09 WHIP for the Padres’ Double-A affiliate. The lefty only walked 6.3% of opponents but also had a quality 29.8% strikeout rate. Home runs gave him a little trouble, however, with a 1.22 HR/9. Wolf was surprisingly sent to Altoona instead of Triple-A Indy, where he’s pitched 13 more frames, struck out 14, and allowed five free passes and earned runs, plus no home runs.
Wolf already made his big league debut. On top of that, he’s 24 and will be 25 from late April through the end of the 2024 season. Regardless, the Pirates still have him at Altoona. It wouldn’t surprise me if his next start is at Triple-A Indy. It’s not as if Indianapolis’ rotation is currently filled with five top-of-the-line prospects, and while it’s conceivable the Pirates send Wolf straight to the Major Leagues again, they very much have the opportunity to let him get a start or two in at Triple-A.
Jackson Glenn is A more unsung performer who has done well at Altoona and is more than old enough to get sent to the next level. Since getting to Altoona, the infielder is hitting .288/.343/.456 through 138 plate appearances. Glenn owns a .170 isolated slugging percentage, as well as a solid 8% walk rate. The one area that Glenn has struggled with since getting to Double-A is strikeouts, with a 25.4% strikeout rate, nearly a 10% uptick from Greensboro. However, even with the uptick in strikeouts, Glenn still has a .359 wOBA and 118 wRC+.
Glenn is already 25. While he’s far from the Pirates’ best infield prospect, you can’t deny that he’s done well this season. The Pirates would have a hard time just slotting him into a major league roster spot. But at this point, there’s not much reason to keep a 25-year-old with solid numbers at Altoona.
The one short-season player I want to highlight is Samuel Escudero. The 19-year-old catcher has done well at the Pirates’ Dominican Summer League affiliate, slashing .275/.383/.403 with a .392 wOBA, and 116 wRC+. Escuerdo has walked and struck out at the same 12.3% rate. While he’s not known for his power, Escudero has finally hit his first professional home runs, with two long balls and a .133 isolated slugging percentage. This is his third go-around with the Pirates’ DSL team. Let’s see what he can do at the Florida Complex League.
There are plenty of guys who might be ready for a big-league promotion. Could we see Anthony Solometo jump Indianapolis and go straight to the Pirates? It might be time for Jared Jones to get his big-league bump. The Pirates have already gotten most of their position player prospects to the Majors, though there are plenty of prospects still throughout the system that deserve a promotion.