Today’s game marks the halfway point of the Dominican Summer League season. The league plays it’s All-Star game on Sunday and two Pirates have been selected to the game. If you have been followed the coverage in the daily Prospect Watch recaps, neither player should be a surprise. Pitcher Leandro Pina and shortstop Rodolfo Castro were both named to the team. Castro is the youngest player on the team, turning 17 back on May 21st. Pina is about eight months older, and the second youngest pitcher on the team.
With the team at the halfway point, I’m going to do the five best and worst things from the first half just like I did with the full-season teams when they reached the halfway point of their seasons.
1. Rodolfo Castro – As the youngest player on the team, just holding your own in the DSL is impressive. He made the All-Star game due to an .815 OPS, best among regulars on the team. He leads the team in runs, hits, doubles, triples, RBIs and total bases. His defense hasn’t been that good as far as errors, but he is supposedly much better than 17 errors at this point would indicate.
2. Leandro Pina – Pina would have got the top spot if not for the updated scouting report I got on Wednesday night. He has thrown five shutout innings in six of his seven starts. He hasn’t walked a batter in his last 29 innings. The 6’3″, 17-year-old righty is getting by due to an advanced changeup and excellent command. His fastball has been sitting 85-88 MPH, which won’t work as he advances in the system. Most DSL players have probably never seen a plus changeup, so that gives him a huge weapon. Fortunately for Pina, he has the frame to add velocity and of course, age is on his side.
3. Cristopher Perez – Perez had an awful time last year, between a Spring Training injury and struggling at the plate and in the field, it was hard to see what the Pirates saw when they gave him a $150,000 bonus. I mentioned in the DSL recap last year that he really started to show improvements near the end of the season and they have carried over into this year. He is hitting .309/.364/.444 and already has four more extra-base hits than last year in half as many plate appearances.
4. Roger Santana – Santana was supposed to be one of the top young pitchers last year and not much went right. He gave up too many hits, didn’t get strikeouts or ground balls and the ERA suffered. This season, he’s striking out nearly one batter per inning, while the ground balls have gone up and the ERA has gone way down, from 5.66 last year to 1.42 this season.
5. Relative Lack of Injuries – At times last year, there were nine players unable to play at the same time due to Spring Training injuries. Compared to last season, this year has been great for the team. Kevin Sanchez and Gabriel Brito were the main injured players on Opening Day and both returned shortly afterwards. Joel Cesar is the worst injury now, and almost a predictable one. The Pirates took a small reliever who has hit 100 MPH, and put him in a starting role and he got injured in his second game. As a starter, he was hitting 96 MPH, but he didn’t have a lot of control to begin with and he threw a lot of pitches in his 6.2 innings of work. They do have five other injured pitchers, but four of them are carry over injuries from last year. Only Reymundo Pena was hurt this year, and he’s a 20-year-old, soft-tossing lefty reliever with limited upside.
1. Jeremias Portorreal – Not many players go to the Fall Instructional League and then return to the DSL the next year, but he did just that. Portorreal was one of the biggest signings in 2013 and now he is in his third season in the DSL, currently hitting .203/.333/270 and not playing everyday. He is hands down the most disappointing player on the team.
2. Larry Alcime/Sherten Apostel – Two of the higher bonus players for the Pirates last July, these two have looked as raw as you can get. They were described as raw, and coming from the Bahamas (Alcime) and Curacao, they aren’t exactly playing against the top competition at an early age. Alcime was the higher priced player at $350,000, which is more than $1,000 per OPS points he has with his .345 mark. He also has a 1:26 BB/SO ratio in 76 at-bats. Apostel has a .524 OPS due to a high walk total, but he also strikes out a lot with 31 in 86 at-bats.
3. Yeudry Manzanillo – The Pirates gave Manzanillo a $150,000 bonus last July, the highest they gave any pitcher. He was thrown into the rotation and he has a 7.24 ERA, with more walks than strikeouts and a 1.68 WHIP. I think by the end of the season, his stats will look a lot better, but at the halfway point he is the worst starter on the team.
4. Eliezer Ramirez – The Pirates paid $120,000 to sign Ramirez in July of 2013 and he was the only player released this spring. The problem I was told from multiple people is that he just never improved at all from the kid who was described as being raw when he was signed out of Venezuela. The fact that the Pirates gave up on a six-figure bonus player at the age of 19 tells you just how far he was from being a prospect.
5. Team Record – Normally a 13-22 record would rank higher on the worst list, but the Pirates have a very inexperienced team, with most of the experienced players coming from the back-end of the bullpen. I didn’t expect them to be good when a majority of their innings and at-bats are coming from first-year players, many of whom were described as raw when they signed. So while I had to include it here, it really isn’t disappointing.
PIRATES GAME GRAPH
The Pirates were off yesterday.
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates return from their All-Star break today. Francisco Liriano gets the start tonight. He had not gone longer than five innings in any of his last four starts. He allowed just one run over five innings in his last outing, but he needed 96 pitches to get through his day. The Nationals will send Stephen Strasburg to the mound tonight. He has not lost a game this season. In 106.2 innings, he has a 2.62 ERA, with 132 strikeouts and a 1.01 WHIP. In his last two starts combined, he has allowed one run on two hits in 13.2 innings.
In the minors, Trevor Williams starts for Indianapolis. He has allowed three runs over 20 innings in his last three starts combined. Altoona has a doubleheader with Ryan Vogelsong and Clay Holmes getting the starts. Vogelsong made his first rehab start on Sunday and allowed three runs over five innings. He isn’t eligible to come off the disabled list until July 23rd, so he will have at minimum one more start after tonight. He could stay on rehab for as many as 30 days before he’s activated. In his last five starts combined, Clay Holmes has allowed five runs over 30 innings.
Second round pick Travis MacGregor goes for the GCL Pirates, while Nestor Oronel takes the mound for Bristol.
MLB: Pittsburgh (46-42) @ Nationals (54-36) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Francisco Liriano (5.15 ERA, 58:88 BB/SO, 92.2 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (48-45) @ Louisville (45-47) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Trevor Williams (3.61 ERA, 14:29 BB/SO, 52.1 IP)
AA: Altoona (51-38) vs Harrisburg (47-42) 5:00 PM DH (season preview)
Probable starter: Ryan Vogelsong (5.40 ERA, 0:1 BB/SO, 5.0 IP) and Clay Holmes (4.30 ERA, 38:67 BB/SO, 92.0 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (48-41) @ Dunedin (47-43) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: JT Brubaker (5.20 ERA, 6:16 BB/SO, 27.2 IP)
Low-A: West Virginia (46-44) @ Hickory (48-43) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Logan Sendelbach (3.39 ERA, 26:66 BB/SO, 93.0 IP)
Short-Season A: Morgantown (12-15) vs Auburn (14-13) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: Danny Beddes (3.66 ERA, 8:16 BB/SO, 19.2 IP)
Rookie: Bristol (9-11) @ Kingsport (8-12) 7:00 PM (season preview)
GCL: Pirates (8-10) vs Tigers West (10-8) 12:00 PM (season preview)
DSL: Pirates (13-22) vs Cubs1 (16-19) 10:30 AM (season preview)
Here is Kevin Newman picking up a hit just before the All-Star break. He was recently ranked 17th overall among prospects by Keith Law.
7/14: Francisco Cervelli assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.
7/14: John Kuchno assigned to Altoona.
7/14: Jordan George promoted to West Virginia
7/13: Daniel Zamora placed on West Virginia disabled list.
7/13: Colten Brewer activated from temporary inactive list. Nick Neumann placed on Bradenton disabled list.
7/12: Rob Scahill claimed off waivers by Brewers.
7/10: Ryan Vogelsong assigned to Altoona on rehab.
7/9: Jonathan Schwind promoted to Indianapolis.
7/8: Pirates sign Josh Outman.
7/8: Josh Bell promoted to Pittsburgh. Tyler Glasnow optioned to Indianapolis.
7/8: Nick Kingham assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.
7/7: Juan Paula promoted to Morgantown.
7/7: Tyler Glasnow recalled. Kyle Lobstein optioned to Indianapolis.
7/6: Steven Brault optioned to Indianapolis. Kyle Lobstein promoted to Pirates.
7/6: Jacob Stallings sent outright to Indianapolis.
7/6: Pirates released Clario Perez.
7/5: Gerrit Cole assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.
7/5: Steven Brault promoted to Pirates. Jacob Stallings designated for assignment.
7/5: Austin Meadows placed on Indianapolis disabled list.
7/5: Tomas Morales promoted to Indianapolis (sent back to Altoona on 7/6)
7/4: Jameson Taillon placed on 15-day disabled list.
7/4: Jin-De Jhang promoted to Indianapolis. Tomas Morales assigned to Altoona.
7/4: Erik Lunde activated from disabled list. Assigned to Bradenton. Raul Hernandez assigned to GCL.
7/4: Elias Diaz assigned to Bradenton on rehab.
7/4: Chris Stewart placed on disabled list.
7/4: Pirates claim Eric Fryer off waivers. Rob Scahill placed on waivers.
7/3: Pirates sign Chris McDonald and Evan Piechota. Both assigned to GCL.
7/3: Pirates sign six international free agents.
7/3: Yunior Montero promoted to West Virginia.
7/3: Curtis Partch sent outright to Indianapolis.
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including Donn Clendenon, who played first base for the Pirates from 1961 until 1968. After seeing limited September time his first year, he finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 1962. Between the 1965-66 seasons, he drove in 194 runs. The Pirates lost him to the Montreal Expos in the 1968 expansion draft. In his time in Pittsburgh, he hit .280 with 106 homers. In 1969, he picked up a World Series ring with the New York Mets.
Other former players born on this date include Anthony Claggett, who pitched one game with the Pirates on October 3, 2009. Enrique Romo, who was a reliever for the Pirates from 1979 until 1982. During that 1979 season, he pitched 84 times and had a 2.99 ERA in 129.1 innings. The next year he made 74 appearances and threw a total of 123.2 innings.
We also have 1966 center fielder Don Bosch and 1925-26 pitcher Red Oldham, who pitched one of the more important innings in franchise history. After the Pirates took a 9-7 lead in the bottom of the eighth in game seven of the 1925 World Series, Oldham was called in to close out the game. The Pirates trailed 7-6 going into the eighth and scored three runs off Walter Johnson. Oldham picked up the final three outs, striking out two future Hall of Famers, Goose Goslin and Sam Rice.