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Pirates to promote six players from Indianapolis

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at New York Mets Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Pirates Prospects is reporting (sub. req’d) that, with Indianapolis now out of the playoffs, the Pirates will promote six players to the majors. Those are right-handed starter Tyler Glasnow, catcher Jacob Stallings, right-handed relievers Edgar Santana and Johnny Barbato, and left-handed relievers Jack Leathersich and Dan Runzler. Notable omissions are right-handed starters Nick Kingham, Drew Hutchison and Clay Holmes. The addition of Runzler will require that space be cleared on the 40-man roster, but the Pirates could easily accomplish that by moving Josh Harrison, who’s out for the year, to the 60-day disabled list.

The additions of Glasnow, Stallings and Santana are not surprising. The big surprise is the veteran Runzler. He’s had some limited success in the majors, but that was back in 2010. He hasn’t had an especially good year this year, especially for a veteran reliever in AAA. His ERA is 3.05, but he has a 1.57 WHIP. Opponents have hit .276 against him, he’s walked 4.8 per nine innings, and he’s struck out only 7.8 per nine. All that adds up to an unpromising 4.23 xFIP.

Leathersich was recently acquired off waivers from the Cubs. He and Barbato combined yesterday to blow the deciding game of Indy’s playoff series. Barbato has pitched a lot better in AAA than Runzler has. He has a nearly identical 3.06 ERA, but a 1.27 WHIP, 2.8 BB/9 and 9.2 K/9. Still, he has an xFIP of just 3.88. Leathersich has significant control problems, but opponents have batted only .167 against him and he’s struck out over 11 batters per nine innings.

The omissions of Holmes and Hutchison aren’t surprising. Holmes is a promising pitcher, but he’s still prone to control meltdowns and there are a number of young pitchers ahead of him for starts right now. He has two options left, so there’s no rush. Hutchison had an unimpressive year in AAA for a pitcher who’s made 74 major league starts. The lack of a callup probably signals the approaching end to his time in the Pirates’ organization, as he has no options left and no apparent path to a major league job next year.

The big omission is Kingham. Despite some struggles earlier, he’s mostly pitched very well lately and is also out of options. His omission probably reflects the fact that Glasnow and Steven Brault are ahead of him for starts. There’s also the Pirates’ extreme reluctance to use starters in relief. This means Kingham will go into spring training needing to win a spot on the major league roster despite never having appeared in a major league game, and despite having no experience pitching in relief. It seems like getting him a few relief innings would have more value to the team going forward than getting a brief look at very marginal relievers like Runzler, Barbato and Leathersich. The Pirates, however, seem to be obsessed with replacement level relievers these days.

These moves also belie the Pirates’ rationalization for waiving Juan Nicasio. Neal Huntington claimed that the reason was to open up innings for younger pitchers. As it is, Santana, Dovydas Neverauskas and Angel Sanchez will be battling for innings with the likes of Runzler, Barbato, Leathersich, Joaquin Benoit, Wade LeBlanc and Daniel Hudson. There appears to be some fake math at work here.