For most of the 2018 season, the Indianapolis Indians were a first place team in the International League, yet they failed to make the playoffs. An 8-17 finished left them a 1/2 game out of first place and one game back in the wild card race. It was a disappointing ending, but it gave some young players extra time with the Pittsburgh Pirates in September.
Below you will find our final season recap for the affiliates of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Indianapolis used a total of 51 players throughout the season. Some were there on rehab, many finished the season with the Pirates, while 12 players are no longer in the system. That last group includes traded players in Austin Meadows and Christopher Bostick, as well Casey Sadler and AJ Schugel, who were able to declare early free agency two weeks ago. Everyone else of note is mentioned below.
We start with the top prospect in the system. Mitch Keller joined Indianapolis in early July and did not get off to a good start. He made ten starts with the Indians, posting a 7.99 ERA in the first five games, before finishing with a 4.82 ERA, a 1.55 WHIP and 57 strikeouts in 52.1 innings. He was expected to be a bigger part of the Indianapolis rotation this year, but the later promotion, plus the poor start, led to overall disappointing results, especially for a team that missed the playoffs by such a small margin.
Sticking with the starting rotation, Clay Holmes and Nick Kingham were back-and-forth between Indianapolis and Pittsburgh during the season and it seemed to affect both of them. Kingham made 12 stats with Indianapolis and had a 3.61 ERA, with a 1.17 WHIP and 58 strikeouts in 62.1 innings. He finished poorly, allowing 13 runs on 23 hits in his last three starts combined (13 innings). Holmes began the year in Pittsburgh and saw one relief appearance in two weeks. He got into a nice rhythm in Indianapolis before being promoted again, but the second half was a tough one. It included him going to the bullpen to help the transition to Pittsburgh. In 95.1 innings in Indianapolis, Holmes had a 3.40 ERA and 100 strikeouts.
JT Brubaker and Brandon Waddell both joined the rotation from Altoona fairly early in the season. Brubaker made just six starts for the Curve, while Waddell took a few extra weeks to make it to Triple-A. Brubaker was off to a shaky start, mostly due to control issues, before he really settled in and finished on a terrific run. In 22 Triple-A starts, he posted a 3.10 ERA in 119 innings, with 96 strikeouts and a 1.32 WHIP. Waddell was our July Pitcher of the Month, yet he had his share of issues in Indianapolis. Things got so bad at one point that he was pushed into a bullpen for a short time. He finished with a 4.19 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP in 81.2 innings.
Tyler Eppler was a mainstay in the rotation all season and he led the team with 25 starts, 153 innings and 118 strikeouts. He had a 3.06 ERA before the All-Star break and a 4.42 ERA after the break. The other regular starter for most of the season was Alex McRae, who struggled in Indianapolis, but some great timing (for him) resulted in two trips to the majors and his big league debut. He had a 4.77 ERA and a 1.57 WHIP in 117 innings.
In the bullpen, there were many regulars throughout the season. Casey Sadler, Josh Smoker and Johnny Hellweg all saw some decent time, but they are all no longer in the system. Damien Magnifico was the only player who was in the bullpen all season. In 42 appearances, he had a 3.57 ERA, with 64 strikeouts and a 1.47 WHIP in 70.2 innings. He can become a minor league free agent after the World Series, assuming he doesn’t re-sign with the Pirates.
The most interesting arm in the bullpen was Jesus Liranzo, a waiver pickup in early April, who dominated in Altoona before joining the Indians. He doesn’t have the best control, but he hits 100-101 MPH and has two solid secondary pitchers. He had a 5.00 ERA in 45 innings over 32 appearances, with a 1.38 WHIP and 47 strikeouts. Bo Schultz looked like he could see time with the Pirates late in the season until a right forearm strain landed him on the disabled list. He was returning from Tommy John surgery, so that’s not how you want to see his season end in July. He will be a minor league free agent if he doesn’t re-sign soon.
Tanner Anderson and Dovydas Neverauskas both put up strong results in Indianapolis and had multiple stints with the Pirates. Anderson gave up five runs on Opening Day. After that first game, he had a 1.93 ERA in 60.2 innings over the rest of the season. Neverauskas was the opposite, starting well and finishing poorly. He had two months with no earned runs allowed, then gave up more runs in August than he did in the first four months combined.
On offense, the big focus outside of Austin Meadows, was the middle infield. Kevin Newman and Kevin Kramer each saw time at second base and shortstop early, before Newman started playing shortstop regularly again. Kramer was named as our best hitter this season after putting up a .311/.365/.492 slash line in 129 games. He collected 53 extra-base hits and played solid defense. Newman hit .302/.350/.407 in 109 games, with 30 doubles and 28 stolen bases. That earned him an August promotion to Pittsburgh. He was steady on defense, which earned him praise from the managers/coaches in the league, who named him as the league’s best defender at shortstop.
Jose Osuna had an .875 OPS in 82 games with Indianapolis, seeing time at third base, right field and first base. In his somewhat limited time in Triple-A, Osuna hit 26 doubles, which was a team theme this season. Indianapolis hit 310 doubles, the highest total in the league over the last eight seasons. On defense, he made just five errors all season, including his time with the Pirates. Max Moroff made starts at five different positions with Indianapolis. He batted just .223 over 74 games, though a high walk total and some pop in his bat led to a .727 OPS. That wasn’t enough to get him back to Pittsburgh after the season ended in Indianapolis, which made it an overall disappointing season.
Adam Frazier was a regular at Indianapolis for a short time after starting slowly with the Pirates. He was awful in Triple-A, posting a .223 average and a .586 OPS, but his hitting picked up after returning to the Pirates. Pablo Reyes began the year in Altoona, though that didn’t last long. Once he got to Indianapolis, he became a valuable utility player, seeing starts at five different positions. He didn’t play any right field in Indianapolis, then saw action there with the Pirates. Reyes hit .289/.341/.435 in 110 games. The versatility, plus the hitting, got him a promotion to the majors.
Behind the plate, Jacob Stallings and veteran Ryan Lavarnway split almost all of the time. Stallings was seeing a majority of the playing time when he was with the team, but he had multiple stints in Pittsburgh, so it opened up more time for Lavarnway. Stalling played his usual strong defense, while posting a .749 OPS. Lavarnway had an .860 OPS in 77 games and earned a trip to Pittsburgh when the season ended. He also threw out 44% of runners attempting to steal.
In the outfield, Meadows and Bostick were regulars early, while Jordan Luplow and Jason Martin were the top prospects who are still in the system. Luplow started off slowly, which kept him in Triple-A for most of the season. He finished strong, ending with a .287/.367/.462 slash line in 88 games. Martin was the best hitter in the system during his time with Altoona. He joined Indianapolis in late June and that offense disappeared. Martin hit .211/.270/.319 in 59 games with the Indians. He played solid defense in center field, so he contributed in that area.
As for the rest of the players who were there for a majority of the season, Eric Wood and Wyatt Mathisen had decent seasons as part-time utility players, with Mathisen playing well early on and Wood finishing much better. Both are minor league free agents soon if they don’t re-sign. Erich Weiss and Jerrick Suiter were part-time players who put up disappointing results, though not completely unexpected due to their limited roles on the team.