With the July 2nd international signing period beginning next Saturday, I figured I’d take a look at the first three weeks of the DSL season. They have played 19 games, which is just over 1/4 of their season. Before I start I’ll answer the question you already have. I don’t know of any specific player attached to the Pirates for July 2nd. I just know they were busy scouting in Mexico early this year and brought a few of the players to their academy in the Dominican for workouts.
Now on to the early DSL results. The top signing last year was Kevin Sanchez. He had a minor leg injury at the end of Spring Training and didn’t play in the first few games. I’m not sure if he’s 100% yet despite the fact he is hitting .333 at this point. He has plus-plus speed and they have him batting lead-off. I can’t imagine they don’t want him running unless there are some lingering effects from the injury. He’s attempted just two stolen bases. Assuming he plays regularly the rest of the way, I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts running often and ends up in the 30 stolen base range.
Catcher Gabriel Brito was also injured at the end of Spring Training and just recently returned. The Pirates have eased him into the lineup, having him play partial games at first. He was one of the top signings from the 2014-15 signing class. Brito returned for a second season and was supposed to share the catching duties with Samuel Inoa, who signed for $240,000 last July 2nd. You usually don’t see two high-priced catchers at the same time because you want them both playing regularly. Inoa has started slow with a .388 OPS.
Sherten Apostel signed for $200,000 out of Curacao and had a very interesting scouting report when he signed, though they noted he was raw. So far he’s hitting .173 and has just two extra-base hits, both doubles. However, he has a .348 OBP due to a high walk total, so plate patience is a good sign. His scouting report noted he has a strong fallback plan as a pitcher, but due to his size and athleticism, I think he remains a third baseman for awhile.
Larry Alcime was signed for $350,000 out of the Bahamas, as the Pirates signed some top players from unconventional places. He was another raw player with huge upside and he’s had an extremely difficult time, posting a .050/.093/.075 slash line…yes, that’s right. He also has 17 strikeouts in 40 at-bats. The good news is that he is playing this entire season as a 17-year-old, so they have plenty of time with him.
Rodolfo Castro has been a pleasant surprise as the youngest player on the team. He turned 17 right before the season started. He’s playing regularly at shortstop and he leads the team with a 1.013 OPS. Last year’s shortstop could be a good person for Alcime to look at for hope. Cristopher Perez was horrible last year for most of the season, finishing strong in the last week or so just to get him a .199 average. He has a .960 OPS so far this season.
Jeremias Portorreal looks to be a bust, though I hate saying that about an 18-year-old, so I’ll wait until he turns 19 in six weeks. In his third season in the league, he has a .525 OPS.
On the pitching side, I noted in last night’s Prospect Watch that Leandro Pina has thrown 20 innings this year without allowing an earned run. Since DSL pitchers are on a five inning max, he has pitched all of his allowed innings in his four starts. Pina has a fastball that hits low-90s and an advanced changeup. He’s a 17-year-old, 6’3″, RHP, who they signed for $115,000 last year.
Joel Cesar was one to watch this year because there were reports that he hit 100 MPH. He’s small and was a reliever, but the Pirates turned him into a starter. I was told he was hitting 96 MPH in his first start and he got injured in his second start. It’s not major, but he’s already missed two starts.
Wilmer Contreras was signed last June and got right into games, then quickly hurt his elbow. He’s healthy this year and holding batters to an .083 BAA while pitching in long relief.
The Pirates are near the bottom in hitting, with only six of the 42 teams in the league having a lower OPS than their .615 mark. They are also one of two teams in the league without a home run, though a large majority of the teams have five or less homers, so it’s not as bad as it sounds.
So there are some good signs with Sanchez, Castro, Perez, Pina and Contreras all playing well, as well as some lesser prospects, but there are just as many top players struggling, which has led to the poor overall offense and a 7-12 record.
PIRATES GAME GRAPH
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates won 6-1 over the Dodgers on Saturday night. They will now send Chad Kuhl to the mound for his first Major League start and he gets to go up against Clayton Kershaw. Kuhl had a 2.58 ERA in 76.2 innings with Indianapolis, posting a 16:59 BB/SO ratio and a 1.50 GO/AO ratio. He has struggled in June, posting a 6.75 ERA in four starts. Kershaw had a 1.57 ERA in 115 innings, with 141 strikeouts and an 0.67 WHIP. He has failed to go seven innings in a start just once this season and that was when he went six shutout innings against the Braves back on June 4th.
In the minors, it’s a nice day for the lower level pitching prospects, as both Gage Hinsz and Luis Escobar will be on the mound. Hinsz allowed two earned runs over five innings in his last start. He set career highs of six innings and nine strikeouts in his prior game. Escobar had some control issues in his first start of the season on Tuesday, despite throwing four shutout innings. He walked four batters and had four strikeouts. He threw 70 pitches total, 35 for strikes.
Indianapolis will either be going with Justin Masterson or Wilfredo Boscan. One was announced during the telecast, the other is listed on the team’s website. Bradenton doesn’t have a starter listed yet.
For Bristol, Blake Cederlind makes his pro debut after being drafted in the fifth round this year. The GCL Pirates and DSL Pirates are both off today.
MLB: Pittsburgh (36-39) vs Dodgers (41-35) 8:08 PM
Probable starter: Chad Kuhl (MLB Debut)
AAA: Indianapolis (40-35) vs Buffalo (42-34) 1:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Justin Masterson or Wilfredo Boscan
AA: Altoona (41-32) @ Bowie (32-42) 2:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Alex McRae (11.77 ERA, 8:8 BB/SO, 13.0 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (40-31) @ Ft Myers (36-36) 4:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD
Low-A: West Virginia (36-36) @ Asheville (36-36) 2:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Gage Hinsz (4.22 ERA, 6:19 BB/SO, 21.1 IP)
Short-Season A: Morgantown (6-2) vs State College (5-3) 4:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: Luis Escobar (0.00 ERA, 4:4 BB/SO, 4.0 IP)
Rookie: Bristol (1-1) vs Greeneville (1-1) 6:00 PM (season preview)
GCL: Pirates (1-0) vs Braves (0-2) 12:00 PM 6/27 (season preview)
DSL: Pirates (7-12) vs Indians (9-10) 10:30 AM 6/27 (season preview)
Here is an RBI double from Will Craig on Thursday night. He’s not hitting well yet, but he’s certainly getting on base a lot thanks to five HBP already.
6/25: Luis Paula, David Whitehead and Justin Maffei assigned to Bristol on rehab.
6/24: Pirates purchase the contract of Adam Frazier. Designate Cole Figueroa for assignment.
6/24: Juan Nicasio activated from restricted list. Designate Jorge Rondon for assignment.
6/24: Jacob Stallings optioned to Indianapolis.
6/23: JT Brubaker added to Bradenton roster. Colten Brewer placed on temporary inactive list.
6/23: Tito Polo assigned to Bradenton.
6/22: Pirates recall Kyle Lobstein. Wilfredo Boscan optioned to Indianapolis.
6/22: Jhondaniel Medina assigned to Indianapolis.
6/21: Pirates recall Wilfredo Boscan. Curtis Partch optioned to Indianapolis.
6/21: Pirates sign Braeden Ogle.
6/20: Trace Tam Sing and Erik Lunde added to Bradenton roster. Pablo Reyes placed on temporary inactive list.
6/19: Steven Brault sent to Morgantown on a rehab assignment.
6/19: Pirates purchase the contract of Jacob Stallings. Jason Rogers optioned to Indianapolis.
6/19: Tomas Morales promoted to Indianapolis.
6/18: Pirates option Rob Scahill to Indianapolis. Recall Jason Rogers, Jorge Rondon and Curtis Partch.
6/18: Cory Luebke designated for assignment.
6/18: Juan Nicasio placed on restricted list.
6/17: Pirates released Garrett Russini and Guido Knudson.
6/17: Pirates sign Matt Frawley, Stephen Owen and Arden Pabst.
6/16: Pirates sign 13 draft picks.
6/16: Casey Hughston and Logan Sendelbach assigned to West Virginia. Julio Vivas and Billy Roth assigned to Morgantown.
6/15: Pirates release Nick Buckner.
6/15: Trey Haley sent outright to Indianapolis.
6/15: Dovydas Neverauskas promoted to Indianapolis. John Kuchno placed on disabled list.
6/14: Pirates place Gerrit Cole on the disabled list. Recall Jameson Taillon.
6/14: Kevin Newman and Wyatt Mathisen activated from disabled list. Trace Tam Sing assigned to GCL Pirates.
6/14: Miguel Rosario promoted to Altoona.
6/14: Pirates release Robert Zarate.
6/13: Sam Street activated from Temporary Inactive List. JT Brubaker assigned to GCL Pirates.
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including two of the better players in team history. Starting with the other five players (their bios can be found in the link above), we have pitcher Howie Pollet (1951-53, 1956), pitcher Elmer Singleton (1947-48) and third baseman Deb Garms (1940-41), who controversially won the 1940 batting title. Also outfielder Babe Herman (1935), who was a star during his day, and pitcher Elmer Ponder (1917, 1919-21). Pollet was involved in two of the bigger trades in team history, coming over from the Braves in 1951 for Cliff Chambers and Wally Westlake. Chambers had thrown a no-hitter a month earlier. In 1953, Pollet was part of the huge Ralph Kiner deal with the Cubs.
Garms hit .355 in 1940 to win the NL batting title, but many people felt he didn’t have enough plate appearances. NL President Ford Frick stated at the time that he only needed to play 100 games to qualify and Garms played 103, going to the plate 385 times. Now the minimum is 502, although a player can still win with less if their average is still higher than second place after you add hitless at-bats to their total (only for calculation purposes). For example, if a player had 480 plate appearances, and adding an 0-for-22 to his total still had him with the best average, then he would win.
The bios for the two other players can be found here. They are catcher Jason Kendall and IF/OF Bill Robinson. Kendall played nine seasons (1996-2004) for the Pirates and caught more games that anyone else in team history. He ranks in the franchise’s top 20 in games, runs, hits, doubles and stolen bases. He batted .306 in 1,252 games. Robinson played eight years (1975-82) in Pittsburgh and hit .276 with 109 homers for the Pirates. He hit 166 homers during his career. During the 1979 championship season, he hit 24 homers and drove in 75 runs.