On December 18th, the Pittsburgh Pirates announced that they had signed seven players as minor league free agents. The article can be found here listing the following players, pitchers Kyle McPherson, Elvin Ramirez, Brandon Mann, Daniel Schlereth and Adam Wilk, infielder Michael Martinez and first baseman Travis Ishikawa.
You probably already know the contributions from these players for the Pirates if you’re reading this. Ishikawa was the only one that made the Opening Day roster and if the Pirates/Mets could have completed the Ike Davis trade in the off-season when they first started talking, Ishikawa may have never seen Pittsburgh. He was designated for assignment when Davis was acquired and he chose free agency instead of a minor league assignment. Ishikawa is actually in a pennant race right now, playing a bench role for the San Francisco Giants, where he is hitting .304 in limited time.
Michael Martinez contributed about as much as Ishikawa did for the Pirates, going 5-for-39 in 26 games. It was basically what you would expect from Martinez. He saw the Majors due to injuries and since he never hit before in three seasons with the Phillies, it wasn’t a surprise to see him struggle as a bench player for the Pirates. He was recently dropped from the 40-man roster and outrighted to Indianapolis.
The other five players didn’t pitch for the Pirates and two of them never never pitched in the minors for the Pirates either. Kyle McPherson was supposed to miss the first half of the season, but in late April during his rehab, he injured his elbow and needed surgery. That ended his season and he is now scheduled to return in time for Spring Training next year.
The other pitcher that never played in the Pirates system was Elvin Ramirez, who was cut on March 22nd. He was one of two players from this list that didn’t even get an invitation to Major League Spring Training. Ramirez signed as a free agent with the Cincinnati Reds in mid-April and struggled in a relief role between stops in AA and AAA.
He was an interesting signing in that Ramirez was rated as the top prospect available in the 2010 Rule V draft and the Pirates had the first pick. They went with a virtual unknown in Josh Rodriguez and he lasted about two weeks, while Ramirez at least flashed some potential by striking out 22 batters in 21.1 innings with the Mets in 2012. That was after missing the entire 2011 season due to shoulder surgery. As a side note, Michael Martinez was taken by the Phillies during that same 2010 Rule V draft.
Brandon Mann and Daniel Schlereth didn’t last too long for the Pirates. Mann didn’t get a Spring Training invite and he was released at the end of May, while Schlereth was traded to the Detroit Tigers in a deal where the return was never announced. Mann pitched for Altoona, making two starts and 12 relief appearances. He actually pitched well, posting a 2.91 ERA, while striking out 34 batters in 34 innings. He was a 30-year-old in AA, so there was limited significance to those numbers. Schlereth really struggled with Indianapolis, pitching 21 times, with a 7.23 ERA and 18 walks in 18.2 innings. With Toledo, he pitched a little better, but still saw limited mound time and had control issues.
Finally, Adam Wilk was a starter for Indianapolis all season. throwing 146.2 innings. That was the fifth highest total in the farm system. Wilk put up mediocre stats, allowing more hits, runs and home runs than anyone else. As a 26-year-old lefty with some Major League experience, Wilk was a good player to give a shot to and it wouldn’t be surprising if he was around again next year as a depth option. He occasionally looked good and obviously ate a lot of innings.
At the time of the signings, it looked like they were all at best depth options and that’s basically the role they filled. It was obviously surprising that Ishikawa made the Opening Day roster and that experiment didn’t last that long. Martinez had plenty of experience the last three years with the Phillies, but his main value came from his defensive versatility and not his bat, which limited him to a 25th man role. He was a player you hoped you didn’t need to use in the Majors, but he could play a bunch of positions and had experience, so if you needed him(which they did) you hope he could hold his own and not hurt the team anymore than the injuries already did.
The hope with the five pitchers was that they provided depth and possibly one of them breaks out like Vance Worley did. That didn’t happen and only Wilk lasted all season. He didn’t pitch well enough to get a look at any point this season, but he was an innings eater for Indianapolis. McPherson was the most familiar player and the hope with him was that he recovered from his injury to look like the pitcher that made it to the Pirates in 2012. His injury set him back and now it will be tougher to regain his form with almost two full years of missed time. It will be interesting to see if the Pirates stick with him for another season to see what he has left.
Pirates Game Graph
Pittsburgh: The Pirates are 4.5 games behind St. Louis for the NL Central lead and 1.5 games ahead of both Atlanta and Milwaukee for the second Wild Card spot. They are four games behind San Francisco for the first Wild Card spot.
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost on Tuesday night, breaking their four game winning streak. Vance Worley takes the mound tonight for his 15th start of the year and his first against the Phillies. In his last start, Worley had his shortest outing of the season, allowing three runs(two earned) on four walks and five hits in 4.2 innings. The minor league season is over. Bradenton was the only affiliate to make the playoffs. They lost their series Wednesday night. You can read the DSL season recap here complete with scouting reports for each player and the top ten players to watch list can be found here. We will post other season recaps soon.
MLB: Pittsburgh (75-69) @ Philadelphia (67-77) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Vance Worley (3.06 ERA, 66:20 K/BB, 91.1 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (73-71)
AA: Altoona (61-81)
High-A: Bradenton (78-61)
Low-A: West Virginia (54-81)
Short-Season A: Jamestown (35-40)
RK: Bristol (22-46)
GCL: Pirates (20-40)
DSL: Pirates (34-36)
With the minor league season over, it’s time to take a look back at some recent video from the GCL, which we will continue to do over the next few days. All videos are courtesy of the GCL Pirates fan page. Below is a video of Eric Thomas Jr. collecting an RBI hit. In his rookie season, the 19-year-old outfielder batted .227/.312/.237 in 29 games.
9/8: Pirates release Ernesto Frieri.
9/7: Michael Martinez and Chris McGuiness clear waivers and were outrighted to Indianapolis.
9/2: Pirates recall Gregory Polanco, Jeff Locke, John Holdzkom, Casey Sadler and Bobby LaFromboise.
9/2: Chase d’Arnaud added to 40-man roster and promoted to Pittsburgh. Michael Martinez designated for assignment.
9/1: Pirates recall Gerrit Cole and Tony Sanchez. Stolmy Pimentel activated from the disabled list
9/1: Pirates designate Chris McGuiness for assignment. John Holdzkom added to 40-man roster.
This Date in Pirates History
Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players have been born on this date, including a Hall of Famer, a top power-hitter from the 1950’s and someone that played for the 1909 World Series champs, just barely.
The Pirates acquired young first baseman George Kelly from the Giants in 1917 when they needed help due to injuries. Honus Wagner was getting the majority of the playing time at first base prior to going down to injury. Kelly replaced Wagner and lasted just eight games before he was returned to the Giants. Perhaps if Wagner didn’t return so soon, the Pirates might have kept Kelly and had the Hall of Famer on their roster during the early 1920’s when he helped the Giants to four straight World Series appearances.
Unlike Kelly, Ted Kluszewski did most of his damage before he joined the Pirates. He was one of the best power hitters in the National League between 1953-56, when he hit at least 35 homers and drove in 100+ runs each year. With the Pirates during the 1958-59 seasons, Kluszewski hit just six homers over 160 games.
Finally, Kid Durbin was a member of the first World Series winner in franchise history with the 1909 team. His part was the smallest part possible, pinch-running in the ninth inning of the first game ever played in Forbes Field on June 30,1909. It was his only game for the Pirates and his last game in the Majors.
You can read bios for these three players here, as well as three others, including everyone’s favorite, Chad Hermansen, who turns 37 today.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.