Over the last two years at this same time, I took a look at the minor league hitters for the Pittsburgh Pirates who were above average for their league. I used the average OPS for each of the four leagues that have affiliates of the Pirates. You can see the results of that article here. It also includes a summary of the 2016 results. You can look back on those lists and see which players continued their fast starts and who rebounded from slow starts or remained below average throughout the season.
Continuing with this yearly article, we take a look at the hitters who are currently hitting above average compared to their league. I used 75 plate appearances as the minimum each of the last two year, which I’ll use again for this year’s results.
The International League had a .711 OPS at this time last season. They are now at .696, which is a drop of 15 points. Jose Osuna leads all hitters for the Indians with a 1.037 OPS, although he no longer has enough plate appearances to qualify for league leaders. Christopher Bostick is up next with a .917 mark, followed by Jordan Luplow (.834), Eric Wood (.794), Kevin Newman (.766), Kevin Kramer (.758), Austin Meadows (.733), Pablo Reyes (.712) and Jacob Stallings with a .703 mark. In fact, that leaves just Erich Weiss as below average.
The Eastern League has an average OPS of .710, which is down 12 points from this same time last year. Jason Martin (pictured above) has a 1.029 OPS, which is near the top of the league. Will Craig is second at .810, exactly 100 points over average. Christian Kelley is at .806, while Jordan George leads a group of six below average players that also includes Ke’Bryan Hayes, Cole Tucker, Logan Hill, Stephen Alemais and Elvis Escobar.
The Florida State League had a .689 OPS at this point last year and they are just slightly lower at .686 right now. Bradenton is led by the .915 OPS of catcher Arden Pabst. He is followed by Albert Baur at .872, Tyler Gaffney at .833, Jared Oliva at .810, Alfredo Reyes at .759 and Bligh Madris has a .710 OPS. Adrian Valerio leads the way for the below average five, which also includes Hunter Owen, Lucas Tancas, Casey Hughston and Trae Arbet.
The South Atlantic League OPS last year at this time was .688, which was the lowest of the four leagues. The league is current fifteen points higher at a .703 average and it’s the only league of the four that is up over last year. Calvin Mitchell leads the way with an .885 OPS. He’s followed by Oneil Cruz at .849, Deon Stafford at .805, Dylan Busby at .773, Ryan Peurifoy at .708 and Mason Martin sneaking in just one point over the average. Chris Sharpe missed by just two points, while Rodolfo Castro and Kyle Watson are at .634 and .619 respectively, and Lolo Sanchez is the low low man with a .522 mark.
** David Lee retired on Monday. He was the 27th round draft pick out of Florida last year. He spent last season in the GCL, where he had a 5.82 ERA in 17 innings over 12 appearances. He saw limited mound time in college and was considered a project, but he had an outstanding curveball. Lee was seeing plenty of inning this spring, but decided to call it quits. He’s the second draft pick from 2017 to retire after 32nd round pick Hector Quinones hung up his spikes last month.
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates were off yesterday. They now take on Cincinnati for three games. They will send Jameson Taillon to the mound for his tenth start today. He tossed 5.2 innings against the Chicago White Sox in his last start, allowing two runs on five hits and three walks. The Reds scheduled starter is right-hander Matt Harvey, who allowed three runs on seven hits in four innings against the San Francisco Giants in his last start. He has a 6.17 ERA in 35 innings over six starts and four relief appearances this season, with 27 strikeouts and a 1.43 WHIP.
The minor league schedule includes Altoona with no starter listed, but Taylor Hearn is due to pitch, so it should be him. He has allowed one run over his last two starts combined. Indianapolis goes with Clay Holmes, who tossed six shutout innings in his last outing. The Indians have a morning start time. West Virginia starter Domingo Robles threw seven shutout innings in his last outing. Bradenton has a morning game today. Oddy Nunez allowed one earned run over six innings in his last start.
MLB: Pittsburgh (26-20) @ Reds (16-32) 7:10 PM
Probable starter: Jameson Taillon (3.97 ERA, 40:15 SO/BB, 45.1 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (22-19) vs Louisville (13-27) 11:05 AM (season preview)
Probable starter: Clay Holmes (4.31 ERA, 33:18 SO/BB, 31.1 IP)
AA: Altoona (21-18) @ Bowie (19-23) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Taylor Hearn (4.46 ERA, 37:14 SO/BB, 36.1 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (23-19) @ Fort Myers (17-25) 11:00 AM (season preview)
Probable starter: Oddy Nunez (3.69 ERA, 25:12 SO/BB, 39.0 IP)
Low-A: West Virginia (24-17) @ Columbia (22-20) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Domingo Robles (3.15 ERA, 36:9 SO/BB, 40.0 IP)
From Indianapolis on Sunday, Kevin Kramer hitting his fourth home run of the season.
From Altoona, Will Craig hits his sixth homer of the season, tying his season total with Bradenton last year.
5/21: David Lee retired.
5/21: Cody Bolton added to West Virginia roster. Dylan Busby placed on disabled list.
5/20: Pirates activate Josh Harrison from DL. Nick Kingham optioned to Indianapolis.
5/19: Pirates recall Nick Kingham. Max Moroff optioned to Indianapolis.
5/19: Sean Keselica added to Altoona roster.
5/19: Brett Pope added to West Virginia roster.
5/18: Travis MacGregor and Joel Cesar placed on disabled list. Max Kranick added to West Virginia roster.
5/18: Pirates recall Austin Meadows. Starling Marte placed on the disabled list.
5/17: JT Brubaker placed on temporary inactive list. Jackson Williams added to Indianapolis.
5/14: Jin-De Jhang assigned to Altoona. Jackson Williams assigned to Morgantown.
5/14: Josh Harrison assigned to Altoona on rehab.
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including closer Jose Mesa (2004-05) and reliever Julian Taveras (2003). Also born on this date, outfielder George Spriggs (1965-67), infielder Hoke Warner (1916-17, 1919) and 1908 pitcher Tom McCarthy. You can read mini bios for each player in the link above.
On this date in 1965, the Pirates sent shortstop Dick Schofield to the San Francisco Giants for Jose Pagan. The deal worked out well for Pittsburgh, as Schofield really struggled at the plate for the Giants and Pagan played with the Pirates until 1972, hitting .263 over 625 games, while playing games at seven positions.
On this date in 1923, the Pirates and Phillies hooked up for a four-player deal that brought Lee Meadows to the Pirates. He would win 87 games with the team, going 19-10 during both the 1925 and 1927 seasons when the Pirates went to the World Series. Among the return for the Phillies in the trade, second baseman Cotton Tierney, who hit .345 and drove in 86 runs for the 1922 Pirates. Pittsburgh also included $50,000 in the deal, which was a large sum for the time.
On this date in 1968, Willie Stargell hit three homers and drove in seven runs in a 13-6 victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field. During the sixth inning, Stargell just missed his third homer of the game, when he got a double off the left field wall. Two innings later, he put another one over the fence to cap off his day. You can find the boxscore for this game here.