One of the best things about the current draft system is that you don’t have to wait around that long for picks to sign. We’re now two weeks removed from the draft and the Pirates have already signed 29 of their 42 picks this year. That includes all but two of their top ten round picks.

Those last two picks will sign, and once they do, it will set how much the Pirates have remaining for over-slot guys after the top ten rounds. But there could be a bit of a break before those final players enter the system.

The two players the Pirates are waiting on are fourth round right-handed pitcher J.C. Flowers and ninth round shortstop Ethan Paul. Flowers plays for Florida State, while Paul plays for Vanderbilt. Both teams are still alive in the NCAA College World Series.

Florida State lost last night. They play again tomorrow night, and a loss there would eliminate them from the tournament. Vanderbilt plays tonight, and the earliest they could be eliminated is Thursday, with two straight losses.

The College World Series goes until June 26th, so at most the Pirates would have to wait for a little over a week for their final two players. That would allow them to move on to the over-slot guys with about three weeks remaining to sign those guys.

Right now they have $658,500 to spend on over-slot deals, not counting what they get from Flowers and Paul. They’ll definitely save some money with Paul, as he’s a college senior with a slot of $152,300. They could also save some on Flowers, as I doubt he would get the full $460,000 slot price for his pick.

Both players will end up signing, but it will be anywhere from a few days to a week or more for them to become available to sign.

*****

Mitch Keller starts tonight, and it will be interesting to see how his pitch usage is this time around. He was hit around in the first inning last time after throwing over 70% fastballs in that inning, and avoiding his curveball for most of the game.

Last week I wrote about that issue, and how Keller’s last start reminded me of Gerrit Cole about six years ago. The key comparisons were how both pitcher used the fastball too often (something that was easier to get away with in 2013 than 2019) and neither used their best breaking pitch as their primary secondary pitch.

Keller was using his new slider a lot, and while that could end up being a good pitch, it’s not his best pitch right now. Tonight’s start will be key to watch whether he uses the curveball more often, and whether he tones down the fastball usage. I think he’s going to need to make those two adjustments from his last start in order to have better results going forward.

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates were off yesterday. They return home for a quick two-game series against the Detroit Tigers. Mitch Keller is scheduled to start tonight’s game, making his first home start. He allowed six runs in each of his first two Major League starts, giving up 17 hits and four walks in seven innings. The Tigers will counter with 26-year-old left-hander Daniel Norris, who has a 4.52 ERA in 67.2 innings, with 54 strikeouts and a 1.46 WHIP. He gave up two runs over five innings against the Kansas City Royals in his last start. That followed three runs on 11 hits over 5.2 innings against the Tampa Bay Rays on June 6th.

The minor league schedule includes the season opener for Bristol, who will send #12 ranked prospect Tahnaj Thomas to the mound to make his debut for the Pirates. He was acquired in the Jordan Luplow/Max Moroff trade with Cleveland this winter. Our Bristol season preview will be posted later this morning.. Brad Case makes his second start for Bradenton. He allowed three earned runs over four innings in his debut. Case still leads the South Atlantic League with an 0.77 WHIP. Cam Vieaux gets his fifth start for Indianapolis. He has gone five innings in all four previous starts, walking five batters in three of those games. Morgantown will send out Will Kobos today. The 2018 19th round pick had a .238 BAA and 42 strikeouts in 32.1 innings for Bristol last year, but he finished with a 7.11 ERA. Greensboro is on their All-Star break until Thursday.

MLB: Pittsburgh (32-39) vs Tigers (25-43) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Mitch Keller (15.43 ERA, 9:4 SO/BB, 7.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (36-31) @ Buffalo (32-35) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cam Vieaux (4.50 ERA, 18:16 SO/BB, 20.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (34-32) vs Harrisburg (42-27) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD

High-A: Bradenton (36-31) vs Clearwater (37-30) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Brad Case (6.75 ERA, 4:2 SO/BB, 4.0 IP)

Low-A: Greensboro (44-25) VS Delmarva (48-21) 7:00 PM 6/20 (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD

Short-Season A: Morgantown (2-2) vs Mahoning Valley (3-1) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Will Kobos (NR)

Rookie: Bristol (0-0) vs Burlington (0-0) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Tahnaj Thomas (NR)

DSL: Pirates1 (5-9) vs Dodgers (6-8) 10:30 AM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates2 (12-2) vs Giants (10-4) 10:30 AM (season preview)

HIGHLIGHTS

From Indianapolis on Sunday, a Will Craig double

and here’s Kevin Kramer picking up an outfield assist, though he missed the cutoff man

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

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

6/13: Pirates sign eight more draft picks.

6/13: Robbie Glendinning promoted to Altoona. Logan Hill promoted to Indianapolis

6/13: Indianapolis placed Ke’Bryan Hayes and Pablo Reyes on the injured list.

6/13: Pirates trade Nick Kingham to Toronto Blue Jays for cash considerations.

6/12: Pirates sign eight draft picks.

6/12: Pirates recall Mitch Keller. Montana DuRapau optioned to Indianapolis.

6/11: Pirates sign six draft picks.

6/11: Dovydas Neverauskas recalled from Indianapolis. Alex McRae optioned to Indianapolis

6/11: Cody Bolton activated from injured list. Hunter Stratton added from Extended Spring Training. Dean Lockery and Matt Morrow assigned to Extended ST.

6/11: Kyle Mottice assigned to Extended Spring Training

6/11: Chris Stratton assigned to Indianapolis on rehab

6/10: Pirates sign Quinn Priester

6/10: Jordan Lyles placed on injured list. Montana DuRapau recalled from Indianapolis.

6/10: Robbie Glendinning and Jesse Medrano activated from suspended list. Allen Montgomery assigned to Greensboro.

6/9: Shea Murray assigned to Bradenton. Hunter Stratton assigned to Extended Spring Training

6/8: Pirates recall Corey Dickerson, Jung Ho Kang and Michael Feliz. Nick Kingham designated for assignment. Cole Tucker optioned to Indianapolis. Rookie Davis placed on injured list.

6/8: Brad Case assigned to Bradenton. Luis Nova assigned to Greensboro.

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus one trade of note. We start with the transaction, which has a couple of ironic nicknames. On this date in 1908, the Pirates sent pitchers Tom McCarthy and Harley Young to the Boston Doves for pitcher Irv Young. The Pirates got seven starts and nine relief appearances in 1908 from Irv Young, who posted a 2.01 ERA. The two Youngs were part of an unfortunate trend back in the day, which gave players with the same last name, the same nickname. Irv was known as Cy the Second, while Harley became known as Cy the Third. Irv went 63-95 in his career, while Harley went 0-3. It’s safe to say, neither lived up to that Cy Young comparison.

As for the players born on this date, we have Ron Necciai, a pitcher for the 1952 Pirates. He had a promising career derailed by injuries. In the minors in 1952, he pitched 42.2 innings over four starts and two relief appearances. He struck out 109 batters. That’s not a misprint.

Newt Halliday, first baseman for the Pirates on August 19, 1916. He was a late-innings defensive replacement, who struck out in his only at-bat. The 20-year-old Halliday joined the Navy the next year and contracted tuberculosis, which he succumbed to in 1918, making him one of the youngest MLB players ever to pass away.

Ben Shaw, 1B/C for the 1917-18 Pirates. His career was cut short just like the other two, but his reason was a salary dispute. Shaw didn’t sign his contract in 1919 and instead played outlaw baseball, which got his banned from the majors until 1925, which effectively ended his big league career.

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