Exactly one year ago, I did the Morning Report on the performances of players who were in the Arizona Fall League the previous fall. I figured today would be a good day to do that again for the players who played in the 2015 AFL.
The Pittsburgh Pirates sent seven players to the league, then an eighth joined in when Trevor Williams was traded to the Pirates early in the AFL season. One interesting note about the AFL is that the Pirates had an alternative player to send in case any of the others dropped out beforehand. That was Frank Duncan, and when Williams joined Glendale (the Pirates team), he wore Duncan’s jersey in his first game because he didn’t have his own yet. Duncan just ended up staying in the Fall Instructional League and he has obviously had a strong season. He is scheduled to return Friday from his thumb injury.
The top prospect the Pirates sent was Austin Meadows, and while his numbers weren’t strong in the AFL, the scouting reports were great. He started living up to those reports about three weeks after he returned from his eye injury, and that got him promoted to Indianapolis, where he was just starting to hit before a hamstring injury sidelined him. I know what you’re thinking and here is the latest update.
The second best prospect they sent just had a big night for Altoona last night. Reese McGuire put up solid stats in the AFL and started hitting the ball with more authority. He is showing some nice improvements over last year, while being one of the younger players in the Eastern League. McGuire has already set his career high for walks and tied his high for doubles, with about 40 games left in the season.
The last position player they sent was Adam Frazier and didn’t last long because he left to go player for Team USA in the Premier12 tournament in Taiwan and Japan. He probably got more playing time for that tournament than he would have if he stayed. Frazier did well in his brief time in the AFL and obviously has performed strong this year. So you could easily say that all three position players they sent there have shown improvements this season.
On the pitching side, we start with Williams because he was sent by the Marlins and played one game for their team. Despite a bump in the road last night, he has also shown improvements this year. He was very successful as a reliever in the AFL, posting a .192 BAA and a ridiculous 7.00 GO/AO ratio.
Steven Brault was the top pitching prospect the Pirates sent there. He was there specifically to work on a mechanical change and throw his four-seamer more often. Brault was also used as a reliever and his stats weren’t great, but he was there more as a learning experience, rather than throwing his best stuff to try to get guys out. That has paid off, as he looks to be an improved pitcher already, and he has made his Major League debut due to those improvements.
Tyler Eppler was next and here is one player where you can say he has stayed about even since before the AFL. It was good to get him more experience against upper level hitters, and he missed time early in the season last season, so the extra innings are paying off now with him still being able to stay in the rotation. He is well over his season innings from last year, but those don’t include a playoff start, time in Instructional ball, the AFL and Extended Spring Training starts. Eppler was working on his slider in the AFL and while the pitch can look really good at times, he still hasn’t turned it into a pitch you would call Major League average yet. The AFL time did pay off for the extra innings, but we still have him rated about the same as this time last year.
Cody Dickson was working on his fastball command and nothing has changed there. He has a 3.44 ERA and some great game results this season, but he still doesn’t throw enough strikes to be considered a top prospect. His rankings have dropped since last year. He was living more off potential based on his quality of pitches, but 64 walks this season show he still has plenty of work to do.
Finally, Brett McKinney was sent to the AFL. He has never been a top prospect in the system despite some strong velocity, because the velocity comes and goes. He has hit 97 MPH, but he has also sat 90-92 MPH in short outings. He has improved over his stats last year in Altoona, when he posted a 7.50 ERA in 30 innings. That being said, we haven’t seen the type in improvements that suggests he is a future Major League reliever.
So if you throw Williams in the mix, you can see that five players have improved over last season, while Eppler still remains a top 25 prospect, but he hasn’t taken a step forward like the others. McKinney hasn’t improved either and Dickson has taken a step back, though the potential is still there, it’s just harder to assume with a bigger career sample size behind him, that he will eventually put it all together.
As a side note, Dickson is pitching today at noon on MiLB.tv, so I’ll be watching that game and posting the recap later on tonight. Also, one more attempt at mind-reading here. AFL rosters are usually announced around September 1st.
* I forgot to mention in yesterday’s Morning Report that Hunter Owen was named the Player of the Week for the New York-Penn League last week. He also made our Top Performers article for the first time on Monday and he’s still in the running for our Player of the Month if he can finish strong. The 2016 25th round pick has a .303/.343/.535 slash line through 27 games. Owen has started games at third base, right field, left field and second base.
PIRATES GAME GRAPH
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 7-4 to the Mariners on Tuesday night. Gerrit Cole gets the start tonight, his third since returning from the disabled list. He allowed four runs on seven hits and two walks in four innings in his first game, then came back against the Phillies last week and gave up one run over six innings. The Mariners will counter with James Paxton, who has a 4.18 ERA in 60.1 innings, with 55 strikeouts and a 1.51 WHIP. He allowed one run over seven innings in his previous start, which was against the Blue Jays. Prior to that, he faced the Astros and gave up six runs in five innings.
In the minors, Ryan Vogelsong gets the rehab start for Indianapolis. He left his last game early last Wednesday due to neck tightness. Before leaving, he threw four innings, giving up two runs on four hits, with no walks and two strikeouts. Yeudy Garcia has a 5.31 ERA in four starts this month, after posting a 1.27 ERA in June and 1.55 ERA in May. He is tied for the Florida State League lead with 101 strikeouts, and he ranks ninth with a 2.87 ERA.
West Virginia and Morgantown are off today. The GCL Pirates will go with Travis MacGregor, while Ike Schlabach is scheduled to start for Bristol.
MLB: Pittsburgh (51-48) vs Mariners (51-48) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Gerrit Cole(2.99 ERA, 23:67 BB/SO, 78.1 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (53-51) @ Gwinnett (47-56) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Ryan Vogelsong (4.50 ERA, 0:2 BB/SO, 4.0 IP)
AA: Altoona (57-45) vs Erie (42-62) 12:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cody Dickson (3.44 ERA, 64:69 BB/SO, 102.0 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (52-47) @ St Lucie (53-45) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Yeudy Garcia (2.87 ERA, 38:101 BB/SO, 91.0 IP)
Low-A: West Virginia (51-50) vs Delmarva (55-46) 7:05 PM 7/28 (season preview)
Probable starter: Logan Sendelbach (3.26 ERA, 28:72 BB/SO, 105.0 IP)
Short-Season A: Morgantown (19-19) @ Auburn (16-22) 7:05 PM 7/28 (season preview)
Probable Starter: TBD
Rookie: Bristol (15-16) @ Burlington (17-14) 11:00 AM (season preview)
GCL: Pirates (13-15) vs Tigers East (10-17) 12:00 PM (season preview)
DSL: Pirates (16-28) vs Cubs1 (17-27) 10:30 AM (season preview)
Here are a couple highlights from Kevin Newman. The first is a two-run triple
This one is his fourth hit of the game on Saturday.
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.
7/17: Jonathan Schwind assigned to Altoona.
7/16: Elias Diaz assigned to Altoona on rehab.
7/16: Gerrit Cole activated from the disabled list. Josh Bell optioned to Indianapolis.
7/15: Pirates sign Austin Shields. Assigned to GCL Pirates.
7/15: Pirates sign Boomer Synek. Assigned to GCL Pirates.
7/14: Francisco Cervelli assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.
7/14: John Kuchno assigned to Altoona.
7/14: Jordan George promoted to West Virginia
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
Two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a key game from the 1979 season. Starting with the players and neither was around too long. Enrique Wilson played for the 2000-01 Pirates, joining the team on July 28, 2000 in a deal with the Indians for Wil Cordero. The next season he was dealt to the Yankees on June 13th for Damaso Marte. Wilson was a valuable utility player during his first season with the Pirates, seeing time at 2B/3B/SS and putting up a .723 OPS. He was mostly playing shortstop in 2001 before the trade and had a .186 average in 46 games.
The other player born on this date was left-handed pitcher Irish McIlveen, who despite pitching for the Pirates back in 1906, is one of the last Major League players born in Ireland. He was a star athlete at Penn State and joined the Pirates in July of 1906, right out of college. McIlveen pitched twice for the Pirates and played three games off the bench. After coaching two years at PSU, he returned to the majors with the New York Highlanders, playing exclusively in the outfield. By May of 1909, he was out of baseball.
On this date in 1979, the Pirates took a doubleheader from the first place Montreal Expos, which brought them within a half game of the NL East top spot. The link above has more details for the games, including quotes from Dave Parker, who got hit by a pitch in both games of the doubleheader. You can find the boxscore for game two here, which has a link for the first game.