First Pitch: If There Was a Minor League Season, Part 6

We’ve talked a lot here about the anticipated strength and depth of the 2020 Greensboro pitching staff.  Bradenton, though, should be plenty intriguing.  Among other things, the depth at GBO could add to the Bradenton staff by forcing some upward movement.

Rotation

I’m using the word “rotation” here kinda loosely.  There are way more than five pitchers who should be in a theoretical Marauders’ rotation.  What I really want to do here is run through the numerous pitchers who probably should be in the Florida State League and who should get in substantial innings, probably 100+, or at least close to that.  Those innings can come from starts and from long relief, possibly in a piggybacking role.

Arguably the most interesting “starters” at Bradenton will be Travis MacGregor, Osvaldo Bido and Noe Toribio.  MacGregor was off to a very good start in the South Atlantic League in 2018, but it got cut short by injury and, ultimately, Tommy John surgery.  Hopefully he’ll be ready to move up.  Bido and Toribio are something we haven’t seen since . . . ever?  Latin American starting pitching prospects in the Pirates’ system!  It’s still an open question what kind of ceiling either has — neither has quite dominated — but both have moved quickly.  Bido signed late and is already 24, and got in some time in the FSL late last year.  Toribio is still only 20, earned a promotion from the New York-Penn League last year (something you don’t see a lot), and had some impressive outings in seven up-and-down starts at GBO.

Some other pitchers should move up as well after good seasons at GBO.  Alex Manasa got in 139.2 IP, which is a lot at that level.  He’s a very solid starter who doesn’t dominate.  Colin Selby is a 16th-round darkhorse who consistently got hitters out after a late start.  Will Kobos is a 19th-rounder who fanned 11 per nine innings at GBO, oddly after struggling in the NYPL.

One possible feature at Bradenton will be pitchers from the 2019 draft.  The Pirates had several earlier round college pitchers who mostly put up respectable performances in the NYPL.  Some of these guys seem to profile better as relievers, but they all got some starts.  You’d like to see college draftees move up to high A for their first full seasons, so they should be there.

The guys who probably should move up are Grant Ford (5th round) and Austin Roberts (8th).  Both pitched well last year, Ford mainly as a starter and Roberts starting and relieving.  They’re both fastball/slider guys.  Roberts was a reliever in college; Ford may be more likely to start long term.  A third college draftee was 4th rounder J.C. Flowers.  He’s less experienced and struggled in the NYPL, so he’s probably a better candidate to go to GBO.

Other possibilities are Steven Jennings, Winston Nicacio and Oddy Nunez.  Jennings was the 42nd overall pick in 2017.  He keeps getting optimistic scouting reports despite unimpressive stuff and performances.  I assume he’ll keep getting chances.  Nicacio was a MiL Rule 5 selection last year and pitched well in the NYPL and SAL.  I see him more as a utility type of pitcher.  Nunez, the only lefty among these starting candidates, is 6’7″ and looked like a legit prospect a couple years ago, but he’s struggled with injuries and weakened stuff.

Bullpen

The Marauders should have two especially interesting relievers in Yerry De Los Santos and Cameron Junker.  After missing most of three years due to Tommy John, De Los Santos pretty much obliterated the SAL last year, fanning 38% of the batters he faced.  Happily, he survived Rule 5.  I’m hoping he’ll be in AA by mid-season.  Junker was a 10th round draft pick out of Notre Dame in 2019.  He rode a funky motion to a 14.5 K/9 in the NYPL last year, with right-handed batters posting a crazy-bad .283 OPS against him.

The other most intriguing reliever at Bradenton will likely be Oliver Garcia.  Formerly a control specialist as a starter, he saw his velocity increase to the mid-90s as a reliever.  He pitched at three levels in 2019, but he only threw 28 IP, so he’s something of a mystery at this point.

Other possible relievers would be Cristofer Melendez, Cody Smith, Cam Alldred and Will Gardner.  The Padres sold Melendez to the Bucs after selecting him in the MiL Rule 5 draft.  He ran into some bad luck at GBO last year (5.13 ERA but 3.18 xFIP), despite a 14.5 K/9.  Smith is a 39th rounder who fanned over 11 per nine last year.  Alldred, a lefty drafted in the 24th round out of college, had only passable numbers in the SAL.  Gardner was a 21st rounder who’s had good K rates but control problems.

Rotation:  Travis MacGregor, Osvaldo Bido, Noe Toribio, Colin Selby, Grand Ford, Steven Jennings.

Bullpen:  Yerry De Los Santos, Cameron Junker, Austin Roberts, Alex Manasa, Will Kobos, Winston Nicacio.

SONG OF THE DAY

DAILY QUIZ

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THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

By John Dreker

One major trade and four former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date.

On this date in 1979 the Pittsburgh Pirates traded pitcher Jerry Reuss to the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitcher Rick Rhoden. Reuss was a 29-year-old starting pitcher with ten season in the majors, five with the Pirates, at the time of the trade. He had won 48 games between 1974-76, but his last two seasons with Pittsburgh he went 10-13 in 1977 and then pitched only 82.2 innings in 1978. He had shoulder problems in 1978 and was unhappy about his role for 1979, so he asked for a trade. Rhoden was a 25-year-old, with a 42-24, 3.40 record in 118 games, 91 as a starter.

Rhoden got off to a slow start with the Pirates, needing shoulder surgery after just one start. He finally came back healthy for an entire season in 1981 and won 72 games over his six full seasons in Pittsburgh. After the 1986 season, the Pirates traded Rhoden to the Yankees in a six-player deal that brought a young Doug Drabek back to Pittsburgh. The trade worked out just as well for the Dodgers, as they got 86 wins and 1,407 innings pitched out of Reuss. During the 1981 playoffs, he made five starts, the last one being a complete game win over the Yankees during game five of the World Series.

Bobby Del Greco, outfielder for the Pirates in 1952 and 1956. He was a Pittsburgh, Pa. native, who signed with the Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1950 as a 17-year-old. The next season he hit .302 with 37 doubles in 123 games playing Class C ball for the Hutchinson Elks of the Western Association. The Pirates brought him right up to the majors to start the 1952 season, playing him 90 times in center field that year. He hit .217 with 20 RBIs, 38 walks and 34 runs scored in 385 plate appearances. Del Greco spent the next three seasons in the minors before making the Pirates Opening Day roster in 1956. He played 14 games prior to being traded to the St Louis Cardinals in mid-May, along with Dick Littlefield, in exchange for Bill Virdon. Del Greco was a regular for the Cardinals during that 1956 season, but during the next three years, he played a total of 40 Major League games. He was a regular with the Kansas City A’s and Philadelphia Phillies from 1960-63, playing at least 100 games each season. After spending all of 1964 in the minors, Del Greco got into another eight games with the 1965 Phillies, his last season in the majors. In nine big league seasons, he played 731 games, hitting .229 with 271 runs scored and 169 RBIs.

Jack Ferry, pitcher for the 1910-13 Pirates. He was the first graduate of Seton Hall University to play in the Major Leagues. Ferry was purchased by the Pirates in August 1910 from the Jersey City Skeeters of the Eastern League, where he had an 8-11 record in 203 innings during his second season of pro ball. He made three starts and three relief appearances in 1910 for the Pirates, posting a 2.32 ERA in 31 innings. The 1911 season was his best in the majors. Ferry went 6-4, 3.15 in eight starts and 18 relief appearances, pitching a total of 85.2 innings. He pitched just 11 games in 1912 and had control problems, although his record didn’t show that as he went 2-0, 3.00 in 39 innings. He walked 23 batters and struck out ten. Ferry was used only four times in relief early in 1913 before he was sent to the minors. He never returned to the big leagues, finishing his playing career in 1916 with the Shreveport Gassers of the Texas League. He went 10-6, 3.02 record in 47 games for the Pirates. His brother Cy Ferry, pitched two seasons (1904-05) in the majors.

Art Weaver, catcher for the 1903 Pirates. He was purchased by Pittsburgh from the St Louis Cardinals in June of 1903 and would play 11 games behind the plate and five games at first base through the rest of the season. He was with the team until the end of the season, but did not participate in the World Series. Weaver hit .229 in 16 games for the Pirates after hitting .245 in the 16 games he played for the Cardinals during the first two months of the season. He made his Major League debut for St Louis in 1902, hitting .182 in 11 late season games. Weaver’s only other big league experience was 28 games for the 1905 St Louis Browns and 15 games for the 1908 White Sox. He played a total of 11 seasons in the minors, finishing his pro career in 1914.

John Ganzel, first baseman for the 1898 Pirates. Two seasons after making his pro debut in the minors in 1896, he made his Major League debut with the 1898 Pirates. His stay with the team wasn’t long, because a month into the schedule he was sold to the Detroit Tigers of the Western League. For Pittsburgh, Ganzel hit .133 in 45 at-bats, although he struck out just one time. He had six singles, four walks and five runs scored. He made it back to the majors in 1900 with the Chicago Orphans (Cubs), then played for the 1901 Giants, 1903-04 Highlanders (Yankees) and 1907-08 Reds. Ganzel managed the Reds in 1908, Brooklyn Tip-Tops of the Federal League in 1915 and he spent another 14 seasons managing in the minors. He played his last minor league game at age 44 in 1918, and 21 years later he managed his last game. He had a brother Charlie, who played 14 seasons in the majors and a nephew named Babe Ganzel, who played two years (1927-28) for the Washington Senators

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