We already know that Henry Davis is coming, could the Pittsburgh Pirates have other major promotions from the minors on the way soon?
The Pittsburgh Pirates have a handful of top prospects at Triple-A as of writing this. However, the team could soon see those top prospects make their Major League debut. While there's no specific super-two deadline, we are reaching the point of the year where the Pirates typically make big call-ups.
Last year, the big promotion was Oneil Cruz, who made his 2022 debut on June 20th. If you want to go back even further, you have Jameson Taillon, whose debut came on June 8thh, 2016. Going back a decade, you have Gerrit Cole, who came up on June 11th.
Also, the Pirates have recently been very active with the movement of their minor leaguers.
Thomas Harrington, Anthony Solometo, Jared Joens, and Kyle Nicolas all received promotions to the next level in June. The Pirates' most recent notable promotion was calling upon Carmen Mlodzinski, who made his big league debut on Friday. Now, Henry Davis is set to join the squad for the start of Monday's series against the Chicago Cubs.
Henry Davis was the obvious choice here. The former first-overall pick started his year at Altoona, where he was among the best hitters. In 187 trips to the plate, Davis batted .284/.433/.547 with a .438 wOBA and 165 wRC+. Davis walked at a whopping 17.1% rate with a healthy 18.7% strikeout rate. However, the power he was known for in college was on full display. He swatted ten dingers with a .264 isolated slugging percentage.
Davis only has 41 plate appearances to his name at Indy but has nine hits, seven walks, and four extra-base hits. Combined with his Double-A home run total, Davis has already surpassed his 2022 total in 36 fewer plate appearances. While Davis' hitting has been strong this year and a major step forward from 2022, his defense behind the dish has also been better.
The Pirates seriously need help behind the plate. Going back to the start of May, Pirates catchers are hitting an atrocious combined .200/.256/.261 with a .234 wOBA and 42 wRC+. Somehow, the Pirates haven't had the worst hitting catchers in this time, as the Cleveland Guardians have an OPS of just .407 and wRC+ of seven (yes, in the single digits). However, the Pirates and the second-worst National League team are leagues apart. The Miami Marlins have a wRC+ 25% better than the Pirates and an OPS nearly one-hundred points greater.
Another player that I think could also be really close is Quinn Priester. Priester's numbers are better than they look. Prior to a poor start on Sunday, since the start of May, he has a 2.70 ERA, 4.11 FIP, and 1.34 WHIP. He has a strong 0.62 HR/9 rate, albeit a mediocre 20.4% strikeout rate and 11% walk rate. Even though these are solid numbers, they are still inflated because of his outing on May twenty-seventh, where he allowed five earned runs in just 1.2 innings while also walking six batters. Outside of this one start, his May-to-present numbers include a 1.72 ERA, 3.86 FIP, and 1.15 WHIP.
Priester has looked a lot better this year now that he's added a sinker to his arsenal. In Priester's last start, where he went 6.2 innings and allowed just one earned run, the right-hander threw his sinker 27 times, two more times than his four-seam fastball. Opponents managed just a single hit against it. Even in his prior start to that on June seventh, where he allowed four earned runs in just five innings, Priester still had 11 swings and misses and only let up three hits on the 25 sinkers he threw.
The Pirates' starting rotation definitely is in desperate need of a boost. With Roansy Contreras seemingly losing his fastball life and now hoping Osvaldo Bido can step up (which, to his credit, he did in his debut), their pitching depth is walking a tightrope, but they're walking it with Karl Wallenda. Both Rich Hill and Johan Oviedo both have had their moments this year, but they also have shown the faults that come with a 43-year-old starting pitcher and one who's getting his first extended look in the big leagues as an starting pitcher.
You can still keep an eye on Endy Rodriguez. He has a strong 10.6% walk rate and 17.5% strikeout rate, and despite relatively little change in his batted ball rates from 2022 to 2023, his batting average on balls in play has dropped 62 points to .275. Some bad luck is playing a role in Rodriguez's struggles.
Colin Selby may also be a name to keep an eye on. He just returned from injury but he could be a major bullpen boost. Jared Triolo has done respectably since returning to Triple-A after opening the year on the injured list. He's also already on the 40-man roster, so he could be an extremely likely candidate for a promotion soon.
Either way, the Pirates need reinforcements, and they could come within the next week. While they haven't been able to recapture their April magic, they have a .464 winning percentage since May fourteenth. That's not terrible, but a lot closer to where many likely saw them at the start of the season. There are still many more games to play, however, and the minor leagues' reinforcements could help this team rise above expectations.