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First Pitch: The Next Wave Has Arrived, and They’re Giving the Pirates a Boost

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A week ago in this Sunday feature, I wrote about how the remainder of the Pirates’ season would be shaped by the recent stretch heading into the All-Star break. They sat 41-41, with four games on the road against St. Louis, and three at home against the Cubs. A good week would have put them in position to contend. A bad week would have put them in position to be sellers.

Fortunately, they stepped up and went 5-2, making up some ground on the Cubs, pulling to within half a game of the Cardinals, and getting to 1.5 games back from the second Wild Card spot.

Now the Pirates enter the second half with a much easier schedule than they had in the first half. They’ve got some key players coming back from injuries. The bullpen finally looks like it is getting on track. The offense is rebounding after a horrible June. And the best part about the past week was that the Pirates were winning thanks to a lot of input from the prospects. And most of the prospects coming up are starting pitchers, which helps fill the biggest need on the team.

That Next Wave that I wrote about in the 2016 Prospect Guide? They’re starting to arrive.

A lot of things are looking up for the team heading into the second half of the season. We’ll have the first half recaps this week, plus some second half previews. And since the minor league seasons never stop, it will be a normal week for us in terms of featured articles and prospect analysis, to go along with those recaps and previews.

As for this past week, all of the promotions kept us busy on the site, for obvious reasons. Below are the top stories you might have missed. If you aren’t a subscriber…actually, why wouldn’t you be a subscriber right now? The team is calling up prospects on a daily basis, and there’s only one site in the Pittsburgh media that covers the farm system live on a daily basis, and has years of background and information on those prospects that no other site can give you. I can’t think of a week or a month when our prospect coverage has been more valuable than the last week, and the last month. And you can get it for just $2.99 or less. So sign up already and see what you missed last week. Or, if you’re a subscriber already, tell your friends. They’re probably already asking you about the prospects anyway, because you’re the only one who knows anything about them (I seriously get an e-mail saying this two or three times a week).

10. Dovydas Neverauskas pitched a scoreless inning in the MLB Futures Game tonight, sitting 94-97 MPH and hitting 98 twice. Brian Peloza talked to him last week about appearing in the game, while also documenting his journey from Lithuania to being an actual MLB relief pitching prospect. I have a feeling Neverauskas will be in the majors by the end of the year, so you might want to get familiar with him now.

9. In non-prospect news, but something that could impact the prospects, there was a rumor that Jon Niese was being shopped. He didn’t help himself in today’s outing against the Cubs. With all of the rotation prospects looking good, it would make sense to deal Niese at this point, and move on to the younger guys.

8. There was a lot of focus this week on the pitching prospects in Indianapolis, but one somewhat forgotten prospect made his return. Nick Kingham made his first start in an official box score, going three innings in the GCL. I talked with Kingham about his rehab after the start, and what the plans are going forward from here.

7. Mitch Keller has struggled lately, which John Dreker detailed this week. However, he bounced back with a strong start, and John was there to detail what was going right for him.

6. Gerrit Cole made two rehab starts this week. Brian Peloza covered the first one, and talked with Cole afterward about how his progress is going. Cole made the second one today, and could return after the All-Star break.

5. There were two sets of rankings which came out this week. Baseball Prospectus had three Pirates in their mid-season top 50, and Baseball America had six in their mid-season top 100.

4. Steven Brault made his MLB debut this week, but it turned out to only be a spot start. Still, I wrote up The Book on Steven Brault, giving his full scouting report and what to expect from him.

3. Tyler Glasnow also got the call, only making one start. It’s possible he could return for more than that after the break. Here is The Book on Tyler Glasnow. Brian Peloza also talked to the Indianapolis coaching staff, who agreed that he creates some uncomfortable at-bats for hitters. Finally, I did a detailed breakdown of his curveball in his debut, which he needs to have better command of to stick in the majors.

2. Finally, Josh Bell got the call up to the majors at the end of prospect week. Here is The Book on Josh Bell. Ryan Palencer wrote a great article on how trust in Indianapolis hitting coach Butch Wynegar has helped lead Bell to his success at the plate. Bell did so well in his debut that the Pirates now have to make the unpopular decision to send him back down, which it appears they’ll be doing at some point, although maybe not right away.

1. A lot of prospects have come up from Indianapolis recently, giving the Pirates a youth movement. Alan Saunders talked with all of the prospects who are currently in Pittsburgh about coming up together, and their adjustments to the clubhouse. It’s a great article, and really gets you looking forward to seeing what these guys can do.

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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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