It’s a couple weeks into the Dominican Summer League season and the Pirates’ two entries, imaginatively designated the DSL Pirates1 and Pirates2, are doing just fine. Jointly, that is. Individually, the Pirates2 have been a powerhouse so far, with a record of 13-2 through Tuesday, while the Pirates1 have been held back by poor pitching, standing at 5-10.
A little context first. It should go without saying that stats and records in a league made up mostly of teenagers, some of them the age of high school sophomores in US terms, don’t mean a heck of a lot. The weighted average for a hitter in the DSL now is 17.7 years. For pitchers, it’s 18.4.
Things are changing, though. Just a few years ago, the Pirates typically signed about 10-20 players per year for their DSL team. Most of them would play two, three, even four years in the DSL before heading to the US, with some of course not making it there. Now, with much larger international bonus pools and a new international scouting director (it’s hard to pinpoint which led to what changes), the Pirates are signing as many as 60 players. Not only that, but a large percentage, if they make it to the US, move up after just one year. (Some of the older signees go straight to the US.) The bulk of the players on the two DSL affiliates are first-year players, while players who’ve been there over two years are rare, mostly pitchers who were hurt for extended periods.
I can’t say for sure how typical the Pirates’ experience is because I don’t follow other teams’ farm systems. One thing I can establish, though, is that ages in the DSL dropped in 2017, no doubt in response to the expanded bonus pools. Prior to that, they’d hovered for many years around 18.3 to 18.5 for hitters and a shade under 19 for pitchers. Of course, there are more teams now, but that doesn’t explain the sudden drop. In 2010, there were 34 teams, just over one per MLB team. By 2015, there were 38. Over the next four years, the number grew to 42, 40 (the year the average age dropped), 44, and again 44 this year.
I don’t know what impact that would have, but logically it should put 16- and 17-year-olds at less of a disadvantage as they start their pro careers. The same would be true of having fewer second- or third-year players in the league. This obviously matters because, among position players, these are the top prospects. (As you can see above, pitchers in the league average over half a year older.) So it’s possible that DSL stats might provide a bit more of an indicator of the “true talent” of the better prospects. Of course, there are still extreme limits on how much stats can show us, even more so than with players in US leagues, because these players are so darn young.
In any event, given that the Pirates’ two entries are made up heavily of young players who could become legitimate prospects, it’d be good to see the teams performing well and so far they largely have. The Pirates2 have the 12th youngest hitters of the league’s 44 teams and they’re currently third in the league in OPS, and second in both runs and slugging. Their pitchers are the fifth youngest and rank fourth in ERA and strikeout rate. The Pirates1 have the sixth youngest hitters and they rank right in the middle — 22nd — in OPS. They’re having a bit more trouble scoring runs, ranking 27th. Surprisingly, they’re 11th in slugging, but they’re 41st in walks, which is a big feature of DSL offense. The pitching for the Pirates1 has been an issue. They rank 41st in ERA, although they’re pretty young, at 11th.
Of course, none of this may mean much in the end. Hitting development doesn’t occur in a straight line. Pitching development can look more like a plate of spaghetti. But it’s better to have players performing well than poorly. Tomorrow I’ll look at how much of the performance is coming from the first-year guys.
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 5-4 to the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday night. Trevor Williams returns today to make his first big league start since May 16th when he left after 3.2 innings with a right side strain. He made one rehab start with Indianapolis, giving up two runs over three innings, while throwing 71 pitches. The Tigers will counter with veteran right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, who has a 5.93 ERA in 30.1 innings, with 21 strikeouts and a 1.35 WHIP. He allowed five earned runs in four straight starts until going on the injured list in late April with an elbow injury. This is his first start back after making two rehab appearances.
The minor league schedule includes Bradenton’s Aaron Shortridge, who was named as the Florida State League Pitcher of the Week on Monday for his seven shutout innings in his start last week. James Marvel gets the start for Altoona. He has a 2.41 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 33.2 innings over his last six starts combined. Eduardo Vera has pitched well in his last two outings, giving up three runs over 13 innings. He has lowered his ERA from 6.56 through 11 starts to 5.75 after those two games. He ranks second in the International League in innings pitched, one out behind the league leader.
Morgantown will be sending out Will Kobos today, after JT Brubaker took his spot in the rotation with a rehab outing. Kobos, who was 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. Bristol is sending out 20-year-old Luis Ortiz for his pro debut. Signed for $25,000 in October, he saw a big increase in his velocity, now sitting 93-95 MPH. Greensboro is on their All-Star break until Thursday.
MLB: Pittsburgh (32-40) vs Tigers (26-43) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Trevor Williams (3.33 ERA, 42:10 SO/BB, 54.0 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (37-31) @ Buffalo (32-36) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Eduardo Vera (5.75 ERA, 52:17 SO/BB, 72.0 IP)
AA: Altoona (35-32) vs Harrisburg (42-28) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: James Marvel (3.58 ERA, 62:22 SO/BB, 78.0 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (37-31) vs Clearwater (37-31) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Aaron Shortridge (3.38 ERA, 61:12 SO/BB, 74.2 IP)
Low-A: Greensboro (44-25) VS Delmarva (48-21) 7:00 PM 6/20 (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD
Short-Season A: Morgantown (3-2) vs Mahoning Valley (3-2) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Will Kobos (NR)
Rookie: Bristol (0-1) vs Burlington (1-0) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Luis Ortiz (NR)
DSL: Pirates1 (5-10) vs Dodgers (7-8) 10:30 AM (season preview)
DSL: Pirates2 (13-2) vs Giants (10-5) 10:30 AM (season preview)
From Indianapolis, nothing new was posted yesterday, so we go back to Sunday for Logan Hill’s first Triple-A home run
First Triple-A hit ✅
First Triple-A home run ✅
— Indianapolis Indians (@indyindians) June 16, 2019
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
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
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
Ten former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including two very good pitchers. Here is a quick list of the first eight, starting with the most recent. Catcher Dusty Brown (2011), first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz (2008), pitcher Willis Roberts (2004), outfielder Butch Davis (1987), shortstop Johnnie LeMaster (1985), third baseman Fernando Gonzalez (1972-73, 1977-78), pinch-hitter Don Gutteridge (1948) and pitch-hitter Harry Daubert (1915). You can read about all of these players in the link above.
Two others who put in more significant time. Jerry Reuss pitched for the Pirates from 1974-78, then returned during the 1990 season. He went 61–46, 3.52 in 158 games for Pittsburgh. The Pirates traded him to the Dodgers right before the start of the 1979 season. He pitched 22 seasons in the majors and won 220 games. You can read much more on Reuss here.
Bill Swift pitched for the Pirates from 1932 until 1939 and he won at least 11 games in each of his first five seasons with the club. He finished with a 91-79, 3.57 record in 164 starts and 141 relief appearances with Pittsburgh. As a rookie in 1932, he walked 1.09 batters per nine innings, which is the lowest total for a Pirates pitcher since that season. You can read a full bio on Swift here.