Some thoughts on a Sunday morning, which could be busy with trades, or at least rumors that never come true. I want to start with a player who doesn’t get much notice around here, though he has always been someone we said had potential.

Elvis Escobar is quietly having a strong month of July. He has a .353/.398/.471 slash line in 24 games, making him one of the top hitters in the system this month. His highest monthly OPS the first three months this season was his .679 mark in May. Last year at West Virginia, his best month was August when he had a .792 mark.

I got to watch Escobar last year, a couple games this year and two of his winter league games were televised, so I have seen him a few times. Plus I’ve watched some highlight videos and random Spring Training videos over the years. He is clearly a player with tools, who just needs to put them together.

Despite some poor stolen base numbers over the years, Escobar has above average speed. He has a very strong outfield arm and can cover a lot of ground. He’s a small player at 5’8″, 170 pounds, but he is in great shape and strong for his size. He has a little pop in his bat that you wouldn’t expect from seeing him.

It seems like he has been around forever because he didn’t play his first game for almost a year after he signed back in July 2011. At a $570,000 bonus at age 16, he was someone who instantly became interesting. This is his fifth season, yet he is still shy of his 22nd birthday. To put that in perspective, he’s younger than 12 of the draft picks the Pirates signed this year.

If Escobar does ever put everything together, then you have a corner outfield with a strong arm, who can steal bases and get his share of doubles and triples with the occasional homer. It’s going to take more than one strong month to turn him into a legit prospect. Going by his age, it’s obviously still too early to just write him off. Maybe we are seeing him finally put all the tools together and mature as a player.

** The Mark Melancon deal proved that you can think a deal is good, yet still think the return is disappointing. When you hear that the Pirates want a return similar to the Aroldis Chapman deal to trade Melancon, you figure the return would be more than a reliever and one high risk/high reward pitcher in Low-A ball. From the standpoint that you’re giving up two months of Melancon for five extra years of a potentially strong reliever, plus a lottery ticket in Taylor Hearn, that deal seems like an easy win for the Pirates. Plus you can add in the difference in cost this year. So yes, I think the Pirates made a very good trade, and I also believe it was a disappointing return based on the current market.

From a Morning Report from last June, talking about what the Pirates missed in the 2012 draft. The last line of the article was:

“It would have been nice to get a big lefty like Hearn in the system to see what the Pirates could do with him.”

If you missed that part of the deal, the Pirates took him in the 22nd round of the 2012 draft and couldn’t sign him. Four years later, they have that chance to see what they can do with him.

** I might keep mentioning until it isn’t true, because it’s crazy to see the GCL Pirates in first place with a 14-18 record. I don’t want to rush through an already short season (60 games), but I’m really interested to see if the division winner finishes with a below .500 record.

PLAYOFF PUSH

Indianapolis is in second place in their division, trailing by five games. They trail by 10.5 games for the lone wild card spot.

Altoona leads their division by one game. The top two teams in the division go to the playoffs, with the first place team getting the home field advantage in the first round.

Bradenton won the first half title. They have home field advantage in the playoffs.

West Virginia is tied for sixth place in their division, trailing first by five games.

Morgantown is in third place in their division, trailing first place by seven games. They are five games back for the lone wild card spot.

Bristol is in fourth place, trailing by 3.5 games. The top two teams in each division go to the playoffs.

The GCL Pirates lead their division by a 1/2 game. This is the only league where you have to win your division to make the playoffs.

The DSL Pirates trail their division by 17.5 games. They trail in the wild card by 17 games.

PIRATES GAME GRAPH


Source: FanGraphs

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 5-3 to the Brewers on Saturday night. Francisco Liriano gets the ball this afternoon for the Pirates. He faced the Brewers ten days ago in Pittsburgh and allowed two runs over 6.2 innings, with no walks and 13 strikeouts. In his last start on the 26th, Liriano gave up seven runs on eight hits and four walks in 3.1 innings. The Brewers will counter with Matt Garza, who has a 5.74 ERA in 42.1 innings, with 24 strikeouts and a 1.68 WHIP. He opposed Liriano ten days ago and allowed four runs over five innings. In one start since then, Garza allowed three runs over six innings against the Diamondbacks.

In the minors, Gage Hinsz gets the start today after being pushed back one day in the rotation due to a rain out on Thursday. In yesterday’s Morning Report, I wrote about Hinsz and the improvements he has made statistically over last season. Altoona has a doubleheader and Clay Holmes is scheduled for the second game. Teams don’t usually use two regular starters during doubleheaders, but Altoona has off tomorrow, so it won’t affect the rotation.

Before his last start, Trevor Williams was on a streak of four games that saw him allow one run over 28 innings. On Tuesday, he gave up three runs on six hits and three walks in 2.2 innings. So he is looking for a bounce back performance today.

The GCL Pirates and DSL Pirates are off today. Adam Oller starts for Bristol.

MLB: Pittsburgh (52-50) @ Brewers (45-56) 2:10 PM
Probable starter: Francisco Liriano (5.38 ERA, 66:109 BB/SO, 108.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (55-53) vs Norfolk (42-65) 1:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Trevor Williams (3.13 ERA, 18:40 BB/SO, 69.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (58-47) @ Trenton (66-40) 4:00 PM DH (season preview)
Probable starter: Alex McRae (6.89 ERA, 12:32 BB/SO, 47.0 IP) and Clay Holmes (4.46 ERA, 47:77 BB/SO, 107.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (55-49) @ Daytona (55-47) 5:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: JT Brubaker (4.68 ERA, 12:24 BB/SO, 42.1 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (51-53) vs Delmarva (58-46) 2:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Gage Hinsz (3.42 ERA, 11:33 BB/SO, 55.1 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (20-21) @ State College (27-14) 6:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: James Marvel (4.23 ERA, 10:27 BB/SO, 38.1 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (16-20) vs Johnson City (19-17) 6:00 PM (season preview)

GCL: Pirates (14-18) vs Tigers West (16-15) 12:00 PM 8/1(season preview)

DSL: Pirates (17-31) vs Indians (22-26) 10:30 AM 8/1 (season preview)

HIGHLIGHTS

Here is the leader among all Pirates in doubles, doing what he does best.

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

7/31: Pirates recall Max Moroff. Steven Brault optioned to Indianapolis.

7/31: Erik Lunde assigned to GCL Pirates.

7/30: Pirates trade Mark Melancon to Washington Nationals for Taylor Hearn and Felipe Rivero.

7/29: Pirates recall Steven Brault. A.J. Schugel optioned to Indianapolis.

7/29: Austin Meadows assigned to Morgantown on rehab

7/29: Jin-De Jhang sent to Altoona. Tomas Morales assigned to Bradenton.

7/28: Frank Duncan activated from disabled list.

7/26: Eric Fryer reinstated from paternity list. Elias Diaz optioned to Indianapolis.

7/25: Ke’Bryan Hayes placed on the disabled list.

7/24: Tyler Glasnow placed on disabled list. A.J. Schugel recalled.

7/23: Tyler Glasnow recalled. A.J. Schugel optioned to Indianapolis.

7/23: Eric Fryer placed on paternity list. Elias Diaz recalled.

7/22: Erik Kratz clears waivers. Elects free agency.

7/21: Chris Diaz placed on temporary inactive list.

7/20: Jose Regalado assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.

7/20: Ryan Vogelsong assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

7/19: Francisco Cervelli activated from disabled list. Erik Kratz designated for assignment.

7/19: Jameson Taillon activated from disabled list. Chad Kuhl optioned to Indianapolis.

7/19: Frank Duncan placed on disabled list.

7/19: Elias Diaz assigned to Indianapolis.

7/19: Justin Topa assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus 17 trades of note between 1987 and 2011. Also an impressive debut during a season the Pirates won the NL East. Because there are so many trades of note and they have all been covered before, I encourage you to check this link for the full rundown. I was going to copy and paste it, but it’s a long list. First the game, and Tim Wakefield made his Major League debut on this date in 1992, defeating the Cardinals by a 3-2 score. He pitched a complete game, striking out ten batters. Wakefield threw 146 pitches, both runs were unearned and Barry Bonds hit a two-run homer. More on this game inside the link above, along with a boxscore.

The seven players born on this date include:

JJ Furmaniak, infielder for the 2005 club

Mike Bielecki, starting pitcher for the 1984-87 Pirates and the team’s first round pick in 1979.

Frank Brosseau, pitcher for the team in 1969 and 1971. Made one appearance during that World Series winning season.

Vic Davalillo, 1B/OF for the 1971-73 Pirates. Hit .285 in 99 games during the 1971 season.

Elmer Riddle, pitcher from 1948 until 1949. Won 12 games in 1948 and threw 191 innings, but a leg injury ruined his 1949 season

Erv Kantlehner, pitcher from 1914 until 1916. Threw a four-hit shutout in his pro debut, yet issued seven walks.

Joe Sugden, catcher from 1894 until 1897.  Went nine seasons in a row without hitting a homer. Played in famous 1912 Tigers game, in which the team protested Ty Cobb’s suspension, so they filled out the lineup with amateurs and coaches. That game happened seven years after his Major League career ended. Tigers lost 24-2.

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15 COMMENTS

  1. John, while I agree with both fo your Melancon comments, that make us sound two faced, which usually is the province of PBC management.

    They didn’t get enough, as I posted elsewhere today on this site, but they had to trade MM because no way BN pays him $10 Mil plus next year.

  2. I think the Melancon return was below market value because NH needed something specific (MLB late inning reliever) as part of the return – never a good negotiating tactic.

  3. I hate to say this but why would you give a 5’8″ player that kind of money? Perhaps they thought he would grow another 4″ or 6″ since he was only 16 years old at that time. He is no Altruve at this point. I rather give money to Alcime and Apostle who are both over 6′ at the time of signing and 200+ lbs. These guys are already men and sure maybe they will do nothing but I like the size. I always said that with all things being equal I would always take the more physically larger player.

    • He was 5’9″ when they signed him, so it appears he shrunk…or more likely, was actually 5’8″ and didn’t grow at all. He is a very strong individual and has a lot of tools, so there is clearly potential. There is a good chance that he has already got further than Apostel and Alcime ever will, and the fact he was advanced enough to go right to the GCL shows he was a much more polished player than them when he signed

    • Thankfully you aren’t drafting or scouting for the Bucs. McCutchen is only 5-10. I imagine you wouldn’t have signed him either. Dustin Pedroia is 5-8, so he obviously wouldn’t have been draftable. Same with 5-8 Adam Eaton. And certainly not Altuve. Since Escobar is one of the youngest players in High A ball, how do you know what he will look like in three years?

  4. I did not like return on M.M., history tells me one of the two will flame out. There is reasons why the Nats wanted to get rid of these two. Just like the Mets with Niese. I would have given him a qualifying offer and let him walk and take the compensation pick. Like R. Martin for K.B. Hayes, that was a no brainer.

    • with the QO likely to come in at close to $17M there is NO way the Bucs make the offer – MM would be an idiot to not take it and wait until 2018 for his multi-year deal.

  5. I think the Pirates had to move MM, and I thought the return was pretty substantial.

    Escobar is doing well, but he will turn 22 pretty soon and he is still only at Hi A.

    Alen Hanson at AAA over the Last 50 games (Jun/Jul) .263/.347/.374/.721 OPS, 23W/20K, 21 SB, and 27 runs scored. During those 50 games he has 5 doubles, 3 triples, 3 HR’s, and 11 RBI. His defense at 2B has never been in question and was selected as the Best 2B in the IL in 2015 by Baseball America. The Pirates need a leadoff hitter badly now and in the future – he and Josh Bell can ride on the same bus from Indy.

    • Using your Hanson example as a lead in, I looked at some struggling Pirates for the month of July.

      Jhay 16 for 73 .219 4 2B, 3 3B, 0 HR, 7 RBI 2 BB 13 K

      Cutch 21 for 85 .247 4 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 11 RBI 5 BB 22 K

      Jaso 12 for 57 .211 3 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 3 RBI 4 BB 15 K

      Kang 10 for 55 .182 4 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 8 RBI 4 BB 18 K

      TOTAL 59 for 270 .219 15 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR, 29 RBI 15 BB 68 K

      Kang June numbers, post Chicago 3 for 25 .120 2 HR 2 RBI 3 BB 8 K

      Pretty pathetic numbers.

      • I guess that would explain how in the heck they go out last night and lose to a AAAA/ bench squad, the only MLB quality stater in that line up is Villar, and you couldn’t say that about him last year.

      • for a team that is supposedly using data and analytics the inability to get bats into the lineup like frasier and joyce is mind boggling – given how bad some starters are performing

    • “Escobar is doing well, but he will turn 22 pretty soon and he is still only at Hi A.”

      STILL only at HI A? He is actually significantly younger than the average player at that level. In fact he is the second-YOUNGEST player on the Bradenton roster. Players who are older than him include Yeudy Garcia, Stephen Tarpley, Kevin Kramer, Tito Polo, Gushue, Luplow, Joe, etc.

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