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Morning Report: A Look Back at the First Month Last Year in the Minors

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At the end of April last year, I did a Morning Report in which I talked about the players who were doing well and doing poorly through the first month. At the end of each month, we always have a Player of the Month article, where we pick the best overall player, followed by the best player for each of the other affiliates playing at that time. There is also an article for the best pitchers. Instead of doing an article for the best/worst now, I’ll save the slumping players as a follow-up to our Player/Pitcher of the Month articles next week and look back on the progress of the players from the who’s hot/not article last April.

For Indianapolis, the best hitter was Steve Lombardozzi early on. He moved on via free agency, but last year his hot start earned him some time with the Pirates off the bench.

The “not hot” hitter was Elias Diaz, who overcame a slow start to put up decent numbers and get a September call-up. He has been throwing down at Pirate City, making his return from elbow soreness he suffered during Spring Training.

The pitcher doing well was Wilfredo Boscan and he got called up three times last year, which amounted to him getting a Major League paycheck for about a week total just for sitting in the bullpen. He’s back this year and doing his usual job, getting lost behind the Four Horsemen of prospects.

John Holdzkom was the struggling pitcher and that never changed last year or this year. He’s currently with the White Sox trying to get healthy.

For Altoona, the best hitter was Sebastian Valle. He slowed down at the plate and split time with Jacob Stallings last year, then left for the Yankees via free agency.

Dan Gamache was struggling last year for Altoona, now he’s doing well in limited time with Indianapolis. He should see more time when Jung-ho Kang rejoins the Pirates.

The best pitcher for Altoona was the entire starting staff. That group consisted of Tyler Glasnow, Chad Kuhl, Jason Creasy, Angel Sanchez and Zack Dodson. Glasnow and Kuhl are pitching well for Indianapolis. Sanchez is out for the season due to Tommy John surgery. Dodson is currently working out at home as he finishes serving his suspension, before going to Double-A for the Orioles. Creasy is struggling with his command in Altoona as I type this.

The struggling pitcher was Josh Smith, who actually finished strong and carried a shutout streak into the first couple weeks this year, before hitting a rough patch the last week. He’s still in the Altoona bullpen.

For Bradenton, the hot and not were the catchers, who are now the catchers for Altoona. Jin-De Jhang (the hot) had a decent season with the bat and has started off well this year in limited time, while Reese McGuire has looked good at the plate and great behind it.

On the pitching side, Cody Dickson was doing well at the end of April. He didn’t finish strong and has continued to underwhelm with Altoona despite above average stuff.

Ryan Hafner was the not hot and he was released last year. He was a disappointing case because he looked great at times, but usually couldn’t find the strike zone.

Finally, we get to West Virginia, where the hot hitter was Chase Simpson. He’s in a platoon role with Bradenton this year and off to a slow start.

Taylor Gushue was struggling early on and never really got going at the plate. Early in Bradenton this year, he has been the best hitter, keeping up with Kevin Newman.

The good and bad last year for the pitchers both moved up and they are both mixing good and bad outings early on. Austin Coley started off strong and had a much better season than Alex McRae, but they are doing fairly similar this season a level higher.

PIRATES GAME GRAPH


Source: FanGraphs

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates won 4-1 on Friday night. Francisco Liriano will be on the mound tonight making his fifth start. In his last three starts combined, he has allowed 11 earned runs and issued 12 walks in 15.1 innings. The Reds will counter with Alfredo Simon, who has a 16.39 ERA three starts and one relief appearance.

In the minors, Chad Kuhl gets his fourth start of the season. He is striking out a batter per inning, while holding batters to a .236 BAA. He has issued just two walks and has a 1.02 WHIP. Clay Holmes will get his fifth start for Altoona. Since allowing six runs over four innings in his first start, he has given up just four runs over 17 innings. He also had five walks in that first game and five since then. Colten Brewer goes for Bradenton. He has gone five innings in each of his first four starts.

MLB: Pittsburgh (14-9) vs Reds (9-14) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Francisco Liriano (4.64 ERA, 17:23 BB/SO, 21.1 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (11-9) @ Norfolk (8-14) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Chad Kuhl (1.84 ERA, 2:14 BB/SO, 14.2 IP)

AA: Altoona (9-12) @ Akron (13-8) 2:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Clay Holmes (4.29 ERA, 10:10 BB/SO, 21.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (10-12) @ Jupiter (9-13) 5:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Colten Brewer (3.60 ERA, 9:19 BB/SO, 20.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (15-7) vs Asheville (8-13) 2:05 PM  (season preview)
Probable starter: Bret Helton (4.67 ERA, 6:14 BB/SO, 17.1 IP)

HIGHLIGHTS

Here is a two-run triple from Stetson Allie on Wednesday night. It was his seventh extra-base hit of the season.

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

4/27: Sam Street placed on the temporary inactive list. Jose Regalado added to Bradenton.

4/25: Pedro Florimon added to Indianapolis roster. Antoan Richardson released.

4/25: Austin Meadows added to Altoona roster. Justin Maffei assigned to Morgantown.

4/25: Jake Burnette placed on disabled list. Logan Ratledge assigned to West Virginia.

4/22: Pirates recall Jason Rogers. Cole Figueroa optioned to Indianapolis.

4/21: Pirates release Michael Morse.

4/21: Jhondaniel Medina assigned to Altoona.

4/21: Cory Luebke assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

4/20: Jared Hughes assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

4/19: Julio Vivas added to West Virginia roster. Logan Ratledge assigned to Morgantown.

4/18: Jung-ho Kang assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

4/16: Trevor Williams placed on disabled list. Jhondaniel Medina promoted to Indianapolis.

4/15: John Kuchno promoted to Indianapolis. Frank Duncan added to Altoona roster.

 

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including second baseman Phil Garner. He spent five seasons in Pittsburgh, with the highlight being his role during the World Series winning season in 1979, when he played 150 regular season games. Garner went on to hit .417 during the NLCS and .500 in the World Series. He had 12 hits and drove in five runs against the Baltimore Orioles. Garner helped the Pirates when he was traded to the Houston Astros, bringing back Johnny Ray in the deal. With Pittsburgh, Scrap Iron played in two All-Star games and hit .267 over 664 games.

Other Pirates players born on this date include 2003 infielder Jeff Reboulet and 1921 catcher Tony Brottem.

On this date in 1887, the Pirates (then known as the Alleghenys) played their first National League game. For five seasons, the franchise played in the American Association, which was a rival Major League to the NL at the time. The Alleghenys switched leagues for the 1887 season and opened up against the Chicago White Stockings (now the Cubs). The Alleghenys played at Recreation Park and 10,000 fans showed up for that first NL game to see Pittsburgh take a 6-2 victory. This link here has the highlights from that game.

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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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