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Morning Report: Multiple Players Struggling With Jump From DSL to GCL This Year


If it wasn’t for Ke’Bryan Hayes, the GCL Pirates would have a horrible offense this year. With his 1.024 OPS, which ranks fourth in the league, the Pirates as a team still only have a .656 OPS. What might surprise you to hear, is that compared to the rest of the league, they are actually average. There are three teams in the league that have an OPS under .600, including the lowly Astros team, which has a .514 OPS and .190 team average. What might be more surprising is that they are just points below the Rays’ affiliate. So maybe the Pirates’ hitters in the league that look like they’re struggling, really aren’t doing that bad, but some of them do deserve a closer look.

There seems to be an issue with the players that came over from the DSL this year and the GCL Pirates last year had Michael de la Cruz(pictured above), who put up very poor numbers in his first season in the States. He was considered one of the best prospects coming over to the GCL last year. The starts from some of the players got me wondering if there was a pattern starting to develop. Possibly a bigger jump between the DSL and GCL than there used to be?

The low numbers all around the league, helps the case of the players, since the DSL seems to be a high offense league. The 2014 DSL Pirates had a .714 team OPS and this year they are .711, with a lot of young players on the team. Part of that difference is the ball just doesn’t travel well during those middle of summer GCL games. The big fields and young kids also means that you have a lot of players waiting to fill out, who aren’t putting up power numbers. Just to outline the differences this year, let’s look deeper into the individual Pirates’ stats.

Among the players that came over from the DSL, the best hitter so far is Jhoan Herrera with a .729 OPS, but he deserves an asterisk. He was in the U.S. last year and scheduled to go to Bristol, but instead suffered an ankle injury and when he was able to play, he was sent back to the DSL to get regular playing time. He is technically over from the DSL, but it’s his second go around.

After him, the best is second baseman Raul Siri, who is in the middle of a slump that he calls the month of July. In 15 games this month, he is hitting .143, and he’s been even worse in his last ten games, with a .128 average. Siri was the best hitter for the DSL Pirates last year, plus he is already 20 years old, so he shouldn’t be having this much trouble.

The team’s backup second baseman was Luis Perez last year and he was a .300 hitter that made consistent contact and beat out some plays with good speed. He’s already 21, so it was a surprise to see him in this league and not up in Bristol, but it definitely seems like the right choice now as he has a .384 OPS as a bench player.

Adrian Valerio is next and his OPS is .658, which is right about league average. He was said to be raw when he signed, but he signed for a large bonus due to his advanced defense at shortstop. Valerio is also a switch-hitter, which means he isn’t getting the reps from each side of the plate that the other players(non switch-hitters) normally do from their one side. When you view him as a league average hitter and only 18 years old, maybe he isn’t doing that bad with the jump to the GCL. He did have a .608 OPS last year in a better hitter’s environment, so he is actually showing signs of improvement.

Victor Fernandez has a .651 OPS, so again we are talking about a league average player, though he is 20 years old. He has blazing speed, likely the fastest player in the organization from what I’ve seen and heard. He’s 8-for-8 in stolen bases, but you’d really like to see him get on base more often to utilize that speed. Fernandez had an .867 OPS last year in the DSL, so he fits more in the Raul Siri category as disappointing so far, but there is a worse case that reminds you of Michael de la Cruz from last year.

Edison Lantigua was named a top 20 DSL/VSL prospect last year and we named him the top prospect on the team, both honors that de la Cruz received after his 2013 season. That had as much to do with the multiple positive reports we got, as it did with his stats/age/bonus/scouting report. Lantigua was hurt at the start of the season(de la Cruz had multiple minor injuries last year) and he returned during the second week. Since then, he is batting .118/.118/.118 in 34 at-bats. That’s four singles, no walks and ten strikeouts. Lantigua is 18 years old and full of potential, but it’s not showing at all yet.

In Siri, Fernandez, Lantigua and Perez, the Pirates sent over four of their best hitters from the DSL and none of them are playing anywhere near their 2014 numbers. We go back to Michael de la Cruz though, because he’s there in the GCL and he has a .712 OPS this season, which is 227 points higher than his mark from last year. It looks like it may be taking these players awhile to adjust to the jump to the United States, but that’s part of the reason they bring them to the Fall Instructional League the year prior to them making the jump.

Inevitably, some players are going to fail at the lower levels, who looked much better than that type of player. You want to see more from what was considered a strong group of hitters, but there is still plenty of time and so far, de la Cruz is showing that it might not be so bad if they have repeat the level. It’s possible in the future we may have to lower our expectations from the 18-19 year old players coming over for the first time, especially with the split in offensive stats between the leagues.

Pirates Game Graph

Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

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

Indianapolis is 5-5 in their last ten games. They have a three game lead in their division.

Altoona is 4-6  in their last ten games and they are 1.5 games behind first place with Bowie.

Bradenton and West Virginia did not win their first half title. Their second half records are included below in the schedule. We will begin to update their playoff pushes on Wednesday morning.

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates defeated the Royals by a 10-7 score on Monday night. They now send Gerrit Cole to the mound for game two of the series. He gave up two runs over seven innings in his last start, which was 11 days ago. His mound opponent will be Jason Vargas, who has a 4.10 ERA in eight starts this season. He hasn’t pitched since June 8th due to a left flexor strain.

In the minors,  Tyler Glasnow will make his 11th start for Altoona tonight. In his last two starts combined, he has thrown 13 shutout innings while giving up four hits and no walks. He has a .176 BAA and 0.88 WHIP. Clay Holmes gets the start for Bradenton this afternoon. He pitched five shutout innings in his first game with the Marauders and followed that up with one run over five innings last time out. In three GCL starts prior to that, he allowed three earned runs over 13.1 innings. Altoona has a doubleheader tonight. West Virginia has the day off. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (54-38) @ Royals (55-36) 8:10 PM
Probable starter: Gerrit Cole(2.30 ERA, 28:116 BB/SO, 117.1 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (56-40) vs Scranton/WB (51-46) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Chris Volstad (3.59 ERA, 31:57 BB/SO, 90.1 IP)

AA: Altoona (50-45) vs Erie (37-56) 4:30 PM DH (season preview)
Probable starter: Tyler Glasnow (2.12 ERA, 13:60 BB/SO, 51.0 IP) and Matt Benedict (5.02 ERA, 12:21 BB/SO, 57.1 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (48-47, 16-9 second half) @ Palm Beach (49-46) 12:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Clay Holmes (0.90 ERA, 2:7 BB/SO, 10.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (54-39, 17-7 second half) @ Lakewood (48-45) 11:05 AM 7/22 (season preview)
Probable starter: Colten Brewer (5.29 ERA, 21:63 BB/SO, 68.0 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (14-16) vs Brooklyn (18-11) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: Bret Helton (5.19 ERA, 10:15 BB/SO, 17.1 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (10-14) @ Burlington (13-14) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: TBD

GCL: Pirates (14-10) vs Braves (7-16) 12:00 PM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates (17-26) vs Rangers2 (22-21) 10:30 AM (season preview)


Here is a video of Stetson Allie showing off that arm that used to be able to hit 100 MPH on the mound.

Recent Transactions

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 Rochas 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.

7/15:  Pirates sign Ryan Nagle. Assigned to Morgantown.

7/15: Pirates sign Brandon Waddell and James Marvel. Waddell assigned to Morgantown.

7/15: Luis Paula sent to Morgantown.

7/13: Wilfredo Boscan sent to Indianapolis.

7/13: Seth McGarry assigned to Morgantown.

7/13: Omar Basulto assigned to GCL. Mike Wallace transferred from GCL to Bristol.

7/12: Wilfredo Boscan recalled. Steve Lombardozzi optioned to Indianapolis.

7/10: Pirates sign Ike Schlabach and assign him to GCL.

7/10: Pirates sign Tate Scioneaux and assign him to Morgantown.

7/10: Jesus Paredes promoted to Morgantown. Oderman Rocha sent to GCL.

7/9: Pirates sign Sherton Apostel.

7/9: Mike Wallace sent from Bristol to GCL.

7/7: Clay Holmes added to Bradenton roster. Harold Ramirez placed on temporary inactive list.

7/7: Trace Tam Sing added to West Virginia roster. Tito Polo placed on temporary inactive list.

7/6: Josh Harrison placed on disabled list. Travis Ishikawa added to active roster.

7/6: Justin Seller assigned to GCL on rehab.


This Date in Pirates History

Two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a trade of note. On this date in 2003, the Pirates traded away closer Mike Williams to the Philadelphia Phillies for minor league pitcher Frank Brooks. During that season, Williams was one of the worst All-Stars ever, making the team despite a 6.27 ERA. The Pirates only got 17.1 innings out of Brooks, but the trade was a win by default, as Williams was having a poor season and wasn’t worth his salary. The Phillies let him go via free agency after the season and he never pitched in the majors again, giving him the dubious honor of being selected for the All-Star team twice, making it in each of his last two season.

As for the two players born on this date, neither played a big role with the team, but one did have a very interesting nickname. Dick Smith, infielder for the 1951-55 Pirates, was signed out of Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania, one of only three players from that school to make the majors and he is the last one. Smith played five seasons with the Pirates, but only got into 70 games and hit .134 in 186 at-bats. The Pirates were his only Major League team. He turns 88 today.

Also born on this date, Irv Young, who pitched for the 1908 Pirates. Due strictly to his last name, he had the pressure of being named Cy the Second, as in the second Cy Young. Irv never came close to that potential and during the middle of the 1908 season, he was dealt to the Pirates for pitcher Harley Young, who wasn’t anywhere near as talented as Irv, but you may have already guessed, Harley was nicknamed “Cy the Third”. In his brief time with the Pirates, Irv Young had a 2.01 ERA in seven starts and nine relief appearances.

John Dreker
John Dreker
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.

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