Bradenton returns from their All-Star break today and there will be a lot to watch over the second half of the season. The main thing will be health, because they have a lot of players worth keeping an eye on in that department. While I don’t consider Austin Meadows to be a concern, the Marauders are currently playing with the dream outfield(Low-A standards) that West Virginia was promised last year, but never got to see together. You have Meadows, Barrett Barnes and Harold Ramirez there, three players that got seven-figure signing bonuses. The history with injuries and Barnes is long since he joined the Pirates and Ramirez is right behind him. You really want to see as much of this outfield together as possible, with the acceptable exception being, either Ramirez and Barnes(more likely) gets promoted to Altoona.
The injury concerns extend to the pitching side, with Clay Holmes making his comeback soon and Jameson Taillon tentatively scheduled to make a rehab start with the team after his GCL appearance. He is obviously only a short-term Marauder, but it will still be a significant start. There is also Tyler Eppler, who got in one start before their All-Star break and looked good through two innings, before giving up some runs in the third, which knocked him out of the game early. You want to see Holmes and Eppler get through the second half healthy and put in as many innings as they can, so they are able to pitch a full season(or close to it) as a starter next year.
There will be other things to follow besides injuries, such as the second half for JaCoby Jones(pictured above). Last year he had a first half OPS of .747 and he put up a .980 OPS in the second half. He hit 15 of his 23 homers in that second half, so we will see if the same happens this year. His current OPS sits at .723 and he matched the eight homers he hit last year through the same amount of time. Jones needs a good second half because you don’t see too many 23 years old players put up average numbers in High-A and become stars in the majors. He had a nice triple in the All-Star game and did well during the home run derby, so maybe it carries over.
Luis Heredia’s second half will be watched closely because he is Rule 5 eligible after this season. At his current rate, that won’t be a worry, though that is obviously bad news. He hasn’t been able to make it through five innings in any of his seven starts, all due to high pitch counts. He has reached his single-inning pitch limit once and game limit in the other six contests. The results have been awful too, with a high ERA, high BAA and low strikeout rate. Heredia isn’t pitching like a prospect at this point, but we will see what the second half brings.
One final story to follow will be the return of Wes Freeman, who hasn’t played a pro game since 2012. He injured his knee before the season started, but he has been in the Extended Spring Training lineups recently and could initially make his return in the GCL on rehab. We will find that out today, but he was with the GCL squad on Thursday, so it seems likely. His is an improbable return after so much missed time and major contact issues at the plate when he last played, but it would make a great story if he was successful.
Changing up to a team going on their All-Star break. The West Virginia Power are sending four players to the All-Star game on Tuesday night. Three players were originally announced, Yeudy Garcia, Junior Lopez and Elvis Escobar. Recently, Chase Simpson was added to the roster as a replacement player. He made the team based on his hot April because he has been in a slump for awhile. Simpson is hitting .182/.207/.364 in June and he has 67 strikeouts this season. Even Garcia has been slumping recently, as he has been unable to get through five innings in any of his last three starts. He still has strong season stats, but they have fallen off his great stats he put up through his first start in June.
Pirates Game Graph
The Pirates trail by six games in the division to the Cardinals, though they have a one game lead for the top wild card spot
Indianapolis is 5-5 in their last ten games and they have a 3.5 game lead in their division.
Altoona is 5-5 in their last ten games and they have a 2.5 game lead in their division.
Bradenton and West Virginia have been eliminated from the first half playoff race.
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 9-2 to the Nationals on Sunday afternoon. After an off-day on Monday, they will open up a series at home against the Cincinnati Reds. Jeff Locke will take on Josh Smith.
In the minors, sixth round pick JT Brubaker will make his pro debut with Morgantown today. Altoona has a doubleheader today. They will go with Zack Dodson and Thomas Harlan. The GCL Pirates open up their season today. We will have a season preview of the team soon. West Virginia is on their All-Star break and Bradenton returns from their break. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.
MLB: Pittsburgh (39-30) vs Cincinnati (32-36) 7:05 PM 6/23
Probable starter: Jeff Locke (4.74 ERA, 28:59 BB/SO, 74.0 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (42-28) @ Gwinnett (33-35) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Chris Volstad (3.43 ERA, 23:50 BB/SO, 76.0 IP)
AA: Altoona (40-27) vs Harrisburg (29-38) 4:30 PM DH (season preview)
Probable starter: Thomas Harlan (3.89 ERA, 9:26 BB/SO, 39.1 IP) and Zack Dodson (3.10 ERA, 12:30 BB/SO, 72.2 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (30-35) @ Charlotte (44-23) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Tyler Eppler (9.00 ERA, 1:1 BB/SO, 3.0 IP)
Low-A: West Virginia (37-32) vs Greensboro (29-40) 7:05 PM 6/25 (season preview)
Probable starter: Colten Brewer (5.66 ERA, 11:32 BB/SO, 41.1 IP)
Short-Season A: Morgantown (2-1) @ Williamsport (3-0) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: JT Brubaker (NR)
GCL: Pirates (0-0) vs Blue Jays (0-0) 12:00 PM (season preview)
DSL: Pirates (10-9) vs Yankees2 (7-12) 10:30 AM (season preview)
Here’s video of the two-run triple by JaCoby Jones during the Florida State League All-Star game on Saturday.
6/22: Pirates sign Austin Sodders. Assigned to GCL.
6/21: Marek Minarik and Luis Paula sent to Bristol.
6/20: Pirates release Edgar Munoz
6/20: Pirates sign Garrett Russini as a non-drafted free agent.
6/19: Pirates sign Sean Keselica and Stephan Meyer. Both players assigned to Morgantown.
6/19: Collin Balester traded to Cincinnati Reds.
6/18: Steven Brault promoted to Altoona. Jin-De Jhang added to Bradenton roster.
6/17: Alen Hanson placed on disabled list. Kelson Brown added to Indianapolis roster.
6/17: Pirates sign Kevin Kramer, Tanner Anderson, Nicholas Economos and Mike Wallace. Kramer assigned to Morgantown. Anderson and Wallace assigned to Bristol. Economos assigned to GCL.
6/16: Pirates sign Ke’Bryan Hayes. Assigned to GCL Pirates.
6/15: Pirates sign Kevin Newman. Assigned to West Virginia
6/14: Angel Sanchez promoted to Indianapolis.
6/14: Tyler Eppler added to Bradenton roster. Ryan Hafner released.
6/13: Brad Lincoln and Wilkin Castillo placed on Indianapolis disabled list. Radhames Liz activated from reserve roster.
6/12: Pirates sign J.T. Brubaker, Seth McGarry and Bret Helton.
6/11: Pirates acquire John Bowker from the San Francisco Giants.
6/10: Yhonathan Barrios promoted to Indianapolis.
6/9: John Holzkom activated from Indianapolis disabled list
6/9: Brett McKinney promoted to Altoona. Ryan Hafner added to Bradenton roster.
This Date in Pirates History
Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus one high-scoring game of note from 90 years ago. The players born on this date include 1999 outfielder Brant Brown, pitcher Dave Tomlin(1983 and 1985) and pitcher Gus Thompson of the 1903 National League champs. The Pirates played in the first modern-day World Series that year and Thompson got a chance to pitch the final two innings during a game five blowout. The team was short-handed due to injuries, leaving Thompson as one of the few healthy available pitchers. The two teams agreed to only use players on the roster before September 1st and Thompson made his debut on August 31st. He had a 3.56 ERA in 43 innings with the Pirates.
On this date in 1925, the Pirates defeated the St Louis Cardinals in St Louis by a 24-6 score. It fell three runs short of the team high for runs set back in 1894. The Pirates had two big innings, leaving the score lopsided in their favor. They started off with eight runs in the first, then put a ten spot on the board in the eighth inning. The Pirates hit six homers in the game and George Grantham drove in six runs. You can view the boxscore here.