BRADENTON, Fla. – A few weeks ago, I reported that Connor Joe would be playing third base this year in Bradenton, which created an interesting situation for Jordan Luplow. Last year, both players were at West Virginia, and Luplow was the primary third baseman, while Joe was limited to first base following his back injury.
The third base situation would be cleared up this year, due to the fact that Luplow was injured, returning from off-season shoulder surgery on his non-throwing shoulder. That will put him out for the start of the 2016 season, but he will eventually return, which raises the question of how third base will be handled in Bradenton when he does return.
That question was answered today, with Luplow playing in left field. Today was the third day he was in the outfield, and he has plenty of experience at the position, playing there all throughout college. I talked with Pirates Director of Minor League Operations Larry Broadway after today’s practice, and he confirmed that Luplow will be playing some outfield this year.
Luplow will still get time at third base, but the outfield work makes it easier to keep everyone in the lineup. When Connor Joe is at third base, Luplow can go to the outfield. When Luplow is at third base, Joe can move over to first base. Chase Simpson will most likely play first base when Joe is at third, and could serve as the designated hitter when Joe moves to first. You could also see Simpson get the rare start at third, but he seems to fall below the other two on the depth chart right now.
It will be interesting to see how this situation plays out in the future with possible promotions, especially with Wyatt Mathisen one level ahead of these two, and Ke’Bryan Hayes one level behind. For now, the Pirates are handling it a lot like they’ve been handling other position battles — finding plenty of spots for people to play at, in order to get regular playing time for all of the best prospects.
Pirates A-Ball Teams in Action
By Wilbur Miller
The Pirates’ two class A teams took on the Phillies at Pirate City on Tuesday. The lineups:
1. Mitchell Tolman, 2B
2. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B
3. Jordan Luplow, LF
4. Casey Hughston, CF
5. Carlos Munoz, 1B
6. Ty Moore, DH
7. Alfredo Reyes, SS
8. Christian Kelley, C
9. Jeff Roy, RF
1. Michael De La Cruz, CF
2. Adrian Valerio, SS
3. Raul Siri, 3B
4. Sandy Santos, LF
5. Alexis Bastardo, RF
6. Raul Hernandez, C
7. Nick Buckner, DH
8. Bealyn Chourio, 2B
9. Sam Kennelly, 1B
Of course, a lot of these guys will ultimately be assigned a level or so lower once the season starts. Jason Rogers also got in some extra hitting by batting in every inning of the High-A game. He homered to left in one at-bat but otherwise didn’t do much of note.
On the mound, Alex McRae started the High-A game, followed by lefties Cesilio Pimentel and Daniel Zamora, and finally Jose Regalado. In the Low-A game, Logan Sendelbach was followed by Nathan Trevillian, Christopher De Leon, Eric Karch, Jess Amedee and Tanner Anderson.
None of the pitchers had much trouble. In fact, none were scored upon until Regalado and Amedee got hit around in the late innings. Zamora had to work out of a second-and-third, no-out situation and Sendelbach had an inning end without three outs due to his pitch count, which was elevated by a couple long at-bats.
McRae sat at 92-93 in his three innings and got a lot of groundballs. Sendelbach went four innings, throwing mostly fastballs at 88-92. Despite not having impressive velocity, he got a fair number of swings and misses. Trevillian, a 2015 high school draftee who wasn’t able to pitch last year due to forearm tightness, sat at 89-91. Other than Anderson, who sat at 92-93, the others were mostly in the upper-80s. Pimentel, though, features a quirky, difficult motion that seems to be difficult to pick up some of the time.
Both games featured some power hitting by the Pirates. Raul Hernandez, a Venezuelan catcher who’s making his first appearance in the States after a year in the Dominican Summer League, parked a home run on the roof of the batting cages beyond left field during the Low-A game. Sandy Santos, who showed good power at Bristol last year, lined a triple over the center fielder’s head and a double to deep left-center.
In the High-A game, Casey Hughston showed off both his power and very good speed for a big guy with an inside-the-park homer. It came on a line drive off the batter’s eye in center that the center fielder let get away. Late in the game, Ryan Nagle hit a long home run to right field.
One interesting player in the High-A game was Alfredo Reyes, whom the Pirates claimed from the Mets in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft. Reyes had an outstanding defensive play on a slow bouncer. He also hit two hard singles up the middle and stole two bases, one on a pitchout.
Trae Arbet, playing second in the same game, had a nice play that he turned into a 4-3 double play, scooping a grounder while stepping on the bag at second at the same time, and then making the throw to first.
Hughston again showed his speed with a running catch in deep center. On the down side, Carlos Munoz looked shaky on a couple plays at first, including a muff of a pickoff throw that wasn’t a tough play.
World Baseball Classic Qualifiers
By John Dreker
Colombia defeated Panama by a 2-1 score on Sunday night to clinch a spot in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Harold Ramirez had a tough finale in the tournament, going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. One of the strikeouts was a questionable call on a ball low and away on a 3-2 count. In that at-bat and the other three, Ramirez looked like he was trying to do too much at the plate. He took some big hacks and came up empty.
Ramirez finished the series going 2-for-15 and his second hit was just a weak infield single. He put the ball on the ground or struck out in 13 of his 15 plate appearances. It was a stark contrast to his performance in Spring Training for the Pirates, where he was hitting line drives and finished 11-for-19 before being sent back to minor league camp.
Tito Polo did not play in Sunday’s game. His only action in the tournament was one inning of defense in right field and one pinch-running appearance.
Dario Agrazal Jr. pitched for Panama on Saturday against France. He got roughed up a little in his two innings, allowing two runs on three hits, with some well hit outs between the hits. Agrazal impressed with his velocity, which was among the best in the Panama qualifiers. He was sitting 92-93 MPH, which is above the velocity he was showing in Morgantown last season.
Agrazal has hit 94 MPH recently, reaching that velocity during the Fall Instructional League, so it’s possible he has tapped into some extra speed as he filled out. He also flashed an 82-83 MPH curve with a hard break late. The 21-year-old righty was on a limit of three innings or 50 pitches, whichever came first. However, the last out of the second inning was hit right back at him and he didn’t catch it cleanly. They never showed a replay, but Agrazal was looking at his pitching hand while flexing it on his way back to the dugout, so there may have been an issue. He was at 39 pitches at the time, with 29 going for strikes.
All three players have returned to Bradenton, and were at Pirate City today.