Morning Report: A Look at the Top Prospects from the 2017 GCL Pirates

Yesterday we looked at the progress from the top ten prospects for the 2017 DSL Pirates. Today we jump to the 2017 GCL Pirates. I’ll mention right away that Conner Uselton wasn’t eligible for the list because he didn’t play enough.

Here’s the top ten list followed by notes:

  1. Shane Baz
  2. Lolo Sanchez
  3. Calvin Mitchell
  4. Mason Martin
  5. Cody Bolton
  6. Rodolfo Castro
  7. Steven Jennings
  8. Jeremias Portorreal
  9. Austin Shields
  10. Samuel Reyes

We start at the top with Shane Baz, who is making his season debut today. He’s been disappointing in the sense that he didn’t get an aggressive push to West Virginia as planned last month. He’s had control issues, although one of his recent starts was labeled as outstanding, and he was throwing harder than last year when we saw him. He would still be the top prospect at this point, although a couple of other players make it closer than before.

I’ll do these next four players in pairs, even though they aren’t in order. Lolo Sanchez and Mason Martin both got pushes to West Virginia and both were 18 years old on Opening Day. Neither has played anywhere close to what we saw last year. Martin got demoted, while Sanchez was moved to the ninth spot in the order after batting lead-off the last two years. Like Baz, it’s disappointing in a sense, but if they opened up the season at Bristol like a normal rate (which is where Conner Uselton is this year) and still made it to West Virginia as a teenager next year, most people would have been fine with that scenario.

On the flip side, Calvin Mitchell and Cody Bolton have both exceeded the best case scenarios for them. Bolton looked much better this spring and reports from Extended Spring Training were great, but we still didn’t expect him to go to West Virginia and pitch great. Mitchell has been hitting all season and ranks  fifth in the South Atlantic League in OPS. When players get an aggressive push, you mostly hope that they hold their own in the league. He’s doing a lot more than that, and if he can finish strong, then you’re talking about his prospect status really taking off.

We did make a change to that list in our prospect guide, flipping Jennings and Castro. That was after we got better reports on Jennings, but before his off-season rib injury, and well before we found out Castro was getting the aggressive push to Low-A ball. Jennings was pitching well during Extended Spring Training, while Castro is doing okay as one of the younger players in the South Atlantic League, so the book ranking seems correct now for those two players. Jennings debuted last night and was strong through four innings before a rough fifth. He was pitching four innings regularly in Extended Spring Training, but only went past the fourth recently.

Portorreal and Shields were a big drop-off from Jennings, as neither got a lot of consideration for our top 50 list. Both players really haven’t made any progress this year according to reports, so they would still be far back from the top seven players. Samuel Reyes has the upside of a reliever, so that limits his prospect status, but he would now be ahead of Shields and Portorreal. Reyes has terrific stuff and throws mid-90s, plus he’s in West Virginia now. As mentioned yesterday with Reyes on the DSL list, he could be first to the majors on this list as well.

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 3-2 to the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday night. The Pirates will now send Chad Kuhl to the mound for his 14th start. He allowed one run over six innings against the Cincinnati Reds in his last start. The Brewers scheduled starter is left-hander Brent Suter, who has a 4.30 ERA in 75.1 innings, with 62 strikeouts and a 1.22 WHIP. He gave up four runs over 12 innings in his last two starts combined, which were both against the Philadelphia Phillies.

The minor league schedule includes the first start of the season for 2017 first round pick Shane Baz, who gets the ball for Bristol’s second game. Nick Kingham will try to follow up his near perfect game of eight innings with no walks and two hits, including one he misplayed himself. Altoona has a doubleheader today after a rain out last night, so Mitch Keller has been pushed back a day. No word yet on the second starter. It was scheduled to be Taylor Hearn, but teams usually don’t use two starters on the same day, so we will see. Luis Escobar gets the ball for Bradenton. He allowed six runs in his last start and has walked at least three batters in each of his last five starts. No starter is listed for Morgantown, but they should be circling back to Opening Day starter Alex Manasa, so I included his stats below. West Virginia is on their All-Star break.

MLB: Pittsburgh (36-37) vs Brewers (43-30) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Chad Kuhl (3.76 ERA, 75:30 SO/BB, 79.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (37-31) vs Norfolk (36-31) 1:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Nick Kingham (1.67 ERA, 36:10 SO/BB, 37.2 IP)

AA: Altoona (34-29) @ Richmond (34-32) 5:35 PM DH (season preview)
Probable starter: Mitch Keller (3.25 ERA, 66:29 SO/BB, 72.0 IP) and TBD

High-A: Bradenton (34-30)  vs Clearwater (32-35) 10:30 AM (season preview)
Probable starter: Luis Escobar (4.45 ERA, 52:29 SO/BB, 62.2 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (37-29) @ Hickory (30-38) 7:05 PM 6/21 (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD (0.00 ERA, 0.0 SO/BB, 0.0 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (1-4) @ Batavia (2-3) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Alex Manasa (1.50 ERA, 3:1 SO/BB, 6.0 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (1-0) @ Greeneville (0-1) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Shane Baz (0.00 ERA, 0:0 SO/BB, 0.0 IP)

GCL: Pirates (0-3) vs Tigers East 12:00 PM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates1 (7-8) vs Cubs1 10:30 AM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates2 (5-10) vs Mariners 10:30 AM (season preview)

HIGHLIGHTS

From Bradenton on Monday night, a routine grounder causes confusion and a win

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

6/20: Pirates sign three draft picks

6/20: Pirates sign Matt Morrow and Pat Dorrian

6/20: Enny Romero assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

6/18: Richard Rodriguez activated from disabled list. Dovydas Neverauskas optioned to Indianapolis

6/18: Pirates recall Jose Osuna. Jacob Stallings optioned to Indianapolis.

6/16: Tyler Eppler placed on Temporary Inactive List.

6/15: Jung Ho Kang assigned to Indianapolis.

6/15: Pirates sign Travis Swaggerty

6/14: Pirates release Luis Cadet and Jess Amedee.

6/14: Pirates sign Antonio Gonzalez.

6/13: Pirates sign Enrique Santana, Bladimir Susana and Domingo Gonzalez.

6/13: Pirates sign nine draft picks.

6/13: Oddy Nunez activated from the disabled list. Jess Amedee assigned to Bristol.

6/12: Jerrick Suiter placed on Indianapolis disabled list.

6/12: Pirates sign three draft picks.

6/12: Enny Romero assigned to Bradenton on rehab

6/11: Pirates sign seven draft picks.

6/11: Jung Ho Kang assigned to  Indianapolis on rehab.

6/10: Ivan Nova activated from the DL. Nick Kingham optioned to Indianapolis.

6/10: Jacob Stallings recalled from Indianapolis. Adam Frazier optioned to Indianapolis.

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a trade of note. Starting with the 1918 trade that sent pitcher Elmer Jacobs to the Phillies for pitcher Erskine Mayer. The deal looked good short-term for the Pirates, but they ended up putting Mayer on waivers in 1919 and he ended the season with the Chicago White Sox, who were the infamous Black Sox team that threw the World Series. Jacobs lasted in the majors eight years longer than Mayer, though he didn’t do much for the Phillies.

Players born on this date include utility fielder Rob Mackowiak (2001-05), outfielder Gary Varsho (1991-92, 1994), infielder Clem Koshorek (1952-53), pitcher Ed Warner (1912) and pitcher Bill Clemensen, who pitched for the Pirates in 1939, 1941 and 1946. He never left the Pirates for another team, instead he spent the 1940 season in the minors and 1942-45 serving in the military during WWII. You can find mini bios for all of these players in the link above.

Also including in the link above is a recap of two extra-inning wins over the Cubs on this date in 1983. Those games were the beginning of a nine-game win streak by the Pirates. You can find those boxscores here: Game One Game Two

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