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Morning Report: A Strong Group of Prospects on the Mound Tonight

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For what I believe is the first time this season, all four scheduled starting pitchers are top 30 prospects for the Pirates. It actually gets better than that with Trevor Williams throwing a simulated game today, and I think there might be some news on another pitching prospect later today (no spoilers).

If you have our 2016 prospect guide, you’ll find Yeudy Garcia ranked 12th, Chad Kuhl ranked 16th, Tyler Eppler rated 22nd and JT Brubaker rated 31st. Brubaker moved up to the top 30 when Trey Supak (ranked 27th) was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers.

I should get a chance to watch three of these pitchers tonight, slightly cutting short Eppler’s game after 75 minutes to switch over to Kuhl. Then I plan to watch Brubaker’s start on replay, as long as MiLB.tv archives the game in time. Garcia’s outing is radio only because the Florida State League doesn’t televise a single game. The good thing is that Tim Williams will be covering the game live, so we will still get a first-hand report.

So with all that in mind, how are these four pitching prospects doing so far this season?

Chad Kuhl technically returned to Indianapolis this season because he pitched a playoff game for them. After missing his first start due to a Spring Training injury, he returned with a slightly limited pitch count at first. Kuhl has pitched great this year, keeping runners off the base, getting ground balls and picking up a decent amount of strikeouts. The only thing you want to see for him is the ability to put away hitters quicker so he can go further in outings. Kuhl gets a lot of foul balls with two strikes, which led to a few extended at-bats last time, so it would be good to see him have some quick innings tonight.

Tyler Eppler came up to Altoona at the end of 2015, so he is technically returning to the same level too. He has looked good this season as well, though he doesn’t have numbers like Kuhl. Eppler went six innings or more in each of his first four starts. He has done a good job of keeping the ball down and improving his slurve, which has led to a 3.34 ERA, 23 strikeouts, a 1.19 WHIP and a 1.26 GO/AO ratio in 29.1 innings.

Yeudy Garcia hasn’t done well this season, showing a slight decrease in velocity and his command hasn’t been good. His main issue seems to be the fact he’s going to his slider too often when he should be working off his fastball. He threw six shutout innings in his last game, and while the scouting reports weren’t the best from that outing, it’s a huge step in the right direction. Garcia has 22 strikeouts in 19.1 innings, so that too is a good sign.

Brubaker is the only one from this group who I haven’t watched this season. I was able to see Garcia in person, and I’ve watched everything from Kuhl and about 22-25 innings from Eppler. So tonight (or tomorrow depending on time/video availability) I’ll be seeing Brubaker for the first time. He has put up a 2.67 ERA in 27 innings, with 33 strikeouts and a 1.04 WHIP. He’s holding batters to a .188 BAA, but he isn’t getting ground balls, which could be a problem. His control has been decent, just nowhere near as good as last year when he issued 12 walks in 73.1 innings. Brubaker has allowed just one hit in two of his starts.

So you basically have two pitchers (Eppler and Brubaker) pitching equal to their prospect ranking. Chad Kuhl has definitely over-performed compared to his ranking, while Garcia hasn’t looked like a 12th ranked prospect in any of his starts prior to his last game. Even then, unless his velocity from last year returns, it’s hard to see him maintaining that high ranking next time we update the rankings.

PIRATES GAME GRAPH

Pirates were off on Thursday.

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates were off on Thursday. Francisco Liriano will be on the mound tonight in the series opener against the Cardinals. In his last start, Liriano went 6.2 innings, allowing one run on five hits, with no walks. He had just two starts last year in which he didn’t issue a walk. Liriano shutout the Cardinals for six innings on Opening Day. St Louis will counter with Carlos Martinez, who has a 2.60 ERA in 34.2 innings this season. He allowed four runs over 6.2 innings against the Nationals in his last start.

In the minors, we go with some notes on hitters because the pitchers were covered up top. Jason Rogers has been optioned to Indianapolis. He left the team with a 1.118 OPS, which was tops on the squad. Altoona’s leading hitter this season is Erich Weiss with an .884 OPS. For Bradenton, Kevin Newman is running away with the top OPS for regulars with his .825 mark, although backup catcher Tomas Morales has an .864 OPS in his eight games. Ke’Bryan Hayes leads West Virginia with an .879 OPS, as the youngest player on the team.

MLB: Pittsburgh (15-13) @ Cardinals (15-14) 8:15 PM
Probable starter: Francisco Liriano (3.86 ERA, 17:29 BB/SO, 28.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (14-11) vs Louisville (15-10) 7:15 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Chad Kuhl (1.31 ERA, 4:17 BB/SO, 20.2 IP)

AA: Altoona (11-16) vs Richmond (10-16) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Tyler Eppler (3.38 ERA, 13:13 BB/SO, 23.2 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (13-14) vs Charlotte (14-13) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Yeudy Garcia (3.72 ERA, 11:22 BB/SO, 19.1 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (16-10) @ Charleston (18-8) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: JT Brubaker (2.67 ERA, 10:33 BB/SO, 27.0 IP)

HIGHLIGHTS

Here is a terrific defensive play by Alen Hanson from Wednesday. What they don’t mention in the video is that there was a runner on base and Hanson quickly regrouped after the catch to make sure he couldn’t tag up.

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

5/5: Jason Rogers optioned to Indianapolis.

5/2: Jason Creasy placed on disabled list. Brandon Waddell promoted to Altoona

5/2: Tate Scioneaux promoted to Bradenton.

4/30: Jared Hughes activated from the disabled list. Rob Scahill sent to Indianapolis.

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.

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including a member of the last World Series team. Before we get to them, one of the Pirates best known pitching performances happened on this date in 1951. Cliff Chambers threw the second complete game no-hitter in franchise history and first in 44 years. Facing the Boston Braves in the second game of a doubleheader, Chambers pitched the no-hitter despite issuing eight walks. He won 3-0 and managed to keep the Braves off the board, while only retiring the side in order three times. You can view the boxscore here.

The Pirates had two shortened no-hitters back in 1906-07, which at the time were official, but rule changes a little while back said that shortened games were no longer official. I’m of the belief that they should still count because under the rules of the time they were official and anything after the new rules were put in place would be the ones that didn’t count. In the case of Howie Camnitz’s no-hitter in 1907, it was agreed upon prior to the game, that the two teams would play five innings in the second game of a doubleheader.

Players born on this date include:

Alberto Lois, outfielder/pinch-runner for the 1978-79 Pirates. He played 11 games during the 1979 World Series winning season, all as a pinch-runner.

Dick Cole, infielder in 1951 and then 1953-56. Came to the Pirates in a trade for Cliff Chambers just over a month after the no-hitter mentioned above.

Earl Turner, catcher in 1948 and 1950. Hit .240 in 42 games. Only made 13 career starts.

Bob Chesnes, pitcher from 1948 until 1950. Pirates traded three players and $100,000 to acquired him from San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League.

Luke Boone, 1918 shortstop. Native of Pittsburgh, who collected over 2200 hits in the minors.

Ed Karger, 1906 pitcher. He pitched just 28 innings for the Pirates. The following year, he threw a seven-inning perfect game in the second game of a doubleheader, with the two teams agreeing to seven innings prior to the 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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