Minor League Spring Training is wrapping up this weekend as far as the official schedule goes. The regular season for the minors won’t begin until next Thursday, which means there will still be players sticking around at Pirate City until the start of the season. That includes a lot of players who will most likely remain in extended Spring Training dealing with injuries or conditioning issues.
I’ll have some coverage early next week from the extended Spring Training events. For now, here is a rundown from the last two days at Pirate City.
Thursday’s Game Action
**I’ve been impressed by the range shown by the Bradenton outfielders. I guess that’s to be expected when you have an outfield full of center fielders. I’ve seen several plays where Austin Meadows has ranged far in several directions to make a catch look easy. Barrett Barnes showed off his range by making a shallow fly ball on the line look routine. Justin Maffei is currently playing with that group in right field, although Harold Ramirez will eventually join the mix, giving the Marauders three center fielders to cover the outfield.
Speaking of Barnes, he crushed one off the roof of the clubhouse over the left field fence on Thursday. I really hope he can stay healthy this year, just to give him a chance to finally develop his raw tools, which includes impressive power.
**Chase Simpson played a lot of first base in the first half of the Spring, yielding third base to Jordan Luplow in the West Virginia games. Luplow has been out with a shoulder issue, but should return near the start of the season, and will be getting the bulk of the time at third base. In the mean time, Simpson has moved back to the position where he was drafted, and showed off a strong arm on Thursday. He made three strong throws, including a nice bare handed play. I’m interested to see if Simpson’s power from last year can carry over to West Virginia and the higher levels.
**Steven Brault throws a four seam fastball and a two seam fastball, with the four seamer sitting in the low 90s, and the two seamer in the upper 80s. He has been leaning on the two seamer almost exclusively in camp, and while it doesn’t have a lot of velocity, I’ve been impressed by his command and the movement of the pitch. For his first few innings on Thursday, I don’t think he threw one pitch above the waist, and most of his pitches were at the knees or lower, with late sink as the ball crossed the plate. He did run into some problems later in the outing, having his fifth inning cut short. He was getting a few strikeouts and swings and misses on his sinker alone. From a stuff standpoint, Brault hasn’t been nearly as impressive as the other lefty acquired in the Travis Snider trade (Stephen Tarpley), but he definitely knows how to pitch, and his sinker can generate outs.
**As I reported earlier this week, Jose Osuna and Edwin Espinal will be splitting time at first base and DH in Bradenton, with Espinal getting some time at third, and Osuna getting some time in the outfield. Thursday’s game saw Osuna start at first, then switch to right field in the second half of the game when Espinal came in. Both hitters showed off their power, with Osuna hitting a triple to the wall, and Espinal crushing a double, but almost getting thrown out at second due to his slow speed.
**I talked to Tyler Eppler today, who said he should get on the mound next week. Eppler missed some time with elbow tenderness, but has been back to throwing recently. He will miss the start of the season, but should arrive in Bradenton in the first half of the season. He’s an interesting guy to watch this year, drafted out of college and given a push past West Virginia, right to Bradenton. The guys who have made that same jump in previous years were Adrian Sampson and Chad Kuhl, who both have looked promising since the push.
**Luis Heredia hadn’t thrown off a mound in exactly one month, throwing his only bullpen this Spring on March 3rd. He was listed for a bullpen today, although I didn’t get a chance to see him or anyone else throw, since all of the bullpens were in the back bullpen, which is away from the public and media access.
**Here is video of Wyatt Mathisen taking ground balls at third base.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.
Third Base has to be the weakest position within the Pirates minor league system. Catching had been a weakness that is now a strength and the Pirates are now trying to transfer some Catchers to 3B to give them a chance. Nothing wrong with that initiative, except the Pirates have no power hitters in the group, and I think they are going to have to address that through the draft and also through trades.
As JHAY has shown, it does not have to be a guy hitting 20+ HR’s – he only hit 13 HR’s last year but finished with 58 Extra Base Hits and played very strong on defense.
Home Runs are faccist. Doubles are more diplomatic.
Its nice to hear Barnes’ name mentioned in regards to his good play, and not in regards to an injury….if he can stay healthy, he could really move up in the team’s prospect rankings this year and become relevant again….
Luplow DH’d for the West Virginia team today.