In yesterday’s schedule section, I mentioned the long drought since the Pittsburgh Pirates had an international amateur free agent developed in their system make a start for the team. The last was Elmer Dessens on September 24, 1998. That streak was broken by Dario Agrazal making a start for them last night. He began his pro career in the Dominican Summer League and battled through a string of injuries in 2017-18, to make it to the majors. The next international starter won’t take that long, so here’s a look at who could be next on that list, as well as other names of note in the system.
I will mention that the drought didn’t seem as long because you had Francisco Cordova pitching after Dessens last appeared, as well as Yoslan Herrera for a brief time. Cordova never pitched in the minors, signing late and going right from Mexico to the Pirates. Herrera signed even later, and while he pitched for a time in the minors before his debut, he was pitching pro ball in Cuba since the age of 20. He wasn’t developed with the Pirates and definitely wasn’t an amateur.
You also had some relievers make it to the pros during that time, as well as pitchers who played in the majors elsewhere, like Joely Rodriguez, Luis Santos and Diego Moreno. So the streak of a non-starter didn’t exactly stand out for most people. I myself only noticed on the day Dovydas Neverauskas was added to the 40-man roster.
This article is about the future though, which looks much brighter than the past. There will be a future starter among the players in the system now and a chance for many relievers. Prospects are unpredictable, but if you have enough with potential, then you will get something out of the group.
So here’s the list of who could be next, along with some future hopefuls:
Luis Escobar – With the way Escobar is pitching, it might not even be 21 days before we see the next international starter, forget 21 years. He’s putting up strong stats as a starter for Indianapolis, but he still looks like a future reliever. He relies a lot of chases, so a patient MLB team will do well against him. In a relief role, you don’t worry about the pitch count, he can go right at the hitters with three strong pitches and a slight spike in velocity. I’m definitely not ruling him out starting in the majors, especially since that’s his current role and the results are great in Triple-A, but he still needs to throw more strikes in the zone.
Eduardo Vera – I recently mentioned a lot of things that have gone wrong for Vera this year. I think pitching winter ball this off-season ended up being a bad idea because he had almost no break this winter. He also started his training for the season earlier, hoping to make a strong impression with the Pirates. We haven’t seen the velocity or control/command we have seen from him in the past. He’s also been hurt by being a fly ball pitcher in a league with juiced baseballs. The International League is using MLB baseballs for the first time this season and the difference really shows. The other thing I didn’t like was that he got away from his best pitch, which is his changeup. His usage has dropped this year.
That doesn’t sound like a potential starting option, but Vera recently made a change with his mechanics and has had excellent early results with back-to-back strong outings. It’s just two games, so it’s way too early to declare anything, but he’s at least headed in the right direction. The Vera we saw last year would have already made his big league debut this season.
Domingo Robles – I’m not counting Pedro Vasquez because he wasn’t signed by the Pirates. They are developing him and he is making progress, but he doesn’t fit what we are looking for here. Robles is a lot like Agrazal, except from the left side. They both sit 90-92 MPH, though Agrazal will hit higher at times and I’ve never seen a 93 from Robles. They both have excellent changeups and a solid breaking ball that has changed for the better over the years. They also both throw a lot of strikes. Both are also very efficient pitchers who normally go late into games. Robles just turned 21 in late April and he’s already four starts into his time at Double-A. He seems more like a future reliever now, but his youth and 6’2″ frame say that there is potential for more.
Osvaldo Bido – At this time in 2017, all Bido really had going was velocity and a 6’3″ frame. He had poor control of all of his pitches and he really needed to add weight. He’s 23 in Low-A now, so normally that would be a bad sign, but we are talking about someone who is still filling out and still learning how to pitch. He can get his fastball up to 96 MPH and throws three off-speed pitches for strikes now. We are seeing improved results this season, as he continues to make a lot of progress.
Santiago Florez – A pitcher at Bristol is too far away to seriously say he will be a future MLB starter, but at 19 years old this season, the 6’5″, 222 pound right-hander from Colombia might have as much upside as any pitcher the Pirates have in short-season ball. Florez is a lot like Bido in that he has made a lot of progress since debuting in the DSL in 2017, but Florez is four years younger and has a bigger frame. He started hitting 96 MPH during last year in the GCL, while throwing more strikes and showing some improvements with his off-speed pitches. He has continued to show progress this year and will be a player to follow this summer.
There is more potential in the lower levels of the system. Someone like Jesus Valles deserves an honorable mention for his advanced pitching, which had him skipping from the DSL to Morgantown this season. He doesn’t have the upside of Florez or Bido, and isn’t as close to the majors as the other three, but he’s a very good pitcher with room to grow. The Pirates have also been spending more on international pitchers than in the past, so a future starter might be in the DSL right now among the 30+ pitches they have there.
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Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 4-3 to the Miami Marlins on Saturday night. The Pirates will send out Chris Archer this afternoon in the finale of the three-game series. He allowed seven runs over six innings against the Atlanta Braves in his last start. That came five days after he gave up one run over six innings against the Braves. The Marlins will counter with 23-year-old right-hander Sandy Alcantara, who has a 3.67 ERA in 76 innings, with 52 strikeouts and a 1.37 WHIP. He has given up just two runs over 18 innings in his last three starts combined. Alcantara has pitched much better at home than on the road this year, with a 37:16 SO/BB ratio in 44.1 home innings, compared to 15:20 SO/BB ratio in 31.2 road innings.
The minor league schedule includes a doubleheader for Indianapolis after they were rained out yesterday. No starter has been announced yet for game two, but Alex McRae will get the start in game one, making his return to Triple-A after a brief stay with the Pirates. He posted an 8.76 ERA and a 1.78 WHIP in 12.1 innings spread over four appearances in the majors. Beau Sulser will get his first start of the season for Altoona. Despite pitching strictly in relief, he has thrown at least three innings in six of his last seven outings. Sulser gave up one run over five innings in his last appearance. Colin Selby will make his seventh start for Greensboro. He has a 1.16 WHIP and he’s holding opposing batters to a .194 average. Left-handed batters have just two hits against him (.059 BAA) and both are homers.
Bradenton has off until Monday for the FSL All-Star break. Both DSL clubs are off on Sundays. No starter has been named for Morgantown, but it could be the season debut of 2018 11th round pick Michael Burrows, who has been in this spot in the rotation during Spring Training.
MLB: Pittsburgh (31-39) @ Marlins (25-43) 1:10 PM
Probable starter: Chris Archer (5.73 ERA, 61:30 SO/BB, 59.2 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (35-30) vs Pawtucket (29-37) 12:05 PM DH (season preview)
Probable starter: Alex McRae (5.18 ERA, 44:16 SO/BB, 48.2 IP) and TBD
AA: Altoona (34-31) @ Binghamton (33-29) 2:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Beau Sulser (1.34 ERA 27:10 SO/BB, 40.1 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (36-30) vs Clearwater (36-30) 6:30 PM 6/17 (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD
Low-A: Greensboro (43-25) @ Kannapolis (28-39) 3:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Colin Selby (3.68 ERA, 33:13 SO/BB, 29.1 IP)
Short-Season A: Morgantown (1-1) @ Williamsport (1-1) 5:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD
DSL: Pirates1 (5-8) vs Indians (6-7) 10:30 AM 6/17 (season preview)
DSL: Pirates2 (11-2) vs Tigers2 (5-8) 10:30 AM 6/17 (season preview)
From Altoona, Robbie Glendinning’s tenth home run of the season and first since being promoted to Altoona
— Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) June 15, 2019
Mitchell Tolman’s out here making plays
— Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) June 15, 2019
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
Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including one who is among the best at his position in franchise history. Starting with the oldest players first, they are 1885 shortstop Marr Phillips and 1912 pinch-runner Ralph Capron, who has an interesting story. He was a college football and baseball star, who was known for his tremendous speed. His career with the Pirates lasted one game and just barely at that. After replacing Alex McCarthy as a pinch-runner at first base with two outs in the ninth, Capron remained glued to first base while the last out was made. He went to the minors right after that and returned with the Phillies the next year, pinch-running once and getting one at-bat in his only other Major League game. In 1920, he played pro football.
Other players born on this date include 1917-19 first baseman Fritz Mollwitz and 1942-46 infielder Pete Coscarart, who was part of the return from the Dodgers in the unpopular Arky Vaughan trade. Also, 1954-56 pitcher Max Surkont, 2008 infielder Chris Gomez and first baseman Kevin Young, who played for the Pirates from 1992-95 and then again from 1997 until 2003. Young ranks 11th in team history in homers, 17th in doubles and 18th in RBIs. He is currently a coach for the Pirates. You can read more on Young and all of the other players in the link above.
On this date in 1969, the Pirates and Cubs squared off in a back-and-forth affair that ended with a 9-8 victory for the Bucs and Steve Blass picking up his first career save. This game included seven Hall of Fame players, and an eighth HOF’er if you include Cubs’ manager Leo Durocher. Chicago had Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Ron Santo in the middle of their lineup, while the Pirates had Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski and starting pitcher Jim Bunning.
The Cubs took an early 2-0 lead, only to see the Pirates score six runs to take the lead. The Cubs chipped away to take a 7-6 lead late. That led to a three-run eighth from the Pirates and the eventual 9-8 win. Al Oliver hit a two-run homer in the eighth. You can view the boxscore here.