Morning Report: An Unsigned Draft Pick Having a Rough Summer League Season

The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Chris Falwell in the 29th round this year. He is a 6’6″, 195 pound lefty, who turned 20 years old back in April. Falwell is a projectable pitcher due to his height and room to fill out. He also throws low-90’s with some deception in his delivery, so you’re talking about a very interesting pitcher from that scouting report. He hasn’t signed and I haven’t seen any word on him saying he won’t sign, so I won’t rule it out, but I did find some stuff recently on him which doesn’t make a good case for him signing.

You can obviously see why the Pirates would like a pitcher like Falwell, but there could be a little more behind him being drafted. He was picked by the Pirates on June 10th, the third day of the draft. He was already pitching in summer ball at the time for the Wisconsin Rapids of the Northwoods League. He made his only start of the season up to that point on June 4th and threw five solid innings, allowing one run on two walks, two hits and he had seven strikeouts.

That’s a really good debut in summer ball and probably made a good impression on the Pirates. I’m sure he was already high on their chart, but a game like that wouldn’t do anything but good for him leading up to the draft. The day he got drafted, things definitely took a turn for him. In his second outing of the season on June 10th, he went 1.2 innings and walked four batters. He didn’t allowed a hit and had four strikeouts, so you can live with an outing like that from a young, projectable pitcher, as long as you’ve seen him look more often like the kid that pitched that first game.

In his next game six days later, things began to unravel more and the one good start now looked like it was an outlier, as opposed to the game with control issues. In game three, he gave up three runs on six hits and four walks in 4.1 innings.

Last year, the Pirates made a run at signing second baseman Paul DeJong, their 38th round draft pick. That was decided after watching him breakout in summer ball, so there is a recent example of them drafting and following a player under the new shorter signing period. Back in the day you could do that all the time, with Rudy Owens being an example of a player that fell under the old “draft and follow” rules. He was drafted in June 2006, but didn’t sign until the following May. With DeJong last year, the Pirates only had a couple months to decide and when time came to negotiate, they didn’t have the bonus pool room to sign him. He reentered the draft and was taken in the fourth round by the Cardinals. He is now in Low-A, after destroying Appalachian League pitching(1.500+ OPS) for two weeks.

So Falwell could have been a player that helped his case with a good summer league season. He didn’t stop with that last poor start though, he’s still going and possibly getting further away from signing in the process. On June 25th, he lasted three innings and walked five batters. On July 3rd in his last game, he faced seven batters and six of them drew walks.

After a solid start to his summer, Falwell now had made five starts and in 14.1 innings, he has 21 walks and a 7.53 ERA. He has 17 strikeouts and just nine hits allowed, so there are some good signs, but he has not done himself any favors recently. He may have two starts left before the draft signing deadline on July 17th, but if I had to guess right now, I’d say he’s going to have to pitch well in 2016 to get drafted again. It’s also possible that the Pirates may see something they think they can fix and still get the most out of the big lefty. With his current struggles and the quality pitching coaches in the Pirates’ system, he may be more eager to sign now before he really falls off the map. We will find out within the next eight days.

Pirates Game Graph

Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

The Pirates trail by 4.5 games in the division to the Cardinals. They have a four game lead for the top wild card spot.

Indianapolis is 5-5 in their last ten games. They have a five game lead in their division.

Altoona is 4-6 in their last ten games and they are in second place, trailing by 2.5 games in their division.

Bradenton and West Virginia did not win their first half title. Their second half records are included below in the schedule.

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates defeated the Padres 5-2 on Wednesday night. They will now take on the Cardinals in a four-game series that leads up to the All-Star break. Jeff Locke gets the ball today, coming off eight shutout innings his last time out. He faced the Cardinals once this year and gave up three runs over 6.2 innings. Carlos Martinez will be on the mound for St Louis. He has a 2.70 ERA in 100 innings. The Pirates touched him up for seven earned runs in his only game against them this season.

In the minors, Adrian Sampson will look to rebound from a start in which he allowed seven earned runs on nine hits in 6.1 innings. He has had only one quality outing in his last five games, watching his ERA go from 2.69 to 4.15 over that time. Jason Creasy had issued 32 walks this year in 91.1 innings after giving up 22 in 148.2 innings last year. Luis Heredia had a tough game last time out, giving up three runs on five hits and four walks in 5.2 innings, with no strikeouts. He allowed one run over 11 innings in his prior two outings. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (50-34) vs Cardinals (55-30) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Jeff Locke (4.15 ERA, 33:70 BB/SO, 91.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (51-36) @ Louisville (43-44) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Adrian Sampson (4.15 ERA, 24:81 BB/SO, 99.2 IP)

AA: Altoona (46-39) @ Erie (33-51) 12:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Jason Creasy (3.55 ERA, 32:38 BB/SO, 91.1 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (41-43, 9-5 second half) vs Palm Beach (42-42) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Luis Heredia (4.68 ERA, 16:21 BB/SO, 42.1 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (48-35, 11-3 second half) @ Greensboro (32-51) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Yeudy Garcia (2.35 ERA, 22:62 BB/SO, 65.0 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (7-11) @ Lowell (13-6) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: TBD

Rookie: Bristol (4-10) vs Burlington (10-6) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter:  TBD

GCL: Pirates (11-4) vs Blue Jays (8-7) 12:00 PM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates (14-20) vs Marlins (13-21) 10:30 AM (season preview)


Here we have video of Josh Bell’s three-run homer on Wednesday night in game one of a doubleheader. It was the fourth homer of the season for Bell.

Recent Transactions

7/7: Clay Holmes added to Bradenton roster. Harold Ramirez placed on temporary inactive list.

7/7: Trace Tam Sing added to West Virginia roster. Tito Polo placed on temporary inactive list.

7/6: Josh Harrison placed on disabled list. Travis Ishikawa added to active roster.

7/6: Justin Seller assigned to GCL on rehab.

7/5: Pirates claim Travis Ishikawa on waivers.

7/4: Pirates sign five international players.

7/3: Pirates sign Kevin Sanchez and Samuel Inoa.

7/3: Pirates trade Clayton Richard to Chicago Cubs for cash considerations.

7/2: Chris Volstad sent outright to Indianapolis.

7/2: Pirates sign Larry Alcime Jr and Kyle Simmons.

7/1: Alen Hanson activated from disabled list. John Holdzkom and Hunter Morris placed on disabled list.

7/1: Paul Brands assigned to GCL Pirates from DSL.

6/30: Corey Hart sent on rehab to Indianapolis.

6/30: Jose Tabata outrighted to Indianapolis.

6/29: Jeff Inman and Gift Ngoepe promoted to Indianapolis.

6/29: Pirates sign Daniel Zamora.

6/28: Jose Tabata designated for assignment. Gorkys Hernandez added to Pirates roster.

6/28: Chris Volstad designated for assignment. Steve Lombardozzi added to Pirates roster.

6/28: Clario Perez promoted to Altoona. Wes Freeman activated from disabled list.

6/28: Kawika Emsley-Pai retired.

6/28: Hunter Morris activated from Indianapolis disabled list.

6/27: Junior Lopez promoted to Bradenton. Dovydas Neverauskas activated from West Virginia disabled list.

6/26: Tyler Glasnow assigned to Altoona.

6/26: Deolis Guerra added to Pirates roster. Rob Scahill placed on disabled list.

6/26: Wilkin Castillo activated from Indianapolis disabled list.

6/25: Robert Stock added to Bradenton roster. Jordan Steranka placed on disabled list.


This Date in Pirates History

One former Pittsburgh Pirates player born on this date, plus a couple games of note. The only former Pirate born on this date is Coot Veal, who pinch-hit for the team on April 17, 1962. Veal turns 83 today. In his only game for the Pirates, he pinch-hit for pitcher Tom Sturdivant in the second inning and struck out looking. He spent the next 19 days on the Pirates’ bench before being sent to the minors. A month later, he was traded to the Detroit Tigers.

On this date in 1912, the Pirates sent their young pitching phenom Marty O’Toole to the mound, where he faced off against a young pitcher for the Phillies named Eppa Rixey. Back in 1911, the Pirates paid $22,500 to sign O’Toole, which was a huge sum back then. Early in the career it looked like a great purchase, but his star quickly faded. In this game however, O’Toole outpitched Rixey, who would go on to win 266 games and get elected to the Hall of Fame. The Pirates won 2-0 and Hall of Famer Max Carey plated the go-ahead run with an RBI triple in the sixth inning.

The link above includes a game recap/boxscore for the Pirates 9-8 win in 12 innings over the Phillies on this date in 1977. The winning hit came off the bat of Mario Mendoza and the losing pitcher was former Bucco Gene Garber. The pitching matchup that day was Steve Carlton versus John Candelaria and closer Kent Tekulve lost a two run lead in the ninth to send it to extra innings.

The link above is from 2012, when the Pirates had a 48-37 record through 85 games. They are playing their 85th game today. In the article, you can find the records through 85 games and July 9th of Pirates teams that made the playoffs prior to 2012.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    July 9, 2015 7:53 pm

    Given his age, the round he was drafted in, and the fact that he wouldn’t be able to command a huge signing bonus, I don’t know if I would his first few starts in the Summer league to stop me from signing the kid – if I had been scouting and watching him all season and saw good outings from him. This is pretty low risk.

  • I think it’s safe to assume that guys like dejong are why the pirates payed large bonuses to guys before the new rules, when you have to compete against teams like the cards, yankees, dodgers ect. and their reputations teams like the pirates had to out spend them for some of the quality players. It worked as the pirates are now an organization that can compete with them both on the field and when it comes to luring some of those guys to the burgh. Makes me wonder what new rules mlb will come up with to keep teams like pittsburgh and kc from stealing some of the big boys thunder.

  • Darkstone42
    July 9, 2015 11:13 am

    Bell didn’t even look like he was swinging hard. That’s some serious muscle.

    • D: Same same with Gregory Polanco last night off the top of the Clemente Wall, and the night before on the triple to the Notch.

  • I’m sure if they liked the big lefty before then they still do. They don’t seem to shy away from guys that show some K dominance but have control issues. The control has been horrific besides the first start but he’s not the first guy that had bad mechanics at the start of his career.

    • John Dreker
      July 9, 2015 10:17 am

      There is no doubt they liked him, but the question is, did he moved up because of one real good start right before the draft? It had to help his case, but he still only went in the 29th round. so the control questions were probably there and they have been around in all four starts since, while getting worse. He becomes more of a project and less of a certainty the longer he waits to sign. If you do like him and see a fix, you want to get him out of that summer league as soon as possible.

      • He definitely seems like a guy in huge limbo. The project tag I guess maybe would help them to get him for cheap if he is desperate to start his career. It’s been really quiet on the signing front lately. I would like to see them get that 5th rounder signed and hopefully a couple more kids…there was a prep OF I hoped they could get signed. With money left, I hope it is an active upcoming 7-8 days.

  • Wow, credit to the guy who mentioned it yesterday in the comments…Josh Bell just completely changed his swing in the last week. Like, every part of it. Again.

    • I swear he does that once a year just to make everyone go “what the” and meanwhile he keeps hitting for average and getting on base.

      • John Dreker
        July 9, 2015 11:42 am

        The same thing they say about Florida weather, holds true for Bell’s swing. If you don’t like it, wait 15 minutes, it will change. To his credit, no one puts in more time in the batting cages than Bell, partially because he’s a switch-hitter, but mostly due to the fact he’s a hard working individual. No one outworks him

        • Ha, I love it John.

          This new swing is definitely geared more toward power than the old one, too. More loft and leverage.

  • Love that swing by Bell

  • I sure as heck hope Dejong doesn’t come back to haunt us, esp since he is a hated Cardinal now.

    • So, somebody we drafted and wanted last year, but we passed on him because we were out of money. If he did not go until the 4th Round this year, the Pirates had chances to draft him, but passed on him again. For Illinois St in 2015, DeJong played 2B, SS, 3B, and C and hit well. And probably the type of kid who would also line the field before games, and stay late to rake and put the tarp over the infield.