Morning Report: Some Decent Prospects are Off to Slow Starts

Earlier this week we announced our Pitcher and Player of the Month awards for April. I mentioned a few days ago that around this time last year, I did a “who’s hot/who’s not” article for a Morning Report. I didn’t want to do the “who’s hot” part for April, because it would basically be the same players listed in the Pitcher and Player of the Month articles. So I waited until the lists were announced before doing this article on the players currently off to a poor start. I picked a pitcher and a hitter from each affiliate.

Indianapolis

There are a lot of choices on offense, but I’m going with Mel Rojas Jr., because not only is he playing poorly, he’s barely playing. For a player with so much raw potential, he just never put all the tools together. Now he has a .484 OPS and spends more time in the first base coaching box than he does in the outfield (that’s not a joke).

On the pitching side, it has to be Trey Haley, only because all five starters are doing great. Haley has a 6.97 ERA and 1.84 WHIP, with only six strikeouts. He hits 97-98, but so far he isn’t having success doing it.

Altoona

This is a tough one because a lot of players are doing good and some of the ones who started off slow, are starting to hit. I could go with Reese McGuire because he’s hitting .210, but you have to love the defense, and like the 13:7 BB/SO ratio. I’ll go with his backup Jin-De Jhang instead, because the defense isn’t as good and his OPS is now down to .595 through 36 at-bats.

The pitching side has a lot of good (or is it bad?) choices for the “not hot” player. I think Cody Dickson is the choice here because he has the most potential of the group and it’s not showing. He doesn’t attack hitters and tries to rely on players chasing pitches rather than putting them away. I call that Kip Wells disease.

Bradenton

A lot of hitters on Bradenton started off slow this year. While other players have been worse, Jordan Luplow is the early disappointment for me. He has a .584 OPS through 21 games, and he’s striking out nearly twice as often as last year. As a corner outfielder only this season, it also gives him less prospect value than last year when he played third base.

The pitcher is another one who isn’t doing the worst, but the performance of Yeudy Garcia early on has been very poor. He may have turned things around in his last start, with six shutout innings. He still has a 1.66 WHIP and he’s averaging less than four innings per start.

West Virginia

This is an easy one. Casey Hughston is hitting .136 with 36 strikeouts in 88 at-bats. His .416 OPS is the lowest on the team. You expect a little more from a third round draft pick out of college in Low-A ball.

This is the best of the worst pitchers, but I expected a little better out of Dario Agrazal. I included him here even though a 4.05 ERA and 1.30 WHIP aren’t horrible numbers. The latter is actually just above league average. He has a strong season last year for Morgantown and showed increased velocity numbers in the Fall Instructional League, while maintaining plus command, so it seemed like this could be a breakout year for him. It’s still early enough that could happen, but it wasn’t a good first month for him.

PIRATES GAME GRAPH


Source: FanGraphs

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 6-2 to the Cubs on Wednesday afternoon. They have off today, as they travel to St Louis for a weekend series. Francisco Lirano will be on the mound Friday night.

In the minors, Clay Holmes gets the morning start for Altoona. His last outing was his shortest of the season, six runs over 2.2 innings. In his three previous starts combined, Holmes gave up four runs over 17 innings. Logan Sendelbach gets the start for West Virginia. He has allowed two runs or less in all five starts this season. He has an 0.99 WHIP and a 1.25 GO/AO ratio.

Indianapolis has off today. When they return to play on Friday, Chad Kuhl will be on the mound. Bradenton was rained out yesterday. Jose Regalado was supposed to start yesterday, but it looks like he is being skipped in favor of Colten Brewer.

MLB: Pittsburgh (15-13) @ Cardinals (13-14) 8:15 PM 5/6
Probable starter: Francisco Liriano (3.86 ERA, 17:29 BB/SO, 28.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (14-11) vs Louisville (15-10) 7:15 PM 5/6 (season preview)
Probable starter: Chad Kuhl (1.31 ERA, 4:17 BB/SO, 20.2 IP)

AA: Altoona (11-15) @ Erie (11-14) 11:05 AM (season preview)
Probable starter: Clay Holmes (6.08 ERA, 13:13 BB/SO, 23.2 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (12-14) vs Charlotte (14-12) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Colten Brewer (3.60 ERA, 10:22 BB/SO, 25.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (16-9) @ Charleston (17-8) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Logan Sendelbach (1.32 ERA, 3:14 BB/SO, 27.1 IP)

HIGHLIGHTS

Here is why we say Willy Garcia has the best arm in the system.

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

5/2: Jason Creasy placed on disabled list. Brandon Waddell promoted to Altoona

5/2: Tate Scioneaux promoted to Bradenton.

4/30: Jared Hughes activated from the disabled list. Rob Scahill sent to Indianapolis.

4/27: Sam Street placed on the temporary inactive list. Jose Regalado added to Bradenton.

4/25: Pedro Florimon added to Indianapolis roster. Antoan Richardson released.

4/25: Austin Meadows added to Altoona roster. Justin Maffei assigned to Morgantown.

4/25: Jake Burnette placed on disabled list. Logan Ratledge assigned to West Virginia.

4/22: Pirates recall Jason Rogers. Cole Figueroa optioned to Indianapolis.

4/21: Pirates release Michael Morse.

4/21: Jhondaniel Medina assigned to Altoona.

4/21: Cory Luebke assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

4/20: Jared Hughes assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

4/19: Julio Vivas added to West Virginia roster. Logan Ratledge assigned to Morgantown.

 

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including two that played for Pirates teams that went to the World Series. The most recent player born on this date was Tommy Helms, a seldom used infielder for the 1976-77 teams. He joined the Pirates at the end of a career that included winning the 1966 Rookie of the Year award, two Gold Gloves and he was a two-time All-Star.

Gene Curtis played left field for a short time for the 1903 Pirates. It’s the second day in a row that a 1903 outfielder was mentioned, as yesterday was the birth date of Lou Gertenrich, who lasted just one game with the team. Curtis played the last five games of the regular season, while the Pirates rested their regulars in advance of the first World Series. It was his only time in the Majors.

Jose Pagan was born on this date in 1935. He played eight years in Pittsburgh from 1965 until 1972. Pagan was mostly a third baseman with the Pirates, although he played every spot but center field and pitcher during his time. In 625 games, he had a .690 OPS, and he had a .267 average during the 1971 World Series.

On this date in 1987, Rafael Belliard hits the first of two home runs he hit during his 17-year career. He went to the plate 1171 times with the Pirates and 1353 times with the Braves, the only two teams he played for during his career. His second homer came ten years later. You can read more about the game in which he homered for the Pirates in the link above. You can find the boxscore here.

  • Hot take warning, bare with me…

    Is Andrew McCutchen overcompensating for this lineup’s lack of power?

    When I think of a guy selling out for power, three things come to mind: strikeouts, fly balls, and pulled contact. During the month of April, Cutch K’d at a 23% rate, hit the ball in the air on 55% of his contact, and pulled 46% of balls in play. The number of months throughout his career where those three categories have been even 20% / 50% / 45%? Zero. Only twice in a month have even two of those categories been met, August ’14 and April ’11.

    Whether intentional or not, Cutch has been a different hitter.

  • John…nitpicky, esp because I love your ex-Pirate birthday stuff (and as NMR states below, the whole Morning Report), but Tommy’s name has an “S” at the end of it. It is Tommy Helms.
    Since I know you copy and paste a lot of this, I’d hate to see the same error show up next year. 🙂

    It seems a lot of infielders had birthdays today.

    I LOVED Jose Pagan growing up.

    • John Dreker
      May 5, 2016 12:36 pm

      definitely nitpicky because there is a bio for him in the link where it is spelled correctly. Just a simple mistake

      • just pulling your chain…sorry if I upset you.

        • John Dreker
          May 5, 2016 2:10 pm

          I hope you at least read the bio, those pages took hours to do each back in 2012

          • JD…I read ALL your birthday stuff. You should know that by now. You’re why I do it over at the Asylum. I wouldn’t have thought of it on my own. 🙂

            And I know how much love and work and sweat you put into this stuff.

            And, believe me, I know there many, many more than me that appreciate all your hard work, not just on the Excellent Morning Report, but other places.

            I felt badly that you thought I was a Nitpicker, but if that is what it took for me to tell you what I really think of you, then I am glad you felt that way. 🙂

            Now, before someone tells us to get a room, I have some grass to cut. 😉

  • David Manel’s postgame/post-series recap on BucsDugout is worth a read; much-needed mix of humor and gut-punching reality after the most demoralizing defeat this early in the season I can remember.

    *The entire pitching staff has been as awful, if not worse, than folks expected; it’s an embarrassment for Huntington to fail so miserably that Hurdle has to continue carrying eight bullpen arms into May, particularly when only four of them are actually good.

    *Biggest question coming out of this Cubs series has to be the offense, which was totally inept in their first real test of the year. Martinez-Waino-Wacha this weekend will be a tough follow-up before going back to beating up on the Reds.

  • If McGuire’s bat wasn’t ready for AA, why did the promote him?

    It seems to me that improvement on defense would be the same at both A and AA. However, hitting in AA is substantially more difficult and requires a more advance bat. A bat that could be improved in A, but a struggle to improve in AA. In short:

    A = improved defense, improved bat
    AA = improved defense, struggling bat

    So I ask again, why AA and not A?

    • If I had to guess, I’d say they look at how/why a player is succeeding or struggling at a level more than the overall production. If McGuire were totally overwhelmed like Casey Hughston, struggling heavily to identify and make contact with A-ball pitches, I don’t think you’d have seen McGuire pushed like he was. That’s not McGuire’s problem, it seems. Kid just simply cannot hit the ball with any authority. Would that’ve been any different in A-ball? I don’t know.

      They’ve gotta start thinking about getting him on an aggressive offseason weight training program. Repeating AA looks pretty obvious at this point.

      • i would assume that he is not hitting the ball with authority because he is not squaring it up. I don’t think how hard he is hitting the ball has anything to do with he off-season strength training.

      • NMR…there’s nothing wrong with McGuire’s bat, he’s simply young for his level. 🙂 🙂

  • Morning Reports have become my favorite work on the site, John. Great job finding interesting topics.

    Good choices for your slow starters. #1 in the entire org for me has been Harold Ramirez, but he’s been lighting it up for the past two weeks (.359/.432/.487) so the slow start looks like a temporary blip. Still hitting a crazy amount of ground balls (60%) which is something to watch.

    Reese McGuire has to be the guy with the worst long-term implications, IMO. I truly thought his poor contact quality in A-ball was due to swinging at, and making contact with, poor hitter’s pitches. He’s done a fantastic job tightening up the zone in AA, but unfortunately the contact quality has been even worse. Kid just can’t be hitting the ball with any sort of authority to develop this poor of a BABIP/ISO track record. Big league pitchers will challenge him in the zone unless he proves he can do something with it.

    • He may end up making Chris Stewart look like Johnny Bench? 🙂

      I love to watch drafts and see who gets taken over who I would’ve taken. I am usually proven wrong, but the two that keep popping out (since I AM rarely correct) are: Taillon over Machado and J.P. Crawford over McGuire.

      It’s also fun to watch David Dahl’s career, because we were going to take him until Appel dropped. We took Meadows with the comp pick for Appel. So far, so good, but….time will tell. 🙂

      (let’s not mention that I wanted Bundy, Bauer and Rendon, who has been average, over Cole, tho, okay?)

      • Ha, I also dwell on those exact two picks, but because I’m at least partly convinced Huntington is cursed at the shortstop position.

        Taillon and McGuire were defensible picks, but neither player looks to be the type of franchise cornerstone that Machado has turned into and Crawford very well projects to be. He also lost Sano, who at the time was a SS, and had Tucker blow out his labrum and Kang demolish his knee in the same year. Expecting Newman to be struck by lightening any moment.

  • RobForsyth
    May 5, 2016 9:34 am

    My God let’s not talk about Kip Wells disease. That was awful to go through and no one could cure him.

  • indybucfan
    May 5, 2016 8:17 am

    Helms was a pretty good second baseman when he was with the Reds. If memory serves me right, he was in the trade that netted the Reds Joe Morgan.

    • John Dreker
      May 5, 2016 8:49 am

      That is true. Reds got some decent players besides Morgan too.

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