The Pittsburgh Pirates had an interesting group of players at Indianapolis to open up this season. It included some of the top hitting prospects in the system and two of the top starting pitching prospects. The Indians are playing well as a team, trailing first place in their division by a 1/2 game and leading the wild card race by two games.Here’s a look at the team at the All-Star break.

Austin Meadows was the top prospect in Indianapolis when the season started. Mitch Keller now holds that title, while Meadows used up his prospect status in the majors late last month. Meadows hit .294/.336/.397 in 32 games at Indianapolis, stealing eight bases in nine tries and playing some strong defense in the outfield. The average/OBP are about the same with the Pirates, while the slugging is a bit higher.

Kevin Newman has a .307/.355/.393 slash line this season, with 21 steals in 30 attempts and five errors, with just two of those coming at shortstop. He looks like he’s ready for the majors. The defense isn’t going to wow you, but it’s very steady. He’s stealing bases and getting on base, even without a big walk total. He will probably see a drop in the average/OBP in the majors, but he looks like a solid all-around, bottom of the order hitter who is ready now.

Kevin Kramer is showing some power with 34 extra-base hits, to go along with a .277 average. He’s made 41 starts at second base, 15 at shortstop and 12 at third base. I’ve mentioned it a few times in The 21 when Kramer had big weeks, but it’s worth repeating. He could still use some Triple-A experience, especially if the Pirates want him playing somewhere besides second base. His strikeouts are high and he has enough speed to do better than he does on the bases. I believe that a player as close as he is to being MLB ready, can finish learning on the job, as long as he’s getting regular playing time in the majors. So calling him up at any time there’s an opening for him makes sense.

Jordan Luplow and Jose Osuna are basically in the same spot. Solid bench players who have proven that they can hit in Triple-A. It’s doubtful that either gets a real chance in Pittsburgh this year, but they provide some power off the bench. When healthy, you can put Christopher Bostick in the same group of being Triple-A proven, without a spot to get regular time. Bostick adds more versatility, without the power potential. Indianapolis also had/has Adam Frazier, Max Moroff and Jacob Stallings, who you pretty much know what you’re getting from them. It’s a lot of recent MLB experience from these six players, though only Frazier has broken through the hurdle to get a chance to play regularly.

Then there is a really interesting group of three players. Eric Wood, Wyatt Mathisen and Pablo Reyes. All of them are putting up solid numbers in what is their last year before minor league free agency. It’s entirely possible that none of them are around after this season. One of the big problems for them is that the Pirates need to put a lot of players on the 40-man roster between now and the Rule 5 and these three would be lower priorities on that list. I could see them all being offered minor league contracts after the season, but they really need to break out over the final eight weeks of the season for anything more to happen.

On the pitching side, I mentioned Mitch Keller above, but there isn’t much to say about his two starts. Neither went well, but he’s had poor starts before, so it’s much too early to show concern.

Nick Kingham and Clay Holmes will be making starts this week for the Pirates and both pitched well for Indianapolis this year. I think both took steps forward since last year, with Kingham adding an effective slider and Holmes showing better control recently. Kingham was in a bad place at this time last year, but a long meeting with the coaches and Jacob Stallings really got through to him and he’s been a changed pitcher since then.

Coming into this spring, JT Brubaker and Brandon Waddell both looked like they could start the season in Indianapolis. They didn’t, but quickly showed that they should have been up. Neither has dominated in their first bit of Triple-A action, but they have had some strong outings recently.

I assume they will finish out the season in the Indianapolis rotation taking regular turns. Both are Rule 5 eligible this winter. I don’t see either as possible September additions at this point, though strong finishes might get either of them added to the 40-man early. Waddell could be one of those tweener Rule 5 guys, where you don’t want to protect him this year, but you would feel that he could be picked. Brubaker seems more certain to be added right now, because a starter who has hit 99 MPH will be selected.

Tyler Eppler is another one of those Rule 5 tweeners, although he’s having a strong season for Indianapolis this year. Even last year when he was first eligible, there were some who thought he could be picked. A starter who throws strikes and sits 92-95, hitting 96 MPH, with a full season of Triple-A experience, could be hidden in an MLB bullpen. He’s been much better this year though, so it will be an interesting decision if he continues to pitch as well through the end of the season.

I think one of the obvious people you will see this September is Jesus Liranzo. He breezed through Altoona after being picked up on waivers right before the season started. Liranzo  hasn’t had a cakewalk through Triple-A, but a 3.18 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 22.2 innings aren’t bad numbers. The control has not be his strong point, but he’s already on the 40-man roster, so give him two more months of Triple-A and then watch him throw 100+ MPH in September in Pittsburgh.

We have already seen Tanner Anderson and Alex McRae make the majors, though I wouldn’t bet on either holding their 40-man roster spot over the winter. With the amount of players who the Pirates need to add, there would need to be a lot of open spots for these two to make it. I like Anderson better, but the Pirates seem to favor McRae. Both would likely clear waivers, plus their upside is limited, so I don’t think you worry about taking a chance of losing them.

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 5-1 to the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night. Trevor Williams will be on the mound today for his 19th start, coming off of five runs over 2.1 innings against the Philadelphia Phillies in his last start. The scheduled Nationals starter is left-hander Gio Gonzalez, who has a 3.76 ERA in 95.2 innings, with 90 strikeouts and a 1.47 WHIP. His last outing was two runs on eight hits and four walks over five innings against the Miami Marlins.

The minor league schedule includes Max Kranick starting for West Virginia tonight. He had a streak of 19 straight scoreless innings snapped last week due to a rain delay. He put two runners on base before the game was called in the fourth inning, then both runners scored the next day off of a new pitcher. No starter is listed for Bristol, but it should be Steven Jennings making his fifth start. Oddy Nunez goes for Bradenton, coming off of a start with two runs over six innings. Mike LoPresti (18th round pick) gets his fourth start for Morgantown. The DSL Pirates1/2 have doubleheaders today after yesterday’s games were rained out. Indianapolis and Altoona are both off until Thursday for the IL/EL All-Star break.

MLB: Pittsburgh (42-49) vs Nationals (46-45) 12:35 PM
Probable starter: Trevor Williams (4.60 ERA, 68:32 SO/BB, 94.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (48-39) vs Toledo (49-38) 7:05 PM 7/12 (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD (0.00 ERA, 0:0 SO/BB, 0.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (45-39) @ Erie (41-35) 7:05 PM 7/12 (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD (0.00 ERA, 0:0 SO/BB, 0.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (43-41) vs Lakeland (47-40) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Oddy Nunez (3.60 ERA, 53:34 SO/BB, 85.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (47-37) @ Hickory (39-47) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Max Kranick (3.47 ERA, 30:13 SO/BB, 36.1 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (10-14) @ Hudson Valley (15-9) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Mike LoPresti (3.00 ERA, 4:5 SO/BB, 12.0 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (10-10) @ Pulaski (9-12) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Steven Jennings (4.86 ERA, 11:8 SO/BB, 16.2 IP)

GCL: Pirates (7-10) vs Phillies East 12:00 PM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates1 (15-17) vs Rays2 10:30 AM DH (season preview)

DSL: Pirates2 (13-19) vs Tigers2 10:30 AM DH (season preview)

HIGHLIGHTS

From Sunday’s action, two guys doing the opposite of what you’d expect. Kevin Newman homers

Logan Hill singles…which was a walk-off winner for the Curve

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

7/10: Joe Musgrove activated from disabled list. Alex McRae optioned to Indianapolis.

7/10: Jackson Williams placed on disabled list.

7/10: Mitch Keller assigned to Bradenton.

7/9: Sean Rodriguez assigned to Bradenton on rehab.

7/8: Francisco Cervelli activated from disabled list. Jacob Stallings optioned to Indianapolis.

7/7: Pirates activate Michael Feliz, recall Alex McRae from Indianapolis. Dovydas Neverauskas and Josh Smoker optioned to Indianapolis.

7/7: Pirates released Felix Vinicio, Pablo Santana and Carlos Garcia.

7/6: Jake Brentz placed on Bradenton disabled list.

7/6: John O’Reilly assigned to Bristol. Sent back to GCL on 7/7 (really happened)

7/6: Rafelin Lorenzo assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab. Raul Hernandez assigned to West Virginia.

7/6: Jin-De Jhang activated from Altoona disabled list. John Bormann placed on disabled list.

7/6: Clay Holmes optioned to Bradenton. Pirates recall Jordan Luplow.

7/6: Raul Siri assigned to Morgantown.

7/6: Pirates sign Zack Kone

7/5: Royals claim Enny Romero

7/5: Francisco Cervelli assigned to Altoona on rehab.

7/5: Dylan Busby assigned to GCL on rehab.

7/4: Pirates recall Josh Smoker.

7/4: Scooter Hightower promoted to Altoona. Ryan Haug assigned to GCL Pirates.

7/4: Jason Delay activated from Bradenton disabled list.

7/3: Pirates released Larry Alcime.

7/3: Pirates sign Michael Burrows.

7/3: Pirates recall Dovydas Neverauskas. Tanner Anderson optioned to Indianapolis.

7/3: Montana DuRapau promoted to Indianapolis. Erich Weiss placed on disabled list.

7/3: Travis MacGregor activated from West Virginia disabled list. Gavin Wallace promoted to Bradenton.

7/2: Pirates signed a lot of international players.

7/2: Pirates signed even more international players.

7/2: Pirates sign Grant Koch and Mike Gretler.

7/2: Nick Kingham recalled. Jose Osuna optioned to Indianapolis.

7/2: Enny Romero designated for assignment.

7/2: Sean Rodriguez assigned to Indianapolis on rehab

7/1: Calvin Mitchell activated from West Virginia disabled list.

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus one trade of note.  Starting with the most recent player first, we have lefty reliever Javier Lopez (2010), catcher Ed Ott (1974-80), pitcher Hal Gregg (1948-50), pitcher Harry Wolter (1907) and 1898-1900 catcher Pop Schriver. Wolter played one game for the Pirates on June 17, 1907, throwing the last two innings of the game. Earlier in that same season, Wolter was an outfielder for the Reds. After his one Pittsburgh appearance, he moved on to St Louis two weeks later, where he was also used as an outfielder. Ott was a member of the 1979 World Series champs. He hit .333 during the series and drove in three runs.

The trade on this date occurred in 1992, as the Pirates improved their starting rotation by adding pitcher Danny Jackson from the Cubs in exchange for third baseman Steve Buechele. The Pirates were able to move Jeff King to third base full-time and Jackson put up a 3.36 ERA in 15 starts.

On this date in 1902, the Pirates moved to 49-15 with a 6-3 win over the New York Giants. It gave them a 13 game lead in the National League and it was the start of a seven game win streak. The Pirates would finish the season 103-36, for their best record of all-time.

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