Morning Report: Notes on the 2017 Arizona Fall League Season

The Arizona Fall League has made a few announcements within the last week. Back on June 27th, they announced the affiliates and the coaching staffs. Yesterday, the league schedule was released.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are on the move again in the league, though they are returning to their 2015 club. This is the third change in the last three years. Back in 2012-2014, they played for Scottsdale. They moved to Glendale in 2015, to Surprise in 2016 and now they are back as the Glendale Desert Dogs for the 2017 season. Surprise was the best of the group because they had PITCHf/x at their stadium, so we will only get those velocity readings during certain road games this year, unless more parks added it for this season.

The AFL season will begin on Tuesday, October 10th with an afternoon game for Glendale. The league runs until November 16th and they play a total of 30 regular season games. There is also the Fall-Stars game on November 4th, which features the best prospects in the league and has been televised on MLB Network the last few years. We got to see Edgar Santana dominate for two batters last year and Austin Meadows homered the year before. On November 18th, they will hold the championship game, featuring the two division winners and that will also be televised. Last year, Surprise lost the title match, but it gave most fans a first look at Eric Wood.

The coaching staff assignments aren’t as exciting, but sometimes they can give a hint on who the Pirates plan to send. This season, instead of an actual coach, the Pirates are sending trainer Lee Slagle, who is with Bristol now and has moved around the system the last few years. All 30 MLB affiliates sends one person for the field staff. While Slagle doesn’t necessarily mean the Pirates will send players who missed time due to injury, the fact that they are sending a trainer makes you wonder if that is the case. A certain pitcher with Bradenton right now could use some extra innings after missing a month with a back injury.

I’ll give guesses soon on who I think might be going to the league this year. The actual rosters are released on September 1st every year, so we have about a month to wait for that. As we have done the last two years since we went to a subscription site, Tim Williams will be covering the league live, giving you a chance to get an in depth report on each player the Pirates send there, along with what they are working on in the league. Seemed like last year was all about position versatility for the hitters and improving their changeup for the pitchers.

** Max Kranick was scheduled to pitch Monday in the GCL, but rain caused a change of plans. He actually did pitch, it just wasn’t in a real game. The Pirates wanted to keep him on the five day schedule, so while the rest of the team had off, he pitched a sim game to get his work in on Monday. Kranick threw three innings and a total of 50 pitches. He is now slated to make his season debut on Saturday, a game in which he is scheduled to go four innings. He has been out since late May due to shoulder soreness. This was his second sim game. Last week, he went two innings and 35 pitches.


Source: FanGraphs


Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 9-1 to the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night. The Pirates will send Trevor Williams to the mound for his 16th start. He has not started against the Reds this season, but he did face them twice in relief early in the season, giving up four runs over four innings. Williams has a 4.18 ERA in 47.1 innings at home this season. The Reds will counter with right-handed pitcher Robert Stephenson, who has a 7.86 ERA in 34.1 innings, with 34 strikeouts and a 2.04 WHIP. He has faced the Pirates twice in relief this year, allowing four runs in 4.2 innings.

In the minors, Clay Holmes goes for Indianapolis, coming off of a game in which he allowed one run over four inning. He has allowed one run in each of his last four starts, though his outings have been limited to about 80 pitches. Casey Sadler makes his second start for Altoona. His last game was his first start since he was injured in June of 2015. That was the injury that eventually resulted in his Tommy John surgery later that year, which cost him all of last season. Sadler went five innings last Thursday, giving up three runs on five hits and no walks. The GCL Pirates have a doubleheader today with Shane Baz scheduled to start one of the games. Morgantown also has a doubleheader. Both Bradenton and Bristol have off today.

MLB: Pittsburgh (51-55) vs Reds (43-63) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Trevor Williams (4.53 ERA, 27:65 BB/SO, 93.1 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (59-50) @ Columbus (57-51) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Clay Holmes (3.45 ERA, 47:82 BB/SO, 86.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (56-51) vs Erie (54-54) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Casey Sadler (3.53 ERA, 27:69 BB/SO, 120.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (60-45) @ Florida (36-64) 6:30 PM 8/3 (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD

Low-A: West Virginia (47-57) @ Lexington (52-54) 12:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD

Short-Season A: Morgantown (24-16) vs State College (22-18) 5:00 PM DH (season preview)
Probable Starter: Sergio Cubilete (2.23 ERA, 12:21 BB/SO, 32.1 IP) and TBD

Rookie: Bristol (9-31) @ Kingsport (15-24) 7:00 PM 8/3

GCL: Pirates (12-19) vs Tigers West (12-17) 11:00 AM DH

DSL: Pirates (27-23) vs Indians/Brewers (20-29) 10:30 AM (season preview)


Here are a couple of recent highlights from Altoona. First, Jerrick Suiter on defense

Here’s Cole Tucker with an RBI single. It’s obviously not much of a highlight for the bat, but watch the speed displayed by the Curve on this play.


8/1: Oddy Nunez and Blake Cederlind placed on disabled list. Oneil Cruz and Angel German assigned to West Virginia.

8/1: Adrian Valerio activated from disabled list.

8/1: Stephan Meyer assigned to West Virginia. Hector Quinones assigned to Bristol.

7/31: Tony Watson traded to Los Angeles Dodgers for Oneil Cruz and Angel German

7/31: Seth McGarry traded to Philadelphia Phillies for Joaquin Benoit and cash

7/31: Brandon Waddell activated from disabled list. Miguel  Rosario assigned to Bradenton

7/28: Jordan Luplow promoted to Pittsburgh Pirates. Edwin Espinal promoted to Indianapolis. Jordan George promoted to Altoona.

7/28: Austin Meadows assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.

7/27: Logan Hill placed on disabled list. Justin Maffei assigned to Altoona.

7/27: Steven Brault optioned to Indianapolis.

7/25: Connor Joe activated from Altoona disabled list. Justin Maffei assigned to Indianapolis.

7/25: Jonathan Schwind assigned to Morgantown.

7/23: Adrian Valerio placed on disabled list. Andrew Walker assigned to West Virginia.


Two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a big trade of note. On this date in 1985, the Pittsburgh Pirates sent outfielder George Hendrick, reliever Al Holland and starter John Candelaria to the California Angels for outfielder Mike Brown and pitchers Bob Kipper and Pat Clements. It was a deal involving three veterans and three young players coming back to Pittsburgh. The Pirates lost over 100 games in 1985, but five years later, they had put together a team that would win three straight NL East pennants.

The two players born on this date both played on pennant winners, occurring 89 years apart. Tim Wakefield pitched for the 1992-93 Pirates. He was an eighth round draft pick of Pittsburgh in 1988, but he was a position player back then. He was switched to the mound the next year and didn’t take long to make it to the majors. As a rookie, he went 8-1, 2.15 in 13 starts, then threw two complete game victories in the NLCS. After a very poor 1993 season, he was released and it ended up hurting the Pirates. He would win 186 games for the Red Sox over 17 seasons.

The other player was pitcher Bucky Veil, who got the nickname because he was a star pitcher at Bucknell. He was a rookie on the 1903 Pirates, going 5-3, 3.82 in 70.2 innings. During the first modern day World Series, he pitched the last seven innings of game two, allowing one run. The next year, he pitched just one game for the Pirates, which ended up being his last Major League game.

  • Why don’t the high school draftees play both games of a doubleheader?

  • Any chance or thoughts that Taylor Hearn might be able to go to the AFL? Obviously his oblique injury would have to be healed by then but he was on a bit of a roll pre-injury and I’d imagine DSL hitters would be a better challenge than simply pitching in fall instructs.

    • They have rules about how long guys have to be off of the disabled list before the season ends. Hearn wouldn’t qualify BUT I have seen every rule broken multiple times. He might be pushing it though, since it’s possible his season is over.

  • Do we know what other MLB teams will be supplying players to Glendale?

  • rickmontgomery
    August 2, 2017 8:56 am

    The Buccos face another pitcher with an ERA over 7 from a last place club. My guess is Stephenson will no-hit us. Every Reds batter with a BA under .250 gets at least one extra base hit and Stephenson jacks a 3-run dinger to put the game away. The only bright spot is that Stephenson’s homer lands in section 142 and is thrown into the Allegheny.

    • Someone posted a tweet last night (we have running baseball tweets on the Asylum) that stated that we are, I think, 2-6 in the last 8 games that we have faced a pitcher with an ERA over 6 or 7 runs a game.

      That is terrible.

      I wonder what the over/under for tonight will be? 2 runs scored?

  • Releasing Tim Wakefield still stings…

    • I didn’t understand it then, and I still don’t.

    • Wakefield would never have been a good pitcher for the Bucs. Had he not gotten released, and went to Boston, he would never have gotten to work with Phil and Joe Niekro, and would probably never have figured out his issues with the Knuckleball.

      • Except that he was a good pitcher for the Pirates. He was great in 1992 for the Bucs. He should have started playoff game 7 in 1992.

        • AND he was a knuckle ball pitcher at that time. He worked with the Niekros in our minor league system.

          • No. He worked with the Niekro’s through the Red Sox. Ed Haas worked for the Red Sox, and had previously worked for the Braves. He knew Phil Niekro from his time with the Braves. He is the one that got Wakefield connected with Phil and Joe Niekro. It would not have happened had he not signed with the Red Sox.

      • That could very well be true…but…damn…it hurts seeing a guy the Pirates had turn into something so solid.

        On the other hand…that ’92 season was magical…so he was good for the Pirates at a certain point.

    • Starting Drabek instead of Wakefield in the 92 “Sid Bream slide” playoff finale still stings.

      • Weren’t they up 2-0 in the 9th inning?

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD
        August 2, 2017 6:12 pm

        Drabek wasn’t the problem…Jose Lind, Stan Belinda, and Bonds were the goats….

        • Yeah he pitched well until the 9th. Drabek took the loss.
          Lind and Bonds were the goats. I felt bad for Belinda b/c he was getting squeezed by the umpire prior to…