Yesterday we looked at the progress of the prospects during the first two months for the Indianapolis Indians. Today we move down a level to the team with the most top prospects in the system, the Altoona Curve. Just like yesterday with Indianapolis, we will take a look at the top prospects who are still with the team now.
Jason Martin has easily been the best player on Altoona this season. The 22-year-old acquired in the Gerrit Cole trade, probably won’t last at the level much longer. He has things to work on, like his base running and continuing to get time in center field, but those can all be done at the next level. He already had success in 79 games at Double-A last year, and a .948 OPS this year, so there’s not much more he can prove at the level.
Ke’Bryan Hayes got off to a slow start, but we are seeing now why some have him as a top 100 prospect already. He’s been getting on base more and showing more power since the beginning of May. Add in his slightly above average speed, plus his Gold Glove defense and it looks like the Pirates will have a solid player to add to Pittsburgh sometime next year, with room to continue to develop.
Will Craig has been really streaky this year. He has a .737 OPS, which isn’t that great for a first baseman, but he had a long hitting streak at one point and already has 21 extra-base hits, so we are seeing more power from him. He’s just not getting on base enough, which is the opposite of what we said last year about him. A combo of 2017 on base and 2018 power, would make him a much better prospect.
Cole Tucker has been playing solid-to-strong defense, but other than that, we aren’t seeing the same player we’ve seen in the past, even in Double-A last year. It’s possible that all of these injuries that cost him time over the years are adding up. Three significant hand injuries and one major shoulder injury have hampered his progress, but until now, he’s been a better hitter at every level. The stolen bases are starting to come back this year after doing poorly in that area through mid-May. We are still talking about someone who is weeks away from his 22nd birthday, but this .601 OPS this season does not look good.
Stephen Alemais had a rough stretch at the plate for most of May, but he seems to be bouncing back. His defense has been decent at second base, which he is still getting used to at this point. He’s a gifted defender at shortstop. He figured to spend the entire season at Altoona this year, so there is plenty of time for him to pick up the pace
The catching duo of Christian Kelley and Jin-De Jhang gives the Pirates two players who have potential to backup in the majors. They are splitting time almost evenly now, both putting up decent offense while showing solid defense. The difference here is that Jhang hits minor league free agency at the end of the year and there’s probably only room in Indianapolis for one of them next season. That could change, but the spot would most likely go to Kelley.
Logan Hill is showing power, but his all-or-nothing approach is not leading to overall results. He has a .624 OPS in 54 with 67 strikeouts. That doesn’t work for a 25-year-old corner outfielder with below average speed and defense in Double-A. I left off Bryan Reynolds because he’s played 13 games total between his four games before his hand injury and nine games since returning.
On the pitching side, Mitch Keller is the obvious starting point as the top prospect and he’s part of an impressive group of pitchers starting today around the system (see below). I won’t go too in depth with him because we just had a feature article from Sean McCool you probably (or should’ve) read. Keller should be with Indianapolis soon, but it appears that the Pirates have faded from any possible playoff contention, eliminating the reason for him to come up late season this year. We heard the Pirates say they would like to have him available for October possibly, so they started him later this spring. I don’t think we see him in Pittsburgh in 2018 at this point unless they really want him to be part of the 2019 rotation from day one.
Taylor Hearn has pitched much better recently and his velocity is back, after throwing low-90s early in the season and during Spring Training. In 57 innings, he has a 1.12 WHIP and 61 strikeouts. That’s after a few rough outings in a row during April. There are still questions as to whether he’s a starter or reliever in the future, but the better he does in the starting role at this level, the more likely that’s where he ends up. Basically, I think his performance so far will keep him in the starting role longer than if he continued to pitch like he did in late April.
Dario Agrazal and Pedro Vasquez get passes for now. Agrazal was pitching well before getting injured, while Vasquez hasn’t pitched well after missing the start of the season with a Spring Training illness.
Eduardo Vera has made just three starts, but you really have to like what he’s done so far. He has pitched seven innings in all three games, continuing the workhorse type pitching he was doing with Bradenton before getting called up. He has a 2.57 ERA and an 0.86 WHIP in those three games. It’s too early to make any significant judgement, but it’s a great start.
Hard-throwing Geoff Hartlieb hasn’t had the desired results early on with a 5.91 ERA, but you have to like the 25:5 SO/BB ratio in 21.1 innings. Yeudy Garcia has really struggled, while lefty Sean Keselica is putting up a nice run after being squeezed off the roster for a couple of weeks when the Curve carried an extra pitcher.
Bradenton was eliminated from playoff contention. Their first half wraps up this week.
West Virginia was eliminated from playoff contention. Their first half wraps up this week.
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 13-8 to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday night. The Pirates will send James Taillon to the mound for his 14th start. He allowed three runs over five innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers in his last start. The Diamondbacks scheduled starter is right-hander Zack Greinke, who has a 3.53 ERA in 79 innings, with 83 strikeouts and a 1.10 WHIP. He gave up three runs over 5.2 innings against the Colorado Rockies in his last start.
The minor league schedule includes four top 30 prospects in the system. Clay Holmes for Indianapolis, Mitch Keller for Altoona, Luis Escobar for Bradenton and Cody Bolton for West Virginia. Holmes has allowed one run over 13 innings in his last two starts combined. Keller has allowed two runs over 12.1 innings in his last two starts combined. Escobar tied his season high with seven strikeouts in his last outing. Bolton has not allowed a run in three starts, striking out 19 batters in 15.1 innings.
MLB: Pittsburgh (32-35) @ Diamondbacks (37-29) 3:40 PM
Probable starter: Jameson Taillon (4.08 ERA, 67:19 SO/BB, 70.2 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (33-29) vs Toledo (39-24) 1:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Clay Holmes (4.00 ERA, 58:28 SO/BB, 54.0 IP)
AA: Altoona (30-28) @ Binghamton (34-29) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Mitch Keller (3.27 ERA, 63:23 SO/BB, 66.0 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (32-28) @ Florida (27-34) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Luis Escobar (3.77 ERA, 52:25 SO/BB, 59.2 IP)
Low-A: West Virginia (33-28) @ Augusta (35-28) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cody Bolton (0.00 ERA, 19:4 SO/BB, 15.1 IP)
DSL: Pirates1 (4-5) vs Rangers1 10:30 AM (season preview)
DSL: Pirates2 (1-8) vs Giants 10:30 AM (season preview)
From Indianapolis, only video up from Monday is this catch by Alex McRae, but you get to see Jung Ho Kang, Kevin Newman and Kevin Kramer…
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.
6/9: Jackson Williams added to Indianapolis roster.
6/8: Richard Rodriguez placed on disabled list. Pirates recall Dovydas Neverauskas.
6/8: Mason Martin assigned to Bristol. Jesse Medrano assigned to West Virginia.
6/6: Samuel Reyes added to West Virginia roster. Evan Piechota promoted to Bradenton.
6/6: Eric Wood placed on disabled list. Jerrick Suiter added to Indianapolis roster.
6/6: Cam Vieaux promoted to Altoona. Jake Brentz assigned to Bradenton.
6/6: Oddy Nunez placed on disabled list.
6/5: Yoel Gonzalez released.
6/5: John Bormann added to West Virginia roster.
6/4: Pirates released Andrew Walker and Linse Carvajal.
6/3: Cam Vieaux promoted to Altoona. Garrett Brown added to Bradenton roster.
6/3: Austin Coley placed on disabled list.
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
Two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus one trade of note. On this date in 2001, the Pirates traded infielder Enrique Wilson to the New York Yankees for relief pitcher Damaso Marte. Wilson spent 3 1/2 years with the Yankees, while Marte was dealt to the White Sox before the 2002 season. They would sign him again in 2005 and then trade him to the Yankees along with Xavier Nady in 2008.
The two former players born on this date played a total of eight games with the Pirates. Pitcher Darrell May made two starts and three relief appearances for the 1996 Pirates. He played seven years in the big leagues despite being taken in the 46th round of the 1992 draft.
Catcher John O’Connell played for the Pirates in 1928 and 1929, though he played three games total. His big league career consisted of one late inning replacement in 1928 and catching the last two games of the 1929 season.
The Pirates defeated the Royals by a 5-3 score on this date in 1997, the first interleague game in franchise history. You can view the boxscore here.