Morning Report: In the Minors, No One Gets On Base More Often Than the Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates have done a great job of putting together minor league teams that get on base this year. It would be hard to top them at this point and no other teams are right now. Here is the breakdown for each team and where they stand in their league in on base percentage:

Indianapolis .343 1st out of 14 teams

Altoona .339 1st out of 12 teams

Bradenton .341 1st out of 12 teams

West Virginia .339 1st out of 14 teams

Not only are all four teams leading their respective leagues, they are remarkably consistent from top to bottom, with just .004 separating the best from the worst. Knowing that all four teams lead their leagues in getting on base, it shouldn’t be surprising to find out that two of them are in first place in their division. The team with the best record(West Virginia) is actually in second place because Hickory has a team that is nearly unbeatable.

As for the players that are helping make this happen, Josh Bell(pictured above) is among the best in his league. He leads the Eastern League with a .343 batting average and he’s second with a .413 OBP. Not far behind him is Max Moroff, who ranks fourth in the league. Keon Broxton, Willy Garcia and Gift Ngoepe are also above the team average.

Indianapolis has taken a hit recently with Deibinson Romero going to Korea and Jose Tabata going to the Majors. Both were among the best in the league when they left the team. Steve Lombardozzi is fourth in the league with a .401 OBP and a lot of hitters on the team are batting well below average, so the Indians should be able to keep up the pace.

It’s almost surprising that Bradenton doesn’t have a better OBP as a team because five of their players rank in the top 13 in the Florida State League. They could get even better, as Reese McGuire isn’t hitting much yet and Harold Ramirez has a .619 OBP since making his season debut five games ago. He obviously won’t keep up that pace, but he can flat out hit for average. The best part about this team is that it is almost all prospects, and many of them are young for the level.

For West Virginia, it’s more of a team effort as Chase Simpson is the only Power player in the league top 20. They’re doing it despite two guys at the top of their lineup, Cole Tucker and Taylor Gushue, ranking 76th and 78th among the 99 qualified batters in the league. The bench players are getting on base a lot, so as far as the importance for this team, it’s a little skewed by older hitters doing well in limited roles. Still, the team is getting on base and pitching well, so it shows in the standings.

It’s a great sign when you see that a lot of these players are prospects that are young for their level. You would expect to see high OBP teams in the high offense leagues like the California League, PCL and the Texas League. The Pirates have their four affiliates in leagues that aren’t considered high offense, which helps when you’re trying to figure out how players stats translate to their prospect status. The Florida State League is usually considered a pitcher’s league, but teams tend to score more runs early in the season and then the hot summers bring scoring back down to normal by FSL standards.

Pirates Game Graph

Source: FanGraphs

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 7-1 to the Padres on Sunday night. They now go to San Francisco and Gerrit Cole will be on the mound making his 11th start. He has a 2.27 ERA in five road starts. The Giants will send former Pirate pitcher Ryan Vogelsong to the mound. He has a 4.24 ERA this season.

In the minors, Luis Heredia makes his fourth start of the season tonight. It will be his third home start, which should be a good sign based on past history. In each of his first four seasons, Heredia has pitched better at home, and in three of those seasons there was a huge difference. Heredia has allowed seven earned runs in 4.2 innings at Bradenton this year. In his only road start, he gave up one run over four innings. Heredia has had trouble with high pitch counts in each of his first three outings. Altoona is off today. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (26-24) @ Giants (30-22) 10:10 PM
Probable starter: Gerrit Cole (2.11 ERA, 14:70 BB/SO, 64.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (30-21) vs Buffalo (25-25) 7:05 PM  (season preview)
Probable starter: Chris Volstad (3.60 ERA, 18:31 BB/SO, 50.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (28-20) vs New Britain (31-18) 7:00 PM 6/2 (season preview)
Probable starter: Chad Kuhl (2.73 ERA, 20:34 BB/SO, 52.2 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (23-27) vs Jupiter (24-26) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Luis Heredia (8.31 ERA, 7:4 BB/SO, 8.2 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (30-20) vs Greensboro (21-29) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Colten Brewer (6.75 ERA, 4:9 BB/SO, 18.2 IP)

DSL: Pirates (1-0) vs Yankees2 (0-1) 10:30 AM (season preview)


In the video below, you’ll see a three-run homer from Altoona third baseman Eric Wood. It was part of a 3-for-5 night, that saw him drive in four runs and score three times. He has had a tough season otherwise, hitting .221/.299/.311 in 37 games. At 22, he is young for the level, so some early season struggles shouldn’t be a big deal at this point.

Recent Transactions

5/29: Andy Vasquez added to Altoona roster.

5/29: Keon Broxton promoted to Indianapolis. Adam Miller placed on disabled list.

5/29: Jeff Roy activated from West Virginia disabled list. Andy Otamendi assigned to Extended Spring Training.

5/28: Jose Osuna promoted to Altoona. Jordan Steranka added to Bradenton.

5/28: Andy Otamendi added to WV Power roster. Trace Tam Sing assigned to WV Black Bears.

5/27: Kelson Brown added to Indianapolis roster.

5/26: Harold Ramirez added to Bradenton roster. Jordan Steranka and Andy Otamendi assigned to Extended Spring Training.

5/26: Josh Wall placed on disabled list. Collin Balester added to Indianapolis roster.

5/26: Dovydas Neverauskas placed on disabled list. Julio Vivas sent from Bradenton to West Virginia.

5/26: Deibinson Romero sold to Doosan Bears of the Korean Baseball Organization.

5/25: Charlie Morton activated from disabled list. Radhames Liz designated for assignment.

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.

This Date in Pirates History

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, and one has an interesting story attached to his last game. As for the other four players, we start with Hal Smith, who caught for the 1965 Pirates. He was actually a coach that got forced into catching duties due to injuries, though he retired from playing in 1961, so he wasn’t that far removed from his big league career. He remained a coach with the Pirates for two more years. He is one of three players named Hal Smith that have played in the Majors, and all three played for the Pirates.

Lou Tost pitched one game for the Pirates on April 24,1947 and allowed one run in one inning. It was his last big league game. Other players born on this date include 1925 first baseman Al Niehaus and 1898 second baseman Bill Eagan.

Finally, one player of note that was born on this date is pitcher Harry Gardner. He didn’t do much during his two seasons(1911-12), but according to his official career stats, he has been discredited for a long time. In his last game, stats that you will find anywhere, say that he gave up six unearned runs and recorded just one out, but those stats are wrong. Gardner actually allowed three unearned runs and pitched a complete inning according to the boxscores and game notes from back on April 14,1912. You can read a full recap of the differences here.

  • John, why did the Pirates let D. Romero go to Korea without any return? Hard to see how this benefits the club.

    • John Dreker
      June 1, 2015 11:16 am

      He had an opportunity to play there and they didn’t want to hold him back which actually benefits the club greatly. Last year they traded Chris Dickerson when he was doing so well, but was blocked. Other minor league free agents will see that and not worry about getting buried in the minors if they do well, but the team doesn’t have a spot for them. If you bury players, it makes it harder to sign the better free agents and word gets around.

      • I understand that, but given Corey Hart’s unspectacular start I saw some potential for Romero to take his spot in mid season. Obviously the Pirates saw less potential in Romero and were willing to let him go for merely credits to their reputation. I am a little disappointed that they didn’t get some return, ala Dickerson.

        • BuccosFanStuckinMD
          June 1, 2015 11:50 am

          The Pirates will stubbornly keep Hart for another month – he will still be hitting below .200 and they will finally let him go. Meanwhile, we lose a game or two that maybe we win if there was someone better than Hart on the bench as a PH or spot starter….

        • I think the fact that Romero’s best opportunity came in Korea says that no other MLB team saw him as a guy who could immediately help in the majors.

          Also, I don’t believe they got anything for Dickerson, other than cash considerations, which is usually something like $1.

        • If Romero had any appreciable minor league experience playing 1B, there might have been a notion to swap him in for Hart, but alas, he doesn’t.

          • The Pirates did give him time there in Spring training. I have never heard anyone comment on how he looked, good or bad.

  • At least two of those Hal Smiths needed a good nickname to tell them apart.

    Hal “Death to Crawling Things” Smith and Hal “No Hair” Smith or something like that.