The Pirates have promoted outfielder Alex Presley from Triple-A Indianapolis to replace the injured Jose Tabata. Can Presley seize this opportunity and earn a larger role in Pittsburgh?
Presley was drafted by the Pirates in the eighth round in 2006, from the University of Mississippi. He was a three-year starter for the Rebels, hitting .336/.416/.534 with 20 stolen bases his junior season, but his draft stock was limited to some extent by his small 5-10, 185 size, and he profiled best as a reserve outfielder. He had a solid season in the Sally League in 2007 (.293/.348/.436, 11 homers, 18 steals), but two mediocre campaigns in the Carolina League in '08 and '09 knocked him out of prospect consideration.
He turned that around in 2010, hitting .350/.399/.533 in 67 games for Double-A Altoona, then .294/.349/.460 in 69 games for Triple-A Indianapolis, combining for 12 homers, 13 triples, and 13 stolen bases. He received a brief trial in Pittsburgh last year, hitting .261/.292/.304 in 19 games, then returned to Indianapolis this spring. He's been outstanding there, with a .338/.389/.507 mark with 18 steals before his promotion.
After punchless '08 and '09 seasons, Presley has shown more power over the last year and a half. Ironically, scouts attribute his improvement to the fact that he stopped trying so hard to hit for power. He shortening his swing, focusing on simple contact, and the results have been impressive. His best organic tool is above-average speed, which he's learned to use more efficiently on the bases. His strike zone judgment isn't terrific and his walk rate is below what you ideally want from a leadoff man, but he makes contact and his speed helps his BABIP. His arm is mediocre and he doesn't take the best routes, though he can outrun mistakes.
Presley still profiles best as a fourth outfielder, a left-handed hitter with good speed, enough pop to keep the pitchers honest, and enough range to handle center. He is 25 now and while he doesn't have the upside of a star, he has an opportunity to make a good impression right now and tighten his grip on a roster spot.