Before you read too far into this, just remember that it is way too early to worry about any of these players getting off to a slow start. Saying that, there are some very poor starts for some of the new draft picks. Morgantown was having some real trouble before Tuesday, but two players got their average to the Mendoza Line, so it doesn’t look quite as bad as it did coming into the game.
First round pick Kevin Newman(pictured above) had two hits on Tuesday, including his second double. He is hitting.212/.297/.273 through eight games. I don’t even think it would cause concern if he had those numbers at the end of the season. That’s because he has a great track record, winning two Cape Cod league batting titles and he hit .370 this year at Arizona. It’s also easy to say there won’t be a concern because he won’t finish with numbers that low. If he did, he would probably be hiding an injury. There are two other good reasons to expect him to start hitting better soon. Newman is older for his draft class, turning 22 in a month. He’s also playing in a league where the level of competition is lower than what he saw in college.
That last sentence for Newman holds true for Casey Hughston, who is having a start to his pro career that he would like to forget. He is 1-for-29 with ten strikeouts, leaving him with an OPS that is below that Mendoza Line. I’m not sure what you could say about that type of slump other than it looks worse at the beginning of the season as opposed to the middle, where a strong start and finish could hide a real bad week. Hughston is another solid hitter that is adjusting to pro ball, and coming around slowly. Some people will look at the start and think he was an overdraft in the third round, but that’s where most people had him going, so patience is the key.
You could also add in second round pick Kevin Kramer, with his .200 average and no extra-base hits in eight games. Or Mitchell Tolman, the seventh round pick, who is hitting .167 through nine games, although he does have seven walks. Sticking with top ten picks, you can go to the pitching side and look at the stats of J.T. Brubaker(6th round) and Bret Helton(9th) in their first two starts. Helton has a 7.50 ERA and Brubaker has a 9.45 ERA.
Morgantown also has catcher Christian Kelley, who was the 11th round pick and a surprising one at that because based on previous years, it looked like the Pirates would go with someone that fell in the draft due to bonus demands. Kelley was probably taken right about where he should have went, somewhere in the 11-15 round range, where there isn’t a big difference once you get to that point. He’s hitting .158 so far, plus he allowed seven stolen bases on Tuesday and made his third error.
There are obviously a lot of examples just from the early rounds of this draft that are looking bad early. I would just call it a bad 11 game stretch for the team and move on. Some people might choose to look at the results from Jordan Luplow and Connor Joe from last year and wonder if the Pirates have trouble scouting hitters, but Joe, Luplow, Hughston, Kramer and Newman were all ranked well going into the draft, so it’s not as if they didn’t stock up on some better bats, just the results are there yet. You could even say at this point that it’s too early for Joe due to his back injury and Luplow because he was young for his draft class, born two months after Kevin Newman.
Pirates Game Graph
The Pirates trail by eight games in the division to the Cardinals. They have a one 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 over Columbus, the team they are currently playing.
Altoona is 2-8 in their last ten games and they are now trailing by 2.5 game in their division.
Bradenton and West Virginia did not win their first half title. The second half began Thursday for both teams and the second half records will be included below in the schedule.
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates won 5-4 against the Tigers in 14 innings on Tuesday night. A.J. Burnett will be on the mound tonight, making his 16th start of the season. Last time out, he allowed one earned run over six innings against the Reds. The Tigers will counter with Alfredo Simon, who has a 3.57 ERA in 85.2 innings. In his last two games combined, he has given up 12 earned runs on 14 hits and six walks in nine innings.
In the minors, Radhames Liz will make his second start for Indianapolis. He threw four shutout innings last week in his first start. Steven Brault makes his third start for Altoona and he threw six shutout innings last time out. Billy Roth will make his second start for Bristol. He went five innings in his debut, and while he gave up three earned runs, he also had six strikeouts. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.
MLB: Pittsburgh (43-33) @ Tigers (39-37) 7:08 PM
Probable starter: A.J. Burnett (2.01 ERA, 27:86 BB/SO, 98.1 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (46-32) vs Columbus (42-36) 1:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Radhames Liz (0.00 ERA, 4:10 BB/SO, 9.1 IP)
AA: Altoona (42-35) @ Trenton (41-35) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Steven Brault (3.48 ERA, 3:10 BB/SO, 10.1 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (36-40, 4-2 second half) vs Charlotte (46-30) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Frank Duncan (4.11 ERA, 32:51 BB/SO, 76.2 IP)
Low-A: West Virginia (42-33, 5-1 second half) @ Kannapolis (37-38) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Austin Coley (3.94 ERA, 11:65 BB/SO, 77.2 IP)
Short-Season A: Morgantown (5-6) @ State College (4-7) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: TBD
Rookie: Bristol (3-5) @ Elizabethton (5-3) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: Billy Roth (5.40 ERA, 1:6 BB/SO, 5.0 IP)
GCL: Pirates (4-3) vs Tigers (6-2) 12:00 PM (season preview)
DSL: Pirates (12-15) vs Braves (11-16) 10:30 AM (season preview)
Here we have video of an RBI single from Josh Bell on Monday night. He went 0-for-5 on Tuesday night, but he still has a .321 average and 35 walks, with just 31 strikeouts.
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.
6/24: Casey Sadler placed on disabled list. Brad Lincoln and Josh Wall added to Indianapolis roster.
6/24: Corey Hart placed on disabled list. Chris Volstad added to Pirates roster.
6/23: Pirates sign Shane Kemp. Assigned to Bristol.
6/22: Andy Otamendi assigned to Morgantown.
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.
This Date in Pirates History
Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a trade of note. Starting with the players, we have pitcher Al Tate(1946), pitcher Frank Barrett(1950) and outfielder Fritz Scheeren(1914-15). Barrett has an interesting note to his career stats. They have been officially wrong for at least the last 40 years. Sometime between his last game and the printing of the 1976 baseball encyclopedia, his stats got changed to what they read now. He actually pitched a little less with the Pirates and gave up a run less. In this article from 2012, I broke down where the changes were made, which gave him a 4.15 ERA, when in fact he had a 2.45 ERA during his brief stay in Pittsburgh.
On this date in 1921, the Pirates traded pitcher Elmer Ponder to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for outfielder Dave Robertson. The Pirates were hardly using Ponder and Robertson was struggling with Chicago, so both players got a chance for more playing time with their new team. Robertson put on a show at the plate with Pittsburgh, hitting .322 the rest of the way and he drove in 48 runs in 60 games. Ponder got hit around in Chicago, so short-term, it looked like a great deal. Robertson, who won two home run crowns earlier in his career, decided to hold out in Spring Training the next year and the move backfired. The Pirates released him and he later signed with the Giants, but had a tough season, one that would be his last in the majors.