Morning Report: Thoughts on the West Virginia Power

I was able to catch four West Virginia Power games this weekend. It’s the second time I saw the team live this season, catching a series in mid-May as well. I’ve also watched about ten games online. With that in mind, I wanted to give some quick thoughts on the team and what I have seen over the season.

Mitch Keller has been the most impressive player to watch, and that’s not even taking his age/experience into consideration. There is just something about a pitcher hitting 96 often, while getting good results with his curve and occasional changeup. Even in the second half when his results haven’t been as good, he’s still maintained the velocity and limited the walks. It’s a huge step from where he was at this point last year.

Ke’Bryan Hayes is the other top prospect and he really hasn’t been that impressive UNTIL you take his age/experience into consideration. On Opening Day, he was ten months removed from still being in high school, yet he was playing against mostly college and international players 3-4 years older than him.

In that way, Hayes reminds me of Andrew McCutchen when I saw him in the minors. He didn’t impress me on the field, so I have to rely on scouting reports instead and pick out the few good things as a sign of the talent. I watched McCutchen go 4-for-26 over two seasons and three of those hits were weak contact. One was just a high chopper the third baseman decided to go back on for some reason and play a short hop, while another rolled to second base under the pitcher’s glove. I actually remember those two hits from 2007, but I have handwritten notes of every at-bat he took in the seven games I saw him play. They don’t describe a future MVP, but I saw the quick bat, the speed and defense and realized he was very young for the league, especially 2007 in Double-A.

Hayes drove the ball well a couple times, but he also had some bad at-bats. He has looked better in the games I’ve watched online, though most of those were early season games. I think he recent stretch is just us seeing a player getting used to the grind of a full season, while also competing against much older players. He started off great this season, so his .711 OPS is still 14 points above league average and 36 points above the Power team OPS. In his last 43 games though, he has a .625 OPS. They have been giving him some extra rest here and there to help him get through the season. It’s something he will be better prepared to handle next year.

This isn’t a team with a lot of top end prospects and they lost some excitement when Cole Tucker and Tito Polo moved up to Bradenton. I didn’t get to see Gage Hinsz in person, though I watched him once online and that was his nine strikeout game, so obviously the report was positive. While I won’t get to see him live this year unless it’s in the Fall Instructional League during my planned trip there, the Power have three series left against teams that televise games. So I’m hoping for three more online views on Hinsz and Keller, though I’ll settle for only see them three times  each (yes I know what I just wrote).

Quick notes on the others I saw who are too early in their career to write-off yet:

** Casey Hughston was as advertised. Athletic player who swings and misses a lot. A LOT. What wasn’t advertised is how many times he bunted (likely not on his own either). He attempted to bunt five times during this last series, twice in sacrifice situations. Not exactly what you want to see from a guy with huge raw power, though it fits a speedy player in the lead-off spot.

** Carlos Munoz is fun to watch, to a certain extent. You have to love the plate patience and he hits a lot of line drives, but there were also a lot of pop ups and he is painfully slow to watch run. He really needs the power to show up soon because you can’t have a 22-year-old future DH with a .698 OPS in Low-A.

** Mitchell Tolman looked better the second time I saw him. The defense was better, the at-bats were better. He only went 3-for-17 during the series, but it felt like he battled at the plate better, even if it didn’t result in hits. Someone else in the Lakewood press box asked why he wasn’t a higher rated prospect because they liked what they saw from Tolman. You have to be doing things right to make a 3-for-17 look good.

** If Dario Agrazal continues to pitch like he did on Saturday, then he becomes an intriguing prospect. He was hitting 94 MPH consistently, touching 95 a few times, while throwing strikes. When he missed, it was just off the plate, and he didn’t mind pitching inside. He also threw his curve and changeup for strikes. He pitches to contact, so the strikeouts won’t be high, but he should get plenty of ground outs and quick outs.

** Logan Sendelbach won’t impress with the velocity and he has gone fastball-heavy in all three starts I’ve watched, one of those in person. I have seen that approach work in Low-A, but once you get higher you have to really command that sinker down in the zone and mix in other pitches more often. He has a base for success, but right now the upside seems low. On the positive side, he has improved a lot since last year, especially when it comes to keeping his sinker down in the zone.

** I have seen Ryan Nagle play five times now and he is 0-for-15, so it’s tough to say anything positive about a college player who has a .614 OPS. The Pirates gave him a $160,000 bonus as a late round pick, so they saw something last year. I didn’t have any positives to take away from seeing him in person. During online games, I’ve seen a few nice doubles to the gaps, but no standout tools.

** I’d like to see Danny Arribas get promoted to see what he can do in Bradenton. He’s too old for Low-A. Arribas has some skills and he’s an athletic player who can cover multiple positions, so I think they need to challenge him at some point. He only has one more season before he reached minor league free agency.

** I’ve seen Logan Hill in person in both Bradenton and Lakewood this year and it’s shocking his stats are so bad. He’s got incredible raw power that has somehow resulted in a .291 slugging percentage. The strikeouts are alarming, but I have seen him crush some baseballs. He was really late on one fastball down in Bradenton and crushed a ball well foul that just disappeared out of sight. It’s hard to properly describe how hard he hit this ball, but picture a ball that may have went directly over the head of someone at the far end of the dugout, yet it still probably ended up landing beyond the foul pole (just a couple hundred feet or so to the right of the right field pole). Whoever picked the ball up, likely did not think it came from inside the stadium. He’s a big guy, but he is also very athletic. “He should be better” is the best scouting report I can give.

** I won’t write-off Christian Kelley, I’ll just say that he has a chance to make the majors, but it will be a long process. I like the defense, and that’s what will get him there if he makes it. He is hitting the ball with a little more authority this season, so you hope the incremental improvements continue as he moves up the system. There won’t be any rush, so he has time and there are no real catching prospects on his tail either.

PIRATES GAME GRAPH


Source: FanGraphs

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 6-5 on Sunday to the Cubs. The All-Star break begins today. The Pirates are off until Friday when they begin a three-game series in Washington.

In the minors, both Indianapolis and Altoona are on their All-Star break now. West Virginia is also off today. Stephen Tarpley takes the center stage today, making the start for Bradenton. The elusive Tarpley hasn’t been seen (by us) since Extended Spring Training, but Tim Williams will be there covering the game live. Tarpley had a 5.87 ERA in his first five starts of the season, joining Bradenton late due to an oblique injury. In six starts since then, he has a 1.67 ERA over 32.1 innings.

Sixth round pick Cam Vieaux makes his fifth start of the season. He was extended to five innings for the first time in his last game. Ike Schlabach makes his fourth start and he will try to build off his best career outing. He allowed one run over six innings in his last start, with four hits and no walks. He has a .216 BAA and a 2.00 GO/AO ratio. Argenis Romano will start for the GCL Pirates, who will finish a suspended game before playing their regularly scheduled game.

MLB: Pittsburgh (46-42) @ Nationals (54-36) 7:05 PM 7/15
Probable starter: TBD

AAA: Indianapolis (48-44) @ Louisville (44-47) 7:05 PM 7/14 (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD

AA: Altoona (50-38) vs Harrisburg (47-41) 7:00 PM 7/14 (season preview)
Probable starter: Alex McRae (10.25 ERA, 10:19 BB/SO, 26.1 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (46-40) vs Brevard County (26-59) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Stephen Tarpley (3.42 ERA, 20:52 BB/SO, 55.1 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (43-44) vs Augusta (48-40) 7:05 PM 7/12 (season preview)
Probable starter: Gage Hinsz (4.10 ERA, 7:28 BB/SO, 37.1 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (10-13) @ Hudson Valley (11-12) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: Cam Vieaux (3.45 ERA, 9:11 BB/SO, 15.2 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (8-9) @ Princeton (9-8) 7:00 PM (season preview)

GCL: Pirates (4-9) vs Tigers East (7-6) 11:00 AM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates (11-20) vs Rangers1 (21-9) 10:30 AM (season preview)

HIGHLIGHTS

Here is one of seven hits from Alen Hanson on Saturday.

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

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 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.

7/2: Pablo Reyes activated from temporary inactive list. Trace Tam Sing placed on temporary inactive list.

7/1: Julio Vivas promoted to West Virginia.

7/1: Rinku Singh assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab

7/1: Pirates sign Andrew Walker. Assigned to GCL.

6/30: Jorge Rondon sent outright to Indianapolis.

6/30: Erik Lunde assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.

6/30: Raul Hernandez assigned to Bradenton.

6/30: Jose Regalado placed on disabled list. Tanner Anderson promoted to Bradenton.

6/30: Tomas Morales assigned to Indianapolis. Ed Easley released.

6/30: Jose Osuna promoted to Indianapolis. Jhondaniel Medina assigned to Altoona.

6/29: Pirates sign Nick King and Daniel Cucjen.

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus one trade of note.  Starting with the most recent player first, we have lefty reliever Javier Lopez (2010), catcher Ed Ott (1974-80), pitcher Hal Gregg (1948-50), pitcher Harry Wolter (1907) and 1898-1900 catcher Pop Schriver. Wolter played one game for the Pirates on June 17,1907, throwing the last two innings of the game. Before that, but during the same season, Wolter played outfielder for the Reds. After his one Pittsburgh appearance, he moved on to St Louis two weeks later, where he was also used as an outfielder. Ott was a member of the 1979 World Series champs. He hit .333 during the series and drove in three runs.

The trade on this date occurred in 1992, as the Pirates improved their starting rotation by adding pitcher Danny Jackson from the Cubs in exchange for third baseman Steve Buechele. The Pirates were able to move Jeff King to third base full-time and Jackson put up a 3.36 ERA in 15 starts.

On this date in 1902, the Pirates moved to 49-15 with a 6-3 win over the New York Giants. It gave them a 13 game lead in the National League and it was the start of a seven game win streak. The Pirates would finish the season 103-36, for their best record of all-time.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    July 12, 2016 5:39 pm

    Our DSL team is very weak again in 2016….11-22 the last time I checked. I wonder if that is a reflection of the Pirates decision to opt for quantity over quality when it comes to International signings? The GCL team is also very weak.

  • Thank you John. Hope you enjoyed Charleston.
    Its a nice place to visit.

    • I wasn’t there, they came to me in NJ. I’d like to go there sometime and have heard plenty of good things about the area.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    July 11, 2016 9:43 am

    Once you get below Altoona in the Pirates system, there aren’t many high caliber prospects who have the potential AND are actually producing. Polo, Hayes, Y. Garcia, Tolman, Santos (although his K rate is alarming), Kramer, and Keller. Tucker’s hitting .220 something at Bradenton, Craig is hitting .160 in Rookie ball, and Hinsz has not been overly impressive in Low A. I excluded the DSL and GCL, because those guys are just too far away to even consider real prospects yet. Did I miss anyone? Something to be concerned about for 3-5 years down the road….

    • I was thinking the same thing. Not many high impact prospects in the lower levels right now.

    • Definitely agree on this, and would expand that to actually question the draft quality of bats in the system. Some of the best talent (Low A and down) is international, with the exception of Hayes. We’ll see if Craig does a 180 like Newman did after leaving Morgantown, but so far not impressive and hurts like hell to see Delvin Perez killing it for the Cardinals… Should’ve went with the upside there IMO.

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD
        July 12, 2016 5:36 pm

        I said the same thing about Perez vs. Craig the day of the draft…the Pirates had a top 10 prospect fall into their lap, and they blinked – and drafted a DH when the NL doesn’t use a DH. The Cardinals did not blink – and was probably blowing kisses at Neal for not taking Perez….

  • The A level box scores are painful to look at for the position players. It’s not surprising Hayes would struggle, but he’ll get through the year and hopefully be fine. It’s a nice challenge for him.

  • In following each teams box scores daily, Mitchell Tolman has stood out to me all year. I think he is underrated and a better hitter than people realize. He also seems to have a good idea of the strike zone. Even in games where he doesn’t get a hit, he seems to at least get walked once or twice. Like you said, he seems like a battler, like how Adam Frazier is.

    • He’s worth keeping an eye on.

    • He has that utility player vibe however you can only have so many utility types. He was one of the more impressive players along with Logan Hill at Morgantown last year. Disappointing to see Hill struggle.

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