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First Pitch: A Big Focus on Those Big Pitchers in Indianapolis This Week


This week, I wrapped up my live coverage of the full season minor league teams for the first half. Well, that is with the exception of Bradenton, since I’ll still be covering them when I’m at home. I’ve seen every single team (including the extended Spring Training teams) this year, and have done reports on almost every top prospect in the system.

Prior to switching to the subscription model, I was pretty grounded. I just covered Bradenton in 2013, along with the big league team in the playoffs. We had writers in other cities, but it was limited. It was the same thing in 2014, although our writers were even more limited that year. Then we switched to subscription, could actually afford to pay writers, and I could actually travel. The result has left me feeling more in touch with everything that is going on in the system than ever before.

I got a prime example of that this week. I’ve covered Indianapolis in the past, but only as recently as early 2012. I’ve never covered the Indianapolis team live while the Pirates were serious contenders. And so there was just a different feeling about this week’s coverage. It wasn’t “here is who will help the Pirates in a few years” like every other level. It was “here is the real story behind the numbers, letting you know who is ready to help now.”

You really get a feel for the importance of Triple-A when you cover it live. There’s such a desire to rush people through that level, as if they are big league ready the day they get promoted past Double-A, and only need a few good starts in Triple-A to be worthy of a call-up. But Triple-A really helps bridge the gap between all of the development in the lower levels of the minors and the majors, while also bridging the gap in other ways.

Everything there is different. There were over 12,000 in attendance one afternoon. There have been five Rays games this year that didn’t have that many in attendance. The lowest attendance at PNC Park this year had just a few hundred more than this game. And the Saturday game had over 13,000 in attendance. By comparison, the Altoona Curve have averaged 3,000 per game, and they’re one of the bigger stadiums in the system for attendance. It’s much different when you’re playing in front of 10,000 more people per day.

The approach to the game is a bit different too. Guys aren’t working as much on specific pitches, but instead are working on how to use the pitches they have. In the lower levels, you can get away with just throwing the fastball and curveball without worrying about sequencing. In Triple-A, with so many opponents who have MLB experience, you need to learn to mix up your pitches. There are also different approaches taken with batting, and with defense. For the latter part, the Indians use extreme defensive shifts, getting guys ready for Pittsburgh.

I felt like this week was one of my more successful trips. That was not only the case in content (and there’s still a lot of great stuff coming this week), but in continuing to get a better understanding of what is going on in the system. Our weekly recap this week is very Indianapolis-heavy, for that obvious reason.

10. We’re a few weeks away from the MLB draft, so I want to start adding that weekly recap info here. The Pirates have been linked to a local player in Jim Callis’ latest mock draft. They were also said to be interested in a reliever who could arrive in the majors this year in Keith Law’s mock draft. John Dreker broke down the strengths and weaknesses of this class, and will have more draft coverage leading up to the draft in a few weeks.

9. Alen Hanson and Wilfredo Boscan both made their big league debuts this week. Hanson was only up for a short time, replacing Starling Marte for three days. He didn’t get much playing time, going 1-for-2. Boscan was used in long relief, throwing two shutout innings in an 8-2 game. I talked with Hanson about his time in the majors after he got back to Indianapolis, and talked with Dean Treanor about what led to Boscan’s strong season in Triple-A, and his call-up this year. You can check out the article on both call-ups here.

8. JT Brubaker was a sixth round pick last year, and showed enough promise to make it as one of our top 30 prospects in the system. He also looked like a guy who could make it to Bradenton this year, as one of the more promising college pitchers from that Pirates draft class. That could still happen, but he’s going to need some more time in West Virginia. Abigail Miskowiec reports on what he has been working on in his recent starts, and the mechanical issues that are leading to his recent issues.

7. Trevor Williams made a rehab appearance in Bradenton today, and will now go to re-join the Indianapolis rotation. Before he left, I talked with him about his rehab process and the injury. You can also read the game report here, with Bradenton Manager Michael Ryan talking about what a start like this can do for the A-ball pitchers.

6. The big news on the MLB side this week was the extension for Francisco Cervelli. We had the breakdown of the deal here, with the catcher getting three additional years for $31 M total. I also added some thoughts on the deal, including what Cervelli needed to do to justify the move, and what this all means for Elias Diaz.

5. Neal Huntington met with the media this afternoon, including our own Ed Giles, for his weekly session. Ed broke down the MLB comments, with Huntington discussing help for the bullpen and Justin Masterson’s progress. I broke down the prospects, where Huntington discussed Tyler Glasnow, Chad Kuhl, and Jameson Taillon. Speaking of which…

4. I feel like I wrote a lot about Chad Kuhl this week, probably because I did. He was very impressive in his start on Monday, and looks like a guy who can help the Pirates in the rotation this year. I also see him as a guy who is close to being ready for the majors, and should be ready to arrive before Tyler Glasnow. I broke all of this down in my article on him this week, talking with opposing scouts about his upside.

3. I haven’t written my Tyler Glasnow feature yet (that is scheduled for tomorrow), but our new Indianapolis writer Brian Peloza did cover his first start of the week. Glasnow had good results on paper, but didn’t have the best stuff. Indianapolis Manager Dean Treanor said as much after the game, and so did Glasnow. That’s an important thing to consider, as most of the people calling for promotions this time of year are only looking at the stats, and they don’t always tell the story.

2. One guy who does look ready right now is Jameson Taillon. This is a case where the stats match the story. He will be limited this year, and I wrote how the Pirates are limiting him, along with their focus on pitches, rather than innings. It looks like they’re going to give him a bit of a break this week, as their current rotation has him being pushed back a few days with the off-day on Monday. He told me this was the plan going forward, although there were no talks about any extreme actions to limit him.

1. As I said, the big story this week was in Indianapolis, with so much of the site content geared toward the Triple-A team, and the three starting pitchers in specific. My favorite article of the week was my look at whether the starters were ready for the big leagues, and what they needed to work on before arriving. You’re not going to find a better or more detailed article about their progress, and where each player is at in terms of being ready for a call-up. I went beyond the numbers with this one, which is why I could say that Glasnow isn’t ready yet, while Taillon is ready today.

If you aren’t a subscriber, then that means you missed all of these articles. Fix that now by subscribing to the site, and read up on all of the great analysis from last week. Plus, if you subscribe now, you’ll get our draft coverage, and all of our live coverage from throughout the system.

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Tim Williams
Tim Williams
Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.

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