Morning Report: Previewing the Live Coverage From the Dominican

On Monday and Tuesday, we will have live coverage from the Dominican Summer League for the first time. The DSL Pirates are 10-9 so far this season and they are winning games with offense. The Pirates are second in the league in runs scored. They have also allowed the fourth most runs in the league. If everyone was healthy, then this team would be very interesting to cover, but this has been far from a healthy year for the club.

The DSL Pirates have 11 players with announced bonuses that were at least six figures. The top two are outfielders Yondry Contreras and Jeremias Portorreal, who got $400,000 and $375,000 respectively. Neither of these players look good so far this year, but the Pirates obviously thought very highly of them, so they are players of interest during this trip.

There is something interesting to note with these two, and that is their ages. Portorreal is still 17, even though he spent last year in the DSL. Contreras is also 17, just five weeks older than Portorreal, but he is in his first season. He missed the cut-off for signing in 2013 by 11 days, while Portorreal had to wait until his birthday to sign in 2013, because he was still 15 years old when the international signing period started on July 2nd. Any player that turns 16 between July 3rd and August 31st can sign on their birthday, but if you turn 16 on September 1st or later, you have to wait until the following year. In a sense, that was great for Portorreal because he got a full year in the Pirates’ system while Contreras had to wait, but the results still aren’t there.

Getting back to the injuries and it could cost Tim Williams the chance to see two pretty good pitchers who are both doubtful for their next start, which just happen to be scheduled for Monday and Tuesday. Adonis Pichardo and Brian Sousa were two of the six-figure signings on July 2nd last year and both of them had issues this week. Sousa suffered from a tired arm, and didn’t even make it to the mound for his start. Pichardo went three innings in his last game, but his velocity was down 7-8 MPH, so he was shutdown early as a precaution. As of Friday, it was unknown if either would start this upcoming week.

Two other starters from this team got six-figure bonuses, Domingo Robles and Yerry De Los Santos. They are scheduled to start Wednesday and Friday next week, so it could be very limited as far as interest on the pitching side. The last six-figure bonus pitcher is Roger Santana and he could step in if either(or both) Pichardo and Sousa miss their start. The 17-year-old lefty has pitched in extended relief outings, getting up to four innings last time. The Pirates have a strict 5IP/75 pitch limit with their DSL pitchers, so he isn’t far from being fully stretched out.

The injuries have also knocked out some interesting players on offense, with shortstop Christopher Perez seeing limited time and catcher Gabriel Brito, who got a $200,000 bonus last year, only being used as a DH. Outfielder Eddy Vizcaino got off to a fast start, then had to sit due to a leg infection that occurred after a bad slide left it’s mark. Tim will probably see one game from Brito and Perez, as they have been on an every other day schedule recently.

The offense has been led by one likely source and two that are unlikely. Outfielder Felix Vinicio and first baseman Huascar Fuentes aren’t considered top prospects, but they are playing the part on offense. Vinicio has a .375 average and an .885 OPS, along with just six strikeouts in 64 at-bats. Fuentes is also hitting .375 in 64 at-bats, but he has a league-leading 1.222 OPS and has driven in 19 runs in 19 games.

The likely source for offense is catcher Mikell Granberry(pictured above), who was #8 on our top ten prospects list at the end of the 2014 DSL season. He missed a little time recently due to an injury that occurred during catching drills and has also seen some action at first base, but his bat is the reason he has been hitting in the clean-up spot lately. He has a .317 average and an .875 OPS, while leading the club with two homers. In 14 games, he has driven in 12 runs.

It should be a very enlightening trip, and not just because we will get a first look at some of these players. We will also get a good look at the facility down there and a good idea just what it’s like to play in the DSL. I get firsthand reports almost daily during the season, but it will be great to get some video from the games and a different perspective of what is going on down there.

Pirates Game Graph

Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

The Pirates trail by six games in the division to the Cardinals, though they have a two game lead for the top wild card spot

Indianapolis is 6-4 in their last ten games and they have a 4.5 game lead in their division.

Altoona is 4-6 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 Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 6-0 to the Nationals on Saturday afternoon. They will send Charlie Morton to the mound today, trying to avoid the sweep. He went seven innings in his last start and 7.1 in his previous outing without allowing a run. Morton has picked up the win in all five of his starts. Gio Gonzalez will get the ball for Washington. He has a 4.82 ERA in 74.2 innings.

In the minors, Casey Sadler will make his 13th start for Indianapolis today. He posted a 3.40 ERA in May and he has a 3.50 ERA this month, though he has a 1.50 WHIP in June. West Virginia was rained out on Saturday and will not make up the game. Stephen Tarpley makes his sixth start for the Power today. He had three strong outings to start his season, but things turned bad quickly over his last two starts. Tarpley has allowed 18 hits and five walks over 8.1 innings in those last two games. Morgantown will play a doubleheader today after they were rained out on Saturday. Bradenton is on their All-Star break. The DSL Pirates have off today. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (39-29) @ Washington (36-33) 1:35 PM
Probable starter: Charlie Morton (1.62 ERA, 27:99 BB/SO, 82.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (42-27) @ Charlotte  (38-29) 2:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter:  Casey Sadler (3.29 ERA, 22:47 BB/SO, 76.2 IP)

AA: Altoona (39-27) vs Harrisburg (29-38) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter:  Thomas Harlan (3.89 ERA, 9:26 BB/SO, 39.1 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (30-35) @ Charlotte (44-23) 6:30 PM 6/22 (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD

Low-A: West Virginia (37-31) vs Hickory (43-24) 2:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Stephen Tarpley (3.09 ERA, 9:21 BB/SO, 23.1 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (0-1) vs Mahoning Valley (1-0) 2:05 PM DH (season preview)
Probable Starter:  Hector Garcia (NR) and Dario Agrazal Jr. (NR)

DSL: Pirates (10-9) vs Yankees2 (7-12) 10:30 AM 6/22 (season preview)


Here’s video of the HBP that ended Altoona’s game on Friday. Adam Frazier wore one for the team, bringing home the winning run. Sean McCool posted an article about Frazier on Saturday and how he is making the most of his playing time.

Recent Transactions

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.

6/18: Ten draft picks signed and assigned to various short-season teams. Link here with details. Five others were also signed later in the day. Details here.

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: Willy Garcia promoted to Indianapolis. Mel Rojas Jr. sent to Altoona.

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.

6/7: Pirates release Tyler Sample.

This Date in Pirates History

Two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus one game of note. The players are 1B/RF Garrett Jones and 1923 infielder Spencer Adams. Jones played five years for the Pirates, hitting .256/.318/.462 in 677 games, with exactly 100 homers. Adams spent four years in the majors, playing one year each with four different teams. With the Pirates as a rookie, he had a .608 OPS in 25 games, splitting his time between second base and shortstop.

On this date in 1888, the Pittsburgh Pirates(then know as Alleghenys) were no-hit for the first time in franchise history. It was a six inning game, called due to rain. Pittsburgh lost 1-0 and reached base twice in the game, once by error and once on a walk. The opposing pitcher for the Chicago White Stockings was George Van Haltren, who has a connection to the Pirates. He played for Pittsburgh in 1892 and 1893, and by that time he was an outfielder. He hit .338 during that second season. Van Haltren won 40 games as a pitcher, but made his name as a hitter and he is one of the best players not in the Hall of Fame. He hit .316 career in 1990 games and scored 1642 runs, while stealing 587 bases. He is also fourth all-time in outfield assists.