We’ve talked a lot here about the large number of interesting, and in some cases high-upside, pitchers who could be in the Greensboro rotation in 2020. One of the factors that’ll probably impact who appears in the rotation, and when, will almost certainly be workload. All of these guys will be coming from short-season leagues, so none of them have put in a full minor league season in a rotation.
To get an idea of how many innings a full season of starting at the low A level might entail, let’s look at Greensboro’s rotation from the beginning of 2019. What follows is the number of innings thrown by all five pitchers on the season; in the first three cases, some or even most of the innings ultimately came at higher levels. The numbers in parentheses are age and years of pro experience at the start of the season.
Brad Case (22/1): 137.1
Nick Economos (23/4): 134.1
Osvaldo Bido (23/2): 135.2
Alex Manasa (21/2): 139.2
Steve Jennings (20/2): 130.0
I’m guessing the season-opening rotation for a minor league team seldom posts such consistent innings totals. This does, however, give us an idea of what to expect from a guy who stays healthy for a full season as a starter beginning in low A. Two caveats . . . . First, teams don’t just use innings as a measure of workload. I’m using that here as a rough measure. Second, as we’ve been pointing out here for a while, we don’t have any idea yet about the development practices the new front office will follow. We can only assume, for the time being, that they’ll be roughly similar to what we’ve seen in recent years.
Next are the pitchers I think have a good chance of starting games for Greensboro this year, with 2020 season-opening age, years pro of experience, career pro innings and 2019 pro innings.
Tahnaj Thomas (20/3), 106.1 career IP, 48.1 2019 IP
Quinn Priester (19/1), 36.2 career and 2019 IP
Braxton Ashcraft (20/2), 70.2 career IP, 53.0 2019 IP
Michael Burrows (20/2), 57.2 career IP, 43.2 IP
J.C. Flowers (20/1), 29.1 career and 2019 IP
Santiago Florez (19/3), 138.1 career IP, 41.2 2019 IP
Luis Ortiz (21/1), 50.2 career and 2019 IP
Domingo Gonzalez (20/2), 93.2 career IP, 69.0 2019 IP
(These are just my guesses about the most interesting candidates to start for Greensboro. There are a bunch of others who could be there. The Pirates could, for instance, send Travis MacGregor back to that level at least to start the season. He’ll be returning after missing 2019 due to Tommy John surgery. Michael Flynn and Zach Spears, both 2018 draftees who missed most or all of 2019, could be there. Grant Ford and Austin Roberts, both 2019 college draftees, could both be there, although I’m guessing they’re more likely to move up to Bradenton.)
The possible 2020 starters are younger and less experienced than the 2019 guys. Case, for instance, was drafted out of college. Counting his college work, he threw 151 innings in 2018. Economos had thrown about 180 pro innings before 2019, plus extensive work in fall instructs and extended spring training. Bido and Manasa threw more innings in 2018 than any of the 2020 possibilities threw in 2019, and Jennings threw more than any except Gonzalez. (Oddly, of all the 2020 possibilities I listed, Gonzalez threw the most 2019 innings even though he spent nearly all the season in the DSL and GCL. Except for Priester, the others all pitched at Bristol or higher.)
I think the obvious answer is that Greensboro is less likely to have a standard, five-man rotation in 2020 than it did in 2019. They could use a six-man rotation, like Bristol did in 2019. They could use some of these pitchers in piggybacking arrangements. It’s also likely some guys will join the team partway into the season, particularly Priester. I’m just skeptical that any of the 2020 guys are ready for 130-odd innings just yet.
SONG OF THE DAY
Theme song from the funniest movie I’ve seen in a very long time . . . .
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
By John Dreker
Four former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including a man who was in the lineup for the first game in franchise history.
Jeff Banister, pinch-hitter for the 1991 Pirates. He was a 25th round draft pick of the Pirates in 1986 who got his one moment in the sun for the Pirates on July 23, 1991. In the seventh inning of a 10-3 game with the Pirates ahead and at home, Jeff came to the plate for his Major League debut, batting for Doug Drabek. With one out and no one on, he hit a 1-1 pitch from veteran Dan Petry between shortstop and third base for his first big league hit, a single. Two batters later he was left stranded at first base, returning to the dugout. He never played another Major League game. Banister was injured in 1992, then played in Double-A in 1993, before taking a managerial position in the minors for the Pirates in 1994. He has spent 30 years with the Pirates system and is currently a Special Assistant on the Baseball Operations side.
Edward Kinsella, pitcher for the 1905 Pirates. He went 17-14 in his second minor league season while playing for a team called the Bloomington Bloomers before the Pirates purchased his contract in August of 1905. He made his debut in relief in early September, then pitched a 2-2 tie on September 30th and a 4-1 loss on October 8th. Both games were the second game of a doubleheader and the second start was the last game of the season. After the season ended the Pirates sold his contract to Toledo of the American Association. He pitched four full seasons in the minors before getting his second and final shot at the majors with the 1910 St Louis Browns. He finished his career in the minors in 1914.
Jock Menefee, pitcher for the 1892 and 1894-95 Pirates. He made his major league debut with the Pirates during the 1892 season and pitched poorly, allowing ten hits and six runs in four innings during his only start. He pitched for Louisville in 1893 and part of 1894 until the Pirates reacquired him that year in exchange for pitcher George Nicol and cash in August. Menefee went 5-8, 5.40 in 13 starts with the Pirates to finish that 1894 season. In 1895 he pitched poorly in two games before being released. He didn’t pitch in the majors again until he started just one game for the Giants in 1898, but beginning in 1900, he spent four full seasons in the Chicago Orphans/Cubs starting rotation. He was a good enough hitter that he played 82 games in the field during his Major League career at six different positions other than pitcher.
Mike Mansell, left fielder for the 1882-84 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He started his minor league career with Syracuse of the League Alliance in 1877 and stayed with the team as they first moved to the International Association in 1878, then the National League in 1879. He played with the Cincinnati Reds in 1880, a franchise in the NL that pre-dated the current Reds franchise, which started in the American Association in 1882. That second Reds team was joined by the Pittsburgh Alleghenys in the first year of the AA. Mansell, who spent the 1881 season in the minors (see below) was the starting left fielder for Pittsburgh in their first year, playing all 79 games. He hit .277, while leading the league in both doubles and triples. In 1883, he batted .257 and scored 90 runs in just 96 games. In 1884, Mansell struggled with the Alleghenys, then was dropped after posting a .140 average through 27 games. He played for two other American Association teams that year before returning to the minors to finish his career. His brother Tom played five seasons in the majors, his brother John played one. All three played outfielder together in the minors with Albany in 1881.