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 Morgantown this week. We also had live coverage of Indianapolis, Bradenton, West Virginia and the GCL Pirates 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

Francisco Acuna, SS, DSL Pirates – Before this DSL season started, Acuna was one of the top players to watch. That’s because he played winter ball in Colombia, in a league that is much more advanced than the Dominican Summer League. The 17-year-old shortstop held his own against the older competition, so big things were expected from him coming into this year. He got off to a slow start, hitting .116 with no extra-base hits through his first 15 games. It looks like he could be getting on track now after last week, when he went 5-for-18 with a home run and eight walks. He was actually getting on base prior to the last few games, but now his OBP is up to .379 through 20 games. He’s a solid defensive shortstop, who provides the team with some speed, going 9-for-9 in stolen bases so far. I expect the bat to continue to pick up throughout the summer and you will likely see him get an invite to the Fall Instructional League in Bradenton – John Dreker

Albert Baur, 1B, West Virginia – Baur has been mentioned here a few times already and he continues to put up solid numbers as the old man on the West Virginia roster at 25 years old. In 48 games this season, he has a .290/.375/.432 slash line, which was helped by home runs on Saturday and Sunday. He has good size and experience, but those two homers doubled his season output, so he needs to show more power at a high offense position. He’s probably going to get a good chance to play next year at Bradenton with no first base prospects in the system below him, so no one is there to push him out of a job. He will still be very old for the level next year, so any prospect status will be in doubt if he can continue to climb up the system. – JD

Matt Diorio, OF, Bristol – The great thing about The Twenty is you just have to perform well and you get into the article. There is no prospect bias. Diorio is a college player in his first full season, who was in Morgantown last year and is now playing in Bristol. That is never a good sign, so the only thing he can do is prove that he should be higher in the system. He batted .353/.455/.706 this past week, with three doubles and a homer. You expect someone in his situation (turns 22 this month) to do well, but those are very strong stats. He went 2-for-14 with a triple before moving down from Morgantown. The problem is that the Morgantown outfield is loaded right now, so the only way he moves up is if someone else moves up as well. They have five outfielders splitting time, so even if he got to Morgantown again, it would probably be in a limited bench role. – JD

Samuel Inoa, C, DSL Pirates – Inoa is featured here for the second week in a row and he’s getting close to the point where we can call this a breakout season for him. He was signed for $240,000 by the Pirates back in 2015. They liked his defense a lot and at the plate he was described as a line drive hitter who likes to go to the opposite field. The reports we got all of last year said his defense was below average and he put up a .593 OPS. So there was a big difference between what we heard and what they saw. This year Inoa is crushing the ball in his limited time, which was limited due to getting hit in the face with a pitch during the third game of the season. In 15 games, he has a .396/.493/.623 slash line, already collecting more extra-base hits this year than last season. When looking at those numbers, take into consideration that nine teams in the DSL have a lower team OPS than his slugging percentage. It’s not a good league for offense. The people I talked to recently have said that Inoa has become a team leader on offense and defense. – JD

Carlos Munoz, 1B/DH, West Virginia – Munoz is a disciplined hitter, with a great eye at the plate and a little pop in his bat, who rarely swings and misses or chases pitches. Other than that, there isn’t much to his game and his time with the Pirates appears to be winding down. Munoz just turned 23 on Saturday, but he is already in his seventh and final season before minor league free agency. He has lost time at first base to Albert Baur and has settled into the DH position. The somewhat surprising part is that he continues to hit in the middle of the order. It’s clear that his time is running low and the higher up in the order you hit, the more at-bats you get over the season. With his solid stats, that does help the team win, but players further down in the order are losing at-bats. While Munoz did have a nice stretch last week getting on base, he hasn’t hit a homer since June 2nd. It’s great that he gets on base, but as one of the slower players in the game, you want to see more extra-base power. – JD

Eury Perez, OF, Indianapolis – Perez was an electric player for Indianapolis this week. He hit .409 (9-for-22), walked five times and stole six bases. He had four stolen bases in a single game against Durham, part of a seven-game streak of stealing at least one base. Perez has been batting lead-off quite a bit this week, as his .406 on-base percentage this season is enticing. Then add in his ability to steal bases and he is an easy choice to be the lead-off hitter. Perez stole 13 bases in June, despite playing in just 13 games. He’s tied for third in the International League with 17 stolen bases, while Scranton Wilkes-Barre’s Tyler Wade leads the league with 24. But Perez has played in just 33 games this season and Wade has played in 71 games. Perez has played 73 games in the major leagues with Atlanta, New York, and Washington. But he is unlikely to reach the major leagues with the Pirates unless some unexpected injuries arise. Brian Peloza

Jeremias Portorreal, RF, GCL Pirates – The Pirates have seen a lot of their international hitting prospects from the past few years stall with their development. Portorreal was signed for $375,000 in 2013, and has shown some tools, but has been inconsistent his first few years in pro ball. He made an adjustment last year, lowering his hands and shortening his swing. He instantly saw success in the DSL with the new approach, and got a rare promotion to the GCL mid-season, where he continued hitting the ball hard. That has carried over to this year, where he hit the ball hard all week last week, even with some of his outs. He went 11-for-27 with a 1.037 OPS. It’s only one week, but from what I’ve seen from Portorreal in the last year in terms of hard contact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets promoted to Bristol at some point early this season, with West Virginia in the cards next year. – Tim Williams

Henrry Rosario, OF, Bristol – Rosario is playing at Bristol for a third season and he is in his sixth year as a pro. He’s too old (turned 24 in April) and experienced for the league, but he’s a solid player and the Pirates have kept him around all this time. That severely limits his future when they hold him back, but he really isn’t a legit prospect, just someone who could probably do well in West Virginia right now, but he’s a roster filler in Bristol instead. Rosario is hitting .364/.417/.727 this season and you can expect him to continue to put up big stats as long as he is at this level. He does a lot of things right on the field, including playing solid defense with a strong, accurate arm and he has some decent speed. He also has some pop in his bat despite standing 5’9″, 180 pounds. – JD

Mitchell Tolman, 2B, Bradenton – Tolman put together a fantastic week this week, going 11-for-23 with three doubles and a triple. He was consistently hitting the ball hard, and had a two game stretch where he went 8-for-8 at the plate, while also adding a walk. This is all a big turnaround from the start of the season, where Tolman struggled throughout April. He turned things around in May, and did fairly well in June. The recent success is because of a more aggressive approach. He’s got strong plate patience, walking a lot and not striking out often. The downside here is that he had been laying off pitches earlier in the count, waiting for that perfect pitch. He has started getting more aggressive earlier in the counts, and that has led to some much better results, while still maintaining the ability to draw walks. – TW

Erich Weiss, 2B, Indianapolis – Weiss continues his solid season after a slow beginning, when he hit just .154 in April. He hit .312 over the final week of June and has his batting average up to .260. Indianapolis hitting coach Butch Wynegar thinks Weiss is too nice at times, which is part of who he is naturally. Wynegar wants him to be more aggressive at the plate, which he’s doing a better job of in recent weeks. Weiss teamed with Eric Woods to hit back-to-back homers in a game against Durham. He hit .277 in May and .284 in June, as his progression and adjustment to the Triple-A level continues to evolve. Weiss has been solid in the field and could be a hidden gem if his improvements continue to trend upward. BP

PITCHERS

Steven Brault, LHP, Indianapolis – Ho, hum. Another week, another The Twenty that includes Brault. He’s been putting up impressive statistics for two months, but had his best start of the season this week. Brault threw eight shutout innings against a good Durham team, striking out nine with no walks. He only gave up four hits and two of those were infield singles. Brault attacked hitters from the first pitch and is pushing for a promotion to the Pirates. And everybody is noticing: fans, media and coaches. Brault was a discussion point this week in media sessions with Pirates manager Clint Hurdle and general manager Neal Huntington. Brault was elected to the International League All-Star team, but Indianapolis manager Andy Barkett pondered the idea that Brault might be with the Pirates before the July 11 Triple-A All-Star game. And the fans have noticed, with Brault being a hot topic on social media platforms. Brault’s 2.04 earned run average leads the International League, allowing nine runs in his last 10 starts. Brault is scheduled to start on July 4 in front of a likely sold out Victory Field in Indianapolis. The way he’s been pitching, it’s not far-fetched to think that might be the last time Brault pitches for the Indians before getting a promotion. BP

Austin Coley, RHP, Altoona – Coley has the profile of a ground ball pitcher, with just one major issue: He doesn’t get ground balls. He has a 0.86 GO/AO ratio in his career, and has only two starts this year with a ratio of 1.00. One of those came this week, when he threw seven innings, allowing one run on four hits, with no walks and four strikeouts. He has good sinking movement on his fastball, and lacks a good out pitch for strikeouts, which makes it important for him to put the ball on the ground.  Despite the lack of ground balls, he has put up some good numbers in Altoona, with a 3.01 ERA in 74.2 innings, along with a 56:18 K/BB ratio. However, he doesn’t have overpowering stuff, and doesn’t have a strikeout pitch. That makes it difficult for him to remain a starter, and makes it unlikely that he’ll find success as more than a middle relief depth option. – TW

Sergio Cubilete, RHP, Morgantown – Cubilete was a late international signing, agreeing to his deal last February at 21 years old. He went to the DSL and showed solid stats as a starter, with his biggest issue being that he could get wild at times. He was a Fall Instructional League invite last September, then back again this Extended Spring Training, where he showed enough to skip over two levels right to Morgantown. Now in the starting rotation, he put together two solid starts this week, throwing six shutout innings on Monday, then giving up one run over five innings on Sunday. Cubilete sits in the low-90s, topping out at 95 MPH with his fastball that shows a great downhill plane, coming from his 6’4″ frame and dropping down into the bottom of the zone consistently. He was getting swinging strikes with his off-speed pitches, showing a solid changeup. He has a lot of potential, but will need to show more consistency with his control before he is considered a legit prospect. – JD

Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Indianapolis – Glasnow put together two quality starts this week, including arguably his best performance as a Triple-A pitcher. He allowed just two hits in seven shutout innings against Durham on Monday; before allowing two runs on four hits in 5.2 innings against Louisville on Saturday. Glasnow struck out 12 against Durham and 11 against Louisville. His 34 strikeouts over his last three starts is the most Glasnow has had in a three-game start in his professional career. Glasnow has been throwing out of the stretch since arriving in Indianapolis, which he feels has increased his velocity and made his curveball sharper. It’s hard to argue with both of those points. His curve has looked good and in the first inning against Louisville, Glasnow hit 100 on two pitches, and eight of his first 14 pitches were at least 98 on the radar gun. He also hit 99 MPH in the sixth, and final inning, that he pitched in that game. Indianapolis uses the TrackMan system synced into the scoreboard, which lends credence to those velocities being accurate. Glasnow’s start against Durham was a complete performance. He attacked the zone from the beginning of the game and threw 70 percent of his pitches for a strike, one of his highest percentages in years. Glasnow wasn’t as sharp against Louisville, but his stuff is good enough at the Triple-A level to overcome that. But if Glasnow puts together more starts like he had against Durham, his trip back to Pittsburgh will come sooner than later. – BP

Evan Piechota, RHP, Bristol – Piechota began the season with Morgantown, only to be sent down to Bristol once the draft picks were ready to pick up some of the innings. In his first appearance with Bristol, the 23-year-old right-hander threw five shutout innings in relief. He followed that up with one run over 3.1 innings on Saturday. On the season, he has allowed one run over 11.2 innings and hasn’t given up a walk. Signed as a non-drafted free agent last year, Piechota put up a 2.45 ERA in 14 appearances over three levels. His age and experience means he shouldn’t be at Bristol, but you couldn’t ask for anything more from his performance so far. Piechota doesn’t have a great fastball, so he relies more on control and his off-speed pitches. The reports we received during Extended Spring Training had him topping out at 89 MPH. – JD

Samuel Reyes, RHP, GCL Pirates – We don’t often see players move from the DSL to the GCL mid-season, but the Pirates signed a lot of high school players this year and they are never available for innings during the first 2-3 weeks of the season. Along with Angel Vasquez, Samuel Reyes made the jump to the GCL and he put on an impressive show this week. On Opening Day, he threw three shutout innings on one hit. On Saturday, he was called in during the first inning, stranded an inherited runner, then threw three more shutout inning. Including his DSL stats, he has walked one batter in 16 innings this season. Reyes was just signed this off-season for a modest $45,000 bonus, exactly half of what the Pirates gave his older brother Pablo Reyes back in 2012. He is 21 years old already, but has quite a pitch selection with control over five pitches, including a 94-96 MPH fastball and a slider that got rave reviews this week. It’s way too early to say the Pirates may have got a potential hidden gem with him, but he has all the things you like to see from a pitcher. – JD

Pedro Vasquez, RHP, Bradenton – Vasquez has had some of the least flashiest stuff in the Bradenton rotation this year. Part of that is because seemingly every other starter can hit 95 MPH or higher, although Vasquez just doesn’t profile as a guy who will blow you away, or who will put up dominant numbers in the majors as a starter. That said, he’s putting up dominant numbers right now, with a 2.21 ERA in 77.1 innings. He continued that this week, giving up one earned run in six innings, with no walks and six strikeouts. He has some decent secondary stuff, with a good changeup that has really limited lefties. He also has strong control, and the combination has led to some good numbers in Bradenton. While that approach usually becomes less effective the more a player moves up, it should get him to the upper levels, and maybe a shot at the big leagues. –  TW

Eduardo Vera, RHP, West Virginia – Vera allowed one run in 12 IP over his two starts this week, but that’s par for the course for him. He’s allowed more than two runs in only one appearance this season. Vera also exhibits masterful command of all three of his pitches. Of his eight starts, five have come without a walk. (He has only issued one walk in eight relief appearances as well.) This year, he has thrown 72% of his pitches for strikes, while adding velocity to his fastball which now sits 91-93 and can touch mid-90s. After missing all of 2015 and most of 2016 due to Tommy John, Vera is eligible for the Rule 5 draft after this season so these improvements are crucial to him retaining his place in the system. – Abigail Miskowiec

Cam Vieaux, LHP, Bradenton – Vieaux made his second start in Bradenton this week, going six strong innings, and allowing just one run on three hits. He struck out five and walked one, while loading up on ground ball outs. That last part has been the key for him lately. Prior to his start on May 29th, he had a 38% ground ball ratio. Since that start, his ground ball ratio has been above 50%. Vieaux doesn’t have the best stuff, but does a great job of commanding his pitches, and pitching with control. He’s much more effective when he’s getting the ball down in the zone, and he’s been doing exactly that lately. – TW

Mike Wallace, RHP, West Virginia – Wallace was recently joined in the organization by his younger brother Gavin Wallace, who was drafted in the 15th round this year and reported to Morgantown. The younger Wallace relies more on a low-90s fastball that can touch 95 MPH, but Mike Wallace goes heavy with off-speed pitches for his success and his fastball is a few ticks slow, sitting high-80s. He had an extremely impressive outing this week. Just two days after he pitched an inning in relief, Wallace made a spot start and tossed seven shutout innings. It wasn’t just a start on short rest, it was his first start of the season. He has a 2.49 ERA in 40 innings this year, most working in long relief. He’s a strike-thrower, who gets his share of ground ball outs. Wallace has a pitching style that works in the lower levels, where you can get by without velocity if you have solid off-speed pitches and control, but it will be tough for him to succeed above High-A with that style. – JD

IMPORTANT: You will need to update your password after the switch to the new server in order to log in and comment. Go to the Password Reset Page to change your password.

15 COMMENTS

  1. I get frustrated with the way Brault is handled. He seems to be the only one (out of Glasnow, Williams, Kuhl) who has had to prove something first before getting promoted this year. Everyone else got the opportunity to work on things in the majors. Now that Kuhl and Williams are currently progressing, he seems to be stuck with only a bullpen position open to him. Meanwhile, we have 5 righty starters and all the other lefties in the pen…

    • Well, if Kuhl’s last game IS an indication of the direction he is headed and Williams continues to pitch well, isn”t that an indication that The FO knows what they’re doing?

      And AAA stats don’t always translate. I remember Rudy Owens dominating at AAA.

      Now, if Kuhl stumbles, then let’s replace him with Brault.

      • Did Rudy dominate at AAA? I know he did at AA, but I thought he was good, but not dominate at AAA?

        Or am I misremembering?

        • Rudy dominated in A+ and AA, but was mediocre his first year at AAA. Much better repeating that level the following year, when he was eventually traded along with Robbie G (who has become a quite serviceable 4th OF for Twins) and Colton Cain (I think) for Wandy. Injuries, as happens with so many young pitchers, derailed his career.

      • I am just saying that Kuhl, Brault and Glasnow were in the same performance area last year with Kuhl having the most innings and Williams trailed far behind. (And I believe Brault was brought up as he recovered from an injury and wasn’t rolling at the time.)
        Then in Spring Training, Williams was dominating with Brault in 2nd, Kuhl in 3rd and Glasnow way behind.
        At that time, and being a lefty, I thought he earned the final spot along with Kuhl (longer track record) and Williams in the pen.
        Glasnow’ failure to develop proves that was a bad choice, but we won’t know if Brault would have had as many growing pains if he was given the same opportunity.

    • Brault did have something to prove though. He made it to the majors last year and didn’t have success because he was trying to be too fine, working the edges of the plate, and missing with poor command.

      Brian’s article today does a good job showing what he’s working on, and how that is all coming together lately.

      • I wonder if ‘too fine’ was a state of mind. Because I don’t think the visual evidence or the statistics back it up. I re-watched every Brault start from 2016 during the offseason and took notes and what I saw was a guy making too many mistakes that were hit hard. His walk rate was elevated, not doubt, but what got him in trouble was the very high H/9, not the high BB/9.

        The data (granted a SSS) bears this out. Even when he was ahead in the count, Brault was very hittable. For example, the NL average OPS after an 0-1 count was .613. Brault after an 0-1 count was .975. After an 0-2 count, NL ave was .457. Brault was .864. After 1-2, NL = .501. Brault = 1.269. Plus, his walk rate following a 1-0 count was 14.1%, which is lower than the typical league average around 15% (last year it was 15.2%, this year it is 15.5%) Plus Brault actually had a lower OPS against after racking up a 1-0 count (.865) and a 2-0 count (.766) than he did when in an 0-1 or 0-2 situation.

        Like I said, maybe mentally he was trying to be too fine. But the data and my notes from his starts suggest he was putting too many meatballs in the zone.

        Regardless, let’s hope he can be a long term part of the rotation.

  2. 8 of 20 are Pirate international free agents. I didn’t think we had any international FAs based on the moaning and 2nd guessing of the FO in a previous thread. Yeah, lets give million $ bonuses to unproven international talent and watch the hysteria when even one washes out.

  3. Given the way JT, TW & CK (to a lesser extent) have pitched for Pirates, and Brault, TG, and Hutchison for Indy, combined with Pirates looking more like sellers this year, I’m inclined to believe it’s more likely than not Cole gets dealt this month.

  4. John … I’ve been curious as to Carlos Munoz over the past few years. Do you think it is possible to have a hitter that has certain talents (good batting eye/patient hitter) that suit higher levels and not lower ones?
    I am wondering if Munoz’ hitting skills would translate into better stats (or at least not degrade) in the higher levels where pitchers throw more strikes than the low A level pitchers.

Comments are closed.