Morning Report: Tarpley Looks For Answers While Brault and Sanchez Move Up

Yesterday I mentioned a few big things to watch for that day. They were the rehab start by Tyler Glasnow, the first game for some big draft picks(namely Kevin Newman and Kevin Kramer), the first ever game for Morgantown and the start by Adrian Sampson for Indianapolis, pitching after a horrible outing last week. Well it turned out that Sampson pitched fantastic and everything went wrong in Morgantown. With three out of four things looking bad, I’m a little hesitant to try this again, but here it goes. What to watch for today, and don’t blame me if things go wrong again.

Today is the first starts for Angel Sanchez and Steven Brault with their new teams, but the most important outing might be the one in West Virginia, where Stephen Tarpley has looked really bad in his last two starts. Thirteen runs in 8.1 innings bad. This is from the same player that had three straight strong outings of five innings each to start his season, after missing the beginning of the year with shoulder soreness. I listened to all three of those starts, plus talked to four people after the first start and the reports were great. He was mixing his pitches well, pounding the strike zone and getting a lot of swing and misses.

Saying the start from Tarpley is the biggest deal isn’t a knock against the abilities of Sanchez or Brault. They have obviously performed well over a long stretch this season and both earned their promotions. If they pitch bad tonight, you chalk it up to their first time at a higher level. It’s all about upside and Tarpley has the highest of the group. He is also the top lefty prospect in the system. When you throw in the fact that a really good pitcher, who was injured earlier in the season, suddenly has two horrible starts, you begin to worry about the injury resurfacing. If he pitches well, you can ease those concerns and hope it’s him getting back on track.

Other quick notes from the system. I noticed last night that Kevin Newman hit lead-off for Morgantown, which got me thinking about the last three drafts. The Pirates took position players first in all three drafts and all three are batting lead-off for the A-ball teams, with Austin Meadows at Bradenton and Cole Tucker at West Virginia. Meadows is in that spot to get extra at-bats after missing most of last year, but the others profile better at the top of the order.

I also noticed the high batting averages for Altoona hitters recently, while others on the team are mixed in that are barely hitting. Stetson Allie is one that was down near .200 for awhile, but he has been hot of late, so his average is creeping up towards a respectable level. He leads the system with ten homers, but his walk total is unusually low this year. He has led the entire Pirates’ farm system in walks each of the last two seasons, but has just 20 this year and that’s with three in the last four games. Even with Allie’s low average(plus Eric Wood hitting .214), Altoona is batting .277 as a team, tops in the Eastern League by eight points.

Pirates Game Graph

Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

The Pirates trail by five games in the division to the Cardinals, though they have a three game lead for the top wild card spot

Indianapolis is 8-2 in their last ten games and they have a seven game lead in their division.

Altoona is 5-5 in their last ten games and they have a 3.5 game lead in their division.

Bradenton and West Virginia have been eliminated from the first half playoff race.

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 4-1 to the Nationals on Friday night. Today they will send Francisco Liriano out to the mound to face-off against Max Scherzer. Both pitchers are coming off great outings. Liriano threw eight shutout innings against the White Sox, striking out 12 batters. Scherzer threw a one-hit shutout against the Brewers, picking up 16 strikeouts. He has a 1.93 ERA this season.

In the minors, as mentioned above, two players that recently got promoted are making their debuts. Angel Sanchez will pitch for Indianapolis and Steven Brault will get the start for Altoona. Sanchez ranks sixth in the Eastern League in ERA, while Brault ranks 15th in the FSL with his 3.02 mark, but he has a 2.10 ERA over his last ten starts. Stephen Tarpley makes his sixth start for West Virginia. He had three strong outings to start his season, but things turned bad quickly over his last two starts. Tarpley has allowed 18 hits and five walks over 8.1 innings in those last two games. Altoona will play a doubleheader today. Bradenton is on their All-Star break. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (39-28) @ Washington (35-33) 4:05 PM
Probable starter: Francisco Liriano (2.94 ERA, 27:99 BB/SO, 82.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (42-26) @ Charlotte  (37-29) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Angel Sanchez (NR)

AA: Altoona (39-26) vs Harrisburg (28-38) 4:30 PM DH (season preview)
Probable starter:  Steven Brault (NR) and TBD

High-A: Bradenton (30-35) @ Charlotte (44-23) 6:30 PM 6/22 (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD

Low-A: West Virginia (37-31) vs Hickory (43-24) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Stephen Tarpley (3.09 ERA, 9:21 BB/SO, 23.1 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (0-1) vs Mahoning Valley (1-0) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter:  TBD

DSL: Pirates (9-9) vs Yankees2 (7-11) 10:30 AM (season preview)


Here’s video of Chad Kuhl, who threw seven shutout innings on Thursday for his fifth win of the season. He has a 3.24 ERA in 75 innings.

Recent Transactions

6/19: Pirates sign Sean Keselica and Stephan Meyer. Both players assigned to Morgantown.

6/19: Collin Balester traded to Cincinnati Reds.

6/18: Steven Brault promoted to Altoona. Jin-De Jhang added to Bradenton roster.

6/18: Ten draft picks signed and assigned to various short-season teams. Link here with details. Five others were also signed later in the day. Details here.

6/17: Alen Hanson placed on disabled list. Kelson Brown added to Indianapolis roster.

6/17: Pirates sign Kevin Kramer, Tanner Anderson, Nicholas Economos and Mike Wallace. Kramer assigned to Morgantown. Anderson and Wallace assigned to Bristol. Economos assigned to GCL.

6/16: Pirates sign Ke’Bryan Hayes. Assigned to GCL Pirates.

6/15: Willy Garcia promoted to Indianapolis. Mel Rojas Jr. sent to Altoona.

6/15: Pirates sign Kevin Newman. Assigned to West Virginia

6/14: Angel Sanchez promoted to Indianapolis.

6/14: Tyler Eppler added to Bradenton roster. Ryan Hafner released.

6/13: Brad Lincoln and Wilkin Castillo placed on Indianapolis disabled list. Radhames Liz activated from reserve roster.

6/12: Pirates sign J.T. Brubaker, Seth McGarry and Bret Helton.

6/11: Pirates acquire John Bowker from the San Francisco Giants.

6/10: Yhonathan Barrios promoted to Indianapolis.

6/9: John Holzkom activated from Indianapolis disabled list

6/9: Brett McKinney promoted to Altoona. Ryan Hafner added to Bradenton roster.

6/7: Pirates release Tyler Sample.

This Date in Pirates History

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a trade of note. Starting with the 1918 trade that sent pitcher Elmer Jacobs to the Phillies for pitcher Erskine Mayer. The deal looked good short-term for the Pirates, but they ended up putting Mayer on waivers in 1919 and he ended the season with the Chicago White Sox, who were the infamous Black Sox team that threw the World Series. Jacobs lasted in the majors eight years longer than Mayer, though he didn’t do much for the Phillies.

Players born on this date include utility fielder Rob Mackowiak(2001-05), outfielder Gary Varsho(1991-92, 1994), infielder Clem Koshorek(1952-53), pitcher Ed Warner(1912) and pitcher Bill Clemensen, who pitched for the Pirates in 1939, 1941 and 1946. He never left the Pirates for another team, instead he spent the 1940 season in the minors and 1942-45 serving in the military during WWII.

Also including in the link above is a recap of two extra-inning wins over the Cubs on this date in 1983, which were the beginning of a nine-game win streak by the Pirates.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    June 20, 2015 10:20 pm

    I think those who concluded that the Travis Snider trade was a great trade for the Pirates spoke to soon and jinxed Tarpley – he hasn’t pitched well since. Brault got the well deserved promotion to Altoona, but had a rough first start there today.

    Snider has been hitting much better of late for the Orioles and is now a pretty valuable piece for them, I had no issue in trading Snider – but, I still feel we did not get enough for him. Given his age and relatively good 2014 season, Snider was a decent asset. Hopefully, one of these two pitchers will at least get to Pittsburgh and provide some measure of a return.

    • John Dreker
      June 21, 2015 9:23 am

      Snider has a .656 OPS and one homer since April 22nd, which means the last two months. He had a strong first two weeks and almost nothing since. He had a big game when the Orioles scored 19 against the Phillies, but so did seven other players in the lineup

    • Two poor starts out of six with a FIP under 3 and you’re panning *other* folks for premature opinions. That’s rich.

  • Any news on whether Neil Walker is hurt?

    • John Dreker
      June 20, 2015 2:11 pm

      reports sound like he had tightness in hips/abdomen, which may be related to the flu he had. He is practicing today

  • John: Tarpley can hit 97 but has difficulty missing bats. What if the Pirates gave him a promotion to Hi A or AA and made him a reliever and emergency starter. If he could hump the ball up there 93-97 as a SP, he may be able to get a mph or 2 mph more as a one or two inning pitcher. He can always get stretched out again, but something that out of the box could jump start the kid. Our new Justin Wilson? Or, if lucky, our new Tony Watson?

    • John Dreker
      June 20, 2015 2:13 pm

      I don’t think he has difficulty missing bats, maybe in these last two starts, but he gets as many swing and misses as anyone. I believe I counted 15 in one start and while I wasn’t counting during the next one, it seemed like just as many.

  • Eric Wood squared the ball up and hit it hard his first couple of ABs last ( Friday ) night John, but had nothing to show for it.

  • Mrs Foo and I were headed to the Altoona first game (2 hrs away) today, but Hurricane Bill is washing through our state about then, so we decided to ‘bag it’.

    They are in Hbg next weekend, so I will have to catch the Curve there.

    I just LOVE that Altoona Ballpark, tho.