Prospect Watch: Strong Starts from Mitch Keller and Tyler Eppler

P2 Top 30

A look at how the current top 30 prospects did today. If a player is in the majors for an extended time (Tyler Glasnow, Trevor Williams, Alen Hanson), or loses his prospect eligibility, he will be removed from this list. Everyone below him will be shifted up a spot, and a new player will be added to the bottom of the list. If a player is out for the season, he will be removed and everyone below him will move up a spot. Removing these guys doesn’t mean they have lost prospect status. It is just an attempt to get more active prospects on the list. Rankings are from the 2017 Prospect Guide, and links on each name go to their Pirates Prospects player pages.

1. Austin Meadows, CF, Indianapolis -[insert_php]
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2. Mitch Keller, RHP, Bradenton – [insert_php]

3. Kevin Newman, SS, Altoona – [insert_php]

4. Cole Tucker, SS, Bradenton – [insert_php]

5. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B, Bradenton -[insert_php]

6. Will Craig, 3B, Bradenton –  [insert_php]

7. Taylor Hearn, LHP, Bradenton – [insert_php]

8. Gage Hinsz, RHP, Bradenton  – [insert_php]

9. Nick Kingham, RHP, Extended Spring Training – [insert_php]

10. Steven Brault, LHP, Indianapolis – [insert_php]

11. Clay Holmes, RHP, Indianapolis – [insert_php]

12. Braeden Ogle, LHP, Extended Spring Training – [insert_php]

13. Max Kranick, RHP, Extended Spring Training – [insert_php]

14. Elias Diaz, C, Indianapolis – [insert_php]

15. Edgar Santana, RHP, Indianapolis – [insert_php]

16. Luis Escobar, RHP, West Virginia – [insert_php]

17. Dovydas Neverauskas, RHP, Indianapolis – [insert_php]

18. Yeudy Garcia, RHP, Altoona -[insert_php]

19. Kevin Kramer, 2B, Altoona -[insert_php]

20. Tyler Eppler, RHP, Indianapolis -[insert_php]

21. Stephen Alemais, SS, West Virginia –  [insert_php]

22. Brandon Waddell, LHP, Altoona – [insert_php]

23. Travis MacGregor, RHP, Extended Spring Training – [insert_php]

24. Barrett Barnes, LF, Extended Spring Training -[insert_php]

25. Max Moroff, 2B, Indianapolis -[insert_php]

26. Eric Wood, 3B, Indianapolis – [insert_php]

27. J.T. Brubaker, RHP, Altoona – [insert_php]

28. Chris Bostick, INF/OF, Indianapolis –  [insert_php]

29. Connor Joe, 3B, Altoona – [insert_php]

30. Jose Osuna, 1B, Indianapolis – [insert_php]

P2 Top Performers



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Indianapolis won 5-1 on Thursday night behind six shutout innings by Tyler Eppler and a two-run homer from Eric Wood. Eppler followed up a terrific season debut last week in which he threw five shutout innings. In this game, he allowed just one hit and one walk. He was efficient with his pitches, needing just 71 (50 strikes) to get through his start. Eppler had four strikeouts and an 8:2 GO/AO ratio. That’s an impressive stat, because he’s more of a flyball pitcher, posting an 0.83 GO/AO ratio last season.

Eppler gave way to Dan Runzler, who immediately allowed a solo homer. He gave up two more hits, but no more runs. Pat Light threw two no-hit innings to close out the win.

Eric Wood hit his first homer of the season in the eighth inning, extending the lead to 5-1. He also hit his third double and picked up an outfield assist. Max Moroff hit his third double, drove in a run and drew two walks. Elias Diaz went 1-for-4 with a single. Chris Bostick was 0-for-2 with two walks. Jose Osuna went 0-for-4 with a walk, dropping him to a .192 average. Erich Weiss had his first two hits of the season.


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ALTOONA, Pa. – In front of a packed house for their home opener, the Altoona Curve beat Akron by a score of 3-2, with most of the thanks going to second baseman Kevin Kramer and his two home runs.

Kramer went 3-for-4 with a single in the first, a monster of a home run in the fifth inning with two outs, and the go-ahead shot on the first pitch in the bottom of the eighth inning.

On the first home run, he said the plan was the hit to the middle of the field, and the Akron starter left a changeup up in the zone. The Akron right fielder simply turned and watched it fly over his head.

“We knew going in that we had to stay disciplined with the starting pitcher,” Kramer said. “He wasn’t going to overpower us, but he was going to try to nibble around the zone and make us get ourselves out. We made a plan to hit to the middle of the field. Luckily for me, he left a pitch up.”

On the second home run, he came out to the plate thinking aggressively and went right after the first pitch breaking ball in the zone.

“Transitioning into the reliever, he had more velo, so I knew there needed to be an adjustment,” he said. “He hung one in the middle of the plate, and I put a good swing on it. You can get behind in a count quickly, and they’ll put you away easily. There are times when I know I need to be more aggressive and get some swings off.”

Kramer, who played in the College World Series, was probably one of the few players who have played in front of a larger crowd, and he played up to the hype with a huge game. As for the Curve starter, Austin Coley didn’t know until the wee hours of the morning that he would be starting tonight, and he took advantage of the situation. Although his line didn’t finish clean after Tate Scioneaux couldn’t get the hold in the sixth inning, Coley looked strong for the majority of his outing.

Coley started counts mostly with his sinker the first time through the lineup, then he transitioned to an off-speed – mostly changeup – first pitch the second time through. His velocity was a little down tonight, but Coley said that his fastball was getting a lot of action and late sink.

“Early in the game, I noticed that my fastball had some good run on it,” Coley said. “I noticed that the ball had a lot of sink to it, so throughout the game, I didn’t want to push it just to break 90 and prove a point. I wanted to run it down in the zone.”

I did not see his fastball velocity break 90 throughout the night, but that didn’t seem to matter with the results he was getting. He walked three batters, but he also struck out five batters thanks mostly to batters swinging outside of the zone at his slider.

“Breaking ball wasn’t really in the strike zone, but they were swinging at it,” he said. “I didn’t throw it early in counts tonight, but it was a good swing and miss pitch.”

He showed some good poise in the fourth inning after a double and a walk, where he bounced back with a huge strikeout to end the inning.

“That was the first time a runner was in scoring position on me all night,” he said. “I knew it was time to bear down. I knew it was big, and I didn’t want to give him anything over the plate to him. Obviously, it was a big moment in the game.”

As for the pitcher who was supposed to start, Brandon Waddell was scratched late last night due to some soreness in his elbow and shoulder. According to Curve Manager Michael Ryan, he is still slated to make his next start.

Quick notes:

*Jordan Luplow, fresh off of a two homer night in Harrisburg, drilled one just barely foul over the Party Deck in the fourth inning. He ended up reaching on an error, then Michael Suchy hit a sacrifice fly to deep center field with the bases loaded to score a run and move up every other runner. Luplow also hit a nice line drive back up the middle in the sixth, but he was picked off at first base leaning a little too much.

*Kevin Newman went 0-for-3 – all groundouts – with a walk. He was also thrown out at second on a stolen base attempt after a ball in the dirt was blocked by the Akron catcher. – Sean McCool


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Bradenton won game one of a doubleheader 4-1 against Tampa on Thursday night, moving to 8-0 on the season. Mitch Keller made his second start, trying to rebound from his poor season debut last week. In that game, he lasted just 2.1 innings and allowed five earned runs. He made a total of 26 starts last year (including playoffs) and never gave up more than four earned runs.

On Thursday, Keller went six innings and surrendered just one run on three hits and one walk, while striking out four batters. The lone run was due to brief bout of wildness, in which he issued his one walk, then threw two wild pitches to let in the runner. Keller was sitting 92-97 MPH this game, once hitting 98. He was also mixing his pitches well, often going to his curveball and changeup. He threw 79 pitches, with 52 going for strikes, and he had a 7:6 GO/AO ratio. Daniel Zamora pitched a scoreless seventh inning for the save.

The offense came courtesy of the top prospects on the team. Mitchell Tolman, Cole Tucker, Ke’Bryan Hayes and Will Craig scored one run each, accounting for all of the runs. Craig had an RBI single, while Tolman and Tucker both had a single and a walk. Tucker stole two bases, making him 7-for-7 in steals this year. Hayes had two hits and drove in two runs. Christian Kelley also added an RBI single. The Marauders struck out ten times in seven innings, including three by Logan Hill in his three at-bats.

Game Two: It took extra innings in game two, but when it was over, Bradenton had lost their first game. Tampa won in the bottom of the eighth without the ball getting out of the infield. In his third inning of work, Sam Street issued a one out walk. That was followed by two stolen bases, then after the second out, an infield single to third base ended the game.

Logan Sendelbach got the spot start and allowed just one run over five innings. The opposing pitcher was former Pirate Kyle Haynes, who was sent to the Yankees in the Chris Stewart trade. He has actually pitched the last two seasons in Triple-A, and while this wasn’t listed as a rehab start, it was his first game of the season and two levels lower than where he pitched last year. Sendelbach threw 42 of his 66 pitches for strikes. He had three strikeouts and a 5:2 GO/AO ratio. He came into the game with 4.1 scoreless innings this season.

The offense had just four hits and three were from light-hitting Alfredo Reyes, who drove in Casey Hughston with the only run. Hughston had two walks in the game. The only other hit was a single off the bat of Trace Tam Sing. Cole Tucker and Will Craig both went 0-for-4 in this game. Mitchell Tolman was 0-for-3 with a walk, and Ke’Bryan Hayes had this game off.


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This was a night that West Virginia would like to forget. They lost 14-5 to Lexington in a very poorly played game. To drive that point home, Lexington made a lot of errors, both physical and mental, yet they still won by nine runs.

I watched this game specifically to see Oddy Nunez pitch for the first time. He came into Spring Training as a totally different pitcher this year, going from someone who sat 86-88 MPH, to 91-93 last month. Nunez is a 20-year-old lefty, who is listed at 6’5″, but I’m told he’s a little taller, possibly having a late growth spurt after signing. He stands tall on the mound and gets a good downward action on his pitches, working in the bottom of the strike zone. You could tell that the lefties were having some trouble against him. He was basically working just fastballs in this game.

If you look at his line, it doesn’t tell the story at all. He went three innings, allowing six runs (two earned) on nine hits and no walks, with three strikeouts. Nunez had just two balls hit well against him and if the defense played well, he wouldn’t have allowed any runs. By my count, and one of the errors was on him, West Virginia’s defense missed seven outs. The two hardest hit balls off Nunez were both after he should have been out of the inning. The official scorer in Lexington was very generous with the hits for the home team, so only two errors in the boxscore is a very misleading stat. As hard as it is to believe by that pitching line, it wasn’t a badly pitched outing from Nunez. He got his share of swinging strikes and a ton of soft contact, which is what you want to see.

After Nunez left, both Dylan Prohoroff and Blake Cederlind made appearances out of the bullpen. With Stephen Alemais not playing. Cederlind was the only top 50 prospect to see action in this game for West Virginia. Prohoroff was very bad, unable to get out of his one inning. He couldn’t find the strike zone, then when he did, Lexington hit the ball well off him, hanging three runs on him. Cederlind is one of the hardest throwers on the team, usually sitting 93-96 MPH. His fastball was very hittable when he got it in the strike zone, but he was having success with his off-speed pitches. That’s the opposite of what usually happens when he pitches. While he doesn’t command his fastball well, it’s usually an effective pitch, and the off-speed pitches need work. He got hit hard as well and allowed two runs in three innings. Two Lexington base running errors helped him get through his work.

The lone bright spot on offense was three hits from Sandy Santos, who has been struggling badly to start the season. Two of his hits didn’t leave the infield, one on a bunt, and one on a routine grounder to second base that the first baseman dove for and the pitcher couldn’t beat the speedy Santos to the bag. Cheap hits are a good way to break slumps, but then Santos added a solo homer in the seventh inning. He was 1-for-15 with nine strikeouts coming into this game.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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Sorry for asking again but stat lines are still messed up. Is there a fix yet?


It’s a little early to be getting in touch with Dr. Kevorkian, don’t you think?


absolutely too early but definitely something to keep in the back of mine considering the way this team has played


Kramer made Baseball America’s Prospect Hot Sheet this week after his 1300+ OPS. The majority of his blub was that he almost met his HR total from last year. I can’t think of anything less telling about a prospect than his FSL HR total. Aside from draft and international prospect information, Baseball America is becoming increasingly less helpful for learning about prospects. I wonder if Callis had a scouting background and now that he’s gone, the site lost most of it’s capability for meaningful player analysis.


It’s interesting to me that I’ve heard a lot of people saying how much they need Kang. Freese is playing in place of him and has been by far their best offensive player. If they could just hit .220 with risp the last week their situation would be a lot better. It has to even out at some point.


They do actually need Kang Freddy, and that is no knock on Freese. Kang’s power potential changes that lineup around.


Sure, they definitely will need him but Kang doubtfully would have put up better numbers than what Freese has…and Freese would likely have been sitting the bench. My point is just that Kang not being on the Pirates is not the problem so far. It’s mostly a few mediocre starts by Cole and horrendous situational hitting combined with not enough extra base hits that has completely derailed them. With even a few big hits they could be a near .500 or better team.

Scott K

True Leo, but his point is valid. Freese replacing Kang’s production is the least of Pirates problems right now.


Is Kramer capable of Playing SS?

William R. Maloni Sr

Give Mercer a rest and let Hanson show if he has anything. I am sure AH can match Mercer’s bat and maybe his leather, too.


Mercer is the glue in the Pirate infield for better or worse. Hanson has been the Best Defensive 2B in the AAA International League the past 2 years. He has gotten one whole inning of play since the beginning of the season.

Hanson was called up last Sep and Hurdle ignored him and kept him on the bench as much as he could. When he did get in he usually played well, and then afterward, Hurdle would sit him for another 4 or 5 games, playing SRod so he could reach another $50K incentive for PA’s. Money is cheap for CH!

This year CH’s new fav is Phil Gosselin who started yesterday’s game at 2B – he’s a 28 year old utility player we got from the D’backs. I guess our organization feels the D’backs can develop players better than we can. IMHO, Newman and Hanson in the MI is the only hope for this team going forward, in addition to adding 2 or 3 more young players (Meadows, Diaz, Osuna), firing Hurdle, and hiring Joey Cora to be the Manager.

My rant for today.


And arguably, it was Gosselin who cost them the game yesterday…the fact that he has started twice in the first 9 games with Frazier, Harrison, Freese, and Hansen on the roster is inexcusable


” Arguably ” ?!? Yeah, I’ will argue that point when I watched the CFr let one drop in front of him after a late break, then played Rameriz’s ball like he was afraid of the wall.

Paul Smerker

What about Marte. Prancing around center field with little hustle. Polanco in left, about ready to fall all over himself at any time. The best out field in MLB? McCutchen acting shellshocked in right field when a pitch comes close to a opposition hitter. The Pirates need someone like leyland to kick some 8$$. There is something else wrong with that ballclub.

Scott K

The fish rots from the head down. Why exactly did CH pull Hudson for Nicasio with Ramirez on deck? Did he not realize Ramirez was 7-14 vs Nicasio? I certainly hope not.

I’m not one to freak out 9 games into the season, but CH not playing Hanson for Gosselin and misuse of bullpen is a problem in judgment he shouldn’t be having.


BTW, that runner thrown out by Diaz yesterday brings him to 4 runners caught stealing out of 10 attempts – 40%. Congrats to Kuhl, Eppler, Keller and Sendelbach, all pitching well yesterday.


Austin Coley and DuRupau both looked good also.


-19 run dif…worst in baseball.


Who is projected to be the number one overall pick in the 2018 draft?


I have no idea, but the way the Pirates are playing so far this season they may have a legitimate chance to get the number one overall pick in the 2018 draft.

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