Fantasy Baseball Division/Minors Update: NL Central, Reds, Cubs, et al

yay! winning a game of baseball is neat!

I continue my series this week of updating you (just you specifically sir or madam that is reading this) on every team in baseball by division. I'm taking a look at the breakouts, disappointments, rookies, and minor league system for every team in baseball. Last week, I ran updates on the AL West, AL Central, and NL West and today we get going again, starting with the NL Central.

I checked the standings last night on my phone, and while I was aware that they were close, I was still shocked to see the Pittsburgh Pirates as officially tied for first place. It's June 11 and the Pirates are tied for first place! Unbelievable! It would be difficult to say that there is no parity in baseball, despite how often it seems that there isn't. Hey, look at the NBA. The Thunder are only the fourth team since 1998 to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals. The NBA really only has a handful of teams that are capable of winning a title in any given year, but the Pirates, Nationals, Rays, and Rangers are in first place in June. Also, the White Sox and Dodgers, two teams that I did not think would be competing this soon, are in first place, respectively in their own divisions.

Yes, there is certainly a little bit of parity in baseball. Of course, while it's June, it's also June. The baseball season is long and the Pirates have played but 59 games of a 162-game season, but it's still good to see that young teams can compete and Pittsburgh is fighting tough with defense and a guy named Andrew McCutchen. Meanwhile, the Cubs are in year one of a massive overhaul and the Astros are in their final year of playing in the National League, but how soon until they are competing again in this parity-driven sport of baseball? Two years? Five? Twenty?

I'll update you again in twenty years, but here is a divisional update on the NL Central for today. Starting with last again...

Chicago Cubs (20-40)

Breakout: Bryan LaHair

The Cubs are ".5 game back" of the Padres for the worst record in baseball, and maybe that's the best thing for the Cubs. I've been semi-obsessed with Chicago for awhile now, mostly because I like to see a team hit rock bottom and then observe how they climb back out. That's why I am rooting for teams like the Nationals and Pirates, to see if they're finally arriving and built the proper way. For the Cubs, they've got a good chance at nabbing the top pick next season and having some more pieces to build around a skeleton squad that's been dismantled.

Their payroll is down to $108.8 million this year and their only major contracts are for Alfonso Soriano and Ryan Dempster, with Dempster being in the last year of a 4-year, $52 million deal. Of course, they still owe Soriano $36 million over the next two years and now are in a money pit with Carlos Marmol and the $9.8 million he's owed next season, but you have to start somewhere. Bryan LaHair has proven to be part of that "somewhere."

As a Mariners fan, I am quite familiar with LaHair. I am familiar with a player that was organizational filler and didn't have nearly enough power to become a major league first baseman, given that he wasn't especially great in any other area. If he was a power-hitting first baseman that would be one thing, but LaHair wasn't that with the Mariners. The former 39th round pick had hit 12 HR in 138 games in 2007 for the Tacoma Rainiers in the notorious hitters league known as the PCL.

How could we expect him to even top 10 HR in the majors?

He showed improvement in 2009, hitting 25 HR in 121 PCL games but the Mariners said "Goodbye" after the season and let him go. The Cubs picked him up on a flier and assigned him to Iowa in the PCL in 2010, where he hit .308/.385/.557 with 25 HR in 125 games. That was a slightly better version of any version of LaHair that had ever been in Seattle's organization.

Then last year, he went off: .331/.405/.664 with 38 HR, 38 doubles in 129 games for Iowa. That wasn't like anything that LaHair had ever done before, not even as a 22-year-old in High Desert where line drive singles turn into home runs. Now he was just being ridiculous.

It earned LaHair a short stint with the Cubs and then the first base job coming out of Spring Training this year. The Cubs didn't re-sign Carlos Pena and now LaHair would be given his first shot at a full-time job, at the age of 29. He hasn't disappointed: .310/.391/.589 with 12 HR, 11 doubles, 25 RBI, 23 BB/55 K.

He's striking out a lot but making up for that with average, patience, and power. It's like a mini-version of the breakout of Jose Bautista a few years ago and something that the Cubs desperately needed. LaHair is in the top 10 in nearly every offensive category for National League hitters and under team control well into his 30s. Certainly, you'd believe that LaHair will be getting a raise at some point but he's been deserving so far.

LaHair was a 39th round pick in the amateur draft, which means he overcame unbelievable odds to make the majors at all. He might not have even been picked in your draft at all and now has become one of the best overall hitters in the NL this season, which just means he once again did what he's used to: overcoming unbelievable odds.

It would have been great to see him do that for Seattle, but I'm happy for him to do it somewhere.

Disappointment: Geovany Soto and Carlos Marmol

In Soto and Marmol, the Cubs thought they had building blocks. Now, they just have headaches.

Soto was an All-Star and Rookie of the Year in 2008 when he hit .285/.364/.504 with 23 HR and 86 RBI. But from 2009-2011, he hit .240/.339/.427 with 45 HR in 332 games. He set the bar very high and then didn't come close to meeting it again. But he was still seen as an option in fantasy leagues for the shallow position of catcher. No more.

Soto hit .161/.250/.301 with 3 HR, 6 RBI in 28 games. He is getting ready to start a rehab assignment three weeks after tearing the meniscus in his left knee, but he's got a long way to go to repair his reputation with fantasy owners.

Marmol, also 29, has always walked a lot of batters but his strikeouts were too good and he was difficult to hit. Between 2007-2011, Marmol had an ERA of 2.82 with 540 strikeouts in 382.1 innings. He also saved 72 games over the last two seasons.

But in 2012 he had 17 K/20 BB in 15 innings with an ERA of 6.75. He notched only two saves before losing his job as closer.

Rookie Watch:

C Steve Clevenger hit .278/.291/.389 in 55 plate appearances.

Adrian Cardenas hit .161/.212/.323 in 33 plate appearances.

Rafael Dolis has pitched 25.1 innings with 11 strikeouts, 17 walks, a 5.68 ERA and four saves.

Lendy Castillo has 7.2 innings, 6 K, 4 BB and a 7.04 ERA.

The Cubs are rebuilding but many of the pieces aren't here yet. Are they close?

Minors Watch:

Anthony Rizzo, traded in the off-season to Chicago from the Padres, is hitting .363/.422/.721 with 20 HR, 53 RBI in 58 games. It's hard to hit in Petco for a rookie or anyone else. Rizzo could be called up to the majors at any moment and become the hitter that I assumed he would be last season, but that LaHair guy isn't sucking so they'll need to figure something out.

Cardenas is hitting .319/.376/.521 for Iowa.

Catcher Welington Castillo is hitting .320/.435/.520 in 16 games for Iowa.

Brett Jackson, BAs #32 prospect and the Cubs top prospect going into the year, is hitting .265/.344/.500 in 263 PAs for Iowa with 8 HR, 14 doubles, 8 triples and 12 stolen bases. He should be a 20/20 threat in the bigs, if not much more.

Josh Vitters is hitting .269/.318/.457 for Iowa and is still only 22.

Trey McNutt, for AA Tennessee, has 46 innings, 27 K, 22 BB and a 2.35 ERA in 11 starts.

SS Junior Lake is hitting .297/.354/.449 with 3 HR for Tennessee.

Jae-Hoon Ha is hitting .269/.347/.366 in 61 games for Tennessee.

Matt Szczur, outfielder for high-A Daytona, is hitting .267/.359/.374 with 19 SB in 48 games.

SS Javier Baez, the #9 pick last season, is hitting .277/.370/.468 with 5 SB in 13 games for A-ball Peoria.

RHP Dillon Maples was committed to play football at UNC so he dropped to the Cubs in the 14th round. To turn around their farm system, they signed him to a $2.5 million bonus, which is more like "Top 5" money and the biggest bonus ever given to a player after the third round. He's not yet made his debut but not surprising for a young kid like that and the Cubs don't want to rush him, considering all the dough they invested, but he could be a top prospect in the next few years.

Houston Astros (26-34)

Breakout: Jed Lowrie

Who would have guessed that the Astros would already be six games better than the Cubs by this date? It helps when you get production from Lowrie, Jose Altuve, and Chris Johnson beyond your wildest dreams.

Beyond what I would call "reason," Lowrie has been the most valuable shortstop in the majors this season with 2.7fWAR, based strongly on his 12 HRs which also ranks first for shortstops. Lowrie is hitting .289/.365/.533 with 12 HR, 28 RBI, 27 R in 222 plate appearances. Believe it or not, Lowrie is 28-years-old, which doesn't make him as young as you might think, but we only care about right now, right?

In 197 plate appearances in 2010 with the Red Sox, Lowrie hit .287/.381/.526 with 9 HR, proving that this isn't a fluke but he also hit .252/.303/.382 the next season proving that it might not last. You have to be careful with your approach to Lowrie, but no doubting that he's been great in 2012.

Altuve is hitting .326/.367/.481 with 10 SB this year after hitting .276/.297/.357 as a rookie.

Johnson has been worth 1.2 fWAR based strongly on adequate hitting as a third baseman without bad defense. He's driven in 27 runs this season.

Jordan Schafer has stolen 14 bases in 50 games.

Disappointment: Carlos Lee

Where do you go for disappointment on a team that finished with the worst record in 2011? To one of their only good hitters entering this season. Lee is hitting .297/.348/.411 with 4 HR, 23 RBI in 49 games. He is also on the 15-day disabled list.

He's one of the most difficult hitters in the majors to strikeout but it's just a reminder that the power is gone. Lee is 36 and is a free agent after the season. That's fine for the Astros, a team that is looking to the future with top pick Carlos Correa already signed and ready to start his professional career.

Lee has been an excellent Astro for his six seasons and he honored his contract with admirable production.

Rookie Watch:

Marwin Gonzalez is hitting .261/.292/.348 with 1 HR in 72 plate appearances.

Fernando Martinez was 1-for-15 in his trial with the Astros. It didn't last very long.

Lucas Harrell has made 13 starts for the Astros and has a 4.83 ERA in 76.1 innings with 38 K and 28 BB.

Jordan Lyles isn't a rookie anymore but is only 21: he has six starts, 5.40 ERA, 33.1 innings with 21 K/14 BB.

David Carpenter has a 5.24 ERA from the bullpen.

Rhiner Cruz has a 7.11 ERA from the bullpen.

Kyle Weiland has a 6.62 ERA from the bullpen.

Fernando Abad has a 5.00 ERA from the bullpen.

The Astros need help in the bullpen.

Minors Watch:

This is what will be so key for the Astros. Adding Correa, an instant top 20 prospect, won't hurt.

Fernando Martinez is hitting .319/.374/.532 with 8 HR for AAA Oklahoma City and is still only 23.

Brett Wallace is hitting .265/.327/.476 there and is 25.

Lyles has seven starts in AAA with a 3.54 ERA, 40.2 innings, 33 K/8 BB.

Brett Oberholtzer was promoted to AAA after 11 starts in AA with a 4.83 ERA, 55 K/20 BB in 63.1 innings.

2B Jimmy Parades is hitting .329/.346/.468 with 18 SB in 58 AAA games.

Jarred Cosart had nine starts at AA with a 4.50 ERA, 43 K/25 BB in 50 innings.

Paul Clemens has a 6.10 ERA in 12 starts in AAA with 46 K/17 BB in 62 innings.

Jonathan Singleton is hitting .289/.403/.525 with 11 HR, 40 RBI at AA Corpus Christi. People have been waiting for Singleton, the centerpiece of the Hunter Pence trade, to show his power since he's a big first baseman. He hit 13 HR last year and 14 the year before, so to have 11 in a fraction of the games is impressive, especially for a player that's only 20 at AA. Singleton should be jumping up prospect lists right now and the impatient Astros could have him in the majors at any point.

SS Jonathan Villar is hitting .268/.332/.359 with 28 SB in 58 games as a 21-year-old in AA.

George Springer is hitting .291/.371/.526 with 11 HR, 13 SB at high-A Lancaster in 56 games. He was the 11th overall pick last season.

OF Domingo Santana is hitting .275/.350/.539 with 9 HR, 35 RBI in 45 games at Lancaster and is only 19.

SS Jio Mier is hitting .309/.414/.447 in his return to Lancaster.

Delino DeShields, Jr. is hitting .258/.364/.365 with 38 stolen bases in 59 games for single-A Lexington. DeShields is only 19.

Nicholas Tropeano has 70.1 innings at Lexington iwth a 2.82 ERA and 82 K/16 BB in 12 games. He was a 5th round pick last season.

Michael Foltynewicz, SP age 20, has a 2.07 ERA at Lexington in 13 starts with 61 K/29 BB in 78.1 innings.

It took awhile maybe, but savvy trades and drafting have supremely improved the Astros farm system. With players like Correa, Villar, Springer, Santana, and others, this is looking more and more like a top 10, or top 5, system. Which could make the Astros more than just a doormat in the AL West in the latter half of this decade.

Milwaukee Brewers (28-32)

Breakout: Jonathan Lucroy

Stupid suitcases, am I right?

Lucroy was hitting .345/.387/.583 in 45 games before his wife accidentally broke his hand when a suitcase fell on it, costing him six weeks of the season. Still only 26, but experienced. Lucroy had hit .260/.307/.366 in 211 games entering this season. It's unlikely that he would continue to hit .345 and that he'd slug .500 but this was clearly a breakout season.

And the Brewers needed that because there really aren't any other cases to be made for breakouts on the Brewers.

Give credit to backup George Kottaras... he's walking in an unbelievable 27.6% of his plate appearances.

Disappointment: Rickie Weeks

I had written in Mat Gamel here before I realized that Weeks has -0.6 fWAR in 56 games compared to Gamel's 0 WAR in 21 games. And Gamel was mostly a flier that people thought might finally breakout with a full-time job but instead is hitting .246/.293/.348.

Weeks has been much, much worse than that: .158/.298/.287 and striking out in 29.4% of plate appearances.

Weeks full potential has been realized the last few years: .270/.350/.475 with 20-30 HR, 10 SB, 30 doubles. Not bad for a second baseman but the bottom has fallen out this year.

Rookie Watch:

Norichika Aoki is hitting .300/.364/.477 with 5 SB in 52 games.

Taylor Green is hitting .246/.328/.456 in 67 PAs.

Michael Fiers has 18 innings in three starts with 17 K/2 BB and a 4.50 ERA.

Minors Watch:

BA tabbed Wily Peralta as the Brewers top prospect. He has 12 starts for AA Nashville but a 6.60 ERA with 49 K/35 BB in 60 innings.

Logan Schafer is hitting .283/.344/.429 for Nashville with 9 SB in 61 games.

Fiers had 10 starts for Nashville with 4.42 ERA, 49 K/18 BB in 55 innings.

Mark Rogers, former Brewers top prospect, has a 5.87 ERA in Nashville with 36 K/31 BB in 53.2 innings.

Tyler Thornburg, a third round pick in 2010, has 71 K/24 BB in 75 innings for AA Hunstville with a 3.00 ERA.

Scooter Gennett is hitting .300/.348/.400 in AA with 7 SB in 63 games.

Taylor Jungmann has a 3.78 ERA in 13 starts for high-A Brevard County with 51 K/24 BB in 78.2 innings.

Jimmy Nelson has 13 starts there with a 2.21 ERA, 77 K/25 BB in 81.1 innings.

Jed Bradley has 11 starts at Brevard with 42 K/20 BB in 59 innings with a 4.42 ERA.

St. Louis Cardinals (31-30)

Breakout: Lance Lynn

I'm tempted to just write "Welcome Back, Carlos Beltran!" but you don't just recover from the loss of a Hall of Fame hitter and manager, not to mention Chris Carpenter, without luckily breaking a few eggs. They've got surprise production from a number of spots, but Lynn shines the brightest.

The 2008 first round pick has 74 K/26 BB in 74.1 innings with a 2.66 ERA and an NL-leading 9-2 record.

In addition to Lynn...

Yadier Molina has career-highs in every offensive category and is hitting .330/.383/.517.

David Freese has a career-high 12 HR in only 55 games.

Allen Craig has destroyed pitches when healthy: .345/.404/.655 in 22 games.

Disappointment: Lance Berkman

I took over a team in a keeper league that had Lance Berkman at a very low held cost, so of course I kept him. He has played in 13 games. It doesn't matter if he's hitting .333/.429/.571. He's played in 13 games. Don't tell me that Berkman hasn't been a disappointment.

I own him. I'm disappointed. End of story. You should also be disappointed if you own him.

Adam Wainwright should be grateful that medicine and science of 2012 has allowed him to pitch again. That doesn't mean you couldn't hope for more than 4.97 ERA in 70.2 innings. But happy to be healthy, I'm sure.

Wainwright is looking for his first championship as a starter. He has one as a closer and one as a cheerleader, so far.

Rookie Watch:

Lynn.

Matt Carpenter is hitting .288/.356/.519 with 3 HR and 20 RBI in 39 games.

Matt Adams is hitting .254/.309/.429 in 21 games.

They're "The Matts" maybe?

Eduardo Sanchez has 9 K/6 BB and a 2.70 ERA in 10 relief innings.

Minors Watch:

Adams was hitting .340/.375/.603 in AAA.

Zach Cox is hitting .209/.257/.349 in AAA.

Shelby Miller, only 21 years old, has a 5.18 ERA in AAA with 63 K/26 BB in 57.1 innings with 70 hits allowed.

Oscar Tavares is hitting .323/.376/.581 with 12 HR in 59 AA games and is only 20 years old.

Kolten Wong is hitting .307/.377/.454 with 6 HR, 10 SB in 55 AA games.

20-year-old Carlos Martinez has seven starts for high-A Palm Beach with a 3.00 ERA and 34 K/10 BB in 33 innings.

Tyrell Jenkins has 9 starts for single-A Quad Cities with a 4.74 ERA, 39 K/21 BB in 43.2 innings.

Cincinnati Reds (32-27)

Breakout: Aroldis Chapman

Zack Cozart has 7 HR and 1.3 fWAR as a rookie shortstop and Todd Frazier hit .275/.328/.596 in 38 games but screw all of that... I want to talk about Aroldis, like all of the time.

Chapman has given up 3 ER in his last two appearances, the first earned runs he has given up this season. He just took his first loss and first blow save of the season, which isn't a good place to start today but damn it he has been unbelievable:

31 innings, 11 hits allowed, 4 R, 3 ER, 10 BB, 55 K, 0.66 FIP, 1.59 xFIP, 1.9 fWAR as mostly a setup man. Batters are hitting .104 against Chapman and he has reduced walks from 7.38 per nine to 2.90 per nine. He has given up four hits in his last two innings after giving up seven hits in his first 29. He has a swinging strike rate of 17.4%.

In those little instances where Chapman was on the mound, he has been the best pitcher in baseball.

Now, if he could somehow find a way to maximize his talent to be a 200 inning starter, that would be great, but if he becomes the best closer in baseball and strikes out 150 batters in 80 innings, well you definitely take that too.

Transitioning to closer is rarely as smooth as you want it to be, but despite these hiccups, it's been awesome to watch Chapman develop this year.

Disappointment: Mat Latos

Two years ago: 9.2 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 for Latos

This year: 7.7 K/9, 3.3 BB/9

I didn't expect Latos to be as good when he left Petco but even this is pretty bad, considering. He allowed 16 HR in each of the last two years and has already allowed 13 HR in 68.2 innings. The Reds, desperate to win during this window, shipped two of their best prospects and change for Latos and he's not delivering yet. At this point, you could say that he hasn't even been better than Edinson Volquez, part of that "change" in the deal to San Diego. (Not that Brad Boxberger is just change either, but not as important as Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal.)

Rookie Watch:

Cosart, hitting .248/.297/.422.

Frazier, hitting .275/.328/.596.

Devin Mesoraco has hit .200/.309/.375 with 4 HR in 27 games.

JJ Hoover has a 2.87 ERA in 15.2 relief innings with 15 K/6 BB.

Minors Watch:

SS Didi Gregorius is hitting .283/.345/.336 in 58 games for AA Pensacola

Donnie Joseph has 48 K/8 BB in 32.1 innings between AA and AAA.

LHP Tony Cingrani has pitched 69.1 innings, 85 K, 17 BB in 69.1 innings with a 1.17 ERA between high-A and AA. A third round pick last year, Cingrani's stock is soaring.

Kyle Lotzkar was a supplemental first round pick in 2007 that has struggled with injuries (never made more than 14 starts in a season) and control. He does rack up strikeouts though. The Canadian is only 22 still and has 64 innings with 70 K/31 BB and a 2.53 ERA between high-A and AA. Maybe one to watch.

J.C. Sulbaran, a former 30th round pick, has 71 K/30 BB in 66.2 innings.

Daniel Corcino has a 3.77 ERA in 12 AA starts with 60 K/28 BB in 62 innings.

Theo Bowe is hitting .360/.461/.477 with 17 stolen bases in 26 games for high-A Bakersfield.

SS Billy Hamilton, more famous than most prospects because of his speed tool, is hitting .320/.405/.445 with 1 HR, 12 doubles and eight triples with 47 K and 34 BB in 286 plate appearances. That's not what you care about though. He has 71 stolen bases in 60 games. That's what you care about. If Hamilton can play without the bat coming out of his hands on a fastball and get on base at a .350 clip or better, he'll be one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball. Some hae his defense tapped at 2B or CF. It would be awesome if he could stick at SS, but if he can steal 100 bases at any position, that's amazing. Hitting in front of Joey Votto and Jay Bruce though? He might score 200 runs. Mark my words: Hamilton might become the most unlikely fantasy first round pick ever.

2011 First round pick Robert Stephenson hasn't debuted yet.

Pittsburgh Pirates (32-27)

Breakout: James McDonald

Start with the (tied for) FIRST PLACE PITTSBURGH PIRATES!

Don't look to the hitters for a breakout. The hitting has still been bad. The Pirates only have ONE hitter with an OPS+ above 100. Just one. But James McDonald has proven to pick up the slack from the mound.

The Pirates amazingly got something for Octavio Dotel in 2010 when they shipped him to the Dodgers for Andrew Lambo and McDonald. He was too old (25) to be a prospect anymore and probably would never become anything special. He might have even peaked last year: 171 innings, 142 K/78 BB, 4.21 ERA and that would have been fine. But he's been much more than that this season...

12 starts, 75.1 innings, 73 K/22 BB, 2.39 ERA, 5-2 record.

He's posting a career high strikeout rate and a career low walk rate while playing in front of a pretty good defense and it's paying off big time.

Disappointment: The hitting

The Pirates are hitting just .224/.278/.358 this season and only Andrew McCutchen has been worth anything at the plate.

Rod Barajas: .239/.303/.399

Casey McGehee: .203/.296/.297

Neil Walker: .275/.328/.365

Clint Barmes: .192/.213/.305

Pedro Alvarez: .200/.265/.400

Alex Presley: .234/.255/.345

Jose Tabata: .221/.280/.328

Garrett Jones: .248/.261/.474

Josh Harrison: .218/.277/.391

Now compare that to McCutchen: .325/.388/.563, 11 HR, 11 SB. He's basically 90% of the offense. His slugging percentage is almost better than the OPS of nearly every Pirate.

If the Pirates had just one other player step up, they'd be in first place by themselves. Respectfully, Neil Walker is hitting .333/.385/.458 in the last 12 games. McGehee is hitting .300/.391/.550 in the last 12. Players are picking it up here and there but only one of them is consistent.

Rookie Watch:

Tell me if I'm forgetting someone but I see no notable rookies on the Pirates. Gorkys Hernandez is 2-for-10 with a stolen base.

Minors Watch:

Pirates need hitting, so which pitchers are going to be actively shopped or are they going to stick with what they've got to try and stay in the race? It will be interesting to see.

Former top pick and prospect Jeff Clement is hitting .301/.383/.528 in AAA.

Yamaico Navarro is hitting .310/.341/.524 in AAA.

Starling Marte is hitting .261/.319/.445 with 5 HR, 14 SB in 57 AAA games and is 23.

Gorkys is hitting .276/.358/.366 in 43 AAA games.

Tony Sanchez, former top pick, is hitting .250/.250/.313 in 4 AAA games after hitting .277/.370/.390 in 40 AA games.

Tim Alderson, acquired for Freddy Sanchez way back when, had a 3.09 ERA in 43.2 AA innings and has made two AAA appearances.

Rudy Owens has a 2.29 ERA in 12 AAA starts with 54 K/11 BB in 78.2 innings.

Adalberto Santos is hitting .396/.484/.472 in 17 AA games. He's 24 and doesn't have a HR, but I thought that was interesting.

Robbie Grossman is hitting .217/.315/.345 for AA.

Top pick Gerrit Cole has a 2.76 ERA in 12 high-A starts with 62 K/19 BB in 62 innings with 50 hits allowed and 5 HR given up.

Top pick Jameson Taillon, also at high-A Bradenton, has a 3.71 ERA with 59 K/16 BB in 63 innings.

Stetson Allie, once considered one of the best pitching prospects in the system not long ago as a high school arm signed for above slot, walked eight batters and threw three wild pitches in 0.2 innings for single-A West Virginia. In a corresponding move, the Pirates are moving Allie to third base to try a life of hitting.

Alen Hanson his hitting .325/.382/.572 with 9 HR and 16 SB in 59 games for West Virginia.

Josh Bell is hitting .275/.288/.403 in 15 games.

Luis Heredia is only 17 but for a little while has been considered one of the top teenage arms in baseball. He has not debuted yet, obviously waiting for his short-season league to start up.

The Pirates are in first place now but long term they'll be looking for the arms of Cole and Taillon to take the rotation to the next level and hope that one of their bats starts to breakout besides McCutchen. Few prospects seem ready to contribute right now, but long term they look pretty good.

Follow me on Twitter for shorter updates.

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