Morning Report: Two High-Profile Signings Experiencing Injury-Filled Seasons

There have been a couple DSL injuries of note this month, because both were six-figure signings in July of 2014 and both have already been injured before these latest injuries. Catcher Gabriel Brito received the second highest bonus last year, signing for $200,000, while pitcher Brian Sousa got $160,000 and was called the best amateur pitcher in Panama.

Brito missed the beginning of the season with a shoulder injury, while Sousa missed some time early with a lat strain. The injuries are different now, with Brito injuring his left hand last Monday and Sousa hasn’t pitched since early this month due to a shoulder injury. These players were expected to play a big part this season. Brito was going to catch regularly and Sousa was going to be used as a starter all season.

Brito was considered raw when he signed, so the regular playing time was to get him some much needed experience. That’s what the Pirates did with Yoel Gonzalez when he signed for $350,000 in 2012. He was also considered raw at the plate, so he played regularly in the DSL in 2013 when he probably wasn’t ready for that type of playing time. It hurt the team, but helped Gonzalez, and that’s the main goal, while winning is always considered secondary.

Sousa isn’t your typical DSL player because he was good enough to play winter ball each of the last two years. The league in Panama isn’t as advanced as other leagues like the Dominican or Venezuela, but it’s still much better competition than what you see in the DSL, likely on par with the play in the Appalachian League, or possibly the NYPL. Going into the season with that type of experience should help a young pitcher, but not if they can’t stay on the mound.

This season, he has a 3.31 ERA in 16.1 innings, with a 9:8 BB/SO ratio. Sousa also has a 3.44 GO/AO ratio, which is a terrific number. He’s had some horrible defense played behind him, yet still managed to perform fairly well up to this point. There have been some control issues, but with him being hurt twice now, you wonder just how quickly he let on about the injuries. The 16.1 innings stand out, because the three pitchers from the Opening Day rotation that have made all of their starts, have thrown exactly 40 innings each. While it seems like that is planned when they all have the same numbers of innings in nine starts, it’s purely a coincidence. It’s a number that Sousa would be close to if he was healthy all this time.

Both players are expected to return before the DSL season ends, but it’s the lost playing time at an early stage that looks bad for them. Brito seems to be exceeding the low expectations that were set for his offense when he was called raw. In 13 games, he is hitting .282/.388/.385, with four doubles. Those are good numbers, though the 13 games played should stand out the most. It’s even worse when you consider he has only caught seven games and they weren’t all complete games. Luckily with the DSL, a lot goes unnoticed because we only see the half of it where the stats count. They have a normal Spring Training and they have a Fall Instructional League, playing games regularly in both settings, so there is a lot more than just the 72-game schedule we see.

On the good side, the team has been relatively injury free after a rough start that saw 11 different players miss time. We mentioned that outfielder Eliezer Ramirez broke his hand a couple weeks ago and will be out for the season. Besides him and the two players mentioned above, the only other injured players are the ones that were out for the season before the year started, pitchers Saul de la Cruz, Eumir Sepulveda, Ivan Cespedes and Jherson Esqueda, so nothing has changed with them. Compared to early in the year when they had, among other injuries, five of their six catchers unable to play behind the plate, the team is nearly at full strength.

Pirates Game Graph


Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

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

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

Altoona is 5-5 in their last ten games and they are now tied for first place with Bowie.

Bradenton is 8-2 in their last ten games. They trail Palm Beach by 1.5 games in the standings.

West Virginia is 6-4 in their last ten games and they have a two game lead in the division.

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 5-1 to the Royals on Wednesday night. They now begin a four-game series at home with the Washington Nationals. Francisco Liriano will get the ball tonight, making his 19th start of the season. He faced the Nationals on June 20th and allowed five earned runs over 5.2 innings. His opponent will be Doug Fister, who has 4.30 ERA in 69 innings this year. In his last start, he allowed four runs over five innings against the Dodgers.

In the minors, Steven Brault gets the start for Altoona.  He has had three real strong starts for the Curve and three outings that didn’t go so well. Angel Sanchez has been one of the best pitchers in the organization this year, which seems to get lost with all the other big names. He is second to Adrian Sampson in innings pitched among all Pirates’ minor league players and Sampson only passed him in Wednesday’s start, so that should reverse tonight. Frank Duncan starts for Bradenton and he has pitched well in his last four games. If you missed the feature, his success coincides with some changes he made recently. The GCL Pirates will complete their suspended game from Wednesday prior to playing the regularly scheduled game, which will now be a seven inning contest. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (54-40) vs Nationals (51-42) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Francisco Liriano (2.98 ERA, 39:125 BB/SO, 114.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (57-40) vs Scranton/WB (51-47) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Angel Sanchez (2.97 ERA, 7:31 BB/SO, 36.1 IP)

AA: Altoona (53-45) @ Akron (50-48) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Steven Brault (4.11 ERA, 5:33 BB/SO, 30.2 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (48-48, 16-10 second half) vs Dunedin (43-53) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Frank Duncan (4.53 ERA, 12:74 BB/SO, 95.1 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (54-40, 18-8 second half) @ Lakewood (49-45) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Austin Coley (4.05 ERA, 15:81 BB/SO, 95.2 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (16-16) vs Brooklyn (18-13) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: Luis Paula (5.40 ERA, 0:7 BB/SO, 6.2 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (11-14) @ Burlington (13-15) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: Logan Sendelbach (5.93 ERA, 4:10 BB/SO, 13.2 IP)

GCL: Pirates (14-11) vs Yankees1 (8-15) 12:00 PM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates (18-27) vs Braves (19-26) 10:30 AM (season preview)

Highlights

Here are two highlights for Jose Osuna. One for defense, because that isn’t what he is known for.

Osuna is known for his bat and here he gives a glimpse of his offense. This hit was off Derek Hankins, who pitched in the Pirates’ system from 2004 until 2010.

Recent Transactions

7/23: Mervin Del Rosario assigned to GCL Pirates.

7/22: Pirates purchase contract of Pedro Florimon. Wilfredo Boscan optioned to Indianapolis. Jayson Aquino designated for assignment.

7/22: Barrett Barnes promoted to Altoona.

7/22:  Gorkys Hernandez assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

7/21: Jonathan Schwind and Andrew Lambo assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.

7/21: Harold Ramirez activated from temporary inactive list. Robert Stock placed on disabled list.

7/20: Jordy Mercer placed on disabled list. Pirates recall Brent Morel. Corey Hart transferred to 60-day DL.

7/20: Tito Polo activated from temporary inactive list. Jeff Roy promoted to Bradenton.

7/20: Kelson Brown activated from Indianapolis disabled list.

7/19: Junior Lopez assigned to Bradenton. Oderman Rocha assigned to GCL Pirates.

7/19: Pirates place Gorkys Hernandez on DL. Wilfredo Boscan recalled.

7/19: Jose Tabata activated from temporary inactive list.

7/17: Pirates sign Jake Thompson. Assigned to Indianapolis.

7/17: Pirates recall Jaff Decker.

7/17: Oderman Rocha assigned to Bradenton. Junior Lopez assigned to GCL Pirates.

7/16: Hunter Morris placed on Indianapolis disabled list. Jose Tabata placed on temporary inactive list.

7/15:  Pirates sign Ryan Nagle. Assigned to Morgantown.

7/15: Pirates sign Brandon Waddell and James Marvel. Waddell assigned to Morgantown.

7/15: Luis Paula sent to Morgantown.

7/13: Wilfredo Boscan sent to Indianapolis.

7/13: Seth McGarry assigned to Morgantown.

7/13: Omar Basulto assigned to GCL. Mike Wallace transferred from GCL to Bristol.

7/12: Wilfredo Boscan recalled. Steve Lombardozzi optioned to Indianapolis.

7/10: Pirates sign Ike Schlabach and assign him to GCL.

7/10: Pirates sign Tate Scioneaux and assign him to Morgantown.

7/10: Jesus Paredes promoted to Morgantown. Oderman Rocha sent to GCL.

7/9: Pirates sign Sherton Apostel.

7/9: Mike Wallace sent from Bristol to GCL.

This Date in Pirates History

Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus four trades of note. We start with the trades, which I’ll quickly summarize.

2003: The trade that everyone would love to forget happened 12 years ago. The Pirates sent Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton to the Cubs for Bobby Hill, Jose Hernandez and Matt Bruback. You can check the link if you want to relive this one.

1999: Four years earlier, the Pirates made another trade that didn’t work out well long-term, though this one was for a team doing well that suddenly had a need. The Pirates sent Jose Guillen and pitcher Jeff Sparks to the Devil Rays, in exchange for Joe Oliver and Humberto Cota. The Pirates had just lost Jason Kendall to a season-ending injury, so the catching depth was necessary. Guillen ended up having a strong career, though it took him about four years to get on track.

1996: Danny Darwin dealt to the Astros for Rich Loiselle. This trade actually worked out well, as Darwin was a veteran signed to a one-year deal, while Loiselle spent five years with the Pirates, occasionally used in the closer role.

1986: The final deal worked out the best, as the Pirates sent pitcher Jose DeLeon to the White Sox for Bobby Bonilla. DeLeon was a decent starter after the deal, but Bonilla was a superstar that helped the Pirates reach the playoffs in 1990 and 1991.

As for the players born on this date, Ginger Beaumont was a star center fielder for the 1901-03 Pirates teams that won three straight NL titles. You can read more on Beaumont in this link, which is in addition to the one at the top. He hit .321 for the Pirates in 989 games and scored 757 runs. He has the eighth highest batting average in team history, falling right between Arky Vaughan and Pie Traynor. On a team with Hall of Fame players Honus Wagner and Fred Clarke, Beaumont hit lead-off and led the NL in hits for three straight seasons from 1902 until 1904. He also led the league in average in 1902 and runs scored in 1903.

The other two players born on this date are 1928 second baseman Mack Hillis and 1934 pitcher Ed Holley.

  • John:
    What is the competency of the medical training staff for the players at the DSL. Do they have decent medical training facilities at the Academy?

    • They have one of the best academies down there, possibly the best all-around one. I’ve only heard one complaint even from a player who claimed he was injured and they couldn’t find anything wrong with him so he continued to play. He pitched the rest of the season and the next year without incident, so I’m not even sure if that complaint is valid

  • John: One of the satellite issues around Josh Bell staying in AA is that it precludes the Pirates from moving Jose Osuna to 1B where he played the previous 140 games. Unless we have a new metric for outfielders, his only benefit to the Pirates in the future will be as a RH power hitting 1B. He is way out of his comfort zone as a LF, and instead, needs every minute and every rep at 1B in order to help this club in the future.

    Why are the Pirates seemingly slow-walking this situation with first basemen in the minors when we have Alvarez, Hart, and SROD as our MLB First Basemen? Rodriguez does a good job, but the other two? Is this something that will not happen until we make a deal involving moving Pedro?

    • I don’t know if the thought has changed with Osuna hitting well in AA, but the thought with him was that he needed to be more versatile to be an actual prospect. If he’s just a first baseman, he has very little value to a big league club, but if he can play corner outfield spots, then you have a nice bench bat

      • Seriously John? As a first baseman only he has very little value to a big league club? Seriously?? You mean that position that we have not been able to fill in years? You mean a player that is playing in a league that is 2 years older then him, and still ripping the ball, and has been better each year of his career, has no value? I would have him at 1st base and tell him, have fun, and keep raking it, as I believe he is the 1st baseman of the future, not Mr. Bell. The problem is, we didn’t pay Osuna $5M so we don’t have to justify the investment.
        Really, really, really disagree with your statement, unusual as I find your reporting to be one of the more unbiased reports.

        • John Dreker
          July 23, 2015 4:38 pm

          Well if he was a legit first base prospect then yes, he would have value, but he isn’t going to hit enough in the majors to be strictly a first baseman, so he needs to be able to play multiple positions in order to be valuable. This is his sixth season in the system and the best power he showed was three years ago. He has also never shown the ability to draw walks and his speed has decreased since he filled out.

          His future in the majors will be as someone that can play OF/1B off the bench, maybe start for a weak team. That isn’t what you strive for, but you sometimes have to settle for at the position.

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