A look at how the current top 30 prospects did today. Note that this list doesn’t include players currently in the majors. If a player is in the majors, he will be removed, everyone below him will be shifted up a spot, and a new player will be added to the bottom of the list. If a player is out for the season (Nick Kingham, Jacob Taylor), he will be removed and everyone below him will move up a spot. Removing these guys doesn’t mean they have lost prospect status. It is just an attempt to get 30 active prospects on the list. Rankings are from the mid-season update, and links on each name go to their Pirates Prospects player pages.
1. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Indianapolis -[insert_php]
2. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Indianapolis – Disabled List
3. Austin Meadows, CF, Bradenton -[insert_php]
4. Josh Bell, 1B, Indianapolis -[insert_php]
5. Alen Hanson, 2B, Indianapolis -[insert_php]
6. Reese McGuire, C, Bradenton -[insert_php]
7. Elias Diaz, C, Indianapolis -[insert_php]
8. Harold Ramirez, OF, Bradenton -[insert_php]
9. Cole Tucker, SS, West Virginia -[insert_php]
10. Kevin Newman, SS, Morgantown -[insert_php]
11. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B, GCL -[insert_php]
12. Mitch Keller, RHP, Bristol -[insert_php]
13. Clay Holmes, RHP, Bradenton -[insert_php]
14. Stephen Tarpley, LHP, West Virginia -[insert_php]
15. Max Moroff, 2B, Altoona -[insert_php]
16. Barrett Barnes, OF, Altoona -[insert_php]
17. Yeudy Garcia, RHP, West Virginia -[insert_php]
18. Trey Supak, RHP, Bristol -[insert_php]
19. Gage Hinsz, RHP, Bristol -[insert_php]
20. Adam Frazier, SS, Altoona -[insert_php]
21. Willy Garcia, OF, Indianapolis -[insert_php]
22. Steven Brault, LHP, Altoona -[insert_php]
23. Kevin Kramer, 2B, Morgantown -[insert_php]
24. Tyler Eppler, RHP, Bradenton -[insert_php]
25. Adrian Valerio, SS, GCL -[insert_php]
26. Connor Joe, 1B, West Virginia -[insert_php]
27. John Holdzkom, RHP, Indianapolis – Disabled List
28. Jordan Luplow, 3B, West Virginia -[insert_php]
29. Casey Hughston, OF, Morgantown -[insert_php]
30. Billy Roth, RHP, Bristol -[insert_php]
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The big story of this game was Alen Hanson starting the game at shortstop. It was his first start there in AAA and his first at the position since July 31,2014 when the Pirates moved him over to second base. When we announced last week that Hanson was taking grounders at third base, it was also noted by Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington that he had been taking grounders at shortstop throughout the season to stay fresh there. The idea was to help him to be more versatile, so he has more value to the team. He hasn’t played third base in a game yet. Hanson handled all three plays in the field cleanly.
He’s going to have to step it up at the plate if he is going to contribute in the majors. Hanson has an eight-game hit streak, but he’s also struck out 12 times(with one walk) in those eight games and his average is barely above .200 over his last ten games.
Willy Garcia picked up an outfield assist for the third game in a row, but he also struck out three times after I mentioned yesterday that he has been cutting down on the strikeouts this year. In the past, he has been very streaky with the strikeouts, so we could see a couple tough games ahead. A good sign of his progress would be if he can eliminate those streaks, while also maintaining a strong OPS. Early this year, he wasn’t striking out much, but he was also hitting a lot of singles and ground outs during that time. Josh Bell had two hits, including his first AAA triple. He is 3-for-21 in five games at Indianapolis. Keon Broxton had two hits to extend his on base streak to 29 straight games.
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Altoona was shutdown by former Pirates’ farmhand Shane Carle in this game. In fact, the Curve had more errors than hits in this contest. Max Moroff went 0-for-3 in this game and he is 3-for-17 this month. Moroff had an .853 OPS in April. While he hasn’t had any bad months, he has seen his OPS drop every month this season, down to .715 in July. Adam Frazier had a streak of four straight multi-hit games snapped, going 0-for-4 in this game. Barrett Barnes is 6-for-33(.182) in ten games with Altoona.
Jason Creasy had a nice start to August after a month of July that saw him post a 10.07 ERA in 22.1 innings. He gave up two runs over six innings in this game. Win-loss record don’t always tell the story with a pitcher, which is why we very rarely mention them, but for Creasy it tells a lot this season. On June 5th, he was 7-0, 2.69 and was doing well despite some control issues and a low strikeout rate. He has still had those issues, but now he isn’t getting away with it anymore. After tonight, he is 1-6 in his last ten games and it could easily be worse because two no-decisions were poor outings.
Creasy’s overall numbers this year don’t match his stuff, which will likely mean a return trip to the Altoona rotation next year, or possibly a move to the bullpen where some scouts think his demeanor on the mound is better suited for, and his stuff will play up. He seems like a strong possibility for an Arizona Fall League assignment so he can work on things with Altoona pitching coach Justin Meccage, who will be the pitching coach for the Pirates’ AFL affiliate(Glendale this year).
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In his last start, Tyler Eppler only got in two innings due to a long rain delay. The 2014 sixth round pick was able to go five innings on Wednesday and he gave up three runs on five hits and three walks, while striking out three batters. Surprisingly, he only needed 68 pitches to get through his outing, with 43 going for strikes. Eppler has a 4.31 ERA in 39.2 innings this season, which has been limited due to elbow soreness that caused him to miss the first two months. His workload since returning has also been limited, surpassing five innings once during an efficient six inning game last month.
Dovydas Neverauskas made his debut and threw two scoreless innings. He has been pitching well out of the bullpen recently in West Virginia and Bradenton could use someone that can throw innings with starters Clay Holmes and Eppler being limited and Luis Heredia and Cody Dickson struggling most of the time.
Austin Meadows had two hits, including his 17th double of the season. He has been hovering around his current .303 average for awhile, staying between .300 and .307 since July 15th. Two days ago I mentioned how few times Reese McGuire was striking out and walking, three times each during a 33 day span. Somehow, he has done both in each of the last two games. Harold Ramirez broke an 0-for-9 slide over his last three games with a single and a walk in this game. Edwin Espinal is 3-for-22 in his last seven games.
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Yeudy Garcia came into this game with a league-leading 2.00 ERA, but this was one of his worst starts and all the damage occurred in the fourth inning. Garcia allowed four runs that inning and got pulled with two outs. It’s so rare that he allowed four runs in a game that is hasn’t happened in almost two months and over his last six games combined, he’s given up a total of three earned runs. The home run he allowed was just the third of the season.
He could be reaching his innings limit for the season. Last year he only threw 59.2 innings and didn’t finish strong. He has 34 more innings this season, although last year he was pitched Spring Training(DSL) games in April/May while this year he was playing regular season games, so he is probably only 15-20 over last year at this point. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him taken out of the rotation at some point and moved to long relief to keep the innings down.
There were a few stories from this game on offense. Michael Suchy won the game leading off the bottom of the 12th with his seventh homer of the year. Jerrick Suiter went 5-for-5 for the second time this year and Chase Simpson drove in six runs. Simpson hit his ninth homer and Suiter collected his 16th double. Connor Joe was 3-for-6 with three singles. Tito Polo stole his 34th base of the year and it was his fifth game in a row with a steal. He has been successful on his last 20 attempts and he’s 27 for his last 28 in steals.
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JT Brubaker got off to a rough start in his pro career, giving up 15 earned runs in 20.1 innings over his first five outings. Since then, he has thrown four shutout starts, combining for 21 straight shutout innings, including tonight’s appearance. Brubaker credits the recent success to really focusing on commanding the ball down in the zone, which the Pirates stress throughout the organization, and have already started pushing with him. That approach isn’t much different than what he did at Akron, but he’s been doing a better job with it lately. He ran into trouble in the first inning, getting behind a few batters and then spiking his changeup a few times. He escaped the jam without giving up a run, then settled down the rest of the outing. Brubaker was sitting 90-93 MPH with his fastball, and I heard from a few people that he’s been consistently in this range, hitting 94. He throws a slider and a curveball, but was mostly relying on the slider for his out pitch.
Brubaker was followed by Daniel Zamora, who was 89-90 MPH with his fastball, and had an interesting slider that sometimes had tight break, almost like a hard slurve. Tate Scioneaux was hit hard in his relief appearance. He’s a low three quarters guy who doesn’t have a lot of velocity, but seems to rely on deception with the movement of his pitches and a delivery where he drops low and throws from a low angle. That didn’t work tonight, as he was hit for five runs, four earned. Julio Eusebio was sitting 89-92 MPH while mixing in a slider. It worked for him in his first two innings, but he was hit hard the third time around, leading to three runs.
On the offensive side, Logan Hill had two doubles, giving him 11 on the season. Hill has been hitting well this year, and has a good build, looking much better physically and statistically than you’d expect from a 25th round pick. The Pirates have been focusing on hitters in the draft who don’t necessarily hit home runs, but have some gap power, put the ball in play often, limit the strikeouts, and draw walks. Hill does all of those things, and told me after the game that they had the same focus for him in college at Troy, so it was an easy transition for him to the Pirates’ philosophy.
Casey Hughston struggled at the start of the year, going 1-for-43 in his first 11 games. He followed that up with a .311/.346/.419 line in 74 at-bats in his next 22 games, not including tonight, when he went 2-for-4 with his first pro home run. I talked with a scout who had seen Hughston a lot. He compared Hughston’s build to Brian Giles, but noted that he has struggled to go opposite field, and usually only attacks the inner half of the plate. His home run tonight was pulled to right field, and another example of this.
I talked briefly with Hughston after the game about this trend, and he said that the Pirates have been focusing on getting him attacking the outer half and working to the opposite field more often. If you’ve seen my videos from Spring Training, you’ll remember that pretty much every batter has four baseballs lined across the plate, setting up a target area for them to see the ball deeper in the zone, and use that area of contact to work middle-away. The Pirates have already started this approach with Hughston, in an attempt to get him hitting to the opposite field more often.- Tim Williams
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Game One: Gage Hinsz had his second straight solid outing, allowing two earned runs over five innings on Wednesday. Last week, he gave up just one earned run over five innings and was sitting low 90’s with his fastball. His control has been better in these last two games as well. He experienced a little shoulder flare up at the end of Extended Spring Training and needed to build back up, so his first four starts were limited and the results weren’t that good. Hinsz lowered his ERA to 5.49 and he is now up to 19.2 innings this season. That is a low total, but he was healthy from March to mid-June and as long as he pitches through the end of instructional ball, then his inning total for the regular season won’t limit him next year.
Carlos Munoz led the offense with a two-run homer. He also had a walk and HBP. Eight players in the lineup had at least one hit, as Bristol won 4-3. John Bormann had a run and an RBI, but he also made an error that allowed an unearned run to score.
Game Two: Scooter Hightower had a career-game turn into a solid outing with the first three batters in the seventh inning all collecting hits. Through six innings, he allowed just three hits, no runs, no walks and struck out eight. He came out for the final inning and gave up three straight singles to load the bases. With the score still 6-0, Mike Wallace came in and Bristol finished the half inning with a 7-6 deficit. In the bottom of the seventh, Edgar Figueroa homered to send it into extra innings. Wallace remained in the game and gave up two more runs to take the loss.
Julio de la Cruz had three hits to raise his average to .287 this season. It’s a fairly empty average as all his extra-base hits have been doubles and he isn’t drawing any walks. He is 19 years old and showing improvements over last year while moving up a level, so that is the important part. The bat will have to play up though, as his future position will likely be first base. He is below average defensively at third base.
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Luis Escobar is likely the top pitching prospect on this team, especially now with fourth round pick Jacob Taylor out due to his Tommy John surgery. Despite Escobar being the top prospect, it’s based more on upside than his current progress because he is still a raw pitcher. Three years ago, he was a third baseman looking to sign with a Major League team, but his trainer moved him to the mound and it’s now starting to pay off for the 19-year-old with a fastball that can sit 94-95 MPH on a good day. When he is on, he can be unhittable, but with every raw pitcher, there are going to be good days and bad days early in their career. This was a bad day that ended good.
Escobar gave up three runs on four hits in the first inning, with one infield hit bringing home a run and one run scoring on a throwing error by Yoel Gonzalez during a double steal. It looked like he may not make it far in this game, but he ended up reaching his five inning limit by retiring nine of the last ten batters he faced, with one walk mixed in the middle. Escobar ended up with a 5:2 GO/AO ratio and five strikeouts. One of his big issues last year as a rookie in the DSL was control, but he seems to have made great strides already in that area. In 55 innings last season, he walked 31 batters. This season, he has nine walks in 29.2 innings.
The bullpen was all new players to the team. Isaac Sanchez is there on rehab, as is 18th round draft pick Stephan Meyer. Robert Stock moved down to the GCL to get some innings, while Dovydas Neverauskas moved to Bradenton to strengthen their bullpen. They combined for five shutout innings. Meyer has been out with a bad back after making his pro debut back on July 2nd.
On offense, the Pirates won in the tenth on a single, sacrifice attempt that turned into a single, a hit-by-pitch and a walk-off walk from Eric Thomas Jr. with two outs. Sam Kennelly had three hits, including his fifth double. He finished the game with a .300 average. Ke’Bryan Hayes had a single and a walk. His .365 batting average is second in the GCL. The Pirates are now 8-2 in their last ten games.
Live Notes From Wilbur Miller
Luis Escobar started and had another bad first inning, but unlike the others he survived this one. He was elevating the FB and got hit hard a number of times. He also doesn’t have the best control and that factored in. He gave up three in the first, then followed with four shutout innings. After the first, he got the FB down more consistently and got a good number of swings and misses. Velocity was 92-93 initially, eventually dropped to 90-91. Escobar also threw a slider, curve and change. They all looked useable, but he stuck with the FB so much I didn’t get a good impression of any of them. It’d help if he got ahead in the count more consistently.
Victor Fernandez had an outstanding throw to cut down a runner at the plate. At bat, Fernandez tries to pull just about every pitch.
Sam Kennelly had two hits, including a double, while I was there and a third after I left. He has a short, quick swing and doesn’t try to pull everything, but doesn’t always pick up slow stuff well.
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The DSL Pirates have been bad all season, they lost today, made six errors and struck out 16 times, so we take a look at a pitcher that made his debut today, otherwise this recap would be depressing. Wilmer Contreras made his pro debut on Wednesday. He signed in June for $85,000 right before the deadline to spend money for the 2014-15 signing period that began last July 2nd. He is 6’3″, 185 pounds, 17 years old out of the Dominican. The report from today in his two innings had him sitting 87-88 MPH, throwing mostly fastballs, while mixing in a couple curves and change-ups. Contreras showed excellent control in his debut, allowing one run on three hits.
Yesterday, Jherson Esqueda made his season debut. The third-year veteran is a terrific pitcher, with excellent control of three pitches, but the reports were 83-85 on his fastball, which obviously won’t work at the higher levels. He was out with elbow trouble, so it’s possible he can add a few MPH later in the season. Esqueda, Contreras and Eumir Sepulveda, who will make his season debut soon, were all added to the roster because Brian Sousa, Adonis Pichardo and now Angel Vasquez are all out with tired arms. Sepulveda was injured last year and required surgery back in December.