Morning Report: An Early Look at the Minor League Pennant Races

The minor league playoffs don’t mean much to the average fan of the Major League team, but they are a great experience for the players in them. It gives them a chance to compete in a pennant race and play extra games each season under pressure with something on the line. The Pirates’ affiliates are all doing well this season, so there is a good chance there will be some playoff baseball going on somewhere in the system.

West Virginia and Bradenton play in leagues where the schedule is split in half and the first half champs play the second half champs from the same division. If the same team wins both halves, then the team with the second best record makes the playoffs. That gives a team two chances to make the playoffs and we have seen in the past, where a team could look good/bad in the first half, then have their season turn around in the second half.

The Power are playing well with a 17-13 record, but that only puts them in second place, where they trail Hickory by four games. For the Marauders, they are in third place right now, 4.5 games back of first. They are on a three game win streak and the good news for them is, they have more games left at home in the first half. The Marauders have played 19 games on the road and 12 at home, which now tips the schedule in their favor. They are the furthest back of any of the affiliates, which tells you how well things are going this year as far as putting winning clubs on the field. Developing good players is the main goal, but winning without stockpiling any team with overage players, is obviously a good thing.

Indianapolis is just a 1/2 game out in their division, trailing a Columbus team that has won seven straight games. Unlike the SAL and the FSL, the International League plays for a full-season crown in the three divisions and one wild card team makes the playoffs. Indianapolis also trails by a 1/2 game in that race. There are a lot of players on Altoona that are possibilities to move up at some point during the season and some of them might see that move in time for the playoffs in AAA if Altoona is out of their own pennant race.

Speaking of Altoona, they are set up a little different than the IL. The Eastern League only has two divisions, so the top two teams in each division meet in the playoffs, with the team that has the best record getting the home field advantage. Altoona actually leads their division by one game over the Bowie team they are currently playing. At 18-11, the Curve are well above the third place team, as the rest of the teams in the division are all below the .500 mark.

If Bradenton doesn’t make the playoffs this year, you could see prospects like Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire move up to get playoff experience and a small taste of AA. Those two players made that move during their first season, joining Jamestown during the last week of the season and starting in the playoffs after spending the season playing in front of empty “stands” in the Gulf Coast League.

Pirates Game Graph

Source: FanGraphs

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates defeated the Phillies by a 4-3 score on Monday night. That moved them to the .500 mark on the season. Today they look to go above that mark with A.J, Burnett on the mound facing the team he played for last year. Burnett has made six starts this year and he has gone at least six innings in each of his last five games. He has given up two earned runs or less in every game.

In the minors, Adrian Sampson will make his seventh start of the season and with Nick Kingham’s injury, he becomes one of the more important starters in the system for rotation depth. Sampson has been solid since his opening game when he allowed three runs over five innings. He is second in the International League in strikeouts. Angel Sanchez ranks sixth in the Eastern League in ERA and tenth in WHIP(1.03). John Sever will make his sixth start of the season. He is on a strict pitch limit, so he hasn’t been able to make it through five full innings in any of his last four starts. Sever has struck out 27 batters in 22.2 innings. The Power have an early morning start time. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (16-16) @ Phillies (11-22) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: A.J. Burnett (1.66 ERA, 12:31 BB/SO, 38.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (18-14) @ Pawtucket (19-13) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Adrian Sampson (2.80 ERA, 10:35 BB/SO, 35.1 IP)

AA: Altoona (18-11) vs Bowie (18-13) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Angel Sanchez (1.91 ERA, 10:18 BB/SO, 33.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (16-15) @ Brevard County (14-16) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Matt Benedict (1.80 ERA, 2:20 BB/SO, 30.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (17-13) vs Charleston (19-12) 10:35 AM (season preview)
Probable starter: John Sever (3.18 ERA, 8:27 BB/SO 22.2 IP)


From Saturday, Stetson Allie hits his fourth homer of the season.

From Sunday’s Altoona game, a triple from the hottest hitter in the system, Max Moroff

Recent Transactions

5/11: Felipe Gonzalez added to Bradenton roster. Ryan Hafner assigned to Extended Spring Training.

5/11: Charlie Leesman added to Indianapolis roster.

5/11: Antonio Bastardo placed on Paternity List. Bobby LaFromboise recalled from Indianapolis.

5/11: Connor Joe added to WV Power roster. Trace Tam Sing transferred to WV Black Bears.

5/10: Pirates acquire Jayson Aquino from Toronto Blue Jays for cash. Aquino assigned to Bradenton.

5/9: Pirates released Justin Howard.

5/8: Charlie Morton assigned to Altoona on rehab.

5/8: Nick Kingham placed on disabled list. Adam Miller added to Indianapolis roster.

5/7: Clayton Richard assigned to Bradenton. Felipe Gonzalez assigned to Extended Spring Training.

5/7: Colten Brewer added to WV Power roster. Eric Dorsch assigned to WV Black Bears

5/7: Jeff Inman added to Altoona roster. Tyler Sample sent to WV Black Bears.

5/6: Andrew Lambo placed on 15-day disabled list. Steve Lombardozzi selected from Indianapolis.

5/6: Adam Frazier activated from Altoona disabled list. Andy Vasquez assigned to Indianapolis.

5/6: Brad Lincoln added to Indianapolis roster. Charlie Leesman assigned to WV Black Bears.

5/5: Josh Wall added to Indianapolis. Brad Lincoln assigned to WV Black Bears.

5/4: Barrett Barnes assigned to Bradenton. Junior Sosa assigned to Extended Spring Training.

5/1: Jerrick Suiter placed on disabled list. Austin Coley added to WV Power roster.

5/1: Pirates sign pitcher Robert Stock.

4/29: Jaff Decker placed on disabled list. Wilkin Castillo added to Indianapolis roster.

4/27: Jeremy Bleich promoted to Altoona

This Date in Pirates History

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including one that played eight seasons in Pittsburgh. Quickly through the players, we have relief pitcher Evan Meek(2008-12), first baseman Josh Phelps(2007), pitcher Johnny Hetki(1953-54), pitcher Hank Bowory(1950) and second baseman Harry Truby(1896). Hetki is 93 years old today, the fifth oldest living former Pirates player.

Infielder Alex McCarthy played eight seasons in Pittsburgh, from 1910 until 1917. He was a backup most of his time, splitting time between second, third and shortstop. McCarthy played in 372 games for the Pirates, serving part of that time as the backup shortstop to Honus Wagner. He was sold to the Cubs at the end of the 1915 season and returned during the middle of the 1916 season, so he didn’t spend all of his time in Pittsburgh, despite playing eight consecutive seasons with the team. McCarthy had his contract purchased at the same time as his minor league teammate, Max Carey, who went on to have a Hall of Fame career.