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.
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
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)
Here is Austin Meadows’ second double from Wednesday night.
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.