Morning Report: Three Pirates Get Recognition as Best in the Eastern League

Baseball America continued their rankings of the best tools at each level of the minors. Yesterday, we mentioned that the managers and coaches in the International League picked Tyler Glasnow as the pitcher with the best breaking ball and Elias Diaz as the best defensive catcher. On Wednesday, it was time for the Eastern League and the Pittsburgh Pirates had three players named.

The managers and coaches in the EL agreed that Kevin Newman is/was the best defensive shortstop, Edwin Espinal is/was the best defensive first baseman and Elvis Escobar has the best outfield arm.

Those are all interesting choices and not really something I could argue against because I don’t know the other teams in the league as well, so all three might be correct. The managers and coaches see these players daily, so they definitely should know better than me. What I can say is that Newman and Espinal are solid defensive players, but I wouldn’t call them elite, which is what you would expect when you hear someone is the best in the 12-team league. It could be a down year for the league and they really are the best.

When you see Elias Diaz win the best defensive catcher in the IL, he really is an elite defender in that league. Eric Wood was the best defensive third baseman and he really played like someone who deserved that recognition. Newman is solid and makes everything he should, but when you think shortstop defense, you think someone flashier. Espinal has sure hands, a strong arm and is good at picking throws in the dirt, but doesn’t offer a lot of range. He’s not athletic over there. The funny thing is that Jerrick Suiter is playing first base now for Altoona and he is the best defensive first baseman the Pirates have at any level, majors on down to the DSL.

Escobar really does have a strong outfield arm, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the best in the league, but it should come with an asterisk. He really takes a long time and puts a lot of effort behind his throws, so someone with a slightly weaker arm is probably getting better times on his throws. Escobar will take an extra step, reach back like he’s grabbing earth, then throw a rocket, which is usually fairly accurate.

** I mentioned yesterday that Andrew McCutchen would tie Dave Parker for 15th place in games played for the Pirates. He was one game away and he played his 1,301st game last night. What I didn’t mention is that McCutchen will move ahead of Parker today while simultaneously tying Al Oliver for 14th place in games played. He’s getting up there into elite company now, with ten Hall of Famers among those 13 players ahead of Oliver. McCutchen won’t move any further up the list this season.

** If you’re one of those people who like to plan far ahead, then this last note is for you. The Altoona Curve released their 2018 schedule on Wednesday. Their season opens April 5th at home.


The Pirates trail in their division by 3.5 games. They are nine games back for the second wild card spot.

Indianapolis is in first place, with a 2.5 game lead. Their season ends September 4th.

Altoona is in second place, one half game behind. Their season ends September 4th.

Bradenton is in third place, 2.5 games behind. Their season ends September 3rd.

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

Morgantown is in first place, one half game ahead. Their season ends September 7th.

Bristol is in last place, 19 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, three games back. Their season ends August 26th.


Source: FanGraphs


Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 10-0 to the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday night. The Pirates will send Gerrit Cole to the mound today for his 24th start. He has posted a 2.53 ERA in five starts since the All-Star break. On the road this season, Cole has a 3.97 ERA. The Tigers will counter with right-hander Drew VerHagen, who is making just his second start of the season. His only start was five days ago, when he allowed two runs over five innings against the Baltimore Orioles.

In the minors, Nick Kingham starts for Indianapolis, looking to continue his recent string of success. In his last three starts combined, he has allowed two earned runs over 21.2 innings. Brandon Waddell makes his third start for Altoona since returning from his second forearm strain of the season. He allowed one run over 4.2 innings last time out. Luis Escobar goes for West Virginia. He leads the South Atlantic League and the Pirates with 134 strikeouts. Domingo Robles gets the start for Bristol. He allowed one run over 5.2 innings last time out. The DSL Pirates are off today.

MLB: Pittsburgh (56-58) @ Tigers (52-61) 1:10 PM
Probable starter: Gerrit Cole (4.00 ERA, 35:125 BB/SO, 139.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (63-53) vs Syracuse (45-72) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Nick Kingham (4.00 ERA, 25:71 BB/SO, 81.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (59-55) vs Reading (60-54) 7:00 PM  (season preview)
Probable starter: Brandon Waddell (4.10 ERA, 19:36 BB/SO, 37.1 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (62-50) vs Charlotte (54-58) 6:30 PM  (season preview)
Probable starter:  Logan Sendelbach (3.41 ERA, 20:44 BB/SO, 63.1 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (55-57) @ Hagerstown (63-50) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Luis Escobar (3.58 ERA, 47:134 BB/SO, 105.2 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (29-20) vs Brooklyn (15-33) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: Scooter Hightower (2.52 ERA, 5:47 BB/SO, 50.0 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (10-37) vs Johnson City (25-22) 7:00 PM

GCL: Pirates (14-25) vs Yankees West (20-16) 12:00 PM

DSL: Pirates (32-26) vs Rays2 (31-23) 10:30 AM 8/11 (season preview)


Here is a player we haven’t featured in highlights yet. Outfielder Lucas Tancas, this year’s 26th round pick. This is his second home run.


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.

8/2: Gregory Polanco activated from disabled list. Jordan Luplow optioned to Indianapolis.

8/2: Wade LeBlanc placed on Bereavement List. Dovydas Neverauskas recalled from Indianapolis.

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.


Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a trade of note. On this date in 1971, the Pirates made a deal to strengthen their bullpen, acquiring veteran Bob Miller from the Padres for outfielder Johnny Jeter and pitcher Ed Acosta. Miller had a 1.29 ERA in 16 appearances during the regular season for the Pirates, then threw 7.2 innings during the World Series. He remained with the Pirates through the 1972 season.

Players born on this date include:

Bob Porterfield, 1958-59 pitcher. He had a 3.27 ERA in 87.2 innings in 1958, then he was released early in the 1959 campaign.

Elmer Jacobs, 1916-18 pitcher. Won 220 games in the minors, but he finished with a 50-81 Major League record. Had a 2.81 ERA in 227.1 innings during the 1917 season.

Pat Kilhullen, catcher that played his only big league game on June 10,1914. Played the last two innings of a one-sided game and got robbed of a hit by Hall of Fame shortstop Rabbit Maranville in his only at-bat.

Truck Eagan, shortstop for the 1901 Pirates. Was a terrific power hitter, with 100+ homers in the minors during an era when very few Major League hitters reached that career mark. Played four games for Pirates.

  • rickmontgomery
    August 10, 2017 9:23 pm

    Bob Porterfield was a frequent dinner guest at my home during his time with Pittsburgh, usually with Hank Foiles. My parents knew his when both lived in Princeton, WV. I was 10 at the time. Bob would work with me on my pitching motion and grip and Foiles was my catcher. Heady days for a kid just learning to play. Bob broke his wrist in1959, which is why he was released.

  • Great to see that the Bucs are competitive at ever level (except Bristol)!

  • A lot of our prospects chosen for FSL best tools too!

    – Best Power Prospect: Logan Hill, Bradenton (Pirates)
    – Best Baserunner: Cole Tucker, Bradenton (Pirates)
    – Best Pitching Prospect: Mitch Keller, Bradenton (Pirates)
    – Best Fastball: Taylor Hearn, Bradenton (Pirates)
    – Best Infield Arm: Ke’bryan Hayes, Bradenton (Pirates)

  • Robert Reznik
    August 10, 2017 12:17 pm

    Truck! Gotta love a guy named Truck

  • With the way Josh Bell and Jose Osuna are performing on the big stage, there will not be much PT available for a 1B for a long time.

    “Cutch is staying at least through mid-2018 – is it time to approach him with a long term offer? No, I would not keep Meadows down, but I would start to test the waters for someone interested in Starling Marte. He has not become the Middle-of-the-Order hitter we had hoped for, nor does he fit the definition of a 1 or 2 guy in the order.

    Maybe it is just the PED mess, but Marte just seems to be walking in place. From 19 HR in 2015 to 9 HR in 2016, and now this – just does not seem to be able to get it together. This franchise can ill afford another year of waiting for him to decide what he wants to do with all of that talent within him.

    • Marte isn’t going anywhere. 4th best 2016 WAR among left fielders in MLB, 12th among all outfielders in MLB. I would expect a full reset to similar numbers next season. Bell by the way has one of the worst WARs among first baseman this season. Yeah he hit a lot of homers for a rookie, but only middle of the pack overall. He’s going to need to get back to a higher OBP and keep the power to become a top tier 1B.

      • He’s also a rookie. Give him another two years before evaluating where he fits among league leaders at 1B

        • Middle of the order hitter as a Rookie, and keeping right up with ‘Cutch in Doubles, HR, and RBI, and has done a damn good job defensively – much better than expected.

    • You very easily could have described Polanco as you did Marte.

    • I would be surprised if Pirates and Cutch executed another multi-year deal. Another commenter in an article this week mentioned a qualifying offer to Cutch after the 2018 season which I thought was interesting.

      • I don’t think they can trade him in 2018. This season demonstrates that this is Cutch’s team. They go as he goes. They don’t have another superstar yet. The 2018 QO is an interesting idea. Maybe Meadows is ready in 2019, after another year in AAA.

        • I was trying to slow-walk this thing. ‘Cutch has proven he still has it, and that the Pirates are his team. The QO after 2018 could approach $19 mil. It gives the Pirates nothing because there will be teams stacked up to pay him that and more.

          You are right, he makes Polanco and Bell that much better in the middle of the order, and what we get for Gerit Cole could go a long way to identifying a replacement, but we are not there yet.