Morning Report: Keon Broxton is Close to a Significant Accomplishment

If Keon Broxton can steal one more base this season, he will become the first Pirates’ minor league player in 48 years to reach double-digits in doubles, triples, homers and steal 40 bases. Back in 1967, Johnny Jeter reached those four marks and no one has been able to match it since. Jeter ended up playing six years in the majors, making his debut when he was 24 years old. Broxton turned 25 back in May, so while he is a little old for a prospect, it’s still an acceptable age for AAA success.

Broxton has done a lot of things right this season, scoring 85 runs, drawing 65 walks and playing strong defense. It’s not just the 48 extra-base hits and 39 steals, he is getting on base and adding defensive value. It might be hard to remember with his recent success, but he did not do well with the jump to AAA. He had a .551 OPS back in June and his pre/post All-Star game numbers tell a huge story. In 39 games before the break, he had a .606 OPS. In 45 games since then, he has a .915 OPS. Just for reference, the International League OPS leader for the season is Matt Hague with an .899 mark, and no one is anywhere near him. Broxton doesn’t have enough plate appearances to qualify for league leaders, but he would rank seventh if he did.

Broxton will make the majors someday, possibly with the Pirates. He has his problems with strikeouts, going down 150 times this season, but he has multiple ways to add value. There is one issue upcoming this off-season. It isn’t his Rule 5 status and whether the Pirates will add him. Broxton was a 2009 draft pick, which means he reaches minor league free agency this year. The Pirates will likely try to re-sign him, but unless he is a September call-up when the Indianapolis season ends, he might seek better opportunities elsewhere. He would make an excellent bench outfielder since he can play center field, but it’s hard to imagine the Pirates going with a rookie on Opening Day as a bench option. Adding him to the 40-man roster might be a tough decision, but deciding if he wants to come back without that 40-man spot might be even tougher for him.

It wasn’t a good day for Altoona’s Adam Frazier in the Eastern League batting title race, losing four points off his lead. At this moment, he’s just trying to stay ahead of someone that isn’t playing. Binghamton’s Gavin Cecchini has been out since August 19th with a hip injury. So while Frazier is now down to a .323 average with five games to go, Cecchini has remained at .317 the last two weeks.

Five days left in the minor league regular season and just 24 games total. Don’t fret though, Indianapolis and West Virginia are both in the playoffs, so the Morning Report and Prospect Watch will continue until the last day, which could be as late as September 18th. Altoona is also close to clinching with a three-game lead. Morgantown still has a shot and Bradenton hasn’t been eliminated yet, although Luis Heredia going tonight and three good players promoted to Altoona(see transactions section), won’t help their chances.

Pirates Game Graph


Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

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

Indianapolis has clinched a playoff spot.

Altoona is 4-6 in their last ten games. They lead the wild card by three games, with five games left.

Bradenton is 6-4 in their last ten games. They trail Palm Beach by two games in the standings with four games left. Palm Beach holds the tie-breaker.

West Virginia has clinched a playoff spot.

Morgantown is 7-3 in their last ten games. They have a half game lead in the wild card chase with five games left in the season.

The Bristol Pirates’ season is finished. They did not make the playoffs.

The GCL Pirates’ season is finished. They did not make the playoffs.

The DSL Pirates’ season is finished. They did not make the playoffs.

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 9-4 to the Brewers on Wednesday night. Francisco Liriano will get the start for the Pirates tonight. In his last outing, he allowed three runs over six innings against the Rockies. Liriano gave up three runs over eight innings in his only game versus the Brewers this year. Taylor Jungmann goes for Milwaukee. He has a 2.48 ERA in 90.2 innings this season. He has faced the Pirates twice, allowing one run over seven innings each time.

In the minors, Tyler Eppler makes his AA debut tonight. In his last four starts combined, he has thrown 26.2 innings without an earned run. Wilfredo Boscan starts for Indianapolis. In his last ten appearances, he has a 1.84 ERA over 53.2 innings. Luis Heredia hasn’t made it through five innings in any of his last six starts. He had a 6.84 ERA in July and 6.75 in August. Bristol, DSL and GCL Pirates are done. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (79-52) @ Milwaukee (57-75) 7:20 PM
Probable starter: Francisco Liriano (3.28 ERA, 45:81 BB/SO, 119.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (80-59) @ Columbus (80-59) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Wilfredo Boscan (3.01 ERA, 40:86 BB/SO, 141.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (72-65) @ Bowie (77-59) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Tyler Eppler (NR)

High-A: Bradenton (71-63, 39-25 second half) vs St Lucie (67-67) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Luis Heredia (5.83 ER, 40:51 BB/SO, 80.1 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (83-51, 46-19 second half) @Kannapolis (63-70) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Colten Brewer (4.81 ERA, 37:95 BB/SO, 112.1 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (38-33) vs Williamsport (44-27) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: TBD

Rookie: Bristol (29-36)

GCL: Pirates (28-31) (season recap)

DSL: Pirates (30-42) (season recap)

Highlights

Here is Keon Broxton crushing his tenth homer of the season. A shot to center field

Recent Transactions

9/2: Austin Meadows, Tyler Eppler and Montana DuRapau sent to Altoona. Matt Benedict and Mel Rojas Jr sent to Indianapolis

9/2: Oderman Rocha assigned to Bradenton

9/2: Pedro Florimon added to 40-man roster. Deolis Guerra placed on 60-day DL.

9/1: Luis Escobar promoted to Morgantown

9/1: Casey Sadler placed on 60-day DL. Elias Diaz, Bobby LaFromboise, Jaff Decker recalled

9/1: Rob Scahill activated from DL. Travis Snider and Radhames Liz added to 40-man roster

8/31: Wilkin Castillo added to Indianapolis roster. John Bowker and Adam Miller activated from disabled list.

8/29: Alen Hanson activated from Temporary Inactive List. Wilkin Castillo assigned to GCL.

8/28: Carlos Munoz promoted to Morgantown.

8/28: Edwin Espinal activated from Bradenton disabled list. Clay Holmes placed on disabled list.

8/28: Kelson Brown placed on disabled list.

8/26: Stephan Meyer and Tanner Anderson promoted to Morgantown.

8/26: Cristian Mota promoted to Bristol.

8/25: Ke’Bryan Hayes promoted to Morgantown. Raul Siri promoted to Bristol.

8/25: Kevin Kramer promoted to West Virginia. Jordan Luplow placed on disabled list.

8/25: John Bowker placed on disabled list. Kelson Brown activated from disabled list.

8/25: Pedro Florimon sent outright to Indianapolis.

8/25: Alen Hanson placed on temporary inactive list.

8/22: Jordy Mercer activated from disabled list. Travis Ishikawa placed on disabled list.

8/22: Josh Wall sent outright to Indianapolis.

8/22: Pirates release Jesus Ronco and Luis Brun

8/21: Josh Harrison activated from disabled list. Josh Wall designated for assignment.

8/20: Corey Hart assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

8/20: Travis Snider signed to minor league deal.

This Date in Pirates History

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a game from the past with ties to a current minor league city and one of the best pitchers ever.

Matt Capps, 2005-09 reliever. Made 271 appearances and had a 3.61 ERA and 67 saves during his five seasons in Pittsburgh.

Juan Perez, lefty reliever for the 2006-07 Pirates. Had a 5.14 ERA in 24 appearances over his two seasons.

Dave Clark, outfielder from 1992 until 1996. Had an .801 OPS in 388 games with the Pirates, splitting his time between the two corner outfield positions.

Ed Konetchy, 1914 first baseman. Pirates’ owner Barney Dreyfuss had a man-crush on Konetchy and tried multiple times to acquire him before giving up way too much to get him in December 1913, sending Dots Miller and Chief Wilson to the Cardinals as part of the five-player package. Konetchy rewarded Dreyfuss by having one poor season, then jumping to the Federal League.

Harry Decker, 1890 Alleghenys. Playing for the worst team in franchise history, Decker had the highest batting average(.274) and he hit five homers, which account for all the homers he hit in his four-year MLB career.

On this date in 1890, the Pittsburgh Alleghenys took on the Cleveland Spiders in an exhibition game played in front of 2,000 fans in Altoona. Both teams were scheduled to meet the next day in Pittsburgh, but the exhibition game was put on the schedule so the teams could make extra money during the season. The Spiders won that day by a 10-6 score behind the pitching of a 23-year-old rookie named Cy Young, who had four career wins at the time. The Alleghenys made ten errors, including two by catcher Harry Decker, who you may remember from the last player you just read about before this paragraph. He also picked up two hits on his 26th birthday. The day after this exhibition game, the Alleghenys beat the Spiders 6-2 to snap a 23-game losing streak.

  • Locke sucks. That is all.

  • Where is Matt Hague now? I always liked him. Wasn’t he called the hit maker or something like that?

  • Heredia 6.75era one month and 6.84 the next. Damn, that kid is consistent.

  • I can’t believe that Dreyfuss would trade the great Dots.

    • You and me both buddy! I have read the newspapers from back then and Dreyfuss wanted him for years, so every time he couldn’t get him, his offer went up a bit more until he put together some ridiculous deal to get him. He ended up trading two players that were better than Konetchy, plus the rest of the deal wasn’t good(three lesser going to St Louis, two back to Pitt). Horrible trade on his part at the time and it worked out even worse than it looked on paper

  • Better 4th OF option for 2016, Garcia or Broxton? Or Decker?

    • Decker is showing that he can be a good PH’er. I would vote for him. I’m still not sold on either Garcia or Broxton as MLB talent yet.

    • This triggers a question. Who of the position players is not under contract for next year? I mean we can talk about Broxton, Decker or even Lambo but if no spots are open I doubt the deck gets much shuffling, possibly none. Is this a fair assessment?

  • If I am Keon Broxton, I would NOT appreciate the comparison to Johnny Jeter…lol.

  • When are you going to write about Ron Necciai? Maybe you did but I would be curious to find out what become of him. Since I did not want to say anything about Jeff Locke and his atrocious performance and how I do not want to see him the rest of the year ooopppps

  • There are a few decent 4th OF types in the FA pool (Rajai, Denorfia, Venable) and certainly Neal has money to spend. But I can’t see someone like Decker blocking Broxton or Garcia if either looks good in ST.

    So after two crappy games, Bucs get Jungmann tonight and Brewers have a winning record vs LHP. Great.

    • It is very easy to look at Locke’s poor outing, and Cole’s the night before, but unless this team finds a way to hit consistently, their future will be very limited. 5 of the 8 hitters went O’fer last night. Marte started hitting again after an 0 for 20. Ramirez provided all 4 RBI’s.

      I have already said enough about the need to replace Jeff Branson as the hitting coach. I could be wrong, but this team has too many high highs and low lows – consistency from game to game and AB to AB would be nice. They are a near lock for the playoffs, but if this trend continues, that could go out the window very quickly. And, a home game would mean millions to the club and the city of Pittsburgh. Time to suck it up.

      • How the Pirates are able to hit so well and pitch so well both at home and vs outside division teams, yet struggle on road vs NL Central foes is mind boggling.

        Losing records vs Reds/Brewers is unacceptable. Need to turn that tide starting tonight!

      • Game to game might see fluctuation, but thats not really uncommon. Month to month, the offense is actually stacking up decently well. July+ we have been a top 10 offense, and May as well. We had a terrible start to the year and a below average June.

        Overall, we are sitting top 10 in wRC+ (3 way tie for 9th). 3rd best overall wRC+ in the NL to this point. Gonna be tough to explain firing a hitting coach who gets the team those numbers overall.

        • Before the Brewers series, and as part of the ARam debate, I took a look at RPG since ARam joined the club. It was 4.77, which would be tops in the NL and 3rd in MLB behind the NYY and Jays.

          Bucs on the season are at 4.23, which is 14th in MLB but 5th in the NL.

          So Bucs offense was already OK as far as run production, and got significantly better in the past month.

        • Do you think the hitting coach is telling ARam how to produce in the clean up spot in his final month? You still want him out of there? I think you said “anybody but ARam.”

          • Yup, i do. Good on him for helping the team and having good games.

            Im just not a fan of using a handful of games as useful. Overall, he’s been an average hitter since arriving. Kang is above average, so given the chances A Ram has had i have every faith Kang would be better. Because he’s a better hitter. The alternative argument is that A Ram magically gets better with men on, then decides to be not that good other times.

            I dont put my faith in that likelihood. I think the offense being top 10 before A Ram makes your point really off.

            • Ramirez has been an RBI producer here and everywhere else he has played in a long career. Clinging to your position despite clear evidence that the offense has improved with Ramirez in that spot is borderline comical. I suppose you think the fact that he produces with men on base is an accident?

              • 2015 season splits:

                Bases Empty: .257/.304/.476 (110 wRC+)
                Men On Base: .242/.287/.374 (73 wRC+)

                #clearevidence

                • Does not reflect his production as a Pirate over the last 30, 15, and 7 games. Is this the best you can do with your stats manipulation?

                  • You really have the nerve to call someone out about manipulating stats after going “but dude, in this smaller sample size he’s better”.

                    Yes, if we only care about how the last 2-4 weeks went then weeee. But thats not predictive of anything. Sorry the logic and stats dont help the narrative.

                    • Poor Luke….how shrill you get when defending your arguments and those of your twin. I care about Ramirez performance as a Pirate…not as a Brewer.

                    • This guy’s tryna break the sample smaller and smaller until it fits his narrative and *I’m* the “stats manipulator”?

                      Math is hard, man.

                    • Its easy man, everything that happened in the past aint important. Except the good parts of the last 20 games.

                • Here’s the thing… it’s a pennant race. Every game and every AB matters a bit more. Marte and Walker have both been struggling at the plate. Kang looks tired and needs to be watched since he’s entering unfamiliar territory in terms of innings played.

                  So while interpreting season-long stats is great in theory, in actual context, ARam is probably Hurdle’s best weapon in the #4 spot right now. He’s delivering. Run production is up and ARam’s looking somewhat better on defense.

                  IMO, ARam should stay in the #4 slot until such time as he’s no longer productive there whether it’s flukey or not. It’s simply working for a team driving to a division title and for a period as short as September, what happened in April or June becomes fairly irrelevant.

                  Not every player plays at the same level every month. You know that. You can get a .190 Cutch in April. And you can get a .850 OPS ARam in September.

                  FWIW, ARam’s relatively decent production last year was the result of two months work. He was terrible in the other four months. Historically, August is his best month. So there is historical basis for not only playing him in August, but riding him out while he’s hitting at a productive level.

              • You win, A Ram should hit 4th. Really shouldnt ever sit since he is critical to the teams success. RBIs prove the worth of a hitter….and not the OBP of his players ahead of him.

                A Ram is why we are winning.

                • Your position was Walker, Marte and Kang would all be better in the four spot. No need to get childish…baseball is a team game. The manager keeps reminding the hordes of that when he explains his lineup.

                  • All of those names are better overall hitters than Ramirez so yes, i do believe that. Mostly because i dont think a hitter magically goes from .250 to great because a guy gets on base. Nor that thats a logical argument.

                    Its not really childish to go “hey, i no longer care so stop acting like a pompous douche about it”. You think A Ram is a good 4 hole hitter because RBIs and Cutch said so. Good on ya.

  • John … Love the Morning Report. One of the few things I like about the morning. You always seem to write about a question I am having – like will we resign Broxton. (And no I don’t skip over this day in history.)

    • I appreciated those that don’t skip the history. What is your question for tomorrow morning, maybe I’ll answer it…

      • What’s the status of Jameson Taillon’s recover, John?

        • He’s working out at Pirate City with the other injured players and then once the instructs start up in about two weeks, he can get back into game action

          • John, John, John…I thought we had a thing going here. Apparently I’m not an inside joke-worthy P2 member yet.

            • I did miss that, but if I didn’t answer correctly, more people would have asked. I almost posted a picture of Taillon working out a few days ago with other injured players, but stopped short there

        • You know, some people can’t read every single article every day or look at the site every day… So God forbid people ask a question about a player, especially one as highly thought of as Taillon. Sorry if people get tired of responding about prospect questions on a prospect site.

          Drop the snark.

      • John… Well my current thoughts have to do with our AAA staff. Four of the five ‘best’ starters are injured (Taillon, Kingham, Cumpton, and Sadler). Assuming Glasnow and a healthy Taillon are there, how do the rest stack up? Will Sadler be ready? Have Sadler and Cumpton missed their starting windows? Do Kuhl and Brault pass over anyone? Is Sanchez legit?

        • The answer to that question has a lot of “ifs” involved, so it’s not good for an article. I expect Glasnow, Taillon, Kuhl and Brault to definitely be there on Opening Day. We don’t know the extent of the injuries to Sanchez and Sadler yet because they are doing the rest and rehab method, which sometimes ends in them just being healthy and sometimes ends in them just putting off surgery.

          Cumpton had his TJ on March 10th, so best case is that he is back on Opening Day, but the Pirates always seem to be more careful, so I expect him back in early May and he will probably pitch for Bradenton first, then work his way up.

          As for why it’s tough to predict the starters. It seems like the Pirates always have five players who you think will start at AAA, then in the off-season they add players like Chris Volstad or Clayton Richard and one of those prospects is held back at Altoona a little longer than you expect, until a spot opens up. So my guess is that one of the starters for Indy will be someone with MLB experience that looks like a reclamation project and Brault goes from a “definite for the rotation”, to “he will join the rotation when a spot opens up even though he seems ready now”

    • Add me to the admirers. Always something of interest.
      All you guys get a tip of the hat for your work.

  • John,
    With a rave review like this and a prediction that Broxton will play in the major leagues, how does he not even rate in the top 50 prospects from you and the staff?
    Is it advanced age, or do the ratings reflect first half struggles? The guy is having success at AAA, not struggling a A like some who made the top 50.

    • Your answer was actually right in the article. We posted the top 50 on July 17th, but it was actually tabulated a few days earlier, then written up. The All-Star break started on July 12th:

      In 39 games before the break, he had a .606 OPS. In 45 games since then, he has a .915 OPS

      Are you going to put a 25-year-old in AAA with a .606 OPS and strikeout issues in your top 50? He made the “just missed” group because of the skills he has and he was in the top 50 in the book, but 50 days ago, he was struggling bad and that was the exact time he turned it around

      • But shouldn’t prospect rankings be based more on projection and tools than on results? Seems that in general the mid-season rankings were too heavily influenced by first-half results.

        • If you’re a 25 year old in AAA, you absolutely better be judged more on production than projection.

          25 year olds in AAA are closer to being non-prospects than toolsy projectable athletes.

          • Wouldn’t you say, though, that he has more upside than Jaff Decker?

            • I wouldn’t. Decker is showing that he can work a pitcher and get on base.

            • Upside? Sure. Power/speed guys will always have high upside.

              But again, we’re not talking about a 20 year old in A ball. We’re talking about a 25 year old just now making it to AAA. At some point, upside loses it’s practical meaning.

          • Exactly right. You reach a point where production matters more than projection. If a 20-year-old struggles in AA, it’s a bigger deal that he’s in AA to begin with. Ke’Bryan Hayes could do nothing at Morgantown and it will still be fine because he’s playing against college players and you shouldn’t expect him to do anything significant there. A 25 yr old in AAA needs to perform

            • But Broxton had performed quite well in AA last year and the first part of this year. So the lack of attention in the mid-season ranking seems heavily based on a SSS in AAA.

              • He was 25 in AA, that would keep anyone down in the rankings, especially in their seventh season of pro ball

                • He was 24 last year when he put up an 853 OPS in AA, and at 24 he was younger than average.

                  • He returned to the level at 25 this year and struggled for 39 games with the jump to AAA, so I don’t think we were wrong with him by ranking him #46. He is going to have trouble in the majors due to his ability to make contact consistently. He may have been younger than average(it was 24.7 and he turned 24 in May, so not a big difference) but we are talking about prospect status and most prospects are in AA doing well before that age. The fact that he returned hurts his case, because now he became old for the league. You don’t find many prospects that hit minor league free agency before they reach the majors, but he’s a month away from doing that.

      • Many of the other prospects did not drop off the top 50 list when they were promoted and suffered through a period of adjustment. If he has the skills and now the production at a higher level than when he made the list before should we look to see him in the future top 50?

        • Broxton went from 46 to just missed, but it was after the draft and before the trade deadline when three guys were dealt away ahead of him. The top 50 was actually before they got Brault and Tarpley too, but after Rodriguez and Borden were dealt away. So between the draft and trades, with no players graduating this year, he got pushed back nine spots just from better players being added. He didn’t do anything wrong, the system just got deeper.

          If he re-signs he will be in the top 50. If he doesn’t before the book is printed, then he won’t be eligible

          • Thanks for the detailed response! I guess rankings will always have to deal with the tension between tools, projected success, and the prospect for failure at a higher level.

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