Indianapolis manager Andy Barkett was assistant hitting coordinator last year for the Pittsburgh Pirates. That gave him a chance to see the DSL players in action and work with some of the players. That DSL group included a 17-year-old catcher named Samuel Inoa, who was in the middle of a tough rookie season, both on offense and defense.
Brian Peloza was able to ask Barkett recently about Inoa and he gave a detailed response. I left the entire quote together just below. On a side note, Barkett is quickly becoming one of my favorite coaches for quotes and information on players, which you will see again in an upcoming article this week.
Here’s his thoughts on Inoa:
“I love that kid. He’s a freaking little bull. They call him Toro and he’ll go “bull noise.” He can hit and he has the hitting tools. He was a little bit younger when I saw him but I knew he had that potential with his makeup. I love the kid and I told Tom Prince when we were going down there you’ll going to love this kid and he’ll impact your life in just the way he wants to learn and get better. And those guys work so hard and it’s so rough down there. And Prince fell in love with him. He’s a short stocky, strong guy with a compact stroke. And the ball makes a different sound when it hits his bat. He shows the ability to center the ball.”
The reports I got from the Dominican last year matched the stats for Inoa. He hit .220/.294/.299 in 37 games. I’ve seen players put up poor stats in the past, but you will hear reports that say they made a lot of solid contact, so you have to trust the people who see them daily. That wasn’t the case with Inoa according to reports. On defense, he was rated well below Gabriel Brito, who was another high bonus catcher on the team. Brito moved up the the GCL just before the season ended last year, while Inoa remained in the Dominican for another season.
There is another side to his hitting from last year. Those reports I got on Inoa during the season didn’t match the initial scouting reports, which said he was a line drive hitter with opposite field power. He received a $240,000 bonus in July of 2015 because of that potential with the bat. Looking back on it now, it seems like he was just a young kid who was over-matched in his first run through the league. I’ve heard that before from players who said that they rarely saw 90 MPH before signing, but now they are seeing starters throw that hard and some relievers throwing harder, so there is an adjustment period.
The quote from Barkett is more in line with the initial scouting reports on Inoa’s bat, but there is another part of that quote that has carried over into this season. He talks about how hard Inoa worked last year and that is what I’ve heard from other players down there this season. They said that not only has he looked like a better hitter, he is a much better catcher now and he has taken on the responsibility of a team leader. That’s a good leader to have because he is an example of hard work paying off.
Inoa is hitting .360/.455/.573 this year, showing the potential that Barkett saw last year in a player struggling on both sides of the ball. He ranks second in the entire DSL (a league with 40 teams) with his 1.028 OPS. His fielding stats don’t show a huge improvement on defense, but in this case I’ll go with the eyewitness accounts from people who saw him last year and this year, and were quick to point out that he has improved dramatically.
The DSL is still a long way away from the majors, so for now he is just someone to follow from afar as he tries to climb up the system. What you like to see is the hard work that he puts in everyday paying off in results. You also like to hear about someone who is still just 18 years old being called a team leader on the field. He will very likely be a Fall Instructional League invite this year (I don’t want to guarantee it, but he is a close as you can get to a sure thing). If he’s in Bradenton this September, then we will certainly get a look at him as one of the top players of interest from the DSL club.
* Speaking of Inoa, the DSL All-Star game was Sunday and he was the starting catcher for the NL squad. He helped tie the game up in the fourth inning with an RBI single that made it a 2-1 game, which was followed by him scoring the tying run. The NL would win 3-2. Inoa struck out in his only other at-bat before leaving for a defensive replacement in the sixth inning.
Sherten Apostel came into the game in the sixth and played first base for the first time in his career. I’m guessing the team manager needed to get permission to put him there, even for a few innings. Apostel was 0-for-2 at the plate. Pitcher Oliver Garcia pitched a scoreless fifth inning, retiring the side in order on three ground balls.
PIRATES GAME GRAPH
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates won 4-3 over the St Louis Cardinals on Sunday afternoon. The Pirates will send Chad Kuhl to the mound tonight for his 19th start. He has faced the Brewers twice this season, allowing two runs over eight innings. One of those starts was shortened due to rain. Milwaukee will counter with lefty Brent Suter, who has a 2.96 ERA in 27.1 innings, with 25 strikeouts and a 1.21 WHIP. He has not faced the Pirates this season, but he threw 5.1 shutout innings against Pittsburgh last year over four relief appearances.
In the minors, Steven Brault has pitched just once since June 29th due to making an appearance in the International League All-Star game last week. In that lone start, he allowed one run over six inning, lowering his ERA to 2.00, which is second best in the league. Luis Escobar makes his second start since appearing in the Futures Game last weekend. He gave up one run over five innings in his last start. Cam Vieaux allowed five runs over four innings in his last start. In his first three starts with Bradenton, he gave up a total of three runs. Hunter Stratton is due to start for Bristol and Cody Bolton is the probable for the GCL Pirates. Bolton threw two shutout innings in his debut last week.
MLB: Pittsburgh (44-48) vs Brewers (52-41) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Chad Kuhl (4.96 ERA, 35:69 BB/SO, 85.1 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (52-41) @ Durham (57-36) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Steven Brault (2.00 ERA, 33:88 BB/SO, 94.1 IP)
AA: Altoona (47-44) vs Harrisburg (37-55) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cody Dickson (10.97 ERA, 8:8 BB/SO, 10.2 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (50-39) @ Dunedin (46-46) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cam Vieaux (3.13 ERA, 4:10 BB/SO, 23.0 IP)
Low-A: West Virginia (39-50) vs Greensboro (49-41) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Luis Escobar (4.46 ERA, 36:104 BB/SO, 80.2 IP)
Short-Season A: Morgantown (15-11) @ Auburn (10-16) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: TBD
Rookie: Bristol (7-17) vs Princeton (10-14) 7:00 PM
GCL: Pirates (7-11) vs Tigers West (7-10) 12:00 PM
DSL: Pirates (20-16) vs Indians/Brewers (14-21) 10:30 AM (season preview)
Here is the 13th inning walk-off homer from Pablo Reyes on Saturday night, after he homered in the ninth inning to make it a one-run game.
7/15: Taylor Hearn placed on disabled list.
7/15: Cody Dickson activated from Altoona disabled list.
7/15: Raul Hernandez promoted to Morgantown.
7/15: Brandon Waddell assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.
7/14: Brent Gibbs placed on disabled list. Yoel Gonzalez added to West Virginia roster.
7/14: Will Reed assigned to GCL Pirates.
7/14: Montana DuRapau promoted to Indianapolis.
7/13: Dany Hernandez promoted to Bristol. Will Reed assigned to GCL Pirates from Bristol.
7/13: Pasquale Mazzoccoli promoted to West Virginia. Andrew Potter released.
7/12: Luis Escobar activated from temporary inactive list. Nick King assigned to Morgantown.
7/11: Hector Garcia assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.
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.
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a trade of note and a recap of a very long game. We start with the players, beginning with the most recent first. They are: Brian Rogers, who pitched for the 2006-07 Pirates, outfielder Jerry Lynch, who had two stints with the team. He was around from 1954 until 1956, then again from 1963 until 1966. He hit .263 with 45 homers in 544 games for the Pirates. Also two pitchers from the 19th century, Chummy Gray (1899) and Jim Handiboe, who pitched for the franchise in 1886, the year before they moved from the American Association to the National League.
On this date in 1998, the Pirates traded pitcher Esteban Loaiza to the Texas Rangers for pitcher Todd Van Poppel and second baseman Warren Morris. This deal looked great short-term, as Morris finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1999, but he quickly dropped off and was released just three years later. Van Poppel pitched poorly for the Pirates, while Loaiza eventually became an All-Star pitcher, though that was after his time with Texas ended.
On this date in 1914, the Pirates and Giants played 21 innings at Forbes Field. The Pirates ended up losing 3-1 with starter Babe Adams getting the loss and Giants’ starter Rube Marquard picking up the win. That’s right, a 21 inning game and only two pitchers were used. You can read a full recap from this game in the link above. Here is the boxscore from that game. Perhaps even more interesting is that the Pirates played doubleheaders the day before and the day after this game.