Morning Report: This Could Be a Big Weekend for Three Bradenton Pitchers

Last year after seeing Luis Heredia pitch, I wrote an article titled “Luis Heredia Headed in the Wrong Direction“. In that article, there was a conversation I had with a long-time scout that has watched Heredia pitch numerous times over the last three years. His main problem with how Heredia was pitching, wasn’t his mechanics or his ability to pitch in general, it was the fact that the Pirates kept changing things with him, specifically his arm slot and his breaking ball. If that scout read our article from Thursday about Heredia, he was probably shaking his head.

Heredia is going back to his old arm slot and his ever-changing breaking ball is now back to a 12-to-6 curve. I don’t know if these moves are being made out of desperation to get something out of a high-priced signing with conditioning issues, but it sure seems like it. You could(and the scout did) say that he is being mishandled and they need to stop changing him and just let him pitch. The scout correctly predicted shoulder issues for Heredia last year, which he attributed to the arm slot change. He also believed that the 2012 version of Heredia, was better than the 2013, which was better than the 2014 version. Basically, he was already headed in the wrong direction in 2013 and now he is back to where he was when he signed.

Will it make a difference, or has Heredia been changed so many times now that he is a lost cause? You have to wonder about injury concerns with another arm slot change and the fact Heredia just isn’t the best conditioned athlete. It’s hard to believe with how long he has been around already, but he is only 20 years old. To his credit, Heredia is positive about his chances to make it to Altoona this year. He has to be added to the 40-man roster this off-season, or he will be eligible to be taken in the Rule 5 draft, so he needs to give the Pirates a reason to add him. He is likely starting on Saturday night, which is listed as TBA now, since he isn’t on the roster yet. We will have live coverage from the game whichever day it ends up being.

Luis Heredia isn’t the only pitcher to keep an eye on this weekend with Bradenton. Jayson Aquino makes his first start since being acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays and Cody Dickson tries to rebound from a disastrous start on Monday. Starting with Dickson, you could say he has been disappointing this year because this is a pitcher with the ability to make it as a starter in the big leagues, which he has shown at times. At other times, he looks very hittable and/or has very little control. The only real positive so far from this season is his 1.65 GO/AO ratio, which is well above his career average. Dickson turned 23 last month, so he is top-end for what you like to see at this level.

Jayson Aquino gets the start tonight and he sort of falls into the same category as Stolmy Pimentel. The latter was acquired from the Red Sox with two options already used and he wasn’t close to the Majors. Aquino has used his second option and he is in Low-A, where he has had some success, but there’s still two full levels between him and Pittsburgh. The Pirates aren’t a team that likes to rush players through the upper levels, but it will have to happen here if he is going to stick with the team on Opening Day in 2017. To his credit, he has already made 79 minor league starts, so Aquino is fairly experienced for someone at this level.

It’s definitely an interesting weekend for Bradenton, and that is just on the pitching side, never mind the fact that their lineup is loaded with prospects every night. Heredia, Dickson and Aquino are all in different situations, but the outcome for them to remain a prospect is the same. They are all further from the Majors than you like to see at this point and a quick turnaround is the desired result. This weekend wouldn’t be a bad time to get that started.

Pirates Game Graph

Source: FanGraphs

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 4-2 to the Phillies on Thursday afternoon. They split the series in Philadelphia and now head to Chicago for three games. Jeff Locke will get the start in game one of the series. He has not pitched well against the Cubs this year. In two starts, he has allowed nine earned runs on 15 hits and six walks in 8.2 innings. In his last start(vs Cardinals), he gave up three earned runs over 6.2 innings and had a season-low one strikeout. Chicago will go with Kyle Hendricks, who has given up five earned runs over 10.1 innings against the Pirates this year.

In the minors, Casey Sadler will make his sixth start for Indianapolis. He has picked up a Quality Start in all five outings and has gone seven innings twice. Sadler has the third best WHIP(0.98) in the International League. Jayson Aquino gets the start for Bradenton tonight. It is his first start since the Pirates acquired him from the Blue Jays over the weekend. He was pitching in the Florida State League prior to the trade. In his last start back on May 3rd, the 22-year-old lefty threw six shutout innings against Clearwater. He pitched against Bradenton on April 16th and allowed three runs over five innings. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (17-18) @ Cubs (19-15) 2:20 PM
Probable starter: Jeff Locke (4.63 ERA, 13:23 BB/SO, 35.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (20-15) vs Norfolk (19-15) 7:15 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Casey Sadler (2.76 ERA, 7:18 BB/SO, 32.2 IP)

AA: Altoona (21-11) vs Akron (14-20) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Zack Dodson (2.17 ERA, 5:8 BB/SO, 29.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (18-16) vs Palm Beach (17-17) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Jayson Aquino (NR)

Low-A: West Virginia (19-14) @ Hagerstown (14-17) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Alex McRae (4.33 ERA, 5:17 BB/SO 27.0 IP)


From Tuesday, Adrian Sampson picks up his eighth strikeout. He is second in the International League with 43 strikeouts.

Recent Transactions

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.

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.

This Date in Pirates History

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including a pitcher that played nine seasons for the team and the franchise’s first 20-game winner. Also on this date, Roberto Clemente had a huge game in Cincinnati.

On this date in 1967, Clemente went 4-for-5 with three homers and drove in seven runs. The Pirates scored seven runs on the day and lost 8-7 in ten innings despite one of the best games of his entire career. He would have another three home run game near the end of the 1969 season and the Pirates won that game by a 10-5 score. You can find the boxscore of the 1967 game here.

Among the players born on this date, Al McBean played for the 1961-68 Pirates, then after playing for the Padres and Dodgers, he returned during the 1970 season. He pitched 376 games for the Pirates, 75 as a starter. McBean won 65 times and picked up 59 saves for Pittsburgh. He had a 3.08 ERA in 1016 innings.

Harry Salisbury, 1882 pitcher that won 20 games during the first season of the franchise. He started 38 games and pitched 38 complete games. That not only ended up being his only season with the team, it was his last season in the big leagues.

Also born on this date, outfielder Jimmy Wasdell(1942-43) and 1916 shortstop Jimmy Smith.

  • Forgive me. But wasn’t he changed because his command was terrible with the old arm slot?

    So, what did they have to lose by trying another arm slot?

    Now that he is back to his old motion, I would expect him to be all over the place.

    He wasn’t ‘mishandled’ at all. They tried to fix something and it didn’t work. C’est la vie.

    • They wanted to get everything under the same arm slot. He was throwing a slurve, which was thrown from a different slot as his fastball and curveball. This caused his old arm slot to fall, leading to trouble repeating his delivery. Now they’re back to everything coming from that same overhand arm slot.

    • John Dreker
      May 15, 2015 3:12 pm

      It’s not just the arm slot that the scout was talking about, it’s his breaking balls constantly changing too. If you did scouting reports on him in 2012, 2013, 2014, and now 2015, you would have four different reports and none of it would have to do with actual performance. It would just be the basic outline of the pitcher.

      When a long-time scout tells me that they need to stop changing things with him(correctly predicts a specific injury) and then they make another drastic change, that sends up red flags with how they handle him. This isn’t a case of they tried something once and it failed, as outlined in the article.

  • Pirates failed to offer Sano 3 million the year before and lost him. to make up for that blunder they paid 3 million to Heredia and so far have gotten nothing in return. Sano would have looked great at first base next year, replacing Alverez who in my opinion is worthless.

    • meatygettingsaucy
      May 15, 2015 5:35 pm

      Ill-informed. It has been well-documented that Sano’s agent, for whatever reason, rejected the Pirates $2.6 million offer than never gave them a chance to make another offer before having him sign with the Twins. Most teams, such as the Orioles, did not think he was worth the money.
      In addition, while Pedro hasn’t lived up to expectations, you may want to venture a look at Sano’s incredible ability to strike out at a worse clip than Alvarez did in the minors.

  • Fair, and brutal, assessment.

    Hard to make much sense of Heredia’s development. It would be easy to blame Heredia himself for being uncoachable if it was a matter of continually reverting back and forth between previous mechanics and one set the organization is trying to get him to buy into, but his path seems more scatter shot than process.

    That being said, I still think Heredia’s biggest issue is that he was simply maxed out at an early age. There just wasn’t any physical projection left in the arm. Instead of being the tall, lanky kid throwing in the mid-80s that progresses into the 90s as he matures physically, Heredia was the tall, lanky kid already in the 90s but without anything left. Even with improved command and secondaries, he still doesn’t have much upside.

    • John Dreker
      May 15, 2015 12:00 pm

      He definitely deserves some of the blame due to his conditioning and while I’m not sure being in better shape would add much to his top end velocity, I do believe it would greatly help his average velocity.

      I just don’t know how they could think it’s good to keep changing a young kid every year, as opposed to letting him get adjusted and acclimated to one particular way. It’s almost like he’s an experiment as opposed to a project.