Every week we have live reports from all over the system, while I provided additional views of the minors via MiLB.tv, which included Indianapolis, Altoona and West Virginia this week. We also had live coverage of Indianapolis and Altoona this week. All of these reports are combined and used each week to highlight the top performers during that time span. We go with the top ten hitters and pitchers, giving you the 20 best players from last week.

HITTERS

Albert Baur, 1B, West Virginia – Baur made an adjustment to his swing around the end of July, aimed at getting more power from his big frame. Since then, he has been hitting much better, including 11-for-25 over the last week with three doubles. During the month of August, Baur has a .348/.406/.500 line, showing off a .152 ISO in the process. The downside is that Baur is 25 years old, so his stats in Low-A aren’t much to go on. He would need to quickly go to Altoona to show whether he has a chance at being a legit prospect. But his big frame limits him to first base, and he’d be blocked by Will Craig next year, limiting his chances of developing in this system. – Tim Williams

Anderson Feliz, Util., Altoona – Feliz is a valuable player to have on your team. Splitting the season between Indianapolis and Altoona this year, he has played every position except catcher and pitcher. He picked up nine hits last week, including his fifth home run of the season. Feliz is 25 years old and in his last season before minor league free agency. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him re-sign with the Pirates due to the fact that he’s a versatile player, who has put up solid stats in Altoona over the last two seasons. He had some trouble in Triple-A at the plate this year, but it was his first time at the level and he wasn’t playing everyday. That might be as high as he goes in his baseball career, but between the versatility, speed and solid play in Double-A, plus he was injured often before joining the Pirates, there’s an outside chance he could sneak into the majors one day. He would have to find the right team for that and maybe have a little luck on his side for that to happen. – JD

Mikell Granberry, 1B/C, GCL Pirates – Granberry had hits in all six games he played this week, drew walks in four of those games, and drove in a total of seven runs. He also put in some time at third base, a position until recently, that he had not played as a pro. Granberry was known as an athletic catcher when he signed, and he runs well for the position, plus has a strong, although not always accurate arm. During Extended Spring Training, the Pirates also had him playing some outfield. His primary position this year has been first base though and he’s put out a solid defensive effort. His hitting has not been up to par this season until his last seven games. He was with the GCL Pirates last year and was their best hitter near the end of the season until a pitch broke his hand. He was clearly disappointed with the return to the league this season and we were told he was trying to do too much at the plate early on, leading to poor results. He finally got back on track and put up the best overall hitting performance this past week. – JD

Melvin Jimenez, INF, Bristol – Jimenez had a solid rookie season in the DSL in 2015, but couldn’t back it up in the GCL the following season. That’s partly because he missed significant time with a hamstring injury, but also didn’t play well once he returned. He got the promotion to Bristol this year and wasn’t playing everyday to begin the season. That has changed recently and led to a huge week last week. He had hits in all seven games, totaling 13 for the week. He currently has a 12-game on base streak. Since he hasn’t hit for power at all, his .667 OPS in a hitter-friendly league doesn’t stand out, but Jimenez does have a .361 OBP and a 20:15 BB/SO ratio, as well as six steals in eight attempts. Add in that he’s been playing shortstop, third base and second base, and he’s having a decent season.- JD

Mason Martin, RF/1B, GCL Pirates – Martin didn’t see many pitches to hit this last week, but he was still able to put two of those pitches over the fence. He now leads the GCL with nine homers, which is one away from the GCL Pirates team record set back in 2000 by Walter Young. On Saturday, Martin finally qualified for league leaders and his 1.062 OPS puts him at the top of the league, as does his .611 slugging percentage. His .451 OBP is just one point behind the leader. His average has slowly dropped down to .301 after Saturday’s game, but eight walks in five games this week, helped him stay near the top of the OBP board. Regardless of results over this final week of the season, Martin is going to finish with some terrific stats. While he received a nice over-slot bonus, he’s looking early on like one of the steals from this draft class. – JD

Calvin Mitchell, OF, GCL Pirates – Calvin Mitchell only played four games this past week, so he almost didn’t qualify for this list. He made it though because two of those games were big days. On Monday, he reached base in all five plate appearances with four hits and a walk. On Saturday, he drove in four runs on three hits and scored a pair of runs. The Pirates took Mitchell 50th overall in this draft class and he signed for a seven-figure bonus. His easy lefty swing generates power and he makes consistent contact. Mitchell has a .705 OPS this season in 37 games, which doesn’t look so great compared to what teammate Mason Martin has put up, but it’s actually above average (.684) for the pitcher-friendly GCL. It’s hard not to like what you see from Mitchell at the plate, which is good to see because the bat is his carrying tool. – JD

Ryan Peurifoy, OF, Bristol – You can’t take much from a 22-year-old from a major college doing well in the Appalachian League. Peurifoy is a bit advanced for the league, but that’s where the Pirates put him after taking him in the 38th round of this year’s draft, so all he can do is play well at the level they placed him. He’s hitting .301/.353/.431 in 34 games and has reached base safely in 17 straight games, including a current ten-game hitting streak. While the overall stats are solid, his 9:30 BB/SO ratio leaves a little to be desired. He’s likely to end up at Morgantown next season, as the West Virginia outfield looks very crowded for next year, with many options at Morgantown this season, as well as other prospects in the GCL as possibilities, and Bristol’s Edison Lantigua could end up there too. – JD

Jacob Stallings, C, Indianapolis – The Pirates recently noted that they could go with four catchers in September due to Francisco Cervelli’s injuries and the fact he expects to be off the disabled list the first day he is eligible to be activated. Stallings would obviously be that fourth catcher, but it’s not as if he hasn’t earned that promotion this season. His main calling card is his all-around defense, as well as his work with pitchers. He has been on fire with the bat lately though, hitting .421 in his last ten games. That has raised his season OPS to .792 through 55 games. I have said numerous times that he is a nice fourth option to have at the big league catcher position, but his combined defense/offense this season is making him look like he wouldn’t be a bad third option for the Pirates next season. – JD

Cole Tucker, SS, Altoona – Tucker has gotten off to a slow start at the plate in Altoona, which isn’t totally unexpected. He’s not looking too overmatched, with a 19% strikeout rate that is lower than his numbers in Bradenton this year. It’s also not unexpected for a young player to struggle during the initial jump to Double-A. This past week might be a sign that things are starting to click for him. He went 11-for-27, with a home run, two triples, and three doubles. Tucker should get plenty of time in Altoona, finishing the year there, and spending at least the first half of the 2018 season at the level while Kevin Newman spends time in Triple-A. Tucker has shown an ability to make solid contact with the ball more consistently this year, and Altoona will be a big test of whether that ability can translate to the upper levels and eventually the majors. – TW

Erich Weiss, INF, Indianapolis – His production took a dramatic uptick last week, doubling his season home run total. Weiss entered last week with three homers and 32 RBI on the season in 89 games. He had three homers and eight RBI while playing in all seven Indianapolis games last week. He’s put together a solid season and Indianapolis hitting coach Butch Wynegar raves about Weiss’ potential, not just at the Triple-A level but also in the major leagues. Wynegar loves the mechanics of Weiss’ swing and says if the 25-year-old can continually play with confidence, the potential is there to be a major leaguer. Weiss looked the part last week with multiple hits in four of the seven games, including a three-hit game as he hit .461 (12-for-26) during the home stand. On Sunday, Weiss was selected as the team’s gold glove winner and, on cue, made two really nice plays in the field including a leaping catch on a line drive. Weiss is hitting a respectable .275 this season and if he can find a way to make his better moments last longer, that potential might start showing through even more. – Brian Peloza

PITCHERS

Tyler Eppler, RHP, Indianapolis – There was a lot to like about Eppler’s lone start last week, as the Triple-A newcomer looks to finish the season on a high note after showing a lot of promise in the first two months. Eppler allowed one run in seven innings against Louisville. He gave up six hits, but did not walk anybody. He had been scuffling in recent months, posting a 7-plus ERA since July 1. That came after a promising start to the season, when Eppler had a 2.45 ERA in April and a 3.23 ERA in May. His 7-inning outing was the first time he reached that deep into a game since June 11. Indianapolis manager Andy Barkett noted the 24-year-old kept his pitches down in the zone and showed a lot of confidence in his start last week, something he needs to do in order to be successful. Eppler has a lot of potential and last week’s performance might be a sign he’s going to finish this season on a strong note.  – BP

Scooter Hightower, RHP, Morgantown – Hightower had one great game and then an average game at the end of the week. On Monday night, he threw eight shutout innings. I talked to him after the start and found out a few things that have helped him have success this season. He has seen a slight uptick in his velocity, which is a good sign because he sat 86-88 MPH when we saw him in the past. He also switched from a curve to a hard slider, which he noted gave him a fastball look to his breaking ball. Hightower combines those two pitches with a strong changeup and terrific command of all three pitches. He only throws a four-seam fastball, but he’s able to locate it well all around the zone, getting a nice downward plane on pitches in the bottom of the zone by taking advantage of his 6’6″ frame. When he throws the fastball up in the zone, he gets a little more on it and it gets chases for swinging strikes. – JD

Clay Holmes, RHP, Indianapolis – He quietly keeps progressing with his season, making nice strides after previously suffering a bout of shoulder fatigue. He threw six shutout innings on Thursday, allowing just two hits; while walking two batters and striking out five. That was the first time Holmes finished six innings since July 15. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in two of his last three starts. He doesn’t get the attention that other starting pitchers do, such as Tyler Glasnow and Nick Kingham, but Holmes is quietly putting himself in position to reach the major league when rosters expand. He might gain more value from pitching in the Triple-A playoffs, but the Pirates could also want to get an idea of what they have in Holmes moving forward and he’s already on the 40-man roster. – BP

Drew Hutchison, RHP, Indianapolis – There are no lack of pitching options at the Triple-A level. Hutchison threw seven shutout innings on Friday as the Indianapolis rotation dominated most of last week’s homestand. He allowed five hits and two walks, striking out eight against Columbus. Hutchison’s future with the organization is unclear as he’s not been overly dominant at the Triple-A level and does not seem to arise in conversations all that often. But he’s been consistent with a 3.47 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP in 26 appearances, 24 of those starts. Hutchison is on the 40-man roster and will be hoping for a promotion, but his $2 million-plus salary might lead the organization to give opportunities to its younger, less expensive options moving forward. – BP

Max Kranick, RHP, Bristol – After throwing 12.2 innings over three starts in the GCL without a run, Kranick moved up to Bristol, where he made two starts last week. After some shoulder tightness shut him down for a time at the end of Extended Spring Training, he slowly began to work his way back while down at Pirate City. He was originally slated to begin the season with Bristol, but the injury changed those plans. After pitching five innings over two simulated games, Kranick put up solid results in all three GCL starts. On Tuesday, he made his Bristol debut and allowed two earned runs over six innings, which was his longest career outing. On Sunday, he gave up one run over 5.2 innings, while striking out five batters and posting a 6:3 GO/AO ratio. It will be interesting to see if the Pirates send Kranick up to Morgantown to continue pitching. If they don’t, then Sunday was his last start, as the Bristol season ends Thursday. He will be putting more innings in during the Fall Instructional League either way. – JD

Alex Manasa, RHP, Bristol – Manasa got off to a rough start this season, giving up 12 earned runs in 16.2 innings over his first eight appearances. That is to be expected, since he was more of a position player in JuCo, and was making the transition to a full-time pitcher. He has been working with pitching coach Joel Hanrahan on his changeup, while also getting adjusted to the routine as a regular pitcher. That has allowed him to get more comfortable in the role, leading to better results. He has allowed four earned runs in 19.2 innings in his last eight outings. That includes two appearances this past week, where he combined for 6.1 innings without an earned run, with four strikeouts. Manasa is looking like an interesting project, with a large, projectable frame, and some promise showing as he gets used to pitching more often. – TW

Casey Sadler, RHP, Altoona – Casey Sadler, in only his sixth start of the season for the Altoona Curve, threw his first professional nine-inning complete game on Thursday night. The performance was impressive enough that it earned him a promotion back to Triple-A Indianapolis. He has slowly been building back up to an innings and pitch count of a regular starter since mid-July, and he reached 95 pitches in this most recent outing. Nothing was hit hard against Sadler the entire game, as he allowed six singles leading up to the ninth inning, and a blooper in shallow left field was the only extra base hit (double) against him. A two-seam pitcher, Sadler’s fastball was peaking at 95 MPH, which is higher than before his Tommy John surgery two years ago. Combined with two breaking pitches that have been effective, a slider and changeup, Sadler is getting closer to the form that saw him reach the majors. In this outing, his backdoor slider to right-handed hitters and changeup to lefties kept batters off-balanced all night. Sadler said that he felt he could throw all three pitches for strikes, providing him with the necessary arsenal to throw the complete game. –Sean McCool

Eduardo Vera, RHP, West Virginia – Vera came one out away from a seven inning no-hitter this week, giving up two singles in the seventh inning with two outs before getting the final out of the game. He ended up pitching seven shutout innings with six strikeouts. That was a good turnaround from his previous two outings, where he gave up 11 earned runs in 10.2 innings. I saw the start before that, and he looked good, commanding his fastball in the strike zone and staying ahead of hitters, all while putting up similar results to what he showed this week. He’s getting way up there in innings this year compared to his previous career totals, so it’s encouraging to see him continue with starts that see him throwing seven strong innings. – TW

Brandon Waddell, LHP, Altoona – Since returning to the Curve’s starting rotation from his second disabled list of the season, Brandon Waddell has a 2.87 ERA in 31.1 innings. The majority of  runs against him came three starts ago at Portland, when he allowed five earned runs in five innings; otherwise, he has only allowed five earned runs in 26.1 IP (1.71 ERA). He made two starts last week and gave up just one earned run in 11.2 IP. In his start on Friday at home against Bowie, Waddell had to work out of a bases loaded jam in the second inning to keep them off the board. He executed well around the corners against Bowie, but batters were able to work deep counts against him and foul many pitches off, working his pitch count over 100 pitches in the sixth inning. Waddell has great stuff from the left side, but he does need to continue working on efficiency. He has yet to go longer than six innings this season, usually being removed because of high pitch counts. He hasn’t allowed a home run since returning from the disabled list even though he has a fly ball rate of 57%. -SM

Gavin Wallace, RHP, Morgantown – Wallace was drafted in the 15th round this year and the reports had him as someone who hits mid-90s with his fastball. He hasn’t been a power pitcher since signing though, with just 29 strikeouts in 56 innings. His strikeout rate has actually gone down as the season has progressed, but his stats have been getting much better at the same time. This past week, he made two starts and gave up two runs over 11.2 innings. In his last seven starts combined, he has given up just four runs over 36.2 innings. The amazing thing about that success is that he hasn’t struck out more than three batters in a start since July 11th. Wallace has done it by pitching to contact, allowing two walks over those last eight starts, while posting a 1.61 GO/AO ratio on the season. – JD

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9 COMMENTS

  1. I heard Kingham is unlikely to be called up because we’d have too many starting pitchers then. :/ Thought he should be called up, even if it meant he would pitch out of the pen at first.

    • He might not be up on September 1st just to keep him as a starter through the playoffs, but I can’t see him getting no big league time. He has no options left, so it would be crazy not to get him big league time going into next season.

      • I know. That’s why I found it so weird.

        http://triblive.com/sports/pirates/12666426-74/pirates-notebook-jung-ho-kang-trying-to-get-visa-to-play-in

        This is where I read it. It said they’ll have one group called up right away and then another group called up after the playoffs. Huntington said Kingham “is unlikely to be called up because the Pirates already have a sizable pitcher pool in the majors.”

        I guess they want Kingham to get consistent innings, but I don’t understand why we can’t make that happen when we’re 63-68…

        • I have no idea what’s up their fascination with competing until they are officially eliminated, even if it means pretending they can make up a ten game deficit with 11 games to go. I have no problem with Kingham remaining a starter in Indy until the season is over, but once it is, there is no reason not to call him up. He is right in saying he will get more innings down there by staying in the starting role, but at some point, MLB experience outweighs remaining AAA innings.

  2. Albert Bauer must be pretty bad if Will Craig is blocking him (I’m sorry…I absolutely couldn’t resist).

    After that comment, I deserve to have Craig become a star and make me eat roadkill crow the rest of my days.

    I wonder if I can get Will to sign my program once he gets to Altoona? 🙂

      • I hear that he is a really nice person, so I don’t hate him personally. I just don’t think much of his major league prospects and that it was a poor pick by the Bucs.

        At the time, I thought that Nolan Jones, Delvin Perez or Dane Dunning were much better picks. Craig was looked at as a first base/DH type and I thought it strange that we would pick him. I remember reading once that you don’t draft relievers and first basemen/DHs on the first round.

        Time will tell with Craig. Even if he rockets through the system from hereon, at best he is a trade chip.

        • They should take the best player available. If it was Craig, irrespective of position, so be it. Even if he turns out to be trade bait, not the end of the world.

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