Today I got to see two pitchers for the first time. For the last year I’ve seen Wei-Chung Wang walking around in a red shirt as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. I also saw Hayden Hurst last year in the GCL after the 2012 draft pick signed. However, he didn’t pitch in the GCL, so I didn’t get to see him throw. Today, both pitchers were on the mound in the low-A game against the Toronto farm system. Here are my thoughts on each player.
The Pirates originally signed Wang for $350,000 out of Taiwan in 2011, which was a record at the time. Wang signed at the same time as Jin-De Jhang. However, the left-handed pitcher had a torn ligament in his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery. That put him out for the last year. He pitched in his first game at the end of instructs, making today his second game since signing.
Wang threw two shutout innings, giving up two hits, no walks, and striking out one. His fastball was 84-90 MPH. It was closer to the mid-80s in his first inning of work, but was more consistently 88-90 MPH in the second inning of work.
“The movement was good, but the speed has not come up,” Wang said after the outing, through a translator. Prior to the surgery, Wang was throwing 92 MPH. He was also throwing a nice curveball today. It came in slow, around the mid-70s, and had big breaking action from the side, kind of like a slurve. Wang also throws a changeup.
The lefty used to throw a fork ball, but the Pirates took the pitch away from him. That’s pretty common for pitchers in the lower levels. It avoids injuries, since that type of pitch puts more stress on the forearm. It also forces the pitcher to focus on commanding the four-seam fastball. Wang said he was hoping he would get the pitch back down the line.
Wang changed up his delivery throughout his outing, adding an occasional pause in his windup to throw off hitters. He worked two innings today, and doesn’t know if he’ll start this year, but said that he wanted to be a starter.
When the Pirates didn’t sign Mark Appel, they had some extra money left in their draft budget. They turned to a few middle round picks, including 17th round pick Hayden Hurst, giving the right-hander $400,000. He didn’t play at all during the GCL season, and missed most of instructs. It wasn’t injury related, but was because Hurst had taken time off, expecting to go to college.
“I thought I was going to go to school, but then the Pirates ended up coming up with money and they signed me,” Hurst said. “So I hadn’t thrown for like a month. And I came down here and they just took everything really slow with me, since there’s no sense in really rushing anything.”
The right-hander threw an intra-squad game during instructs, then threw one inning against the Blue Jays. Today was his second outing against another team, again coming versus the Blue Jays.
“Today I felt really good. Some fastballs got away from me, but I wasn’t really worried about the result as much as getting the work done today,” Hurst said.
The right-hander dealt with some control problems early. In one at-bat he let a fastball get away from him, throwing behind the right-handed batter at 93 MPH. The batter was obviously shaken up, and ended up striking out a few pitches later. He later threw a pitch in the dirt which got past Samuel Gonzalez, allowing a runner to score from third.
Hurst mostly stuck to his fastball, throwing three curveballs. His fastball was 88-93 MPH, touching 94 once. It was mostly sitting 91-92 MPH. After the outing he mentioned that he’s probably going to stick with his slider more than his curveball, since the 12-to-6 curve messes up his release point. That could have been the issue with his fastball control today.
Hurst has been working on a changeup, which is something the Pirates have been stressing for the last year in the lower levels of the minors.
“It’s definitely something they’re stressing,” Hurst said. “It’s a feel pitch, and I’ve been moving it around, trying to find a grip that works for me. It’s a work in progress.”
Hurst mentioned that he’s already been told he will go to Jamestown this year.
Colten Brewer Hitting 95 MPH
Colten Brewer had the best velocity on the day. The right-hander, taken in the fourth round of the 2011 draft, was 89-95 MPH. I had seen him hitting 93 MPH in the past, but he saw some improvements today. He threw two shutout innings, allowing one hit, walking two, and striking out one.
“This off-season I took a lot of time working out. Way more than I did last year,” Brewer said in relation to his velocity today. “It started to click in my head that this is my career. I need to start working really hard.”
Brewer mentioned after the outing that he hit 95 once last year in the GCL. He did leg work and arm care over the off-season, and the work outs could be the reason he’s throwing harder early in camp.
The right-hander was mostly throwing fastballs today. He mentioned that he’s been having trouble with his changeup.
“I’m trying to figure out when to throw it more, and figure out what counts to use it in,” Brewer said. “Once I get that release point down, it could be a really good pitch for me.”
The Pirates currently have Brewer preparing for extended Spring Training and starting the 2013 season in Jamestown. They did leave open the chance that he could break camp with West Virginia, noting that there are still opportunities there.
**Zack Von Rosenberg had a good outing today, but the velocity wasn’t nearly as good. He only needed 26 pitches to get through two innings, giving up one run. He was only throwing 80-83 MPH. That could be because it was the first outing of the year, but this will be something to keep an eye on. He threw two curveballs and eight changeups, both in the low-to-mid 70s.
**Jon Sandfort, the third round pick out of high school last year, reached his pitch limit with two outs in the second inning of work. Sandfort gave up six runs on five hits, with no walks and one strikeout.
**Jake Burnette also threw two shutout innings, giving up a walk and a hit, with one strikeout. Burnette was 85-90 MPH with his fastball, and threw a few nice curveballs. Last year he missed most of the season in State College with elbow inflammation. He didn’t need surgery, and pitched during instructs. Today he was mostly working on his fastball, and not throwing the curve or changeup as much.
**Ryan Hafner threw two shutout innings with no walks, no hits, and two strikeouts. Hafner was 85-90 MPH with his fastball. The walks are encouraging, since Hafner struggled with his control a lot in 2012.
**Bryton Trepagnier threw an inning, sitting 88-90 MPH with his sinker. Last year the right-hander was hitting 92-93 at the end of the year, although his pitch is effective at the slower speed. He also flashes a nice slider which sits in the 70s. He only threw two today. One was 77 MPH. The other one came in at 70 MPH for an off-balanced swing and a miss. He got two ground outs and a strikeout in his inning of work.
Position Player Notes
**Josh Bell still has it. Batting right-handed against a left-hander today, he had a hard hit line drive to right-center, past the center fielder and to the wall. Bell turned it into a triple.
**Alen Hanson led off the high-A game by bunting his way on for a single. Two batters later, Gregory Polanco had a hard hit fly ball to right for a fly out. The ball was going straight into the wind.
**Today was also the first time I got to see Maximo Rivera. I talked about him in this morning’s notes. He showed impressive speed on one play, legging out a stand up triple on a shot to the gap in right.
**Samuel Gonzalez looked like a sleeper prospect behind the plate after the 2011 season. He had a torn labrum, which required shoulder surgery prior to the 2012 season. The Pirates moved him to first base while he was recovering. He’s now back behind the plate, but went 0-for-2 in caught stealing attempts today, with two throws that were off the mark. Prior to the injury he had a really good arm. He also had a double today in the second half of the low-A game.
**Dilson Herrera made two nice plays at second base. One was a diving stop to his left on a hard hit ground ball. The other play came when a runner was picked off between first and second. The runner paused after Herrera faked a throw, and Herrera sprinted after him to chase him down for the out.
**I didn’t see much of Stetson Allie, who was a DH, but I did see him strike out swinging in the one at-bat I watched.