Except for a rough series this week against Pawtucket, Indianapolis has mostly been playing well for a while now and has had some players on good stretches. Things have been more problematic for the other affiliates. Altoona has been missing a good portion of its lineup (Tony Sanchez was promoted; Matt Curry, Adalberto Santos and Andrew Lambo are hurt; and Robbie Grossman has been out on a lengthy suspension for undisclosed reasons). Bradenton has had trouble scoring runs most of the season. And West Virginia has had massive pitching and defensive problems.
Bryan Morris, RHP (AAA): Morris is appearing in longer outings some, although not all, of the time. In his two games this past week, which included a three-inning stint, he allowed no earned runs on two hits and no walks, while striking out six. In his last six outings, he’s allowed one earned run in 11 innings on nine hits, one walk and 12 Ks. On the year his WHIP is just a shade over 1.00 and he’s fanned a batter an inning. Unfortunately for him, the Pirates’ bullpen hasn’t needed much help.
Tim Wood, RHP (AAA): Since struggling at the beginning of the season, Wood has been money in the bank for Indianapolis. He actually gave up a run on five hits in 4.1 IP this past week. The first of those hits stopped a string of seven straight hitless outings. In his last ten games, he’s allowed one run, five hits and two walks in 14 innings, while fanning 13. Of course, he not only has to face the same issue as Morris—lack of need at the major league level—he has the additional issues of not being on the 40-man roster and having a history of dominating AAA and then imploding in the majors.
Brandon Cumpton, RHP (AA): Cumpton is quietly putting together a strong season, about the only one among Altoona’s struggling starters. In his past three starts he’s allowed just two runs and nine hits in 21.1 IP. For the year he has a 2.97 ERA and .226 opponents’ average. The one negative is a low K rate (5.1 per nine innings), but that might change if he moved to the bullpen, as it did with Jared Hughes.
Alex Dickerson, 1B (High A): In the midst of a disappointing season, Dickerson showed some signs of life in the past week, going 12-36 (.333) with two doubles, a triple and two HRs. Of course, eight of the hits and all of the extra base hits came in the games on Tuesday and Wednesday. For the season he’s hitting 286/352/409.
Willy Garcia, OF (Low A): Garcia’s had several good stretches this year, interspersed with periods where he doesn’t hit for a while. He continues to be limited by weak plate discipline; he has 14 walks and 56 Ks. The past week has been one of his good stretches, though, as he’s gone 10-23 (.435) with a double and two HRs. He even managed four walks while fanning only four times. It’d be nice to see what he could do on a longer term basis if he got his swing under control.
Starling Marte, OF (AAA): Marte has had some good stretches, including one after he seemingly recovered from his hand injury, but he can’t seem to sustain it. After starting this week 4-8, he stumbled into an 0-18 stretch that included eight whiffs. His overall numbers remain just OK at 261/319/445. The Pirates could really use some outfield help, but he needs to show some better signs of mastering AAA before he’s an option.
Ramon Cabrera, C (AA): Cabrera seemingly got a break when the Pirates promoted Tony Sanchez to AAA, all the more so because one stated reason for the move was the team’s desire to see more of Cabrera. So far, he hasn’t seized the moment. In his last 11 games he’s 4-39 (.103), with the only relief coming last Friday when he had a double and a HR. On the year, last season’s Florida State League batting champion is hitting just 229/288/312.
Quinton Miller, RHP (High A): Back in the day, Miller was the first of the Pirates’ collection of projectable prep pitching draftees who signed for over-slot amounts. He wasn’t having a good year to begin with, but in his past four outings he’s allowed 12 runs, nine earned, on 12 hits in five innings. For the season he has a 6.67 ERA and only 5.3 strikeouts per nine innings pitching in relief.
Ryan Hafner, RHP (Low A): Another projectable RHP, Hafner is suffering from serious, if not quite Allie-esque, control issues. He’s walked at least four in five straight outings, including seven in a four-inning relief appearance on Friday. On the season he has exactly twice as many walks (34) as Ks (17), in 36.1 IP.
Having followed the Pirates fanatically since 1965, Wilbur Miller is one of the fast-dwindling number of fans who’ve actually seen good Pirate teams. He’s even seen Hall-of-Fame Pirates who didn’t get traded mid-career, if you can imagine such a thing. His first in-person game was a 5-4, 11-inning win at Forbes Field over Milwaukee (no, not that one). He’s been writing about the Pirates at various locations online for over 20 years. It has its frustrations, but it’s certainly more cathartic than writing legal stuff. Wilbur is retired and now lives in Bradenton with his wife and three temperamental cats.