Morning Report: Two Intriguing Arms, But Will Either Fall to Pirates?

There hasn’t been a lot of draft news this weekend, but there were two things that stood out from Saturday. Two pitchers that have been mentioned all season as first round picks were in the new. One saw his high school season end, while the other didn’t look so good during his SEC Tournament start.

Vanderbilt’s Walker Buehler made his start on Saturday and struggled. He hasn’t been consistent lately, yet people still put him high in their mock drafts. He went four innings this week, giving up three runs on six hits, two walks and two strikeouts. He velocity was down a little early and Baseball America’s Mike Lananna said that he wasn’t sharp and his control was off early. He has a 3.18 ERA and .270 BAA, which doesn’t sound bad, but among the nine Vanderbilt pitchers that have gone at least 20 innings this year, Buehler is the worst in both categories.

The Pirates took Buehler in 2012, but due to the draft bonus cap, which was brand new that year, they weren’t able to match his price tag, which was supposedly $1M. So they did have interest in him then and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him available when the Pirates make their first pick. With inconsistent results, a small frame and a minor injury(elbow soreness) early this season, he has flaws. I could see teams passing on him early, especially since a few players have recently shot up the draft charts, making the top more crowded.

As for a player actually mentioned going to the Pirates recently, Pennsylvania prep pitcher Mike Nikorak saw his season end this weekend. Nathan Rode had his final stats,  In eight starts, he gave up eight runs over 29.2 innings, with just ten hits allowed and 50 strikeouts. There was a downside to his season, which was 21 walks, but Nikorak has a lot to like and that’s why he’s been rated high all year.

He comes from a cold weather state, which usually equals fresher arm and more projectability. He’s got a great frame, stands 6’5″, with an easy motion that produces a fastball that reaches 97 MPH, plus he is athletic. The walks are probably the reason some reports are split on him, with some saying he could go around the tenth pick and Jim Callis thinking he could fall to the Pirates. I think they would jump on him at that spot considering his upside.

One of these players could be available when the Pirates makes their pick and they are both intriguing arms. Both are considered better pitchers than the results you see. For Buehler, he lacks consistency you see from a top starter and he’s never been the big arm for Vanderbilt. Most of his starts over his three years have either been during the week against lesser teams, or on Sundays against the other teams third best pitcher. Nikorak has the walks to deal with, but unlike Buehler, he’s been pitching a short season in high school, so getting into a pro environment could really see his stock take off. Buehler has always had great stuff, but the results don’t quite match the high draft stock, so he too will be picked based more on upside, rather than where he is now.

The draft started in 15 days, so we will soon have our answer as to who the Pirates pick, and it will be interesting to see who is available when their spot comes up.

Pirates Game Graph

Source: FanGraphs

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates defeated the Mets by an 8-2 score on Saturday afternoon. They try for a sweep in the three-game series this afternoon, sending Francisco Liriano to the hill for his ninth start of the season. He went just two innings in his last game, allowing seven earned runs to the Twins. Jon Niese will be on the mound for the Mets.

In the minors, Clayton Richard is making his fourth start of the season and his third with Indianapolis. He didn’t allow an earned run in either of his first two starts, going six innings for Bradenton, followed by 5.2 for Indy. In his last outing, he started off well, but ended up allowing three runs on seven hits and four walks. Yeudy Garcia makes his third start of the season for West Virginia, after beginning the year in the bullpen as a long man. He has not allowed an earned run in his last five outings, covering 19.2 innings. During that stretch, he has surrendered nine hits and four walks. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (20-22) vs Mets (24-20) 1:35 PM
Probable starter: Francisco Liriano (4.15 ERA, 21:52 BB/SO, 47.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (25-18) @ Syracuse (16-26) 5:35 PM  (season preview)
Probable starter: Clayton Richard (2.53 ERA, 6:6 BB/SO, 10.2 IP)

AA: Altoona (23-17) @ New Hampshire (22-20) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Angel Sanchez (3.16 ERA, 12:26 BB/SO, 42.2 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (21-22) @ Lakeland (21-21) 1:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Steven Brault (3.93 ERA, 11:28 BB/SO, 36.2 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (24-18) vs Delmarva (22-20) 2:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Yeudy Garcia (1.97 ERA, 7:30 BB/SO 32.0 IP)


Here is a home run from Alen Hanson on Friday night. He has been the best hitter in the system since late April, posting a .994 OPS from April 28-May 22.

Recent Transactions

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

Two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus two games of note, one against one of the best pitchers ever. First with the players and both of them played over 100 years ago. Pitcher Jack Pfiester, who played for the 1903 NL champs, but was an unfortunate player for the Pirates. Pfiester also played for the Pirates in 1904, but didn’t show much either season and was sent to a minor league team in Omaha. After a couple years of seasoning, he returned with the Chicago Cubs and was a dominate pitcher until health and arm issues ended his career early. Pfiester finished with a 2.02 ERA, which is the fourth lowest all-time for any pitcher with over 1,000 innings.

Also born on this date, infielder Sam Barkley, who played second base for the first Pittsburgh team in NL history. When the Pirates(then called the Alleghenys) moved to the NL in 1887 from the American Association, Barkley was the Opening Day second baseman. He only played two seasons in Pittsburgh(also 1886) but got to play in both leagues for the team.

On this date in 1894, the Pirates completed an improbable comeback against Cy Young. Down 3-0 before the top of the first was over, and 4-0 before they got on the board, pitcher Red Erhet pitched 8+ innings in relief and the Pirates scored two in the seventh and two in the eighth for the win. The Pirates lineup that day included HOF manager Connie Mack behind the plate, HOF first baseman Jake Beckley, the franchise’s all-time batting average leader in Jake Stenzel and the man many claim is responsible for the Pirates team name, Louis Bierbauer.

On this date in 1959, the Pirates swept the Cincinnati Reds in a doubleheader, with both games ending in pinch-hit walk-off doubles. Both were hit by catchers, with Danny Kravitz collecting the first one and Smoky Burgess hitting the second one in the tenth inning.

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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Bobby L

Prep pitcher with 8 starts and 29 2/3 innings. Is that a misprint?

Christopher B

A kid that young with that kind of frame and velocity already, plus the limited wear on his arm, that’s awfully tempting. The Pirates have had some success recently getting young, live arms under control, so it would be a very good risk for this organization, I think.

Bobby L

Thanks John. That is still not very many innings. Somebody thank the coach who limited his pitch count.

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