Morning Report: The GCL Pirates Are a Well-Rounded Team

The GCL Pirates have an 8-3 record through their first two weeks. The have been strong on offense early in the year, posting the highest average in the Gulf Coast League and the third best OPS, just .007 behind the best team in the league. They have scored 56 runs in 12 games, while allowing just 37 runs. That not only tells you how good the hitting has been, it shows you that the pitchers are also doing their part. Clay Holmes helped out with five shutout innings on Saturday and 19-year-old prospect Luis Escobar has thrown ten shutout innings, allowing just three base runners, in his last two starts.

The Pirates are also a strong fielding team for a GCL club. Of their regulars, shortstop Adrian Valerio is above-average, while 32nd overall draft pick Ke’Bryan Hayes has also received a lot of praise for his defense. Infielders Sam Kennelly, Raul Siri and Luis Perez are all known as solid defensive players, though Siri had a little trouble with the move to third base. That probably won’t be a position he sees much time at with Hayes around now. You also have Yoel Gonzalez behind the plate for the second season and he is at least average defensively. The outfield of Victor Fernandez, Eric Thomas Jr. and Michael de la Cruz has three plus runners that can cover a lot of ground and in the GCL, that is important.

On offense, Ke’Bryan Hayes hasn’t disappointed at all early. He played all six games this week, making his pro debut on Monday. Hayes doesn’t have enough plate appearances to qualify for the league leaders, falling just two short. If he did qualify, his 1.162 OPS would be the third best in the league.

Among the Pirates that rank among the league leaders, Raul Siri’s .953 OPS in the eighth best in the league. It was actually a little surprising to see him in the GCL after he dominated in the DSL last year. Siri(pictured above) is a couple years older than some of the younger players, so he seemed like a good candidate to move up to Bristol. As long as he stays with the GCL team all season, he should put up strong numbers.

Michael de la Cruz had a rough debut in the States last year, which has been well documented here. Some minor injuries and growing pains left him with a .485 OPS in 32 games. He is still just shy of his 19th birthday, so there is still plenty of time for him to regain his prospect status and he has started off strong. De la Cruz has a .711 OPS in 12 games this year.

The Pirates have been batting shortstop Adrian Valerio in the lead-off spot to get him extra at-bats. The reason for that spot in the order isn’t because he is your typical lead-off hitter, because he’s not. Valerio doesn’t have great speed and he doesn’t walk much. He’s an above-average defender at the most important position in the field, but his bat is questionable. He will probably never be a top-of-the-order hitter, but if he’s at least average, then he’s valuable due to his defense. Valerio leads the GCL in at-bats and he’s hitting .250/.294/.438 in 12 games, which makes him an above average hitter in the league. He’s also still 18(since March) and a switch-hitter, so there is a need to get him as many at-bats as possible.

Valerio, Hayes, Siri and de la Cruz are all doing well so far and outfielder Edison Lantigua should return from a minor injury soon, so that gives you five really good players in your batting order. They aren’t the only hitting prospects, as this team has a lot of potential. The GCL Pirates have started the season off strong and their defense and hitting should keep them among the best teams in the league all season.

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 six game lead in their division.

Altoona is 1-9 in their last ten games and they are now trailing by 4.5 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 defeated the Indians by a 1-0 score on Saturday. Gerrit Cole takes the mound today as the Pirates try to take 2-of-3 in the series. In his last start, he allowed two earned runs over 6.2 innings against Detroit. The Indians will go with Danny Salazar, who has a 3.80 ERA in 85.1 innings. He gave up one run over 7.2 innings in his last start versus the Rays.

In the minors, Angel Sanchez makes his fourth start for Indianapolis. He could do a lot for his position on the Pirates’ depth chart with a nice run this month. Adrian Sampson has struggled recently and the Pirates lost Clayton Richard in a trade and Casey Sadler to injury. Sanchez threw seven shutout innings in his last start. Bristol was rained out for the third day in a row on Saturday and they will attempt to play a doubleheader today. The GCL and DSL Pirates are off today. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (46-34) vs Cleveland (38-42) 1:35 PM
Probable starter: Gerrit Cole (2.20 ERA, 25:108 BB/SO, 102.1 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (49-34) vs Louisville (41-42) 6:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Angel Sanchez (3.50 ERA, 5:14 BB/SO, 18.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (43-38) vs Harrisburg (40-42) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Chad Kuhl (3.29 ERA, 28:58 BB/SO, 87.2 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (39-41, 7-3 second half) @ Jupiter (39-41) 1:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cody Dickson (4.25 ERA, 33:54 BB/SO, 82.2 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (45-34, 8-2 second half) vs Delmarva (39-39) 2:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Colten Brewer (5.43 ERA, 15:48 BB/SO, 53.0 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (6-9) vs Batavia (4-11) 4:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: TBD

Rookie: Bristol (3-6) vs Johnson City (4-5) 5:00 PM DH (season preview)
Probable Starter: Logan Sendelbach and Neil Kozikowski

GCL: Pirates (8-3) vs Yankees1 (5-6) 12:00 PM 7/6 (season preview)

DSL: Pirates (12-18) vs Brewers (12-17) 10:30 AM 7/6 (season preview)


Here we have video of Corey Hart’s second AAA homer. He has a few more days before he’s eligible to come off the disabled list, so expect to see him get more time in the field before he’s activated.

Recent Transactions

7/4: Pirates sign five international players.

7/3: Pirates sign Kevin Sanchez and Samuel Inoa.

7/3: Pirates trade Clayton Richard to Chicago Cubs for cash considerations.

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.


This Date in Pirates History

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including a Hall of Famer who spent one season with the Pirates. Starting with the most recent first and it’s the Hall of Fame pitcher, Goose Gossage. He was acquired for Richie Zisk prior to the 1977 season and left after the season via free agency. Gossage was a reliever for Pittsburgh, but he threw 133 innings over 72 appearances and posted a 1.62 ERA, with 151 strikeouts. He won 11 games and picked up 26 saves for the Pirates.

Other players born on this date include 1909 outfielder Ward Miller, 1908 outfielder Beals Becker and 1902 pitcher Harvey Cushman. Becker won 25 games in the minors in 1906, but just two years later he was a Major League outfielder. Miller was a member of the team’s first World Series champs, but he was traded away early in the season, so he didn’t get to celebrate the win. Cushman played for the best team in franchise history, but he kept them from being better. The Pirates had a 102-36 record that season, yet Cushman made four starts for the team and lost all four, which were his only games in the majors.

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Situational Hitting 101. With a runner at 3B, less than 2 outs, and the count in your favor (1-0), the last place on the field you want to hit the ball is to the third baseman and get your runner caught off. Mercer was on third and Harrison had strikes to give rather than swing at an inside pitch and drill it right behind the runner. If the pitcher is not cooperating by pitching inside, take the pitch and hope for something better to work with on the next pitch. Go to the plate with a plan; in that situation you owe the team at least the first strike.

The Pirate Rotation – No. 1 thru No. 5 have been absolutely excellent this year. Game number 81 is today with Gerrit Cole going for the Bucs – it would be great to finish the first half of the season 13 games above .500. Neil Walker again – we needed his bat and leadership.

The Hayes pick is looking great, and the GCL Pirates are playing excellent baseball.


I think you are over-estimating the ability of major league hitters to control the placement of their hits.

It is incredibly hard to hit a baseball, and terms like hitting behind the runner are nails across a chalk board for me, because as a class major league hitters show little to no sustained ability to do things that fall under the label of situational hitting.

Possibly there is a subset of hitters that can do this, but I wouldn’t put Harrison in that class, hitter’s approaches are not that malleable. Harrison doubled on an inside fastball in his first at bat, I agree maybe lay off that pitch but he has an approach that has been successful, he isn’t going to morph into Matt Carpenter for an at bat.

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