Morning Report: A Look Ahead to the 2020 Draft

In yesterday’s Morning Report, I hinted at doing something a little different for the Pittsburgh Pirates this year. In a look at the remaining minor league schedule and playoff races in the minors, I noted that we usually put the Pirates in the Playoff Push section below. There are two reasons why we decided to change things up this year. The most obvious is that the Pirates really aren’t in a playoff race, so you don’t need a constant reminder of that every morning. The other reason is that the Morning Report articles stop once the minor league season/playoffs are entirely over, so we wouldn’t actually be following the MLB playoff race to the end.

If the Pirates go on a run soon, I’ll add them to the Playoff Push section below, I promise. Going into Saturday night with 53 games remaining, they trailed by 10.5 games in the division, while sitting in last place. They were ten back in the wild card, which isn’t impossible to come back from if you’re only chasing the two wild card teams, but there were eight other teams ahead of them, not including the two current wild card leaders. So it really didn’t make sense to add the Pirates to the Playoff Push yesterday.

Instead of looking at their playoff picture, it makes more sense to look at their draft standings over the remainder of the year. Unless the Pirates go on a run, they are going to have a top ten pick in next year’s draft, which early reports indicate that it’s a deep class at the top for high-end talent. It’s one of those years where dropping back a few spots will still get you someone considered top-end by average draft standards. That could change once the season gets started, but early indications are that it will be the best class since 2011. While it currently looks like that a 10-12 overall pick in 2020 could net you someone who is usually top 5 talent in an average year, there’s no guarantee that everyone at the top still looks as good going into the draft.

The Pirates currently sit as the 14th best (or second worst) NL team, only leading the Miami Marlins. The problem is that six AL teams have a worse record going into Saturday’s action, so that would give the Pirates the eighth overall pick. The Pirates could still mathematically get the first overall pick, but realistically they are probably not going any higher than fifth at best. On the flip side, the realistic worst case scenario is the 11th overall pick.

It’s shaping up to be a great year for having the 11th overall pick, but if you’re not competing for a playoff spot, you’d rather have something in the 5-8 range instead. Not only are you selecting higher, but it gives you a bigger bonus pool. With the Pirates showing a willingness every year to go 5% over their pool and pay the overage tax, a bigger pool also means that the 5% number is also bigger.

The 2020 draft will be a very interesting one for the Pirates. Not only will they get the high pick, they will get a competitive balance round A pick. Along with the earlier second round pick, they should make three selections among the top 50 picks.

We will have occasional updates on the draft position picture throughout the rest of the regular season. For now, here’s a look at the early mock draft from MLB Pipeline. Back when they did this in mid-June, the Pirates were in the tenth spot. I’m guessing that most people would like a switch-hitting catcher with power and defense over a right-handed college starter, so that current eighth spot looks much better now.


Indianapolis has 29 games left. They trail by seven games in the division and six games in the wild card.

Altoona has 29 games left. They trail by 12.5 in the division.

Bradenton has 30 games left. They trail by 6.5 games in the division.

Greensboro has 29 games left. They trail by five in the division and 2.5 for the second best record, which could possibly get them a playoff spot.

Morgantown has 29 games left. They trail by 4.5 games in the division and three games in the wild card spot.

Bristol has 25 games left. They trail by 5.5 in the division and they’re 3.5 out of the second playoff spot.

GCL Pirates have 24 games left. They trail by 8.5 in the division.

DSL Pirates1 have 18 games left. They trail by 18 in the division.

DSL Pirates2 have clinched a playoff spot


Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 7-5 to the New York Mets on Saturday night. The Pirates will send out Joe Musgrove this afternoon for his 23rd start. He allowed two runs over six innings in his last start five days ago against the Cincinnati Reds. Musgrove’s previous outing was five runs over five innings at home against the St Louis Cardinals. He has a 4.52 ERA at home this season. The Mets will counter with right-hander Noah Syndergaard, who has a 4.10 ERA in 134 innings, with 137 strikeouts and a 1.24 WHIP. He threw 7.1 shutout innings on the road against the Chicago White Sox in his last start, striking out 11 batters. He has throw 7+ innings in each of his last four starts. Sydergaard has a 3.78 road ERA and a 4.39 ERA at home.

The minor league schedule includes Brad Case making his first start in 11 days for Bradenton. He went six shutout innings in his last start, then between an off-day and two rain outs, one of which he went through full warm-ups before the rain, he has been pushed back until today. Domingo Robles will make his 13th start for Altoona. He had a 2.61 ERA in 62 innings with Bradenton and a 5.06 ERA in 64 innings in Double-A. Noe Toribio makes his second start for Greensboro, after posting a 2.40 ERA in 30 innings with Morgantown. He gave up four runs over six innings in his Low-A debut.

Morgantown will send out Bear Bellomy for the second time as a starter. He gave up two runs over four innings in his first start. This year’s 28th round draft pick began his career with nine straight scoreless relief outings. Bristol’s Jose Maldonado will make his eighth start. After posting a 2.70 ERA in his first four games, he has given up 14 runs over nine innings in his last three starts combined. Alex McRae gets the start for Indianapolis after making his first start in the majors a week ago when Jordan Lyles was traded. McRae has faced Columbus (today’s opponent) twice in the last month, giving up a total of six runs over 9.2 innings. The GCL Pirates and both DSL Pirates are off on Sundays.

MLB: Pittsburgh (48-62) vs Mets (54-56) 1:35 PM
Probable starter: Joe Musgrove (4.23 ERA, 104:29 SO/BB, 121.1 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (56-55) vs Columbus (63-48) 1:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Alex McRae (4.96 ERA, 76:27 SO/BB, 89.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (55-56) @ Reading (66-46) 5:15 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Domingo Robles (5.06 ERA, 45:15 SO/BB, 64.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (60-48) @ Dunedin (63-45) 1:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Brad Case (3.80 ERA, 30:12 SO/BB, 45.0 IP)

Low-A: Greensboro (66-44) @ Greenville (48-63) 3:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Noe Toribio (6.00 ERA, 3:2 SO/BB, 6.0 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (24-22) @ Hudson Valley (27-19) 4:35 PM  (season preview)
Probable starter: Bear Bellomy (2.12 ERA, 20:5 SO/BB, 17.0 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (19-23) @ Elizabethton (23-20) 5:00 PM  (season preview)
Probable starter: Jose Maldonado (6.66 ERA, 25:15 SO/BB, 25.2 IP)

GCL: Pirates (12-20) vs Twins (17-14) 10:00 AM DH 8/5 (season preview)

DSL: Pirates1 (25-29) vs Indians (21-30) 10:30 AM 8/5 (season preview)

DSL: Pirates2 (44-10) vs Giants (22-31) 10:30 AM 8/5 (season preview)


From Indianapolis on Friday night, Mitch Keller struck out 12 batters. Here’s a curve ball for a first inning strikeout.

Here’s Cole Tucker driving in a run and Jason Martin doing a good job of avoiding the tag. This was one of two hits on the night for Tucker, who also added a walk.


8/3: Pirates claim Yacksel Rios.

8/3: Richard Rodriguez placed on paternity list. Pirates recall Parker Markel.

8/2: Pirates Designate Jung-Ho Kang for assignment. Recall Pablo Reyes. Activate Erik Gonzalez from injured list.

8/2: Nick Mears activated from Bradenton injured list. Ryan Valdes placed on Bradenton injured list.

8/1: Blake Weiman activated from Indianapolis injured list.

8/1: Austin Coley placed on Altoona injured list.

7/31: Pirates trade Corey Dickerson to Phillies for a player to be named later and international bonus slot money.

7/30: Oneil Cruz promoted to Altoona. Jerrick Suiter activated from injured list. Bralin Jackson placed on injured list. Gift Ngoepe released.

7/30: Pirates recall Geoff Hartlieb and Yefry Ramirez. Montana DuRapau and Alex McRae optioned to Indianapolis.

7/30: Elvis Escobar assigned to Morgantown on rehab.

7/30: Daniel Amaral activated from Bradenton injured list.

7/29: Jordan Lyles traded to Milwaukee Brewers for Cody Ponce. Montana DuRapau recalled from Indianapolis.

7/28: Darnell Sweeney assigned to Altoona. Alfredo Reyes assigned to Greensboro.

7/27: Pirates claim Parker Markel off waivers from Seattle Mariners.

7/27: Kyle Mottice placed on Greensboro injured list. Michael Gretler activated from injured list.

7/27: Angel German activated from suspended list.

7/27: Daniel Amaral sent to GCL Pirates on rehab.

7/27: Tyler Lyons returns to Indianapolis from paternity list.

7/26: Pirates sign Lewys Guzman, Jose Vasquez, Pedro Figuereo, Juan Santos

7/26: Osvaldo Bido promoted to Bradenton. Noe Toribio promoted to Greensboro. Trey McGough promoted to Morgantown. Lizardy Dicent assigned to Bristol on rehab.

7/25: Pirates recall Alex McRae. Luis Escobar optioned to Indianapolis.

7/25: Will Kobos promoted to Greensboro.

7/24: Keone Kela added to Pirates roster. Clay Holmes placed on injured list.

7/24: Angel German suspended by Altoona.


Eight former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus an unfortunate transaction of note. On this date in 1917, the Pirates put first baseman George Kelly on waivers, losing him to the Giants. He did not do well for the Pittsburgh, but the Pirates weren’t good back then, so they would have been better off holding onto Kelly. By 1920, he led the league in RBIs and averaged over 100 per season from 1920-25. He also lead the league again in 1924. During that streak, the Giants played in four straight World Series. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973.

Former players born on this date include:

Steve Bieser, 1998 outfielder. He batted .273 in 13 games. His only other big league experience was 47 games for the 1997 New York Mets.

Ruben Rodriguez, caught two games in both the 1986 and 1988 season, his only Major League experience. Pirates signed him out of the Dominican Republic in 1981.

Bill Schuster, shortstop for the 1937 Pirates. Made his debut as pinch-runner during a late season call-up, then played both games of a doubleheader at shortstop during his brief time with Pirates. Those were his only three games with the team.

Homer Blankenship, 1928 pitcher. Had a 5.82 ERA in 21.2 innings for Pirates. Pitched with his older brother Ted on the 1922 White Sox.

Cliff Lee, catcher during the 1919-20 seasons. Pirates put him on waivers prior to the 1921 season and he ended up hitting .322 with 17 homers for the Phillies that year.

Paddy O’Connor, catcher for the 1909 champs. He played for the team from 1908-10, backing up George Gibson.

Lew Moren, pitcher for the 1903-04 teams. Late season call-up for 1903 World Series team, did not pitch in series.

Jake Beckley, Hall of Fame first base, played for team in 1888-89, then again from 1891 until 1896. For the Pirates, he was a .300 hitter in 950 games, driving in 664 runs and scoring 701 times. He is fourth all-time in triples. You can read a full bio for Beckley here.