I wasn’t totally convinced that the Pirates were going to promote Cody Bolton to Altoona this year. That has nothing to do with the perceived notion that the Pirates delay promotions and move slowly moving up their players. It has nothing to do with the performance from Bolton. It has everything to do with his inning totals.

Bolton pitched 44.1 innings last year, with his season shortened due to spending a month in Extended Spring Training, followed by missing the rest of the season with a forearm issue. He did pitch some innings in Extended Spring Training, but not a huge amount. He had 70 official innings prior to this year, spanning one and a half seasons. He’s already at 61.2 innings this year.

There’s no question that Bolton deserves the promotion. In those 61.2 innings, he has a 1.61 ERA, along with a 28.9% strikeout rate, and only a 5.9% walk rate. His stuff is strong, with a fastball that sits mid-90s, topping out at 97, with a lot of movement and good control. He’s added a cutter this year, which has generated good results, and is working on his changeup.

The Pirates are working to limit his innings, giving him time off twice already this season, and planning on more time off going forward as he needs it. But it looks like they don’t think he needs to be spending his remaining innings in Bradenton, which is a good call considering that the league wasn’t providing much of a challenge for him.

I’m looking forward to seeing what Bolton does the remainder of the season, and how he develops at the next level. This is a big jump and a big test for his stuff. I wrote last month about whether he could be the top prospect in the system. I think he’s an easy top five right now, probably an easy top three, and he might even be an easy choice for number one if Ke’Bryan Hayes and Mitch Keller were both graduated. As I said in that article, you could rate him number one right now if you wanted to get aggressive.

Our updated prospect rankings will be coming out after the trade deadline, and I’m glad I’ve got some time to watch Bolton at the new level before those are finalized. Right now I’d be more on the cautious side with his ranking — not that “easy top three” is extremely cautious — while waiting to see how his stuff adjusts to the upper levels.

By the time we update those rankings, Bolton will have about a month of time in Double-A, which still isn’t a lot to go on, but will give some indication of the adjustments. And if he picks up where he left off in Bradenton at the higher level, then I think he needs to be in the discussion for the top spot, regardless of whether Keller and Hayes are graduated. Regardless of that, he’s got a really good chance of being the top prospect in the system one day soon. I think the question is more “when” rather than “if”.

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates won 11-10 in 11 innings on Sunday against the San Diego Padres. The Pirates have off today. They head to Houston tomorrow for a three-game series against the Astros. Trevor Williams will be on the mound, making his second start since returning from a right side strain. He allowed seven runs on nine hits, with no walks and seven strikeouts, in five innings against the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday. The Astros will send out Gerrit Cole, who has a 3.54 ERA in 96.2 innings, with 148 strikeouts and a 1.02 WHIP. He allowed one run over six innings in his last start (Cincinnati Reds) and two runs over six innings in his previous outing (Toronto Blue Jays). This will be his first time facing the Pirates since the trade.

The minor league schedule includes the season opener for the GCL Pirates. The season preview can be found below next to their listing in the schedule. Mitch Keller makes his first start back with Indianapolis after making two appearances with the Pirates. His last outing was two runs over five innings against the Detroit Tigers six days ago. Brandon Waddell will make his second start with Altoona. During that first game he allowed one run on two hits, with no walks and five strikeouts, in four innings. He was pitching in relief for Indianapolis prior to being sent down to start.

Luis Nova is listed as the starter for Greensboro, though he would be going on short rest, so it could be Alex Manasa, who hasn’t made a start yet since pitching in the South Atlantic League All-Star game. Bradenton, Morgantown and Bristol all have off today.

MLB: Pittsburgh (36-40) @ Astros (49-30) 8:10 PM 6/25
Probable starter: Trevor Williams (4.12 ERA, 49:10 SO/BB, 59.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (39-34) vs Louisville (28-47) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Mitch Keller (3.10 ERA, SO/BB, 58.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (37-34) @ Richmond (27-45) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Brandon Waddell (1.80 ERA, 5:0 SO/BB, 4.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (39-34) @ Jupiter (25-44) 6:30 PM 6/25 (season preview)
Probable starter: Aaron Shortridge (3.95 ERA, 66:14 SO/BB, 79.2 IP)

Low-A: Greensboro (45-28) vs West Virginia (39-35) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Luis Nova (2.57 ERA, 14:4 SO/BB, 14.0 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (6-4) @ Batavia (6-3) 7:05 PM 6/25 (season preview)
Probable starter: Will Kobos (15.43 ERA, 3:4 SO/BB, 2.1 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (1-5) @ Elizabethton (3-3) 6:30 PM 6/25 (season preview)
Probable starter: Tahnaj Thomas (54.00 ERA, 0:2 SO/BB, 0.1 IP)

GCL: Pirates (0-0) vs Twins (0-0) 12:00 PM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates1 (7-12) vs Indians/Brewers (6-13) 10:30 AM  (season preview)

DSL: Pirates2 (16-3) vs Mariners (7-12) 10:30 AM  (season preview)

HIGHLIGHTS

From Altoona, Chris Sharpe had a nice game on Saturday, starting with his first Double-A homer

and also this nice defensive play

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

6/23: Jordan Lyles assigned to Indianapolis on rehab. Trayvon Robinson activated from Indianapolis injured list.

6/22: Gregory Polanco placed on injured list. Jason Martin recalled from Indianapolis.

6/22: Braeden Ogle promoted to Bradenton. Cody Smith promoted to Greensboro.

6/22: Jesus Liranzo assigned to Altoona.

6/21: Tate Scioneaux and Vicente Campos released.

6/20: Hunter Owen promoted to Indianapolis.

6/20: Lolo Sanchez and Rodolfo Castro promoted to Bradenton. Scooter Hightower assigned to Bradenton.

6/20: Chris Sharpe promoted to Altoona. Kyle Mottice promoted to Greensboro.

6/19: Pirates sign Jase Bowen and Ryan Harbin

6/19: Trevor Williams activated from injured list. Mitch Keller optioned to Indianapolis.

6/19: Hai-Cheng Gong and Yandy Vega assigned to Bristol. Emilson Rosado, Norkis Marcos, Nick Garland and Yoyner Fajardo assigned to GCL Pirates.

6/19: Daniel Amaral and Ryan Valdes placed on Bradenton injured list.

6/19: Jake Elmore placed on Indianapolis injured list.

6/18: Blake Weiman promoted to Indianapolis. Brandon Waddell sent to Altoona.

6/18: JT Brubaker and Brandon Maurer assigned to Morgantown on rehab.

6/18: Chris Stratton activated from injured list. Yefry Ramirez optioned to Indianapolis.

6/17: Pirates sign Matt Eardensohn.

6/17: Pirates sign Kaleb Foster.

6/17: Pirates sign four draft picks.

6/17: Raul Siri added to Bradenton roster.

6/16: Pirates recall Yefry Ramirez. Option Dario Agrazal to Indianapolis.

6/16: Rookie Davis sent to Indianapolis on rehab.

6/15: Pirates sign Darnell Sweeney.

6/15: Pirates add Dario Agrazal to 40-man roster and active roster. Dovydas Neverauskas optioned to Indianapolis. Keone Kela moved to 60-day injured list.

6/14: Pirates sign Sammy Siani and Ernny Ordonez

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including the franchise’s all-time leader in batting average. Starting with the players that didn’t hit .360 for the Pirates, we have third baseman Ken Reitz (1982), pitcher Al Gerheauser (1945-46) and Rollie Hemsley, who caught for the Pirates from 1928-31 and made five All-Star teams during his 19-year career.

Also born on this, pitcher Kirtley Baker, who played for the worst team in franchise history. The 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys went 23-113 and Baker won three of those games. Unfortunately, he lost 19 games, giving him the lowest winning percentage (.136) for any pitcher that has at least 20 decisions with the Pirates. Despite the poor record, he did have a highlight to brag about. At the end of June, he threw a shutout against the New York Giants and pitcher Mickey Welch, who is a 300-game winner and a Hall of Famer.

Finally, Jake Stenzel was born on this date and no one had a higher average than his .360 mark with the Pirates. He is the only player in Major League history to hit .350 with 80 RBIs, 100 runs scored and 50 stolen bases in a season four times. He did it three times with the Pirates, while everyone else combined in franchise history reached those numbers twice, both times by Honus Wagner. Stenzel hit .371 in 1895 and the previous year he scored 150 runs, which remains the franchise’s single-season record. His .429 on base percentage is also the best in team history.

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