The Pirates added an Appalachian League affiliate in Bristol back in 2014. The Bristol Pirates haven’t exactly been an Appy juggernaut; in their first five years, they never finished at .500. Of course, minor league W/L records aren’t terribly meaningful, but the team wasn’t developing prospects, either. I don’t even need to go into the usual discussion of how, “It hasn’t been long enough yet.” The vast majority of Bristol’s “prospects” have been out of baseball within a year or two.
There was a certain logic to it. The Pirates primarily seemed to be using the affiliate for their prep pitching draftees, generally the year after they were drafted. That gave them a short-season workload and left the Pirates free to employ primarily college pitching draftees at their New York-Penn League affiliate. The position players seemed to be in Bristol just to fill out the roster. There are some signs, though, that things are changing. I thought I’d go back and see how many position players from each Bristol season were still around. (I’m going to ignore players who were there for only a few games. Austin Meadows, for instance, played a few games for Bristol at the end of the 2014 season.) Considering that the affiliation was established just five years ago, the number of “survivors” is remarkably small.
One position player from this team, second baseman Pablo Reyes, actually reached the majors. Jerrick Suiter is currently Altoona’s first baseman and isn’t likely to be around much longer. Everybody else is out of baseball, in most cases for a while now.
The great “success story” on this team was catcher John Bormann, he of the legendary midnight ride to Miami. Bormann retired a few days ago. First baseman Jordan George is currently struggling in AA with the Royals. Infielder Raul Siri is a seldom-used utility player in class A with the Pirates. All the other position players are out of baseball.
This was just three years ago, but the only position players who are still in organized ball are Siri and shortstop Adrian Valerio, who seems to be an organizational utility player now and is currently at Altoona.
Only four position players from this team, just two years ago, are still in organized ball. Jason Delay is sharing the catching duties at Altoona and could ultimately reach the majors as a Jacob Stallings-type player. Infielder Victor Ngoepe is serving as a utility player at Greensboro. Raul Hernandez is the backup catcher at Bradenton. Outfielder Edison Lantigua, whom the Pirates released before this season, is struggling in a limited role in low A with the Orioles.
This is where things start to change. Around half the position players are still in organized ball and a few might be real prospects. The most prominent ones are Mason Martin, who’s put up huge numbers this year with Greensboro and Bradenton, and Sherten Apostel, who looks like a good prospect now for Texas. The team also had outfielder Jonah Davis, who’s recovered from an awful first half and is hitting well now for Greensboro, and infielder Patrick Dorrian, whom the Pirates traded to the Orioles for another struggling reliever. Dorrian is doing fairly well in the Carolina League. About five other players are still with the Pirates, although none looks like a legit prospect.
This year’s edition got off to a bad start at the plate, scoring only eight runs in their first six games. They’ve hit increasingly well as the year has gone along and now lead the league in team batting. (They’re only fourth in OPS, though, a consequence of being last in home runs and seventh in the ten-team league in walks.) There are two obvious reasons for the improvement: a mild improvement in the team’s international scouting and the fact that the Pirates are drafting a lot of college position players. Many of the college draftees go to Bristol now, where formerly nearly all of the college hitters went to Morgantown. Skepticism when looking at the hitting numbers for college draftees in the Appy League is strongly recommended.
Anyway, many of the position players on this year’s team look like they at least could advance far in the system. It’s too soon to say whether any has a real shot at reaching the majors, as it’s fair to say they’re all underdogs.
Some Bristol players have been hitting well all season. Shortstop Francisco Acuna is among the league leaders in batting and leads the league in doubles. Infielder Aaron Shackelford (pictured above), a 14th-round draft pick, has eight home runs and is fifth in slugging. Catcher Eli Wilson, a 16th-round pick, doesn’t have impressive numbers but he’s shown some power and a willingness to take pitches, and his athleticism may give him some projection.
Other hitters have come on more recently. Center fielder Daniel Rivero, whom I continue to think is the best hitting prospect on the team, had a rough start after skipping over the GCL. His monthly OPS, though, starting in June has gone from .461 to .623 to .799. Outfielder Jake Snider, taken in round 20, has gotten into only 15 games due to the College World Series, a minor injury and the team’s outfield logjam, but he’s now batting .328 with a .431 OBP (no power at all, though). Infielder Yoyner Fajardo is batting .412 in nine games since a promotion from the GCL. Infielder Jesus Valdez, obtained for David Freese, is another player making the jump from the DSL, although he’s three years older than Rivero. He has a .980 OPS in August. Outfielders Jake Wright and Jean Eusebio have also been hitting better lately.
It’s hard to see any of these players as future standouts in the majors; if they were blue-chip prospects, they’d be at higher levels now. (Rivero is the one exception, as he’s already skipping a level and is still only 18.) In the past, though, Bristol more often than not has been the end of the line for position players. The Pirates definitely have higher quality position players there now. If the they can get a couple Pablo Reyes types out of this group, that’s a pretty good outcome.
Indianapolis has 12 games left. They trail by 12 games in the division and ten games in the wild card. They can be eliminated as early as today.
Altoona has been eliminated from the playoffs.
Bradenton has 11 games left. They trail by 10.5 games in the division. They can be eliminated as early as today. I’ll note that MiLB has them eliminated already, but that’s an error. Their elimination number is now one.
Greensboro has 12 games left. They trail by eight in the division and they are 3.5 games back for the second best record, which could possibly get them a playoff spot.
Morgantown has 14 games left. They are tied for the division lead.
Bristol has 7 games left. They are a 1.5 games out of first place and a 1/2 game ahead of the third place team. Two teams make the playoffs in each division.
GCL Pirates have been eliminated from the playoffs.
DSL Pirates1 have been eliminated from the playoffs.
DSL Pirates2 have clinched a playoff spot
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 11-1 to the Washington Nationals on Wednesday night. They will send out Steven Brault for the final game of the series. He went seven innings against the Chicago Cubs in his last start and allowed one run on two hits, with eight strikeouts. Brault has a 3.45 ERA in 12 starts this season. He did not pitch when these two clubs met earlier in the season. The Nationals will counter with veteran Max Scherzer, who is expected to be activated for this game after missing nearly a month due to a back injury. He has a 2.41 ERA in 134.1 innings, with 189 strikeouts and an 0.99 WHIP. His last start was on July 25th when he gave up three runs over five innings against the Colorado Rockies. He faced the Pirates in mid-April and allowed three runs over eight innings, with only seven strikeouts. I say “only” because his lowest strikeout total in a game this season is six, which happened once.
The minor league schedule includes Tahnaj Thomas making his 11th start of the season. He has faced Pulaski twice already, allowing three runs over 9.2 innings, with 15 strikeouts. He ranks sixth in the league in strikeouts, despite ranking 36th in innings pitched. Altoona’s Pedro Vasquez has a 2.69 ERA this season, which ranks third best in the Eastern League. His 1.08 WHIP ranks him fourth in the league. Vasquez threw eight shutout innings in his last start.
Indianapolis starter Yefry Ramirez allowed two runs over six innings in his last start, while striking out nine batters. Bradenton will send out either Conner Loeprich or Osvaldo Bido, with whoever doesn’t go tonight, will pitch Friday’s game. Bido is still currently on the injured list, though it was just to give him a break with his innings getting high. Greensboro starter Steven Jennings went five innings without an earned run in his last start. He has a 4.82 ERA in ten starts since the All-Star break. Michael Burrows will make the first start for Morgantown back from the NYPL All-Star break.
MLB: Pittsburgh (52-74) vs Nationals (69-57) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Steven Brault (4.06 ERA, 70:37 SO/BB, 77.2 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (62-66) @ Toledo (59-69) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Yefry Ramirez (5.54 ERA, 50:28 SO/BB, 39.0 IP)
AA: Altoona (64-64) @ Bowie (70-58) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Pedro Vasquez (2.69 ERA, 83:23 SO/BB, 107.0 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (68-59) @ Palm Beach (55-68) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Conner Loeprich (4.50 ERA, 17:7 SO/BB, 26.0 IP) or Osvaldo Bido (1.96 ERA, 10:6 SO/BB, 18.1 IP)
Low-A: Greensboro (73-53) @ Delmarva (85-41) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Steven Jennings (5.01 ERA, 99:39 SO/BB, 115.0 IP)
Short-Season A: Morgantown (34-27) @ Auburn (21-40) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Michael Burrows (4.21 ERA, 33:17 SO/BB, 36.1 IP)
Rookie: Bristol (30-30) vs Pulaski (40-21) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Tahnaj Thomas (3.62 ERA, 51:13 SO/BB, 37.1 IP)
GCL: Pirates (16-30) vs Rays (21-25) 12:00 PM (season preview)
DSL: Pirates1 (33-36) vs Indians (26-40) 10:30 AM (season preview)
DSL: Pirates2 (54-15) vs Mariners (33-36) 10:30 AM (season preview)
From Altoona on Tuesday night, Logan Hill gave Altoona a lead late with a two-run homer to dead center
.@HillSan33 FOR THE LEAD! 🚀🚀🚀
⬇️8⃣ Curve 4, Hartford 3 pic.twitter.com/qHSepNXM6L
— Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) August 21, 2019
Bligh Madris with an excellent catch in right field
— Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) August 21, 2019
This is from Monday night. Oneil Cruz goes the other way to pick up an RBI.
Another day. Another RBI for Oneil Cruz. #FullSteamAhead 🚂
⬇️1⃣ Curve 2, Hartford 0 pic.twitter.com/hQrizv6E7o
— Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) August 19, 2019
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.
8/18: Pirates add Montana DuRapau to roster.
8/18: Elvis Escobar activated from Altoona injured list. Tom Koehler placed on injured list.
8/17: Nick Mears promoted to Altoona. Cody Bolton placed on Altoona injured list. Ryan Valdes added to Bradenton.
8/17: Colin Selby placed on Greensboro injured list. Oliver Garcia promoted to Greensboro.
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.
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus one of the longest games in Major League history.
Doug Bair, 1976 and 1989-90 pitcher. Bair has the longest period between appearances with the Pirates. He was a 2nd round pick of the Pirates in 1971 and he pitched 584 games in the majors.
Wally Hebert, 1943 pitcher. Before the Pirates took him in the Rule 5 draft after the 1942 season, the last time Hebert played Major League ball was in 1933 for the St Louis Browns. After throwing 184 innings in his only season in Pittsburgh, he retired from baseball.
Lyle Bigbee, 1921 pitcher. His brother Carson played 11 season for the Pirates, while the older Bigbee got in five relief appearances during his time in Pittsburgh.
Harry Swacina, 1907-08 first baseman. Pirates paid $3,000 to purchase his contract from the minors. He .200 in 26 September games in 1907 and .216 in 53 games in 1908 before he was released.
Ned Hanlon, Hall of Fame manager, who played outfielder and managed for Pittsburgh in 1889 and 1891. You can read a bio for Hanlon here, covering his time in Pittsburgh.
Howie Camnitz. Pitched nine seasons in Pittsburgh, winning 116 games. In 1909 when the Pirates won their first World Series, he won 25 games, which hasn’t been topped by a Pirates’ pitcher since. Camnitz had a 1.56 ERA in 1908 and 1.62 in 1909, giving him the second and third best season ERA’s in franchise history. He threw a five inning no-hitter during the 1907 season. His brother Harry pitched for the 1909 team. A full bio for Camnitz can be found here.
On this date in 1917, the Pirates and the Brooklyn Robins played 22 innings at Ebbets Field. Reliever Elmer Jacobs took the loss despite allowing one run in 16.2 innings. Carson Bigbee had six hits. You can view the boxscore here. The Pirates had already played extra innings in three straight games before this one.