In playoff action last night from the Dominican, Kris Johnson continued his brilliant Winter League season, allowing one run on two hits over seven innings, helping his team to an important win. Johnson has pitched well this entire Winter, allowing more than one earned run just once, and even that was only two runs back on December 30th. In 53.1 innings between the regular season and playoffs, Johnson has allowed 33 hits and has posted a 1.18 ERA. With the win, his Leones del Escogido team clinched a spot in the DWL Championship series against Aguilas Cibaenas.
Johnson did pitch well, but when he left the game after seven innings, his team still trailed 1-0. They went down another two runs in the top of the eighth before making a comeback in the bottom of the inning. The scoring in that inning for Escogido began with an RBI single from Starling Marte, who came around to score one batter later on a three run homer. Marte finished the day 1-for-4.
In the other playoff game from the Dominican, Felix Pie and Alex Valdez each got the start. Batting seventh and eighth in the lineup, Pie went 1-for-3, with a single and stolen base, while Valdez followed him with an 0-for-3 night.
In Venezuela, Darren Ford came off the bench for the third straight game as a defensive replacement in left field. Unlike the previous two games, he got an AB last night. Ford continued his poor postseason performance, striking out in his only AB, still leaving him hitless in the playoffs.
News From Colombia
In Winter League action out of Colombia from Tuesday night, Dilson Herrera went 2-for-5, with two singles and an RBI.
Harold Ramirez went 0-for-2, with a walk, run scored and sacrifice hit.
Oderman Rocha took the loss in relief, allowing two hits and three walks in one inning of work. Coming into the game, he had a 2.45 ERA, allowing just nine walks over 25.2 innings.
The league finished up it’s regular season schedule last night(results will be posted tomorrow) and playoffs begin on Friday.
News From Down Under
In Australian Baseball League action from today, Zac Fuesser got the start for Adelaide, going six innings and taking the loss in his team’s 3-2 defeat. He allowed three runs on seven hits, two walks and he struck out six. Fuesser threw 94 pitches, 64 for strikes.
Stefan Welch was the only Pirates player in the starting lineup. He went 0-for-4.
In the U18 National Youth Championships, Sam Kennelly went 1-for-3 in the first game of the day, with a run scored and an RBI single in the third inning. His team moved to 8-0 in the tournament with a 7-4 win. In the second game, his team rolled to an easy 10-2 win, posting nine runs over the first three innings. Kennelly walked in the first, singled in the second and had a two-run double in the third inning. He is 14-for-28 in the tournament with 12 RBI’s.
Pitcher Nick Hutchings started at shortstop on his day off, going 0-for-2, with a walk and run scored. He finished the game defensively at first base.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.
Just for reference, the 40 man roster has Locke, Wandy and Justin Wilson on it, all of them should be starters this year but might not due to need. Tony Watson is the only legit lefty out of the pen. Andy Oliver is there but his control is horrible and getting worse each year, so I don’t see him blocking anyone.
Mike Zagurski is an NRI and has the advantage over Johnson of four partial seasons in the majors. He has never had much success during those stints.
Nate Baker should be a lefty out of the Indy bullpen this year and he had some success at the role, so he days as a starter may be done. He is also 3+ years younger than Johnson.
Aaron Poreda is still around too, though I would easily put him last on this list.
There is also a chance the Pirates could sign someone else, even if it is a veteran lefty on a minor league deal.
I would say Johnson’s chances get better if Jeff Locke wins the 5th starter spot. It would put possibly just one lefty in the pen and only Wilson definitely ahead of Johnson on the depth chart. Like I said, Oliver is a huge wild card, with emphasis on wild, though he may get a chance before Johnson does if the need arises
You guys have written a ton about Kris Johnson this off-season. Any reason to think he should move up your prospect ranking list? Is he still even considered a “prospect” at 28?
I talked to Tim about him last night and I personally think he is blocked by too many players to make an impact with the Pirates. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was sold/traded at the end of Spring to a team that could use him better. Tim brought up a good point that there aren’t many lefties in the system at his level, but I still see him too far down on the depth chart.
What this off-season may be doing, is getting him a better look during Spring Training. He should be ahead of most pitchers early on, so he may see some decent mound time in those Feb ST games.
Due to age, I wouldn’t put him on any prospect list, but I’ll say he could be in a Pirates uniform as a lefty out of the pen at some point(not Opening Day) and it wouldn’t surprise me. It would surprise me if he was a key member of the pen though.