Morning Report: A Look at the Top Ten Prospects from Last Year in Morgantown

If you haven’t guessed today’s Morning Report topic, then you haven’t been following along this week. We started on Tuesday by looking at the progress from the top ten prospects on the 2017 DSL Pirates. Wednesday was the 2017 GCL Pirates and Thursday was the Bristol Pirates. Today we move up to Morgantown for a look at their top ten list.

First we start with the top ten list, then notes below on the progress of the players.

  1. Tristan Gray
  2. Deon Stafford
  3. Bligh Madris
  4. Ike Schlabach
  5. Dylan Busby
  6. Jared Oliva
  7. Gavin Wallace
  8. Scooter Hightower
  9. Chris Sharpe
  10. Joel Cesar

That list included two top 50 prospects near the back-end, plus the next four guys were bunched up in a group of players who were considered for the top 50, but didn’t make it. Schlabach and Madris actually did make it on after players dropped off the list.

At the top we have Tristan Gray, who was traded away for Corey Dickerson. While it doesn’t matter now for the Pirates, we can still look to see how he’s doing. Gray skipped to the FSL, where he is doing okay overall, though he’s been much better lately. He has a .760 OPS in a pitcher-friendly league, but he also had a horrible April and has been just under a .900 OPS since May 1st. He’s played mostly second base, with some shortstop and third base mixed in. The defense from afar seems solid, which is what we saw last year. If he isn’t still the top prospect from this club, he’s a close second. More on that soon.

Deon Stafford was going to take time to develop because he needed time behind the plate. He has improved on defense somewhat and he’s getting a lot of credit for running the game behind the plate. The offense has been strong, so he’s kept up the same pace and his prospect status should remain about the same when we do our mid-season update.

Bligh Madris is struggling recently and really hasn’t had any stretches of success. You give him some leeway for skipping a level and he did come from a small college. That being said, he’s a corner outfielder with his value coming from his bat, so you definitely want to see more offense.

Ike Schlabach was pitching well last year at Morgantown, then was used as a long reliever this year, who is making occasional starts. He’s had some really strong outings, with some tough games mixed in as well. The fact that he’s not starting means that his stock has dropped.

Dylan Busby is next and we actually changed this spot with Jared Oliva for the book. Busby struggled early, had a big week in mid-May, then got hit by a pitch in the face a few games later. He has not returned yet, so it’s an incomplete.

Oliva would definitely challenge Gray for the top spot now, which is amazing based on what we saw last year. He made a lot of weak contact last year, which didn’t hurt him as much because his plus speed allowed him to beat out a lot of infield hits and take extra bases in the gaps. He wasn’t hitting the ball like someone who would hit eight homers in the Florida State League, especially not in the first half alone. If he showed any power at all last year, he would have been rated higher. Now as a center fielder with strong defense, who steals bases and has power, he’s a legit prospect.

Gavin Wallace has shown signs of challenging for a top 50 spot with some of the best control in the system, to go along with solid velocity and the ability to keep the ball on the ground. He needs more consistency before that jump will happen.

Scooter Hightower was pushed up to Bradenton, though he also went to the bullpen. He’s pitched great, albeit in limited use, throwing just 25.2 innings so far this season. Chris Sharpe has been off and on at West Virginia, while Joel Cesar doesn’t have the control yet to be a legit prospect, but the potential is there.


Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 9-3 to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Pirates will send Ivan Nova to the mound for his 14th start today. He allowed one run over six innings against the Cincinnati Reds in his last start. The Diamondbacks scheduled starter is left-hander Patrick Corbin, who has a 3.48 ERA in 93 innings, with 117 strikeouts and a 1.04 WHIP. He gave up five runs over six innings against the New York Mets in his last start.

The minor league schedule includes the third start in Altoona for Cam Vieaux, who allowed one run over seven innings in both of his previous games. West Virginia starter Domingo Robles lasted just 3.1 innings in his last start after giving up one run over seven innings in his previous game. Fourth round draft pick Aaron Shortridge makes his second start for Morgantown, Adam Oller gets his second Bradenton start, while Roger Santana gets his first start for Bristol.

MLB: Pittsburgh (36-38) vs Diamondbacks (41-33) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Ivan Nova (4.42 ERA, 58:15 SO/BB, 73.1 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (39-31) vs Durham (39-31) 7:15 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Alex McRae (5.13 ERA, 63:31 SO/BB, 66.2 IP)

AA: Altoona (35-31) @ Erie (31-39) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cam Vieaux (1.29 ERA, 12:0 SO/BB, 14.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (35-31) vs Fort Myers (29-40) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Adam Oller (4.22 ERA, 18:7 SO/BB, 21.1 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (38-29) @ Hickory (30-39) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Domingo Robles (3.29 ERA, 55.15 SO/BB, 65.2 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (3-4) vs State College (3-4) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Aaron Shortridge (3.00 ERA, 3:0 SO/BB, 3.0 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (2-1) vs Elizabethton (3-0) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Roger Santana (0.00 ERA, 0:0 SO/BB, 0.0 IP)

GCL: Pirates (0-4) vs Phillies East 12:00 PM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates1 (8-9) vs Indians 10:30 AM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates2 (6-11) vs Royals2 10:30 AM (season preview)


From Bradenton, two highlights from Wednesday morning. Luis Escobar first…

followed by Alfredo Reyes


6/21: Pirates sign Kyle Mottice and Steven Kraft.

6/21: Tyler Eppler activated from temporary inactive list.

6/21: Cody Smith assigned to Morgantown from GCL Pirates

6/20: Corey Dickerson placed on Family Medical Emergency Leave list. Adam Frazier recalled.

6/20: Jackson Williams placed on Indianapolis disabled list.

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.


Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus one high-scoring game of note from 90 years ago. The players born on this date include 1999 outfielder Brant Brown, pitcher Dave Tomlin (1983 and 1985) and pitcher Gus Thompson of the 1903 National League champs. The Pirates played in the first modern-day World Series that year and Thompson got a chance to pitch the final two innings during a game five blowout. The team was short-handed due to injuries, leaving Thompson as one of the few healthy available pitchers. The two teams agreed to only use players on the roster before September 1st and Thompson made his debut on August 31st. He had a 3.56 ERA in 43 innings with the Pirates.

On this date in 1925, the Pirates defeated the St Louis Cardinals in St Louis by a 24-6 score. It fell three runs short of the team high for runs set back in 1894. The Pirates had two big innings, leaving the score lopsided in their favor. They started off with eight runs in the first, then put a ten spot on the board in the eighth inning. The Pirates hit six homers in the game and George Grantham drove in six runs. You can view the boxscore here.