Morning Report: Checking the Progress of Last Year’s International Class

Yesterday was the beginning of the international signing period, so today seems like a good day to check the progress of the big names that the Pirates signed on the first day last year. Eight players were announced right away and all of them got six-figure deals. They all started their career this year in the DSL.

Starting with the highest bonus and working our way down, Yondry Contreras got $400,000 to sign last year and he was also the first player announced. He has been starting almost everyday in center field and going through some growing pains at the plate, hitting .221/.320/.298 in 104 at-bats. Contreras homered in his fifth game and at that point he was 9-for-24 with a 1.025 OPS. Since then he has struggled, especially with the contact, striking out 33 times on the season.

Catcher Gabriel Brito was unable to play due to a shoulder injury early in the year and he only recently started catching again. Brito has an .819 OPS in eight games, with nine RBIs. He is small at 5’9″, 170 pounds, but that didn’t stop the Pirates from giving him a $200,000 bonus.

Lefty Domingo Robles signed for $175,000 and he was one of the youngest players signed on July 2nd, turning 16 on April 29th last year. He has made six starts and struggled, giving up 25 runs(17 earned) in 26 innings. He has a .324 BAA and a 1.73 WHIP. Robles has made five straight starts on the road.

Brian Sousa was called the best pitcher available in Panama last year and that helped him get $160,000 on July 2nd. He has pitched two years in the Panama winter league, which is very impressive considering his age. The level of competition there isn’t on par with the bigger winter leagues like Venezuela and the Dominican, though it is better than what he is seeing in the DSL. Sousa missed some time due to a lat strain, so he has only made three starts and one relief appearance. He has a 2.92 ERA and while the walks are a little high, his 3.50 GO/AO ratio is very impressive.

Shortstop Christopher Perez was out early on due to shoulder issues and just like Brito, when he returned, he was being used sparingly as a DH, so his playing time has been limited. Perez hasn’t filled out at all yet, and he is considered raw. Despite the $150,000 bonus, he was actually available to sign during the 2013 signing period, turning 16 that August. Waiting helped him get a bigger bonus and the payoff for the Pirates will hopefully come down the line. He is hitting .093/.170/.116 in 43 at-bats and he has a 1:12 BB/SO ratio.

Pitcher Adonis Pichardo was one of the older July 2nd signings you will see, at least among players that commanded a six-figure bonus and they aren’t from Cuba. He is already 19 years old, but the 6’3″ righty has a fastball that sits low-90’s and has hit 96 MPH. He has a 4.87 ERA, though one bad outing skews that a little. Pichardo has 22 strikeouts in 24 innings.

Yerry De Los Santos was the last of the eight announced and he got $100,000 to sign. He had his best outing on Thursday, giving up one run over five innings. He has allowed a lot of hits, but has kept the walks to a minimum and he has a high ground ball rate. De Los Santos has a 5.27 ERA in six starts, but just like Pichardo, one bad game makes it look worse.

Lefty Roger Santana(pictured above) received a $100,000 bonus. He missed the 2013 signing cutoff by less than a month, just like Contreras. Santana has been used in long relief, appearing in seven games and going at least two innings in each contest. He has also allowed at least one run in all seven outings and the last two have been pretty bad. Santana has thrown 21.2 innings and has a 7.48 ERA, with a .348 BAA and a 1.85 WHIP.

As a side note, the Pirates are having early success with two players they picked up later in the 2014 signing period. Eddy Vizcaino and Melvin Jimenez weren’t among the big names signed, but they have both impressed. Jimenez has been a solid hitter at the top of the lineup and he plays a strong shortstop, while Vizcaino is a toolsy outfielder out of the Dominican Prospect League. Thursday was a relatively quiet day for the Pirates, but it’s not always about the players that sign first or for the most, sometimes the best are hidden gems.

Pirates Game Graph


Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

The Pirates trail by six games in the division to the Cardinals. They have a 2.5 game lead for the top wild card spot.

Indianapolis is 7-3 in their last ten games. They have a 6.5 game lead in their division.

Altoona is 2-8 in their last ten games and they are now trailing by 2.5 games in their division.

Bradenton and West Virginia did not win their first half title. The second half began last Thursday for both teams and the second half records are included below in the schedule.

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates won 8-4 over the Tigers on Thursday afternoon. They now return home to take on the Cleveland Indians in a three-game series. Charlie Morton will take the mound, looking to turn things around after one really bad start and another in which he allowed four runs on ten hits in six innings. His mound opponent will be Trevor Bauer, who has a 3.96 ERA in 91 innings. He gave up four runs over seven innings against the Orioles in his last start.

In the minors, Clayton Richard is schedule to pitch, but he is also waiting on the decision with an out clause in his contract, so that may prevent him from starting today, as in I’m not positive if he will still be around or even in the minors. The opposing pitcher today for Altoona is former Pirates’ farmhand Kyle Haynes, who was dealt to the Yankees for Chris Stewart. Jayson Aquino has gone at least six innings in each of his last six starts. He has allowed two earned runs in each of his last three games. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (45-33) vs Cleveland (37-41) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Charlie Morton (4.28 ERA, 9:22 BB/SO, 40.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (49-32) @ Toledo (35-45) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Clayton Richard (2.09 ERA, 13:25 BB/SO, 56.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (43-36) @ Trenton (43-36) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Zack Dodson (3.69 ERA, 15:38 BB/SO, 85.1 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (37-41, 5-3 second half) vs Charlotte (47-31) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Jayson Aquino (3.54 ERA, 15:38 BB/SO, 56.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (44-33, 7-1 second half) @ Kannapolis (40-39) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Alex McRae (4.06 ERA, 13:53 BB/SO, 71.0 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (6-7) @ State College (5-8) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: TBD

Rookie: Bristol (3-6) vs Johnson City (4-5) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: TBD

GCL: Pirates (6-3) vs Braves (3-7) 12:00 PM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates (12-17) vs Tigers (16-13) 10:30 AM (season preview)

Highlights

Here we have video of Alen Hanson’s inside-the-park home run from Wednesday afternoon.

Recent Transactions

7/2: Chris Volstad sent outright to Indianapolis.

7/2: Pirates sign Larry Alcime Jr and Kyle Simmons.

7/1: Alen Hanson activated from disabled list. John Holdzkom and Hunter Morris placed on disabled list.

7/1: Paul Brands assigned to GCL Pirates from DSL.

6/30: Corey Hart sent on rehab to Indianapolis.

6/30: Jose Tabata outrighted to Indianapolis.

6/29: Jeff Inman and Gift Ngoepe promoted to Indianapolis.

6/29: Pirates sign Daniel Zamora.

6/28: Jose Tabata designated for assignment. Gorkys Hernandez added to Pirates roster.

6/28: Chris Volstad designated for assignment. Steve Lombardozzi added to Pirates roster.

6/28: Clario Perez promoted to Altoona. Wes Freeman activated from disabled list.

6/28: Kawika Emsley-Pai retired.

6/28: Hunter Morris activated from Indianapolis disabled list.

6/27: Junior Lopez promoted to Bradenton. Dovydas Neverauskas activated from West Virginia disabled list.

6/26: Tyler Glasnow assigned to Altoona.

6/26: Deolis Guerra added to Pirates roster. Rob Scahill placed on disabled list.

6/26: Wilkin Castillo activated from Indianapolis disabled list.

6/25: Robert Stock added to Bradenton roster. Jordan Steranka placed on disabled list.

6/24: Casey Sadler placed on disabled list. Brad Lincoln and Josh Wall added to Indianapolis roster.

6/24: Corey Hart placed on disabled list. Chris Volstad added to Pirates roster.

6/23: Pirates sign Shane Kemp. Assigned to Bristol.

6/22: Andy Otamendi assigned to Morgantown.

6/21: Marek Minarik and Luis Paula sent to Bristol.

6/20: Pirates release Edgar Munoz

6/20: Pirates sign Garrett Russini as a non-drafted free agent.

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

6/19: Collin Balester traded to Cincinnati Reds.

 

This Date in Pirates History

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and we start with the most recent first. Moises Alou played briefly for the 1990 Pirates before he was dealt away for pitcher Zane Smith. It was a deal that looked good short-term and really bad long-term. Alou went on to have a great career, as a .300 hitter with power. He made six All-Star teams. From the 1942 team, we have pitcher Luke Hamlin, who was also part of a really bad trade. He lasted one season with the Pirates after they acquired him for Hall of Fame shortstop Arky Vaughan.

Going back earlier, we have pitcher Chet Nichols, who was a member of the 1927 Pirates, a team that went to the World Series. Nichols was a mop-up reliever for the Pirates, throwing a total of 27.2 innings, with a 5.86 ERA. He had a son by the same name, who played nine years in the big leagues. Finally, 1917 first baseman Bunny Brief. He was a great home run hitter in the minors, who never got a good chance in the majors. He began his career during the deadball era, yet he hit 342 career homers. His actual given name was Anthony Grzeszkowski, which couldn’t be any further from Bunny Brief, his baseball name.

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