Morning Report: Thoughts on the September Call-Ups

The Pittsburgh Pirates called up six players yesterday. As I mentioned in Sunday’s Morning Report, there would be two moves in particular to discuss. I’m going to give thoughts on all of the players who were on the 40-man roster here, along with the addition of Dan Runzler. I’ll start with the obvious ones first to get them out of the way.

Tyler Glasnow – We knew he was coming up, so nothing of note with this move. I do think he should have been up sooner, but not much sooner obviously because they kept his service time under a year by waiting until after August 26th to recall him. There was some value in seeing him pitch in the playoffs in the minors because he has not had success in that situation during the last four times. He pitched well in that one playoff game, so that’s a career hurdle he got over.

Edgar Santana – Seemed obvious to call him up. Pirates love what he brings when he is on his game and he’s already been up multiple times. Nothing really to discuss here.

Jacob Stallings – Another obvious choice because teams carry three catchers in September. Stallings earned it with his play this year and he is probably better than many fourth catching options around baseball. I like that Cervelli isn’t forced back quicker, which is what I didn’t like about activating Gregory Polanco for no reason. Both Cervelli and Polanco should be done for the year.

Jack Leathersich – I watched him closely when he pitched all three times in the playoffs, mostly to help with updated scouting reports since he still has prospect status. I’m not surprised he got recalled so the Pirates can get a better look at the player they acquired earlier this month. He has some MLB experience and he has an option left after this season, so it was a nice pickup made possible by the Nicasio move, although acquiring him (waivers cost money) and calling up six players takes away some of those savings. I’m surprised the Pirates have so many players up to be honest, it goes against the saving money angle and you really don’t need 19 pitchers. I was anticipating four call-ups prior to getting the news of six after Saturday’s loss in Indianapolis. That being said, it makes sense to look at Leathersich closer.

Johnny Barbato – I can tie this one in to the crowded roster angle, and I’ll mention it again below. I don’t see the need for Barbato being up. However, I did find some of the Twitter anger funny when people mentioned that he’s taking innings away from younger players and then Barbato ends up being younger than every player mentioned. He actually qualifies as a young player getting innings. I’m not surprised he was recalled, but I don’t think it was necessary.

Dan Runzler – If you told me someone from Indianapolis was being recalled and they were not on the 40-man roster, Runzler would not have been my first guess. I get the idea of taking a look at him closer to see if he’s a possible option for 2018, but he pitched 40 times this year, so at some point that should have been figured out. I also like the fact he worked his way back to the majors after five years in the minors. That all being said, Barbato and Runzler being up just makes the bullpen crowded and limits innings all around. Or their innings could have went to….

Nick Kingham – Kingham not being up seems like a big mistake. Neal Huntington said that a few innings in September won’t do anything and resting up is better for him. I completely disagree. One September inning and three weeks of being around MLB situations is much better than going home three weeks earlier. He has four months to rest. We are talking about someone with no options here, unless they know some rule to get an extra option. I’ve checked multiple times and can’t find a rule that fits Kingham’s case*. That means he will need to make the 2018 Opening Day roster with exactly zero days of MLB experience. I think this is a poor decision on their part and honestly if this was always their intentions to limit his innings, then he could have been in the majors two weeks ago as a reliever.

* Baseball America has an old link with notes for other players, but explains how Kingham would qualify for an extra option, which they say only happens in very rare cases. MLB qualifies a full season as a year spent in full-season ball where a player is active for at least 30 days. Kingham was only active 29 days in 2015 before going on the DL prior to his Tommy John surgery. The BA link says that players with five or fewer full seasons would then qualify for an extra option year. That being said, the article is from 2013 and a link on says that it is less than five full years and a player can get an extra option year. Kingham had full seasons in 2012-14 and 2016-17, so if the rules on are correct, which is what I read over a few times, then he doesn’t qualify. There has been a new CBA since the BA article, but if it’s correct, then he could get an extra option just because they decided to put him on the DL on May 8th instead of May 10th, which would have been terrific foresight by the Pirates.

Basically, the question becomes, is five seasons the maximum or one too many? I don’t know, because I don’t know who is right, but I would have to assume MLB should be right on their own site. Fangraphs also has an article explaining options and it says 20 days active would qualify for a season, plus five seasons is the limit, so Kingham definitely wouldn’t qualify if they are correct. He would be two years over the limit. Rules like these are why General Managers have assistants to make sure they don’t miss anything in the fine print. It used to be a lot easier to get a fourth option when draft picks could sign MLB deals, but that’s not allowed anymore, so now fourth options are very rare.

Anyway, back to the roster decisions made yesterday…

Clay Holmes – I would have had Holmes in the majors this September and used him sparingly. He used an option this season, he still has two more left, so it is by no means a mistake to not call him up. That’s just my personal preference. He’s a prospect with a huge arm, why not give him a taste of the majors, even if it amounts to a couple of relief appearances? As I said above, I didn’t think the Pirates would add six players, but if you told me I could pick the six, it would be the top four and Holmes/Kingham switched out for Barbato/Runzler.

Gift Ngoepe – No surprise here. He didn’t hit for Indianapolis. Ngoepe has value as a September call-up for a team in a pennant race. His defense is outstanding and he has speed. He has no value for a team out of the pennant race. If the Pirates were in the wild card and/or NL Central race, I believe he would have been called up.

Drew Hutchison – No need to call him up and no surprise. He falls under the Triple-A depth role and he was below a few players on that list. He had a solid season, but you pretty much know what you’re getting with him by now.

** Just wanted to throw this note in here to show how much one pitch can change everything. I mentioned above that I watched Leathersich pitch all three times. In Saturday’s game four, he came in during the eighth inning with a 3-2 lead. He struck out the first batter, then went 2-2 on the next hitter. Leathersich threw a fastball on the corner that looked like a strike, but was called a ball. Replay showed that it was a strike, then I checked Gameday and it confirmed it. Now at 3-2, the batter walked and then the next pitch hit the next batter, ending the day for Leathersich. Both batters would end up scoring and Indianapolis lost 4-3.

That one missed pitch took the game from 3-2 with two outs and no one on base to (eventually) 4-3 and Indianapolis being eliminated. Other stuff had to happen in between, but it’s unlikely that Leathersich still hits the next batter when the situation was totally changed leading up to that pitch.  That was a tough blown call and I think the problem was that Jacob Stallings stabbed at the ball, catching it in the zone, but pushing it out. Instead of calling the pitch (possibly) it appears that the umpire called the glove location after the pitch.

No big deal really, just crazy how one pitch in the eighth inning can change the game/series so drastically.


(Durham won the series 3-1)

9/6: Indianapolis 3, Durham 10

9/7: Indianapolis 0, Durham 2

9/8: Indianapolis 5, Durham 0

9/9: Indianapolis 3, Durham 4


(Altoona won the series 3-0)

9/7: Altoona 2, Bowie 0

9/8: Altoona 8, Bowie 4

9/9: Altoona 6, Bowie 1

Eastern League Finals

9/12: Game One @ Trenton 7 PM

9/13: Game Two @ Trenton 7 PM

9/14: Game Three VS Trenton 6 PM

9/15: Game Four VS Trenton 6 PM (If necessary)

9/16: Game Five VS Trenton 3 PM (If necessary)


The Pirates trail in their division by 10.5 games. They are 11.5 games back for the second wild card spot.


Source: FanGraphs


Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 7-0 to the St Louis Cardinals on Sunday afternoon. The Pirates now travel to Milwaukee for three games. Steven Brault will be on the mound making his second start of the season today. He allowed three runs over five innings in his lone start this season, which was on September 5th against the Chicago Cubs. The Brewers will counter with right-hander Brandon Woodruff, who has a 1.52 ERA, 20 strikeouts and a 1.10 WHIP in 23.2 innings over four starts. He has not faced the Pirates.

MLB: Pittsburgh (67-77) @ Brewers (75-68) 7:40 PM
Probable starter: Steven Brault (5.79 ERA, 8:9 BB/SO, 18.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (79-63) (season preview)

AA: Altoona (74-66) @ Trenton 7:00 PM 9/12 (season preview)
Probable starter: Brandon Waddell (3.55 ERA, 31:114 BB/SO, 66.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (70-62)  (season preview)

Low-A: West Virginia (69-67) (season preview)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (40-35) (season preview)

Rookie: Bristol (17-49)

GCL: Pirates (26-34)

DSL: Pirates (36-34) (season preview)


Here is a two-run double by Erich Weiss in game four of the playoffs for Indianapolis. While he made a couple of costly errors in the playoffs, Weiss went 6-for-16 against Durham, hitting safely in all four games.


9/10: Pirates recall Tyler Glasnow, Johnny Barbato, Dan Runzler, Jack Leathersich, Jacob Stallings and Edgar Santana

9/9: Cole Tucker placed on disabled list. Kevin Kramer added to Altoona roster.

9/8: Gregory Polanco and Adam Frazier activated from disabled list.

9/7: George Kontos activated from disabled list.

9/6: Jack Leathersich added to Indianapolis. Cody Dickson assigned to Bradenton.

9/4: Pirates claimed Jack Leathersich on waivers from Chicago Cubs.

9/3: Josh Harrison placed on disabled list. Christopher Bostick recalled from Indianapolis.

9/3: Austin Meadows placed on disabled list.

9/3: Anderson Feliz and Justin Maffei promoted to Indianapolis. Mitchell Tolman and Casey Hughston promoted to Altoona

9/3: Kevin Kramer assigned to Morgantown on rehab.

9/2: Kevin Kramer and Taylor Hearn assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.


Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including two who played for World Series winners. We start with Don Slaught, catcher from 1990 until 1995. The Pirates won the NL East during the first three years Slaught was in Pittsburgh, serving in a platoon role with Mike LaValliere. Slaught hit .305 in 475 games with the Pirates, including a .345 average in 1992. That year he also hit .333 in the playoffs, driving in five runs.

Dave Roberts, 1979-80 pitcher. Came over in the Bill Madlock trade from the Giants. Roberts had a 3.26 ERA in 21 appearances in 1979 for the Pirates. After two appearances in 1980, he was sold to the Mariners. Roberts was also in the minors for the Pirates after they picked him up on waivers in 1964 and then again when he was returned to the team following the 1967 rule 5 draft.

Jackie Hernandez, shortstop from 1971 until 1973. For the 1971 World Series champs, he hit .206 in 88 games, seeing some time at third base, along with 65 starts at shortstop. He went 7-for-31 and drove in two runs during the postseason.

Glenn Spencer, pitcher in 1928, then again from 1930 until 1932. He went 23-29. 4.48 in 42 starts and 80 relief appearances with the Pirates.

Frank Moore, Pirates pitcher on June 14, 1905. Threw three shutout innings in his only Major League appearance. At 6’4″ back in 1905, he got the nickname “Giant”. His only game included one odd occurrence rarely seen in baseball. His catcher was lefty Homer Hillebrand, who caught three times for the Pirates.

Steve Brodie, center fielder for the 1897-98 Pirates. The Pirates thought so highly of Brodie, that they gave up Jake Stenzel to get him. Stenzel would be the franchise’s all-time leader with a .360 batting average, so if you didn’t know by name, that should explain how much they gave up. Brodie hit .283 with 74 RBIs in 142 games for the Pirates. He was released during the 1898 season due to financial reasons. While modern day stats seem to disagree, giving him a career -3.9 WAR for his defense, Brodie was widely considered to be one of the best defensive center fielders of his time.

  • As I told folks earlier in the season, they needed to bring
    up Brault earlier in the season to give them a left handed
    option as a starter and also a good bat off the bench.

    Now they have to trade him in the off season because
    he hits way too well to play for the Pirates. Either that
    or they will eventually cure him of that skill.

  • While I also thought Kingham would be up, he really looked like a #4/5 type pitcher this year. If they get an extra option, great, if not, he will go into ST with a chance to win a spot on the team. Honestly, he could be a decent option for middle relief, but I’m not sure he is someone that would be a huge loss. Probably has more value as a trade chip, ie. second piece in a Cutch trade.

  • On another subject I can’t believe Ryan Vogalsong has chosen to retire as a Giant and not a Pirate. No team has wasted more resources and money on him over his career than the Pirates.

  • WAR is everything. Historical reality is nothing!

    • There are times when defensive WAR fits the player, but other times where it doesn’t. I’m going with all of the old sources on Brodie, especially when you see what the Pirates gave up to get him. WAR says that just four out of his 12 seasons he was above average defensively, but old sources from the day say that he was one of the best outfielders of his day, some even say the best.

      Brodie had a fielding % well above average, he had a range factor well above average and he recorded plenty of assists. Not sure what else you would look at with old players to come up with dWAR, but the stats and stories say that he was one of the best at his position.

  • John, In your opinion, does Ngoepe have a future with the Pirates?

    • I think his future lasts as long as it takes for Newman (or Tucker) to be ready to step into the MLB shortstop role. I think Ngoepe is so good defensively, that he would at least be a replacement level player in the majors, even though he’s over-matched at the plate in Triple-A. While Newman did improve defensively this year, a player with a .675 OPS in 122 games shouldn’t be forcing anyone off the 40-man roster, so Ngoepe should at least be a player who sticks around for the first part of next year.

  • On a logistical note, there are only 40 lockers in the Bucs clubhouse. Cutch has two, which means 39. Currently 37 players in the clubhouse (including Cervi/Josh). So there’s still room for two more!

    Annoyed with Greg Brown who didn’t ask Neal about Kingham during Neal’s pre-game program yesterday. Just doesn’t make any sense to me.


    This said Kingham should qualify for a fourth option. I hope it’s true, though I trust your research more and it doesn’t look promising…

    • The uncertainty of the wording in that article made me look further into it. I was using the MLB link this whole time, but the BA link added doubt. Of course, the Fangraphs link sided with MLB, but all three were different.

      The PG link doesn’t have any quotes to back it up and says “should” and “if they can get it”. I can’t say they are wrong or right because three great sources for this type of info say three different things. The only reason to not trust the BA one as much would be how old the article is, meaning the rule could have changed. On the other hand, BA would make more sense with the way they are handling this situation.

      Let’s assume they get the fourth option. If the plan is to send him down next year, that means they don’t trust a 26-year-old with 699 regular season minor league innings, plus all of the other innings you don’t see between playoffs, extended ST, Instructs, Spring Training. Jameson Taillon doesn’t even have 699 innings counting big league time. That’s not a good sign either. He’s not the type you worry about Super Two with, so three weeks this September wouldn’t matter much for next year.

      Whatever way you look at it, not calling him up now doesn’t give you the feeling that they think he is MLB ready. I don’t buy the extra rest excuse. He got rest in March when he got hurt and mid-season when he went 14 days between starts.

      • I had high hopes for Kingham and the way they treat Kingham makes me wonder where his future lies…

      • I think it’s less “699 regular season minor league innings” than it is “165 innings since TJS, of which only 114 were in AAA”.

        I think (as I said above) another 50 or so innings in AAA post-TJS would be good for him.

        • He threw more innings than that, three months worth of Extended ST innings in 2016 and a month worth this year aren’t included in the numbers. Plus you also have the two playoff starts not included. He’s well over 200 innings the last two years (not including ST). We are nearly 2 1/2 years removed from his surgery at this point.

          At 2 1/2 years for Taillon, he was finishing up last season in the majors, and that’s from someone who had 14 fewer AAA starts before his injury than Kingham did before his own injury. You can’t forget that Kingham was nearly a full season at AAA already when he first got hurt. He has a lot of time in with Indy and he’s definitely on the old side as far as prospects go.

  • I am sorry!!! I am a man for God, but I can’t stand Johnny Barbato as a pitcher!!! I can’t understand his role!!! So forgive me for being a Barbato Hater!!! Because I am to the fullest!!!!

  • regardless of if they get the extra option on kingham or not, one could argue that he could benefit just by being up and around MLB for the month.

    then again, a month of MLB service time isn’t something that you just throw away i guess.

    • I think the Pirates have already decided the future for Nick Kingham, and another start or another few relief outings will not change that decision. He had a very brief rehab in 2016 (46 IP), and almost tripled that amount of innings with about 125 in 2017. Rest could be better for him at this time.

      Holmes also had a very nice year at AAA in his 2nd year of rehab after TJ, but he is on the 40 and has 3 Options remaining. His decision year will be in 2018.

      Hutchison will be traded but I thought they would bring him up to try to impress a possible trading partner.

      The Pirates pitching as a team are 13th out of 30. Hitting is 28th of 30 and OPS is 28th of 30.

      • You make a good point about the “they already decided his future.”

        a few MLB innings only shows fans and analysts what he is right now. The Pirates already have a lot of data on him and wouldnt be affected by a few innings.

      • One of the benefits of not bringing up Hutchison, who really has almost no trade value, is that by not bringing him up, he doesn’t get a fourth year of service time. If some team actually wanted him, they would get three years instead of two. I’m guessing he will just be released in the off-season.

        • I assume he’ll be gone as well…but still not all that sure why he isn’t considered a bullpen option for 2018. He’s seems like he might be a decent fit there…especially for a team that appears to be setting up for the revolving door approach next year.

          • who says he’s not considered a bullpen option for next year?

          • While he could probably be a middle reliever, or at minimum a mop-up/longman, he doesn’t really impress with anything. Doesn’t throw hard, no plus breaking pitches, average control, gets a lot of chases up out of the zone, which doesn’t work as well against MLB hitters unless you have better velocity. He’s the type you like at Triple-A as depth, but hope you don’t need to use.

        • Another year of Service Time makes him a much better trade piece. Great point.

          I think a SP with a career record of 30-21 in 74 MLB Starts and a combined 4.3 WAR in 3 years is worth something.

          • The problem is that he doesn’t look like someone who could be a #5 starter, at least not on a decent/good team. The Pirates didn’t really hold him back this year by being healthy in the rotation, which led to just seven starters being used. It’s just that they never needed their 8th best starter, who was 9th best by the time the season ended with Kingham moving ahead.

            • I agree, he is not a #5 on a “decent/good team”. But I remember those years when the Pirates were always in the bottom 10 of MLB teams in ERA, and any MLB SP who could draw a breath was a #3/4/5 prospect for us. He’s cheap, relatively young, has 70 MLB starts, and started 50 games in AAA/MLB the past 2 years – could be an innings eater for a team like the Twins, Tigers, Padres, Marlins, etc.

      • I agree with the Kingham Holmes scenarios but they will release Hutchinson this offseason. The only reason they kept him around is to lower the heat for the dumb Lirano plus two prospect moves. Hutchinson would cost multi millions to the team acquiring him and no sane team would take that salary on so everyone will wait for him to be released and then they can pay him what he is worth.

    • These final three weeks would only matter if they know he’s eligible for a fourth option (and will receive it) and they plan to call him up in mid-April next year to get seven seasons out of him. And all that would really mean is that they have to wait three extra weeks before calling him up next year. Teams don’t make those type of plans with every player, that’s something you would do with premium prospects like the Cubs did with Kris Bryant, certainly not a player like Kingham

    • Being around MLB for a month is not more valuable to Kingham’s development than the ability to start 2017 in AAA and move up to MLB when he’s got another 50 innings or so. He’s only pitched about 160 innings total since TJS, and only about 114 of those in AAA.