Morning Report: Pirates Draft Picks Are in Control

The Pittsburgh Pirates went heavy with college pitchers this year and they all seemed to have something in common, they could throw strikes. Some of the pitchers they drafted displayed exceptional control, especially the starters at Jamestown.

Duncan throws a nice four-pitch mix, topping out at 93 MPH
Duncan throws a nice four-pitch mix, topping out at 93 MPH

Tyler Eppler, Montana DuRapau, Alex McRae and Frank Duncan led Jamestown in innings pitched, all pitching between 61 and 68.2 innings. They combined for a 199:46 K/BB ratio. The fifth starter was eighth round pick Austin Coley and he was showing great control until his last two outings, when he gave up five runs over 4.2 innings. He finished with an 18:9 K/BB ratio in 20.2 innings, so the numbers were decent, but not like the other four pitchers.

The control extended into the bullpen, with Sam Street(16th round) posting a 21:4 ratio in 27.2 innings. Nick Neumann(28th rd) had a 28:7 ratio in 34 innings. Eric Dorsch and Eric Karch each finished with a 16:9 ratio, rounding out the draft picks with Jamestown.

Five of the draft picks went to Bristol and they also did well with control. John Sever was perhaps the most impressive, posting a 63:17 ratio in 40.2 innings, showing an incredible strikeout rate on top of the control. Jesse Amedee, Luis Paula, Palmer Betts and Michael Clemens were all in the bullpen, where they combined for a  95:31 ratio in 88 innings.

When looking at the worst K/BB ratios in the organization this year, using any pitcher that went at least 15 innings(lowest total for any college draft pick was 16.1), you can find 51 pitchers before you get to the worst ratio for a draft pick. That’s an impressive job of drafting control pitchers this year, although it also says something about developing pitchers already in the system. That second part can be saved for a different conversation.

Getting back to the top starters at Jamestown, only Tyler Eppler really profiles as a strong prospect right now, but fastball command is an important part of moving up in the system. His stats were very similar to Montana DuRapau, but Eppler is much bigger than DuRapau, a year younger and his fastball tops out 5-7 MPH higher.

Duncan profiles somewhere between the two of them. His size and velocity are close to what you get from Eppler, but the overall results weren’t as good. He is the same age as DuRapau, not signing as a 39th round pick last year to return to Kansas as senior this year. Duncan had a low ground ball rate(0.84) and his .292 BAA left something to be desired.

Part of Alex McRae’s problems in college were command related, so in that regard, he already looks improved. He did better with control this year compared to his first two seasons, but hitters batted .300 against him, which was his worst mark in three years at Jacksonville. He was a bit of a surprise in the tenth round, but the Pirates thought enough about him to give him just below slot to sign. McRae has upside, with room to fill out his 6’3″ frame and some scouts believe he could add velocity to the 89-93 MPH range his currently throws. His struggles with allowing too many hits carried over into the pros, posting a .306 BAA, so despite the strong control, he still had a 1.52 WHIP.

It’s true that fastball command doesn’t automatically equal success in the pros, but it’s an important first step. Three of the four draft picks already have decent velocity and the fourth one(DuRapau) put up the best stats. It will be a few years before we see what all of these control pitchers really have as far as talent, but so far, the early results look good.

Pirates Game Graph

Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

Pittsburgh: The Pirates are three games behind St. Louis for the NL Central lead and two games behind Milwaukee for the second Wild Card spot. They are 3.5 games behind San Francisco for the first spot.

Bradenton: The Marauders won the second half title and will take on the first half champions, Ft Myers. The two teams will play a best-of-three series, with the winner going on to face the winner of the Daytona/Dunedin series. The playoffs start today.

Today’s Schedule

Minor League Starter of the Day:  The minor league regular season is over. Bradenton was the only affiliate to make the playoffs, which start tonight. Tyler Glasnow is now listed as the probable starter for tonight. The DSL season ended last Saturday. You can read the season recap here complete with scouting reports for each player and the top ten players to watch list can be found here. We will post other season recaps soon.

MLB: Pittsburgh (71-66) @ Cardinals (74-63) 8:15 PM
Probable starter: Jeff Locke (3.51 ERA, 66:27 K/BB, 105 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (73-71)

AA: Altoona (61-81)

High-A: Bradenton (78-61, 43-27 2nd half) vs Ft Myers (82-57) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Tyler Glasnow (1.74 ERA, 157:57 K/BB, 124.1 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (54-81, 34-33 2nd half)

Short-Season A: Jamestown (35-40)

RK: Bristol (22-46)

GCL: Pirates (20-40)

DSL: Pirates (34-36)


A.J. Morris homered on Sunday during his final start of the season. It was his first career homer, though he has only batted 19 times in the minors. Morris finished with a 2.92 ERA over 104.2 innings. He had a 76:30 K/BB ratio, a .251 BAA and a 1.86 GO/AO ratio. His numbers really dropped off in AAA, though the worst came after he returned from injury. Morris allowed three earned runs over 20 innings in his first three starts. After being shutdown due to a forearm strain in June, Morris rehabbed his way back to Indianapolis. In three starts, he allowed 11 earned runs over 14.2 innings, including three runs over 5.2 innings on Sunday.

Recent Transactions

9/1: Pirates recall Gerrit Cole and Tony Sanchez. Stolmy Pimentel activated from the disabled list

9/1: Pirates designate Chris McGuiness for assignment. John Holdzkom added to 40-man roster.

8/30: Brent Morel promoted to Pittsburgh. Jeff Locke sent to Indianapolis.

8/30: Blake Davis activated from disabled list.

8/29: Stolmy Pimentel assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

8/29: Tommy Field sent outright to Indianapolis.

8/29: Andrew Lambo promoted to Pirates. Gerrit Cole sent to Bristol.

8/28: Jayson Nix claimed by Kansas City Royals.

8/28: JaCoby Jones activated from disabled list. Adam Landecker placed on disabled list.

8/28: Brett McKinney promoted to Bradenton. John Kuchno placed on disabled list.

8/28: Charlie Morton sent to Altoona on rehab.

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

This Date in Pirates History

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players have been born on this date, plus there is one transaction of note. On this date in 1972, the Pirates sold pitcher Bob Veale to the Boston Red Sox. The big lefty won 116 games during his 11 seasons with the Pirates. He had 1652 strikeouts in 1868.2 innings. Veale has the franchise’s third highest single-season total in strikeouts with 276 in 1965. He also has the fourth, sixth and seventh highest totals. Only Ed Morris had more strikeouts in a season and he did it before the franchise moved to the National League from the American Association. Only Bob Friend has more career strikeouts with the Pirates than Veale. You can read the bios of all four players born on this date, plus a game recap from the 1997 here, in this link here.

Exactly 100 years ago, the Pirates played the first of back-to-back doubleheaders on the road against the Cardinals. The Pirates won game one, then the two teams played to a 1-1 tie in the second game, calling the game at 7:25 pm local time due to darkness after 11 innings. The game was called when Honus Wagner pointed out the moon to umpire Bill Hart, who was a former pitcher with the Pirates. The next day, the Pirates won both games, then finished off the series with a win on September 4th.

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.

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Lee Young

Bob Veale had 103 wins in his 7 years as a starter. He was fun to watch.


Veale had to be one of the most intimidating pitchers there ever was along with Bob Gibson. Veale had those thick glasses that got fogged up and the catcher routinely mentioned it to the hitter, “he isn’t seeing too well today”.


He’s a tad before my time. I was 7 when they won in 71. I think he was on that team but the only thing I remember from that series is Clemente trying to call time out from second base when Robertson was at the plate. I had a bunch of his cards so I remember the name.

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