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Jason Rogers heads to Japan, Pirates promote Luplow and Hill

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Jason Rogers has officially signed (sub. req’d) with the Hanshin Tigers of the Japanese Central League. His departure has triggered an upward migration, as the Pirates are promoting (sub. req’d) outfielders Jordan Luplow from Altoona to Indianapolis and Logan Hill from Bradenton to Altoona. In addition, RHP Brandon Cumpton is also moving up from the Marauders to the Curve.

The Pirates acquired Rogers from Milwaukee in December 2015 for OF Keon Broxton and RHP Trey Supak. Although lamentable now, the trade didn’t look bad then. Rogers was coming off a year in which he not only had raked in AAA, but had batted a promising 296/367/441 in 86 games with the Brewers. The Pirates at the time had just parted ways with Pedro Alvarez and they signed John Jaso a week later. Jaso and Rogers seemed a plausible 1B platoon for them, but Rogers’ role disappeared when the team signed David Freese during spring training. Rogers spent only limited time with the Pirates in 2016 and did little beyond draw walks. Worse, his power disappeared at the AAA level, as he batted just 263/338/371. He rebounded a little this year, but a 289/362/439 line isn’t very impressive for a veteran, bat-only corner player in AAA.

Luplow has been enjoying a breakout season with Altoona, batting 287/368/535 with strong plate discipline (288 PA, 29 BB, 45 K). His 16 HRs leave him tied for fourth in the Eastern League and tied with Hill for the most in the Pirates’ organization. The numbers may actually understate the year Luplow is having, as Altoona’s ballpark is very rough on right-handed power. Luplow is slugging .457 with four HRs at home and .614 with 12 HRs on the road. The Pirates tend to be slow to promote players to AAA, so Luplow’s move up after three months in AA is a positive sign for how they view his development.

Hill is batting 266/351/513 and leading the Florida State League in HRs. It’s been a rebound year for him, as he struggled at Bradenton last year, got demoted and struggled even at West Virginia until late in the year. Hill is actually about four months older than Luplow and his plate discipline hasn’t been nearly as strong. His walk and K rates, though, have improved over the course of the season and have been fairly good in June. The move will give Hill a chance to show that his hitting in the FSL, which is a terrible environment for power hitters in particular, is for real.

Cumpton missed all of 2015 and 2016 with first Tommy John and then shoulder surgery. He’s made six rehab appearances for Bradenton, covering 10.2 IP, with a 2.53 ERA and 1.59 WHIP. In 2013-14, he made 22 appearances for the Pirates, 15 of them starts, with an ERA of 4.02 and WHIP of 1.30.