Morning Report: A Look at the Lower Level Middle Infield Depth

Second baseman Trae Arbet was injured last night in a collision with a runner while trying to make a play in the field. He was removed from the game and didn’t play in the second game of a doubleheader. I don’t have an update on the severity of the injury, but with Stephen Alemais out, that made me wonder who would be next up as a middle infielder if Arbet was put on the DL. West Virginia would be down to two middle infielders, with Adrian Valerio and Kevin Mahala.

The Extended Spring Training roster isn’t strong with middle infielders, but there are 11 of them down there at Pirate City. Right away you could cross off the DSL players from last year, as they are all young and inexperienced. Those players are Cristopher Perez, Francisco Mepris and Rodolfo Castro, who was an All-Star last year in the DSL as the youngest player on the Pirates.

For the players left, you have the GCL infielders, Victor Ngoepe, Melvin Jimenez, Andrew Walker, Johan De Jesus and Nelson Jorge. Then there is Raul Siri, who spent last season in Bristol, Nick King, who played for Morgantown and Luis Perez, who missed all of last year with shoulder surgery.

As I said, there are no top 50 prospects and no players who were really considered. Castro could end up there if he has a GCL season similar to his DSL season last year. Ngoepe has the same type of potential his brother had back when he was in the GCL at the same age, but that still leaves him well short of the top 50 in the short-term outlook. Cristopher Perez has made big leaps since signing and he did get a six figure bonus, so it’s possible he has future upside as well.

With no obvious choices, I got some opinions on the players down there and I’m told the best ones of the group (most advanced) right now are Andrew Walker, Nelson Jorge, Nick King and Raul Siri. King would seem to be the best choice to me because he’s a college player from a major school, who put in 28 games with Morgantown last year. That gives him the experience advantage over everyone else. The stats weren’t great, but he’s a very athletic player who can cover 2B/SS/3B, and I’ve been told in the past that he doesn’t get outworked during practices and pre-games.

Jorge and Siri have got some press over the years here, but haven’t panned out. Jorge was a seventh round pick out of high school in Puerto Rico, but he has spent three years in the GCL. Siri had a huge season in the DSL in 2014, then fizzled out the last two years in the states, despite a ridiculous first week in the GCL that had people saying he should be in Bristol already. You reading this may be one of those guilty people! These two are playing well  I’ve heard, so maybe all is not lost.

Andrew Walker also played college ball for four years and is 23 years old, so he is in the same class as Nick King if they want to go that route. He’s very athletic too, with well above average speed. Walker played in the GCL last year, but that’s only because he was signed to fill a need there after both Luis Perez and Melvin Jimenez got hurt. So while it would seem like a big jump for him to go to West Virginia, that was actually just a low placement for him based on need.

Basically, I just used the uncertainty of an injury to look over the middle infield depth in the low levels. I also spent part of yesterday checking in on the DSL middle infield for our team preview, which will be up sometime within the next week. Those who follow our winter coverage, which should be all of you, know that Francisco Acuna will be a player to watch. If you don’t know his name, use the search feature to get acquainted. If you’re worried about the middle infield depth, since I basically just said it’s not a strong point, remember that the draft is coming up and there will be shortstops drafted, we just don’t know how long the Pirates will wait to take their first one.

** The Rochester announcers mentioned last night that both Josh Lindblom and Antonio Bastardo will pitch for Indianapolis this weekend, which extends into Monday during this four-game series. We were told that Indianapolis needed to make room for some rehab innings this weekend, although it initially sounded like those two would pitch last night. Bastardo was actually down at Pirate City pitching two innings Thursday. You may have heard it reported that he threw one inning earlier this week, but I confirmed that it was two innings each time. That difference might just be what is considered an inning down in Extended Spring Training, where guys can get 0-6 outs in an inning and some “innings” are thrown in a bullpen. It’s also possible it just feels like two innings when Bastardo pitches one inning.


Bradenton leads their division by a half game with 21 games remaining in the first half.

West Virginia trails their division leader by 4.5 games, with 22 games left in the first half. They are in fifth place. The Power have two games left versus first place Hagerstown this weekend.


Source: FanGraphs


Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 8-1 to the New York Mets on Friday night. Gerrit Cole gets the ball today for his 11th start of the season. He had his worst start of the season in his last outing, allowing five runs on ten hits in 4.2 innings. At home this season, Cole has a 1.67 ERA, compared to 4.67 on the road. The Mets will counter with 26-year-old right-hander Zack Wheeler, who has a 3.74 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in eight starts this season.

In the minors, we have had a lot of changes in all four rotations over the last few days. Indianapolis doesn’t have a starter listed, but today was supposed to be Steven Brault. Altoona went with JT Brubaker over Tanner Anderson yesterday, and they list Austin Coley today. Anderson ended up pitching (poorly) in relief. No starter is listed for Bradenton, but I’m told it will be Taylor Hearn. West Virginia is going with Blake Cederlind. We will see tonight how it all ends up.

MLB: Pittsburgh (22-27) vs Mets (20-26) 7:15 PM
Probable starter: Gerrit Cole (3.36 ERA, 13:52 BB/SO, 61.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (26-20) @ Rochester (20-21) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD

AA: Altoona (24-21) @ Erie (21-23) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Austin Coley (2.98 ERA, 11:30 BB/SO, 42.1 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (29-20) @ Jupiter (17-31) 5:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter:  Taylor Hearn (5.12 ERA, 16:50 BB/SO, 38.2 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (22-22) vs Hagerstown (28-19) 6:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Blake Cederlind (3.75 ERA, 13:25 BB/SO, 24.0 IP)


Here is the third hit from Austin Meadows on Thursday night. Not the best hit, but you do see former Pirate Pedro Florimon almost rob him with a diving stop. Chances are we could have a better highlight for Meadows tomorrow.


5/26: Kevin Krause activated from disabled list. Mitch Keller placed on disabled list.

5/26: Eury Perez assigned to Morgantown.

5/25: Chris Harvey retired.

5/25: Gregory Polanco activated from the disabled list. Danny Ortiz optioned to Indianapolis.

5/23: Yunior Montero assigned to Extended Spring Training. Sam Street added to Bradenton roster.

5/22: James Marvel activated from West Virginia disabled list. Chris Harvey assigned to Morgantown.

5/20: Jhan Marinez added to Pirates roster. Josh Lindblom placed on disabled list.

5/19: Pirates claim Jhan Marinez off waivers.

5/19: Stephen Alemais placed on disabled list.  Cam Vieaux activated from West Virginia disabled list.

5/19: Jin-De Jhang added to Altoona roster. Zane Chavez placed on disabled list.

5/16: Pirates sign Haicheng Gong.


Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a game recap from the 1979 season. The players born on this date include center fielder Jacob Brumfield (1995-96), pitcher Ross Baumgarten (1982) and 1954 pitcher, George O’Donnell. Brumfield was a 1983 draft pick, who didn’t make his Major League debut until 1992. He was the Pirates starting center fielder in 1995, then got traded away the following May. Baumgarten went 0-5, 6.55 in 44 innings for the Pirates. O’Donnell won 20 games in the minors in both 1951 and 1953, but he managed just three Major League wins in his career.

On May 27,1979, the Pirates opened the day with an 18-21 record, losers of three straight, sitting in fifth place, seven games out of first place. The day didn’t start off well either, with pitcher Jim Bibby leaving the game early due to a strained rib cage muscle. The Pirates ended up beating the Mets that day by a 2-1 score, then they won another five games in a row, turning their season around. After May 27th, they went 80-41, then defeated the Baltimore Orioles in seven games for their fifth World Series title. You can view the boxscore for this game here.

  • How about the 42 middle infielders named “Kevin?”

  • I don’t have much hope for Bastardo returning to being a contributor.

  • Meadows is better served gaining experience and PT in Indy. But Marte is out until July 18th so why not give him a taste of the bigs in CF and see how he adjusts. They can always return him to AAA for that needed experience. But other considerations are at work.His clock, Cutch either showing he is not done and seeing if Frazier is the real deal.

    • piraterican21
      May 27, 2017 11:38 am

      It will be interesting if Meadows come up sometime in June, after the call up of the likes of Alvarez, Polanco, NH had made comments that they were rushed. Meadows does not have that many games in AAA, will NH ‘rush’ Meadows?

      • Hopefully not.

        • Scott Kliesen
          May 27, 2017 11:56 am

          Seriously? You enjoy watching one and sometimes two infielders playing in the outfield every day?

          Meadows likely won’t be a season savior, but he will be a massive upgrade defensively from day one.

          • I like Frazier at leadoff. He is their leading hitter right now. Do you sit him for Meadows? I think not. Meadows needs to replace Cutch, but not right now. Cutch on the bench isn’t a good idea for a number of reasons. Hopefully Cutch recovers enough in the next two months to trade him at the deadline. Yes Meadows would improve the OF defense, but OF defense isn’t why they are losing right now. Lack of offense is the primary reason. Lack of pitching beyond Cole, Nova and Taillon (precancer) is second.

            • Michael Sankovich
              May 27, 2017 12:51 pm

              the team cannot be considered to be a legitimate playoff contender with the current outfield defense. The strength of the team, especially with a healthy Taillon, is the starting pitching. To take advantage of that, need a sturdy defense. Making more than just the routine plays (and even those can be an adventure at times) continues to be a problem for the Pirates. I just hope that Meadows doesn’t turn into another Polonco with his glove. I still recall reading my old PP books with talk of him (Polonco) being a plus defender. I guess there’s still time for him to improve, but if it hasn’t happened yet……………….

              • I agree with what you are saying. I just don’t see the Pirates as legitimate playoff contenders because they are missing their 3, 4, 5 hitters from what should have been their opening day lineup. I have said a couple of times before that what the Bucs need to do for this year is figure out how to best win 2-1 or 3-2 games. First step would be to play NGOEPE for Mercer at SS. Second step would be to replace Cutch with Meadows. But that needs to be done when Meadows is ready and Curch is gone.

                • Michael Sankovich
                  May 27, 2017 4:10 pm

                  that would be a good start (Gift, Meadows) in improving the defense. And with Marte’s return, Polonco in RF would be the remaining glaring weakness. Frazier’s future appears to be as the new SRod, a slightly better bat but not as good a defender. I have been pleasantly surprised with Bell’s adequate work at 1B.

  • I can’t wait to get Bastardo back! He is gonna save us!!!!!

  • #FreeMeadows

    T minus 13 days

    • Don’t hold your breath.

      • John Dreker
        May 27, 2017 9:43 am

        You probably don’t understand what he is saying. #FreeMeadows is a hashtag that becomes valid the day Super 2 passes. It doesn’t matter if he is ready for the majors, it just means that financials won’t be holding him back anymore. So Scott can hold his breath for 13 days because he is right on, although I’d say it’s 14 days since June 10th is usually the day Super 2 has been recognized as safely passed.

        • I understand completely. I just don’t think he will be up at that point or even 14 days after June 10. It is just an opinion.


          • John Dreker
            May 27, 2017 11:27 am

            Still don’t think you do. It’s the hashtag that works in 14 days. You can’t use the #FreeMeadows hashtag until 14 days from now. Whether he comes up or not in 14 days doesn’t matter for what Scott was saying. Meadows could go 0-for-52 between now and then, wouldn’t change things.

            Once June 10th hits and he’s not in the majors, then every time he does something positive, you can add the hashtag #FreeMeadows

            • You’re correct….I have no idea what you’re talking about with this hashtag stuff. I thought it was something he made up, so I just commented on the days part.

              I know what hash is (or was).

              I think I need some now.

        • Sounds like that would be a good time to move Cutch to the AL or elsewhere; he’s not coming back as a player but deserves respect and respectful treatment.

      • Scott Kliesen
        May 27, 2017 11:42 am

        Lots of people here in Grayson, GA been holding their breath since the day he was drafted. 13/14 more days is nothing.

    • This will be an interesting story in mid-June. If:
      – Cutch is in the middle of an even minor resurgence from his batting changes
      – Polanco is hitting reasonably well (say .800 OPS)
      – Frazier is still batting over .300
      – Neither Freese or Harrison are injured

      I get that Meadows may be better than the current versions of Cutch and Polanco and that he could have more potential than Frazier but – Where would you play Meadows? And who would sit?

      The most likely would be to get him 3-4 starts a week to give Cutch, Freese, and Polanco some time off. But NH doesn’t typically promote top prospects to be part time players.

      • John Dreker
        May 27, 2017 9:40 am

        When Meadows comes up, he will play full-time. The rest will have to work itself out when the time comes.

        • I agree that he will play full time when comes up. I just wonder since Meadows hasn’t really torn up AAA (although he us definitely heating up), if he will come up in June when S2 passes. I think it might happen later in July if someone regresses (Freese) or August if someone (Cutch) is traded.

          • John Dreker
            May 27, 2017 11:31 am

            .862 OPS in his last 20 games, plus the speed/defense he adds

            • It would be a waste of one of Meadows first six years to bring him up this season. They should make him a September call up and bring him up for good in 2018.

              • Scott Kliesen
                May 27, 2017 11:46 am

                It’s 6 full seasons plus this season. Bringing him up in September instead of June doesn’t affect his controllable years w Pirates.

                • John Dreker
                  May 27, 2017 11:53 am

                  To add on, they could have called him up back on April 15th and he would still get six full seasons after this year.

                • Not if they hold him back for a few months in AAA at the start of the 2018 season, right?

                  • John Dreker
                    May 27, 2017 12:35 pm

                    If he’s a call-up at any point this year, then he will be up for good in 2018. They wouldn’t just hold him back a couple weeks to get an extra year because they would still be paying for an extra year of arbitration. So if he came up in September this year, that would mean he would have to wait until mid-July to come up in 2018 to avoid Super 2. Then you’re getting nothing from him this year and wasting a half season next year.

                    • So then maybe Meadows doesn’t see PIT in 2017. Adding Meadows in 2017 isn’t going to affect the season outcome. Meadows in 2023 is likely to be much more impact full than Meadows in 2017.

                    • John Dreker
                      May 27, 2017 3:19 pm

                      If they did that, then you’re willing to let him sit in Indy for two months next year? He’s going to be up this year and it will be sometime after June 10th

                    • Rushing him will be a mistake if it happens. I am unimpressed with his slow start this year. An MLB ready player whose calling card is his offense should be hitting an OPS of .900+ (or close to it) in AAA. MLB is that much tougher than AAA. Sending Meadows to PIT in a month will be picking the corn before it is ripe.

                    • John, If McCutchen maintains anything close to the swing and bat speed I saw last night, they could handle it easily. Meadows in LF, moving Frazier to 2nd, Harrison to 3d and Freese and his fading bat to the bench.

      • Scott Kliesen
        May 27, 2017 11:45 am

        The starting OF will be Meadows in LF, Cutch in CF, and Polanco in RF until Marte gets back. The infield will be where it gets tricky.

        • Right now is there any reason to think Meadows will outhit Adam Frazier? He still has some work to do in AAA.

          • I’d bench Freese and just use Frazier at 2B, Harrison at 3B. Meadows, Marte/Cutch and Polanco should be our outfielders.

          • Meadows is a different type of hitter, and why would he have to ” outhit ” Frazier to make a positive impact ? SMFH at that one !

        • Scott, Frazier to 2nd, Harrison to 3d and Freese to the bench. Ngoepe for late defense.