BRADENTON, Fla. – Wednesday was a good day to see younger pitchers at Pirate City. It’s hard to get a strong impression beyond velocity, because pitchers are going just one to two innings, and most of them are throwing mostly or all fastballs. Even the velocity readings may be misleading due to various developmental factors. That being said, here were a few notes:
Max Kranick threw two innings. His fastball was 89-90 mph in his first inning, then 91-93 in his second. He struggled a little with his command in his second inning. He was facing mostly mid-level — i.e., High-A and Double-A — hitters, so it’s not surprising they’d be able to lay off pitches more easily than the guys Kranick is used to facing, but he didn’t have a bad inning.
Roger Santana is a slightly built lefty who had a good season in the DSL this year, which was his second in the league. Today his fastball was 87-89 mph. He also threw a big, loopy curve and a change. He didn’t overpower anybody, but got through two innings without a lot of trouble.
Pedro Vasquez, who came in the trade for Arquimedes Caminero, threw two innings. His fastball was 88-93 mph, mostly toward the upper end of that range. Unlike the other pitchers today, he threw a lot of breaking balls. He had an easy first inning and got hit around a little in his second.
This year’s 8th round draft pick, Dylan Prohoroff, threw one quick inning. He didn’t show much of the “head-whacking” that he did after the draft. His fastball came in only at 87-89 mph, possibly due to the team trying to calm down his mechanics.
Sergio Cubilete was an under-the-radar signing out of the Dominican. He struggled badly for much of the year in the DSL, but made great strides late in the season, which is probably why he’s in instructs now. He has good size and threw 90-93 mph with a curve. Cubilete got hit hard in his second inning, as his location got weaker as he went along.
Pasquale Mazzaccoli, drafted in the 35th round this year, threw one inning. He threw 90-91 mph and got hit very hard throughout.
Jordan Jess, a college lefty drafted in the 31st round, threw one quick inning, sitting at 90-92.
Domingo Robles is a lefty who signed two years ago out of the Dominican. He had an uneven season this year in the GCL. He threw 88-90 mph.
Friday was another good day to see unfamiliar pitchers at Pirate City, as the schedule was heavy with 2016 draftees and pitchers just up from the Dominican Summer League. The intrasquad game was even more informal than usual, as most innings began with runners already on base, sometimes even on third. (Not surprisingly, the scoring got into double digits.) The coaches also added runners to the bases at times during innings, and kept some innings going through four and five outs. Obviously, it’s not possible to chronicle a game like that in any normal manner. It’s also a little hard to get a thorough impression of the pitchers, as they mostly went one inning apiece and, in many cases, threw little other than fastballs. What follows are some notes, mainly on the pitchers.
Travis MacGregor — Drafted in the second round this year, MacGregor is tall and fairly thin, which you can translate as “projectable.” On Friday his fastball ranged from 88-92 mph, mostly 88-89. He wasn’t getting on top of it and left it up a lot. As a result, he got hit hard throughout his one inning. The Pirates no doubt are hoping that he’ll fill out and get stronger.
Braeden Ogle — The fourth rounder, a lefty, was the most impressive of the pitchers who appeared on Friday. His fastball was 92-96 and he located it reasonably well for a pitcher of his experience level. His slider, a new pitch for him, was sharper than it was a month ago. Ogle got several swings and misses with it against right-handed hitters. He fanned three hitters in a four-out inning.
Austin Shields — A 33rd round pick who signed for an above-slot $205,000, Shields is still very raw. His fastball sat at 90-91 and he threw a couple of mid-80s sliders. His control, which was an issue during his brief GCL debut, was shaky at first but improved during his one inning. He got hit around a little, as did most of the pitchers who appeared on Friday (on average, the hitters in the game were more experienced than the pitchers).
Leandro Pina — Pina put up the best stats of any of the pitchers on the Pirates’ DSL entry this year. He’s fairly similar to MacGregor; tall and still thin, with velocity that averaged about 87. He threw his secondary pitches — a low-70s curve and low-80s change — more than most of the other pitchers. He also got hit around a little.
Yeudry Manzanillo — Manzanillo got a $150,000 bonus in July 2015. On Friday, he was topping out at only 87. He also threw a curve and change. He got hit hard during his inning.
Joel Cesar — Cesar got some minor notoriety when Baseball America included him on a list of young pitchers who’ve hit 100 mph. He’s a short, slightly stocky right-hander who was arguably the most entertaining pitcher to watch Friday. His fastball ranged from 94-97, mostly 96-97. His control, as expected, was poor, although not Daniel Bard-like, consistently bad. About every third or fourth pitch would slip away and sail off for parts unknown. The rest of the time Cesar was generally around the plate and he didn’t have a bad inning. There were a couple of hard-hit balls, as regardless of his velocity he’s going to need another pitch. He did throw a couple of pitches at 90 mph, but they were wild and I couldn’t tell whether they were supposed to be sliders or whether they were fastballs on which he just lost his grip. At the least, it’s a good sign that he appears to be healthy, as he got hurt in his second DSL outing this year and didn’t return.
A couple final notes: Cole Tucker looks like he’s made some changes in his swing. Late in the season, he was struggling and his swing appeared to be all wrists and arms. The result was an endless series of weak grounders. In instructs now he seems to be getting his lower half into his swing more and is using a bit of a leg kick, which I don’t recall from earlier. It appeared to be working Friday as he hit several long drives.
Kevin Kramer continued to play shortstop. It seems possible that, if Kevin Newman moves up to AAA and Tucker stays in Bradenton, Kramer could open the season at short for Altoona. The Pirates probably won’t try to resolve these issues until next spring.