Morning Report: Steven Brault and Adrian Sampson

It looks like Altoona will be on MiLB.TV tonight, so I plan on spending my Friday night watching Steven Brault’s last regular season start. He has had quite a season, especially since being sent to Altoona. Among pitchers in the Pirates’ system, he is second to Zack Dodson with 147.2 innings pitched. Brault is fourth among starters with a 2.56 ERA. He is second to Tyler Glasnow in strikeouts, picking up 120 this season. He’s also fifth among starters with a 1.16 WHIP. Brault has a 1.47 GO/AO ratio and he’s holding batters to a .234 BAA, so a lot is going right this season.

I was thinking about his spot in the Arizona Fall League and it reminded me of Adrian Sampson last year. I thought he was a surprise pick due to all the innings he threw and the same holds true for Brault. He is only 1.1 IP over his total from last season, so there isn’t a problem with an innings limit for a young pitcher at this point. Brault will add some more innings tonight and get at least one playoff start, unless Altoona collapses the next few days. Sampson was about the same age as Brault is now and he went from 140 innings to 167 innings last year, so it’s going to be very close to the same situation.

I could see Brault then doing the same thing Sampson did in the AFL. Sampson threw 12 innings over ten appearances and never went more than two innings in a game. He was there to refine his secondary pitches and Brault could be there to concentrate on throwing a certain pitch in game situations against strong competition. If Brault does end up starting, his inning total won’t be much higher. Most starters are on a 50-pitch limit and they make six or seven starts over the 32-game schedule. So they usually fall in the 20-30 range for innings.

Speaking of Sampson, he has had a tough time in the Pacific Coast League since being traded. No one should expect him to go to the PCL and do better, it’s a high offense league and Tacoma is one of the teams that scores a lot and gives up a lot of runs. That being said, I don’t think anyone expected him to have a 6.82 ERA through six starts. His best outing was three runs over eight innings in Las Vegas, which is actually a pretty good game. The rest have been bad though. He has a .340 BAA and a 1.66 WHIP.

The Adam Frazier batting title watch remained the same as yesterday, except he has one less game left in the season. After going 1-for-3, he still has a six point lead over an injured player, so it’s all up to Frazier to hold the lead. It’s possible that if the last game is meaningless for the standings, Frazier doesn’t play, so he can get a rest for the playoffs.

If you missed the Prospect Watch from last night, shame on you. In it, I explain how Harold Ramirez could win the FSL batting title over the last three days of his season. It could be possible with a couple big games and some more help from the league leader, who went 0-for-5 last night.

The minor league regular season ends on Monday. The Pirates’ affiliates have a total of 19 games left and three teams are still fighting for a playoff spot. Indianapolis and West Virginia have already clinched their spot, although Indianapolis is still trying to win their division. They have a one game lead. Depending on which teams get which playoff spots, the playoffs will begin on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Pirates Game Graph

Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

The Pirates trail by 6.5 games in the division to the Cardinals. They have a four game lead for the top wild card spot.

Indianapolis has clinched a playoff spot.

Altoona is 4-6 in their last ten games. They lead the wild card by two games, with four games left.

Bradenton is 6-4 in their last ten games. They trail Palm Beach by one game in the standings with three games left. Palm Beach holds the tie-breaker.

West Virginia has clinched a playoff spot.

Morgantown is 7-3 in their last ten games. They have a one game lead in the wild card chase with four games left in the season. Five teams are still alive in the wild card chase.

The Bristol Pirates’ season is finished. They did not make the playoffs.

The GCL Pirates’ season is finished. They did not make the playoffs.

The DSL Pirates’ season is finished. They did not make the playoffs.

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 5-3 to the Brewers on Thursday night. They now travel to St Louis for a three-game series against the Cardinals. J.A. Happ will be on the mound for the Pirates for his sixth start. He has given up one earned run over 17.2 innings in his last three starts. The Cardinals will go with Carlos Martinez, who has a 2.91 ERA in 154.2 innings. He has had three drastically different starts versus the Pirates this year. He gave up seven runs over 5.1 innings in May. Threw 7.1 shutout innings in July. Gave up three runs on nine hits in eight innings last month.

In the minors, Steven Brault looks to extend his streak of success. In his last nine starts, he has a 1.10 ERA in 57.1 innings. He has allowed one earned run or less in eight of those games and two in the other. Austin Coley has given up one earned run in each of his last three starts, throwing a total of 19 innings. His 106 strikeouts are sixth most in the SAL, two behind teammate Yeudy Garcia for the team lead. Matt Benedict makes his second start for Indianapolis. He was called up after the rosters expanded and the Pirates added six players, leaving Indianapolis short-handed. Bristol, DSL and GCL Pirates are done. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (79-53) @ St Louis (86-47) 8:15 PM
Probable starter: J.A. Happ (1.98 ERA, 7:24 BB/SO, 27.1 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (81-59) vs Toledo (58-81) 7:15 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Matt Benedict (3.60 ERA, 1:2 BB/SO, 5.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (72-66) @ Binghamton (75-62) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Steven Brault (2.20 ERA, 19:75 BB/SO, 82.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (72-63, 40-25 second half) vs St Lucie (67-68) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cody Dickson (4.01 ER, 40:51 BB/SO, 137.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (83-52, 46-20 second half) @Kannapolis (64-70) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Austin Coley (3.77 ERA, 25:106 BB/SO, 140.2 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (39-33) vs Williamsport (44-28) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: TBD

Rookie: Bristol (29-36)

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

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


Here are some highlights and lowlights from the Wednesday night game for Indianapolis

Recent Transactions

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.

8/22: Jordy Mercer activated from disabled list. Travis Ishikawa placed on disabled list.

8/22: Josh Wall sent outright to Indianapolis.

8/22: Pirates release Jesus Ronco and Luis Brun

8/21: Josh Harrison activated from disabled list. Josh Wall designated for assignment.


This Date in Pirates History

Two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a couple games of note. Starting with the players, we have 1904 left fielder Jack Gilbert. He played pro ball for 17 seasons, but he only got into 28 big league games. The Pirates gave him a 25-game trial at the end of the 1904 season, starting him in place of HOF left fielder/manager Fred Clarke, who was sick at the time. Gilbert hit .241 with 13 runs and 12 walks.

Also born on this date, 1896 pitcher Elmer Horton. He pitched two games at the end of the 1896 season for the Pirates, then went on a post-season barnstorming tour, serving as one of three pitchers the team had at the time. In November, he was part of a big trade with Baltimore, in which the Pirates got back star center fielder Steve Brodie in exchange for Jake Stenzel, who is the Pirates’ all-time batting leader.

On this date in 1890, the Alleghenys came home for the first time since August 12th and they broke a 23-game losing streak with a 6-2 win over the Cleveland Spiders. The Alleghenys would go on the road again after that win and post a 1-11 record. They were scheduled to play two more home games against Cleveland, but rain postponed those contests.

From the worst team in franchise history to the best, and the results were definitely flipped for both teams on September 4th. The 1902 Pirates had an 87-29 record, with a 26-game lead in the NL. The had basically clinched at that point, as they ended up playing 24 more games that year. On September 4th however, they did not look like the best club in franchise history. The Pirates lost 1-0 and tied 0-0 against Boston, a team with a 57-55 record going into the day. The tie was called after nine innings due to darkness at 5:25 by Hall of Fame umpire Hank O’Day, who took a lot of verbal abuse from the crowd for his decision. The local newspaper declared that they could have played another two hours before it was too dark to play.

The big headline from the day before was that the Pirates were too good and fans weren’t showing up because they figured they were going to win. Seems odd to say, but the games weren’t important in the standings, so it turned off fans from going to games at the end of the year.

  • Wondering if we could get a Tommy John update on all the guys who had the surgery in the last year or so…

    I may have missed it – but what is going on with the guys we thought would be 40% of the 2016 rotation

  • John/Deacs….the Altoona game is not on any TV channel tonight that I get, but I noticed that the Pawtucket Red Sox are on NESN on Sunday.

    Which got me to thinking if those two games I watched weren’t on Root Sports? Both games were a Sunday Night game, I believe, so maybe Root broadcasted them? They employed local broadcasters so they might’ve grabbed the MiLB.TV feed?

    I know the MLB Network has also broadcasted a game or two now and again along with the AS games.

    Next time I see one, I will be sure to note the channel. I KNOW I have seen Altoona each of the last two years.

    • Leo knows the answer to this question, he tipped me off on a ‘toona game earlier this year that led to my Steven Brault prospect/man crush.

  • I suppose there is no magic number that would force the team to take immediate action, based on the fact that Josh Bell is hitting .355 and has on OBP like .450. Considering the state of the offense at this time there is clearly no room for that on this team.

    • The magic number is when the super-2 deadline passes next year. Until that time, Bell needs to work on his defense and just keeping getting his at-bats

    • Wouldnt be the first time a hot hitting prospect got promoted from AAA and struggled in a SSS in the majors. If 1B is an issue, give Morse a week of starting to see if his decent PH-ing and spot starting success translates.

  • This time next year the Bucs rotation will be Cole, Liriano, Glasnow, Taillon, and Fister and they’ll be on pace for 100+ wins. I hope they win it all this season but thankfully the future is quite bright.

    • That’s interesting. I’m not sure Fister’s stats are bad enough where they can snag him on one of their reclamation projects. Maybe he’ll tank the rest of the year and they can fix him up for 3 year deal around 10-12 a season.

    • Unless his velo returns, avoid Fister. Cant really tweak losing 2 mph on your stuff. Happ seems a better low buy option at this point, with better stuff in need of consistent command/control.

      • What is he at right now?

        • Fangraphs puts his FB at 86.3, down from 87.9 a year ago and 88.6 two years ago.

          He used to sit 88-89, but it appears (for whatever reason) he’s losing velo year to year. Its also not just his FB, Fangraphs has each pitch losing a few mph over the last two years. If he regained velo in the offseason, it’d be a big positive for his game.

          • Wow. I missed that back in July when they played. For some reason I thought he was around 89 or 90.

      • I just see Fister as the type of reclamation project NH loves. I see him signing a 1 year deal with the Bucs and Searage taking advantage of his groundball tendencies and making him a very solid back of the rotation starter.

        • Think about the usual targets though. Liriano. Volquez. Happ. They have things in common,but none of them have a lack of velo or were trending poorly in that regard. Its almost always a guy with good stuff that has issues with mechanics or command/control.

          With Fister, its almost the opposite. His issues are stemming from a lack of velo that causes his stuff to play worse. Its very difficult to throw everything under 90 mph and see results. I think Happ would be as cheap or cheaper, with better stuff, and a head start on working with Searage.

          • That’s a good point. I can definitely see them bring Happ back.

            • Ideally, id love Cole-Liriano-FA-Happ-Morton for 2 months, with Glasnow showing up and do whatever with Morton (maybe long man). Creates interesting depth “problems” if Taillon does well and is pushing for a promotion, but thats something you cross once you hit the bridge.

              • I’d almost think, with both of them being healthy, and assuming the performances are similar, that Taillon would be up before Glasnow.

                • They might be going slow with Taillon at the beginning of the year, so he’s available at the end of the year. While he has no innings on paper, he has probably thrown the equivalent of 20 innings in Extended Spring Training, plus he could get some more in the FIL. For him to be available in Sept/Oct next year after two years of barely pitching, he is going to have to go slow at the start. That would likely give Glasnow the advantage regarding who comes up first.

              • That’s pretty much what I’d want to see. I wouldn’t count on Locke or Worley (although I’m sure Locke will make a #5 somewhere). Glasnow and Taillon will probably force their way into the rotation at some point during the year. Usually there’s an injury or a failure in the rotation and these things work themselves out.

            • I would like to see them bring Happ back on a short term deal. I was wondering if he’d give any sort of discount since they seem to have repaired him some and then thought about Volquez who I have to think they did much more work on. That being said I don’t know how hard they went after him in the offseason so I can’t necessarily say Volquez completely spurned them over a couple of bucks.

              • I also don’t get the feeling that Happ will benefit from the Searage treatment nearly as much as Volquez on the open market.

                • Happ has come on lately thanks to Ray and Jim’s magic whereas Volquez had an entire year under his belt which could make Happ more affordable. Volquez was really a wreck when he came here.

                  • Volquez also had that huge season > bunch of shitty years > Searage Magic narrative working for him, too. We’re also kidding ourselves if we don’t think a 3.04 ERA in a contract year gets you many, many more millions than one around 4, regardless of what everyone knows about the stat at this point.

                    Happ feels like he’s been around forever, but never really broke out as anything particularly good.

                  • Wow Searage is spinning real magic with Morton and Locke! Would of been very happy to see Volquez retained and one of those two tomato cans sent packing.

                    • Its almost like maybe, gasp, thats their talent level (like a ton of other arms in the majors) and that Ray is getting more out of them than others would. Cant fathom how a soft throwing LHP who relies on hitting the corners isnt better. Odd.

                      The “Ray aint magic if Locke and Morton are this” argument seems childish. Locke could easily have been a guy not able to throw 170 innings of average #5 stuff, and Morton brings back serviceable back end results. How dare not all pitchers be mid rotation!

                    • You’re not really immune to what they’ve done are you? If you’re arguing Volquez is having a better year than fine. But if you don’t appreciate what Searage has done to date I’m not sure I can convince you at this point.

  • This is truly the game that decides if Pit fans will receive and rejoice with the Happ deal or completely shun him and blast the Nutting regime. Beat St. Louis JA and the city is yours!

  • Nice little Friday night. The glamorous life of a prospect writer.

    • Mine is just as exciting. Put the kids to bed, do a hundred dishes and hope the Bucs are still in the game by the time I pour my first scotch and sit down for the game.

      • Thats a win-win end of the night. If you pour the first one and they are winning, life is good.

        If you pour the first one and the game aint pretty, solid gold reason to have two.

        • There’s usually a second regardless of the score for what it’s worth. The best are when they win the Saturday day games and then you can have a couple knowing they already got a W. And if I have to listen to the Reds announcers when they’re on the road (thanks to he MLB package) I may have a third. I tend to watch those games on mute.

    • I felt a little bad bragging about that

  • John…will that Altoona game be on some National Station, like ESPN2 or something like that?

    • I believe all the big stations will carry it and it will just interrupt regular programming like when the State of the Union is on

    • Since this was a serious question(although I still have my doubts) I will say that I haven’t seen a minor league game televised in about two years where I am, so I can’t imagine this is the game that breaks that streak

      • I don’t know if it is the MLB Network or one of the ESPN network, or FS1 or………. and YES, it was a serious question.

        I HAVE seen Altoona twice and Indy once….all 3 times by accident here in SC Pa.

        When you said it was on MiLB.TV, I thought that is what you meant. I wanted to DVR it, rather than catch it ‘by happy accident’.

        I even came on here one time and talked about seeing Bell on TV (before he went to Indy), plus I did a little ‘wrap’ of the game and prospects. It was from the Altoona home stadium.

        The game in Indy had (lucky me) Chris Volstad pitching.

        • The one Altoona game may have been from last year, I fooget. But I DID see Bell at Altoona and Hanson at Indy this year (not counting the All Star Games).

          • I’m about 25 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. I believe I saw Indy and Altoona both about 4 or 5 weeks ago on TV. I have Comcast, thought both were on ESPN2. Don’t have the best memory.

    • Mr.Leefoo tell your wife to move the TennaRotor! It’s not supposed to start lightening till around 7. That’s plenty of time.