Pirates Notes: The Impact of Winning in the Minor Leagues

PITTSBURGH — As the Pirates head down the stretch run in search of a playoff spot, their fate will be linked to the progress of the team’s young players.

Chad Kuhl and Jameson Taillon are expected to continue to take regular turns in the starting rotation. Josh Bell is starting his fourth consecutive game at first base Wednesday afternoon and it looks as if he will be given every opportunity to lock down that role for the remainder of the season. Adam Frazier is a key bench player and highlighted his abilities in a part-time role by getting Tuesday’s first-inning hit parade started.

None of those players has a full year of MLB service time, let alone any experience during a major-league playoff race or a postseason run. They have, however, played in high-pressure situations as they came through the minor leagues. Partially as a result of the Pirates having had one of the top prospect pools in baseball, their farm teams have had a good deal of success, and thus, some postseason baseball for prospects.

The 2015 Indianapolis Indians were a wild-card team, as were the Altoona Curve. In 2014, the Bradenton Marauders were second-half division champs. Josh Bell was twice selected for the MLB Futures Games. Those are the experiences that they will have to draw on as the pressure of the playoff chase ramps up.

“Every year of pro ball, Chad and I have been in the playoffs,” Frazier said. He and Kuhl were both drafted in 2013. “It helps. You’ve been there before with meaningful games down at the end of the season. Every game means something here.”

“It just breeds winners and people that are used to winning,” Kuhl added. “The Pirates do a really good job of instilling that winning atmosphere. Quite frankly, it comes from just drafting the right people that want to win and will fight to win. … You’d have a different experience on 29 different teams. You go through the Pirates [system], they demand a lot of you. It brings out the best in everybody.”

In addition to having a feel for the different styles and strategies of how the game is played when one win or loss has a lot more meaning, the players to a man said that the overall experience of playing on winning minor-league teams created a positive environment that aided in their development.

“I think it just makes it a lot easier to come to the park and play everyday,” Frazier said. “If you’re on a team that’s 20 games under .500 — which I’ve never been — I think it’d be tough for guys to come in and work together. When you’re playing [bad baseball as a team], guys go their separate ways and start to play for themselves. Winning just makes everything more fun.”

That’s the sense that I got about each of their experiences. Someone that isn’t a part of the game might think that the pressure-packed environment of season-ending runs and playoffs would be nerve-wracking for a young player. But for these young Pirates, this is the fun part.

“It’s exciting,” Taillon said. “It’s the reason you push through the minor leagues. It’s the reason you work hard. It’s the reason you’re here. It’s definitely getting exciting. … It’s going to be fun down the stretch.”

Today’s Lineups

Andrew McCutchen will get a day off today, while Josh Bell starts his fourth game in a row at first base.

  • I have always believed that the pirates organization was changed by the 2010 Altoona curve winning the eastern league. There were obviously many contributions, but I just felt those players brought a different mentally as they were called up over the next couple of years.

  • Every game Cole starts is one less opportunity for a win for a team that needs all the wins it can get…
    Many folks on this site and elsewhere failed to value the addition by subtraction effect of getting rid of not only Lirianos salary but his 10+ starts…

  • Frazier gets screwed

  • Good to see Hutchinson did well again today. He’ll look good penciled into our 2017 rotation. 🙂

    5 IP, 3 runs, 5 walks and a dinger.

    • once he gets some input from the Bucs coaching staff he’ll turn it around big time. Write it down

  • and Cole buries them early again! Put him on the DL and get someone else up here. I am sick of watching half the guys he faces reach base, espcially lousy strikeout-prone lineups like the Astros!

    • I have been a huge Cole defender, but outside of that 9 inning game since he came back, I am really starting to wonder if he is a) hurt or b) his mechanics are screwed up.

      He is not getting better….he is getting worse.

  • That’s still a solid lineup.