On Wednesday, we named Tito Polo our Pirates Prospects Player of the Month for May. We also included one choice for each team, with Josh Bell, Harold Ramirez and Michael Suchy winning for their clubs. As I usually do for the next day, I’m going to briefly mention the players who struggled for each of the four affiliates in May. I’ll save the pitchers for tomorrow. There were some better choices for a few teams, but I’m just trying to stick to players who are at least marginal prospects.
Indianapolis – This is an odd one based on how it happened. Alen Hanson got called up for three days and collected his first Major League hit and scored a run. He was on fire for a week right before getting called up, then once he got sent down, he forgot what got him there. He has looked better in his last couple games, but as soon as he got back to Indianapolis, he looked like he was doing everything he could to get back to Pittsburgh as the cleanup hitter. He is at his best when he goes with the pitch and sprays line drives all around the field. Instead, he looked like he was trying to hit a homer on every swing and it was resulting in wild misses, or routine pop ups. It seemed like the Pirates called him up at the right time, yet those five days he spent away from Indianapolis changed his entire approach for the worse. Hopefully these last couple games are a sign of him getting settled back in to his old approach.
Altoona – This one is also a little odd because Altoona as a team did a really good job of hitting during the month, with a lot of strong performances. Jose Osuna would have to be the most disappointing because he hit .239 and had just one home run the entire month while batting in the cleanup spot. He performed about the same overall as Stetson Allie, but Osuna is the better prospect, so he gets the nod here. In April, Osuna had an .802 OPS and hit four homers, looking like he was carrying over his incredible performance from winter ball. His defense at first base has looked terrific this season, but Alen Hanson is a plus defender at second base and that didn’t keep him from the Indianapolis spot.
Bradenton – For the Marauders, no one was really close to Taylor Gushue last month. He put up a .552 OPS in 83 at-bats. Being a fourth round pick out of college in 2014, makes his performance disappointing. What makes it slightly worse is that he had an .835 OPS in April, showing signs of why he went so high in the draft. Gushue is a .235 hitter, who doesn’t walk much and his power is average at best. He’s 22 years old, which is still a decent age for High-A, so there is time for him to develop and no rush on getting catchers through the system with the logjam ahead of him.
West Virginia – This is an easy choice with Casey Hughston being sent down to Extended Spring Training. He put up a .455 OPS and struck out 22 times in 52 at-bats. The worst part about those numbers is that they weren’t any better in April. Being a third round pick last year, his .577 OPS and 71 strikeouts in 219 at-bats, were both extremely disappointing. There were reports that he was raw when he signed and it helped that he was young for the draft class, so there shouldn’t have been huge expectations at this point. Still, you want to see the potential at least. The interesting part about these four choices is that they are all at least average defenders and in the case of Hanson and Hughston, better than average. Like Hanson, Hughston also has speed as a tool (not nearly the speed Hanson possesses), but he needs to get on base once in awhile to utilize it.
** I mentioned a week or so ago that Michael Fransoso was in Extended Spring Training for the Pirates, staying in shape in case the Pirates needed him to fill in at any of the top levels. On Twitter on Wednesday, he thanked the Pirates for drafting him and building him into a better ballplayer and person. He asked for and got his release so he could sign with the Rockland Boulders of the Can-Am League. Fransoso was taken in the 27th round in 2013 and played everywhere except catcher during his three seasons. In 214 games between Jamestown, West Virginia and Bradenton, he hit .238/.341/.322 with 18 doubles, seven triples, eight homers and 28 stolen bases.
Bradenton is 6-4 in their last ten games. They are in first place in their division, 1.5 games ahead. The first half of the FSL season ends on June 22nd.
West Virginia is 6-4 in their last ten games. They are in fourth place in their division, trailing first place by five games. The first half of the SAL season ends on June 19th.
PIRATES GAME GRAPH
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 3-2 to the Marlins on Wednesday night. Juan Nicasio will get the start tonight, trying to earn a split in the series. In his last three starts combined, he has allowed 11 runs on 19 hits in 15.2 innings, though that comes with a 3:15 BB/SO ratio. His mound opponent will be Wei-Yin Chen, who has a 4.37 ERA in 59.2 innings. He has 50 strikeouts and a 1.27 WHIP. In his last start, Chen went five innings against Atlanta, allowing a run on two hits.
In the minors, Trevor Williams makes his second start for Indianapolis since returning from shoulder soreness. In his return start last weekend, he allowed two runs on four hits and one walk. Clay Holmes went seven innings in his last start, his longest outing of his career. He did that without striking out a single batter.
For West Virginia, JT Brubaker tries to stay on track after a solid start last time out. In his previous five games, he allowed three earned runs or more in each game. Last week, he threw five shutout innings to break that streak. His 57 strikeouts have him tied for fifth most in the league.
MLB: Pittsburgh (29-23) @ Marlins (28-25) 7:10 PM
Probable starter: Juan Nicasio (4.79 ERA, 18:47 BB/SO, 47.0 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (27-24) vs Rochester (29-24) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Trevor Williams (2.84 ERA, 1:2 BB/SO, 6.1 IP)
AA: Altoona (29-22) @ Akron (36-16) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Clay Holmes (5.05 ERA, 20:29 BB/SO, 51.2 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (28-24) vs Palm Beach (26-27) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Colten Brewer (4.36 ERA, 21:42 BB/SO, 43.1 IP)
Low-A: West Virginia (28-24) @ Augusta (28-26) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: JT Brubaker (3.96 ERA, 21:57 BB/SO, 50.0 IP)
Here is the second home run from Jacob Stallings on Tuesday night. It was part of a day that saw him drive in seven runs.
6/1: Pirates release Michael Fransoso.
5/29: Justin Masterson assigned to Bradenton.
5/29: Jhondaniel Medina assigned to Altoona.
5/28: Tony Watson reinstated from paternity list. Kyle Lobstein optioned to Indianapolis.
5/28: Cole Tucker promoted to Bradenton. Jess Amedee added to West Virginia roster.
5/27: Trevor Williams and Jim Fuller assigned to Indianapolis.
5/27: Kevin Newman placed on disabled list. Colten Brewer added to Bradenton roster.
5/27: Logan Sendelbach added to West Virginia roster. Jess Amedee assigned to Extended Spring Training.
5/26: Jhondaniel Medina promoted to Indianapolis.
5/25: Pirates place Tony Watson on paternity list. Recall Rob Scahill.
5/25: Pirates place Arquimedes Caminero on disabled list. Recall Kyle Lobstein.
5/24: Pirates place Ryan Vogelsong on disabled list. A.J. Schugel recalled from Indianapolis.
5/23: Logan Sendelbach assigned to Extended Spring Training. Jess Amedee added to West Virginia.
5/22: Trevor Williams assigned to Bradenton. Colten Brewer sent to Extended Spring Training.
5/22: Trace Tam Sing added to Bradenton roster.
5/21: West Virginia assigns Ty Moore and Casey Hughston to Extended Spring Training. Logan Ratledge and Sean Keselica added to West Virginia roster.
5/21: Logan Hill demoted from Bradenton to West Virginia.
5/21: Pirates release Eric Karch.
5/21: Juan Diaz assigned to Extended Spring Training
5/20: John Kuchno assigned to Indianapolis. Guido Knudson assigned to Extended Spring Training.
5/19: Starling Marte activated from paternity list. Alen Hanson optioned to Indianapolis.
5/19: Elias Diaz placed on 60-day disabled list.
5/19: Wilfredo Boscan added to 40-man roster and promoted to Pittsburgh. Cory Luebke optioned to Indianapolis.
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
Fixing a mistake from yesterday. The players listed yesterday were actually born on June 2nd, so here are the players born on June 1st, just so they don’t get left out:
Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date (June 1st), and one has an interesting story attached to his last game. As for the other four players, we start with Hal Smith, who caught for the 1965 Pirates. He was actually a coach who got forced into catching duties due to injuries. He retired from playing in 1961, so he wasn’t that far removed from his big league career. He remained a coach with the Pirates for two more years. He is one of three players named Hal Smith that have played in the majors, and all three played for the Pirates.
Lou Tost pitched one game for the Pirates on April 24,1947 and allowed one run in one inning. It was his last big league game. Other players born on this date include 1925 first baseman Al Niehaus and 1898 second baseman Bill Eagan. Niehaus hit .219 in 17 games for the 1925 Pirates as a 26-year-old rookie, before they traded him to Reds for pitcher Tom Sheehan. Eagan hit .328 in his brief time with the Pirates, but they let him go after he showed up to the park drunk (after staying out all night) and he was unable to play on June 3, 1898.
Finally, one player of note that was born on this date is pitcher Harry Gardner. He didn’t do much during his two seasons (1911-12), but according to his official career stats, he has been discredited for a long time. In his last game, stats that you will find anywhere say that he gave up six unearned runs and recorded just one out. Those stats are wrong. Gardner actually allowed three unearned runs and pitched a complete inning according to the boxscores and game notes from back on April 14,1912. You can read a full recap of the differences here.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.