Morning Report: Pirates’ Farm System Produces Four Playoff Teams

We always talk about the importance of playoffs in the minor league system, while also saying that minor league records don’t really matter. Developing players in the system should lead to winning baseball, but that doesn’t always mean a team full of prospects will make the playoffs. In fact, we have seen numerous times when that isn’t true. Bradenton is a good example of it this year, missing the playoffs despite having more prospects than any other team in the system for most of the season.

Winning in the minors is worth mentioning when the team has a lot of young players and preferably, top prospects. If you have followed the Pirates’ farm system for a long time(pre-2008), you know that they used to make the playoffs quite often, but they were doing that with roster fillers and older players. That does nothing for the farm system, other than make it look good to the casual observer.

The Pirates have a deep farm system now, which many of you know from the discussions about players left off our top 50 prospects list. When you can find numerous players with potential outside of the top 50 in your system, then you know the system has depth. That’s not the same as the depth that Indianapolis usually provides, with players like Pedro Florimon, Gorkys Hernandez and Steve Lombardozzi having Major League experience. This depth is actual prospects, players on their way up the ladder and this year has more than usual.

That leads to a lot of interesting players now getting playoff experience and some extra playing time at the end of the season. Austin Meadows and Tyler Eppler both moved up to Altoona to continue their season, plus they are both going to the Arizona Fall League. In Morgantown, Ke’Bryan Hayes has already put in 12 games under totally different circumstances than his last days in the GCL. He has been in a pennant race, making road trips, playing at night and under the lights. Now the 18-year-old first round pick gets to see some playoff action.

The Pirates also sent Luis Escobar from the GCL to Morgantown and he has made two extra starts, possibly preparing the hard-throwing 19-year-old righty for a spot in the West Virginia rotation next year. Almost all of the Pirates’ first ten draft picks are seeing playoff time in their first year in the system and as fans, you hope that is something they get used to as the move up towards the majors.

The playoffs should feature another start from Tyler Glasnow, possibly two if they go further in the playoffs. You’ll also likely get starts from Chad Kuhl, Steven Brault, Eppler, Stephen Tarpley, Yeudy Garcia and possibly Escobar if his turn comes up for Morgantown.

Playoff Schedule

The playoffs are set and the schedules for the first round are as follows:

Indianapolis goes up against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in a best-of-five series.

9/9: @Indianapolis 7:05

9/10: @Indianapolis 7:05

9/11: @Scranton 6:35

9/12: @Scranton TBA if necessary

9/13: @Scranton TBA if necessary

Altoona will take on the division winner, Bowie. This is a best-of-five series.

9/9: @Altoona 6:00

9/10: @Altoona 6:00

9/11: @Bowie 7:05

9/12: @Bowie 6:05 if necessary

9/13: @Bowie 1:05 if necessary

The West Virginia Power will play a best-of-three series against Hickory, the first-half winner in their division.

9/9: @ West Virginia 7:05

9/11: @ Hickory 7:00

9/12: @Hickory 7:00 if necessary

Morgantown will take on Williamsport.

9/9: @Morgantown 7:05

9/10: @Williamsport 7:05

9/11: @Williamsport 7:05 if necessary

The Morning Report will continue until the day of the last minor league playoff game. All of these leagues have two rounds of playoffs. No Prospect Watch tonight, as there are no games tonight, but it will return on Wednesday with live reports from Altoona and Indianapolis.

Pirates Game Graph

Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

The Pirates trail by 5.5 games in the division to the Cardinals. They have a two game lead for the top wild card spot.

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 3-1 to the Reds on Monday afternoon. Francisco Liriano gets the start tonight, his 27th of the season. In his last game, he gave up four runs on seven hits and five walks in five innings. He has not faced the Reds since Opening Day when he allowed two runs over seven innings. The Reds go with Raisel Iglesias, who has a 3.81 ERA in 87.1 innings. He gave up two runs over 6.2 innings against the Pirates on August 1st.

In the minors, nothing is going on today. Playoffs start Wednesday for Indianapolis, Altoona, West Virginia and Morgantown. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (81-55) @ Reds (57-79) 7:10 PM
Probable starter: Francisco Liriano (3.40 ERA, 62:168 BB/SO, 158.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (83-61) vs Scranton W/B (81-63) 7:05 PM 9/9
Probable starter: TBD

AA: Altoona (74-68) vs Bowie (79-63) 6:00 PM 9/9
Probable starter: TBD

High-A: Bradenton (74-64)

Low-A: West Virginia (87-52, 50-20 second half) vs Hickory (81-57) 7:05 PM 9/9
Probable starter: Austin Coley (3.66 ERA, 25:111 BB/SO, 147.2 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (42-34) vs Williamsport (46-30) 7:05 PM 9/9
Probable Starter: TBD

Rookie: Bristol (29-36)

GCL: Pirates (28-31) (season recap)

DSL: Pirates (30-42) (season recap)


Here is a home run from the Eastern League batting champ. Adam Frazier finished with a .324 average for Altoona.

Recent Transactions

9/7: Travis Ishikawa activated from disabled list.

9/5: Travis Ishikawa assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

9/3: Hunter Morris assigned to GCL Pirates

9/2: Austin Meadows, Tyler Eppler and Montana DuRapau sent to Altoona. Matt Benedict and Mel Rojas Jr sent to Indianapolis

9/2: Oderman Rocha assigned to Bradenton

9/2: Pedro Florimon added to 40-man roster. Deolis Guerra placed on 60-day DL.

9/1: Luis Escobar promoted to Morgantown

9/1: Casey Sadler placed on 60-day DL. Elias Diaz, Bobby LaFromboise, Jaff Decker recalled

9/1: Rob Scahill activated from DL. Travis Snider and Radhames Liz added to 40-man roster

8/31: Wilkin Castillo added to Indianapolis roster. John Bowker and Adam Miller activated from disabled list.

8/29: Alen Hanson activated from Temporary Inactive List. Wilkin Castillo assigned to GCL.

8/28: Carlos Munoz promoted to Morgantown.

8/28: Edwin Espinal activated from Bradenton disabled list. Clay Holmes placed on disabled list.

8/28: Kelson Brown placed on disabled list.

8/26: Stephan Meyer and Tanner Anderson promoted to Morgantown.

8/26: Cristian Mota promoted to Bristol.

8/25: Ke’Bryan Hayes promoted to Morgantown. Raul Siri promoted to Bristol.

8/25: Kevin Kramer promoted to West Virginia. Jordan Luplow placed on disabled list.

8/25: John Bowker placed on disabled list. Kelson Brown activated from disabled list.

8/25: Pedro Florimon sent outright to Indianapolis.

8/25: Alen Hanson placed on temporary inactive list.

This Date in Pirates History

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a game of note. Starting with the most recent players first, we have 1994-95 pitcher Mike Dyer. He pitched 69 times out of the bullpen between mid-1994 and the 1995 season, both of which were interrupted by the strike. Dyer was put on waivers and lost to the Expos at the end of Spring Training the following season.

Jim Smith, 1982 infielder. Made the Opening Day roster after the Pirates traded away infielder Vance Law. Smith saw very limited playing time, hitting .238 with seven errors, serving as the backup for all three infield positions. The Pirates sent him to the White Sox after the season, where he was in the minors as depth behind Law.

Jim Bagby Jr., 1947 pitcher. He is famous for being the last pitcher in the game that ended Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. Bagby only played one year in Pittsburgh, but he has an interesting footnote to his career. His dad Jim Bagby Sr. pitched for the 1923 Pirates. They both spent most of their career in Cleveland as well. The older Bagby won 31 games for the 1920 Indians team that won the World Series.

Val Picinich, 1933 catcher. Played 18 years in the majors, though he only played 1037 games. Signed with the Pirates in June 1933, getting into 16 games. He caught 86 starts from Walter Johnson.

Rosie Rosebraugh, 1898-99 pitcher. Pitched four games as a September addition in 1898, then made two unsuccessful starts the following year. That was his only Major League experience.

Russ McKelvy, played right field for the Pittsburgh Alleghenys on August 24, 1882. Went 0-for-4 in his only game. His only other Major League time was in 1878 for Indianapolis, where he led the league in games played. McKelvy played for the 1877 Pittsburgh Allegheny(no S) of the International Association. That team/league is considered the first minor league ever.

On this date in 1909, the Pirates lost 4-2 to the Chicago Cubs, the team that trailed them by five games in the standings. In most seasons, the Pirates would be running away with the NL crown with a 90-36 record, but the Cubs were holding tough. This loss though would be the low point for the Pirates, as the next day they beat the Reds by a 3-1 score. That win was the start of a 16-game winning streak that put the NL title away at the end, and the season finished with their first World Series title.

  • Anybody else trying the outtasight outtamind approach every time the Bucs play the Reds or Brewers? They’ve continually beat over .500 teams the past 3 months but look horrible against the Reds and Brewers. At least the games with the Cards and Cubs are close but the Brewers and Reds walk all over them.

    • We’re scheduled to play a game tonight?


      • I was hoping with Byrd, Cueto, and Leake gone that maybe this series would swing to the Bucs. On paper, the next 2 games should be blowouts.

    • I made a comment on the Delpiano departure the other day and I think it applies here. They need to do better ( a la different approach, change things) with the advance scouting in division.

      Someone made the comment the other day about sign stealing, maybe tipping pitches in Miller Park? I’m not sure it’s to that extent, but the Brewers and the Reds especially got the Pirates clocked. Figured out, whatever.

  • John….I hear it is Gerrit Cole’s birthday today. Isn’t that a bit more recent than Mike Dyer’s??


    • Did he get released overnight and I missed it?

      • So you only do FORMER Buccos?

        Got it.

        I do it ALL on the Asylum. 🙂

        • The second word in the section is “former” sorry for the confusion. It is a history section too, so I don’t even like mentioning players from the very recent past

          • “so I don’t even like mentioning players from the very recent past”

            Esp those who played in that 20 year ‘dead to me’ period??


            No biggie….I saw the ‘former’ word and thought it was just ‘former players’ for today. I didn’t realize that it was restricted to ‘former’ EVERY day. Now I know. 🙂 🙂

            As for being confoozed, that happens a lot to me for some reason. 🙂 🙂

            Btw, I love your history section.

  • John – any word on whether Harold Ramirez will be promoted to Altoona for the playoffs? Will the next article be on playoff rosters?

    • I only heard of one promotion to Altoona, which we are waiting to confirm and it’s not a big name, just a filler. With the timing of roster announcements, I wouldn’t be able to do it for the Morning Report tomorrow. Most changes are announced late, usually shortly before game time.

  • John, do you know if Tim rode shotgun with Jeff Locke from St Louis to Cincinnati?

    • Tim left St Louis to go back to his home planet of Florida

      • I just found it odd that a team that tracks rest as they claim to, would let a struggling pitcher drive 5 hrs the day before a start. In the end it didn’t matter but had he been shelled I think it would have been more widely reported.

        • Starting pitchers that have to play a day game after a night game in a different city usually leave early so they can get to the hotel early and get normal sleep. The reason no one reported it is because it’s standard procedure. Someone probably would have said something if he didn’t leave early.

          • I just found it odd he drove. Part of it I guess there was no direct flight from St Louis to Cincinnati (which is also kind of odd).

            But again. You’re going to measure guys diets, sleep, activity, odd rest days. But you let him drive 5 hrs in a rental car? That’s what I’m eluding to. And I do believe its a story if he gets hit harder.

            • It’s not as though ML teams are so cash strapped that hiring a plane or a driver would break the bank. Nor would it have mattered much if Locke had traveled to Cincinnati two days before his start.

              • Exactly. With the expanded rosters, leave him in Pittsburgh, fly him down the Cincy Sat/Sun morning.

            • HE did not drive – somebody else did – he relaxed – watched movies on his iPad – whatever. The time difference would have not been all that big – depending on how fast they drove they would be looking at around 5 hours door to door. Best case flying would be around 3 – assuming all went smoothly. If it is me I do the car service thing every time.

              • Where did you hear this? Dunlap said this morning he drove himself. If that’s incorrect, I understand then.

        • Maybe he just doesn’t like flying….I know some people in my family who would certainly chose a 5 hr drive over any flight.

          • From what I understand, he did elect to drive.

            But my point is, all the emphasis on rest lately, it’s surprises me they even gave him that option.

    • Used a limo – way less stress than going through the airport BS