Per Dejan Kovacevic in this morning’s Post-Gazette:
Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker will be one step away.
The Pirates’ top two prospects—plus reliever Dave Davidson—will be promoted today from Class AA Altoona to Class AAA Indianapolis and will make their debut with the Indians tonight in Durham, N.C.
I didn’t see this one coming.
I’ve heard the argument that Double-A is the new Triple-A; look no farther than Pittsburgh’s own Steven Pearce to find an example of a player who absolutely destroys the high minors after “figuring it out.” Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to see prospects jumping to the bigs directly from Double-A. The difference in skill levels between the classes might not be as great as in the past.
You could make the case that McCutchen and Walker haven’t had overwhelming success at Altoona: Is the time right to to give them a new challenge?
Maybe. Maybe not.
McCutchen, after a slow start, has come on strong over the course of the last two months. In July, he hit .309/.385/.404 in 94 at-bats; in August, .304/.365/.554 in 63 at-bats. Impressive numbers, surely. But, despite his red-hot second half, he’s hitting just .258 with a .708 OPS for the year with the Curve—a sign of just how dismal his early-season play was.
Still, if it’s “what have you done for me lately,” Andrew’s answer is probably “just enough to warrant a promotion.”
Walker, on the other hand, opened 2007 on fire before petering out. In June, he mashed at a .363/.449/.615 clip. Absolutely disgusting stats. Since then, though, he hit .243 in July and .273 in August, and his slugging percentage has dropped exponentially. Over the past two months, he’s bopped just one home run.
As was noted in Thursday’s P-G, McCutchen—along with Pearce, Brian Bixler and Jesse Chavez—will compete in the Arizona Fall League, a haven for top prospects looking to play a few more games before taking the winter off. All four should enjoy the opportunity of facing other elite minor leaguers.
But it’s the same story as Wednesday—anticipate the worst, hope for the best. In Pearce, McCutchen and Walker, the Pirates have three impact talents who are no more than a year away from playing at a major-league level. Can the Pirates hurry them along so that they’re ready for Opening Day 2008?
Maybe. Maybe not.