Seven games into the Dominican Summer League season, the Pirates are playing like you would expect a team filled with first years players to play. That is especially true of a team that had a combined zero starts between their five starters in the rotation before Opening Day. It’s actually six starters if you count the combo of Yerry De Los Santos and Ronny Agustin, who are basically two starters pitching on the same day, aka piggy-backing. I’ve got reports after almost every game and I keep hearing the phrase “mental mistakes” as to what went wrong, but that is part of being a young team.
The team is 2-5 after the first full week of action, and they have lost four straight games. Part of what is hurting them early on is the fact they had so many injuries to start the season. Two experienced pitchers, Eumir Sepulveda and Jherson Esqueda are both out with long-term injuries. Three players, Gabriel Brito, Christopher Perez and Raul Hernandez weren’t available on Opening Day and they have only been able to DH/PH since returning. Brito and Perez got two of the bigger bonuses last July, while Brito and Hernandez are two of the three catchers(Julio Gonzalez is the other) unable to go behind the plate, where Mikell Granberry has looked great at the plate(.999 OPS) but not behind it. In six games for Granberry, which can also be partially blamed on the inexperienced pitchers, 17 of 18 runners have been successful on stolen bases.
In the infield, the Pirates were already missing Johan De Jesus, who is suspended for the entire year due to PED use. Without Christopher Perez able to throw the ball yet, the team is going with two unheralded rookies, Melvin Jimenez and William Calderon, as the double play combo. They are using Ramy Perez at third base, which if you follow the team closely, you’ll know him as a different “third” last year, the third-string catcher. Perez is playing there because Jesus Ronco, the backup at all three spots, just isn’t that good. He got the minor league “kiss of death” last year when they used him twice as a reliever in a mop up role.
At least the outfield has been good and they are a talented group. From left to right, Eddy Vizcaino, Yondry Contreras and Jeremias Portorreal gives you three players with upside getting a lot of playing time. Backup outfielder Eliezer Ramirez(pictured above), who got a six-figure bonus back in 2013, has batted just six times due to this group seeing most of the playing time. Contreras is the top prospect on the team right now, partially due to his $400,000 bonus last July, but more so for his talent on the field. He’s played six of the seven games and has a .956 OPS. Early on, he is doing what the Pirates hoped to see from Portorreal last year when they gave him a $375,000 bonus.
As I said above, it’s a young team, so you’re going to half some bumps in the road. The rotation has three very talented pitchers in Brian Sousa, Adonis Pichardo and Domingo Robles, but you can’t expect them to just hit the ground running. Last year we saw Luis Escobar come into the season with a 94 MPH fastball and high expectations and he gave up ten runs in an outing before settling down and finishing up strong. He’s already in the States and will be a sleeper prospect to watch in the GCL this year. I expect the Pirates to play better, but wouldn’t be surprised if they are a team that doesn’t play well until the second half. They have talent, but inexperience is winning out early.
Pirates Game Graph
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 5-4 to the Braves on Saturday night. Gerrit Cole will get the ball this afternoon for his 12th start of the season. In his last three starts combined, Cole has allowed two earned runs over 22.1 innings, with 26 strikeouts. The Braves will send Alex Wood to the mound to make his 11th start. He has a 3.19 ERA in 62 innings.
In the minors, Adrian Sampson makes his 12th start of the season. He has the 11th best ERA in the International League and leads the league with 61 strikeouts. Chad Kuhl has the tenth best ERA in the Eastern League, though he only ranks fourth on his own team. Austin Coley is tied for the 11th best WHIP(1.08) in the SAL. He ranks fourth in strikeouts. Bradenton and the DSL Pirates have off today. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.
MLB: Pittsburgh (30-25) @ Braves (27-28) 1:35 PM
Probable starter: Gerrit Cole (1.90 ERA, 16:79 BB/SO, 71.0 IP)
DSL: Pirates (2-5) vs Rangers2 (4-3) 10:30 AM 6/8 (season preview)
Two highlights from Altoona, both from former first baseman in the outfield. First is some defense from Stetson Allie.
Jose Osuna has been hitting the ball well since joining the Curve last week. Here is a single that led to an Altoona run.
6/7: Pirates release Tyler Sample.
6/5: Justin Sellers assigned to Bradenton on rehab.
6/5: Charlie Leesman placed on Indianapolis disabled list.
6/5: Francisco Diaz activated from WV Power disabled list.
6/5: Kawika Emsley-Pai promoted to Bradenton roster. Jin-De Jhang assigned to Extended Spring Training.
6/3: Pirates outright Radhames Liz to Indianapolis.
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
This Date in Pirates History
Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus one very interesting day for transactions back in 1939. Starting with the players, we have 2009 pitcher Virgil Vasquez, catcher Roy Jarvis(1946-47) and shortstop Bones Ely, who played for the team from 1896 and 1901 and who held the shortstop position for the first two seasons that Honus Wagner spent in a Pirates’ uniform. A few years back, we posted an article on Ely and his time with the Pirates. That can be found here.
On this date in 1939, the Pirates decided to release outfielder Heinie Manush and sign outfielder Chuck Klein, who was just released by the Phillies the day before. Manush wasn’t doing well in a pinch-hitting role, going 0-for-12 with a walk and an RBI. The release actually ended his big league career. Klein came in and did well for the Pirates, hitting .300 with 11 homers the rest of the way. By the end of next Spring Training however, he was released and re-signed with the Phillies. These two players were both elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Manush in 1964 and Klein 16 years later.