Morning Report: A Look at the Early Hitting Results Around the System

Yesterday morning I took a very early look at the pitching around the system. The reason I did that was because we have seen a lot of strong pitching performances so far in the first two weeks of the season. It makes sense to look at the hitting next, although that wasn’t my original plan.

I focused on the pitching yesterday, mainly because it was a good day for the system. It has not been good for the offense over the last two days. They scored five runs in four games on Tuesday and four of those runs came from one game. On Wednesday, they scored eight runs total, but it was over five games. Actually it was over three games, because Indianapolis got shutout twice, including a no-hitter against them in game one.

It turned out that the pitching was a bit deceiving, except in Altoona. I realized afterwards that it probably helps that the strong pitching was being done by the better prospects like Mitch Keller, Luis Escobar and Nick Kingham so you tend to remember those more and they hold more weight. So while Indianapolis and West Virginia were two of the worst pitching teams in their respective leagues, the start of the season still had a good feeling.

One last pitching note before I get into the hitting and it’s to show just how early it is in the season still. I mentioned that Bradenton had a 3.60 team ERA yesterday. After giving up 11 earned runs last night, they now have a 4.21 ERA. So things can still change a lot in one bad/good day at this point.

On to the hitting and after the day Indianapolis put up yesterday, you would assume that pushed them towards the bottom of the league. They are actually in the upper half of the 14-team league, ranking sixth with a .710 team OPS. They are seventh in both OBP and slugging.

Altoona has a prospect filled lineup, so you hope to see good things from them. Currently they rank ninth out of 12 teams in OBP, seventh in slugging, seventh in average and ninth in OPS. There are some very bad teams so far, including two teams batting below the Mendoza line.

Bradenton doesn’t have near the amount or quality of hitting prospects that you can find on the other three teams. You still hope that they can develop some players like Jared Oliva, Hunter Owen and Bligh Madris (pictured above) into better prospects by giving them plenty of playing time, so there is some interest in their boxscores daily, just not the current name power. Bradenton is eighth in OPS out of 12 teams. They are sixth in average, ninth in slugging, seventh in OBP.

West Virginia is filled with prospects, but they are very young on the hitting side, so there should be some lower expectations as teenagers adjust to full-season ball. The Power rank tenth in the 14-team league in average, seventh in OBP and third in slugging. They are just one point out of second place and two points out of first place in slugging, so they are right there at the top. Their .737 OPS has them tied for third.

So you have a group of players mostly in the middle/bottom half of hitting in their systems, although not near the worst in any case. In West Virginia, they are showing the power you want to see, which is a nice early sign. I mostly left out the numbers on purpose because I think the placement gives a better idea than numbers on their own would. The weather really seems to be keeping offense down in the Eastern League, International League and South Atlantic League and I expect that trend of low offense to change soon.

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates won 10-2 over the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday afternoon. The Pirates will now head to Philadelphia, where they will send Jameson Taillon to the mound for his fourth start. He threw six shutout innings in his start against the Marlins last week. In his previous start, he pitched a complete game shutout against the Reds. The Phillies will counter with veteran right-handed pitcher Jake Arrieta, who has a 3.38 ERA in two starts, with six strikeouts and a 1.31 WHIP in 10.2 innings.

The minor league schedule includes the third start from Travis MacGregor, who is hoping it goes more like his first outing. MacGregor had 12 strikeouts over 5.1 innings in his debut. In the second start, he got knocked out after one inning due to a high pitch count. None of the runs were earned, but he got hit around hard after an error early in the inning. Dario Agrazal makes his third start. He threw six no-hit innings in his debut, then allowed two runs over five innings last week. Oddy Nunez goes for Bradenton. His first start was shortened to one inning due to a rain delay, then his second outing was five innings in relief after AJ Schugel made a rehab appearance. Indianapolis has off today.

MLB: Pittsburgh (12-6) @ Phillies (10-7) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Jameson Taillon (0.89 ERA, 18:5 SO/BB, 20.1 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (5-6) vs Charlotte (6-7) 7:15 PM 4/20 (season preview)
Probable starter: Clay Holmes (13.50 ERA, 3:3 SO/BB, 2.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (6-5) @ Akron (7-5) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Dario Agrazal (1.64 ERA, 4:4 SO/BB, 11.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (8-5) vs Palm Beach (9-4) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Oddy Nunez (3.00 ERA, 2:1 SO/BB, 6.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (7-6) vs Asheville (3-10) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Travis MacGregor (1.42 ERA, 14:2 SO/BB, 6.1 IP)

HIGHLIGHTS

From Tuesday in Altoona, I included three strikeout pitches from Taylor Hearn. Just a note that videos directly from MiLB aren’t working for some reason on here, so we have been using videos on Twitter or from Pirates.com. I included three tweets from the Curve today so you can see more from Hearn’s outing.

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

4/18: Dylan Prohoroff placed on West Virginia DL. Matt Seelinger added to WV roster.

4/17: Brent Gibbs retired.

4/16: Josh Harrison placed on DL. Dovydas Neverauskas optioned to Indianapolis. Enny Romero and Max Moroff added to Pirates.

4/16: Jesus Liranzo activated from Altoona disabled list.  Sam Street assigned to  Morgantown.

4/14: Pirates claim Enny Romero off of waivers.

4/13: Kyle Crick and Richard Rodriguez recalled. Clay Holmes and Josh Smoker sent to Indianapolis.

4/12: AJ Schugel assigned to Bradenton on rehab

4/11: Pirates sign Denny Roman and Cristian Charle

4/10: Bryan Reynolds placed on Altoona disabled list. Jason Martin activated from DL.

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, all of them have played within the last 30 years. There is also a trade of note from the last World Series team in franchise history.

On this date in 1979, the Pirates traded shortstop Frank Taveras to the New York Mets in exchange for shortstop Tim Foli and minor league pitcher Greg Field. Foli was a big part of the 1979 squad and stuck around until the 1981 season, though he did come back briefly during the 1985 season. He hit .291 while setting career highs with 70 runs scored and 65 RBIs in 1979. In 587 plate appearances that year, he struck out just 14 times. Foli hit .333 in both the NLCS and the World Series.

The players born on this date are: Pitcher Zach Duke (2005-10), pitcher Joe Beimel (2001-03, 2011), pitcher Dennys Reyes (2003) and outfielder R.J. Reynolds (1985-90). Reynolds was acquired from the Dodgers in the 1985 Bill Madlock trade. He would hit .308 with 12 stolen bases and 17 RBIs in his first month with the Pirates. Reynolds played 616 games with the Pirates before being released. He then went to Japan for three seasons, before finishing his playing career in Mexico.

Two Opening Days from long ago of note. On this date in 1900, Sam Leever made his first Opening Day start, losing 3-0 to the St Louis Cardinals. Leever’s 194 wins with the Pirates ties him with Babe Adams for the second most in franchise history.

Ten years earlier, Pittsburgh defeated the Cleveland Spiders by a 3-2 score. They would win just 22 more games the entire season. The 1890 Pirates (then known as the Alleghenys) finished the season with a 23-113 record, the second worst record in Major League history.

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