Last night I got a chance to watch three pitchers of note while I was doing the Prospect Watch. I started by watching Nick Kingham during the early game and saw four of his six innings pitched, then went back afterwards and watched the two innings I missed. I missed those innings because I switched over to watch Luis Escobar pitch for Morgantown. When he was done, I noticed that Drew Hutchison was pitching in relief for Indianapolis, so I watched him for three innings. Since my night of baseball watching centered around those three, I figured I’d give some thoughts on them.
I’ll start with Hutchison, who pitched in relief for the first time since joining the Pirates. I’m assuming that the move was done to get him used to pitching out of the bullpen for his September call-up. One of the main reasons I think that is because I can’t see him actually getting a start with the Pirates in the wild card chase. Maybe if they clinch a spot late or they won’t make the playoffs, then you could see him get a start, otherwise I don’t see it happening.
Hutchison has put up poor numbers since joining the Pirates. We are talking about a player who currently ranks second in the league in strikeouts while spending time in the majors this year with the Blue Jays. He is also seventh in WHIP despite pitching poorly since the trade. So not only has he not pitched well for the Pirates, he dropped off from some early strong numbers while with Buffalo. His ERA with Indianapolis is 5.46 in 29.2 innings and he has a 1.58 WHIP. He’s allowing more runs, more hits, more walks, while getting fewer grounders and strikeouts.
I’ve mentioned plenty of times in game recaps that numbers can be deceiving. There is no deception with his numbers, what you see is what you get. I see a pitcher without good command, who works up in the zone, doesn’t have strong velocity (sits 90-92) and there isn’t much separation in his pitch speeds, with his changeup and slider coming in around 84-86 all night.
I highly doubt he was putting up those strong numbers in Buffalo with the same stuff, so what we are seeing is probably him at his worst. I think he gets called up to the Pirates and you see him occasionally in blowouts and he gets a chance to work with the regular catchers and Ray Searage, which can’t hurt at this point.
Sean McCool had a recap of Nick Kingham’s night, so I won’t go into much detail about that. There really isn’t a lot to say anyway because it was a solid and efficient outing. I will mention something that Sean hit on in his recap and that’s the only time Kingham struggled at all. It was for three batters and it was after a long inning in which he ran the bases and went awhile between pitches. That was the first time he ran the bases in his return, since pitchers don’t bat at the lower levels. It took Kingham a little time to get back in the groove and then once he did, he breezed through the rest of the game.
Kingham was throwing strikes all night and placing his fastball down in the zone, throwing on a nice downward plane. Once he found the zone with his off-speed pitches, then he cruised through the rest of night by mixing his pitches, keeping the ball down and pounding the strike zone. It’s what you would like to see from all pitchers, but coming from someone who is just a couple months into his return from Tommy John surgery, it’s very impressive. He was sitting 92 MPH most of the night, hitting 93-94 in the middle innings. I think we will see more velocity from him next year, which can only help as long as he controls it the same. Did I mention he has walked three batters in 41 innings? Yes, there is a good reason to be excited about what we could see from him next season.
On to Luis Escobar and this start got ugly in a hurry, but not until he had me thinking about his ranking for our 2017 Prospect Guide. I have now watched Escobar pitch five times this season thanks to the magic of MiLB.tv. I also watched a video of him throwing an entire simulated game in Extended Spring Training, plus video from earlier in Spring Training. What I saw in his last start, and for the first three innings of this start, is a totally different pitcher.
Escobar used all three of his pitches effectively in his last game and it was happening early this game. The most important thing is that he is able to command his fastball down in the zone. Then he can work his changeup and curveball off that pitch. He was doing that tonight, pitching inside to both lefties and righties, while also hitting the outside corner. Then the fourth inning happened and he totally lost the strike zone. Everything was up in the zone and when he pitched inside, he hit two batters and nearly hit a third one. He ended up allowing six earned runs.
When we put together the 2016 Prospect Guide, we included Escobar in the back-end of the top 50 because of his potential. Then a couple other sources went really high on him and they were also doing it based on his potential, but not factoring in how far he is away from that top pitcher. We moved him up to #37 in our mid-season ranking because he was closer to that potential.
If you catch Escobar on the right day, you will come away very impressed. You also have to keep in mind that he turned 20 at the end of May. If you catch him on the wrong day, you will consider him a major project, and not a current prospect. If you watched him pitch last night, you don’t know what to think, because he looked like two totally different pitchers. I think he will move up a little in the 2017 Prospect Guide because the walks have gone down a lot recently and that was one of the main concerns. Nights like last night shows that there is still good reason to keep him out of the top half of the top 50 for now. Escobar has a lot of potential, just not the consistency you’d like to see. He will go into the 2017 season as a sleeper prospect.
** Speaking of pitchers to watch, I will play the jealous role today while both Tim Williams and Wilbur Miller get to watch Max Kranick, Braeden Ogle and Mitch Keller during their tripleheader of games in Bradenton today/tonight. That’s correct, you will get double coverage from both the GCL and the FSL today. The worst part for me is that I was looking forward to seeing Keller on MiLB.tv, as Columbia is one of the few teams broadcasting games. Instead, I’ll be watching TBD pitch, which could be Taylor Hearn if I’m lucky. Either way, be sure to check out the Prospect Watch today, which will be loaded with information from all of the fun in Bradenton.
The Pirates trail the second wild card spot by a 1.5 games.
Indianapolis has been eliminated from the playoffs. Their season ends September 5th.
Altoona leads their division by two games. 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 third place in their division, trailing first by seven games.
Morgantown has been eliminated from the playoffs. Their season ends September 5th.
Bristol has been eliminated from the playoffs. Their season ends September 1st.
The GCL Pirates have been eliminated from the playoffs. Their season ends September 1st.
The DSL season has ended.
PIRATES GAME GRAPH
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 8-7 to the Cubs in 13 innings on Monday night. They will send Chad Kuhl to the mound tonight for his ninth start. He has gone at least six innings in each of his last five starts, and he has allowed two earned runs in each of his last four starts. Kuhl faced the Cubs back on July 9th in his only start that was under five innings. He gave up four runs on seven hits and a walk in 2.1 innings. The Cubs will counter with Kyle Hendricks, who has a 2.19 ERA in 152 innings, with 135 strikeouts and a 1.00 WHIP. He has faced the Pirates once this season, allowing one run over six innings back in mid-June, while striking out 12 batters. Hendricks has a 1.35 ERA in 35.1 innings in August.
In the minors, Mitch Keller makes his first start for Bradenton. He left the South Atlantic League as the leader with an 0.92 WHIP, while ranking seventh in strikeouts and second in ERA. After posting a 5.27 ERA in June and 6.67 ERA in July, Stephan Meyer has a 2.63 ERA in five August starts. He starts tonight for Morgantown.
The GCL Pirates will send Max Kranick and Braeden Ogle to the mound for their final starts after a rain out yesterday turned into a doubleheader today. Ike Schlabach gets the start for Bristol. The DSL season ended Saturday.
MLB: Pittsburgh (67-62) @ Cubs (83-47) 8:05 PM
Probable starter: Chad Kuhl (3.50 ERA, 11:27 BB/SO, 43.2 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (66-70) vs Toledo (64-73) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Kelvin Marte (3.67 ERA, 21:57 BB/SO, 73.2 IP)
AA: Altoona (73-60) vs Binghamton (61-72) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Brandon Waddell (4.21 ERA, 57:85 BB/SO, 109.0 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (68-64) vs Jupiter (67-65) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Mitch Keller (NR)
Low-A: West Virginia (67-65) @ Columbia (63-70) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD
Short-Season A: Morgantown (32-37) vs Batavia (19-48) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: Stephan Meyer (4.76 ERA, 22:43 BB/SO, 68IP)
Rookie: Bristol (25-40) @ Kingsport (24-41) 7:00 PM (season preview)
GCL: Pirates (21-33) vs Tigers East (20-36) 10:00 AM (season preview)
DSL: Pirates (27-42) (season preview)
Here is the second double of the day from Alen Hanson on Sunday night. He also drew a walk and scored two runs in the game. He added another double on Monday night.
8/29: Pirates recall Steven Brault. Gerrit Cole placed on disabled list.
8/28: A.J. Schugel recalled from Indianapolis. Adam Frazier optioned to Bristol.
8/28: Pirates activate Tyler Glasnow from disabled list. Optioned to Indianapolis.
8/28: Justin Topa placed on disabled list. Henry Hirsch activated from temporary inactive list.
8/27: John Kuchno promoted to Indianapolis.
8/25: Nick Kingham assigned to Altoona. Chase Simpson activated from disabled list.
8/22: Kyle Lobstein activated from the disabled list.
8/21: Evan Piechota promoted to Morgantown.
8/21: Yeudy Garcia activated from disabled list. Henry Hirsch placed on temporary inactive list.
8/20: Jung Ho Kang placed on disabled list. Josh Bell recalled from Indianapolis.
8/20: Stephen Alemais promoted to West Virginia. Alfredo Reyes placed on disabled list.
8/20: Ke’Bryan Hayes assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.
8/20: Pirates release Edgardo Leon
8/18: Pirates release Josh Outman.
8/18: Juan Diaz assigned to Bristol.
8/18: Jeremias Portorreal and Gabriel Brito promoted to GCL Pirates.
8/17: Josh Smith assigned to Indianapolis.
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus two trades of note. On this date in 1991, the Pirates helped their playoff run by acquiring third baseman Steve Buechele from the Texas Rangers for two minor league pitchers. He would hit .246 and drive in 19 runs the rest of the way for the Pirates. Then in 1992, they traded him to the Chicago Cubs for pitcher Danny Jackson. The Pirates gave up pitcher Kurt Miller in the original deal. He was the fifth overall draft pick in 1988, but never panned out in the majors.
On this date in 1990, the Pirates gave up three minor league players to the Phillies for 1B/OF Carmelo Martinez. He didn’t do much for the Pirates during the rest of the season, but drove in two runs during the NLCS. He would be traded away during the 1991 season. All three of the players the Pirates gave up eventually reached the majors, but Wes Chamberlain was by far the best and he played just 385 Major League games, so the deal didn’t end up too bad.
Former players born on this date include(bios for each in the link above):
Luis Rivas, 2008 infielder.
Johnny Lindell, 1953 knuckleball pitcher. Started his career as a pitcher, played ten seasons as an outfielder, then went back to pitching.
Charlie Starr, infielder for the 1908 Pirates. Seldom-used backup who got into 20 games all season, seeing time at three different spots.
Will Thompson, pitcher on July 9, 1892. Gave up five runs over three innings in his only big league game. Poor defense led to four unearned runs.
Also born on this date, Hall of Fame outfielder Kiki Cuyler, who played for the Pirates from 1921 until 1927. His .336 batting average is the third best in franchise history. He holds the Pirates’ single season record with 369 total bases in 1925. He drove in six runs during the World Series that year. You can read a full bio of Cuyler here. He was elected to the HOF in 1968.