The draft signing deadline ended quietly at 5:00 PM yesterday for the Pittsburgh Pirates. They had already signed 37 players out of 42 draft picks selected, making their last two signings on Monday. That’s a lot more than you should expect in any given year, so there wasn’t much left to wonder about going into Friday. As I mentioned Thursday morning, it appeared they were done with their signings. Four of the players had committed to either going to college or remaining in college.
The one uncertainty going into Friday was 12th round pick Hunter Wolfe, but I got word that he was going to Atlanta on Wednesday and that’s not where you go right before you’re about to sign in Pittsburgh. So it appeared that they were done signing players, but they still had a nice little pile of money to spend, so you never know if a player would have a last second change of heart.
The deadline has been a lot quieter recently than in the past when the big players used to wait until the last day or two to sign. Last year did have some drama with Nick Lodolo, but we found out pretty early on deadline day that he was turning down $1.75 M and attending TCU. Shortly thereafter, we got word that the Pirates took their remaining money and signed right-handed prep pitcher Austin Shields.
Now you see what the Pirates got instead of Lodolo. If they signed him last year, they wouldn’t have been able to sign Shields and they wouldn’t have had the 42nd overall pick this year, which they used on Steven Jennings. It will be awhile before we know if it worked out for the best, but Jennings was a rated higher by most coming into the draft and Shields is a big kid, who throws hard and has a lot of potential. That gives the Pirates two chances to develop a high upside pitcher instead of one. Lodolo could still turn out to be the best of the group, but for now, the odds are with the Pirates.
* The Pirates signed two players out of Mexico on Wednesday, making it a total of three this year after not signing any players from Mexico since 2013. Left-handed pitcher Mario Garcia and outfielder Cristian Navarro are the new players. In my Morning Report article about the drought of signings out of Mexico, I noted that Pirates have a working agreement with Venados de Mazatlan. Well, shortly after the Pirates signed Garcia and Navarro, they were drafted by Mazatlan in the 2017 Mexican league draft. So while you probably won’t see them playing for Mazatlan anytime soon due to the level of play in Mexico, they are now part of the same team that the Pirates use for the players in winter ball. We are now up to 25 players signed that we know about, but there could be more.
* Shane Baz makes his second start as a pro this morning. Tim Williams will be providing live coverage, so expect the Prospect Watch to go up early, as long as nothing else comes up. We aren’t exactly sure how far Baz will go in this one. He was scheduled for 30 pitches or two innings in his debut, but he was done after one inning due to a rain delay. He threw about 15 pitches that game. Pitchers usually progress one inning each time out, so that sounds like he should go two innings today, but he may have a slightly higher pitch count that allows him to go an extra frame.
PIRATES GAME GRAPH
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 6-1 to the Chicago Cubs on Friday afternoon. They will send Ivan Nova to the mound for his 18th start tonight. He allowed four runs over six innings in his last start. Nova faced the Cubs on June 17th and gave up three runs over seven innings. Chicago will counter with right-handed Jake Arrieta, who has a 4.33 ERA in 95.2 innings, with 99 strikeouts and a 1.30 WHIP. He faced Nova on June 17th and surrendered three runs over 4.2 innings.
In the minors, Clay Holmes starts for Indianapolis after being skipped in the rotation last time out. His last start was ten days ago when he allowed two runs over five innings, with no walks and six strikeouts. Altoona has a doubleheader with Austin Coley scheduled for one game and no starter has been announced yet for the other contest. Bradenton starter Pedro Vasquez ranks sixth in the Florida State League with a 2.48 ERA and sixth with a 1.07 WHIP. West Virginia starter Eduardo Vera ranks tenth in the SAL with a 2.78 ERA and seventh with a 1.04 WHIP. Travis MacGregor goes for Bristol today and Shane Baz is slated for the GCL.
MLB: Pittsburgh (40-47) @ Cubs (43-43) 7:15 PM
Probable starter: Ivan Nova (3.24 ERA, 14:61 BB/SO, 114.0 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (49-38) @ Gwinnett (43-43) 6:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Clay Holmes (3.90 ERA, 32:70 BB/SO, 67.0 IP)
AA: Altoona (44-40) @ Akron (43-39) 5:30 PM DH (season preview)
Probable starter: Austin Coley (2.87 ERA, 18:61 BB/SO, 81.2 IP) and TBD
High-A: Bradenton (46-36) vs Tampa (47-37) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Pedro Vasquez (2.48 ERA, 16:66 BB/SO, 83.1 IP)
Low-A: West Virginia (37-44) @ Rome (43-40) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Eduardo Vera (2.78 ERA, 6:61 BB/SO, 64.2 IP)
Short-Season A: Morgantown (11-7) vs Batavia (8-10) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: Scooter Hightower (1.80 ERA, 1:18 BB/SO, 15.0 IP)
Rookie: Bristol (4-12) vs Pulaski (12-4) 7:00 PM
GCL: Pirates (2-9) vs Yankees West (5-5) 10:00 AM
DSL: Pirates (18-12) vs Rays2 (16-14) 10:30 AM (season preview)
Here are two triples from ninth round draft pick Bligh Madris from recent action.
The second triple.
7/6: Pirates recall A.J. Schugel. Elias Diaz optioned to Indianapolis
7/6: Gift Ngoepe activated from disabled list.
7/6: Pirates release Jared Lakind
7/5: Hunter Owen assigned to West Virginia. Nick King assigned to Morgantown.
7/5: Adonis Pichardo assigned to Bristol from GCL Pirates.
7/4. Stephen Alemais assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.
7/4: Starling Marte assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.
7/4: Gift Ngoepe assigned to Morgantown on rehab.
7/4: Yeudy Garcia activated from disabled list. Casey Sadler assigned to Altoona from Indianapolis.
7/4: Pirates release Buddy Borden.
7/3: Francisco Cervelli activated from disabled list. Edgar Santana optioned to Indianapolis.
7/2: Starling Marte assigned to Bradenton on rehab.
7/2: Hunter Owen assigned to Morgantown. Nick King assigned to West Virginia.
6/30: Logan Hill promoted to Altoona. Jordan Luplow promoted to Indianapolis. Alexis Bastardo promoted to Bradenton. Julio Eusebio promoted to West Virginia.
6/30: Connor Joe placed on disabled list.
6/30: Jason Rogers released.
6/29: Yeudy Garcia assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.
6/29: Brandon Cumpton promoted to Altoona.
6/29: Mitch Keller activated from the disabled list.
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including one that went on to become a Hall of Fame umpire. We will start with John Bowker, who returned to the organization in a trade in 2015, after playing for the Pirates during the 2010-11 seasons. He only played for Indianapolis during his second stint before being released. Also born on this date, 1991 pitcher Rosario Rodriguez, 1985-91 pitcher Bob Kipper, 1955-58 outfielder John Powers and pitcher Jay Parker, who made his only Pirates’ appearance on September 27,1899 and it was one he probably wanted to forget. He started game two of a doubleheader and was so erratic on the mound, he was pulled after facing two batters. He walked both and both scored, in what turned out to be his only Major League game.
Hank O’Day pitched for the Pirates back in 1885 when the franchise was still in the American Association and the club’s nickname was still the Alleghenys. He went 5-7 in 12 starts, completing all 12 games. In his seven-year career, he had a 73-110 record on the mound, but he made his name behind the plate. O’Day umpired for 30 seasons, plus five other years he filled in the position a handful of times. He was the umpire for ten World Series, including the first one, which included the Pirates. It took awhile, but the Hall of Fame finally recognized his value in 2013.
Finally, Harry Gilbert was born on this date in 1868 and his Major League career lasted one day, but he actually played two games. On June 23, 1890, the Alleghenys/Pirates played a doubleheader in Philadelphia and used both John Gilbert and Harry Gilbert for their double play combo, the first pair of siblings to play together for the Pirates. Harry was the second baseman and he went 2-for-8 at the plate. He had two singles and scored a run, while playing flawlessly in the field. You can read more about that day in an article I wrote here.