Morning Report: The Early Season Good and Bad

It’s still too early in the season to make any real judgments about a player breaking out, or another player struggling. It’s nice to see all of the success on the mound early on with Tyler Glasnow, Jameson Taillon, Mitch Keller, Brandon Waddell, Tyler Eppler and JT Brubaker all having strong starts. That being said, things can change in a hurry at this point. So with that huge asterisk in place, here are two players from each team. One has performed above expectations early, one below. Some teams will have multiple players in each category, but I stuck to one player for each category unless two players grouped well together. Thanks to the magic of MiLB.tv, I’ve watched all four teams multiples times already, so these are just some early observations.

Indianapolis

The surprise player is sort of cheating because Jameson Taillon has such a high upside. I just didn’t expect him to pitch as well as he did his first time back. He allowed one run over six innings and looked like a much better pitcher than before his Tommy John surgery. I went into watching him pitch with much lower expectations and I don’t think anyone would have worried if he pitched half as good as he did, because the most important thing was that he was on the mound again.

For the disappointing player, it has to be Mel Rojas Jr. He has played just three games and has six at-bats, meaning he is the last man on the bench. So much potential and he even created some excitement over the winter by showing off all of those tools early on, before fading at the end of the Dominican league. He reaches minor league free agency at the end of the year and if the early signs are any indication, he will be going elsewhere if he’s going to keep playing.

Altoona

The early surprise I mentioned the other day, and it’s how good Anderson Feliz is doing. I didn’t expect him to be an everyday player, but he’s playing multiple positions and hitting .348/.423/.522 in 23 at-bats. I may have had some expectations for him if he came up in the Pirates’ organization, because I would have known the specifics on how many injuries he had and how much time it cost him. Throw in the fact that he’s only 23 years old and he certainly doesn’t fit the minor league filler profile.

The downside would be the big expectations for the outfield of Harold Ramirez, Austin Meadows and Barrett Barnes. It was assumed awhile ago that those three would make up the Altoona outfield and give them an interesting group of prospects. Meadows had the freak eye injury he is working his way back from still, while Barnes and Ramirez have struggled at the plate. Ramirez has a .458 OPS and Barnes is 1-for-16 so far.

Bradenton

The good would have to be the pitching of Brandon Waddell, who skipped over Low-A ball this year and he’s started his season with 11 shutout innings. He’s allowed five hits and one walk, while striking out seven batters. He was considered a polished college pitcher when they drafted him in the fifth round last year, so it’s good to see him living up to that in High-A ball.

The bad would be Yeudy Garcia, who hasn’t found his stride yet. In his debut, he tied his career high for hits allowed. In his second game, he ran up his pitch count and had to be removed after three innings. His velocity and command are both off early, so that is something to watch.

West Virginia

The good here is similar to the Taillon one and I’m going to cheat by including two players. We obviously like Mitch Keller and Ke’Bryan Hayes, going by their prospect rankings, but based on past experiences, I don’t expect them to be stars in the South Atlantic League this year. Keller is up to ten shutout innings, with five hits, no walks and 13 strikeouts. Hayes is hitting .355 with four doubles. They both look really good so far, exceeding early expectations.

The bad would have been different two days ago, which shows you how early it is. Casey Hughston just had two big games and now his stats look much better. So I’m going with Mitchell Tolman, who is hitting .156/.250/.219 through 32 at-bats. Unlike Hayes, I expect Tolman to have a big season at this level because he’s a college player with a solid approach at the plate. His numbers will probably be fine by the end of the season, but he’s digging himself as early hole.

PIRATES GAME GRAPH


Source: FanGraphs

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates won 5-0 over the Brewers on Saturday night. Juan Nicasio will go to the mound today, making his third start. He allowed one run over six innings in his debut and then came back with four runs over three innings earlier this week. The Brewers will counter with righty Zach Davies, making his season debut.

In Indianapolis, Steven Brault makes his second start of the season. He lasted just four innings in his first game, leaving early due to a high pitch count. JT Brubaker has allowed one run over 11 innings in his first two starts. He gets his third start tomorrow for West Virginia. Alex McRae also makes his third start for Bradenton, while David Whitehead tries to improve on a very poor debut in the Pirates’ system earlier this week. He gave up five runs on seven hits and three walks in four innings on Tuesday.

MLB: Pittsburgh (6-6) vs Brewers (5-6) 1:35 PM
Probable starter: Juan Nicasio (5.00 ERA, 5:11 BB/SO, 9.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (4-3) vs Columbus (3-5) 1:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Steven Brault (4.50 ERA, 2:3 BB/SO, 4.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (3-6) @ Richmond (4-6) 12:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: David Whitehead (11.25 ERA, 3:6 BB/SO, 4.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (3-7) vs Lakeland (5-5) 1:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Alex McRae (3.60 ERA, 5:5 BB/SO, 10.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (8-2) vs Lexington (5-5) 2:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: JT Brubaker (0.82 ERA, 5:12 BB/SO, 11.0 IP)

HIGHLIGHTS

Here is the first home run of the season from Josh Bell, a two-run shot from Friday night.

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

4/16: Trevor Williams placed on disabled list. Jhondaniel Medina promoted to Indianapolis.

4/15: John Kuchno promoted to Indianapolis. Frank Duncan added to Altoona roster.

4/14: Cory Luebke placed on disabled list. Pirates recall Rob Scahill.

4/14: Pirates sign Justin Masterson.

4/14: Chad Kuhl assigned to Indianapolis.

4/13: Michael Morse designated for assignment. Pirates select contract of A.J. Schugel.

4/13: Pedro Florimon sent outright to Indianapolis.

4/13: West Virginia places Cesilio Pimentel on disabled list. Eric Karch added to roster.

4/11: Pirates release John Holdzkom.

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

Just one former Pittsburgh Pirates player born on this date, 1931 pitcher Bob Osborn, so we concentrate on a big day in team history that occurred on this date in 1955. At the time it didn’t seem like a big day and the Pirates lost 10-3 to the Dodgers in game one of a doubleheader, but it ended up being the beginning of a historic career. Batting third and playing right field was Roberto Clemente, making his Major League debut. He went 1-for-4, scoring a run and collecting his first hit off Johnny Podres. Clemente had an infield single in his first career at-bat, then scored on a triple from Frank Thomas one batter later. In game two that day, Clemente batted lead-off and played center field. He had two hits in the second game and scored another run.

The Pirates have opened some seasons on this date worth noting. The Pirates shutout the Cardinals on Opening Day in 1902 by a 1-0 score. They would win the NL title that year and finish with a 103-36 record, best in franchise history.

Twenty-one years later, the Pirates opened up for the second time on April 17th. This time they beat the Cubs by a 3-2 score. Pirates had three Hall of Famers in the lineup, Max Carey, Pie Traynor and Rabbit Maranville.

The 1934 Pirates lost to Dizzy Dean on Opening Day. What’s interesting about that day is the 1-5 in the Pirates’ lineup. Lloyd Waner, Freddie Lindstrom, Paul Waner, Pie Traynor and Arky Vaughan are all in the Hall of Fame.

  • Annnnd there goes the Josh Bell leg kick, apparently. Kid is just a plain old hitter of baseballs. I do like the newer hand placement, though.

    • I don’t think he’s gotten rid of it. That was on an 0-2 count, so it’s possible he was shortening his swing due to the situation. He still had the kick at the end of camp.

      • Yeah, the few videos on MiLB still have the leg kick, too, although given his history we clearly are talking about things that’ll change twelve more times before he even breaks into the league. 😉

        Kid can just flat-out hit.

        • One of my favorite quotes from ST this year was from John Jaso: “I think the only person who changes his stance more than me is [Ben] Zobrist.”

          Bell might challenge both of them.

          • Ha! I remember that one now that you mention it and I agree, Bell might give him a run for his money. Common theme…all three guys are pure bat-to-ball hitters. Love watching Jaso work.

  • Do we get “Good Juan” or “Bad Juan” today?

    • Mostly good. ENCOURAGING.

      • What is truly encouraging is the fact that the Pirates are 7-6 and of the 13 games, Niese, Nicasio, Locke, and Vogelsong have started 9 of those games. Locke has a 2.53 ERA, Vogelsong 2.57 ERA, Niese 3.50 ERA, and Nicasio 4.80 ERA.

  • John: Hard to see based on his history how Anderson Feliz is doing so well, but it happens that way sometimes. Is there is a gap in his history where all of 2015 is missing? On that AA group, Stetson Allie may do well enough to be a possible RH DH possibility for an AL team, and the W/K ratio of Reese McGuire of 7W/1K fits a lot of what the Pirates like to see.

    Alen Hanson and Jason Rogers have done well for AAA in April, although, as another reader mentioned, Hanson’s W/K of 0/8 is a concern even though he is hitting over .300 in April. The whole Rotation at AAA has done very well overall.

    • The other day, Sean McCool talked to Joey Cora and he mentioned a whole list of injuries that Feliz had since age 19 when the Yankees had him in Low-A ball. He had injuries that caused him to miss significant time in four straight seasons, which is going to kill anyone’s progress. Just the fact that the Yankees liked him enough to put him in Low-A a month before his 19th birthday, shows he had some potential. He played independent ball last year so that won’t show up in the stats line if you look on MiLB.

      As far as time on the field goes, he’s got almost nothing for a 23-year-old, so there could be potential if he’s finally able to stay healthy.

  • Great Date in History with Roberto making his debut and batting third. Wow everyone knows he should of batted second.!

    • Bill… “Should Have” is contracted to ‘should’ve” NOT Should Of….gosh that grates my Foobones every time I read that! (and I was a math major)

      🙂

  • Scott Kliesen
    April 17, 2016 8:12 am

    Harold Ramirez is most disappointing player so far to me. Hoping it’s just a case of cold weather causing slow start.

    On the flip side, the normally slow starting Alen Hanson is flat out raking compared to his past April’s.

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