Morning Report: Morton, Tarpley and the Draft

Today is a pretty big day, both in Pittsburgh and the minor leagues. Charlie Morton will make his first start of the season for the Pirates and Stephen Tarpley will make his first start for the West Virginia Power. The start by Morton is obviously more important, the Pirates need him to pitch well, since the back-end of the rotation has not done a good job this year. Morton has pitched extremely well in the minors, getting both strikeouts and grounders at a high rate. If he can carry over that success, the Pirates will be set up good to make a run at the playoffs, with the first goal being getting back to the .500 mark tonight.

Tarpley’s start is a big deal because he is the best left-handed pitching prospect in the Pirates’ system. He was also the big piece in the Travis Snider trade, though by his recent performances(and Tarpley’s missed time), Steven Brault could end up being better. Tarpley is far from a sure thing, especially since he is making his full-season debut at age 22, and he doesn’t have much of a track record. The struggles for the last month from Travis Snider have taken away some of the sting of the deal for some fans and if Tarpley looks good in his debut, he could make the deal look better.

We had some draft coverage yesterday, taking a look at a couple pitchers that could be possibilities for the first pick. Then we had some quotes from Neal Huntington, talking about the depth in this draft class, as well as what the Pirates will be thinking when the draft starts two weeks from now. I mentioned that there are players that have been linked to both of the Pirates’ picks. One of them is Cal Poly Pomona pitcher Cody Ponce, who started on Sunday night.

Ponce was pitching in the Division II championships and it was well-covered by draft experts, so there were updates all night. He was sitting 90-93, touching 94 MPH and multiple sources said his secondary stuff didn’t look sharp, but he still had a good outing. Ponce went seven innings and allowed four runs(two earned) on eight hits and two walks, with eight strikeouts. He has probably pitched his way out of consideration for the 19th overall pick, but when the Pirates make their second selection 13 picks later, he could be a player they strongly consider due to his great size and huge upside.

Another player that could be someone the Pirates look at with the 32nd overall pick, is Florida shortstop Richie Martin. He played Vanderbilt on Sunday and went 0-for-3 with a walk. He played five games in five days this week during the SEC tournament. Martin went 0-for-4 with a walk and his 20th stolen base, as well as his eighth error of the season on Saturday. He went 1-for-2 with a walk, stolen base and an RBI on Friday. Martin had two hits and scored two runs on Thursday and 1-for-4 with an error in Wednesday’s opener.

Going 4-for-18 in the tournament won’t help his draft stock, as many have dropped him recently. He will stick at shortstop and steal a lot of bases, so he has value, though some people don’t think his bat has a lot of upside. Shortstop is usually a tough position to fill through the draft, because many of them end up either not hitting enough, or moving to a different position in the pros. This year, shortstop is actually a loaded position early, so it gives teams many options and Martin is now lower among that group. The Pirates third pick is at #62 and it’s highly unlikely he would drop that far, so if the Pirates have interest in Martin, they will have to reach just a little to get him.

Pirates Game Graph

Source: FanGraphs

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates defeated the Mets by a 9-1 score on Sunday afternoon, sweeping the three-game series. Charlie Morton makes his first start of the season for the Pirates tonight. He made three rehab appearances in the minors and allowed three runs over 20.1 innings. Morton had 22 strikeouts and a 3.11 GO/AO ratio. David Phelps will make the start for the Marlins.

In the minors, Stephen Tarpley will make his first start of the season. He was acquired from the Baltimore Orioles in the Travis Snider trade. Tarpley was shutdown at the end of Spring Training with shoulder soreness. Wilfredo Boscan will make his first start since his brief call up to the Pirates in which he didn’t make an appearance. He has pitched one inning in relief since then. Jason Creasy is ninth in the Eastern League in ERA. Bradenton has off today. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (21-22) vs Marlins (18-27) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Charlie Morton (NR)

AAA: Indianapolis (25-19) @ Buffalo (23-21) 5:05 PM  (season preview)
Probable starter: Wilfredo Boscan (2.78 ERA, 11:20 BB/SO, 32.1 IP)

AA: Altoona (24-17) @ New Hampshire (22-21) 1:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Jason Creasy (2.60 ERA, 14:25 BB/SO, 45.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (22-22) vs Daytona (26-18) 6:30 PM 5/26(season preview)
Probable starter: Jayson Aquino (3.00 ERA, 4:7 BB/SO, 12.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (25-18) @ Lakewood (21-21) 4:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Stephen Tarpley (NR)


Here is a home run from Eric Wood, his first of the season. The 22-year-old third baseman is struggling with the jump to AA, hitting .208/.292/.283 in 33 games, with 31 strikeouts. He had a .642 OPS in April, which has dropped to .527 this month.

Recent Transactions

5/25: Stephen Tarpley added to WV Power roster.

5/25: Jerrick Suiter activated from WV Power disabled list. Miguel Rosario and Montana DuRapau promoted to Bradenton

5/22: Jaff Decker activated from disabled list. Andy Vasquez assigned to WV Black Bears.

5/20: Tyler Glasnow placed on disabled list.

5/19:  Julio Eusebio, Cesilio Pimentel and Ryan Hafner assigned to Extended Spring Training. Bradenton adds Henry Hirsch, Felipe Gonzalez and Brett McKinney to roster.

5/19: Jose Tabata added to 40-man roster and recalled. Wilfredo Boscan optioned to Indianapolis.

5/19: Justin Seller transferred to 60-day disabled list.

5/19: Matt Benedict assigned to Altoona.

5/17: Jeff Roy placed on disabled list. Trace Tam Sing added to WV Power roster

5/17: Bradenton adds Julio Eusebio, Cesilio Pimentel and Ryan Hafner to roster. Henry Hirsch, Felipe Gonzalez and Brett McKinney assigned to Extended Spring Training.

5/16: Luis Heredia added to Bradenton roster. Matt Benedict promoted to Indianapolis.

5/16: Wilfredo Boscan added to 40-man roster and promoted to Majors. Steve Lombardozzi sent to Indianapolis.

5/16: Brandon Cumpton transferred to 60-day disabled list.

5/15: Charlie Leesman placed on Indianapolis disabled list.

5/15: Antonio Bastardo activated from Paternity List. Bobby LaFromboise optioned to Indianapolis.

5/14: Charlie Morton assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

5/14: Pirates sign catcher Paul Brands.

5/13: Hayden Hurst placed on Voluntarily Retired List.

5/12: Indianapolis placed John Holdzkom on disabled list.

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.


This Date in Pirates History

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus current minor leaguer and first round pick Brad Lincoln turns 30 today. Among the former players, we have first baseman Randall Simon(2003-04), outfielder William Pennyfeather(1992-94), first baseman Jim Marshall(1962) and pitcher John Hofford, who played for the franchise in 1885-86, before the Pirates were called the Pirates(Alleghenys) and before they moved to the National League, which happened in 1887.

On this date in 1954, the Pirates traded outfielder Cal Abrams to the Baltimore Orioles for pitcher Dick Littlefield. The Orioles got one good season out of Abrams, while Littlefield pitched well for the Pirates in 1954, a season in which they lost 101 games. He struggled the next season, then was part of a deal that brought Bill Virdon to Pittsburgh.

On this date in 1935, the Pittsburgh Pirates won 11-7 over the Boston Braves, but an aging slugger for Boston was the big story. That day, Babe Ruth hit the last three homers of his Major League career. The last homer he hit, left Forbes Field over the right field roof, making him the first player to ever accomplish that feat.

  • Re: The draft. Picking late, the Pirates are almost forced to take the best player available. Unfortunately, the clearly defined BPAs likely are the injured pitchers such as Aiken, Mutella and Allard. Injury histories mark their prospect status and, as risk factors, must be included in any comparison made to a lower ceiling player ranked as a late first round talent. Since players ranked in this range are best considered as members of a group than as an ordered sequence, the Pirates will find it difficult to identify the BPA when they pick. They faced this situation last year and came up with Tucker and Joe. Tucker may surprise us, but he currently does not appear to be an impact MLer. A team cannot count on finding a Mike Trout late in Round One. These finds are exceptions that reveal the rule. Because it is difficult to find impact players late in the first Round, when they show up there one has to consider them. Allard would be the best bet if he were available. Aiken would come next and Mutella last. A high ceiling with a real injury risk — are the risks low enough to offset the risk that a player with a lower ceiling will not become a productive MLer?

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    May 25, 2015 10:21 am

    As for the draft, unless a pitcher like Nikorak is available at 19, I hope the Pirates go with positional players at 19 and 32 – guys with bats with great upside. Happ and Randolph would be a nice duo, although Randolph may not be there at 32.

    • John Dreker
      May 25, 2015 10:32 am

      I don’t think Randolph or Happ make it to 32, so it’s either one or the other and possibly one of them goes before the Pirates pick. With the amount of pitching injuries we have seen this year, among top prospects in the Pirates’ system and top ones in the draft, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Pirates take two pitchers early. You have to play the odds with pitchers and it’s easier to win that game when you have more quality starters

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD
        May 25, 2015 10:38 am

        I get that John – you can never have enough pitching and we had 4-5 guys go down with TJS over the past 15-16 months.

        I am just concerned about positional players and bats, once you get past Bradenton in the lower levels. As for hitting (and especially power potential), there isn’t much at WV unless you think Simpson is a real prospect – which he may be. Joe is really struggling, and Luplow has been a major disappointment thus far.

      • See I would look at the recent injuries to our pitchers as reason not to spend high picks on them. For a while I thought the Bucs had superior performance in keeping their pitchers healthy, in which case I’d be supportive of getting high upside arms into the system. But the injuries to Holmes, taillon, Cump, etc suggest our pitchers are just as likely to go down as any other teams in the industry. So, in this low scoring environment, go get guys that can hit and have lower risk of injury. Play the pitching odds with quantity in later rounds.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    May 25, 2015 10:19 am

    It is well documented I am not a Morton fan, but if he makes me east crow this season I will happily accept that. It will be interesting to see how he pitches today.

    As for Brault, he is starting to make a believer out of me – he had a couple of early rough starts, but he has been very good of late. I read that Tarpley throws 90-92 – for some reason, when we traded for him, I thought it was said he threw harder than that? It will be interesting to see how he performs today as well.

    How about that Garcia kid in WV? He’s been dominant. Given his age, do you think he earns a promotion to Bradenton sooner than later?

    • John Dreker
      May 25, 2015 10:29 am

      Tarpley threw 90-92 in his last start in Extended Spring Training, but he has hit 97 in the past. I could see Garcia moving up, but he’s also just working on picking up more innings. He really packed on good weight since he signed and he’s only had one season of pro ball before this year, so it’s all about building up his innings. He tired out by the end of last year, so this is something to watch this year, where he could get twice as many innings. There shouldn’t be a huge rush to promote him because despite his age, his late signing means they have time to develop him as a pitcher, they got awhile before he is Rule 5 eligible.

  • Any word on who is going down for Morton?

    • BuccosFanStuckinMD
      May 25, 2015 10:15 am

      I think the right move would be to drop Locke or Worley, but I have my doubts the team will do either. They are the most deserving of being sent down or let go, other than Bastardo – and we need that second LHer in the bullpen.

      • Who else could be a candidate to leave that isnt no your list? You would want someone struggling, itd be neat if he was cheap, and itd be perfect if his role in the bullpen was something Worley/Locke could take over easily….like a long relief man. Hmmmmm