It’s Opening Day for the minor league season, which means the return of our daily Morning Report. For those who are new to the site since September, here is a brief introduction to what you can expect each morning. If you’ve been a regular reader, there are still some changes for the 2018 season listed below.
We start with the intro section, which is what you’re reading now. It will briefly cover a variety of minor league topics throughout the year. Sometimes you’ll get a mini feature on a player, sometimes it’s a summary of stats throughout the organization and other times you’ll just get a bunch of random notes that aren’t enough for an article on their own.
There will be a big difference this year. In the past it was just me doing the intro every day during the minor league season, which was 160+ articles last year. This year, I will be splitting that with Tim Williams, who will be covering a large variety of topics throughout the year.
The next section used to be the Game Graph, but we decided to do away with it this year. It seemed to create confusion for a lot of people, plus it didn’t provide a ton of useful information. We are replacing it with the Pirates boxscore from the previous night, which will be down in the “Today’s Schedule” section. It doesn’t save us any time compared to the graph, but you’re getting more info and it makes the article a little easier to scroll through.
Next up is the Playoff Push section, which is just there for today so you can see the setup. It will return in about 7-8 weeks as the first half of season winds down for Bradenton and West Virginia. Both teams play in a league with a split schedule. After that, the Playoff Push goes away again until later in the year when all nine affiliates (two DSL teams this year) and the Pirates will be covered. The section gets really busy in early August, running until the minor league regular season ends, or when all of the clubs have either clinched a playoff spot or been eliminated from contention.
After the Playoff Push, we have the daily schedule section called Today’s Schedule. That gives a brief rundown of the Pirates, covering their results from the previous night and the upcoming schedule, as well as a look at the minor league starters. Each team’s schedule for the day will be updated and the probable starting pitcher for each team will be listed if they are available. You’ll noticed that Indianapolis, Altoona and Bradenton have season previews linked next to their game times. The West Virginia preview will be up later today and then I’ll add it to tomorrow’s Morning Report. Those links remain there all season for your convenience. As other affiliates start to play, we will preview their seasons as well and add the links.
Next is the highlight section, which has a highlight from the Pirates today because none of the minor league teams have started play yet. I usually include a minor league highlight, sometimes two of them, and only go to the Pirates if nothing else is available.
The next section is the transactions section, keeping track of all of the moves in the system over the last ten days. Whenever a transaction has an article to go along with it, we will include the link.
The final section is This Date in Pirates History and it’s self-explanatory. Every day there will be some Pirates history. This site is loaded with older articles about the early days of the Pirates. The search option will lead you to many articles and notes, including mini bios for over 1,200 former Pirates players, going back to the 1882 club when the franchise was formed. Don’t ever let anyone tell you the Pirates started in 1887, you don’t need that type of negativity in your life.
What’s Coming Up Later Today
Before the minor league games start today, we will post our daily Prospect Watch. We post it early to give you a chance to follow along. That article will contain a recap for each game in the minors once they have been completed. We have a writer in each city for the four full-season clubs, plus Tim Williams doubles up on clubs in late June when the Gulf Coast League season begins.
When I’m not out seeing games live, I’ll be watching along on MiLB.tv, which has every Indianapolis and Altoona game, plus every Bradenton home game. Also, 32 West Virginia road games will be shown live this year. Morgantown starts in June and all of their home games, plus a handful of road games will be available to watch. Sometimes the Morning Report intro section will just be me expanding on something that happened the previous night in the game(s) I watched.
I usually base my game choice on whether someone else from the site is covering a game. Occasionally I’ll watch a game even if it has live coverage, such as Altoona games with Mitch Keller on the mound, since he’s the top prospect in the system. In some cases, it’s better to have multiple people watching certain games.
This year we are switching up the Prospect Watch a little by getting rid of live reports in the article and going with standard game recaps. There will still be live coverage, but instead of getting quotes after the game for the Prospect Watch, our writers will be presenting more features on the players from the teams that they are covering. That will help keep information from getting lost in the long recaps, which seemed to be something that happened a lot last year with 2-4 live games every day. The current article schedule calls for two features per affiliate each week.
Our Prospect Watch includes the top 30 prospects in the minors at the top of each article for quick access to their day in the minors. You’ll notice that we took out Dovydas Neverauskas, Edgar Santana and Colin Moran, who could all lose their prospect status soon. So technically, the #30 prospect on the list later today is actually our #33 prospect right now. The two pitchers each need a few more appearances before they are no longer considered prospects, while Moran is further away (80+ at-bats), but I don’t see him going to the minors anytime soon. Clay Holmes is the only other prospect in the majors right now and I expect him to be back in Indianapolis soon, so he is still on the list.
So there you have it. You can expect a Morning Report every morning around 8:00 AM, and then the Prospect Watch will go live sometime in the afternoon or early evening. You will occasionally see it earlier in the day if there are multiple day games in the minors.
This feature is just here for today, since it is way too early to be thinking about the playoffs. Later in the season, we will keep you informed of the playoff push with the Pirates and all of their affiliates. Expect it to return near the end of May for both Bradenton and West Virginia, who play split-seasons and could be looking to earn a playoff spot in September by winning their first half title. That happened in 2016 when Bradenton won the first half, then went on to win the Florida State League title.
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 7-3 on Wednesday night to the Minnesota Twins. They now take on the Cincinnati Reds in a four-game series. Steven Brault will make his first start of the season tonight. He pitched three scoreless innings on Opening Day for the win. Homer Bailey makes his second start for the Reds. He allowed one run over six innings in his debut.
The minor league schedule begins with three games tonight, then all four full-season affiliates play tomorrow. JT Brubaker (pictured above), Eduardo Vera and Domingo Robles get the starts, giving you three top 40 prospects in the system on the mound.
MLB: Pittsburgh (4-1) vs Reds (1-3) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Steven Brault (0.00 ERA, 3:1 SO/BB, 3.0 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (0-0) vs Columbus (0-0) 7:15 PM 4/6 (season preview)
Probable starter: Nick Kingham (NR)
AA: Altoona (0-0) vs Akron (0-0) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: JT Brubaker (NR)
High-A: Bradenton (0-0) @ St Lucie (0-0) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Eduardo Vera (NR)
Low-A: West Virginia (0-0) vs Greenville (0-0) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Domingo Robles (NR)
From the opener at PNC, Colin Moran’s grand slam.
4/2: Pirates place Joe Musgrove on DL; Recall Clay Holmes
3/31: Pirates release Clark Eagan
3/29: Pirates placed AJ Schugel on disabled list.
3/28: Pirates release seven minor league players, including Barrett Barnes and Cody Dickson
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
On this date in 1975, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded pitcher Wayne Simpson to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for outfielder Bill Robinson. Simpson, a 26-year-old starting pitcher, played four seasons in the majors (1970-73) prior to the trade. After coming over to the Pirates from the Royals in a March 1974 trade, he spent the entire 1974 season at AAA, where he went 9-10, 3.32 in 160 innings. Robinson was 31 years old, coming off a 1974 season in which he hit .236 with five homers in 100 games. Just one season earlier, he had hit .288 with 25 homers for the Phillies.
Following the trade, Robinson played eight seasons for the Pirates. He saw plenty of time at the four corner infield/outfield spots over the years. In 805 games with Pittsburgh, he hit .276 with 109 homers and 412 RBIs. His best year was 1977, when he hit .304 with 26 homers and 104 RBIs. Simpson pitched just 30.2 innings for the Phillies.
Former players born on this date include:
Lastings Milledge, 2009-10 outfielder.
Rennie Stennett, second baseman for the Pirates from 1971 until 1979 and owner of a seven-hit game (7-for-7) on September 16, 1975. Following the 1979 World Series, Stennett became a free agent and signed with the Giants, where he finished his career two seasons later. While with the Pirates he .278 with 458 runs scored and 1,122 hits in 1,079 games. In 1974 and 1976, he led all NL second baseman in putouts. He received MVP votes during the 1974 and 1977 seasons. Rennie played over 100 games in eight straight seasons with the Pirates.
Wid Conroy, 1902 shortstop, who manned the position right before Honus Wagner took it over full-time.
Bill Gray, third baseman for the 1898 Pirates.
Chuck Lauer, outfielder/catcher for the Alleghenys in 1884 and 1889.
You can find more information on each player here.