A few of the leagues around the minors have started announcing their post-season All-Star teams already. On Friday, both the Appalachian League and the Eastern League announced their selections. The Pittsburgh Pirates had one representative in each league. Edwin Espinal was named the Eastern League’s top first baseman, and Bristol outfielder Edison Lantigua got the utility spot for the Appalachian League.
Espinal hasn’t been with Altoona since being promoted after the Curve played on July 27th. He actually stayed longer than we thought he would, which helped him receive this recognition from the league. Espinal is a minor league free agent at the end of the season, so when he was playing well through the end of June, it was just an overdue waiting game. The call to Triple-A wasn’t coming even though he was still playing well. You would expect that the Pirates would want to see how he could handle Triple-A pitching over a longer period of time, and there were no prospects blocking him in Indianapolis, so the wait made little sense.
With Altoona, Espinal hit .283/.322/.474 in 95 games, with 15 homers. He also drove in 72 runs, which is something we don’t look at for prospects, but I’m sure that it helped his case for the All-Star recognition. Espinal took part in the All-Star game and the coaches and managers around the league named him the best defensive first baseman. His stats with Indianapolis obviously didn’t help his case, but we can still take a look at them. In 24 games since the promotion, he is hitting .322/.326/.368 in 87 at-bats. That’s obviously a very nice average, but it’s also an empty average. He has one walk and four doubles, with no triples or homers. The Pirates will at least get a longer look at him than just 11 remaining games, as Indianapolis would have to completely collapse to miss the playoffs.
Edison Lantigua is hitting .296/.404/.459 in 44 games with Bristol this season. His missed a week with a minor shoulder injury and even missed a few game with a stomach bug. I mention those two things because Lantigua’s worst season of his pro career was really limited due to a thumb injury, which affected his swing for most of the season and caused him to play just 37 games. In his other three seasons, he has put up solid offensive stats, especially when you factor in that neither the DSL nor GCL are hitter-friendly leagues.
This year at Bristol, Lantigua is finally in a league that favors hitters and the stats have been solid. There are two things of note about his season though, which really stand out. He might be putting up his best stats ever, but this is his worst season for strikeouts. They have never been a problem in the past, but they are definitely into that problem area, with 55 in 188 plate appearances.
The other thing that really stands out is who he is doing his damage against. The Appalachian League had a nice mix of average college pitchers and young players up from the DSL/GCL, usually in their second or third year of pro ball. At 20 years old since January, Lantigua is right in the middle of the age groups and he’s a fourth-year player. He is beating up on the younger players in the league, to the tune of a .418/.515/.655 slash line against players younger than him (could be one day or even three years). Against players older than him, he is hitting .217/.320/.340 this season. You’re talking about a difference of .510 in his OPS.
If he goes up to West Virginia next year, he’s going to be facing a lot of pitchers older than he is right now and they are going to be a better group than what he is seeing now. Between that and the strikeouts, that should give you some pause when trying to figure out where he ranks as a prospect. We still had him outside the top 50 in the mid-season update because it was done early in the season for Bristol, but he could possibly move up into that group in the 2018 Prospect Guide. Speaking of moving up, he seems like a good candidate to move up to Morgantown for an extra week, as their schedule is seven days longer than Bristol’s, which ends next Thursday.
** 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 11 games left over the final 11 days, including today. Altoona has ten games left, Bradenton is down to ten games (plus the completion of a suspended game), and West Virginia is at ten left. Morgantown still has 13 games left without an off-day between now and September 7th. Bristol is mercifully down to six, while the GCL has seven and the DSL has just one left.
The Pirates trail in their division by eight games. They are 8.5 games back for the second wild card spot.
Indianapolis is in first place with a 6.5 game lead. Their season ends September 4th.
Altoona is in first place with a one game lead. The top two teams make the playoffs. Their season ends September 4th.
Bradenton is in third place, eight games behind. Their season ends September 3rd.
West Virginia is in third place, two games out of first. Their season ends September 4th.
Morgantown is in second place, one game back. 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 9-5 to the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night. They will send Gerrit Cole to the mound today for his 27th start. He has posted a 3.61 ERA in eight starts since the All-Star break and a 4.10 ERA in 14 starts on the road this season. Cole has allowed two earned runs over six innings against the Reds this season. The Reds will counter with right-handed pitcher Luis Castillo, who has a 3.45 ERA in 70.1 innings, with 74 strikeouts and a 1.19 WHIP. He has never faced the Pirates.
In the minors, Nick Kingham is scheduled for Indianapolis. He has a 2.50 ERA in 50.1 innings since the All-Star break. Brandon Waddell threw six shutout innings in his last start. Bradenton will finish yesterday’s suspended game before playing the regularly scheduled contest. Oddy Nunez starts for West Virginia. He ranks 12th in the league with a 1.16 WHIP, although he is just .01 behind the ninth best WHIP in the league. Hunter Stratton starts for Bristol and Scooter Hightower, who threw eight shutout innings in his last start, goes for Morgantown tonight. The GCL Pirates can be eliminated from the playoff race if they lose today to the first place Yankees East. Cody Bolton gets the start for them. The DSL Pirates play their final game today (UPDATE: The game was rained out, so they are done)
MLB: Pittsburgh (61-68) @ Reds (55-74) 6:40 PM
Probable starter: Gerrit Cole (4.16 ERA, 40:148 BB/SO, 160.0 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (73-58) vs Columbus (67-65) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Nick Kingham (3.44 ERA, 27:87 BB/SO, 104.2 IP)
AA: Altoona (69-61) vs Bowie (68-62) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Brandon Waddell (3.88 ERA, 24:46 BB/SO, 53.1 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (67-58) vs Jupiter (64-64) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Bret Helton (3.41 ERA, 35:82 BB/SO, 108.1 IP)
Low-A: West Virginia (63-64) vs Hagerstown (68-60) 6:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Oddy Nunez (3.76 ERA, 28:92 BB/SO, 103.0 IP)
Short-Season A: Morgantown (35-28) @ Mahoning Valley (35-26) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Rookie: Bristol (14-46) vs Kingsport (27-33) 7:00 PM
GCL: Pirates (22-31) vs Yankees East (28-24) 10:00 AM
DSL: Pirates (36-34) vs Cubs1 (37-33) 10:30 AM (season preview)
Here are two hitting highlights from Cole Tucker, who has been more about the defensive highlights since being promoted to Altoona. First one is a triple.
Here is a double with some nice hustle.
8/25: Francisco Cervelli activated from the disabled list. Elias Diaz optioned to Indianapolis.
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, and one of them is a two-time former player, plus a trade of note. Exactly 14 years ago, the Pirates traded Brian Giles to the San Diego Padres for Jason Bay, Oliver Perez and Corey Stewart. While Giles put up huge numbers in Pittsburgh, the Pirates made out great in this deal, getting strong production out of Jason Bay in place of Giles. Perez also had one huge season on the mound for the Pirates before his numbers really fell off and he was eventually traded. Stewart never made the major.
Players born on this date include:
Jeff Richardson, 1991 infielder. Played six games for Pirates, filling in for an injured Jeff King. Richardson came to Pirates from the Reds in the Billy Hatcher trade.
Sparky Adams, 1928-29 infielder. Was part of the return in the unpopular, but necessary Kiki Cuyler trade. Pirates sold him to the Cardinals after two seasons.
Eric Fryer, 2011-12 catcher. Pirates acquired him from Yankees for Eric Hinske. Played 16 games over two seasons for Pirates during his first stint with the team. Played for Twins for three seasons, before signing with the Cardinals as a free agent this past off-season. Pirates picked him up off waivers in July, 2016 and he played 36 games for them in his second stint.