December 11, 2017 - International League (IL) - Indianapolis Indians
INDIANAPOLIS - The top performers of the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system were announced today by MiLB.com as part of the site's annual organization all-star awards. Of the 12 players recognized, five suited up for the Indianapolis Indians in 2017.
Stallings served as Indy's backup catcher to Elias Diaz for part of the 2017 season, but injuries in the majors thrust the 27-year-old into a full-time role where he thrived for the Tribe. He hit .301 with four home runs, 16 doubles and 38 RBI in 62 games with Indy while also throwing out 37.0% of would-be basestealers. Two scenarios make Stallings the leading candidate to be Indy's 2018 Opening Day catcher - 2017 Pirates backup catcher Chris Stewart is no longer in the organization and Diaz is out of options.
First Baseman - Edwin Espinal (.294, 15 HR, 86 RBI - numbers combined in 130 games between Altoona and Indy)
Espinal turned in an impressive 2017 campaign between Altoona and Indy, highlighted by a Pirates farmhand-leading 86 RBI. The 23-year-old also excelled defensively with no errors at either level en route to his first career MiLB Rawlings Gold Glove Award. Blocked by Josh Bell at first base in the big leagues and in his first year of free agency, Espinal signed a minor league deal with a major league camp invite with the Detroit Tigers this offseason.
Outfield - Christopher Bostick (.294, 35 2B, 58 RBI - numbers combined in 146 games between Indy and Pittsburgh)
Bostick earned International League midseason All-Star honors before claiming Indy's Team MVP and Silver Slugger awards thanks to his best pro season to date. The Rochester, N.Y. native led the Tribe with 33 two-baggers and racked up 57 RBI in 126 contests. His strong April performance led to an early-May promotion and another call-up when rosters expanded in September. With two option years remaining, Bostick could spend his 2018 season riding the Indianapolis-Pittsburgh shuttle.
Outfield - Jordan Luplow (.287, 26 HR, 67 RBI - numbers combined in 144 games between Altoona, Indy and Pittsburgh)
A lesser-known prospect prior to the 2017 season, Luplow quickly established himself not only in the Pirates farm system but all of baseball. The 24-year-old mashed 16 dingers in just 73 games with Double-A Altoona before ascending to Indy where he batted .325 in 44 contests. The Fresno State University product received ample playing time for Pittsburgh down the stretch, collecting three long balls and 11 RBI in 27 big-league games. Luplow could be Pittsburgh's fourth outfielder in 2018, with an opportunity for regular at-bats in Triple-A as another possibility.
Left-Handed Starter - Steven Brault (2.55 ERA, 155.0 IP, 132 SO - numbers combined in 32 games [24 starts] between Indy and Pittsburgh)
Brault adds a second career Organization All-Star honor (also: 2015) to his pedigree after earning Indianapolis Pitcher of the Year, International League Most Valuable Pitcher, and IL mid- and postseason All-Star selections. The 25-year-old went 10-5 with a 1.94 ERA in 21 games (20 starts) for the Tribe, registering the lowest league-leading ERA by a Tribe pitcher since 1916. With southpaw long-man Wade LeBlanc being non-tendered by the Pirates, Brault is a likely candidate to assume those duties in Pittsburgh's bullpen come 2018.