Morning Report: A Look at the Indianapolis Prospects and the Rising Numbers in the International League

The International League switched to using the same baseballs as the Major Leagues this year and offense is up around the league. As a comparison between last year and this season through May 15th, you just need to look at the team OPS totals. The IL had a league average OPS of .709 last year. This season, Syracuse is the worst hitting team with a .710 OPS. The entire league is up 72 points compared to last year. That could change for the better or worse over the full season, but in a decent sample size for this season, the worst team in the league would have been league average last year.

Looking at the league OPS is a good indicator of how well a player is doing. That’s instead of a straight comparison over leagues, because not all leagues are created the same. The Florida State League has a combined .667 OPS, so a player with an .800 OPS in Bradenton, would be doing much better compared to the league than someone with an .800 OPS in Indianapolis.

There aren’t many players of interest to look at with Indianapolis to see how they are doing compared to the league. That’s because injuries and rehab players have caused them to use a lot of players and spread out the at-bats. They were supposed to be a team filled with prospects this season, at least to start the year, but Jason Martin, Cole Tucker and Bryan Reynolds have all spent significant time in the majors. It’s mostly small sample sizes and veterans Trayvon Robinson, Patrick Kivlehan (traded last week), Eric Wood and Jake Elmore are all among the top seven hitters in at-bats.

We can look at the top three hitting prospects there for the entire season and see how they stack up.

Ke’Bryan Hayes is one of the youngest players in the International League, so that has to be taken into consideration when looking at his numbers. According to league numbers, he is 5.1 years younger than the average player in the league. Prospects are always going to be younger than the average Triple-A player’s age, but that is a significant difference. Hayes has a .723 OPS through play on May 15th, so he is well below league average this season, but would have been above average in prior years. The good sign here is him leading the league with 15 doubles.

Will Craig had one real streak of success and hasn’t hit much since. His .793 OPS is better than league average and he’s the average age for a prospect in the league, so the overall results are fine. The problem is that a .603 OPS in his last 25 games is a lot bigger to go on than his 1.283 OPS in his first nine games. The good part here is that there is no rush with Josh Bell breaking out this season, but if Craig’s ultimate value to the team ends up being as a trade piece, then you want him to have a nice run of success before this season’s trade deadline.

Kevin Kramer is the opposite of Craig this season. He started off slow and has picked it up recently. He has an .831 OPS, which is above league average, but it breaks down to .628 before May 3rd, and 1.192 OPS in the ten games since then. Part of his slow start may have been due to spending five days in the majors without getting off the bench. He went a full week without any at-bats and then was hitless in his first four games back in Indianapolis.

With his Triple-A and brief big league experience, you expect Kramer to be an above average hitter in the league. So when you break it down player-by-player for the three prospects getting playing time, they are really doing what you should expect on offense up to this point. Due to his age, Hayes gets some slack, but he obviously isn’t over his head in the league. Craig is league average, and the oldest/most experiences player in the group is performing the best. It might not be exactly what you want to see (what fan wouldn’t want all three tearing the cover off the ball?), but realistically, there are no disappointments in the group right now.

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 4-3 to the San Diego Padres on Thursday night. Jordan Lyles gets the start today. He gave up one run over six innings in his last start against the St Louis Cardinals and one run over 6.2 innings in his previous outing. The Padres will counter with 25-year-old lefty Joey Lucchesi, who has a 4.57 ERA in 41.1 innings, with 40 strikeouts and a 1.35 WHIP. He gave up one run over 5.1 innings in his last start, which was in Colorado. Lucchesi has pitched six full innings just once this season.

The minor league schedule includes Eduardo Vera gets the start for Indianapolis. His last outing was one run over six innings, which was his best performance since six shutout innings in his season debut. Greensboro’s Alex Manasa is averaging 8.8 strikeouts per nine innings this season, after posting a 5.2 SO/9IP rate last year. Bradenton’s Max Kranick has allowed nine runs in his last 8.2 innings. In his previous three starts combined, he gave up three runs. Altoona’s Scooter Hightower is coming off of six shutout innings on three hits and a walk in his last start. He has faced Harrisburg (today’s opponent) once this season and surrendered four runs in three innings.

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 (NOTE: There have been just three players released and two added since then, so the book is still 99% up to date). 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. Subscribers get 20% off the purchase of a book.

MLB: Pittsburgh (21-20) @ Padres (23-21) 10:10 PM
Probable starter: Jordan Lyles (2.09 ERA, 35:15 SO/BB, 38.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (20-17) vs Norfolk (19-19) 7:15 PM  (season preview)
Probable starter: Eduardo Vera (5.35 ERA, 32:12 SO/BB, 37.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (20-19) vs Harrisburg (28-11) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Scooter Hightower (4.58 ERA, 16:8 SO/BB, 35.1 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (22-17) @ Palm Beach (25-14) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Max Kranick (4.75 ERA, 24:11 SO/BB, 30.1 IP)

Low-A: Greensboro (24-14) vs Lakewood (14-24) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Alex Manasa (3.49 ERA, 38:10 SO/BB, 38.2 IP)

HIGHLIGHTS

From the Indianapolis game on Wednesday, Trayvon Robinson hits his first home run in affiliated ball since 2015. He has been playing Independent ball since then, so he has hit homers in between…and he also went from playing indy ball to playing in Indy

Here is Jason Martin going a long distance for a web gem

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

5/16: Tate Scioneaux placed on injured list.

5/15: Chris Archer activated from injured list. Clay Holmes optioned to Indianapolis.

5/15: Colin Selby assigned to Greensboro.

5/15: Matt Eckelman assigned to Altoona from Indianapolis.

5/14: Pirates release Erich Weiss.

5/13: Jung Ho Kang placed on injured list. Jake Elmore added to Pirates roster.

5/12: Tyler Lyons sent outright to Indianapolis

5/12: Zack Kone placed on Greensboro injured list.

5/12: Chris Stratton added to Pirates roster. Dovydas Neverauskas optioned to Indianapolis.

5/11: Pirates acquire Chris Stratton from Angels for cash.

5/11: Pirates release Ronny Agustin

5/10: Patrick Kivlehan traded to Toronto Blue Jays

5/9: Tyler Lyons designated for assignment. Pirates recall Clay Holmes and Montana DuRapau (added to 40-man).

5/9: Matt Eckelman and Luis Escobar promoted to Indianapolis. Joel Cesar promoted to Altoona. Samuel Reyes and Logan Stoelke promoted to Bradenton. Cristofer Melendez and Will Gardner promoted to Greensboro.

5/8: Keone Kela placed on injured list

5/8: JB Shuck assigned to Indianapolis

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Ten former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, and two trades of note. Here is the long list of players born on this date, starting from the earliest days of the franchise (bios can be found in the two links above):

Henry Oberbeck- 1883 first baseman. He went 2-for-9 in two games for Alleghenys, handling all 25 chances in the field cleanly, which was an impressive feat in the pre-glove era.

Billy Reid- 1884 left fielder. Hit .243 during his 19 games in Pittsburgh.

Frank Mountain- 1885-86 pitcher/first baseman. Went 1-6 for Alleghenys after winning 23 games during the 1884 season. Hit .145 in limited time, though he did draw 13 walks.

Fred Woodcock- 1892 pitcher. Was the first starting pitcher to make his MLB debut on his birthday, something that didn’t happen again until 1955. Star college player at Brown and Dartmouth.

Elmer Steele- 1910-11 pitcher. Had a 2.60 ERA in 166 innings in 1911 before being sold to Brooklyn in September.

Hal Carlson- 1917-23 pitcher. Won 14 games for the 1920 Pirates. Missed time due to serving in WWI.

Harry Riconda- 1929 shortstop. Was part of the underwhelming return the Pirates got for star shortstop Glenn Wright. Batted just 15 times over two months before being sent to the minors.

Ozzie Virgil- 1965 catcher. Played 39 games for Pirates before being dealt to Giants for Matty Alou.

Pascual Perez-1980-81 pitcher. Played sparingly for Pirates before being traded to the Braves for pitcher Larry McWilliams in 1982

Jose Guillen- 1997-99 outfielder. Went from High-A ball to majors in one season. Hit 14 homers in each of his first two seasons with Pirates.

On this date in 1956 the Pittsburgh Pirates traded outfielder Bobby Del Greco and pitcher Dick Littlefield to the Cardinals for center fielder Bill Virdon. The trade worked out well for the Pirates, as the two players they gave up did very little in St Louis. Virdon played ten seasons in Pittsburgh, plus later managed the team and still helps the team to this day during Spring Training.

Five years prior to that deal, the Pirates and Cardinals made another trade. The Pirates dealt shortstop Stan Rojek to the Cardinals in exchange for outfielder Erv Dusak and first baseman Rocky Nelson. This trade didn’t work out well for the Pirates, though Nelson had a second stint with the Pirates and hit a big homer during the 1960 World Series.

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