Morning Report: Trying to Get Value Out of Non-Drafted Free Agents

Since the beginning of this year, the Pittsburgh Pirates have signed seven non-drafted free agents. Three of those came before the 2014 draft, but only one of those players is left in the system. Catchers Mitch Slauter and Mike Spano were signed prior to Spring Training and released in early June. That leaves infielder Nathan Sopena, along with the four players signed since this last draft. Those players are catcher Chris Harvey, shortstop Trace Tam Sing and pitchers Colter Moore and Cory Rhodes.  The question is, have the Pirates seen any value yet from these players?

With the draft shortened from 50 round to 40 rounds a couple years ago, that left about 300 players that weren’t getting drafted compared to before. Not every team actually drafted to the end of 50 rounds each year, but most years it was exactly 300 more players getting picked.  You would assume that the non-drafted free agents pool would get better with more players in it. Obviously, some of those players not getting picked were high school players that went, or will go on to play college ball, but have the Pirates picked up anyone of note this year?

We start with Cory Rhodes, who had his best career outing on Wednesday night. He retired all five batters he faced, one by strikeout. In his previous three appearances with Bristol, Rhodes allowed nine runs(three earned) on nine hits and three walks in 3.1 innings. He turns 23 on Saturday, so the Appalachian League is about three levels below an age-appropriate league for him. He’s a righty with good size at 6’4″, 235 pounds.

 Colter Moore was the last NDFA player the Pirates signed

Colter Moore was the last NDFA player the Pirates signed

Next up is Colter Moore, the last player signed. He is 6’8″, but rail thin at 200 pounds. He has pitched three times and given up five earned runs on five hits, four walks and three hit batters in 3.1 innings. He basically has the same results as Rhodes and they are nearly the same age, with Moore turning 23 in mid-October. Moore took off two years, so he is a little raw for someone his age, which gives him a little more projection. The Pirates haven’t made any adjustments yet with Moore, so right now he is just getting used to organized ball. After the season, they will put him on a throwing program and give him an off-season workout program to get him ready for a full season next year.

Nathan Sopena is at Bristol after playing briefly for Jamestown. He’s a small second baseman that turned 23 back in May. Sopena hasn’t played much and the results don’t look good. He is 4-for-34 in 12 games.

Chris Harvey has looked the best among this group, hitting .306 with an .838 OPS in 19 games. At 6’5″, 220 pounds, he has great size behind the plate. He’s thrown out 18% of base runners, which is just about the team average with Bristol. At 21, he is also the youngest player in this group.

Shortstop Trace Tam Sing is with Jamestown, where he is struggling at the plate with a .188 average and a .477 OPS in 20 games. His defense hasn’t been great early, but that’s his calling card. Unlike the others, he has been drafted before, twice actually. He is 22 years old.

It looks like Harvey is the best player early on, but the two pitchers both have good size and that gives them some possible projection. The two middle infielders have really struggled at the plate. There aren’t many NDFA success stories, but there are some out there and it’s a cheap way to bring in players that teams watched during the year. It’s likely that the Pirates had some(or all) of these guys on their draft board and they were squeezed out due to a numbers game. In that regard, they are like late round draft picks and like most late round picks, it’s a tough climb to the majors, but you have to start somewhere.

Pirates Game Graph


Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

Pittsburgh: The Pirates are 2.5 games behind St. Louis for the first Wild Card spot. They are 1.5 games behind San Francisco for the second spot. They are currently four games back from the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central.

Indianapolis: The Indians were eliminated from the playoffs Tuesday night.

Bradenton: The Marauders are tied for first place in the Florida State League South with Palm Beach. They need to win the second half division to make the playoffs, unless Fort Myers wins the second half title. Fort Myers won the first half title, so if they also win the second half(they trail first place by one game), then the team with the second best overall record would make the playoffs. In the overall standings, Bradenton is one game behind Palm Beach for the second best overall record. The Marauders have four games left in their season.

Today’s Schedule

Minor League Starter of the Day:  It’s a loaded day for pitching in the system, with Charlie Morton making a rehab start and Tyler Glasnow, Luis Heredia and Casey Sadler each making their last regular season start. Glasnow still has a chance to make the playoffs(see playoff push above). Glasnow was recently named the Florida State League Pitcher of the Year. Heredia will make his 18th start of the year. While his 39:32 K/BB ratio over 83.2 innings isn’t much to look at, Heredia has a .256 BAA and 1.42 GO/AO ratio this year. He has pitched much better recently, though most of his success has come at home. On the road, he has a 4.78 ERA in eight starts, while his home ERA stands at 3.33 in nine games. Morton is attempting to come back from a sports hernia. The GCL season ends today. The DSL season ended Saturday. You can read the final weekly recap here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (69-64) vs Reds (64-69) 7:05 PM 8/29
Probable starterEdinson Volquez (3.56 ERA, 103:55 K/BB, 151.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (69-70) vs Columbus (77-62) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Casey Sadler (3.11 ERA, 74:23 K/BB, 118.2 IP)

AA: Altoona (58-79) vs Richmond (75-62) 7:00 PM
Probable starter: Charlie Morton (NR)

High-A: Bradenton (74-61, 39-27 2nd half) @ Charlotte (63-66) 6:30 PM
Probable starter: Tyler Glasnow (1.67 ERA, 148:57 K/BB, 118.1 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (52-79, 32-31 2nd half) @ Lexington (56-79) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Luis Heredia (3.98 ERA, 39:32 K/BB, 83.2 IP)

Short-Season A: Jamestown (32-38) @ Mahoning Valley (31-39) 7:05 PM
Probable Starter: Austin Coley (6.35 ERA, 15:6 K/BB, 17 IP)

RK: Bristol (22-44) vs Danville (36-30) 7:00 PM
Probable Starter:  TBD

GCL: Pirates (20-39) vs Phillies (35-23) 12:00 PM
Probable Starter: Dario Agrazal (3.91 ERA, 32:4 K/BB, 50.2 IP)

DSL: Pirates (34-36)

Highlights

During the GCL Pirates final home game on Wednesday, Cole Tucker went 1-for-4 with a single, which is shown below. The 2014 first round draft pick hit .258/.345/.340 in 25 home games this year.

Alexis Bastardo had a single in four plate appearances. He is hitting .333/.375/.450 in 18 games this year. He missed some early season time with a shoulder injury. Here is his single from Wednesday. Both videos are courtesy of the GCL Pirates fan page.

Recent Transactions

8/26: Jake Brigham placed on temporary inactive list.

8/25: Jhonathan Ramos placed on disabled list.

8/25: Alen Hanson placed on disabled list. Drew Maggi activated from DL.

8/25: Clint Barmes activated from disabled list. Gregory Polanco sent to Indianapolis.

8/25: Jose Tabata added to 40-man roster and promoted to Pittsburgh. Jayson Nix designated for assignment.

8/25: Jonathan Schwind assigned to GCL on rehab.

8/24: Pirates claim Bobby LaFromboise. Designate Tommy Field for assignment.

8/21: Stolmy Pimentel assigned to Altoona on rehab.

8/21: Yunelky Adames released.

8/21: Oderman Rocha and Nathan Sopena promoted to Jamestown.

8/21: Julio Vivas promoted to Bristol.

8/21: Andrew Dennis placed on disabled list.

8/21: Indianapolis places Nevin Ashley and Blake Davis on disabled list.

8/21: Wirfin Obispo clears waivers. Outrighted to Indianapolis.

This Date in Pirates History

The Pittsburgh Pirates and Atlanta Braves have hooked up for two big deals on this date. In 1988, the Pirates acquired third baseman Ken Oberkfell in exchange for outfielder Tommy Gregg. Eight years later, the Pirates sent Denny Neagle to the Braves in exchange for two minor leaguers. Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players were born on this date, including Mark Ryal, who played outfield for the 1990 NL East champs. Also born on this date is first baseman Charlie Grimm, who spent six seasons with the Pirates. There is also an extended bio of 1895 shortstop Bill Stuart. Finally, you can read a recap of a game from the 1925 season, in which HOF’er Kiki Cuyler hit two inside-the-park homers. You can read everything here.

John Dreker

Author: John Dreker

John was born in Kearny, NJ, hometown of the 2B for the Pirates 1909 World Championship team, Dots Miller. In fact they have some of the same relatives in common, so it was only natural for him to become a lifelong Pirates fan. Before joining Pirates Prospects in July 2010, John had written numerous articles on the history of baseball while also releasing his own book and co-authoring another on the history of the game. He writes a weekly article on Pirates history for the site, has already interviewed many of the current minor leaguers with many more on the way and follows the foreign minor league teams very closely for the site. John also provides in person game reports of the West Virginia Power and Altoona Curve.

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  • Lee Young

    I know he’s young, but I am still not getting excited about Heredia. At best, he’s a #4 or #5 pitcher, imo.

    • John Dreker

      I know it’s just one start, but I’m really interested it seeing what Heredia does today because he has been pitching well recently, but has some serious mental block about pitching on the road that has lasted his entire career. His home vs road ERA’s are as follows:
      2011: 2.78 vs 7.94
      2012: 2.41 vs 3.10
      2013: 1.52 vs 4.33
      2014: 3.33 vs 4.78

    • jalcorn427

      More support for those of us that just don’t see Heredia as a prospect anymore (as much as it stings).

      http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=24525

      In this scouting report he is judged as a 45 ceiling, with 40 organizational arm as likely outcome.