The A-ball teams were in action at Pirate City today, playing the Toronto Blue Jays farm system. The highlights were 2013 draft picks Buddy Borden and Chad Kuhl pitching four innings each, along with Jeff Locke and Mark Melancon getting some work in, with each pitcher throwing two innings to start the game. Here are some notes from the day’s action.
**I was mostly focused on Buddy Borden today, as this was the first time I had seen him pitch. He was quick and efficient, working down in the zone with an 89-93 MPH fastball. Borden threw 44 pitches over four innings of work, with 29 strikes. He was perfect in those four innings, not allowing a walk or a hit, and striking out five. He mixed in an upper 70s changeup and an 82-84 MPH curveball. Borden, who was a seventh round pick last year, is expected to start the season in the West Virginia rotation, and could make it to Bradenton by the second half of the season.
**I didn’t see much of Chad Kuhl, but saw his results after the game. He went four innings, although I didn’t get a clear stat line, since one of his innings was rolled due to a pitch count. Kuhl was sitting 92-93 MPH pretty consistently in the first two innings, then dropped to 89-91 MPH in the last two innings. He gave up a two out error on a grounder to the third baseman in the first, and that was followed by a two-run homer. Kuhl responded by retiring his next nine batters, which is nice to see. He was drafted in the ninth round last year, and works heavy with his sinker, getting a lot of ground ball outs today.
**I saw a good sequence from Erich Weiss at the plate in the low-A game. Weiss battled in a long at-bat, fouling several pitches off. He then went downstairs to line an opposite field double to the right-center field gap. It was a soft liner that rolled to the outfielder, but Weiss hustled to stretch it to a double, and made it easily after a wild and rushed throw. The next batter was Danny Collins, who hit a ground ball to first base. The first baseman bobbled the ball, then tossed it to the pitcher, who was late getting to the bag. During this time, no one noticed Weiss running home, allowing him to score easily on the clumsy play at first. Both plays showed some heads up base running. Weiss turned a single into a double, then scored from second on an infield single, and his speed could probably be classified as average at best.
**I didn’t see Locke or Melancon, since I was at McKechnie Field getting interviews during the first two innings of the game.
**I wrote about how Reese McGuire has pushed Wyatt Mathisen to third base, and how Mathisen pushed Weiss to second base.
**Borden was the highlight for me, too, as he breezed through his four innings. He followed Jeff Locke, who scuffled a little, largely due to some shaky defense and weak hits. Weiss got him into some trouble by muffing a routine grounder, although he did make a nice play later.
**Kuhl’s velocity was lower than his last outing, when he sat around 94.
**Two new right-handed pitchers finished the two games. Jonathan Minier threw the final inning of the West Virginia game. He’s a recent signee from the Dominican. He’s already 24, so he probably was signed to provide pitching depth in light of the Pirates’ addition of a new affiliate in Bristol. Minier threw in the low-90s and worked a very quick inning. Marek Minarik worked the last inning of the Bradenton game. He’s a 6′ 7″ righty from the Czech Republic who washed out of the Phillies’ system after only 20 innings. His fastball ranged from 91-94 today. He got into some trouble with some control issues, but escaped thanks to a double play induced by a 75 MPH curve.
**This was my first chance to see JaCoby Jones in action and it wasn’t hard to understand why scouts remained high on his potential despite pedestrian performances in college. He’s a very athletic player with excellent speed. The Pirates are trying him at short now with the West Virginia team. He looks big there, but may have the quickness to pull it off. In the one at-bat I saw, Jones lined a rope off the base of the wall in straightaway center and eased into third with a standup triple.
**As advertised, Wyatt Mathisen played third and Erich Weiss second for West Virginia. Between Weiss and Jones in low A, and Adam Frazier and Max Moroff, who are playing short and second for Bradenton, the Pirates have an interesting group of middle infielders in class A. Of course, added to that are Alen Hanson and Gift Ngoepe, who’ll play short and second, for Altoona.
**Jhondaniel Medina, whom the Pirates acquired for Yamaico Navarro, threw an inning for Bradenton. Medina had a huge strikeout rate (14.0 K/9) last year for West Virginia and his fastball sat at 95 today, but he struggled with his control and failed to finish his inning.
**Reese McGuire picked a runner off first with a throw that was right on the bag.
**Edwin Espinal seems to be battling Danny Collins for the first base job, or possibly a 1B/DH job share, at West Virginia. Espinal today hit a drive that landed on top of the fence in left and bounced back into play for a double.