This is a report from three of the GCL Pirates’ games in the past week, specifically their games of July 11 (5-1 win vs. Rays), 15 (4-3 loss vs. Braves in 13 innings) and 17 (4-2 loss vs. Red Sox).

My basic overall impression is that the GCL Pirates aren’t swinging the bat well.  That’s pretty obvious from the numbers.  They’re next-to-last in the 18-team league in OPS and easily last in slugging, and don’t have a single home run through 19 games.  The only hitter I saw making hard contact with any frequency was Yoyner Fajardo.  The only hitters with an OPS above .700 are Fajardo and Kaleb Foster, both at .765.  Foster is a non-drafted free agent who was a catcher college and who’ll be 23 in three months.

Beyond that, it’s a little hard to get an impression of the team’s hitting prospects because nearly all of them are outfielders.  As John Dreker has noted, they currently have six outfielders (Sammy Siani, Jase Bowen, Juan Pie, Angel Basabe, Jasiah Dixon and Carlos Canache) who probably should be getting regular playing time, plus one more (Deion Walker) who hasn’t been activated yet.  Of the three games I saw, Bowen started only one.  Pie, Siani and Canache started two, and I didn’t see Dixon, who’s gotten into one game so far.  (He went 3-for-4, so that’s something.)  You’d think the Pirates would use one or two of them at first, but instead Foster is playing there every day.  It’s not a whole lot different in the infield, where Andres Alvarez, a 22nd round draft pick as a college senior, is playing every day, batting at the top of the order, and putting up an OPS of .432.  I can’t really come up with an explanation for all that.

As for some individual players:

Quinn Priester, RHP:  Priester made his best start so far in the second game and was impressive, with five shutout innings and seven strikeouts.  He looks less raw than Shane Baz did, probably closer to Jameson Taillon in the sense of how advanced he is, although his stuff isn’t quite on Taillon’s level at the same stage.  Priester was having trouble with his four-seamer, as it tended to ride high, often way high.  His two-seamer, though, came in consistently for low strikes and the hitters didn’t seem to be able to distinguish it from his curve.  Frequently they’d either take the fastball for a strike or chase the curve in the dirt, although Priester was frequently able to throw the latter for strikes as well.  So at this point he’s got two very good pitches that he commands well.  I didn’t see many changeups.

Domingo Gonzalez, RHP:  Gonzalez started the other two games and breezed through except for one bad inning.  He gave up a couple walks and a hit batsman in the second inning of the third game, which combined with a pop fly single cost him three runs.  Gonzalez’ fastball sat mainly at 92-93, although he lost some velocity late in his starts.  It seems to have some good movement and he commands it well.  He also throws a hard curve.  He didn’t miss a lot of bats and, at only 6’0″, throws with a lot of effort, so I’m not sure whether he has much projection.

Willy Basil, RHP:  I saw Basil twice.  He’s a late bloomer, signed when he was nearly 21, who throws 95-96 mph.  He’s been striking out a lot of batters this year with some control problems.  He throws a slider.  Basil has good size at 6’4″ and could move up if he improves his command.

Juan Pie, OF:  Pie (pictured above) got the top bonus among the Pirates’ international signees in the 2017-18 signing period.  At 6’2″ he’s still pretty lean, but he has good bat speed and looks like he should eventually hit for power when he fills out.  For now, his swing can get a bit wild, but he was hitting the ball hard when I saw him playing for West Virginia.  In the third GCL game I saw he lined a double into the gap in right-center and later had a drive caught right at the 410′ foot sign just to the right side of the batters’ eye in center.

Angel Basabe, OF:  Basabe was another big-bonus signee for the Pirates in the 2017-18 class and some scouts apparently liked him better than Pie.  Like Pie, he still probably has some filling out to do.  He played in all three games I saw and generally put the bat on the ball, but didn’t make much hard contact.  He had three hits in the third game without hitting the ball hard.  I can’t help wondering whether it would help if he got on the field more, as he’s played in only five games in the last 13 days.  I’m not certain he’s been 100% healthy, as he’s been running as if he’s favoring one leg or foot (I saw him foul two balls off his foot or ankle), but he still had steals in two of the games.

Norkis Marcos, SS:  Marcos started two of the games at short.  He hasn’t done much at the plate since signing, either in the Dominican Summer League or in the GCL, but it’s obvious he’s playing due to his potential in the field.  He shows good range and actions, and enough arm for short.

Yoyner Fajardo, IF:  Fajardo is the one player I saw hit the ball hard consistently.  He doesn’t swing and miss much, but hasn’t shown any power this year.  He runs well.  Fajardo signed at a later age than the norm with Latin American position players; he was just short of 19.  I didn’t get much impression of his glove, beyond seeing him misjudge a foul popup, as he was the DH in one of the games and didn’t play in one.

Sammy Siani, OF:  Drafted 37th overall, Siani has had trouble making contact so far, with 20 strikeouts in 49 at-bats so far.  He takes a lot of pitches, possibly too many.  He looks like he has the speed and skills to handle center.  It’s too early to get concerned about the swing-and-miss, but it’s hard not to get nervous given the Pirates’ dismal track record with developing hitters.

Jase Bowen, OF:  I saw Bowen in only one game and he struggled with offspeed stuff, chasing some bad pitches.  His overall strikeout and walk rates aren’t bad, so it may have been an off-day.

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 6-5 to the St Louis Cardinals on Wednesday afternoon. The Pirates are off today. They return home on Friday for a seven-game homestand, starting with three against the Philadelphia Phillies this weekend. Jordan Lyles is scheduled to get the start. He failed to get out of the first inning in his last game, giving up seven runs. He also served up seven runs in his previous start, which went four innings. Lyles has given up at least three earned runs in each of his last seven starts. The Phillies will counter with right-hander Jake Arrieta, who has a 4.54 ERA in 113 innings, with 87 strikeouts and a 1.45 WHIP. In his last three starts combined, he has allowed ten runs over 15.1 innings. Arrieta has a 4.81 ERA in ten road games this season.

The minor league schedule includes James Marvel making his third start for Indianapolis. He began his Triple-A career with 11 straight shutout innings before giving up five runs in his final inning last week. It was the first time he allowed more than three runs in an outing since May 12th. Cody Bolton makes his fourth start for Altoona. He has given up four runs in each of his first three starts in Double-A. He had just one start with Bradenton in which he allowed more than two runs this season. Bradenton will have Brad Case on the mound, making his seventh start since being promoted from Greensboro. Case allowed five runs over six innings in his last start. On the season, he has a 2.82 ERA in 102 innings, with an 0.87 WHIP.

Greensboro sends out Steven Jennings for his 19th start. He allowed five runs over 4.2 innings last time out. He had a 5.14 ERA before the All-Star break and in four starts since then he has a 5.09 ERA. Bristol is sending out Santiago Florez, who tossed 4.1 shutout innings in his last start. It was his second consecutive start with five strikeouts. Morgantown doesn’t have a starter listed for today, but it could be the second start for fourth round pick JC Flowers, who debuted six days ago. Fifth round pick Grant Ford could possibly follow him like they did last Friday. Noe Toribio started the second game of the doubleheader last Friday, so they could go with any combo of the three, which is why I left the probable spot blank. The GCL Pirates have off today.

MLB: Pittsburgh (45-50) vs Phillies (49-47) 7:05 PM 7/19
Probable starter: Jordan Lyles (5.16 ERA, 80:31 SO/BB, 75.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (47-48) vs Syracuse (48-48) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: James Marvel (3.86 ERA, 8:4 SO/BB, 11.2 IP)

AA: Altoona (50-42) @ Bowie (50-44) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cody Bolton (7.53 ERA, 13:6 SO/BB, 14.1 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (51-43) vs Clearwater (50-45) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Brad Case (3.50 ERA, 28:6 SO/BB, 36.0 IP)

Low-A: Greensboro (59-36) @ Augusta (49-45) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Steven Jennings (5.13 ERA, 78:29 SO/BB, 86.0 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (16-15) vs State College (16-16) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD

Rookie: Bristol (12-16) @ Johnson City (15-12) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Santiago Florez (2.76 ERA, 14:5 SO/BB, 16.1 IP)

GCL: Pirates (7-12) vs Orioles (13-5) 12:00 PM 7/19 (season preview)

DSL: Pirates1 (20-19) vs Red Sox2 (15-24) 10:30 AM  (season preview)

DSL: Pirates2 (32-7) vs Mariners (16-23) 10:30 AM  (season preview)

HIGHLIGHTS

From Indianapolis on Tuesday, Will Craig hits his 18th home run

Cole Tucker with a nice defensive play

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

7/17: Bear Bellomy promoted to Morgantown.

7/16: Pirates sign Jesus Castillo.

7/16: Hunter Owen activated from Indianapolis injured list.

7/16: John O’Reilly promoted to Bradenton. Matt Eardensohn assigned to Bristol.

7/16: Lizardy Dicent assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.

7/13: Ryan Valdes activated from Bradenton injured list. Raul Siri placed on injured list.

7/13: Keone Kela assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

7/12: Blake Weiman placed on Indianapolis injured list.

7/11: Fernando Villegas assigned to Bristol.

7/11: Eric Wood placed on Indianapolis injured list.

7/10: Pirates release Roger Santana.

7/9: Pirates sign Tsung-Che Cheng

7/9: Pirates sign Deion Walker

7/9: Brendt Citta promoted to Morgantown. Luke Mangieri promoted to Greensboro. Ryan Peurifoy released.

7/8: Trevor Williams reinstated from paternity list. Kevin Kramer optioned to Indianapolis.

7/8: Pirates release Nick Garland and Mason Fishback

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a big game from Ralph Kiner. We start with pitcher Windy McCall, who was a lefty reliever for the Pirates during the 1950 season. He pitched twice for the Bucs, allowing seven runs in 6.2 innings.

Also born on this date, we have two groups of two players that match up well. First up are outfielder Johnny Hopp and pitcher Al Lyons. They were traded for each other, as Lyons played for the 1947 Pirates, while Hopp came over from the Braves and played three seasons with Pittsburgh. Also included in that trade was the great Pirates’ manager Danny Murtaugh, who was a player at the time.

Wilbur Fisher and Bill Haeffner go together well because they were born on the exact same day in 1894. Fisher only got to play one Major League game, pinch-hitting on June 13, 1916. Haeffner was the team’s third-string catcher in 1920, but got a chance for some regular playing time when the starter and backup both got hurt in the same game. He retired right in the middle of his playing career when the Pirates wouldn’t meet his salary demands prior to the 1921 season.

On this date in 1951, the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers by a 13-12 score. Ralph Kiner helped the last place Pirates squeak past the first place Dodgers by going deep three times. He hit a first inning grand slam, a two-run homer in the fourth and a solo homer in the eighth inning. The link above has a full recap of the game and the boxscore can be found here.

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