Morning Report: Playoff Previews and Coverage

The playoffs start tonight in the minor leagues and we will have full coverage here for each series, with live coverage for many of the games. From our current top 30 prospects list, 17 players are active for the playoffs, which means we will still have some interesting games left, besides the fact they are playoff games.

Here is a brief summary of each series:

Indianapolis released their rotation plans on Tuesday and they will send out Wilfredo Boscan for the opener, followed by Vance Worley on Thursday and Tyler Glasnow on Friday. If the series goes further than that, Chris Volstad will start Saturday. No one has been named for game five yet. With no days off in between, they would likely go with their #5 starter, who was Matt Benedict at the end. It’s also possible A.J. Morris starts, or is the backup with Benedict on a short leash. Scranton will go with Kyle Haynes in game one, who you may remember as the player that left in the Chris Stewart trade. The players on offense to watch are: Josh Bell, Alen Hanson, Willy Garcia and Keon Broxton. Tony Sanchez is there too for players in the non-prospect category.

Altoona is going with Chad Kuhl in game one, then it looks like Tyler Eppler in game two and Steven Brault in game three, though the last two are TBD for now. Eppler didn’t have a great AA debut last week, but between him, Kuhl and Brault, you have three of the best pitchers in the system over the last 5-6 weeks. Assuming it goes five, I’d expect Zack Dodson, followed by Jason Creasy for the last two games. The players to watch on offense are: Austin Meadows, Barrett Barnes, Adam Frazier, Max Moroff, Erich Weiss and Jose Osuna.

The West Virginia Power are going with their big three in the playoffs, saving their pair of aces for last, though the first pitcher is no slouch. Austin Coley doesn’t have a low ERA like Stephen Tarpley or Yeudy Garcia, but 3.66 is better than average in the league and he’s been on a hot streak lately. In his last four starts, he has allowed one earned run in each game. He also set a team record with 16 wins, so he’s kept the Power in most of the games he has pitched. Tarpley goes in game two and Garcia gets three if necessary. Players on offense to watch are: Kevin Newman, Kevin Kramer, Tito Polo, Connor Joe, Pablo Reyes, Michael Suchy, Elvis Escobar and Taylor Gushue. Basically you have a great starting three(by low-A standards) and a lineup that can put up runs, plus they went 50-20 in the second half, so this looks like the team to beat.

Morgantown is going with Dario Agrazal Jr. in the opener. He’s been their most consistent pitcher all season, so it makes sense to use him first. No starters are listed after him, but Bret Helton has been following Agrazal in the rotation and then if it goes three, who better to have than the lefty who pitched the deciding game in the College World Series. Brandon Waddell has been following Helton, so that gives the Black Bears a pitcher who has succeeded under pressure on numerous occasions just a few months ago. They lost some offense when Kramer and Newman moved up, but they still have Ke’Bryan Hayes, along with a lot of other interesting drafts picks. Casey Hughston was the third round pick, and while he has struggled, you expect much more from him. There’s also Ty Moore, Logan Hill, Mitchell Tolman and Christian Kelley. Then you have Danny Arribas, who ended the season with a 14-game hit streak, to go along with Carlos Munoz, who moved up from Bristol.

I’ll leave up the Playoff Schedule section below, which I will update each morning with the previous day’s results. As mentioned yesterday, the Prospect Watch will return tonight, with live reports from Indianapolis and Altoona. I’ll be listening in to the Morgantown game and writing up a recap afterwards, while Tim Williams will take West Virginia. The Morning Report and Prospect Watch will both continue until the day the last playoff game is played.

Playoff Schedule

Indianapolis vs Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. 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 vs Bowie. 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

West Virginia Power vs Hickory. Best-of-three series.

9/9: @ West Virginia 7:05

9/11: @ Hickory 7:00

9/12: @Hickory 7:00 if necessary

Morgantown vs Williamsport. Best-of-three series.

9/9: @Morgantown 7:05

9/10: @Williamsport 7:05

9/11: @Williamsport 7:05 if necessary

Pirates Game Graph

Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

The Pirates trail by 4.5 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 won 7-3 over the Reds on Tuesday night. J.A. Happ will go to the mound today for the final game of the series. This will be his seventh start with the Pirates. In his last three starts combined, he has allowed one earned run over 18.2 innings. The Reds will send Keyvius Sampson to the mound. He has a 6.68 ERA in 31 innings. He has faced the Pirates twice this year(once in relief), allowing three runs over six innings.

MLB: Pittsburgh (82-55) @ Reds (57-80) 7:10 PM
Probable starter: J.A. Happ (1.57 ERA, 7:32 BB/SO, 34.1 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (83-61) vs Scranton W/B (81-63) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Wilfredo Boscan (3.07 ERA, 45:86 BB/SO, 126.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (74-68) vs Bowie (79-63) 6:00 PM
Probable starter: Chad Kuhl (2.48 ERA, 41:101 BB/SO, 152.2 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (74-64)

Low-A: West Virginia (87-52, 50-20 second half) vs Hickory (81-57) 7:05 PM
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
Probable Starter: Dario Agrazal Jr.  (2.72 ERA, 11:45 BB/SO, 76.0 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (29-36)

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

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


Here is the fourth hit of the day for Eric Wood on Monday. The pitcher is a position player. Wood hit .237/.303/.305 in his first season with Altoona. He is still just 22, so another season at AA won’t hurt.

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.

This Date in Pirates History

Eight former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, though one of them was much more important to the team than others. One of the players born on this date was Hall of Fame pitcher Waite Hoyt, who played five seasons in Pittsburgh. He went 35-31, 3.08 in 616.1 innings with the Pirates, winning 15 games during the 1934 season. In his career, he won 237 games. We also have a manager, who is a Hall of Fame player. Frankie Frisch led the Pirates to a 539-528 record from 1940 until 1947. He had five winning seasons in Pittsburgh, topping out at 90 wins in 1944.

Other players born on this date include 1887-88 outfielder Abner Dalrymple, who was the first batter after the team made the switch to the National League in 1887. Doc Johnston, 1915-16 first baseman. He hit .243 and drove in 103 runs in 261 games with the Pirates. Pete Naton, 1953 catcher, whose entire big league career consisted of six games with the Pirates after graduating from Holy Cross in 1953.

Dan Costello, 1914-16 outfielder. Had a .566 OPS in 152 games over three season. His only other Major League time was two at-bats with the 1913 Yankees. Tom Foley, 1993-94 infielder. Hit .246 in 145 games for Pirates, seeing starts at all four infield spots. Dan Miceli, 1993-96 reliever. Had a 5.41 ERA in 139 games with Pittsburgh, picking up 24 saves.

The best player born on this date just happened to be born in the same hometown and in the same year as John Dreker, just blocks away. At one time, they even lived on the same street. That John Dreker would be my great-grandfather, though my first house was also two blocks away from the Miller residence, which was still in their family until 2009. That proximity is likely the main reason we ended up with six relatives in common.

Dots Miller was the second baseman for the 1909 World Series champs, the double play partner of the great Honus Wagner. Miller played 151 games that season, posting a .725 OPS, while leading all NL second baseman in fielding percentage and assists. He finished third in doubles, fourth in triples and fifth with 222 total bases. He even drove in the third most runs in the league, finishing with 87 RBIs. In five seasons in Pittsburgh during the deadball era, he had a .704 OPS in 710 games

You can read his full bio here, which is includes an updated story on how he got his nickname. You should read it and pass it along for me, after all, this is the 157th day straight I wrote a Morning Report for you. It’s a free article, so non-subscribers can read it.

    • I shared that on the Asylum yesterday. good article.

      He stole my “Bobby Bo ” comp tho and I want reimbursed! 🙂

    • Interesting, but still lazy.

      “However, he did control the strike zone well and his power surge began at age 24/25. Bell just turned 23 so if he follows a similar path we should see more home run power soon.”

      This is an observation of correlation, not causation. The same mistake is constantly made, but as a point of fact, power does not increase *due* to age.

      There are three and only three manners in which a guy can increase his homerun output: additional strength, change in approach, change in swing mechanics.

      For a guy with above average raw power, option one is already out. The strength is there, and anyone who’s seen Josh Bell could’ve told you that all along. Josh Bell most certainly is strong enough to hit more homeruns.

      Option two works for guys with raw power but poor discipline, which results in either too many swings and misses (i.e. Jacoby Jones/Willie Garcia) or too much poor contact (i.e. Reese McGuire). While some improvements could probably be made here, Bell still shows plenty of patience as evidenced by a combined walk rate over 10% this season. He’s not swinging at, and making contact with, anything close like Reese McGuire does.

      The only logical way Josh Bell is going to increase his home run output is a swing change, one that is geared towards hitting more fly balls. It’s a simple matter of mathematics. A guy with 55-60 raw power isn’t going to have some ridiculous HR/FB rate around 30% like Alvarez, Stanton, or Davis. 12%-15% is more of the range one could expect. If the rate of contact is already high, as is the case with Bell, the only possible way to hit more home runs is to hit more fly balls, and to do that requires a swing change.

      • Another way to say it ? And I have watched close up, he gets no back spin. I get criticized in other places for saying it, but till he does get that done, I am skeptical of his future HR numbers. Of course, if he becomes an Al Oliver, I wouldn’t complain.

        • I’m holding out hope. One thing I am not skeptical of is his future ability to hit .330+ in a season. I’ve said it before on here. Bell is a future batting champion. I’m not too worried about Bell having a ton of power. If he can hit .300/.380/.450 with 10+ homers and 35+ doubles, he’ll slot very nicely in the 2-hole behind Polanco.

          • A true-talent .300 hitter in today’s game has something in the range of a 70-80 grade hit tool, and nobody is putting that kind of report on Bell.

            I’ll be more than happy to be proven wrong, but the hype surrounding Bell among Pirate fans is much different than it is from outside. Unless he adds power, he’ll have to hit the absolute peak upside of his current profile and that’s never easy to *expect* a prospect to do.

            • There was an “Insider Only” article the other day about Bell on ESPN that looked quite positive. I dunno. He hit .347 over his first 35 games in a league which had only 4 qualifying hitters hit over .300 and the batting champion was 30 year old Matt “hit collector” Hague. I think most of those grades err on conservative anyways. Bell’s career average in the minors is .305 and he’s been young at every level. I’m drinkin the Kool-Aid on him. I think he’s gonna hit in majors and hit very well.

  • I love 3 run homers. I’d like to know what their record is when they hit one.

    ARam had a rough start but has really rounded out that lineup. It was funny watching him hold Votto on last night.

    Go Bucs! Get the series tonight. They should hit that kid.

    • They are 2-0 when Cervelli hits a three-run homer
      2-0 for Walker
      3-1 McCutchen
      2-0 Kang
      3-0 Marte
      1-1 Ramirez
      1-0 Harrison
      1-0 Liriano
      Team has gone 14-2(one game had two)

      • I don’t recall them hitting a grand slam this year have they. Actually, they sure seem to suck with the bases loaded.

        • I don’t think they have one Kozy. Lot of Grand Scams.

          Amazing what HRs can do with runners on.

        • When I started looking I was going to make a note about the grand slams and I didn’t see any, so not 100% sure, but I don’t think so

          • Dude, that is terrible. For team that has one of the top 5 offenses in the NL and usually doesn’t have an easy out sans pitcher, that’s terrible.

  • John, has anyone heard if Happ is being considered or wants to be considered for a role next season? Guess I should ask about Blanton too.

    • It’s probably too early to even talk about either of them signing with the Pirates. I’m sure they will keep an open mind about it, but cost will obviously factor in

  • Obviously, along with a Pirates win, I hope the Cards beat the Cubs tonight. The Cubs are getting a little too close for comfort.

  • Dot’s John Dreker!

  • Quite a streak…157 straight. Lot of dedication, or else Tim won’t give you a day off! Thanks for what you do.

    • This year was a little tougher with writers in a couple cities, it took away some potential topics because I knew they were working on them. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it though

  • This is for you John.