Morning Report: A Sleeper Pitching Prospect in the GCL

In last night’s prospect watch, I talked briefly about GCL pitcher Luis Escobar, who threw five  shutout innings. I wanted to expand on his brief career, because he is an excellent sleeper prospect to keep an eye on. The 6’1″, 19-year-old righty from Colombia, signed with the Pirates in 2013 for a $150,000 bonus. He was someone they followed for awhile, though they waited until he made a leap in his fastball velocity before signing him, and that likely led them to pay a higher bonus.

Escobar was a third baseman up until 2012, but his trainer decided that wasn’t going to work out for him, so he was put on the mound. He was touching 90 MPH early in the process, but with some training, he developed secondary pitches with potential and started hitting 94 MPH, which is when he was signed. The Pirates saw huge upside potential, especially since he was 155 pounds when he signed.

The early reports we got from the DSL weren’t surprising for someone who had less than two full years on the mound. The fastball was good when it was on, but his command was spotty. He had a horrible second pro outing, allowing ten earned runs in 1.2 innings. Things turned around quickly and by his fifth start, he got through five innings for the first time. Like all starters in DSL, he had a 75-pitch, or five-inning pitch limit, whichever came first. He also had a single inning pitch limit of 30, so that cost him a few times during the season. After going four innings once in his first four starts, Escobar went at least four innings in each of his last nine starts.

His last start was perhaps the most impressive, because he went into it feeling a bit weak, yet still went five innings. Shortly after that, he was shutdown due to appendicitis and the operation cost him a chance to pitch during the Fall Instructional League. The important part was that he still got an invitation to the States last year, which is almost always a sign of a player showing up in Bradenton the following spring.

After the season, I talked to multiple people from down in the Dominican and rated Escobar as the fifth best prospect on the team. He was not the best pitcher on the team as far as stats, and he didn’t have the best stuff either, as Yeudy Garcia was his teammates and got better reports. Escobar was ranked ahead of him though, because there wasn’t a big difference between the two by the end, and Garcia is 3 1/2 years older, so that leaves a lot more possible upside for Escobar.

Now that he is here, Escobar is still showing the signs of a very raw pitcher, getting knocked out of two starts in the first inning. The good part about the second time, is the scouting report from the brief outing. He was hitting 94-95 MPH, which shows improved velocity. His other five starts have been excellent and shows signs of him improving over last year, and doing it while also moving up a level.

Escobar has three starts in which he threw five shutout innings already this season. Since you can’t get better than five shutout innings on his pitch count, then those starts are as good as it gets. In his other two games, he allowed one run each time, going four innings once and 4.2 in the other outing. Escobar is keeping runs off the board in these starts by limiting the hits allowed. In fact, he hasn’t allowed more than three hits in any start this year, even the two bad games. That gives him  .163 BAA and an 0.89 WHIP, with the latter ranking him fifth in the league.

He is also showing more command than what we saw last year. In 55 innings last season, he had 31 walks. That is obviously a poor total, but the inexperience has to factor into expectations. This year, he has eight walks in 24.2 innings. That’s a strong number, but an even stronger indication of how fast he is adapting to the mound. Escobar is on his way to becoming a mid-90’s fastball pitcher, with command. Once the secondary stuff improves, then his ceiling could be very high.

Pirates Game Graph

Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

The Pirates trail by 4.5 games in the division to the Cardinals. They have a 3.5 game lead for the top wild card spot.

Indianapolis is 4-6 in their last ten games. They are tied for first place with today’s opponent, Columbus.

Altoona is 7-3 in their last ten games and they are in second place, two games back of Bowie.

Bradenton is 6-4 in their last ten games. They trail Palm Beach by three games in the standings.

West Virginia is 7-3 in their last ten games and they have a three game lead in the division.

Morgantown is 8-2 in their last ten games. They trail by five games in the division.

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates defeated Minnesota 10-4 on Wednesday afternoon. They now travel to Cincinnati for four games. A.J. Burnett will get the ball tonight, making his 21st start. He has faced the Reds three times this year, allowing four earned runs over 18.1 innings. His opponent will be David Holmberg, who is making his season debut.

In the minors, Stephen Tarpley gets the start for West Virginia tonight, his 13th of the season. He has had two poor outings and pitched terrific in the other ten games. If you take out his start on June 15th, when he gave up five earned runs, then Tarpley has allowed ten earned runs total over his other 11 starts. Gage Hinsz will make his fifth start of the season, looking to finally get on track. His longest outings have been three innings in each of the last two starts, and he has a 2.38 WHIP. Bradenton has off today, followed by a doubleheader on Friday. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (59-41) @ Reds (45-54) 7:10 PM
Probable starter: A.J. Burnett (2.68 ERA, 34:110 BB/SO, 131.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (59-46) @ Columbus (59-46) 12:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Wilfredo Boscan (3.70 ERA, 36:56 BB/SO, 82.2 IP)

AA: Altoona (57-48) vs Akron (53-52) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Jason Creasy (4.43 ERA, 38:44 BB/SO, 103.2 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (52-49, 20-11 second half) @ Tampa (50-53) 5:00 PM 7/31 (season preview)
Probable starter:  TBD

Low-A: West Virginia (59-42, 22-10 second half) vs Lakewood (52-48) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Stephen Tarpley (2.06 ERA, 17:61 BB/SO, 65.2 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (20-18) @ Tri-City (21-17) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: Seth McGarry (3.21 ERA, 4:10 BB/SO, 14.0 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (14-19) vs Greeneville (19-16) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: Gage Hinsz (8.38 ERA, 9:8 BB/SO, 9.2 IP)

GCL: Pirates (17-11) vs Astros (10-21) 12:00 PM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates (20-31) vs Cubs (29-22) 10:30 AM (season preview)


Here are two videos of things we have seen recently in this section. The first is Stetson Allie showing off his arm

The second video is an RBI single from JaCoby Jones. Both highlights are from Altoona’s 1-0 win on Wednesday.

Recent Transactions

7/30: Pirates acquire Joe Blanton for cash considerations.

7/29: Pirates trade Jayson Aquino to Indians for cash considerations.

7/28: Gift Ngoepe placed on disabled list.

7/28: Pirates release Ulises Montilla.

7/28: Brent Morel refuses outright assignment to Indianapolis.

7/28: Miguel Ferreras retires. Mervin Del Rosario promoted to Bristol.

7/27: JaCoby Jones promoted to Altoona. Josh Smith placed on disabled list.

7/27: Steve Lombardozzi sent outright to Indianapolis. Andy Vasquez placed on disabled list.

7/27: Jordan Steranka activated from Bradenton disabled list. Isaac Sanchez placed on disabled list.

7/27: Junior Sosa added to Bradenton roster.

7/27: John Holdzkom activated from Indianapolis disabled list.

7/26: Jonathan Schwind assigned to Bristol on rehab.

7/25: Pirates designate Brent Morel for assignment.

7/25: Justin Sellers sent outright to Indianapolis

7/25: Adam Miller assigned to GCL on rehab

7/24: Robert Stock activated from disabled list.

7/23: Pirates traded Yhonathan Barrios to Milwaukee Brewers for Aramis Ramirez and cash.

7/23: Steve Lombardozzi designated for assignment.

7/23: John Holdzkom assigned to Morgantown on rehab.

7/23: Hunter Morris activated from Indianapolis disabled list.

7/23: Wes Freeman released. Andy Otamendi assigned to Bradenton.

7/23: Mervin Del Rosario assigned to GCL Pirates.

7/22: Pirates purchase contract of Pedro Florimon. Wilfredo Boscan optioned to Indianapolis. Jayson Aquino designated for assignment.

7/22: Barrett Barnes promoted to Altoona. Andy Vasquez promoted to Indianapolis.

7/22:  Gorkys Hernandez assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

7/21: Jonathan Schwind and Andrew Lambo assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.

7/21: Harold Ramirez activated from temporary inactive list. Robert Stock placed on disabled list.

7/20: Jordy Mercer placed on disabled list. Pirates recall Brent Morel. Corey Hart transferred to 60-day DL.

7/20: Tito Polo activated from temporary inactive list. Jeff Roy promoted to Bradenton.

7/20: Kelson Brown activated from Indianapolis disabled list.

7/19: Junior Lopez assigned to Bradenton. Oderman Rocha assigned to GCL Pirates.

7/19: Pirates place Gorkys Hernandez on DL. Wilfredo Boscan recalled.

7/19: Jose Tabata activated from temporary inactive list.

7/17: Pirates sign Jake Thompson. Assigned to Indianapolis.

7/17: Pirates recall Jaff Decker.

7/17: Oderman Rocha assigned to Bradenton. Junior Lopez assigned to GCL Pirates.

7/16: Hunter Morris placed on Indianapolis disabled list. Jose Tabata placed on temporary inactive list.

This Date in Pirates History

Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus four trades of note and another birthday mention. Before we get into the players, current manager Clint Hurdle turns 58 today. With all the players and trades, I’m just going to list their names and then you can reminisce(or check the link above) about Johnny Rizzo holding the club record for homers in  single season, and what it was like when Chuck Ward took over at shortstop for Honus Wagner in 1917.

Mickey Mahler- Lefty reliever for 1980 Pirates

Bill Hall – Catcher, who played for the team in 1954, 1956 and 1958

Johnny Rizzo – 1938-40 outfielder, set club record with 23 homers in 1938.

Hal Finney – Catcher from 1931-34, 1936. He went 0-for-35 and didn’t reach base once that final season.

Chuck Ward – 1917 shortstop. How hard could it be to replace Honus Wagner?

Casey Stengel – 1918-19 outfielder. Yes, that Stengel.

Bill Merritt – Catcher from 1894 until 1897.

The Trades

2011: Derrek Lee acquired from Orioles for minor league first baseman Aaron Baker.

2009: Tom Gorzelanny and John Grabow sent to Cubs for Josh Harrison, Kevin Hart and Jose Ascanio.

2004: Kris Benson and Jeff Keppinger sent to Mets for Ty Wigginton, Jose Bautista and Matt Peterson.

2001: Jason Schmidt and John Vander Wal dealt to Giants in exchange for Armando Rios and Ryan Vogelsong.

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Brian Bernard

Serious proposal here: cubs are really trying to move Castro for pitching , and I’d suggest a swap with charlie Morton. Not as f a r fetched as it may have once been. Still with potential on both ends for excellence and both reasonable contracts too. I’d push that through for sure.


Speaking of sleeper prospects, what is the word on Jhoan Herrera? He’s been really hitting well – .330 at last glance. He seems to mostly be playing DH or first base. 6’1″ 185 – decent size. Is this kid just a hitter, or does he have a position where is an asset?


Why is Burnett listed as tonight’s starter? It should be Locke’s turn. ESPN is still listing Locke.


Pretty sure it’s Burnett. With the day off on monday, I think Clint used it as a chance give Locke an extra days rest.


Whelp, the Blue Jays are gonna be a crappy, overpriced, aging team with no farm system in the next year or 2. The Phillies and Tigers are headed in the same direction. I’m glad NH doesn’t make trades like that. AA just traded the Jays version of Jameson Taillon for 2 months of David Price and the Jays aren’t even in a playoff spot. The Jays might be pretty good this year and next but then they’ll be severely mediocre.


That’s their problem. The good news for Bucs is that they don’t have to face Price in the upcoming Dodgers series!


The Pirates always seem to do well against Greinke when they face him too.


Just read that the cards have a new 1billion dollar 15 year tv contract starting in 2017 or 18. How in the dante’s inferno are the pirates supposed to compete with that without a similar deal.


Thanks john, not much of a silver lining I’m afraid.


More to the point, the current Cards deal ends in 2017 if my info is correct. So they’ve already negotiated 2018-33 for $1 billion, which allows them to extend some of their current stars if they so choose.

So what would be stopping Bucs from doing the same thing next year? I’d hate to see them wait on that any longer given cable cutting trends.


I’d love to be a fly on the wall in the next round of negotiations.

Coonely has to know that he got his a** handed to him last time around, or at the very least that everyone believes he got his *ass handed to him. Good way to start things off.

joe s

Pirate DSL team is doing poorly yet again. Could it be because the Pirates do not spend big on any prospects? Don’t tell me $400,000 bonuses is big in this market.


I’m probably more critical of the Pirates “we’re too good to need premium prospects” strategy than anyone, but that’s most certainly not the cause for the DSL struggles. One seven-figure bonus baby isn’t going to make the team appreciably better.


It would be great if this kid and Garcia can be the real deal, and actually evolve into top pitching prospects…which brings up a question….

Is it me, or does it seem like that there are few Latin American pitchers that need TJS?


Okay, you are probably right John – I was just thinking about it after reading the story about Luis Escobar – there have been many Latin pitchers in MLB, but the only “big name” that I could remember having TJS was Jose Fernandez of the Marlins…I am sure there have been others, but couldn’t think of one…


Jose Fernandez was drafted though I believe.


Good to finally see a couple pitching prospects pop out of Latin America. Pirates have far, far too large of a presence – and investment – in the market to never have had one single prospect develop.

Damn shame Allie’s arm will never be useful. Thing of beauty.


I could be wrong and I’d love for someone to chime in – but wasn’t Allie happy to make the move away from pitching? As if his heart wasn’t in it?


I doubt he can stay in baseball as a position player, so when that gets a little closer to becoming a reality, I wonder if his attitude toward pitching will remain the same. His ranking within the P2 Top 50 has been #4 in 2011, #8 in 2012, No Rank in 2013, #27 in 2014, and #32 in 2015. He is in his age 24 season so he is getting closer to reality every day.



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