Morning Report: Arizona Fall League Possibilities for the Pittsburgh Pirates

I was going to wait a little longer to put in my guesses for the Arizona Fall League participants for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but some news came out yesterday and it alluded to one of the possibilities. Sean McCool reported last night that Altoona second baseman Kevin Kramer won’t be back this season due to continuing pain in his hand, which was broken by a pitch just over two months ago.

In that report, Curve manager Michael Ryan mentioned that Kramer would like to play fall ball, whether it was in the Fall Instructional League or the AFL. That really isn’t an either/or situation because Instructs basically end at the same time players are sent to join their AFL team, so you can do both. In case you missed it, we posted an article with AFL information last week, which included the schedule, a new team and the coaching staff member being sent by the Pirates.

That coaching staff member is Bristol trainer Lee Slagle, which I said could be a hint to who the Pirates might send to the AFL. If you’re sending players who had some injuries during the season, then you would want a team trainer there. Now we hear about Kramer being a possibility, so he fits the Slagle theory.

Here is where I get into the guesses and I’ll add this disclaimer. I’m almost always way off on these because the Pirates rarely follow the rules. Sending Kramer would actually be breaking the rules set out by the AFL, but those rules seem to be timid suggestions.

A player is supposed to be off the disabled list for 45 days before the season ends to go to the league. That would theoretically eliminate a lot of possibilities, but as I said, it never does. Teams are also supposed to send only one player below Double-A, players without a full year of MLB experience and players who don’t have winter ball in their home country. All of those rules have been broken by the Pirates over the years.

Now with that out of the way, I’m going to make some guesses with explanations. The Pirates send seven players each year, so here are my seven guesses. Feel free to add your own in the comments and then check them against the announcement, which should happen on September 1st.

Kevin Kramer – I was going to guess Kramer when I thought he would be back in late August because that would give him some leeway with the disabled list rule. Since it was mentioned he might go, it would be crazy not to include him, but the AFL might say no to him participating. You never know when they might read their own rule book. Kramer needs the playing time, no further explanation needed.

Brandon Waddell – This seems like the most obvious one. They send Double-A pitchers often and he will need the innings. He has only pitched 54.1 innings total this season, so I’d expect him to be used as a starter in the AFL, even though starting pitchers go as relievers occasionally. That’s usually so they can work on a certain pitch, but his big need is innings.

JT Brubaker – I think he could go as a reliever. He’s going to fall short of last year’s inning, but not by much. He missed some time with a blister issue early in the season. Brubaker has been throwing gas lately, hitting 97-98 in his last few starts, but he could use work on attacking hitters and fine tuning his off-speed pitches.

Mitch Keller – He also missed time this season, which now has him 37 innings under last year’s season total, plus he pitched twice in the playoffs last year. He might pitch in the playoffs again this year, but there isn’t enough time to reach his regular season innings from last year with four starts left to the season.

Kevin Newman – I think they will want to get Newman more experience against good pitching, to help him get ready for a possible promotion next season around mid-year. This is basically a replacement for a September call-up this year. I almost put Cole Tucker here, but I don’t see them sending two shortstops and I really thought Newman would go last year. If Tucker went instead of Newman, it wouldn’t surprise me, but I’m sticking with my guess.

Wyatt Mathisen – The Pirates like versatility and with the improvements Mathisen has shown this year, I think they will want him to get more playing time at spots other than third base. I don’t see him getting to the majors strictly as a third baseman, but he has shown prospect potential this year.

Jacob Brentz – A reliever who throws 100 MPH with some control issues and is Rule 5 eligible. That seems like a good candidate to go to the AFL and give the Pirates more looks to decide if he is worth protecting this season. He has pitched just 35.1 innings as well, so he could use the extra work.


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

Indianapolis is in first place, with a 4.5 game lead. Their season ends September 4th.

Altoona is in a tie for first place. Their season ends September 4th.

Bradenton is in fourth place, 5.5 games behind. Their season ends September 3rd.

West Virginia is in third place, 3.5 games out of first. Their season ends September 4th.

Morgantown is in first place, 1.5 games ahead. Their season ends September 7th.

Bristol is in last place, 17.5 games back. Their season ends August 31st.

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

The DSL Pirates are in third place, 3.5 games back. Their season ends August 26th.


Source: FanGraphs


Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 7-2 to the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon. The Pirates will send Chad Kuhl to the mound today for his 24th start. He has posted a 3.30 ERA in five starts since the All-Star break. On the road this season, Kuhl has a 3.90 ERA in 11 starts. The Blue Jays will counter with left-hander JA Happ, who has a 3.77 ERA in 90.2 innings, with 85 strikeouts and a 1.31 WHIP. He has a 4.25 ERA since the All-Star break and a 3.89 ERA at home this season.

In the minors, Clay Holmes starts for Indianapolis this afternoon. He has not allowed more than two earned runs in a start since June 16th. Casey Sadler starts for Altoona. In his last start, he pitched six innings in a game for the first time since 2015. James Marvel makes his second start for Bradenton. He gave up three runs over six innings in his first start, but all three runs were unearned. West Virginia was rained out yesterday, so they will  play a doubleheader today. The DSL and GCL Pirates are off on Sundays.

MLB: Pittsburgh (58-59) @ Blue Jays (55-61) 1:07 PM
Probable starter: Chad Kuhl (4.53 ERA, 47:96 BB/SO, 115.1 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (66-53) vs Syracuse (45-75) 1:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Clay Holmes (3.44 ERA, 48:85 BB/SO, 91.2 IP)

AA: Altoona (61-57) vs Trenton (78-40) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Casey Sadler (3.95 ERA, 2:23 BB/SO, 27.1 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (62-53) vs Charlotte (57-58) 1:00 PM  (season preview)
Probable starter: James Marvel (0.00 ERA, 2:6 BB/SO, 6.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (55-59) @ Hagerstown (65-50) 1:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Mike Wallace (3.54 ERA, 18:68 BB/SO, 81.1 IP) and TBD

Short-Season A: Morgantown (31-21) @ Aberdeen (29-23) 5:35 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: TBD

Rookie: Bristol (11-38) @ Pulaski (33-16) 7:00 PM

GCL: Pirates (15-27) vs Tigers East (11-30) 12:00 PM 8/14

DSL: Pirates (33-27) vs Indians (22-34) 10:30 AM 8/14 (season preview)


Here is a double from Kevin Newman on Friday night during a three-hit game that raised his average to .314 with Indianapolis.


8/12: Phil Gosselin claimed on waivers by Texas Rangers.

8/10: Jhan Marinez claimed on waivers by Texas Rangers.

8/10: Nick King assigned to GCL Pirates.

8/9: Joey Terdoslavich placed on Indianapolis disabled list.

8/8: Matt Anderson placed on West Virginia disabled list. Blake Cederlind activated from disabled list.

8/8: Jerrick Suiter activated from Temporary Inactive List. Jake Brentz assigned to Bradenton.

8/7: Dovydas Neverauskas optioned to Indianapolis. George Kontos added to active roster.

8/7: Danny Ortiz sent outright to Indianapolis.

8/7: Gage Hinsz placed on disabled list. Alexis Bastardo released.

8/7: Carlos Munoz promoted to Bradenton. Brent Gibbs activated from West Virginia disabled list.

8/7:  Austin Meadows assigned to Morgantown on rehab.

8/6: Max Moroff optioned to Indianapolis. Sean Rodriguez added to active roster.

8/5: Pirates claim George Kontos off waivers. Designate Jhan Marinez and Danny Ortiz for assignment.

8/5: Pirates acquire Sean Rodriguez from Atlanta Braves for Connor Joe.

8/5: Wade LeBlanc reinstated from bereavement list.

8/4: Mitch Keller promoted to Altoona. Jerrick Suiter placed on the temporarily inactive list.

8/4: Michael de la Cruz assigned to GCL Pirates

8/4: James Marvel promoted to Bradenton. Oddy Nunez activated from West Virginia disabled list.

8/3: Angel German and Oneil Cruz added to West Virginia roster. Jordan Jess promoted to Bradenton. Nick King assigned to Morgantown.

8/3: Eury Perez traded to Miami Marlins for cash.


Eight former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a day in 1926 that changed the franchise. Since this day is so big, I’m just going to list the players and remind you that the link at the beginning of this section has a bio for all eight players.

Jonah Bayliss, 2006-07 pitcher

Tom Prince, catcher from 1987 until 1993, and the acting manager the last two days.

Jeff Ballard, 1993-94 pitcher

Mudcat Grant, 1970-71 pitcher. He turns 82 today. Grant won 145 games during a 14-year career.

Vinegar Bend Mizell, 1960-62 pitcher…two great nicknames in a row and both played on World Series teams.

Sid Gordon, 1954-55 3B/OF

George Susce, 1939 catcher

Steve Swetonic, pitcher from 1929 until 1933

On this date in 1926, the Pittsburgh Pirates released pitcher Babe Adams and outfielder Carson Bigbee, while also putting Hall of Fame outfielder Max Carey on waivers. Not only did they put Carey on waivers, they also suspended him until another team picked him up so he wouldn’t get paid. They were getting rid of one of the best outfielders in team history, one of the best pitchers in team history (and the only player from both the 1909 and 1925 WS winners), plus Bigbee, who spent his entire 11-year career in Pittsburgh. This was such a big deal, that it became front page news in Pittsburgh for four days straight.

The Pirates had brought in old manager Fred Clarke to be a bench coach and the players claimed that they were getting conflicting signals from Clarke and Bill McKechnie, to the point they questioned who was in charge. When players started getting fines due to these mix ups, they held a player meeting to vote on whether to get rid of Clarke. The vote came back 18-6 in favor of keeping him and Adams, Bigbee and Carey were three of the votes against, along with three rookies, all of whom were supposedly swayed by the veterans. So instead of getting rid of Clarke, they cut the three veterans. It was an extremely unpopular move for the fans, especially when the Pirates dropped out of first place and finished the season by going 23-24 after August 13th. It was known as the ABC Affair, for the first letter of each last name.

  • Any chance Meadows goes or plays winter ball due to his missed time?

    • Yes, the Pirates have said that they are in talks with Meadows to play during the off-season. Right now, it sounds like winter ball is more likely

  • I am planning a trip to the AFL from Oct.14-20, been on the bucket list for a while now. Anyone else going?

    • Tim Williams will be covering the league again this year, but I believe he’s going in November. I’m surprised more people don’t go there between the weather and the fact you’re watching the equivalent of minor league all-star games everyday, plus no other baseball going on for half the time the league runs.

    • Wife and I went last year and it was great. Only went to a couple games, but agree with John that it’s awesome watching minor league all star caliber players. Games we went to weren’t crowded so we sat right right at field level. Scottsdale area is great for hiking and excellent restaurants. We will be back again this year but haven’t locked on dates yet.

  • I think Cole Tucker is going to AFL for sure. Missed time earlier this season to injury, and Pirates will want to see how he handles better pitching.

    And I believe Will Craig is going to be invited, too.

    • My reason for not including Craig is that it’s his first full season, he’s playing in the brutal summer of the FSL and he leads the entire system in games played and plate appearances. I don’t think another six weeks of playing after that is necessary. He’s going to need some recouping time. He seems more likely for next year.

      Tucker is a strong possibility, but I really think Newman is more likely due to his situation going into next year and I don’t see two shortstops going. As far as games missed with Tucker, he was out three weeks and Bradenton had some days off and rainouts in there. I think he really only missed 12 games. He’s put in some decent time and Altoona has a really good playoff chance, so he has a shot for over 500 plate appearances this season.