The Scottsdale Scorpions took on Peoria in an afternoon game on Tuesday, with Thomas Harlan starting and Josh Bell and Elias Diaz in the lineup. Harlan didn’t last long, giving up three first inning runs, as Scottsdale lost 5-2 to drop them to a 10-14 record. There are eight games left in the Arizona Fall League season and Scottsdale trails first place Salt River by seven games.
Harlan struck out seven batters in his last outing, but he faced just eight batters on Tuesday before leaving the game. He allowed three runs on three hits and two walks, with one strikeout. Harlan needed 38 pitches to get through the inning, throwing exactly half of them for strikes. It’s one of the higher single-inning pitch totals you will see from a Pirates minor league pitcher, as they usually don’t go more than 30 in an inning, except to finish off an at-bat in progress. Harlan now has a 9.82 ERA in five starts.
Angel Sanchez followed Harlan and had a much easier day. In his first inning of work, he retired the first two batters on grounders, before issuing a walk. That runner was quickly erased by Elias Diaz on an attempted stolen base. In the third inning, Sanchez retired the side in order by getting three fly balls, one to each outfielder. He threw a total of 28 pitches, 18 for strikes. Sanchez has thrown 8.2 innings in the AFL without allowing an earned run and he is holding batters to a .129 average.
After being a late scratch on Monday, Josh Bell was back in the lineup at first base on Tuesday. He had a six-pitch at-bat in the first inning that ended with a ground out to first base. In the third, Bell walked on four pitches. In the fifth inning, he drew his second straight walk. Bell made it 3-for-3 in the seventh inning, drawing his third base on balls. Between the three plate appearances, he saw 14 total pitches. In the bottom of the ninth, he grounded out to third base, finishing his day 0-for-2 with three walks. Bell had his best day on defense, handling all four grounders hit his way. He also had five other chances without an error.
Elias Diaz singled to right field to begin the second inning. He came up in the third with the bases loaded, two outs and his team down 3-0. He drew a walk to score Scottsdale’s first run. Diaz saw six pitches in each of his first two plate appearances. In the fifth inning, Diaz struck out swinging. In the seventh, he lined out to center field to end the inning. In the ninth, he drew a four-pitch walk, ending his day by going 1-for-3 with two walks. On defense, Diaz was 2-for-3 in throwing out runners attempting to steal.
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.
What are the chances Diaz is in pittsburgh this year?
Good in September I’d say, probably very little chance before that
John: There is little, if anything, available in Free Agency for Catchers, and if our options are to take somebody else 217;s trash and overpay, then it comes down to who within the Pirate organization can be called upon to step up. Stewart came on towards the end of 2014, but he and Tony Sanchez remind me of the years where we had Doumit, Paulino, McKenry, the guy with the bad back we got from Arizona, just to name a few of the duds that have crouched behind the plate at PNC. Russell Martin was a guy the Yankees did not want  211; nor was anybody else seriously interested in him  211; and he came to the Pirates as a very good defensive Catcher who was mired in a rut of hitting .220/.230 on a regular basis, and being totally out of shape. But, the light went on in his head, he worked himself into much better shape, and he realized offensive and defensive levels we were not sure he was capable of reaching when we signed him. How well he did probably surprised him also.
Like TG, rather than put something in there that we cannot live with, why not Elias Diaz? I am impressed with his efforts at AA Altoona in 2014 and I think he is doing well in the Arizona Fall League. He is a defensive Catcher which is what we need, better defensively than Stewart and Sanchez, and he will be the #8 hitter in the lineup, meaning that guys like Marte, Polanco, Harrison, Alvarez, and Mercer are going to have to pick up the slack while he gets attuned to the game in the majors. What did Russell Martin hit in 2013? The answer is .226 in about 450 AB 217;s. I can live with a defensive pitcher 217;s Catcher who may only hit .200, as long as it is somebody we can build with during 2015 and 2016.
Because the idea that a player with limited at bats in AAA can come up and hit well enough to justify his defense is just as crazy as asking T. Sanchez to be good enough on defense to justify his hitting. It is absolutely not far fetched to see Diaz being a .220 or below hitter behind the dish in the majors this year. You dont promote a kid that needs more at bats out of need, its does him no good. Also, saying he is better defensively than Stewart isnt as clear cut as you state. Stewart ranks as slightly above average throwing guys out and above average in pitch framing and game calling. You are basically arguing Diaz can provide the value Martin did in 2013, which is idiotic. Diaz will not be a 3-4 WAR player if he hits .230 or below. Im glad you can live with a terrible automatic out, but the team cant. If 1B were to struggle, itd make 1/3rd of our lineup crap. Rushing the development of a serious potential future player to satisfy a current need is what PIT would do under DL and then trade him 3 years later.
LS: Some good points, and some misreads. I stated that I would be willing to live with a kid hitting .200 and Martin only hit .226 in 2013. I never spoke of value which is where I think you are going when you talk about a 3 to 4 WAR player. The good points are that Sanchez is not the answer, and Stewart is above average at best throwing people out, framing pitches, and I am not sure how much game calling he will be allowed to perform. From everything I have read, Diaz has all of those defensive tools also. Stewart is a backup at best, and Diaz is entering his age 24 season in 2015 – therefore, I do not see this as rushing his development. We already know he has the tools defensively, so I see this as a big opportunity for him, and I am one of those people who do not think that it is absolutely necessary to spend 3 months or 6 months in AAA.. The talent he has seen at AA and in the AFL is young, but strong.
A combination of Stewart/T.Sanchez would be the weakest position player slot on the team. But with Diaz on the way I would rather see the Pirates endure the undynamic duo for half of or a full season and invest the money saved by avoiding an expensive trade or FA option at catcher into the two open top line starting pitching positions needed for 2015 and 2016.