Exactly one year ago, I talked in the Morning Report about it being a good day to follow lefty pitching prospects in the system. There weren’t a lot of lefty pitchers in the system, but Steven Brault, Stephen Tarpley, Brandon Waddell and Ike Schlabach were all starting on the same day. I noted that the only lefty in the top 50 prospects (which was our 2016 mid-season list at the time) was Braeden Ogle. Schlabach is the only lefty prospect pitching tonight in case you wondered.

Taylor Hearn was in the system at that point, but the mid-season update was done before he was acquired and he wasn’t a starter. He actually ended up pitching two shutout innings that night and then his final two outings of the season were as a starter.

Since I focused that article on the quality of lefties in the system, then exactly one year later seems like a good time for an update.

This year’s mid-season top 50 included the following lefties (along with their rank):

9. Taylor Hearn

12. Braeden Ogle

15. Steven Brault

32. Brandon Waddell

34. Oddy Nunez

39. Domingo Robles

45. Jake Brentz

We also had Ike Schlabach, Cam Vieaux and Daniel Zamora in the same tier as the #41-50 players. That’s a decent amount of lefties compared to what we have seen in the past. In fact, ten of the 18 lefty prospects in the system (not including DSL) are ranked fairly high, so it’s not as if they have a lot of southpaws, they are just well-rated as a group.

Among the eight not listed are eighth round draft pick Blake Weiman, 19-year-old GCL starter Roger Santana, and relievers Sean Keselica and Ronny Agustin, who have both dominated lefties this season. Cody Dickson is even in that “others” group, and if he ever learns to attack hitters (might be too late for that), he could be considered a prospect again, because the stuff is there, the attack mode isn’t. It’s a nice group of fringe prospects outside the top seven tiers in our rankings.

Looking back on the lefty prospects in the system in the past, which takes some thinking because I need to go by where they rated at the time and not where they ended up, this current group ranks well. It probably only rates behind the 2011 group (our first year for rankings). That group had Rudy Owens, Jeff Locke and Colton Cain at their peak prospect ranking, with Justin Wilson establishing himself as a prospect. They were followed by seven other lefties in the top 50, including Tony Watson, who at the time was on the verge of turning his career around and throwing a lot harder than before. It also had Joely Rodriguez, Daniel Moskos and Donnie Veal, who all made the majors.

That’s a tough group to top with seven future MLB players, all except Watson near their best point as a prospect. Cain was a projectable workhorse pitcher who threw harder in high school than he did at any time as a pro. He would have dropped well down in our 2013 guide, but he was traded that prior season. If you look back on them in preseason 2011 times, I don’t think any of them had the upside that Taylor Hearn and Braeden Ogle have right now.

Owens was the best and he had terrific command and two strong off-speed pitches, but he didn’t throw hard. He did start throwing a little bit harder at one point, which was around that time and made him more intriguing, but some injuries really derailed his career in 2011 and after he was traded away. Going into 2011, he was clearly a more polished pitcher than Hearn or Ogle and higher in the system, but he also topped out at 93 at his peak and they can hit 98 (Ogle) and 99-100 MPH (Hearn). Hearn also looked like he was breaking out with his new slider right before he got hurt, so if that returns when he’s healthy, you might be looking at him moving up the charts quickly.

Jeff Locke had control of four solid pitches and sat 88-92 MPH, which is almost where Steven Brault is now, just a little less velocity since Brault will hit 93 regularly at top out at 95 MPH. You’re talking about Locke being #8 ranked then and Brault being #15 now.

So even though the current group doesn’t have the numbers advantage and it’s highly unlikely they will produce seven Major Leaguers, they seem to be better at the top, which helps even it out. It’s clearly much better than the 2013-16 groups from the prospect guides, which all had four lefty pitchers in the top 50.

** I’m leaving this little section here and just updating the numbers daily for the next week or so. The minor league schedule is really winding down at this point. As shown in the Playoff Push section, four of the eight affiliates have a legit shot at the playoffs, while two others haven’t been eliminated just yet. Indianapolis has 12 games left over the final 11 days, including today. Altoona has 11 games left, Bradenton is down to 11 games, and West Virginia is at 11 left. Morgantown still has 14 games left without an off-day between now and September 7th. Bristol is mercifully down to seven, while the GCL has eight (plus the completion of a suspended game) and the DSL has just two left.

PLAYOFF PUSH

The Pirates trail in their division by eight games. They are 7.5 games back for the second wild card spot.

Indianapolis is in first place with a 5.5 game lead. Their season ends September 4th.

Altoona is in first place with a two game lead. The top two teams make the playoffs. Their season ends September 4th.

Bradenton is in fourth place, eight games behind. Their season ends September 3rd.

West Virginia is in third place, three games out of first. Their season ends September 4th.

Morgantown is tied for first place. Their season ends September 7th.

Bristol has been eliminated from the playoffs.

The GCL Pirates are in third place, 6.5 games behind. Their season ends September 2nd.

The DSL Pirates have been eliminated from the playoffs.

PIRATES GAME GRAPH


Source: FanGraphs

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 5-2 to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday night. They will now travel to Cincinnati, where they will send Ivan Nova to the mound today for his 26th start. He has posted a 5.63 ERA in seven starts since the All-Star break and a 4.52 ERA in 14 starts on the road this season. Nova has allowed seven earned runs over 12 innings against the Reds this season. The Reds will counter with right-handed pitcher Robert Stephenson, who has a 6.13 ERA in 47 innings, with 44 strikeouts and a 1.72 WHIP. He has allowed five runs over 10.1 innings against the Pirates this season.

In the minors, JT Brubaker starts for Altoona tonight. After posting a 5.22 ERA prior to the All-Star break, he has a 3.27 ERA over eight starts and 44 innings since the break. James Marvel makes his fourth start for Bradenton. He allowed four earned runs during the fifth inning of his second start. In his other 17 innings with the Marauders, he has not given up an earned run. In his last outing, West Virginia starter Stephan Meyer allowed one run on two hits and a walk, with eight strikeouts in seven innings. The GCL Pirates will finish a suspended game, then play a nine inning game. The suspended game will resume with the score 2-2 in the seventh inning. The DSL Pirates have just two games left. Ike Schlabach starts for Morgantown.

MLB: Pittsburgh (61-67) @ Reds (54-74) 7:10 PM
Probable starter: Ivan Nova (3.81 ERA, 24:103 BB/SO, 160.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (72-58) vs Columbus (67-64) 7:15 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Drew Hutchison (3.64 ERA, 48:110 BB/SO, 143.1 IP)

AA: Altoona (69-60) vs Bowie (67-62) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: JT Brubaker (4.47 ERA, 37:95 BB/SO, 114.2 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (67-58) vs Jupiter (64-64) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: James Marvel (2.00 ERA, 5:15 BB/SO, 18.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (62-64) vs Hagerstown (68-59) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Stephan Meyer (2.67 ERA, 12:17 BB/SO, 27.0 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (35-27) @ Mahoning Valley (34-26) 7:05 PM (season preview)

Rookie: Bristol (14-45) @ Elizabethton (36-25) 7:00 PM

GCL: Pirates (21-30) vs Yankees East (27-23) 12:00 PM

DSL: Pirates (35-34) vs Cubs1 (37-32) 10:30 AM (season preview)

HIGHLIGHTS

Here is Austin Meadows’ second double from Wednesday night.

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

8/23: Edgar Santana optioned to Indianapolis. Pirates select the contract of Angel Sanchez.

8/23: Cody Dickson promoted to Indianapolis.

8/23: Gage Hinsz placed on disabled list.

8/23: Braeden Ogle placed on the disabled list.

8/23: Arden Pabst placed on disabled list. Henrry Rosario promoted from Bristol to West Virginia.

8/22: Joaquin Benoit and George Kontos placed on disabled list.

8/22: Dovydas Neverauskas optioned to Indianapolis. Steven Brault, Edgar Santana and Johnny Barbato recalled from Indianapolis.

8/22: Hunter Owen and Jason Stoffel assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.

8/21: Pirates option Jacob Stallings to Indianapolis.

8/21: Brandon Cumpton promoted to Indianapolis. Jacob Brentz activated from Altoona disabled list.

8/21: John Bormann assigned to Bradenton.

8/20: Pirates recall Jacob Stallings.

8/20: Trae Arbet placed on disabled list. Shane Kemp assigned to West Virginia.

8/19: Steven Brault optioned to Indianapolis. Dovydas Neverauskas recalled from Indianapolis.

8/19: Barrett Barnes assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.

8/19: Max Kranick promoted to Bristol.

8/19: John Bormann assigned to Indianapolis.

8/18: Wade LeBlanc placed on disabled list. Steven Brault recalled from Indianapolis.

8/18: Joey Terdoslavich activated from disabled list.

8/17: Francisco Cervelli placed on disabled list. Max Moroff recalled from Indianapolis.

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus two transactions of note. We start with the acquisition of Wilbur Cooper in 1912. He was 20 years old and pitching in the minors when the Pirates traded two players to be named later to get him. Cooper would stick around until 1924 and collect 202 wins with the Pirates, which is a franchise record. He led the NL with 22 wins and 327 innings pitched in 1921. From 1918 until 1922, he won at least 19 games every season. You can read more on Cooper here.

On this date in 1959, the Pirates traded away outfielder Ted Kluszewski for veteran outfielder Harry Simpson and a minor league third baseman named Bob Sagers. The Pirates got nine games out of Simpson and Sagers never made the majors. Kluszewski was once a feared power hitter, but a back injury really limited his power and the Pirates obviously didn’t miss him too much, since they won the World Series the next year.

The former players born on this date include:

Gary Mathews Jr, center fielder for the 2001 Pirates. He was a waiver pickup of the Pirates in August and became the regular center fielder the rest of the season.

Jim Suchecki, 1952 pitcher. He originally signed with the Red Sox at the age of 15 in 1943, but he didn’t make it to the majors until 1950. Suchecki made five relief appearances for Pirates before they lost him on waivers.

Tony Boeckel, third baseman in 1917 and 1919. Hit .259 in 109 games for the Pirates. Missed 1918 due to the war. Boeckel is unfortunately known as the first active Major League player to die in a car accident, which happened in 1923 at the age of thirty.

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23 COMMENTS

  1. The comparison of the lefties got me thinking (unfortunately)…
    Maybe it has taken me longer than most but I am starting to run out of patience with our talent at the prospect level.
    I started following this site at the tail end of the Pirates major league futility and watching the increase in talent level and the increase in prioritizing this aspect of the ball club gave me hope.
    I still believe that we have more talent in the minors than the old days but we seem to be developing prospects and not major leaguers. I believe that Hearns, Ogle, and others are more talented than Watson, Locke, etc. but will they just end up with higher prospect rankings? Or will they actually become major league starters/stars?
    And now that we seem to have talent at the AAA pitching level, there is no room for them at the major league level while the Pirates’ SPs all struggle.
    Even that string top draft picks is looking worse by the year. That seemed to be a great opportunity to get a generational star (like Cutch or Buster Posey) and not the shooting stars like Alvarez and maybe Cole (based on his trajectory).

    • Cole and Alvarez were both universally looked at as potential generational stars when drafted by pretty much every scout……you can’t blame our scouting or GM for the picks……if you can blame anything, its our developmental system to get the most out of them

      • Those two turned out not to be what was hoped for. However, other prior number ones were money saving picks with the exception of Hutch.

    • Thats what I’ve been thinking. All that money and all the hope. JT was a sure thing top of the rotation guy. Not only pitures, but position players too. I can understand not giving away prospects but I don’t think that is the way to go. They should be the “chips” you use to get proven players, not “investments” that you gamble your present with. I wish someone would sit down with a Pirate FO guy that would tell us the truth.

      • If prospects are to be used to get proven players, then why have the Dodgers and Astros, just to name a couple teams, refused to give up their prospects to acquire proven veterans? Now both of those teams are winning big primarily on the backs of players like Seagar, Belinger, Taylor, Altuve, Correa, Springer, etc.

        Even organizations with large payroll budgets know the philosophy you’re promoting is doomed to fail.

        • Frankie Montas, Grant Holmes, Jharrel Cotton, Jose de Leon, Vince Velasquez

          The Dodgers and Astros have kept the *correct* prospects, not all the prospects.

          • Yes. NH still has a ton of Brooks Pounders, Colton Cain, Robbie Grossman and Rudy Owens types to move if he was so inclined. He hasn’t been so inclined.

            Someone along those lines could’ve netted Granderson.

            Thinking back to 2011, NH traded for Derrick Lee, paid cash for Ryan Ludwick, and pounced on Jason Grilli when the O’s let him go. Seems NH must’ve thought more of the 2011 squad than the 2017 squad.

          • Classic case of not seeing the forest for the trees. No organization keeps all of their prospects. However, even the wealthiest teams realize the way the system is set up to penalize overspending year after year on payroll, they must have a foundation based on homegrown talent to counterbalance the high priced veterans.

            Some fans foolishly believe the golden ticket to a title lies in trading away the future and go all in. For a low revenue team, this is a huge risk with the only guarantee being future losing seasons.

    • The facts tell a much different story than the one you just wrote.

      All of our SP’s don’t struggle. Williams and Kuhl have both pitched well for young SP’s, and both have shown consistently solid results as the year has progressed.

      Bell, Frazier, and Osuna to a lesser degree, have all performed above expectations as rookies.

      The team certainly has its faults, but I don’t see it as being a development issue. More an issue of core veterans like Marte, Kang, Polanco, Watson (when he was here), Hudson and Cole not playing up to their capabilities.

      • Josh Bell has done well in his first season and should be considered a success so far.

        Outside of that one exception, the facts bear out my opinion. I think the difference of opinions is related to our expectations. You consider two pitchers with ERAs of 4.40 and 4.52 as “pitching well for young SPs,” I don’t. Remember how everyone thought Jeff Locke was a failure as a young pitcher because he faded at the end of his first two years? Well, he had ERAs of 3.52 and 3.91 in those years.

        Frazier and Osuna have OPS+ of 96 and 95 and are below average fielders making them below league average players. While they are not way over their heads, I would certainly not consider them to be exceeding my expectations.

        And your examples (along with Neverauskas) are the “success” stories. What about Hanson, Bostick, Moroff, Santana, and others who have stalled between AA and the majors?

    • He and Polo weren’t known to be the Nova pieces until the very end of the month, so he was still pitching for us at this point.

      I remember because Nova was doing great so I was initially happy. Then we were fading and these guys were announced as the return, and I was not happy…

  2. Suitcase Simpson. Great nickname. Big Klu and Maz both had rolled up sleeves to mirror the 50’s muscle look.

  3. I looked at that Meadows “hustle double”, as the announcer called it. While he was fast getting to 2B, it did not look like he was running at his top speed. This makes me wonder if he has changed his approach temporarily or even long term to avoid maximizing the stress on his hamstrings.

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