Unless you follow the four Pittsburgh Pirates minor league teams very closely, you might be surprised to learn who leads each team in OPS. There are no top prospects in this group, just four players off to great starts this season.
Indianapolis is led by third baseman Deibinson Romero, who has a 1.221 OPS. That not only leads the Indians, it is 138 points higher than the second best OPS in the International League. Romero leads all Pirates hitters with four homers and he’s batting .350, while also drawing nine walks in 13 games. His .750 slugging is 100 points more than the second best in the IL and Romero is the leader among all hitters in the Pirates’ system.
Altoona’s top hitter is second baseman Max Moroff, who may have only got a chance in Altoona due to a long-term injury to shortstop Adam Frazier. Moroff is seventh in the Eastern League with his .924 OPS. His season didn’t exactly start strong, so he’s been on of the best hitters in the league over his last seven games. Moroff was 1-for-16 through five games and 2-for-22 after seven games. Since then, he is 14-for-28 in his last seven contests. Last year at Bradenton, he had a .665 OPS in 130 games and he struck out 129 times, so he didn’t seem like the best candidate to hit well at Altoona this year, especially with Willy Garcia, Stetson Allie and Josh Bell returning to the level.
Bradenton has the hottest hitter in the system, catcher Jin-De Jhang, who is hitting .465/.500/.535 in 12 games. He struck out for the first time all season on Sunday. Jhang was a teammate of Moroff last year at Bradenton and he had a .564 OPS in 77 games. On a team loaded with prospects, it’s doubtful many would have picked him to be the best hitter at this point. Jhang is fourth in the Florida State League in OPS.
The West Virginia leader isn’t a big surprise considering his age and performance last year, but corner infielder Chase Simpson also isn’t the biggest prospect on the team. He’s already 23 years old and was a senior sign out of a major college, Wichita State. The South Atlantic League isn’t much of a challenge for someone with his experience. Simpson had an .851 OPS for Jamestown last year, so he started his pro career off well. He has a .327/.426/.577 OPS this year in 17 games.
It will be interesting to check in on these teams in a few weeks and see how these players are doing. Moroff might be the best prospect of the group, but he’s also probably the least likely of the four to still have the best OPS on his team. Jhang makes great contact, something that he has shown over his career. He should be able to maintain a high average, but he’s basically been a singles hitter, so he will need to add some extra-base hits to keep his OPS high. Romero and Simpson are both old for their level, so they could keep up a good pace all season. Indianapolis has some experienced Major League players, so Romero will have some strong competition for the top OPS.
Pirates Game Graph
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates defeated the Diamondbacks by an 8-0 score on Sunday afternoon. They swept the series and moved three games over the .500 mark. The Pirates now go to Chicago to face the Cubs. Vance Worley will make his fourth start of the year and second against the Cubs. Last time out, he allowed one unearned run over 5.2 innings in a win on Wednesday.
In the minors, Jason Creasy will try to extend Altoona’s streak of starts with one earned run or less. The streak began on Opening Day and has now stretched to 15 games. Creasy has allowed one earned run in his three starts. For Bradenton, Steven Brault tries to get on track, after a poor finish to his first game and two sub-par outings since then. He has pitched just ten innings this year. West Virginia has off today. When they resume play on Tuesday, they will complete an earlier game against Hagerstown that was suspended due to rain, and then play the regularly scheduled contest. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.
MLB: Pittsburgh (11-8) @ Cubs (10-7) 8:05 PM
Probable starter: Vance Worley (4.00 ERA, 8:15 BB/SO, 18.0 IP)
From Saturday, Tony Sanchez hits a bases loaded double, driving in three runs. He is 6-for-26 in six games since being sent to Indianapolis. He has three doubles and a homer.
From Saturday in Altoona, Stetson Allie hits a two-run homer. He is hitting .255/.321/.451 in 13 games. The homer was his second of the season.
4/26: John Sever added to WV Power roster. Austin Coley transferred to WV Black Bears roster.
4/25: Jonathan Schwind placed on disabled list.
4/25: Justin Sellers transferred from Bradenton to Indianapolis on rehab.
4/25: Jeremy Bleich added to Bradenton roster.
4/22: Francisco Diaz assigned to WV Black Bears roster. Kawika Emsley-Pai added to WV Power roster.
4/21: John Sever assigned to WV Black Bears roster. Jose Regalado added to West Virginia Power roster.
4/20: Justin Sellers assigned to Bradenton on rehab.
4/19: Wilkin Castillo assigned to West Virginia Black Bears
4/19: Pat Ludwig retires.
4/18: Jaff Decker activated from disabled list and optioned to Indianapolis. Adam Miller assigned to WV Black Bears.
4/18: Junior Sosa sent to Bradenton. Barrett Barnes assigned to Extended Spring Training.
4/17: Brad Lincoln assigned to Indianapolis. Andy Vasquez assigned to Altoona.
4/17: Chris Stewart activated from disabled list. Tony Sanchez optioned to Indianapolis.
4/16: Jordan Luplow added to West Virginia Power. Jose Regalado transferred to West Virginia Black Bears.
4/16: Kelson Brown transferred to West Virginia Black Bears.
4/14: Jose Regalado added to West Virginia Power. Erik Forgione assigned to West Virginia Black Bears
4/14: Collin Balester assigned to Altoona.
4/13: Pirates release Jonathan Sandfort.
4/13: Francisco Liriano reinstated from paternity list. Casey Sadler optioned to Indianapolis.
This Date in Pirates History
One former Pittsburgh Pirates player born on this date, pitcher Paul Miller, who played for the Pirates from 1991 until 1993. He was a member of two playoff teams, though he never pitched in the postseason. Miller was drafted in the 53rd round and was one of the rare players drafted that late to make the Majors. He played parts of three seasons, yet got into a total of ten games. He threw 26.1 innings and had a 4.10 ERA.
On April 27, 1993, the Pirates beat the Braves by a 6-2 score in 11 innings and pitcher Tim Wakefield threw a staggering total of 172 pitches in the game. He pitched into the 11th and needed Paul Wagner to help him close out the game.
Exactly 100 years earlier, the Pirates opened up their season at home against Cy Young and lost 7-2 in front of a crowd of almost 5,000 fans. You can find descriptions of each game in the link above, along with the 1893 lineup, each of whom has a link to their bio under their name.
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.