Morning Report: The Organizational All-Star Team

With the Major League All-Star game going on tonight, the minor league schedule has just three games today. Two of those games are at the two lowest levels during the day and then Morgantown plays tonight. So it’s going to be a slow day for prospect news. Since it is the All-Star break though, why not look at the the organizational All-Stars. The short-season teams haven’t played many games, but we can make an All-Star team from the full-season squads. Here’s who I would pick as All-Stars from the first half, with no bias towards prospect status. I went with one player at each position, a lefty and right starter and one reliever.

Catcher: Christian Kelley – This is one of the few easy choices. Kelley is hitting .266/.374/.335 in the FSL and providing the team with above average defense. He has caught more games than anyone else in the system, 15 more than Arden Pabst, who has the second most.

First Base: Will Craig – This was basically a toss up between Edwin Espinal and Will Craig because their overall hitting stats are nearly the same, except Craig got there with on base and Espinal with slugging. Craig is in a league where pitchers rule the land, so having the same OPS as someone in the more hitter friendly Eastern League gets him the nod. Craig is hitting .291/.392/.421 in 79 games.

Second Base: Kevin Kramer – Kramer was so good in his first two months that he still made the team despite being on the disabled list for the last month. Before getting hurt, he hit .297/.380/.500, which was much better than the next closest second baseman.

Shortstop: Cole Tucker – Max Moroff put up much better stats, but he also played other positions besides shortstop and has played 20 fewer games than Tucker overall. Tucker has been really good though, especially for a 21-year-old in the FSL. He has a .292/.375/.444 slash line, along with 34 steals and solid defense.

Third Base: Eric Wood – A position where you have three really good options. Hunter Owen has the best stats, but this isn’t just about offense and there is a huge difference between him and Eric Wood at third base. Wyatt Mathisen is very close to Wood on offense, but again, using defense as the deciding factor, you have to go with Wood, who has the edge on Mathisen. Wood has a .254/.333/.470 slash line, with 34 extra-base hits.

Outfield: Jordan Luplow – He has been the best hitter for the Pirates outside of Max Moroff, who only played half the games that Luplow has played. Luplow has a .288/.373/.542 slash line in 82 games and leads everyone with 19 homers.

Outfield: Logan Hill – Hill is hitting .271/.356/.512 in 81 games, with 17 homers and 18 doubles. His hitting has actually gone up since joining Altoona ten games ago.

Outfield: Christopher Bostick – I wasn’t going to go with Bostick for the outfield, instead adding a utility spot. He has played 50 games out there though and the competition for the third outfield spot is very weak, so I included him here. He’s hitting .292/.349/.448 in 80 games. It’s interesting to note that he only trails Will Craig in plate appearances among Pirates (by only three PA’s), but Bostick spent four days in the majors. You have to add in that he was pulled from the lineup the day before his call-up and didn’t play the day after he was sent down due to travel, so he’s been in the lineup on a consistent basis.

LHP: Steven Brault – Easy choice here because he has been our Pitcher of the Month in each of the last two months. He even started July with a solid start and he will pitch in the Triple-A All-Star game tomorrow. Brault has a 2.00 ERA in 94.1 innings, with 88 strikeouts and a 1.11 WHIP.

RHP: Pedro Vasquez – Has a 2.52 ERA in 89.1 innings, with a 1.13 WHIP. His worst start this season was four runs allowed and he has gone at least six innings in ten of his starts. He has been the most consistent starter in a loaded Bradenton rotation since the start of the season.

Reliever: Tate Scioneaux – He’s pitched more relief innings than anyone else, and by a fairly wide margin. He also has a 2.01 ERA and an 0.93 WHIP in 58.1 innings, so this is an easy choice, though there are some other relievers performing well, they don’t have the innings+performance of Scioneaux.

The interesting part will be looking back on this list (if I remember to) at the end of the season to see if these same players are considered the best at their spots.


The Pirates are off until Friday.


Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates are on the All-Star break until Friday when they open a series at home against the St Louis Cardinals. Gerrit Cole will be on the mound for the series opener.

In the minors, only three games on the schedule today, as the MLB All-Star game takes center stage. Morgantown will send Sergio Cubilete to the mound, while the GCL Pirates go with Austin Shields. The DSL Pirates will probably send Jose Marcano to the mound and use Pablo Santana in relief because they have been going on the same day since June 19th. Shields has worked his way up to five innings, but will need to display better control before he is moved up to Bristol. That’s where he was originally scheduled to go before he suffered arm/tricep tightness in late May, which shut him down for a very brief time.

MLB: Pittsburgh (42-47) vs Cardinals (43-45) 7:05 PM 7/14
Probable starter: Gerrit Cole (4.43 ERA, 27:94 BB/SO, 107.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (50-39) vs Louisville (35-54) 7:05 PM 7/13 (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD

AA: Altoona (46-41) vs Bowie (47-42) 7:00 PM 7/13 (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD

High-A: Bradenton (48-36) @ Clearwater (47-40) 10:30 AM 7/12 (season preview)
Probable starter: Cam Vieaux (1.42 ERA, 3:9 BB/SO, 19.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (38-46) vs Augusta (31-52) 1:00 PM 7/12 (season preview)
Probable starter: Luis Escobar (4.64 ERA, 33:100 BB/SO, 75.2 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (12-7) @ Hudson Valley (6-13) 7:05 PM  (season preview)
Probable Starter: Sergio Cubilete (3.24 ERA, 7:10 BB/SO, 16.2 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (5-14) @ Johnson City (8-11) 7:00 PM 7/12

GCL: Pirates (2-11) vs Braves (7-6) 12:00 PM

DSL: Pirates (19-13) vs Indians (12-20) 10:30 AM  (season preview)


Here are two highlights from Bradenton. First is a walk-off single from Mitchell Tolman

The next is an RBI double from Cole Tucker


7/10: Starling Marte assigned to Bradenton on rehab

7/8: Antonio Bastardo designated for assignment. Phil Gosselin recalled from Indianapolis.

7/8: Dan Runzler activated from disabled list. Justin Maffei assigned to Altoona from Indianapolis.

7/8: Luis Escobar placed on temporary inactive list. Nick King assigned to West Virginia.

7/8: Cody Dickson placed on disabled list.

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.


Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus one trade of note.  Starting with the most recent player first, we have lefty reliever Javier Lopez (2010), catcher Ed Ott (1974-80), pitcher Hal Gregg (1948-50), pitcher Harry Wolter (1907) and 1898-1900 catcher Pop Schriver. Wolter played one game for the Pirates on June 17, 1907, throwing the last two innings of the game. Before that, but during the same season, Wolter played outfielder for the Reds. After his one Pittsburgh appearance, he moved on to St Louis two weeks later, where he was also used as an outfielder. Ott was a member of the 1979 World Series champs. He hit .333 during the series and drove in three runs.

The trade on this date occurred in 1992, as the Pirates improved their starting rotation by adding pitcher Danny Jackson from the Cubs in exchange for third baseman Steve Buechele. The Pirates were able to move Jeff King to third base full-time and Jackson put up a 3.36 ERA in 15 starts.

On this date in 1902, the Pirates moved to 49-15 with a 6-3 win over the New York Giants. It gave them a 13 game lead in the National League and it was the start of a seven game win streak. The Pirates would finish the season 103-36, for their best record of all-time.

  • The hamstring issue and crappy Pirate draft history suggests this kid was “over drafted,” not just because they could have taken Aaron Judge instead.

  • Interesting Craig is listed as your choice. It seems at the MLB level they want more out of a 1st baseman than an OBP guy.

  • I see Ke’Bryan Hayes didn’t make your top three third basemen for the season so far. Is this a reflection on his overall ability, or just that he isn’t having the season the other three are having?

    • WillyMoGarcia33
      July 11, 2017 2:22 pm

      I think it has more to do with the fact he’s OPS’ing only 668 right now, largely due to a 322 slugging %. To which, as has been noted on this site, can probably be largely attributed to his weight loss from an injury last season that left him unable to perform physical activity. Defense has been noted as strong, batting 267 with OBP of 346, and even added 22 steals in 26 attempts. But, as with his lack of power, the steals are thought to be an outlier due to the fact he lost considerable weight and is faster than he would be at his normal weight, or added muscle. This season is probably going to be more about getting reps and playing time for Hayes. He should be able to pack the weight and some more muscle on in the offseason.

  • Tucker and Kramer have some above average numbers for middle infielders. Tucker steals a lot, which is nice. Craig is doing well enough in pitcher’s league. Other than that, what is there to get excited about? Has Brault figured it out or is he a AAAA Cy Young? Is Glasgow just a head case? Nice article. It exposes that the Pirates don’t have much left in the farm system after the recent graduations/crash and burns.

    • I’d add Luplow to the above average list and consider Logan Hill.
      It was a nice article. Good work from a different look.

  • I bet NH will be a buyer at he trade deadline when all is said and done. Remember last year he got Hutchinson for next to nothing (being funny). He will market Meadows, Glasnow for what the thinks might win the division. I on the other hand would be in full sell mode. I would keep Cutch and trade him after the season. Otherwise I would listen to offers on Harrision, cole, Watson, Hudson, cerveilli and mostly everyone else.

    • Cole yes – big time payback possible from Astro’s or Yankees. Watson yes because he dared challenge the Pirates in Arbitration. Harrison was not worth the $18 mil for ’17 and ’18 based on his performances in 2015 and 2016, but he has had a very good 2017 so far. Still, $10 mil for a 2B when the market is full of available talent?

    • If I can play devil’s advocate, I feel there won’t be much action on the trade front. I’ve said for awhile Cutch isn’t going anywhere. There is going to be little demand for OFs and 2nd basemen in general.

      Trading Cole and Cervelli IMO should be their top priorites. Cervelli probably won’t be a full time catcher much longer and if so his contract will be a tough pill to swallow.

      Watson is a goner but the return won’t be much.

      Nicasio will probably be traded at some point, maybe even in Aug. I don’t see Hudson or Jaso being moved. Harrison may slide over to 3rd, allowing whoever NH feels is the best youngster to fill 2nd.

      • The thing about demand is that there’s *always* a market for the top dog. If Cutch does this for another three weeks, no other outfielder on the market will even be able to touch his value to a team looking to hang a flag.

        You’re not wrong about the number of suitors, and maybe they ultimately choose a lesser option on purpose, but Cutch has put Huntington in a position of strength.

        • I look at what NH supposedly turned turned down in the offseason when Cutch was nowhere near the top dog. I also would be hesitant to overpay for someone who was below average for 4 of 6 months in ’16 and 2 of 4 in ’17. But, that’s just me sitting in my imaginary GM chair.

          Yes, NH is in a much stronger position now but the field is pretty limited and his demands are increased IMO.

          • Somewhat amazingly, only five outfielders in all of baseball have been more productive at the plate in the last calendar year than Andrew McCutchen. Yes, that’s in no small part due to the last six weeks, but he’s put up 120 wRC+ or better now in four of his last six months. We’re getting close to the point of his poor months being the aberrations in his great body of recent work.

            It’ll be interesting to see if the league agrees!

            • Very interesting first sentence you wrote.
              You also had some very good points on BD in Wilbur’s thread.

    • I think I, honestly, disagree with nearly everything you wrote.

      I couldn’t see any way that Huntington would be a buyer. The only way the Pirates are getting into the playoffs is by winning the division title. If the Brewers play .500 the rest of the way (36-35), the Pirates would have to go 45-28…and hope the Cubs or Cards don’t outpace them.

      Everybody hated the Liriano trade (including me), but I’ll be damned if it isn’t looking better and better. McGuire is can’t hit and is out with knee surgery, Ramirez is posting a sub .650 OPS at AA, and Liriano is still continuing the implosion…the Pirates saved nearly $20M and Hutchison is pitching well enough at AAA to be a reasonable option at the ML level if necessary.

      Meadows and Glasnow aren’t going anywhere.

      If Cutch goes it needs to be now. Capitalize on his rebound and sell. He’s not going to get any hotter than he is. Besides…the return will be stronger for 1.5 years of control over just 1.

      Watson and Hudson may go…but they won’t bring back much.

      The market for Cervelli will be minute. 25M+ for a catcher on the wrong side of 30 and with concussion issues who can’t seem to stay healthy even without them?

      Harrison has value…and he’s one that could move. Still owed $16Mish, but if he finishes out this year as strong as he’s played and has one of his down years next season…it’s still worth the money. I can’t see him returning anything massive though.

      Cole? Everybody’s going to look for pitching…and Cole will return a haul if his next few starts are solid. He could very well be gone…but, if Cutch goes (and he should), dealing Cole pretty much makes it a fire sale.

      Of course your speculation and mine is meaningless for two weeks…the Pirates can just as easily go on a 10 game skid as much as they can hit a 10 game winning streak.

      • Michael Sankovich
        July 11, 2017 1:54 pm

        a year later, it appears the worst that could be said about the LIriano trade is the front office wasted a mid first round draft pick. Teams, especially smaller markets, have to keep those kind of mistakes at a minimum.

      • Very good post. And realistic.

      • WillyMoGarcia33
        July 11, 2017 2:15 pm

        I actually started to ponder if maybe the Pirates could parlay Cole’s injury plagued ’16, and underwhelming ’17 thus far into an extension. After ’15, Cole appeared on a path to top level ace, and has been anything but since. Maybe Cole and Boras would be open to a 5 yr deal or so given his current uncertainty.

        Past that, the possible moves I could see. Watson and Nicasio I can see on the move: Nicasio to the Nats, and Watson possibly to the Rangers. Both teams are in dire need of bullpen help. I’ve thought that Jaso to Yanks is a possibility. Between Bird being out potentially for season, Carter being released, and a string of other struggles at 1B. He’s a rental for this season, leaving it open for Bird next season to return. Then, as a potentially big move, J-Hay to the Red Sox. They can’t find a competent 3B, and Pedroia has struggled with injuries most of the season. Gives them a versatile guy to handle whatever position is of need at the moment. Dombrowski is known for far overpaying, so I think he’d be willing to give the Pirates a suitable package.

        • Cole’s future as a Pirate will be determined, I think, based on two things…his next three starts and Cutch. I don’t think both will be traded at the same time…and Cutch, having the least control, should be the first to go unless the Pirates are just blown away with an offer for Cole.

          I don’t think he’ll be extended though. If he were a FA right now, and Boras was feeling generous, the least he would demand is 5/90.

          A lot of your proposed deals seem reasonable…they’re all guys the Pirates would be willing to part with and they make good fits for the incoming teams…I just don’t think they return much.

          Watson and Jaso get you next to nothing. The return for Nicasio would be better, but the Nats want a closer and I think they’d be willing to pay for one. Harrison could easily go to the RSox…but I think you get a couple of “ifs” for him…maybe two guys at the AA level who are very Will Craigish.

          With Cole and Cutch being the biggest chips, I think the Pirates would be best suited looking for a really desperate team…one that really has a shot and a gaping hole. Not sure what Minnesota has in their farm system, but they’d be a perfect fit for either.

          • WillyMoGarcia33
            July 11, 2017 3:47 pm

            Yeah, I guess, I don’t know if I see them doing anything really “big”. I largely agree with you though.

            I only mention the Cole proposition, as it was something I recently thought of. 5/80 to 5/90 was about the area I was thinking myself.
            And to the Pirates it would be a controllable arm with experience, as they’re reliant right now on their depth of youthful starters. It probably does depend on how Cole bounces back these next few starts, not sure how other teams are viewing Cole in terms of what it would take to pull him from the Pirates.

            Cutch and Cole could both bring in a big haul. I was thinking Houston, with their stretch of injuries to starters, was a good spot for Cole to land. Even going as far as trying to pry Bregman away, since Correa is planted at SS, but it’s dependent on Houston’s feelings towards Marwin Gonzalez’s strong season and whether they think it will continue, making them “Win Now” mode.

            Nicasio would be somewhat similar to moving Melancon last season to the Nats. Nothing extravagant, at least at the moment a la Rivero, but Nats have the worst bullpen in the league. They may even see him as a potential closer, as their bullpen has been atrocious overall. Much the same with the Rangers, but lesser value in Watson, their bullpen has left a lot to be desired. Maybe Bannister has a good relationship with Watson, and would pull for him.

            J-Hay for me, is just leaning on Dombrowski’s history of over paying. I think they could get a better than expected return, between Domb and Red Sox consistent “Win Now” mood.

            Jaso is really, as most of my hypothetical’s are, moving a body to a team with a need to open up spots on the roster. I wouldn’t expect much of a return. Cause lastly, as the Pirates have a pitching conundrum in the minors, I see them moving Eppler in some 1-for-1 trade. Like they did with Adrian Sampson (for Happ) and Frank Duncan (for Gosselin).

  • I hope Will Craig’s power picks up as he rises through the system. Being out slugged by Cole Tucker isn’t flattering to him, unless Tucker’s upside is considerably higher than he is generally credited.

    • Craig’s slugging percentage is 60 points above league average. He’s actually in the top 20 in the league. Part of Tucker slugging so well is his speed helps him pick up extra bases. If you look at the double in that video, he got to second when Craig wouldn’t have, or shots in the gap that turn into extra bases for fast players. He doesn’t have more power than Craig, but he does maximize that power. That obviously isn’t happening with Craig

      The other part of Tucker slugging well? His one huge game back in early May. Without that one game, he has a .401 slugging. It added 43 points

    • It’s interesting that two of the top 1B prospects in the game right now, Dom Smith and Jake Bauers, are also considered hit-over-power first basemen.

      Craig’s swing is excellent for power production, but it’s the batspeed and raw power that are in question. His K-rate has also crept up to the point of having to watch; incredibly difficult in this league to put up average-based production with a K-rate over 20%.

      Most now understand that his home college park massively inflated his power numbers, so we’re left with a prospect that will have to prove he can make the production work at every level in order to hit enough to be an average Major Leaguer.

      • To add, whatever Sheets does, following a year behind Craig, will skew Craig’s numbers IMO.

      • Or he might increase his bat speed. I don’t know the answer to this, but is bat speed as genetically determined as foot speed? Foot speed is related to the ratio of fast twitch to slow twitch muscle fiber. But is bat speed more of a wrist/ elbows/ shoulders/waist timing issue? If so it could be trained.

        • Ah, one of the great scouting debates…

          I’m of the opinion that bat speed is more intrinsic than developed. Exactly as you’ve described foot speed. Now improvements can obviously be made at the margins, but Javy Baez was always Javy Baez and Travis Snider was always Travis Snider.

          I wouldn’t change a thing about Craig’s mechanics, they’re fantastic and produce almost a perfect batted ball profile. The only thing it seems he may be able to do is improve hand/wrist strength and overall conditioning in general. Get the most out of the kinetic chain he can.

          • Darkstone42
            July 11, 2017 5:03 pm

            There’s certainly a genetic cap to power, but there are little things, like strength and flexibility training, which can help a player get closer to that cap. Craig can still improve those things, I think, so he could add a little bat speed and get to a little above average, but it’s never going to be the part of his hitting that carries him.

          • Greater strength could enable him to swing a heavier ounce bat. Afterall momem tum transferred = mass x velocity. I am thinking that is what the effect of steroids was. I don’t remember anyone running faster due to Roids. But they did gain muscle mass (and hat size). Bonds always had a quick bat. But after chemical enhancement his wrists were ridiculously strong. I hope Craig doesn’t do anything damaging or illegal. But regular pumping the iron should help. Seems to have turned Bell into a beast!

      • Darkstone42
        July 11, 2017 5:00 pm

        As long as he’s in the FSL, I don’t know that we can properly assess his power. Between the big parks and the heavy air, only total freaks hit for power.

        I think Justin Bour is a pretty decent comp for Craig if all goes well. Bour’s bat speed is good, but not amazing, but his swing is geared for power, and he hits the ball with the good part of the bat often. He won’t hit the ball 450+, and very rarely even 425, but he’ll hit it enough to get it out of the park.

        Basically, good eye, good contact skill, leveraged fly ball swing and some weight to throw behind it, all cover up mediocre bat speed. Bour’s bat speed might be a bit better, but Craig likely doesn’t suffer from the splits Bour does (or did, until this season), and he’ll certainly add more value defensively.

  • WillyMoGarcia33
    July 11, 2017 10:27 am

    Bolton debut for GCL!

    • Wow they really changed things up. I have the sheet that says 12pm start and Shields on the mound today. Granted, it was printed up Saturday, but that’s definitely switching things up. I’ll have to check if tomorrow is Shields or Jennings now.

      • WillyMoGarcia33
        July 11, 2017 11:37 am

        Seems it may have been a late scratch I assume. Bolton went the customary 2 innings. Then Hector Garcia 1 IP, Dany Hernandez 1 IP, now Vin Diesel, sorry Vince Deyzel, listed as coming in. Thought maybe Shields got bumped up to Bristol, but wouldn’t seem he would given his walk totals thus far.

        • No, they said Bolton would debut early in the week and he was scheduled for two innings, but he wasn’t listed for a specific day. Yesterday had Pina/Webb listed, so I knew both were pitching. They change a lot, which is why I don’t list probables. Hector Garcia pitched for the first time since April, so he wasn’t going to go more than one inning.

          • WillyMoGarcia33
            July 11, 2017 11:53 am

            I understand. Obviously my knowledge of their process is absent when it comes to the GCL. Just seems they generally, much like Pina/Webb, piggy back a longer appearance guy with picks going only 2 innings. Which is why I was thinking maybe Sousa closes out the game, barring any trouble.

            • WillyMoGarcia33
              July 11, 2017 11:54 am

              Well, not necessarily closes out the game, but 3 innings at least.

            • I’m going to inquire about Shields after they get off the field, so it will be in the PW if there is a problem, or in the Morning Report if he is going tomorrow or got promoted

  • It would be interesting to compare those all-stars to the Prospect Ranking All-Stars which prior to the season rankings (ignoring the 2AB Bell) would indicate as:

    C – Elias Diaz
    INF – Will Craig, Allen Hanson, Kevin Newman, Ke’Bryan Hayes
    OF – Meadows, Barrett Barnes, Chris Bostick
    SP – Keller & Hearn
    RP – Santana

    While not all bad, the injuries and less than stellar performances of many of these guys added to the MLB ball club DUIs, suspensions, injuries, and poor performances has made for a lackluster first half. Let’s hope they both get things turned around in the second half!

  • Kramer has to be the most interesting follow in the second half, maybe in the entire system.

    He massively struggled over his last month but the first six weeks were incredible.

  • Since this is a dead period for MLB baseball, here is an All Star Break Prospect survey.

    IF I was a betting man and had to bet, here is what I think of our prospects (which means bet the opposite?):

    Meadows….I worry that his hammies will keep him from ever fulfilling his potential.

    I really like Keller, Hayes and Tucker.

    I am not a fan of Newman. I think, at best, he is an average SS who will hit .270-.280 with little pop (.700 OPS at best).

    I think Diaz can be another Chooch Ruiz-like catcher.

    I like Santana.

    All of the rest of their pitchers can go either way, but none of them get me that excited yet. I’ve seen so many young pitchers come and go since Candy that, until they do it in the majors, I don’t get my hopes up (outside of Taillon – if he can Just. Stay. Healthy.). But, if I had to choose a couple that I would bet on it would be Hearn and Oddy Nunez. Hey….they’re lefties!!! :).

    • Freudian slip? I had Tucker in there twice and left off Will Craig. lol. I have fixed that.

    • Nice work lee. Taillon is the future if he can get out from under that black cloud. Meadows has me worried. Even w/o his injuries he hasn’t hit AAA pitching…yet.

  • Fun article, thanks!