Morning Report: A Crowded Lineup in Bradenton

I wrapped up a quick weekend trip to Bradenton to see the Marauders play two home games and I figured I’d give some quick thoughts on the team and what looks like a potential problem due to a crowded lineup.

The one thing that stands out is the (very)early playing time being handed out. They have a ton of prospects on this team, though some are obviously better at this point than others. There aren’t a whole lot of guys you would call minor league fillers at this point. That led to a strange thing to see over their first four games. They have used Pablo Reyes and Logan Hill just once each.

I really like what I’ve seen and heard about Reyes at the plate. He has great hand-eye coordination, with the ability to drive the ball to the gaps and put some over the fence. He doesn’t strikeout often, takes some walks and has excellent speed. On defense, they had him moving all around the infield this spring. He has the ability to play solid defense, but he tends to take bad at-bats out to the field and that has kept him from being called a solid defender. Reyes had an .858 OPS in the second half last year. Over a full season, that would have ranked him third in the South Atlantic League.

Bradenton has Kevin Kramer, Kevin Newman and Connor Joe at the three positions Reyes was playing in spring, so you could see where it would be hard to get him time, especially early in the year. I assume he will end up with a decent amount of at-bats, as it would seem to be way too early to write him off as a prospect. He’s playing this entire season as a 22-year-old. I won’t complain about it now because it’s four games into the season, but assuming the worst, you have to wonder that if they weren’t going to use him regularly for Bradenton, why not leave him at West Virginia to play shortstop instead of Alfredo Reyes? The “other” Reyes has a solid glove, but he’s the same age as Pablo and hasn’t shown an ounce of offensive ability yet at lower levels. The playing time isn’t a problem yet, but it’s something to watch.

On a lesser scale, you have Logan Hill playing once and batting eighth in his only game. He looked okay in that game, swinging and missing at about 5-6 pitches and not collecting a hit, but he crushed a couple foul balls the opposite way that were the hardest hit balls of the night. He also lined out to center field, squaring the ball up well. Hill started off great after being drafted last year, then finished up slow and had more strikeouts than you would like to see. He was also already 22 on draft day, which is on the old side for the draft.

With Hill, you can see the issue with playing time. He was a 25th round pick, so they don’t have a lot invested in him, especially compared to Michael Suchy, Elvis Escobar and Jordan Luplow, the three regular outfielders. That being said, Hill is a rare power hitter in the system, and he’s athletic for his size. Jeff Roy played on Sunday in left field and he looked absolutely lost at the plate and in the field.

It seems like the Marauders can put a full lineup out every night and have interesting players 1-9 in the order, which is great to see, but you also don’t want to see prospects sit on the bench. Unlike Pablo Reyes, Hill wouldn’t have a good spot in West Virginia instead because they have four outfielders to try to get playing time for already, and all of them(Tito Polo, Casey Hughston, Ryan Nagle and Ty Moore) are interesting players.

It’s still early, so we will see how things go the rest of the season. None of those infielders ahead of Reyes are going to play every single game, and they also have the DH spot available. Hill also has Jerrick Suiter to deal with, as he could possibly see some outfield time when Chase Simpson is at first base. That could make things difficult for Hill to find playing time if the current setup remains the same.

PIRATES GAME GRAPH


Source: FanGraphs

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 2-1 to the Reds on Sunday. They now travel to Detroit for a day game against the Tigers. Jon Niese will make his second start of the season and he will be opposed by Justin Verlander. Niese gave up four runs over five innings against the Cardinals last week, while Verlander allowed three runs over six innings against the Marlins.

In the minors, Indianapolis is off today.

In Altoona, Cody Dickson gets his first start. He pitched for Bradenton last year, posting a 4.13 ERA in 141.2 innings, with a .272 BAA, 1.39 WHIP, 1.24 GO/AO ratio and 98 strikeouts.

For Bradenton, Austin Coley makes his debut. He had a 3.66 ERA in 147.2 innings for West Virginia last year, with 111 strikeouts, a .260 BAA, a 1.17 WHIP and an 0.88 GO/AO ratio. He led all Pirates’ minor leaguers with 16 wins.

Mitch Keller gets the start for West Virginia. He had just six starts for Bristol last year due to forearm tightness that caused him to miss the beginning of the year. Keller looks better this spring than last year, and he touched 96 MPH in his last two starts of Spring Training.

MLB: Pittsburgh (4-2) @ Tigers (3-1) 1:10 PM
Probable starter: Jon Niese (NR)

AAA: Indianapolis (1-1) @ Toledo (1-0) 6:35 PM (season preview) 4/12
Probable starter: Steven Brault (NR)

AA: Altoona (1-2) vs Akron (3-0) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cody Dickson (NR)

High-A: Bradenton (2-2) @ Tampa (3-1) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Austin Coley (NR)

Low-A: West Virginia (3-1) @ Greenville (3-1) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Mitch Keller (NR)

HIGHLIGHTS

The first minor league highlight video of the season! Jose Osuna hits a solo homer, his first of the season.

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

4/6: Tampa Bay Rays claim Jake Goebbert off waivers from Pirates.

4/2: Pirates designate Pedro Florimon, John Holdzkom and Jake Goebbert for assignment.

4/2: Pirates place Jung-ho Kang, Jared Hughes and Elias Diaz on the disabled list retroactive to March 25.

4/2: Pirates release Jose Batista and Jandy Vasquez.

4/1: Pirates release Gerardo Navarro, Christopher De Leon and Enyel Vallejo.

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

There have been four former Pirates born on this date, including the famous wall-crasher Turner Ward(see video below). He turns 51 today. The other players include:

Hank Schenz, infielder for the 1950-51 Pirates. Schenz served in WWII before he made his Major League debut. He played six years in the majors and hit .222 in 83 games for the Pirates.

Red Smith, 1917-18 catcher. Hit .156 in 26 games for the Pirates, his only Major League experience. His minor league career spanned from 1910 until 1928.

Pop Corkhill, 1891-92 outfielder. He was a star outfielder for the Reds before coming to Pittsburgh. He hit just .200 with the Pirates, ending his 10-year career in the Steel City.

  • Sean Rodriguez has walked twice, and Joe Block is still trying to say Verlander is throwing well.

    • What happened to Verlander? He’s just not the same pitcher anymore. This is the second or third time now that the Pirates have tagged him early and often.

      • Time and tide, my friend. The “stuff” just isn’t very good anymore.

        • I guess that’s separates the hall of famers from the rest. The ability to perform at an elite level for a long time.

    • Thats 3 on the year for S Rod, right?

      Either the rapture is upon us or we cloned him and taught the fake one a new trick.

      • I, for one, welcome our pitch-taking overlords.

        • Someone deserves a damn raise for their work with S Rod this spring training.

          Not really, but it is nice to pretend he’s going to be this patient going forward. Hot damn Sean Hurdle is actually providing SSS value.

  • TurnerWardHitsTheWall
    April 11, 2016 2:05 pm

    Seems like I need to say happy birthday Turner Ward!

  • I don’t know about you folks, but I could’ve done without that Mercer at bat. Much prefer seeing the “strategy” behind sending a pitcher up to flail three times before striking out.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    April 11, 2016 10:58 am

    Niese facing the Tigers today sounds a beat down waiting to happen. Niese gives up a lot of HRs and that Tigers lineup has a lot of power. I hope he surprises me today…but I don’t like that matchup at all…

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    April 11, 2016 10:57 am

    That HR by Osuna was quite a shot – Altoona is not an easy place to hit HRs, especially in the early part of the schedule when its colder…

  • Did I see the Bucs were 4 for 34 w/RISP in the Cincy series? That’s even more than I thought. Jay Hay picked a bad time to start slow. It seems like he’s been up with runners on every time he’s at bat.

    • Currently sporting the coveted OBP < BA slash line.

      • It’s a shame cause Locke pitched his tail off on sunday.

        • I haven’t read any interviews, but has anyone mentioned why he threw so few breaking balls? Pitchf/x has him only throwing five all game. Lack of strikeouts was glaring, especially in light of the new, less deceptive delivery, but not throwing your strikeout pitch would have something to do with that, I’d imagine.

          Overall I agree, fine outing by Jeff.

          • I would hope that was a start that was not fully evolved in his new approach.

            Because, while it was fine and he did well enough, he would be totally BABIP dependent if thats him. Limit the walks, few strikeouts, more balls in play. With weak contact and timely DPs it works, but its risky.

            Makes some sense though if he’s still working out a few things to get to where he’s using that out pitch as he should.

            • Actually a fairly well defined trend of using the breaking ball less and less going back to mid-July of last year, now that I look at it. This has to be intentional, right? Has anyone written about this?

    • It has seemed like that. Someone else posted it and I agree though, avg with RISP is very very far down on my list of concerns for this team

    • Kinda funny that second series in and the Pirates were one dinger, of all things, away from getting swept with their “high OBP” offense.

  • if they weren’t going to use him regularly for Bradenton, why not leave him at West Virginia to play shortstop instead of Alfredo Reyes?

    I am with you 100% on that, John.

  • Can John Niese be a stopper?

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