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Morning Report: Big Game in Bradenton This Afternoon

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The game in Bradenton today is very interesting for a few reasons. I assume Cole Tucker will make his debut, which is a little bit of a letdown actually because Pablo Reyes was getting a chance to start with Kevin Newman injured. He has had three really good games, both offensively and defensively. I don’t think there should have been a rush to get Tucker up to Bradenton before his 20th birthday, so it would have been nice to see what Reyes could do as the regular shortstop for a month or so.

Reyes has good speed, some pop in his bat and excellent hand-eye coordination. He can play solid defense, but he has been known in the past to take poor at-bats out to the field. He is third in the league with 12 doubles, and his .727 OPS is well above the FSL league average .659 OPS.

Anyway, enough with the Reyes rant and back to what makes today a little more special than usual. Besides the assumed Tucker debut, Justin Masterson is making his season debut. He worked his way up to five innings under the controlled settings and lesser competition that Extended Spring Training offers. Now he gets to move up to High-A and go five innings against some better hitters. It’s not a great test and won’t be much of an indicator for his progress, but this is the first veteran starter project on the minor league side without Jim Benedict. One player isn’t going to tell much of a story good or bad, but I’m sure that angle will come into play with Masterson being the first real test subject.

The second part on the pitching side that makes it interesting is that Masterson will be followed by Yeudy Garcia for four innings. Tim Williams will be covering the game, so we will have something on Masterson, while getting an update on how Garcia is progressing this season. In his last start, he went heavy with the changeups and had strong results. It’s getting a little lost because of his high pitch counts and shortened outings, but he has a 1.80 ERA this month, with 27 strikeouts in 25 innings.

So there have been positive signs, just not enough of them to get as excited about his future as last year. A four inning outing will help control his pitch count today. He doesn’t need to worry about innings this season after throwing 124.1 last year, but he has worked a lot harder this year than he was last year. If he reaches 124.1 innings this season, it would actually be considered extra work.

** Keith Law posted his second mock draft yesterday, while also announcing he will post his third one on Friday. That extra time should allow him to get a better clue as to where certain players could end up going. One player he has going shortly after the Pirates make their first selection, is shortstop Gavin Lux. I have yet to mention him, mostly due to an oversight on my part, but partially due to his scouting report…which depends on who you read.

I’ve heard he may not stick at shortstop due to his arm, but I’ve read his arm is above average too. I’ve seen his power rated from 30 (which is almost nothing on the 20-80 scout scale) to 45, which is just below average. I’ve heard about issues with his swing, and the difficulties he may have facing much tougher pitching than he is seeing in Wisconsin. It seems like he is a low floor/high ceiling player, sounding somewhat similar to Adam Frazier on the low end.

PLAYOFF PUSH

Bradenton is 7-3 in their last ten games. They are in first place in their division, two games ahead. The first half of the FSL season ends on June 22nd.

West Virginia is 6-4 in their last ten games. They are in fourth place in their division, trailing first place by five games. The first half of the SAL season ends on June 19th.

PIRATES GAME GRAPH


Source: FanGraphs

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 5-2 on Saturday to the Rangers. Francisco Liriano will get the ball in the last game of the series this afternoon, making his tenth start. In his last outing, he allowed one earned run on two hits and five walks over 5.2 innings against the Diamondbacks. His mound opponent will be Martin Perez, who threw six shutout innings against the Angels in his last start. He has a 3.13 ERA in 60.1 innings, with 37 strikeouts and a 1.33 WHIP.

In the minors, Jameson Taillon returns to the mound after skipping a start to limit his innings. As I mentioned numerous times, he was on pace to be shutdown in mid/late September with all the work he put in already this season. The skipped start at the minor league level makes a lot more sense than doing it after he is called up. The interesting part today will be the amount of pitches he throws, whether he can go 7 IP/90 pitches like before, or they ease him back in a little with a slightly smaller limit. For those keeping track of Super Two, this COULD be his next to last Triple-A start.

Brandon Waddell makes his fifth start for Altoona. He is coming off a rough outing in which he issued four walks and got knocked out after four innings. It was his shortest outing of the season, and the walk total doubled his season output. He had four walks in his first 47.2 innings. Despite the poor outing, Waddell has a 1.74 ERA this season, with a .182 BAA, an 0.79 WHIP and a 1.38 GO/AO ratio.

MLB: Pittsburgh (28-20) @ Rangers (28-21) 3:05 PM
Probable starter: Francisco Liriano (4.30 ERA, 30:52 BB/SO, 52.1 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (24-23) @ Pawtucket (24-25) 6:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Jameson Taillon (1.82 ERA, 5:51 BB/SO, 49.1 IP)

AA: Altoona (27-20) @ Bowie (18-29) 2:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Brandon Waddell (2.78 ERA, 6:16 BB/SO, 22.2 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (27-22) vs St Lucie (25-24) 1:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Justin Masterson (NR)

Low-A: West Virginia (25-23) vs Columbia (25-24) 2:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Bret Helton (4.73 ERA, 17:30 BB/SO, 40.0 IP)

HIGHLIGHTS

Here is Austin Meadows going the other way for a double on Wednesday. Going into action on Saturday night, he had a ten game on-base streak that raised his OPS from .451 to .689 through 26 games.

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

5/29: Justin Masterson assigned to Bradenton.

5/28: Cole Tucker promoted to Bradenton. Jess Amedee added to West Virginia roster.

5/27: Trevor Williams and Jim Fuller assigned to Indianapolis

5/27: Kevin Newman placed on disabled list. Colten Brewer added to Bradenton roster.

5/27: Logan Sendelbach added to West Virginia roster. Jess Amedee assigned to Extended Spring Training.

5/26: Jhondaniel Medina promoted to Indianapolis.

5/25: Pirates place Tony Watson on paternity list. Recall Rob Scahill.

5/25: Pirates place Arquimedes Caminero on disabled list. Recall Kyle Lobstein.

5/24: Pirates place Ryan Vogelsong on disabled list. A.J. Schugel recalled from Indianapolis.

5/23: Logan Sendelbach assigned to Extended Spring Training. Jess Amedee added to West Virginia.

5/22: Trevor Williams assigned to Bradenton. Colten Brewer sent to Extended Spring Training.

5/22: Trace Tam Sing added to Bradenton roster.

5/21: West Virginia assigns Ty Moore and Casey Hughston to Extended Spring Training. Logan Ratledge and Sean Keselica added to West Virginia roster.

5/21: Logan Hill demoted from Bradenton to West Virginia.

5/21: Pirates release Eric Karch.

5/21: Juan Diaz assigned to Extended Spring Training

5/20: John Kuchno assigned to Indianapolis. Guido Knudson assigned to Extended Spring Training.

5/19: Starling Marte activated from paternity list. Alen Hanson optioned to Indianapolis.

5/19: Elias Diaz placed on 60-day disabled list.

5/19: Wilfredo Boscan added to 40-man roster and promoted to Pittsburgh. Cory Luebke optioned to Indianapolis.

5/17: John Kuchno assigned to Extended Spring Training.

5/16: Starling Marte placed on paternity list. Alen Hanson recalled.

5/16: Juan Diaz added to Indianapolis roster.

5/15: Pirates activate Cory Luebke from disabled list. A.J. Schugel optioned to Indianapolis.

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus two trades of note and one interesting signing that we will look into. The former players born on this date are third baseman Charlie Hayes (1996) and 1929 third baseman Jim Stroner. If you know Pirates history, you’ll know that Stroner didn’t have much of a chance to play third base, as one of the team’s all-time greats was in the middle of his career. That would be Pie Traynor. If you know the minor league system now, you’ll know Charlie Hayes is the father of Ke’Bryan Hayes, who does not have anyone nearly as good as Pie Traynor blocking him at third base.

The Pirates traded infielder Billy Almon to the New York Mets on this date in 1987 for minor league outfielder Scott Little and shortstop Al Pedrique. It looked like a good trade for the Pirates, as Pedrique hit .301 as a rookie, but by the end of the next season he was hitting under .200 and got released.

On this date in 1931, the Pirates traded catcher Rollie Hemsley to the Cubs for catcher Earl Grace and cash. Grace became a solid starter for the Pirates, even though he was acquired to be a backup at the time. They regretted giving up Hemsley though, as he went on to make five All-Star teams and catch over 1,400 games in the big leagues.

On this date in 1925, the Pirates signed veteran first baseman Stuffy McInnis. He was being used as a bench player early in his time with the Pirates, but then put on one of the best hitting shows in team history. From July 29th until the end of the season, McInnis hit .468 and helped the Pirates to their third World Series appearance. He hit .286 in the series and the Pirates ended up winning their second title in seven games over the Washington Senators.

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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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