Morning Report: West Virginia Could Go From First to Worst

In Friday’s Morning Report, I commented on the West Virginia Power’s top ten list and how they were the Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate with the best group of prospects this year. On Saturday, we posted the season recap’s for Bristol and for Jamestown. Neither of those top ten lists has much top-end talent. In fact, you could combine those two teams and the top ten list would still be the worst in the system. What that means for West Virginia is that they very well could go from the best prospect list to the worst in one season. For fans of the team, that shouldn’t be a problem because they look like they should have a decent team that is filled with solid college players.

Since the Pirates loaded up Jamestown with older college players, there is a good chance that many of them have the ability to skip over West Virginia next year, making it one of the more difficult rosters to predict for next season. There is also a chances that players like Austin Meadows, Harold Ramirez and Reese McGuire could start back at the level due to their age/experience/missed time. If that were to happen, then the prospect list wouldn’t look so bad, but if they move up, then there won’t be much for the prospect crowd to follow.

Luplow led Jamestown in walks this year (Photo Credit: David Hague)
Luplow led Jamestown in walks this year (Photo Credit: David Hague)

The assumption is that Buddy Borden, Cody Dickson and Luis Heredia will all move to Bradenton next year. There is no reason any of them should return to West Virginia, so that means the three best pitching prospects from 2014 will all be gone. That will open up at least three spots and maybe even a fourth will be available. Dovydas Neverauskas seems like he could return to the rotation and possibly Jake Burnette, who returned to the team late in the year, but he missed most of the 2014 season so there is no guarantee he moves up to Bradenton.

The Jamestown rotation had Tyler Eppler, Frank Duncan, Alex McRae, Austin Coley, Montana DuRapau and Marek Minarik in it this year. Eppler is the best prospect of the group and he also has the best chance to skip over Low-A because of his age, excellent fastball command and strong results. If he does skip the level, that leaves them with a group where the best prospect was an eighth round draft pick this season, who struggled and had a shoulder injury. It’s possible a few players could make the jump from Bristol, but the only pitching prospect is Hector Garcia, who will be 19 years old, so they may hold him back. He had strong stats in Bristol, especially for his age and the fact he jumped the GCL after just one year in the DSL, but that also means he is very young and inexperienced.

Even if Reese McGuire is promoted, the catching position could be the best for prospects. Kevin Krause and Taylor Gushue were ranked #2 and #4 on the Jamestown prospect list. One of them will definitely be at West Virginia and there is also a chance that Danny Arribas could move to WV due to his age. It will be a solid starter/backup no matter who is there. After that, the infield gets very iffy.

Wyatt Mathisen, JaCoby Jones, Erich Weiss and Edwin Espinal were the starters for the Power this year and all of them should all move up to Bradenton. They are all prospects. No one in Jamestown’s infield is a prospect or even closely resembles a prospect at this time. Second baseman Pablo Reyes is the best infield prospect at Bristol this year and he could possibly move up if the Pirates feel he can handle the jump. He is a sleeper prospect and a possible breakout hitter. Ulises Montilla is another outside possibility, but he needs to recover from the severe lower leg injury that caused him to miss almost all of the 2014 season.

When you get to the outfield, there is a slight chance at it being good if everything falls into place. Assuming Harold Ramirez and Austin Meadows move up a level, you could have Jordan Luplow, Connor Joe and Elvis Escobar in the outfield, along with Michael Suchy. Luplow is the best of that group, even though he was drafted two rounds lower than Connor Joe. Luplow was ranked by most people right around the same range as Joe, with the difference now being Luplow is 13 months younger than Joe and he played a full season at Jamestown, while Joe has been out this entire time and I haven’t seen him play yet in the Instructional League. If both Joe and Luplow are there(or Meadows/Ramirez) then the outfield looks decent.

There is a strong possibility that West Virginia will go from 7-8 top 20 prospects in the Pirates system this year down to zero next year. It’s possible that Luplow is the top prospect on the team. Nothing against Luplow, but he should be ranked around 25th in the system. Bradenton is going to be loaded next year. Altoona will have Tyler Glasnow and Josh Bell, while Indianapolis will have Jameson Taillon, Adrian Sampson, Nick Kingham and Alen Hanson. When you compare that to the group West Virginia is looking at, that is a huge difference. Basically, for the team to be interesting next year, then the Pirates have to go slow with a few of the better prospects.

As I mentioned, the team looks bad to those that follow for prospects, but for fans of West Virginia, it looks like they will have a much better team of the field. Young prospects don’t win games on the field usually, but a team filled with experienced, but low upside college players, should do well in Low-A ball. The Power look like they will be an older team in transition, as prospects from the GCL this year, spend another season in short-season ball getting experience. The good part is that right now, it looks like a one year thing as far as prospects go and next year’s draft should add to the talent. It didn’t this year obviously, but the four best players(in my opinion) the Pirates drafted this year were high school players.

Pirates Game Graph


Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

Pittsburgh: The Pirates clinched a playoff spot on Tuesday night. They are one game behind St. Louis for the NL Central lead with one game to go in the season. They are one game ahead of San Francisco for the first Wild Card spot. Pittsburgh holds the home field advantage if the two teams should finish tied, so they clinched at least a home field advantage in the Wild Card game.

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 10-6 to the Reds on Saturday. Gerrit Cole is scheduled to start the last game of the regular season today, his 22nd start of the year. Cole has started once against Cincinnati and that was back in April when he allowed five runs over six innings. He has a 4.21 ERA on the road and 3.39 at home. In his last start, Cole gave up two runs over seven innings against the Braves. 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. The Indianapolis season recap and top ten. The Altoona season recap and top ten. Bradenton recap and top ten and the West Virginia recap and top ten.

MLB: Pittsburgh (88-73)  @ Cincinnati (75-86) 1:05 PM
Probable starter: Gerrit Cole (3.78 ERA, 126:40 K/BB, 131 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)

Highlights

From the Fall Instructional League on Friday, a long at-bat from center fielder Michael de la Cruz, who came into the game in the sixth inning. Yesterday, we posted highlights of Friday’s game, including videos of Alen Hanson, Josh Bell, Austin Meadows and more.

Recent Transactions

9/24: Pirates claim Chaz Roe from New York Yankees. Place Charlie Morton on 60-day disabled list.

9/16: Pirates activate Charlie Morton from disabled list.

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

Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players have been born on this date, including the man that helped name the Pirates.

Louis Bierbauer played for the Pirates from 1891 until 1896. The old story goes that after the Player’s League folded in 1890, Pittsburgh “pirated” players from other teams that didn’t put them on the reserve list. The PL was around one season and most players returned to their 1889 teams because they were reserved. Pittsburgh signed Bierbauer (and others) and a few of the other teams referred to them as the Pirates. An odd twist on the story is that they never went by that team name in 1891. The local papers still often referred to them as the Alleghenys, which was the accepted name before then. Others called them “Allies”, the “Hanlons” for manager Ned Hanlon, or just the “Pittsburgs”. Back then the town didn’t have an H at the end.

When manager Bill McGunnigle took over the team in late July, he ran practice with a whistle and the local newspapers took to calling the team the “Pets”, which stuck through the end of the season. In 1894, they went by the name Braves. The nickname Pirates wasn’t used by the team until the 1895 season. The actual name of the team for the longest time was just “The Pittsburg Base Ball Club”. Having said all that, it’s easier to just say they started using the name Pirates in 1891 because that’s the earliest reference to it.

Back to Bierbauer, who was a star second baseman at the time. He had an awful first year back in the National League, then rebounded to have a decent career with the Pirates. He hit .260 in 709 games, with 399 runs scored and 425 RBIs. Bierbauer was an above average defender, who led the NL three times in assists while with the Pirates. You can read more about Bierbauer here.

Other players born on this date include:

Grant Jackson, pitcher for the Pirates from 1977 until 1982 and the winner of the last World Series game in franchise history. Jackson came in on relief in game seven of the 1979 World Series and threw 2.2 scoreless innings. He also won game one of the NLCS over the Reds. Jackson pitched 278 games for the Pirates and had a 3.23 ERA with 36 saves. He spent 18 years in the majors.

Leon Chagnon, pitcher for the 1929-30 and 32-34 Pirates. He pitched 101 times in relief and 20 times as a starter with Pittsburgh, posting a 4.61 ERA in 355 innings.

Everett Booe, outfielder for the 1913 Pirates. He hit .200 in 29 games. Booe played in the Federal League in 1914 and then couldn’t get a big league job after the league folded, which happened to quite a few marginal MLB players during that time.

Pete Compton, outfielder for the 1916 Pirates. Went 1-for-16 in five games. The Pirates bought him from the Boston Braves on July 3rd and returned him 11 days later.

Harley Young, pitcher for the 1908 Pirates. Made three starts and five relief appearances. The Pirates acquired Harley mid-season for Irv Young. The popular thing to do back then was give players with the same last name, the same nickname. Cy Young was nearing the end of his brilliant career back then and Irv Young got the unfortunate nickname of “Cy the Second”, not too much pressure for a young (pardon the pun) pitcher. Harley came around in 1908 and he got the name “Cy the Third”. Harley fell exactly 511 wins short of Cy Young’s career total.

Bill Nelson started and finished three games for the 1884 Alleghenys, winning one. It was his only MLB experience. He pitched in the minors until 1889.

  • Is the lack of prospects entering west Virginia next year cause for concern?

    • Not really because the system is so deep that singling out one particular team out of eight affiliates isn’t that bad. There were two teams that lacked prospects this year and the Pirates were still ranked as one of the best(or the best) farm system by everyone. The talent is just bunched up instead of spread out evenly. If all goes well with players moving up, Bradenton will look like one of the best teams for prospects in the minors.

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