Today we take a look at the top 30 prospects from our 2019 Prospect Guide. With the mid-season guide coming out in just a few weeks, it’s time to look at the current top 30, which will be completely updated soon. I’ve decided to do things a little different than in my past updates, where I eliminated players who lost their prospect status. This list below is the top 30 straight from the prospect guide with those players still included. Any stats mentioned below are through games played on Thursday.
- Mitch Keller – Keller just had his worst minor league start of the season on Thursday and his three big league starts led to a 10.50 ERA. That being said, he leads the International League in ERA, ranks third in strikeouts and fifth in WHIP. He has been using his curveball more often since returning to the minors and going to off-speed pitches earlier, showing a change in his normal plan of attack.
- Ke’Bryan Hayes – Hayes missed nearly three weeks with a dislocated finger, which happened on a diving play to his left. He just returned to Indianapolis on Thursday night following a three-game rehab stint with Morgantown. Hayes is hitting .241/.332/.386 in 59 games. We could see him in Pittsburgh in September, but before that seems out of the question now. A second possibility could be a trip to the Arizona Fall League instead, but either way, he will be added to the 40-man roster this year. Hayes is an elite defensive player, who uses his speed well on the bases.
- Cole Tucker – Tucker has played well since being sent down to Indianapolis just 19 at-bats short of losing his prospect status. Regardless of what the rest of the season holds, this will end up counting as his rookie season because he spent more than 45 non-September days in the majors already. Tucker is hitting .303/.357/.531 in 34 games with Indianapolis, hitting seven homers and stealing nine bases. His defense has been outstanding.
- Oneil Cruz – Cruz just returned from a long stint on the injured list, so his season doesn’t have much to go on right now. He looks healthy in his return, so it doesn’t look like the foot injury has any effect on his game. He is showing off his plus power in his return, but his trouble hitting (or not hitting) off-speed pitches is something to watch.
- Travis Swaggerty – Swaggerty is on a seven-game hit streak (reached eight last night), which has raised his stats a little over the last week. Through 73 games, he has a .235/.323/.335 slash line. Even when you factor in the difficulty of hitting in the Florida State League, those numbers aren’t good. We will see if this streak leads to anything, but in numerous looks throughout the season, the only consistent positive has been his plus speed.
- Kevin Kramer – Kramer started off slow, got a brief promotion to the majors in which he sat on the bench for five days, then came back at started to hit. He has really slowed down over the last month. His .740 OPS would be fine in most seasons in the International League, but with the new baseballs creating higher offense, he is actually well below league average. That’s not a good sign from someone coming up on their 26th birthday. He will likely get a shot in September with the Pirates, but I don’t say that with a lot of confidence.
- Kevin Newman – Newman was the first of three players to lose his prospect status this year. With some brief time in the majors last year, it didn’t take too long before he was off the prospect list with his 131st at-bat. His long hitting streak has helped his overall numbers, which now sit at .321/.367/.469 in 59 games. He has put up a 1.5 WAR.
- Bryan Reynolds – Reynolds was the second hitter to lose his prospect status this year and one who we originally assumed might still be prospect eligible by the end of the season, though he was expected to debut this year. He came into the year with no Triple-A experience and an awful showing in the AFL, both on paper and from the reports I received from someone who saw the team daily. While he looked good in Altoona, no one could have expected a .338/.403/.521 slash line in 64 games at the big league level.
- Will Craig – Craig got off to a hot start this season, leaving people wondering what they would do with him and Josh Bell this year. He has really cooled down since then, hitting just two homers in the last five weeks, while watching his OPS drop from .924 on May 28th down to .799 through July 4th. He is showing one of the reasons that we don’t update our top 30 more often. People were putting him in the majors five weeks ago at third base and now there’s no issue in letting him finish out the season in Triple-A. Here’s a good spot to just remind people that the minor league season ends in a little less than two months.
- Jason Martin – Martin has had two stints with the Pirates this year, resulting in a .613 OPS in 19 games. His overall Triple-A numbers are low (.703 OPS) in this up year for offense, but he has been much better recently with a .382 average in his last ten games. Martin should get another look with the Pirates in September, though it seems unlikely that he will see time before then unless the trading deadline opens up a spot.
- JT Brubaker – Brubaker was injured at the end of April and came back for two rehab starts that looked solid, but he was shut down again and this now appears to be a lost season. No word yet on the next step besides rest and reevaluation.
- Calvin Mitchell – Mitchell was off to a strong start this season, with talks of him possibly ending up as a top five prospect in the system this year. Like with Will Craig, he proves that it’s best to wait on making rash changes in the top prospects list. Mitchell’s strikeouts since early June have gotten out of hand. He has struck out 44 times in his last 24 games, with just six walks during that time. On May 30th, he had an .887 OPS, which is now down to .713 five weeks later. There is still tons of potential with the bat and it’s so important to remember how young he is for the level, but he won’t be in the top five for the Pirates this year.
- Cody Bolton – Bolton was recently promoted to Double-A, where the early results have been a little shaky. Coming from someone who just turned 21 years old, and who was dominating High-A ball before the promotion, there shouldn’t be any concerns yet. Bolton has some of the best stuff in the system, with a fastball that sits 94-97 MPH, a slider/cutter combo that he throws at two speeds and a developing changeup that flashes strong potential. At 71 innings already, he’s probably going to see some limits going forward after missing the second half of the season last year.
- Tahnaj Thomas – Thomas has huge upside, but he’s still raw on the mound due to a late start with pitching. He hits 97 MPH and flashes a strong slider. That’s coming from a 6’4″, right-hander who just turned 20 years old. His first two starts with Bristol were awful, to put it nicely. His third and most recent start was five shutout innings on four hits and no walks.
- Braxton Ashcraft – Ashcraft got a bit of an aggressive push, going to Morgantown this year instead of Bristol, which is the common path for prep pitchers in their first full season. The early results haven’t been good, but the stuff really has potential and Ashcraft has a huge frame that scouts dream on. He’s basically a college freshman pitching in a league full of college juniors and seniors.
- Lolo Sanchez – Sanchez was consistently good from Opening Day until the South Atlantic League All-Star break. After playing in the All-Star game, he was promoted to Bradenton. The very early results (13 games) in High-A aren’t good, with a .461 OPS and some defensive troubles tracking fly balls. He’s even slightly younger than Calvin Mitchell, plus Sanchez flashes more tools than most players, so patience is necessary here.
- Nick Burdi – Burdi was injured in April, attempted rehab, then had surgery that will have him out for six months. That means he will be ready for Spring Training, but also shows that going for rest/rehab first was the right way to handle the issue because he would have been out for the season either way.
- Pablo Reyes – Reyes strained a hamstring just after Ke’Bryan Hayes got hurt and their returns at action coincided, with a trip to Morgantown on the same day and returning to Indianapolis on the same day. Reyes was hitting well before the injury, so the timing didn’t do him any favors. My guess is that we will see him back in Pittsburgh on September 1st due to his versatility, but he might not get the shot he got last time.
- Clay Holmes – Holmes was the third player to lose prospect status this year, which happened on Tuesday night. He has been fairly solid in the bullpen over the last month, minus Thursday’s appearance of course. After starting all of his career, he seems to be settling into the middle relief role.
- Travis MacGregor – McGregor is out for the season due to Tommy John surgery last October. He’s rehabbing at Pirate City and everything was on track last time we checked.
- Braeden Ogle – Ogle has been moved to relief this year to help limit his innings, though he will still end up with a decent total if this current trend holds true. His last two outings with Bradenton were his longest appearances since a three-inning stint a month ago. After pitching just 17 innings last year, he’s at 38 this season over 23 appearances. Ogle has looked solid recently, including his fastball sitting 94-97 MPH, which helped lead to his recent promotion.
- Stephen Alemais – Alemais was out at the start of the season, then briefly returned before injuring his shoulder. After trying rehab, he had season ending surgery.
- Michael Burrows – Burrows got the same push to Morgantown that Ashcraft got to start the season. Burrows has looked better early on though, with mid-90s velocity, better control and a sharper breaking ball. He had one rough outing, but has looked great in his other outings, continuing what we saw in looks during his time in the GCL. His prospect stock is going to improve.
- Jared Oliva – Oliva was doing poorly for most of the season, but he has really taken off lately at the plate. When combined with his speed (22 steals) and solid center field defense, he’s building his prospect status back up. Over the last five weeks, his OPS is right near .950 in that time. He’s still below last year’s numbers, which is very disappointing on the power side with the switch to a more hitter-friendly league, but everything else looks great lately.
- Ji-Hwan Bae – Last time we did an update on Bae, he was just returning from his 30-game suspension, so there wasn’t much to say at that point. Now we have a bigger sample size and more live looks and we like what we see from him. His defense is solid, he drives the ball well, and his speed is legit. He’s getting on base at a high rate and using his speed on the bases to create runs.
- Max Kranick – Kranick was coming off of some rough outings in May last time we did an update, but he has really turned things around since then. He had a strong April and June, with a nice first look in July, so those three straight poor starts in early May seem more like an outlier. He has a 2.73 ERA and an 0.89 WHIP in his last eight starts. Kranick hits 97 MPH in starts and throws two versions of a slider. He has been working on his changeup often over the last month.
- Luis Escobar – The Pirates have been shifting Escobar around in a series moves that make very little sense. He was demoted to Bradenton to begin the season as a reliever, then jumped to Indianapolis after early success. That was eventually followed by him starting to get stretched out, which led to him throwing 5+ innings in three straight games. Then, he went back to the bullpen. His results as a starter? A 1.61 ERA and an 0.90 WHIP. Those numbers are great under normal circumstances, but this year in the International League has led to huge offensive numbers. His move back to the bullpen has been shaky, with a WHIP over 2.00 in six appearances. After writing all of this last night I got word that he’s joining the Pirates today.
- Osvaldo Bido – Bido has put up solid overall numbers at Greensboro and could be in line for a promotion as the season begins to wind down. His 1.09 WHIP ranks tenth in the league and his 95.1 innings are the third highest total. Bido has the pitches to be a top prospect, and despite being 23 years old, he can still fill out his frame more. He’s basically a young 23 for a pitcher due to his amateur career.
- Eduardo Vera – Vera has been a little better since making a mechanical adjustment. We have recently seen his best velocity of the year and he has been using his changeup more often. That’s his best pitch and something he wasn’t using often early in the season. His numbers are a bit skewed by the Triple-A baseballs, but it has still been somewhat of a disappointing season that he is trying to turn around in the second half.
- Gage Hinsz – Hinsz was pitching well during the winter in Puerto Rico, then looked strong during the spring, which had him going to Altoona to begin the season. He got injured right before his first start and has since reported to Pirate City. It’s beginning to look like he might not pitch this season, but we will see.
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 7-6 to the Milwaukee Brewers in ten innings. Trevor Williams was supposed to get the start this evening, but the Pirates will recall Dario Agrazal later today for his third big league start. Williams will be placed on the paternity list. We will have more when the move is made official. The Brewers will counter with 26-year-old right-hander Adrian Houser, who will be making his fifth big league start. He has a 3.26 ERA in 38.2 innings, with 42 strikeouts and a 1.34 WHIP. In his last start, against the Cincinnati Reds, he allowed three runs over five innings. He lasted just two innings in his previous outing, serving up three runs on four hits and three walks against the Seattle Mariners.
The minor league schedule includes the third start in Altoona for Cody Bolton. He has given up four runs in each of his first two starts with the Curve. He had just one start with more than two earned runs in Bradenton this season. Gavin Wallace gets the start for Bradenton. He is coming off of an outing that consisted of one run over seven innings. He has given up just three runs in his last 29 innings. Santiago Florez makes his third start for Bristol. He tossed five shutout innings in his debut, then gave up three runs over two innings in his last start.
Greensboro will complete last night’s suspended game before playing the regularly scheduled game, which will now be seven innings. Steven Jennings will get the start in that game. He has been limited recently to help keep his innings down. He went four innings on June 21st, skipped a start, then came back with four innings on the 1st. Indianapolis will send out Cam Vieaux for his eighth start. His best start since being promoted from Altoona was one run over five innings against today’s opponent (Toledo). Morgantown should be sending out Noe Toribio, who tossed five shutout innings in his last start, while picking up seven strikeouts.
MLB: Pittsburgh (42-45) vs Brewers (47-42) 4:05 PM
Probable starter: Dario Agrazal (2.70 ERA, 6:3 SO/BB, 10.0 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (44-42) vs Toledo (38-49) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cam Vieaux (4.08 ERA, 35:21 SO/BB, 35.1 IP)
AA: Altoona (46-38) vs Erie (44-39) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cody Bolton (7.71 ERA, 9:4 SO/BB, 9.1 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (47-37) vs Florida (29-55) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Gavin Wallace (3.83 ERA, 40:12 SO/BB, 49.1 IP)
Low-A: Greensboro (51-33) vs Lakewood (35-50) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Steven Jennings (5.07 ERA, 69:25 SO/BB, 76.1 IP)
Short-Season A: Morgantown (12-9) @ Williamsport (4-17) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Noe Toribio (0.82 ERA, 13:2 SO/BB, 11.0 IP)
Rookie: Bristol (9-8) @ Greeneville (6-11) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Santiago Florez (3.86 ERA, 4:2 SO/BB, 7.0 IP)
GCL: Pirates (5-5) vs Orioles (8-2) 10:00 AM (season preview)
DSL: Pirates1 (14-16) vs Rays2 (19-11) 10:30 AM (season preview)
DSL: Pirates2 (24-6) vs Royals2 (14-15) 10:30 AM (season preview)
From Indianapolis on Thursday, Jason Martin hits his sixth home run
— Indianapolis Indians (@indyindians) July 5, 2019
Cole Tucker hits one to center field to start the fireworks early. His seventh home run
— Indianapolis Indians (@indyindians) July 4, 2019
7/5: Bralin Jackson placed on Altoona injured list.
7/4: Ke’Bryan Hayes and Pablo Reyes activated off Indianapolis injured list. Yefry Ramirez placed on temporary inactive list. Logan Hill assigned to Altoona.
7/4: Gregory Polanco assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.
7/3: Pirates sign Jake Wright and Jasiah Dixon
7/3: Jake Brentz placed on temporary inactive list
7/3: Yandy Vega and Hai-Cheng Gong assigned to GCL Pirates
7/2: Pirates sign a ton of international players
7/2: Mario Garcia promoted to GCL Pirates
7/1: James Marvel promoted to Indianapolis. Blake Cederlind added back to Altoona roster
7/1: Pirates sign JC Flowers, Ethan Paul, Jake Snider and Marshall Gilbert.
6/30: Hunter Owen placed on Indianapolis injured list (retroactive to 6/27).
6/30: Oneil Cruz activated from Bradenton injured list. Chase Lambert placed on injured list.
6/30: Yandy Vega and Hai-Cheng Gong assigned to Morgantown.
6/29: Ke’Bryan Hayes and Pablo Reyes assigned to Morgantown on rehab.
6/29: Ryan Peurifoy assigned to Bradenton
6/29: Fernando Villegas assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab
6/29: CJ Dandeneau and Alex Roth assigned to Bristol.
6/29: Jordan Lyles activated from injured list. Geoff Hartlieb optioned to Indianapolis.
6/28: Pirates release Nick Franklin.
6/28: Daniel Amaral placed on injured list. Ike Schlabach activated from injured list.
6/28: Pirates sign Orsen Josephina.
6/28: Oliver Mateo placed on injured list.
6/27: Jake Elmore activated from Indianapolis injured list.
6/27: Pirates sign Gift Ngoepe.
6/27: Zack Kone and Jonah Davis added to Greensboro roster.
6/27: Dario Agrazal optioned to Indianapolis. Pirates recall Dovydas Neverauskas
6/27: Aaron Shortridge placed on Bradenton injured list.
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including one of the better Pirates’ pitchers from the 1930’s. Starting with the most recent first, we have 2001 pitcher Omar Oliveras, 1975 second baseman Willie Randolph and 1981-85 first baseman Jason Thompson. In 1983, Thompson made the All-Star team and hit .284, with 31 homers, 101 RBIs and 101 walks. Randolph has a great career that started in Pittsburgh, but they traded him away right after he made the majors, in a deal that did not work out. The Pirates got Doc Medich, while giving up Randolph, Ken Brett and Dock Ellis.
Cy Blanton pitched for the Pirates from 1934 until 1939. He won 56 games over a four-year stretch from 1935-38. Blanton led the National League with a 2.58 ERA and with four shutouts in 1935. He led the NL again with four shutouts in 1936 and his 34 starts in 1937 were the most in the league. Blanton completed 129 of his 155 starts with the Pirates.
On this date in 1980, the Pirates won the longest game ever in Three Rivers Stadium. In the 20th inning of a game that took just over 5 1/2 hours, Omar Moreno drove in Ed Ott with the winning run. That win pushed the Pirates to 42-37 on the season. You can read a recap of the game in the link above and the boxscore can be found here.