In our Bradenton season preview, we focused on the hitting of Travis Swaggerty, Calvin Mitchell and Oneil Cruz. That’s an impressive trio to have in the same batting order. There is also a lot of pressure on those players to succeed because the Pirates don’t currently have anyone who compares to them one level above at Altoona, or one level below at Greensboro.
On the pitching, the need for the starters to succeed isn’t as high because the Pirates have interesting starters at every level, and Extended Spring Training is loaded with high upside arms right now. That takes away some of the focus from the Bradenton pitching staff, but it’s actually a nice group led by Cody Bolton, Max Kranick and Aaron Shortridge.
Bolton and Kranick both have a lot of upside, especially after the progress they made last year. Both added some velocity, improved their secondary pitches and Bolton really filled out his frame. He was on his way to moving up the prospect charts until he was shut down in July due to a forearm injury. Despite being a college draft pick last year, Shortridge also has a lot of projection because he threw just 37.2 innings prior to his junior year, then was shut down after 30 innings with Morgantown. All three are among the top 35 prospects in the system.
The other two starters at Bradenton are Oddy Nunez and Domingo Robles. Both were top 50 prospects last year, but dropped out this year. Both are young lefties who have pitched well, but each of them lost velocity last year after adding it the year before.
Robles is an outstanding pitcher, with command over his fastball, changeup and curve, but it’s tough to make it to the majors when you’re fastball rarely breaks 90 MPH. In his debut this year, Robles was 88-91 MPH. That’s down about two MPH from his 2017 velocity, with the difference being that he was just 18 years old then and had a chance to add in the future.
Nunez went from 90-93 in 2017, to sometimes not even hitting 90 MPH in starts, going as low as 85-86 MPH late in games. He also showed worse control, which really hurt his prospect stock. He was actually demoted last year, while Robles finished the season in his place at Bradenton.
There are no sure things in the rotation right now. You have three guys who improved last year and two others who are young and have shown better stuff in the past. It’s a group that could eventually provide the Pirates with a lot of value.
** Baseball America had an article on Friday that listed the youngest players at each league in the majors and minors. Ke’Bryan Hayes is the eighth youngest player in the International League. The aforementioned Calvin Mitchell is the sixth youngest in the Florida State League. Oneil Cruz missed the list by 51 days.
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates won 6-5 in 10 innings over the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday afternoon. Chris Archer will make his second start of the season today. He threw five shutout innings in the home opener, picking up eight strikeouts. The Reds will counter with right-hander Anthony DeSclafani, who allowed one run over five innings, striking out eight batters, in his season debut against the Milwaukee Brewers.
The minor league schedule includes the season debuts of Max Kranick, Eduardo Vera and Brad Case. Kranick will need to be added to the Bradenton roster today. Vera will be making his Triple-A debut. Scooter Hightower will start for Altoona. He has already pitched once in relief this season. Bradenton will have Gregory Polanco and Dovydas Neverauskas on rehab today, joining Elias Diaz, who has been there since Thursday.
The full 2019 Pirates Prospects Prospect Guide is now available, up to date as of April 3rd, with every player in the minor league system. Includes full reports on the top 50 prospects, reports on over 150 other players, as well as looks back at the recent drafts and international signing classes.
MLB: Pittsburgh (4-3) vs Reds (1-7) 1:35 PM
Probable starter: Chris Archer (0.00 ERA, 8:3 SO/BB, 5.0 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (0-3) @ Columbus (3-0) 2:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Eduardo Vera (NR)
AA: Altoona (3-0) @ Akron (0-3) 2:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Scooter Hightower (0.00 ERA, 1:0 SO/BB, 1.0 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (3-0) vs St Lucie (0-3) 1:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Max Kranick (NR)
Low-A: Greensboro (2-1) vs Hagerstown (1-2) 2:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Brad Case (NR)
From Twitter again because MiLB seems to be behind on the video uploads. Here is a grand slam by Hunter Owen
GRAND SLAM, @Hunter_Owen11! 💪
Curve 7, Akron 5 in the fifth pic.twitter.com/NWaJolUpe8
— Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) April 6, 2019
In case you didn’t know, the Pirates allow facial hair for their minor leaguers now. Jerrick Suiter shows off his beard and hitting skills
We're up 2-1 after the first. pic.twitter.com/9ZVLHCRhUu
— Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) April 5, 2019
4/6: Eduardo Vera promoted to Indianapolis. Beau Sulser promoted to Altoona
4/5: Jared Oliva placed on injured list. Ryan Peurifoy added to Altoona roster
4/5: Kyle Crick placed on disabled list. Jason Martin recalled from Indianapolis.
4/4: Corey Dickerson placed on injured list. Jordan Lyles activated from IL
4/4: Jake Barrett claimed off waivers by New York Yankees
4/4: Rookie Davis and Stephen Alemais assigned to Extended Spring Training
3/30: Pirates trade Aaron Slegers to Tampa Bay Rays
3/29: Pirates sign Jorge Ramos and Geovanny Planchart
3/29: Pirates sign Eric Wood
3/28: Pirates acquire Jake Elmore from Chicago White Sox
3/28: Pirates set Opening Day roster
3/27: Pirates release eight minor league players
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
On this date in 1979, the Pirates made a trade that could have ended up costing them the title that season, giving up starter Jerry Reuss for Dodgers’ pitcher Rick Rhoden. Reuss was unhappy about his role in Pittsburgh, while Rhoden was just entering his prime. The trade ended up being one-sided that first season when Rhoden injured his shoulder during his first start. He would miss the rest of the year following surgery on that shoulder. The Dodgers got good use out of their new pitcher. Reuss ended up staying in Los Angeles until 1987, winning as many as 18 games (twice) in a season.
Even while losing Reuss and getting nothing from the deal from Rhoden in 1979, the Pirates still went on to win their fifth World Series title that year. Rhoden would end up winning 79 games during his eight seasons with the Pirates, while Reuss helped the Dodgers to the 1981 World Series title, so the deal ended up working out well for both teams.
Former Pirates players born on this date include (more on them in the link above):
Bobby Del Greco – 1952, 1956 outfielder
Jack Ferry – 1910-13 pitcher
Art Weaver – 1903 catcher
John Ganzel – 1898 first baseman
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.