It’s a little too early in the minor league season to make any evaluations, but I figured since everyone has now appeared in at least one game, I’d give some early season thoughts. Remember as you read this, everything is based off a small sample size. Starting from Low-A and working my way up.

It’s good to see the three players that got aggressive promotions to West Virginia, start off strong. Cole Tucker had three hits in his debut, he has stolen three bases and there have been some positive reports of his defense. His GCL teammate from last year, left fielder Tito Polo, is batting .385, with hits in all four of his starts. He has also stolen three bases. Yeudy Garcia, who came all the way from the DSL, has pitched five innings in his two outings and allowed just one run.

Sticking with WV for one more player, John Sever. The 20th round draft from last year pitched like a first round draft pick with Bristol, posting a 1.33 ERA and striking out 63 batters in 40.2 innings. He has picked up right where he left off last year, throwing six shutout innings, with eight strikeouts. It’s good to see him start his season in the rotation and it will be interesting to see what he can do over a full year.

Bradenton has a great lineup when it comes to prospects and once Harold Ramirez joins the team, it gets even better. You could then make a lineup of nine players that all have a chance to make the Majors and that is rare when it comes to a team in A-ball.

As you can see below in the schedule, Cody Dickson gets his second start for Bradenton today. It would be nice to see him get on track quick this season. Last year he was much better in the second half, which wasn’t tough to do when he had a 5.58 ERA through 13 starts.

Altoona has received great pitching from their starters, who have combined for one earned run allowed in 26 innings. The problem is that their offense has scored nine runs in five games. Willy Garcia, Stetson Allie and Eric Wood have combined for 24 strikeouts in 49 at-bats and they have just nine hits, eight singles and a solo homer from Allie. The team is also 1-for-8 in stolen bases and they have committed nine errors.

The big story at Indianapolis is the progress of Nick Kingham and how quick he can get ready to join the Major League rotation. In his first start, he allowed one run over six innings and he gets his second start today. It would be nice if the Pirates didn’t need him any time soon so he can continue to develop in AAA, but if he continues to pitch well, then he will be one of the best five starters by mid-season.

Pirates Game Graph


Source: FanGraphs

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates won 5-4 over the Tigers in the home opener at PNC Park on Monday. A.J. Burnett tries to get Pittsburgh to .500 on Tuesday night, going up against Shane Greene, who allowed one unearned run over eight innings in his season debut.

In the minors, Nick Kingham gets his second start, coming off a strong first outing. He allowed one run over six innings in his debut. Note the morning start time for the Indianapolis game. Angel Sanchez threw six shutout innings in his season debut for Altoona. Cody Dickson is trying to bounce back from a poor first start with Bradenton. He allowed three runs on nine hits in three innings. The oft-injured Jake Burnette tries to build on his first outing which saw him allow one run and strike out five batters in three innings. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (3-4) vs Tigers (6-1) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: A.J. Burnett (3.38 ERA, 1:7 BB/SO, 5.1 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (3-2) vs Toledo (3-2) 11:05 AM (season preview)
Probable starter: Nick Kingham (1.50 ERA, 0:4 BB/SO, 6.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (2-3) @ Richmond (3-2) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Angel Sanchez (0.00 ERA, 1:3 BB/SO, 6.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (1-4) @ Dunedin (3-2) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cody Dickson (9.00 ERA, 1:1 BB/SO, 3.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (4-1) vs Hagerstown (1-4) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Jake Burnette ( 3.00 ERA, 2:5 BB/SO, 3.0 IP)

Highlights

From Sunday in Indianapolis, Chris Stewart collects an RBI single in his first rehab game in AAA. He played two games for Altoona before moving his assignment up a level. Stewart had two hits in his last game with Altoona and he had two hits on Sunday.

This highlight is from Mel Rojas Jr., who hit an RBI single, before getting thrown out at second base. Rojas had three hits on Sunday after going hitless in his first two games this year.

Recent Transactions

4/13: Francisco Liriano reinstated from paternity list. Casey Sadler optioned to Indianapolis.

4/12: Chris Stewart assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

4/12: Justin Topa placed on Bradenton disabled list. Matt Benedict assigned to Bradenton from Altoona

4/11: Pedro Florimon clears waivers. Assigned to Indianapolis.

4/11: Stolmy Pimentel claimed off waiver by the Texas Rangers.

4/9: Chris Stewart assigned to Altoona on rehab. Jaff Decker assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

4/7: Pirates release Matt Nevarez, Andrew Dennis and Dwight Childs.

4/5: Pirates recall Rob Scahill, designate Stolmy Pimentel and Pedro Florimon for assignment.

4/5: Pirates place Charlie Morton, Brandon Cumpton, Jaff Decker, Justin Sellers and Chris Stewart on the disabled list.

4/2: Pirates acquire first baseman Hunter Morris from the Milwaukee Brewers for a player to be named later.

4/1: Pirates release Danny Collins, Joan Montero, Will Kendall, Remy De Aza, Raul Fortunato, Taylor Lewis, Colter Moore and Cory Rhodes.

This Date in Pirates History

There have been five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including an outfielder/pitcher for three straight NL pennant winners. George Merritt is one of the more obscure Pirates players, but he played for the team during the best three years run in franchise history. Merritt started three games on the mound in 1901 and all three were complete game victories. The next two years, he was an outfielder, pitching just once. Over those three seasons, he played a total of 15 games, which represents his entire big league career. His minor league career consisted of 15 seasons, where he also split his time between pitching and playing outfield.

John Van Benschoten was born on this date in 1980. He was the first round draft pick of the Pirates in 2001, known as one of the better two-way players in college. He hit 31 homers during his junior season, but the Pirates drafted him as a pitcher. Three shoulder surgeries derailed his career and he ended up winning just two games in the Majors, while posting a 9.20 ERA in 90 innings.

Other players born on this date are Chris Leroux, Kyle Farnsworth and Bill Luhrsen, all pitchers.

On this date in 1925, the Pirates opened up their second World Series winning season by losing 8-2 to Hall of Fame pitcher Grover Alexander. The Pirates lineup that day included three future Hall of Famers, Pie Traynor, Max Carey and Kiki Cuyler. That season, Pittsburgh began the year with a 3-8 record. You can see the boxscore here.

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6 COMMENTS

    • I was going to ask John/Tim is the organization has him specifically working on something. Seems odd to have his profile spending so much time against such young and inferior competition. Hard to imagine he’s being forced to make a ton of adjustments right now without being challenged.

      • He doesn’t have much experience against good hitting, spending two years at small colleges, one year at Bethune Cookman and a year at Bristol, so full-season ball is a nice step up in competition. I wouldn’t say they are holding him back, probably just getting him into the normal five day routine this year and then likely go to Bradenton next year, and if he succeeds, then move him to Altoona mid-season. That seems to be the model they use for players in his situation. Maybe you see him move up late this year, but that is really jumping the gun at this point. As strange as it sounds, they probably want to see him struggle at some point to see how he handles it, the adjustments he makes, what he learns from it and how quick he gets back to where he was

        • That last point was exactly what I was getting at.

          You make good points about his college competition and general process, but it seems to this outsider that he may fall into the mold of a guy who can dominate hitters at the lowest levels without really improving much. I’d be interested in seeing how pushing guys like him early and then backing off and even repeating a level would work out.

    • Sever throws a little hard than the normal soft-tossers. Most of them will sit 87-89, occasionally hitting 90. We have seen even less from pitchers that had success with it too. Sever hits 93 and works mostly around 91

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