Every week we have live reports from all over the system, while I provided additional views of the minors via MiLB.tv, which included Indianapolis, Altoona and West Virginia this week. We also had live coverage of Altoona and West Virginia in the past week. All of these reports are combined and used each week to highlight the top performers during that time span. We go with the top ten hitters and pitchers, giving you the 20 best players from last week.

HITTERS

Chris Bostick, Util., Indianapolis – Bostick is doing a good job of showing that he is ready for a bench role in the majors, while he waits for the opportunity to come up again. He didn’t get much of a chance during his brief stay last month, but he should get more playing time they next time he’s called up. Bostick connected on his sixth homer and added his 20th double, as part of a week in which he had eight hits, scored seven times and drove in six runs. He had a highlight reel defensive play out in right field and his best positions are in the infield. Bostick has speed, some pop in his bat, and position versatility. He ranks 12th in the International League with an .835 OPS. The problem is that Max Moroff now leads the league in OPS, plus he has more experience at shortstop than Bostick, and that got him a trip to Pittsburgh. The 24-year-old Bostick might have to wait until September to get his second stint with the Pirates, but he’s making a strong case for it to happen earlier. He could use the extra work on his running game and getting more time in the outfield. – John Dreker

Will Craig, 1B, Bradenton – Week after week, Craig has found himself on this list as one of the top performers in the system, with his bat really heating up lately. He had a short week this past week due to the FSL All-Star Break, in which he served as a late addition to the team, going 0-for-2 with a hit by pitch. Craig went 3-for-12 with three walks and a home run this week, putting up a .938 OPS. He’s been on fire at the plate for the last month and a half, putting up a .931 OPS in 143 plate appearances, with four homers since May 7th. He’s only gotten better as that time has gone on, with a 1.203 OPS in 47 plate appearances in the month of June, with two homers. As a college first rounder who is hitting well in High-A, Craig doesn’t have much left to prove before getting a promotion to Altoona. He could end up in Double-A by the end of the month. – Tim Williams

Edwin Espinal,1B, Altoona – It feels like Espinal has been a regular in The Twenty articles. He has been consistent all season, which has led to a .289/.335/.470 slash line. He leads the system with 21 doubles and he has hit seven homers. Espinal has also struck out just 25 times in 232 at-bats, so not only is he making hard contact, he’s making a lot of contact. Now in his final season before minor league free agency, the 23-year-old got into much better shape this off-season and the results are showing. I wouldn’t be surprised if his days in Double-A are numbered. He’s hitting enough to move up a level and his defense has been solid over at first base. Not only would it open up a spot for Will Craig to move up, the Pirates would be able to see what Espinal can do against Triple-A pitcher over half of a season. – JD

Brent Gibbs, C, West Virginia – Gibbs had a strong week on offense, which got him the majority of the playing time recently over Arden Pabst, who is a superior defensive catcher. The 22-year-old Gibbs was drafted in the seventh round last year and went to Bristol, where his season was cut short by a wrist injury. He started this season in Extended Spring Training, where the reports were sub-par, but when West Virginia needed a catcher, he got the call. In 18 games so far, he has a solid .294/.329/.441 slash line, which included a .400 average from this past week. The downside is that he has a 1:23 BB/SO ratio in 68 at-bats, so those stats probably won’t stay high unless he makes an adjustment. Gibbs got some praise for his defense out of the draft, including a strong arm. The arm is there, but he had a lot of trouble in the games I saw recently, especially with blocking pitches. He also had trouble catching the curveball from Ronny Agustin and he completely missed a catch on a fastball over the plate. It appears he has a lot of work to do defensively and he needs to improve his patience at the plate. – JD

Phil Gosselin, INF., Indianapolis – Gosselin continues to prove that he’s too good for Triple-A, but he hasn’t done anything with his two chances in Pittsburgh. This week he picked up hits in all five games he played and drove in a total of six runs. On Sunday, he hit his first home run of the season. Gosselin now has a .330/.364/.456 slash line in 27 games with Indianapolis. He has been taking turns at third base, second base and shortstop, making at least seven starts at each position. Nothing really stands out about his game, which is why the 28-year-old has been limited to a bench role during his big league career. He’s still better than what we have seen from him in Pittsburgh, but he’s probably not going to get the chance to prove that this season. If they needed someone to fill the backup infield role, Chris Bostick would be the best option now, unless they just want Gift Ngoepe as a late-inning defensive replacement. Gosselin offers someone who has experience as a bench player in the majors and he has some success in his past, but the upside is limited to a bench role. – JD

Casey Hughston, CF, Bradenton – After two seasons with a sub-.600 OPS — mostly fueled by a high strikeout rate and poor contact skills — Hughston has put up an .800 OPS this season. He went 5-for-10 with four walks and two doubles this past week, making the list with a 1.343 OPS. He’s been putting up similar results during the month of June, although a look at his overall season shows a streaky hitter who still has some alarming strikeout problems. He’s got a 31.3% strikeout rate on the season. His month of June, which features a 1.006 OPS, has seen a 25% strikeout rate. But the month of May saw a 37% strikeout rate, and he didn’t exactly improve as the month went on, finishing with a 49% strikeout rate in his final two weeks of May. Hughston shows some real tools, with the best speed on the Marauders roster, strong defensive play in center field, and some of the best raw power in the system. But there remains a hole in his swing that is exposed by pitches on the outer half of the plate. He will need to cut that down in order to avoid negating the value of his other skills in the upper levels. – TW

Jordan Luplow, LF, Altoona – Luplow hit his 15th home run of the season this past week. He also put together three multi-hit games. On the season, he is now hitting .278/.359/.525 in 64 games, with 14 doubles to go along with the home run total. Luplow hasn’t been as impressive as Edwin Espinal with the strikeouts, but he has just 39 on the season in 251 plate appearances. He currently ranks seventh in the Eastern League with his .904 OPS and he’s third in home runs. He’s making a lot of contact, and it’s consistently hard contact. Luplow has looked like a solid outfielder this season, making all the plays he should make, while showing off an arm that is above average. He has no errors and six outfield assists. At 23 years old, he is establishing himself as one of the better outfield prospects in the system. – JD

Danny Ortiz, OF, Indianapolis – Ortiz hit 17 homers in 2015 before coming to the Pirates as a minor league free agent. Last year, he hit 17 homers again. Along with a winter league batting title in Puerto Rico, that helped him get re-signed by the Pirates this off-season. The move paid off for him, as he received his first (and second) big league call-up earlier this season. It’s possible we could see Ortiz again after he slugged three homers this past week. The Pirates are currently carrying three catchers in the majors, but that isn’t supposed to last long. Ortiz is on a recent hot streak and he could help the team defensively in the outfield. He’s not going to hit enough to be a regular in the lineup, but it’s good to see the power return, and if you get lucky he could run into a couple homers. He’s not the greatest bench option, but he’s solid enough defensively that he could help in a limited bench role. – JD

Jerrick Suiter, OF, Altoona – Suiter has been one of the better hits on Altoona recently. Since being promoted when Michael Suchy was injured, Suiter has hit .281/.352/.469 in 30 games. He has four homers already for Altoona, one short of his career high. The Pirates are doing something interesting with Suiter this year. Almost all of his time has been spent in the outfield, where he is an average defender. He is the best defensive first baseman in the entire system, yet he has played ten innings there this year. He has played on teams with two regular first basemen, but even when they aren’t playing or just in the DH spot, Suiter hasn’t been over there. He has shown the ability to get on base during his career, and at 6′ 4″, 230 pounds, he is built solid, so there should be power in his bat. If he could put the power together with the on base skills, then you would have yourself a nice first baseman, because the defense there is an added plus. As an average outfielder, the 24-year-old is in a tougher spot, but it’s nice to have the versatility. A little too soon to get excited over him, but keep an eye on the power. – JD

Eric Wood, 3B, Indianapolis – Wood is currently on an eight-game hit streak and he finished this past week strong with homers on both Saturday night and Sunday. With his current run, his overall numbers aren’t far off of his breakout numbers from last year. Wood has a .240/.322/.462 slash line, giving him an OPS two points highest than last season. His walk rate is almost exactly the same from 2016, but the strikeouts have increased somewhat significantly. It hasn’t effected his overall numbers and it isn’t a huge red flag, but that was one of the areas in which he showed improvements last year. Wood seems to do better on defense when he plays the position daily. He’s had a little more trouble at third base than he did last year, but that could be due to moving around now. He has played left field and right field five times each, while getting 11 starts at first base. The added versatility is great, but not if it takes away from his reps at third base and he loses some value there. – JD

PITCHERS

Dario Agrazal, RHP, Bradenton – Agrazal made his final start with Bradenton this past week, as he is expected to be promoted this week to Altoona, likely ending up there by Tuesday. When looking at his recent results, you can see why he received the promotion. Agrazal’s start this past week saw his give up one run in six innings, with four hits, one walk, and six strikeouts. His other recent starts for the past month have been similar. He hasn’t been a strikeout pitcher in the past, but has recorded 43 strikeouts in 42.2 innings over his last seven starts. Putting that in perspective, he had seven games with 6+ strikeouts from 2013-2016, spanning 66 games. He has six games with 6+ strikeouts in his last seven starts this season. Agrazal always had a strong sinker, with the ability to hit mid-90s consistently with the pitch. He’s been able to pound the strike zone with the pitch, limiting walks, and the effectiveness also limited hits. He’ll get a better test in the upper levels of the effectiveness of his slider, but if that pitch has become a true strikeout offering, he could end up projecting better than a middle reliever, having a chance to start one day in the majors. – TW

Tanner Anderson, RHP, Altoona – Anderson had a spectacular outing during Saturday’s doubleheader last week. In six innings, he gave up just two hits and had a 10:0 GO/AO ratio. Both of those hits were erased on double plays, so he ended up facing the minimum of 18 batters. He also got through his outing on just 58 pitches, which is something he can do better than anyone else when he is on his game. Anderson sits low-90s with his high leg kick, throwing a sinker consistently in the bottom of the strike zone. His pitch-to-contact style doesn’t supply many strikeouts, but he gets his share of quick outs on the ground. This is his first season as a starter and his changeup is still a relatively new third pitch, which he didn’t need as a reliever. Those things give him room to improve and gives the Pirates a shot of getting some value out of their 20th round draft pick. – JD

Luis Arrieta, RHP, DSL Pirates – Arrieta signed last July out of Colombia. He was described as a raw pitcher with upside. He turns 18 years old on Wednesday and stands 6′ 2″, 180 pounds. Arrieta has been pitching in long relief, but with a $130,000 bonus, he is destined for more innings as the season goes along, as long as the results continue to look decent. He isn’t starting now because his off-speed pitches need work, so he would have trouble in extended outings. After giving up one run over three innings in his pro debut, Arrieta pitched twice this last week. He gave up one run on two hits in 2.2 innings in the first game and then allowed one run on one hit in three innings during his last appearance. What was impressive about those numbers is that he was facing two of the better hitting teams in the league. The book on Arrieta now is that he hits 92 MPH with his fastball, relying heavily on the pitch for results. – JD

Steven Brault, LHP, Indianapolis – In his lone start this week, Brault allowed more than one earned run in a game for the first time since April. His “down week” saw him give up two runs over six innings. This was obviously still a strong start, but it was under different circumstances than his other starts this year. The Pirates have been skipping starters in the rotation, while using them out of the bullpen on their normal pitch day. The claim is that it is both rest for the pitcher and giving them a chance to pitch out of the bullpen so it isn’t something new to them in the future, if that’s the role they are needed in for the Pirates. Brault would be the best option if the Pirates needed a starter and he has shown that since the start of May, plus he has already pitched out of the bullpen in Pittsburgh. His start this week came on 11 days rest between starts. It’s interesting to note that Brault was 94-95 MPH in his one inning relief appearance, so the velocity is there for shorter outings, but he’s just as effective in the low-90s, while mixing in his off-speed pitches. In 74.1 innings this season, he ranks second in the International League with a 2.18 ERA, sixth with a 1.14 WHIP and sixth will 69 strikeouts. – JD

JT Brubaker, RHP, Altoona – Brubaker didn’t have a great start on Sunday, but he made it here for having one of the best starts this season for a Pirate pitcher. On Tuesday night, he threw seven shutout innings, with three hits, no walks and ten strikeouts. He was also hitting 97 MPH, which is something new from him and takes him to another level if he can maintain that velocity. Brubaker usually sits 90-94 with his fastball, and was topping out at 95 MPH on occasion. He mixes that with a slider that can be used as a strikeout pitch and a changeup that can be an effective pitch. He is showing a nice strikeout rate this season, while getting his share of grounders. The grounders weren’t showing up last year, as he had a tendency to work up in the zone at times and that led to him allowing 15 homers. He’s doing a much better job of keep the ball down this season, and with this new high mark for velocity, he’s becoming a better overall pitcher. –  JD

Blake Cederlind, RHP, West Virginia – Usually we have a minimum amount of innings pitched to qualify, but sometimes it’s a slow week and someone put up great stats in limited time. Enter Cederlind, who threw three perfect innings on Friday, picking up five strikeouts. What is more impressive about this outing is that he allowed a combined 11 earned runs on 11 hits and two walks in his previous four innings, covering two appearances. The Pirates drafted Cederlind in the fifth round last year because he has a big arm, sitting 94-96 in long relief outings this year, and he’s hit 97 MPH in the recent past. His issues are the occasional control problems, and his secondary pitches need work. The control has been better recently with two walks over his last 13 innings. He also has 42 strikeouts in 37 innings this season. If he can improve the control and develop better off-speed pitches, then that improves his future outlook, otherwise middle relief will be his ceiling. – JD

Luis Escobar, RHP, West Virginia – Escobar put together a terrific outing this week, throwing five shutout innings with seven strikeouts. He allowed just three hits and a walk, with two of those runners being the only two batters he faced in the sixth inning before being removed. The hit he allowed in the sixth looked like the runner was out on replay. Escobar was using all three of his pitches effectively in the strike zone. Usually he relies more on other teams being impatient or undisciplined and swinging at pitches in the dirt, but that didn’t happen often on this night. He’s had some consistency issues this season, but Escobar remains one of the top lower level pitching prospect because he has excellent velocity and three offerings that look like plus pitches when he’s on his game. – JD

Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Indianapolis – Glasnow made his first start in Indianapolis this season and it was basically a carbon copy of 2016 Glasnow in Triple-A. He allowed one run on two hits and four walks, while striking out eight batters. He pitched from the stretch this entire game, even when there were no runners on base. It also appeared that he was checking first base before each throw, so it looks like he is trying something new to get on track. His fastball was tough to hit, touching 98 MPH multiple times and he was getting soft contact when he wasn’t striking guys out. Glasnow wasn’t throwing enough strikes and some of the swings he was getting, are pitches that better hitters would lay off of well out of the zone. The velocity was good though, the curve looked nice and he got the desired results, minus the high walk total of course. – JD

Alex McRae, RHP, Altoona – McRae had a very poor start leading up to this week. He gave up seven runs on 14 hits in 5.1 innings. He bounced back nicely from that game on Thursday, allowing one run over seven innings, with no walks and five strikeouts. McRae has had a decent season this year by pitching to contact and getting quick outs. He has a .291 BAA, which you would like to see improve, but he has the ability to limit damage by throwing strikes and getting timely double plays. Because he doesn’t have a true strikeout pitch, he will run into some trouble when his fastball command is off. McRae has a 1.57 GO/AO ratio and he has walked just 15 batters in 74.1 innings. He profiles as a middle reliever who is a ground ball specialist, but will increase that profile if he can miss more bats. – JD

Oddy Nunez, LHP, West Virginia – Nunez has been on an impressive run lately and he’s added to his resume by setting career highs for his pitch count in each of his last three outings. Nunez allowed one run over five innings on Monday, then threw 4.2 shutout innings on Saturday. The second game showed the effects of raising his pitch count, as he walked two batters late in his outing while getting up to 85 pitches. He went 72 in his previous game, so it was quite an increase for someone who was set at a 60 pitch limit early in the season. Nunez hasn’t allowed more than three hits in a game during each of his last five starts. On the season, he has a 3.06 ERA in 53 innings, with a 12:47 BB/SO ratio, a .196 BAA, an 0.94 WHIP and a 2.67 GO/AO ratio. The 6′ 7″, 20-year-old southpaw will move into our mid-season top 50, but to really establish himself, he will need to show more stamina later in outings and better secondary pitches, which are coming along well this season – JD

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9 COMMENTS

    • I was not a fan of the Craig pick for a few reasons. But he continues to hit and sounds like he’s not bad at first either. Good for him. Keep proving all the naysayers wrong.

    • May I join in? Nutting… Seven Springs… bobbleheads… signability… small market… Sanchez… Trout… did we mention CHEAP? OK I feel better 🙂

    • I was a fan of the pick of Craig and still have hopes hew ill be a good player in the burg but lets not get carried away with his 30 day results in high A. Quite frankly anything less then what he is doing this year would suggest total bust.

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