Morning Report: Three Up, Three Down for the Altoona Curve

In yesterday’s Morning Report, we took a look at the Bradenton Marauders, seeing what has gone right and what has gone wrong for them over the first two months of the season. That followed a look at the Greensboro Grasshoppers on Wednesday morning, highlighting the same things. Today we move up to the Altoona Curve.

The idea here is to first look at players who are exceeding expectations, then follow it with players who aren’t living up to expectations going into the season. The “down” players could be due to injury, performance or just not getting regular playing time. In the past when we did this, including Wednesday’s article, that could also include pitchers working out of the bullpen instead of the starting rotation.

THREE UP

  1. Hunter Owen has been a pleasant surprise on a team that is severely lacking top prospects in the system. In his first 50 games, he is hitting .297/.369/.566, with 12 doubles, a triple and 11 home runs. He’s also showing improved defense at third base. The 51:13 SO/BB ratio stands out, and points to him cooling off, but the 25-year-old Owen still ranks fourth in the league in OPS.
  2. Blake Cederlind has made seven appearances for Altoona since being promoted from Bradenton. He has thrown 12.1 shutout innings. This is coming from the same guy who posted a 7.59 ERA in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League last year. It’s not just the strong results, it’s the fact that he hits 100 MPH and now has a slider and changeup that he uses effectively.
  3. Jason Delay would have been higher here, but he has really cooled off recently. His hitting streak gives you hope that he could be more than just a glove-only backup catcher in the majors. Delay had a 12 game streak where he batted .512 and put up a 1.539 OPS. That was well above anything we’ve seen from him in his two previous years, but he has gone 1-for-20 since then (and 5-for-47 in his other 12 games this year) to bring his season stats back down to earth.

THREE DOWN

  1. The top disappointment here is the injuries. Gage Hinsz was the first to go down, suffering a forearm strain right before the season started. He was penciled into the starting rotation before that happened. Hinsz is working his way back, but Stephen Alemais is out for the season after shoulder surgery. He played just 12 games this year. Without these two players, Altoona was left with just one top 30 prospect in the system….
  2. Jared Oliva is that other top 30 prospect and he’s had a very poor season, while also missing time due to a concussion suffered in the first inning on Opening Day. He’s been back for over a month though, and through 37 games, he is hitting .205/.300/.303, with eight steals in 13 attempts. Oliva showed off a lot last year that made his a player to watch. He got on base in the lead-off spot, had his first signs of power, played solid center field defense, and he stole 33 bases in 41 attempts. Except for the defense, we haven’t seen any of that this season in a more hitter-friendly league than the FSL.
  3. There are plenty of possibilities for here, including Arden Pabst, who is off to a slow start with the bat. Adrian Valerio, who couldn’t capitalizing on a chance to play shortstop with his .341 OPS before he was returned to Bradenton yesterday. The down I’m going with is Yeudy Garcia, because he started this season off strong in the bullpen, then had a chance to start due to a hole in the rotation. After allowing one run in his first 11 innings, he has a 13.17 ERA, a .455 BAA and a WHIP over 3.00 in his last 13.2 innings, which would have been much more if he didn’t keep getting knocked out of games early. For a brief moment, there was hope that he regained his past stuff.

PLAYOFF PUSH

Altoona is in fourth place in their division, 9.5 games back with 18 games remaining in the first half.

Bradenton is in third place in their division, one game back with 16 games remaining in the first half.

Greensboro is in second place in their division, six games back with 17 games remaining in the schedule.

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates won 9-4 over the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday night. The Pirates are sending out Nick Kingham this evening. He went 4.2 innings in his start on Monday, allowing three runs on seven hits and a walk. In his previous two appearances combined, Kingham allowed 13 runs on 19 hits and five walks in eight innings. The Brewers will counter with 26-year-old right-hander Brandon Woodruff, who has a 3.22 ERA in 64.1 innings, with 75 strikeouts and a 1.09 WHIP. In his last three starts combined, he has allowed three runs on seven hits and five walks in 22 innings.

The minor league schedule includes the second start in Indianapolis for Cam Vieaux, who allowed two runs over five innings in his first time, with five walks and five strikeouts. He had a 2.86 ERA in 50.1 innings with Altoona. Bradenton is seconding out Nicholas Economos for his third start since being promoted to High-A. He had ten strikeouts last time out, one short of his season high set back on May 16th with Greensboro. Colin Selby will get his fourth start with Greensboro. He allowed four runs on seven hits and four walks in 4.2 innings last time out. His previous two starts combined included three runs over nine innings.

The Dominican Summer League season begins today. The Pirates1 really do play a team called the Dodgers Shoemaker, while the Pirates2 play the Royals2. You can see the season preview here. Altoona is sending out Sean Brady, who has a 4.81 ERA in four starts since being signed as a free agent. He had a 9.64 ERA with Eastern League rival Akron before he was released. Austin Coley ended up starting yesterday’s game, pushing everyone back a day.

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 (28-28) vs Brewers (32-26) 4:05 PM
Probable starter: Nick Kingham (8.28 ERA, 28:15 SO/BB, 29.1 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (31-20) vs Gwinnett (31-23) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cam Vieaux (3.60 ERA, 5:5 SO/BB, 5.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (23-28) vs New Hampshire (24-28) 6:00 PM  (season preview)
Probable starter: Sean Brady (4.81 ERA, 15:4 SO/BB, 24.1 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (31-22) vs Tampa (22-31) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Nicholas Economos (2.25 ERA, 13:5 SO/BB, 12.0 IP)

Low-A: Greensboro (35-18) vs Lakewood (18-35) 7:00 PM  (season preview)
Probable starter: Colin Selby (4.61 ERA, 14:5 SO/BB, 13.2 IP)

DSL: Pirates1 (0-0) vs Dodgers Shoemaker 10:30 AM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates2 (0-0) vs Royals2 10:30 AM (season preview)

HIGHLIGHTS

From Indianapolis on Thursday, Pedro Vasquez allowed one hit, one walk and struck out seven batters over six shutout innings. Here are some highlights from his night.

Here is Jason Martin going yard for his fourth home run of the season

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

5/31: Pedro Vasquez and Alfredo Reyes assigned to Altoona. Adrian Valerio and Ryan Valdes assigned to Bradenton.

5/31: Jack Herman assigned to Greensboro. Brett Kinneman assigned to Extended Spring Training

5/31: Allen Montgomery added to Bradenton roster

5/30: Connor Kaiser activated from Greenboro injured list.

5/29: Joe Jacques promoted to Bradenton.

5/29: Jake Elmore sent outright to Indianapolis.

5/28: Mitch Keller optioned to Indianapolis.

5/28: Alfredo Reyes promoted to Indianapolis. Domingo Robles promoted to Altoona.

5/27: Pirates acquire Yefry Ramirez from Baltimore Orioles for cash or PTBNL.

5/27: Pirates recall Mitch Keller. Montana DuRapau optioned to Indianapolis.

5/27: Cam Vieaux promoted to Indianapolis. Steven Baron activated from injured list.

5/27: Ryan Valdes and Austin Coley promoted to Altoona.

5/27: Alex McRae added to 40-man roster and recalled. Doydas Neverauskas optioned to Indianapolis.

5/27: Pirates recall Richard Rodriguez to serve as 26th man for doubleheader.

5/26: Francisco Cervelli placed on 7-day injured list. Jake Elmore designated for assignment. Jacob Stallings and Jose Osuna added to Pirates.

5/25: Pirates add Rookie Davis and Dovydas Neverauskas. Chris Stratton placed on injured list. Michael Feliz optioned to Indianapolis. Lonnie Chisenhall moved to 60-day IL.

5/25: Pedro Vasquez promoted to Indianapolis. Ryan Peurifoy added to Altoona roster.

5/25: Ike Schlabach placed on injured list.

5/22:  Ji-Hwan Bae removed from restricted list. Raul Siri assigned to Extended Spring Training.

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, and one has an interesting story attached to his last game. As for the other four players, we start with Hal Smith, who caught for the 1965 Pirates. He was actually a coach who got forced into catching duties due to injuries. He retired from playing in 1961, so he wasn’t that far removed from his big league career. He remained a coach with the Pirates for two more years. He is one of three players named Hal Smith who have played in the majors, and all three played for the Pirates.

Lou Tost pitched one game for the Pirates on April 24, 1947 and allowed one run in one inning. It was his last big league game. Other players born on this date include 1925 first baseman Al Niehaus and 1898 second baseman Bill Eagan. Niehaus hit .219 in 17 games for the 1925 Pirates as a 26-year-old rookie, before they traded him to Reds for pitcher Tom Sheehan. Eagan hit .328 in his brief time with the Pirates, but they let him go after he showed up to the park drunk (after staying out all night) and he was unable to play on June 3, 1898.

Finally, one player of note that was born on this date is pitcher Harry Gardner. He didn’t do much during his two seasons (1911-12), but according to his official career stats, he has been discredited for a long time. In his last game, stats that you will find anywhere say that he gave up six unearned runs and recorded just one out. Those stats are wrong. Gardner actually allowed three unearned runs and pitched a complete inning according to the boxscores and game notes from back on April 14, 1912. You can read a full recap of the differences here.

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