On Thursday night in Altoona, Cody Bolton struggled through his start, giving up five runs before being removed in the second inning without recording an out. It hasn’t been an easy transition for Bolton to Double-A, but that seems to be a theme this season.
There have been a total of 12 players who played for both Altoona and Bradenton this season. Some were just fill-ins due to injury. Ryan Peurifoy moved up when Jared Oliva was injured. Adrian Valerio replaced Stephen Alemais. Ryan Valdes helped a short bullpen. Austin Coley started in Bradenton as he returned from an injury, then moved up to Altoona. None of those players had success in Altoona, but it’s more telling to look at the players who earned promotions and how they are performing with the jump in competition.
Oneil Cruz was the most recent promotion and he’s not really struggling, as much as he’s adjusting to the level. The defense has been bad, with seven errors already in 17 games, but his .276/.313/.414 slash line through play on Thursday isn’t anything to worry about. It’s also a small sample size and one big game could make it look a lot different. At 20 years old, you could also say that he was rushed through Bradenton, with only 35 games in High-A, where his OPS was 134 points higher.
Once you look at the players who have been there longer, then you see how some of them have really had a hard time adjusting to the league. It’s a little more expected for the pitchers, going from a pitcher-friendly league, to facing better competition in a league/park that doesn’t really favor hitters or pitchers.
Cody Bolton is the extreme example, going from one of the top three pitchers in the FSL, to a 5.85 ERA through nine starts with Altoona. He deserves a little leeway, coming off of a season in which he was limited to about 70 innings total when you throw in his Extended Spring Training work from last year. He’s over 100 innings now and being challenged in the upper levels, shortly after his 21st birthday. That being said, it’s still an extreme difference in results.
Nicholas Economos just returned to Bradenton after his brief run in Altoona, which he earned with outstanding results in Greensboro, followed by Bradenton. His Double-A stint was disastrous to say the least, with an 8.83 ERA and a 1.79 WHIP in 17.1 innings. It should have been assumed that he would have some troubles with this jump. Economos is a sort-tossing right-handed pitcher, who relies on deception in his delivery and mixing in his off-speed pitches heavily. Without command of his pitches, that’s a combo that can usually get to Double-A, but has trouble at this level.
Domingo Robles is the lefty version of the warning with soft-tossing pitchers, though he has a little more working for him than Economos besides being three years younger. Robles tops out at 92 MPH, averaging about two MPH more than Economos. He also has better control and command of his pitches. That being said, he went from a 2.61 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and a .203 BAA in Bradenton, to a 4.74 ERA, a 1.38 WHIP and a .288 BAA in Altoona.
Joel Cesar gave up one run in 12.1 innings, with 16 strikeouts, before being moved up from Bradenton. It was a somewhat quick promotion, but he was dominating the level, holding batters to a .100 BAA. In Altoona since May 9th, he has a 4.08 ERA in 35.1 innings, with a 1.36 WHIP and a .265 BAA, while also seeing a slight dip in his strikeout rate.
Robbie Glendinning began the season in Altoona, but that was temporary from the start. He was filling in while Stephen Alemais was out early in the season. He posted some good numbers, but they stuck with the plan to send him back to Bradenton to play full-time. He had a .992 OPS with the Marauders, which led the league at the time, before being promoted to Altoona for good. In 49 games since returning, he has a .724 OPS. He’s currently out with an ankle injury, so even if he does return before the season ends on September 2nd, there is very little time to turn things around.
Chris Sharpe earned his promotion from Bradenton by doing a little bit of everything, getting on base, showing some power, speed and defense. He had an .836 OPS with the Marauders, which had him among the league leaders when he left the league in mid-June. Since joining Altoona, he has a .715 OPS, showing just a slight dip in power, but his OBP has dropped 102 points. That also translated to the bases, where he went from 15 steals in 64 games, to zero in 51 games with the Curve.
I saved the best for last, just to end on a high note. Blake Cederlind earned a quick promotion to the Curve this year, though he spent part of 2018 with Bradenton, so he was at the level for a normal amount of time. After giving up one run in 7.2 innings over seven appearances, he has put up similar stats with Altoona. Cederlind has a 1.44 ERA in 43.2 innings, with an 0.94 WHIP and 41 strikeouts. He has shown much better control at the higher level, even when you throw in the six hit batters (he had zero with Bradenton). Right now, Cederlind is the only player in this group who has improved his prospect stock after the promotion.
Indianapolis has 17 games left. They trail by 10.5 games in the division and eight games in the wild card.
Altoona has 17 games left. They trail by 16 in the division. They can be eliminated as early as today, but they can’t officially be eliminated until the first half champions also get eliminated from the second half playoff run.
Bradenton has 15 games left. They trail by ten games in the division. They can be eliminated as early as tomorrow.
Greensboro has 17 games left. They trail by six in the division and they are 2.5 games back for the second best record, which could possibly get them a playoff spot.
Morgantown has 16 games left. They trail by a 1/2 game in the division and now lead by a 1/2 game in the wild card spot.
Bristol has 12 games left. They trail by one in the division and they’re tied for the second playoff spot.
GCL Pirates have 14 games left. They trail by 14.5 in the division. They will be eliminated from the playoffs if they lose today.
DSL Pirates1 have been eliminated from the playoffs.
DSL Pirates2 have clinched a playoff spot
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates won 3-2 over the Chicago Cubs on Friday night. They will send out Steven Brault this afternoon in game two of the series. He has made two starts since returning from a month stay on the injured list. In ten innings total over those two outings, Brault gave up six earned runs. He faced the Cubs once this year back in early April, allowing four runs over three innings of relief work. The Cubs will counter with veteran lefty Jon Lester, who has a 4.33 ERA in 128 innings, with 129 strikeouts, and a 1.41 WHIP. He has faced the Pirates twice this season, once was shortened due to rain. In 8.2 innings, he has given up three runs. Lester has a 10.93 ERA in three August starts.
The minor league schedule includes Braxton Ashcraft, who has allowed at least two earned runs in all ten starts this season for Morgantown. He tries today to break a string of four straight starts with three walks. Altoona is sending out Pedro Vasquez, who was our Pitcher of the Month in June, but he has a 4.74 ERA in eight starts since then. Nicholas Economos returns to the Bradenton rotation after posting an 8.83 ERA in four outings with Altoona. Between his three stops this season, he has 121 strikeouts in 117 innings.
Winston Nicacio starts for Greensboro. Since being promoted last month from Morgantown, he has allowed one run over 15 innings, with no walks and 17 strikeouts. Bristol will send out Jose Maldonado, who tossed four no-hit, shutout innings in his last start, but he also walked five batters. Indianapolis is sending out Yefry Ramirez for his fourth start with the team. He has walked 25 batters in 31 innings since joining the Pirates. Ramirez has given 11 runs over 10.2 innings in his starts with Indianapolis. The GCL Pirates have a doubleheader today. Ryan Harbin, who signed an over-slot deal as a 17th round pick, should get the start in one of these games.
MLB: Pittsburgh (51-70) vs Cubs (64-58) 1:35 PM
Probable starter: Steven Brault (4.33 ERA, 62:36 SO/BB, 70.2 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (60-63) vs Lehigh Valley (59-63) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Yefry Ramirez (6.00 ERA, 41:25 SO/BB, 33.0 IP)
AA: Altoona (60-63) vs Bowie (68-55) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Pedro Vasquez (2.91 ERA, 79:22 SO/BB, 99.0 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (66-57) @ Lakeland (56-64) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Nicholas Economos (2.01 ERA, 54:21 SO/BB, 67.0 IP)
Low-A: Greensboro (72-50) vs Augusta (66-56) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Winston Nicacio (0.60 ERA, 17:0 SO/BB, 15.0 IP)
Short-Season A: Morgantown (33-26) vs Williamsport (24-36) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Braxton Ashcraft (6.19 ERA, 36:21 SO/BB, 48.0 IP)
Rookie: Bristol (27-28) @ Princeton (26-29) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Jose Maldonado (5.19 ERA, 32:23 SO/BB, 34.2 IP)
GCL: Pirates (14-28) vs Orioles (28-13) 10:00 AM DH (season preview)
DSL: Pirates1 (29-36) vs Cubs1 (31-34) 10:30 AM (season preview)
DSL: Pirates2 (51-14) vs Giants (28-37) 10:30 AM (season preview)
From Indianapolis on Thursday, Ke’Bryan Hayes starts a double play
— Indianapolis Indians (@indyindians) August 16, 2019
A rare highlight from Greensboro fits with the Hayes highlight. Michael Gretler showing off the defense at third base
— Greensboro Grasshoppers (@GSOHoppers) August 13, 2019
8/16: Pirates release Jake Brentz. Mitchell Tolman and Darnell Sweeney promoted to Indianapolis.
8/16: Adrian Valerio and Jesse Medrano promoted to Altoona. Chase Lambert and Raul Siri added to Bradenton roster.
8/16: Pirates recall Cole Tucker. Geoff Hartlieb optioned to Indianapolis.
8/15: Kevin Kramer placed on Indianapolis injured list.
8/14: Pirates sign Francis Olantilo.
8/14: Osvaldo Bido placed on Bradenton injured list.
8/14: John Bormann retired.
8/13: Pirates sign Isaias Dipre.
8/13: Nicholas Economos assigned to Bradenton.
8/13: Tom Koehler assigned to Altoona. Francisco Cervelli assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.
8/12: Pirates recall Mitch Keller. Richard Rodriguez placed on injured list.
8/11: Pirates release Tyler Lyons. Cody Ponce promoted to Indianapolis.
8/11: Clay Holmes activated from injured list. Parker Markel optioned to Indianapolis.
8/11: Francisco Cervelli assigned to Altoona on rehab.
8/11: Rookie Davis assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.
8/10: Mariano Dotel assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.
8/9: Braeden Ogle activated from Bradenton injured list.
8/9: Pirates release Eduardo Vera. Cam Vieaux sent to Altoona.
8/9: Kyle Mottice activated from Greensboro injured list. Victor Ngoepe sent to Morgantown.
8/9: Tom Koehler assigned to Morgantown on rehab
8/8 Robbie Glendinning placed on Altoona injured list. Bralin Jackson activated from Altoona injured list.
8/8: Max Kranick placed on Bradenton injured list.
8/7: Pirates sign Luis Joseph.
8/7: Eric Wood activated from temporary inactive list.
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including three who played for playoff teams and one who had a very brief career.
Chad Quall, 2012 pitcher. Came over from the Yankees at the trade deadline and really struggled, allowing 11 runs in 13.2 innings
Alex Cole, 1992 outfielder. The Pirates traded for Cole on July 4th and he went to right field, where he hit .278 in 64 games. Went 2-for-10 with three walks in the postseason.
Bill Landrum, closer from 1989 until 1991. Had a 1.67 ERA in 81 innings, with 26 saves in 1989. Had a 2.13 ERA the following year. Saved 17 games in 1991. Pitched three playoff innings between 1990-91, giving up one run.
Johnny Rawlings, second baseman from 1923 until 1926. Played 219 games for the Pirates, hitting .272, with 97 runs scored. Never won a Gold Glove, but he was an excellent fielder.
Arch Reilly, third baseman on June 1, 1917. His regular job was as a college math teacher and he didn’t join the Pirates until he was done with work that year on May 28th. He played one inning at third base in his only game, handling one play. He started at third base two days later in an exhibition game, which were often played during the season back then. Reilly was released to the minors the next day and he never appeared in the majors again.
His story coincides with a player named Marcus Milligan. During that exhibition game Reilly started, Milligan pitched the last four innings. That was the only game he played for the Pirates before also getting released to the minors with Reilly. Unfortunately for Milligan, he never got a chance to get into a real MLB game. He passed away in 1918 in a plane crash while training for WWI at the age of 22. You can read more about Milligan here.
On this date in 1971, Bill Mazeroski doubles for his 2,000th hit. He becomes the seventh player to collect 2,000 hits in a Pirates uniform. Willie Stargell is the only player to reach that mark since. Roberto Clemente was previously the last one to reach that goal with the Pirates before Mazeroski.