The Pirates aren’t going to be short on outfielders in their system any time soon, at least not at the lower levels. They went heavily for both prep and college outfielders in the draft this year, and they had a good number of outfielders moving up from the Dominican Summer League, and they had some outfielders from last year’s draft lingering in short season ball. That left a lot of outfielders with their three short season affiliates. When you look at just how many they have, it’s not easy to see how they’re going to manage going forward, especially since not a single one of these guys has unequivocally established himself as a prospect yet. They all need regular playing time, but they can’t all get regular playing time.
So to start with, here’s the inventory. I’m leaving out Jase Bowen, who (thankfully) moved to second base full time in early August. It looks like he’ll stay there for now and may get some time at short next year. (Numbers in parentheses are draft rounds for drafted players. Stats are current through Wednesday’s games.)
Gulf Coast League
Sammy Siani (1S): The Pirates’ supplemental first round pick, Siani (pictured above) didn’t do much at the plate beyond drawing walks. He had a line of 241/372/308 and struck out in a quarter of his plate appearances despite hitting for very little power. Due to his draft round and bonus, it’s a safe assumption that the Pirates will find an everyday role for him wherever he’s assigned in 2020.
Angel Basabe: One of the two biggest signings in the Pirates’ 2017-18 international signing class, Basabe struggled, batting 210/278/303.
Carlos Canache: The Pirates signed Canache out of a Venezuelan prospect league and sent him straight to the GCL at age 18, which is the same age as most of the signees from the 2017-18 class. The lack of experience probably has to be taken into account; he had almost exactly the same season as Basabe, with a 209/311/297 line.
Jasiah Dixon (23): Dixon signed late and didn’t appear in a game until July 16. From that point, he played in only 22 of the team’s 38 games. With a line of 329/417/425 and the same number of walks as strikeouts, he’s been the team’s best hitter, which is a pretty good indication of the problem with having so many outfielders.
Deion Walker (35): Walker’s situation is similar to Dixon’s. Another late signee, he’s been the team’s second best hitter, and nearly its only real power threat, with a line of 270/329/459. But he’s played in only 22 of 32 games since he was activated.
Juan Pie: Along with Basabe, Pie was the team’s other top international signee in 2017-18. Like Basabe, he’s struggled, but he’s hit with some power and shown signs of coming around lately. He’s hit 244/327/370, but has a .752 OPS in August after dismal June and July numbers. He’s played only 18 games in the field, serving as DH half the time. You’d think the Pirates would try one of these guys at first, especially Pie, considering that he’s 6’2″ and profiles strictly as a corner outfielder. But they’ve clung to their practice at using utility players, backup catchers and other non-prospects at first on most of their affiliates.
Daniel Rivero: The Pirates jumped Rivero aggressively over the GCL; he was part of the same signing class as Pie and Basabe. He struggled badly at first, but his monthly OPS has gone from .461 in June to .623 and .778. He’s played center most of the time, which says something about how the Pirates view him because most of the other outfielders on this team are capable of playing center. He also has a very good arm.
Jean Eusebio: Eusebio was the Pirates’ top international signing the year before Rivero and hasn’t hit much yet. He’s played about half the time for Bristol and has put up a 225/344/333 line, but he has an OPS of .883 in August, easily his best stretch as a pro.
Chase Murray (13): Murray was hampered by an oblique injury in college this year. I don’t know whether it bothered him after he signed, but he’s hit only 221/262/294, easily the worst of the team’s outfielders.
Jake Wright (32): Wright didn’t do much except draw walks, putting up a 241/373/310 line. He figures to be a corner outfielder, so hitting for almost no power isn’t going to work.
Jake Snider (20): Snider signed late and then got hurt in his first game, so he mostly just played in August. He got hot after a bad start and is batting 300/429/375.
Brett Kinneman (7 — 2018): Given his draft round, Kinneman should have been at Bradenton by now, but he struggled so badly at Greensboro that he got demoted to the New York-Penn League, where he’s batted just 186/312/279. Despite his struggles, he saw more time in the outfield than any other player on the Black Bears.
Matt Gorski (2): Gorski’s bat was a major question mark when the Pirates used the 57th pick on him and paid him $1M to sign. He’s been as advertised, with a line of 223/297/346.
Blake Sabol (7): Sabol has done the best of the 2019 college outfield draftees — it’s a very low bar — batting 247/356/360.
Matt Fraizer (3): Fraizer has had a very rough time, showing no power and putting up a line of 241/307/292. His college season this year was largely wiped out by a broken hamate, so it’s possible that’s still affecting him.
Will Matthiessen (6): Another draftee having a very rough time, Matthiessen has hit 221/314/307. He’s split his time between the outfield and first, but he’s obviously going to have to hit a ton more to play either position.
Fernando Villegas: Villegas has had trouble getting on the field since signing out of Mexico last year. He got delayed by MLB’s Mexico investigation last year (not through his own fault) and was hurt at the beginning of this season. He reported to Bristol, but got promoted three weeks ago and has been one of the two best hitters at West Virginia since then, with a line of 296/367/481.
Brendt Citta (38 — 2018): Citta played last year at Bristol and got sent back there this year. He got promoted in July and has been the team’s other best hitter, batting 308/371/452. Like Matthiessen, he’s also spent time at first.
It’s both interesting and unsettling to think about what the Pirates are going to do with these guys next year. Very few of them have adapted well to pro ball so far and it’s hard to see how that’s going to change if they’re playing just four times a week. At the same time, it’s unlikely that the Pirates are going to release third-round draft picks or guys who got mid-six- to seven-figure bonuses just months ago.
Some of the assignments are easy to figure out. The 2019 college draftees will almost certainly go to Greensboro, unless something wonderful happens in fall instructionals or spring training. Ideally, college players drafted in single-digit rounds would be able to make the jump to Bradenton, but nobody meeting that description looks anywhere near ready for that jump, although maybe the Pirates could try it with Sabol. Citta and especially Villegas, on the other hand, might be good candidates to move up that far.
Some other guys could conceivably make that jump. If Rivero looks good in the off-season, he might be a possibility. Dixon and Walker could also be, too. The Pirates sent Jack Herman there at the beginning of June this year. Dixon and Walker haven’t done as well as Herman did in the GCL, but they had only limited opportunities due to the logjam. Of course, any of these players will have to battle for playing time there with the 2019 college draftees.
I’d expect most of the rest will get divided between Bristol and West Virginia. It’s really hard to see that working well. Playing only half to two-thirds of the time with a short season team isn’t going to provide a ton of experience. And anybody at West Virginia will have to contend with whatever college players the Pirates draft next year (and loading up on college position players on day two of the draft has become a trend for the team). Some guys, most notably Siani, Gorski and Fraizer, will probably get priority wherever the Pirates decide to assign them due to their draft rounds and bonuses. Which will make it even tighter for the other players. The situation puts a lot of pressure on the Pirates to make accurate decisions about which players are most promising, and their judgment of their own prospects hasn’t exactly been stellar in recent years.
Indianapolis has been eliminated from the playoffs.
Altoona has been eliminated from the playoffs.
Bradenton has been eliminated from the playoffs.
Greensboro has 5 games left. They have been eliminated from the division race, but they are 4.5 games back for the second best record, which could possibly get them a playoff spot. They can be eliminated as early as today.
Morgantown has 6 games left. They trail by 1.5 games in the division and 2.5 games in the wild card.
Bristol will begin their playoff series tomorrow.
GCL Pirates season ended.
DSL Pirates1 season ended.
DSL Pirates2 have clinched a playoff spot. Their playoffs start either today or tomorrow (see below)
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 12-3 to the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday night. The Pirates will now travel to Colorado for four games against the Rockies. They will send out Trevor Williams in the series opener. He tossed six shutout innings against the Cincinnati Reds in his last start. That followed two outings in which he combined to give up 11 runs over seven innings, with 13 walks and eight strikeouts. Williams last pitched in Colorado on July 21, 2017 and allowed five runs over 6.2 innings. The Rockies will counter with 27-year-old right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez, who has a 6.43 ERA in 35 innings, with 20 strikeouts and a 1.63 WHIP. He has an 8.22 ERA in four August starts, and surprisingly all four of those starts have been on the road. He last pitched at home on July 15th, where he gave up two runs over five innings against the San Francisco Giants. His only other home start was two weeks earlier against the Los Angeles Dodgers and resulted in three runs over four innings.
The minor league schedule includes the final game of the season for Bradenton. The Florida State League schedule is ending early due to the hurricane headed that way, so Bradenton will lose their last three games. Gavin Wallace starts the finale today. He has given up 14 runs over 15.2 innings in his last three starts combined. Indianapolis is sending out Brandon Waddell, who threw six shutout innings and struck out seven batters in his last start. He has an 8.44 ERA as a starter with Indianapolis. Morgantown has a morning start time, with Bear Bellomy on the mound. He threw four shutout innings in his last start and set a career high with eight strikeouts.
Greensboro is sending out Alex Manasa for his final start. He threw five shutout innings in his last outing, but also walked a career high four batters. He has thrown 5+ innings in 22 of his 24 starts, once falling one out short, while striking out 11 batters. Cam Vieaux will start for Altoona for the 13th time. He also made 13 starts for Indianapolis. Vieaux carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning in his last start before allowing a home run. That homer snapped a streak of 23.2 scoreless innings.
The DSL regular season is over. The Pirates2 received a first round bye. Their playoff series was supposed to start today (it’s actually still on the schedule) but yesterday’s final first round playoff game was suspended in the eighth inning with a tie score. I’m assuming that they won’t finish that game then start a new series, but I could be wrong. The GCL Pirates saw their season end yesterday, three days early, due to Hurricane Dorian. Bristol begins their playoff series tomorrow.
MLB: Pittsburgh (56-77) @ Rockies (59-75) 8:40 PM
Probable starter: Trevor Williams (5.35 ERA, 84:33 SO/BB, 112.2 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (64-70) vs Toledo (64-71) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Brandon Waddell (8.58 ERA, 64:39 SO/BB, 56.2 IP)
AA: Altoona (68-67) vs Akron (60-75) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cam Vieaux (2.47 ERA, 49:26 SO/BB, 69.1 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (72-62) vs Palm Beach (57-72) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Gavin Wallace (4.28 ERA, 82:21 SO/BB, 103.0 IP)
Low-A: Greensboro (76-56) vs Rome (63-71) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Alex Manasa (3.37 ERA, 114:31 SO/BB, 133.2 IP)
Short-Season A: Morgantown (37-33) vs Batavia (39-32) 10:05 AM (season preview)
Probable starter: Bear Bellomy (3.76 ERA, 21:8 SO/BB, 26.1 IP)
Rookie: Bristol (34-33) vs Johnson City (35-33) 6:30 PM 8/30 (season preview)
Probable starter: Jose Maldonado (4.34 ERA, 40:26 SO/BB, 45.2 IP)
GCL: Pirates (18-36) (season preview)
DSL: Pirates1 (34-36) (season preview)
DSL: Pirates2 (56-16) vs TBD (season preview)
From Altoona on Tuesday, how about some Brett Pope highlights for the man finishing up his Double-A season on a positive note. Here he is driving in the first run of the game.
How about some two-out magic? 🎩✨
⬇️2⃣ Curve 1, Akron 0 pic.twitter.com/XABsitwbZX
— Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) August 27, 2019
Followed by a delayed steal that turned into a run
— Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) August 27, 2019
8/28: Connor Kaiser placed on Greensboro injured list. Andres Alvarez added to Greensboro roster.
8/28: Domingo Gonzalez added to Morgantown roster.
8/27: Pirates recall Yefry Ramirez. Parker Markel optioned to Indianapolis.
8/25: Matt Eardensohn promoted to Morgantown.
8/22: Darnell Sweeney placed on Indianapolis injured list.
8/22: Blake Cederlind promoted to Indianapolis. Kevin Kramer activated from Indianapolis injured list.
8/22: Osvaldo Bido activated from injured list. Ryan Valdes placed on Bradenton injured list.
8/22: Quinn Priester promoted to Greensboro.
8/21: Chris Archer and Clay Holmes placed on injured list. Pirates recall Dario Agrazal and Parker Markel.
8/21: Michael Flynn assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab
8/20: Richard Rodriguez activated from injured list. Montana DuRapau optioned to Indianapolis.
8/20: Pirates release Austin Coley.
8/20: Sean Keselica placed on Indianapolis injured list.
8/19: Cole Tucker optioned to Indianapolis.
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a trade of note. On this date in 1987, the Pirates traded away long-time second baseman Johnny Ray, to the California Angels for two minor league players. Ray was acquired near the end of the 1981 season for Phil Garner and he had no Major League experience at the time, but the Pirates put him right in the starting job. That’s where he stayed there until this second deal 30 years ago today. He finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 1982, and he hit .286 over 931 games with the Pirates.
Former Players born on this date include:
Billy Cox, shortstop in 1941, then again during the 1946-47 seasons. Missed four full years due to military service during WWII. He hit .290 over 121 games in his first year back.
Joe Schultz Jr., catcher from 1939 until 1941. His dad was the farm director for the Pirates and also played for the team during the 1916 season. He also had a cousin named Hans Lobert, who played for the 1903 Pirates and another cousin named Frank Lobert, who spent a season in the big leagues.
Pep Young, infielder from 1933 until 1940. His .264 in 697 games with Pittsburgh. Spent most of his time at second base, but also saw time at shortstop and third base.
Roy Wood, 1913 left fielder. Joined the team in mid-June, playing just 14 games the rest of the season.
Ensign Cottrell, pitcher on June 21,1911. Played just one game for Pirates, coming in late during a blowout loss. He played for five teams in the majors, yet he only played 12 games as a pro. He is the first player to play for a World Series winning team in both leagues, 1913 A’s and 1914 Braves.