We have mentioned a few times this year that the Pittsburgh Pirates have a strong group of position player prospects at three of their four full-season affiliates. That was also the case last year, although the weak team was the West Virginia Power instead of the Bradenton Marauders.
We assumed last year that the Marauders would be bad this season because that’s the natural progression up the system. It was an older group at West Virginia, which is what held them back the most. I thought it would be a good time to look at the 2017 Power offense to see where they ended up.
The hitting prospects on the team were Stephen Alemais and Adrian Valerio. Due to three injuries to Valerio, plus a hand injury and promotion for Alemais, they combined to play just 110 games for the Power. Only a handful of those games were together. Late in the season, they were joined by another prospect when the Pirates traded for Oneil Cruz. He played just 16 games, so combined we are talking about less than a full season between them.
Those three players are at different levels now, with Alemais in Altoona, Valerio in Bradenton and Cruz in West Virginia. The team had 21 players who weren’t consider prospects last year, so we look to see where they are now.
The best way to start is with the players who have been released because it’s bigger than any other outcome. That list includes Victor Fernandez, Sandy Santos, Alexis Bastardo, Clark Eagan, Ty Moore, Ryan Nagle, Chris Harvey, Nick King and Henrry Rosario. The first six on that list all had some potential, or in the case of Eagan and Nagle, they got decent bonuses. Moore was surprisingly cut this spring, though it appears he just got squeezed out by the outfield depth at Altoona and he immediately signed with an independent league team.
I left off Carlos Munoz, who became a minor league free agent, and Brent Gibbs, who just retired this week. So, out of 24 players on offense, 11 are no longer in the system.
Of the other 11, a small group is at Pirate City right now in Extended Spring Training. Logan Ratledge, Kevin Mahala, Garrett Brown, Yoel Gonzalez and Raul Hernandez all failed to make full-season rosters out of Spring Training. Then there is Andrew Walker, who was suspended 50 games by MiLB for failing to take his blood test.
That leaves you with Trae Arbet, Albert Baur (pictured above), Arden Pabst and Hunter Owen, who all joined Valerio in moving up to Bradenton.
You can see that a weak group of prospects on offense produced just six players who are above Low-A this season and only one player has returned to the level. Nearly half of them are no longer in the system and 1/4 of them are down at Pirate City waiting for an opening somewhere. The good news is that Bradenton helped fill out their roster with four 2017 draft picks who jumped over Low-A ball entirely and that group has some potential.
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 7-0 to the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday night. The Pirates will send Ivan Nova to the mound for his fifth start. He threw 6.2 innings in his start against the Marlins last week, allowing three runs while striking out nine batters. In his previous start, he gave up three runs over seven innings against the Cubs. The Phillies will counter with 26-year-old right-handed pitcher Ben Lively, who has a 5.87 ERA in three starts, with 17 strikeouts and a 1.63 WHIP in 15.1 innings.
The minor league schedule includes the third start from Luis Escobar, who has not walked a batter and given up just one run in 11 innings. Clay Holmes will make his first start of the season. He has pitched just once in relief for Indianapolis after spending the first two weeks of the season with the Pirates. Brandon Waddell has allowed just one run in 11.2 innings, while striking out 13 batters.
MLB: Pittsburgh (12-7) @ Phillies (11-7) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Ivan Nova (4.88 ERA, 22:4 SO/BB, 24.0 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (5-6) vs Charlotte (6-7) 7:15 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Clay Holmes (13.50 ERA, 3:3 SO/BB, 2.0 IP)
AA: Altoona (7-5) vs Richmond (10-4) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Brandon Waddell (0.77 ERA, 13:1 SO/BB, 11.2 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (9-5) vs Fort Myers (7-7) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Luis Escobar (0.82 ERA, 7:0 SO/BB, 11.0 IP)
Low-A: West Virginia (8-6) vs Asheville (3-11) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Gavin Wallace (4.91 ERA, 9:2 SO/BB, 11.0 IP)
From Altoona on Wednesday, they made it a little easier on me by putting three strikeout pitches in one video. Here’s JT Brubaker dominating. He has 21 strikeouts in 16 innings this season.
We're up 2-1 at the stretch pic.twitter.com/VgtknIijOE
— Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) April 19, 2018
4/18: Dylan Prohoroff placed on West Virginia DL. Matt Seelinger added to WV roster.
4/17: Brent Gibbs retired.
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, plus one significant trade of note. On this date in 1985, the Pirates traded away long-time closer Kent Tekulve to the Philadelphia Phillies for reliever Al Holland and a minor league pitcher named Frankie Griffin, who never pitched above Double-A. Tekulve still ranks second on the Pirates all-time list for games pitched (722) and saves (158), plus he added 70 victories, and he saved three games during the 1979 World Series. Holland only lasted until August before he was sent to the California Angels in a six-player deal.
Former players born on this date are: Outfielder Chris Duffy (2005-07), third baseman Mike Mowrey (1914), outfielder Steamer Flanagan (1905) and outfielder Sam Nicholl (1888). As an 18-year-old in the Ohio State League, Nicholl batted .331 in 92 games. At the very end of the next season, he was with the Pirates/Alleghenys, seeing regular playing time as five of their 16 players were injured. Nicholl hit .045 that October, then had a job with the 1889 Alleghenys out of Spring Training. Unfortunately, he injured his hand and was released a week into the season when he still couldn’t grip the bat tight enough to swing.
On this date in 1901, the Pirates opened up the season with a 4-2 win at Cincinnati. This was the 20th season in franchise history and ended up as the first time they finished in first place. That was before the modern-day World Series started, so the 1901 Pirates were declared the champions that season. It was also the first year of a three-year run in which they took the National League crown each season.