Morning Report: The Minor League System is Full of Average Hitters

Earlier in the year, I noticed that all four of the Pirates’ full-season affiliates were leading their league in batting average. When we check in about a month later, they were all still near the top, but a couple teams fell down 1-2 spots. With eight teams going now and the short-season leagues no longer qualifying for a small sample size, I thought I’d update how the teams are doing in certain hitting categories. We can check out the pitching from each team tomorrow morning.

Indianapolis really dropped off in average, down to sixth in their league with a .259 average. They are also sixth with a .695 OPS and 11th(out of 14 teams) with 56 homers. They lead the league with 137 steals.

Altoona leads their league with a .274 average, which is where they have been almost all season. Their .724 OPS has them second, while they are tied for eighth out of 12 teams with 62 homers. They are sixth with 81 steals.

Bradenton is also in the lead with a .276 team average. Their .707 OPS is well ahead of the second place team. They only have 46 homers, but in the FSL that is good enough for third place. They have 118 steals, fourth most in the league, eight back of first place. All that has them in first in runs scored with 491.

West Virginia is third with a .267 average and fourth with a .730 OPS, which is only eight points out of first. They are fifth with 141 stolen bases and eighth out of 14 teams with 54 homers. The Power lead with 390 walks.

Morgantown is only hitting .255, but that has them third in the league. Their .670 OPS is eighth out of 14 teams. They are tied for last in homers and as mentioned in the Prospect Watch yesterday, Logan Hill has more homers(six) than his teammates(five). They are ninth with 36 steals, but they have also been caught stealing the fourth most times.

Bristol is second with a .265 average and third with a .739 OPS. The Pirates are tied for fifth(out of ten teams) with 27 homers and they are last with 21 steals(in 45 attempts). They lead the league with 94 doubles, thanks in part to Carlos Munoz hitting 19 already, which surprisingly doesn’t lead the league.

The GCL Pirates are 7th(out of 16 teams) with a .252 average. They are also seventh with a .659 OPS. The Pirates are last with just six homers. They are 13th in steals and not really near the top in any category, except the one that counts the most for the team as a group, 24 wins.

The DSL Pirates have a .253 average, which is 17th out of 38 teams. They are 14th with a .702 OPS. The Pirates are near the middle in homers, but 36th overall in stolen bases. They are 15th in runs and their best category is triples, where they are fifth.

It’s interesting to note that every team is in the top half of their league in average, but as we have said a lot, there aren’t many power hitters in the system. There are a lot of hitters with power potential, but very few are actually putting the ball over the fence. I’m sure some of you read the title as the hitters in the system have good batting averages, while it could also mean that they get on base, but they don’t hit for power, so they are middle of the road hitters. The stats prove that as a group, both are true.

Despite that lack of power in the system, the Pirates’ top seven affiliates are all well within reach of a playoff spot at this point. While group numbers don’t tell you a lot about the system without knowing the individual players that make up each group, we know from the mid-season top 50 prospect update that the system is deep with prospects. Even if most of the prospects outside of the top 30 are considered marginal prospects, they still aren’t fillers. I’ll look back at these stats tomorrow after we go over the pitchers and defense.

Pirates Game Graph


Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

The Pirates trail by five games in the division to the Cardinals. They have a 3.5 game lead for the top wild card spot.

Indianapolis is 8-2 in their last ten games. They have a 4.5 game lead in the division.

Altoona is 4-6 in their last ten games and they are tied in second place, four games back of Bowie.

Bradenton is 7-3 in their last ten games. They trail Palm Beach by two games in the standings.

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

Morgantown is 5-5 in their last ten games. They trail by five games in the division and they are tied for the lead in the wild card chase.

The Bristol Pirates are 6-4 in their last ten games. They are 3.5 games back in the division.

GCL Pirates are 8-2 in their last ten games. They are one game back in the standings.

The DSL Pirates have been eliminated from the postseason.

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates beat the Dodgers by a 13-6 score on Sunday night. They have off today before resuming play on Tuesday in St Louis against the Cardinals for three games. Jeff Locke will take on Carlos Martinez.

In the minors, Yeudy Garcia will make his 16th start of the season. He has also pitched eight times in relief. Garcia has the second best ERA in the SAL, just three points behind the leader. He is also second with a 1.10 WHIP and he ranks 11th in the league in strikeouts, though he only trails the leader by 15 K’s. Four Morgantown players will be headed to the NYPL All-Star game on August 18th. Indianapolis and Altoona are off today. The GCL Pirates and Bristol both have a doubleheaders today. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (65-44) vs Cardinals (71-40) 8:15 PM 8/11
Probable starter: Jeff Locke (4.31 ERA, 45:92 BB/SO, 119.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (67-48) vs Toledo (47-68) 7:05 PM 8/11 (season preview)
Probable starter: Chris Volstad (3.06 ERA, 35:73 BB/SO, 117.2 IP)

AA: Altoona (61-54) vs Binghamton (62-51) 7:00 PM 8/11 (season preview)
Probable starter: Jason Creasy (4.36 ERA, 42:53 BB/SO, 115.2 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (59-53, 27-15 second half) @ Jupiter (52-62) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Frank Duncan (4.64 ERA, 14:87 BB/SO, 114.1 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (66-46, 29-14 second half) vs Delmarva (55-56) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Yeudy Garcia (2.31 ERA, 29:83 BB/SO, 93.2 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (25-24) @ Williamsport (30-19) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: TBD

Rookie: Bristol (20-23) @ Johnson City (21-23) 6:00 PM DH (season preview)
Probable Starter: TBD

GCL: Pirates (24-13) vs  Blue Jays (22-14) 11:00 AM DH (season preview)

DSL: Pirates (23-37) vs Rangers2 (27-33) 10:30 AM (season preview)

Highlights

Here is video of Max Moroff making a sensational diving play…

…and here is one of Moroff going deep on Saturday.

Recent Transactions

8/9: Adam Miller promoted to Indianapolis.

8/9: Cole Tucker placed on disabled list. Erik Forgione sent to Morgantown.

8/8: Kevin Newman and Edgar Santana promoted to West Virginia.

8/8: Junior Sosa placed on disabled list. Isaac Sanchez activated from Bradenton disabled list.

8/7: Vance Worley sent outright to Indianapolis.

8/7: Deolis Guerra returned to Pirates from Indians and placed on disabled list. Wilfredo Boscan designated for assignment.

8/6: Rob Scahill assigned to GCL on rehab.

8/5: Indians claim Deolis Guerra off waivers.

8/5: Isaac Sanchez assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab. Stephan Meyer assigned to GCL from Morgantown.

8/4: Dovydas Neverauskas promoted to Bradenton. Robert Stock sent to GCL.

8/4: Jake Burnette activated from disabled list.

8/4: Jonathan Schwind activated from Altoona disabled list. Adam Miller assigned to Altoona.

8/3: Michael Morse added to active roster. Jaff Decker optioned to Indianapolis.

8/2: Shane Kemp sent from Bristol to GCL.

8/2: Josh Smith activated from Altoona disabled list.

8/1: J.A. Happ added to active roster. Bobby LaFromboise sent to Indianapolis.

8/1: Josh Bell and Jeremy Bleich promoted to Indianapolis.

8/1: John Holdzkom placed on disabled list. Hunter Morris sent to Altoona.

7/31: Pirates trade Adrian Sampson to Mariners for J.A. Happ.

7/31: Pirates trade Jose Tabata to Dodgers for Michael Morse and cash.

7/31: A.J. Burnett placed on disabled list. Bobby LaFromboise recalled from Indianapolis.

7/31: Deolis Guerra designated for assignment.

7/31: Dan Gamache promoted to Indianapolis. Erich Weiss promoted to Altoona. Trace Tam Sing promoted to Bradenton.

7/30: Pirates trade JaCoby Jones to Detroit Tigers for Joakim Soria

7/30: Vance Worley designated for assignment.

7/30: Justin Seller traded to Chicago White Sox for a player to be named later, or cash.

7/30: Pirates sent Gorkys Hernandez outright to Indianapolis

7/30: Logan Ratledge promoted to Morgantown. Erik Forgione promoted to West Virginia

7/30: Pirates acquire Joe Blanton for cash considerations.

7/29: Pirates trade Jayson Aquino to Indians for cash considerations.

7/28: Gift Ngoepe placed on disabled list.

7/28: Pirates release Ulises Montilla.

7/28: Brent Morel refuses outright assignment to Indianapolis.

7/28: Miguel Ferreras retired. Mervin Del Rosario promoted to Bristol.

This Date in Pirates History

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a trade of note. On this date in 1971, the Pirates made a deal to strengthen their bullpen, acquiring veteran Bob Miller from the Padres for outfielder Johnny Jeter and pitcher Ed Acosta. Miller had a 1.29 ERA in 16 appearances during the regular season for the Pirates, then threw 7.2 innings during the World Series. He remained with the Pirates through the 1972 season.

Players born on this date include:

Bob Portenfield, 1958-59 pitcher. He had a 3.27 ERA in 87.2 innings in 1958, then he was released early in the 1959 campaign.

Elmer Jacobs, 1916-18 pitcher. Won 220 games in the minors, but he finished with a 50-81 Major League record. Had a 2.81 ERA in 227.1 innings during the 1917 season.

Pat Kilhullen, catcher that played his only big league game on June 10,1914. Played the last two innings of a one-sided game and got robbed of a hit by Hall of Fame shortstop Rabbit Maranville in his only at-bat.

Truck Eagan, shortstop for the 1901 Pirates. Was a terrific power hitter, with 100+ homers in the minors during an era when very few Major League hitters reached that career mark. Played four games for Pirates.

  • Now that every other guy don’t have a needle sticking out of his butt guys who hit for average are what teams are going to need. Looks like the pirates are ahead of the curve again.

  • John, Since you are ranking stats, could you list the top 3 teams and their affiliates so we can see where we rate and who is doing a better job?

  • Aye, tis just that. Be loaded with “average” hitters.

  • Pat Kilhullen sounds like Moonlight Graham

    • He was a local player that the Pirates gave a tryout to while they were in Boston. He only ended up playing because the score was 7-1 in the eighth inning. They liked what they saw, but his minor league team was asking too much for his release, so the Pirates passed on him

  • Definately seems like the Bucs are using a bit of the Moneyball strategy regarding average and OBP in their draft profiles. Not sure how that will turn out, but it should be something to watch if the teams have players that play up above those skills and find a way to produce runs, or if they produce bushels of light hitting non run producing players.
    For now there appears to be enough talent, not sure about depth.

    • I cringe at Moneyball narratives, but you are absolutely correct in the draft vs results observation. There will come a time in the future to evaluate and question the end results, but what cannot seem to be disputed is that the Pirates are getting the players they wanted to get when they drafted them.

      They take walks, they don’t strike out, and they hit the ball all over the field. John is certainly correct in that without some semblance of power this profile is limited to average, but I do think they’re establishing quite an impressive list of high-floor depth. With a payroll pushing past $100m and the making of a ton of cheap, average talent on the way it isn’t at all out of the question that power could be found *outside* the system.

      • There are also a good bit of players that don’t start to hit for power until they hit the bigs. It seems to me like even aggressive scouting reports on power prospects is 20-25 homers. I wonder if any scouting reports on Mike Trout said he’d lead the majors in homers. For all we know, Polanco could hit 25-30 homers next year. He certainly has the size and the strength to do it.

  • When is time up for Worley to accept or not?

    • I believe it is today and I can’t imagine he won’t accept it. He just cleared waivers and if he doesn’t accept, then he becomes a free agent and forfeits his remaining salary. He still gets paid his MLB salary if he stays with the Pirates and there is a great chance he’s back on September 1st, so it seems likely he will take the three weeks(or less if something comes up) in the minors to get some innings in and then come back to Pittsburgh

  • John….I doubt VERY seriously if the Bucs will be starting Electric Charlie two games in a row.

    🙂

    • Most of the major sports sites had Locke pitching yesterday’s game until 18-24 hours before game time and Morton going Tuesday. It’s a mistake, and maybe lazy work, but if you were using one of those sites to prepare your fantasy team a day in advance… you probably got hosed, lol.

      But who knows, maybe pitching Charlie back to back starts would keep him from overthrowing/gripping and help his 2-seamer sink more right from the first inning.

      • If someone has Morton or Locke on their fantasy team (outside of possibly NL-only leagues), they’re screwed anyway

    • He definitely needs the work. Maybe if he throws 6 innings his sinker will start to bite. Maybe better yet his arm will fall off.

    • Not sure what you’re talking about?

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