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Friday, December 2, 2022

Morning Report: Pirates are Seeing Improvements from Players Sent to the AFL

Exactly one year ago, I did the Morning Report on the performances of players who were in the Arizona Fall League the previous fall. I figured today would be a good day to do that again for the players who played in the 2015 AFL.

The Pittsburgh Pirates sent seven players to the league, then an eighth joined in when Trevor Williams was traded to the Pirates early in the AFL season. One interesting note about the AFL is that the Pirates had an alternative player to send in case any of the others dropped out beforehand. That was Frank Duncan, and when Williams joined Glendale (the Pirates team), he wore Duncan’s jersey in his first game because he didn’t have his own yet. Duncan just ended up staying in the Fall Instructional League and he has obviously had a strong season. He is scheduled to return Friday from his thumb injury.

The top prospect the Pirates sent was Austin Meadows, and while his numbers weren’t strong in the AFL, the scouting reports were great. He started living up to those reports about three weeks after he returned from his eye injury, and that got him promoted to Indianapolis, where he was just starting to hit before a hamstring injury sidelined him. I know what you’re thinking and here is the latest update.

The second best prospect they sent just had a big night for Altoona last night. Reese McGuire put up solid stats in the AFL and started hitting the ball with more authority. He is showing some nice improvements over last year, while being one of the younger players in the Eastern League. McGuire has already set his career high for walks and tied his high for doubles, with about 40 games left in the season.

The last position player they sent was Adam Frazier and didn’t last long because he left to go player for Team USA in the Premier12 tournament in Taiwan and Japan. He probably got more playing time for that tournament than he would have if he stayed. Frazier did well in his brief time in the AFL and obviously has performed strong this year. So you could easily say that all three position players they sent there have shown improvements this season.

On the pitching side, we start with Williams because he was sent by the Marlins and played one game for their team. Despite a bump in the road last night, he has also shown improvements this year. He was very successful as a reliever in the AFL, posting a .192 BAA and a ridiculous 7.00 GO/AO ratio.

Steven Brault was the top pitching prospect the Pirates sent there. He was there specifically to work on a mechanical change and throw his four-seamer more often. Brault was also used as a reliever and his stats weren’t great, but he was there more as a learning experience, rather than throwing his best stuff to try to get guys out. That has paid off, as he looks to be an improved pitcher already, and he has made his Major League debut due to those improvements.

Tyler Eppler was next and here is one player where you can say he has stayed about even since before the AFL. It was good to get him more experience against upper level hitters, and he missed time early in the season last season, so the extra innings are paying off now with him still being able to stay in the rotation. He is well over his season innings from last year, but those don’t include a playoff start, time in Instructional ball, the AFL and Extended Spring Training starts. Eppler was working on his slider in the AFL and while the pitch can look really good at times, he still hasn’t turned it into a pitch you would call Major League average yet. The AFL time did pay off for the extra innings, but we still have him rated about the same as this time last year.

Cody Dickson was working on his fastball command and nothing has changed there. He has a 3.44 ERA and some great game results this season, but he still doesn’t throw enough strikes to be considered a top prospect. His rankings have dropped since last year. He was living more off potential based on his quality of pitches, but 64 walks this season show he still has plenty of work to do.

Finally, Brett McKinney was sent to the AFL. He has never been a top prospect in the system despite some strong velocity, because the velocity comes and goes. He has hit 97 MPH, but he has also sat 90-92 MPH in short outings. He has improved over his stats last year in Altoona, when he posted a 7.50 ERA in 30 innings. That being said, we haven’t seen the type in improvements that suggests he is a future Major League reliever.

So if you throw Williams in the mix, you can see that five players have improved over last season, while Eppler still remains a top 25 prospect, but he hasn’t taken a step forward like the others. McKinney hasn’t improved either and Dickson has taken a step back, though the potential is still there, it’s just harder to assume with a bigger career sample size behind him, that he will eventually put it all together.

As a side note, Dickson is pitching today at noon on MiLB.tv, so I’ll be watching that game and posting the recap later on tonight. Also, one more attempt at mind-reading here. AFL rosters are usually announced around September 1st.

* I forgot to mention in yesterday’s Morning Report that Hunter Owen was named the Player of the Week for the New York-Penn League last week. He also made our Top Performers article for the first time on Monday and he’s still in the running for our Player of the Month if he can finish strong. The 2016 25th round pick has a .303/.343/.535 slash line through 27 games. Owen has started games at third base, right field, left field and second base.


Source: FanGraphs


Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 7-4 to the Mariners on Tuesday night. Gerrit Cole gets the start tonight, his third since returning from the disabled list. He allowed four runs on seven hits and two walks in four innings in his first game, then came back against the Phillies last week and gave up one run over six innings. The Mariners will counter with James Paxton, who has a 4.18 ERA in 60.1 innings, with 55 strikeouts and a 1.51 WHIP. He allowed one run over seven innings in his previous start, which was against the Blue Jays. Prior to that, he faced the Astros and gave up six runs in five innings.

In the minors, Ryan Vogelsong gets the rehab start for Indianapolis. He left his last game early last Wednesday due to neck tightness. Before leaving, he threw four innings, giving up two runs on four hits, with no walks and two strikeouts. Yeudy Garcia has a 5.31 ERA in four starts this month, after posting a 1.27 ERA in June and 1.55 ERA in May. He is tied for the Florida State League lead with 101 strikeouts, and he ranks ninth with a 2.87 ERA.

West Virginia and Morgantown are off today. The GCL Pirates will go with Travis MacGregor, while Ike Schlabach is scheduled to start for Bristol.

MLB: Pittsburgh (51-48) vs Mariners (51-48) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Gerrit Cole(2.99 ERA, 23:67 BB/SO, 78.1 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (53-51) @ Gwinnett (47-56) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Ryan Vogelsong (4.50 ERA, 0:2 BB/SO, 4.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (57-45) vs Erie (42-62) 12:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cody Dickson (3.44 ERA, 64:69 BB/SO, 102.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (52-47) @ St Lucie (53-45) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Yeudy Garcia (2.87 ERA, 38:101 BB/SO, 91.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (51-50) vs Delmarva (55-46) 7:05 PM 7/28 (season preview)
Probable starter: Logan Sendelbach (3.26 ERA, 28:72 BB/SO, 105.0 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (19-19) @ Auburn (16-22) 7:05 PM 7/28 (season preview)
Probable Starter: TBD

Rookie: Bristol (15-16) @ Burlington (17-14) 11:00 AM (season preview)

GCL: Pirates (13-15) vs Tigers East (10-17) 12:00 PM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates (16-28) vs Cubs1 (17-27) 10:30 AM (season preview)


Here are a couple highlights from Kevin Newman. The first is a two-run triple

This one is his fourth hit of the game on Saturday.


7/26: Eric Fryer reinstated from paternity list. Elias Diaz optioned to Indianapolis.

7/25: Ke’Bryan Hayes placed on the disabled list.

7/24: Tyler Glasnow placed on disabled list. A.J. Schugel recalled.

7/23: Tyler Glasnow recalled. A.J. Schugel optioned to Indianapolis.

7/23: Eric Fryer placed on paternity list. Elias Diaz recalled.

7/22: Erik Kratz clears waivers. Elects free agency.

7/21: Chris Diaz placed on temporary inactive list.

7/20: Jose Regalado assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.

7/20: Ryan Vogelsong assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

7/19: Francisco Cervelli activated from disabled list. Erik Kratz designated for assignment.

7/19: Jameson Taillon activated from disabled list. Chad Kuhl optioned to Indianapolis.

7/19: Frank Duncan placed on disabled list.

7/19: Elias Diaz assigned to Indianapolis.

7/19: Justin Topa assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.

7/17: Jonathan Schwind assigned to Altoona.

7/16: Elias Diaz assigned to Altoona on rehab.

7/16: Gerrit Cole activated from the disabled list. Josh Bell optioned to Indianapolis.

7/15: Pirates sign Austin Shields. Assigned to GCL Pirates.

7/15: Pirates sign Boomer Synek. Assigned to GCL Pirates.

7/14: Francisco Cervelli assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

7/14: John Kuchno assigned to Altoona.

7/14: Jordan George promoted to West Virginia


Two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a key game from the 1979 season. Starting with the players and neither was around too long. Enrique Wilson played for the 2000-01 Pirates, joining the team on July 28, 2000 in a deal with the Indians for Wil Cordero. The next season he was dealt to the Yankees on June 13th for Damaso Marte. Wilson was a valuable utility player during his first season with the Pirates, seeing time at 2B/3B/SS and putting up a .723 OPS. He was mostly playing shortstop in 2001 before the trade and had a .186 average in 46 games.

The other player born on this date was left-handed pitcher Irish McIlveen, who despite pitching for the Pirates back in 1906, is one of the last Major League players born in Ireland. He was a star athlete at Penn State and joined the Pirates in July of 1906, right out of college. McIlveen pitched twice for the Pirates and played three games off the bench. After coaching two years at PSU, he returned to the majors with the New York Highlanders, playing exclusively in the outfield. By May of 1909, he was out of baseball.

On this date in 1979, the Pirates took a doubleheader from the first place Montreal Expos, which brought them within a half game of the NL East top spot. The link above has more details for the games, including quotes from Dave Parker, who got hit by a pitch in both games of the doubleheader. You can find the boxscore for game two here, which has a link for the first game.

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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.


Pirates Prospects has been independently owned and operated since 2009, entirely due to the support of our readers. The site is now completely free, funded entirely by user support. By supporting the site, you are supporting independent writers, one of the best Pittsburgh Pirates communities online, and our mission for the most complete Pirates coverage available.

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Good for Hunter Owen. He has been the ‘box score star’ in many of the games I have been following all year. Ever since he arrived he has hit well. He’s been one of those guys I have been drawn to following now because of his box score numbers daily.


Guys like Tucker, Craig, Luplow, and Holmes could stand to benefit from playing in the AFL-CIO this Fall…

Ian Rothermund

Tucker is a little young for that, isn’t he?


Barnes has really come on in the past month – he needs to be moved up to Indy soon – maybe when the Pirates figure out that Josh Bell is better than Jaso??


I was at that doubleheader in ’79. Long day, but it was one of the highlights of my life. Electric atmosphere.

It was about 2 months later that I got “the call” to come out to Harrisburg to work for the Feds.


I was at the doubleheader in ’79 against the Phillies when John Milner hit the pinch-hit walk-off grand slam in the first game. The Buccos won the second game also. Can’t remember the specifics of it, though. Will never forget that day. I remember looking at the scoreboard after Milner’s homer and seeing “The Hammer nailed it.” Man, that was a great time in ’79!!!


I love that Roller Coaster in the background at Altoona! One of these days, before I die, I am going to ride that rail!




When I retired, I said I was going to do one of those roller coaster vacations, because I love ‘coasters.

Then I got arthritis in my spine. Ugh…..

It sucks getting old.


Thoughts John, If Vogey has a good outing with NO issues health wise tonight. Do you think he is back in the rotation starting next week with a spot starter either Friday or Saturday?


Our rotation is in pretty bad shape if we’re hoping for a Vogey MLB start, lol?


There are still 5 or 6 days remaining til the trade deadline – I doubt the Pirates will get anything of any pitching value in trade, but we may see a lot of openings in the lineup in the next few days. The Pirates should be willing, and I would think guys like Freese, Jaso, and Joyce would want to go to teams where they can possibly be regulars. Same for RV, and possibly others. If any or all are traded, we could end up getting some young prospects, but very little that might help down the stretch this year.

MM and others could bring immediate pitching help but trading them could mean more pitching problems for the Bucs. Our end of the game pitching has been excellent for 3 years – it is the first 6 innings that are the problem, and the plan since the end of 2015 has been that we are not buying any of that this year. Keep MM, give him a QO and then either negotiate 3+ or lose him and get another Supplemental Pick in 2017.


Vogey is 39 years old so the chance he would bring much in a trade is slim to none. He very well may retire after the season.


Hey you know the game he was hit was off to a good start. Give the old buy at least one chance. 🙂


Good question. I assumed he’d make 2 more rehab starts but maybe not. And he has to be put back on the 40-man. There is no obvious candidate to drop. Lobstein? Boscan? Gift? Fryer? Niese? Or maybe move Stewart to 60-day DL.


Actually if Locke struggles in the Pen. He may be a DFA candidate, I don’t know that anyone would pick him up and is it really that big of a loss. Solves both the 40 man and 25 man problem for Vogey

Bruce Humbert

I don’t know – Gift and Boscan would appear to have little or no chance of contributing to the Pirates this year – easy calls I would think.

Trading Joyce and/or Freese also opens up roster spot[s]


I wouldn’t mind keeping Locke. He did well in his first relief outing.


Yeah I am not opposed to that either. I am almost thinking though he may be able to make it through waivers without being claimed. Of course you could do the same with Niese too lets face it he will not have his options picked up.


Jeff Locke, a young LHSP with 100 MLB starts and a record of 33-30 over the past 3.5 years will not be claimed? I doubt that would be the case.


I said may. The reasoning is he is currently being paid 3.025 Million. If he is claimed a team will have to make room not only on the 40 man but also the 25 man. This will also mean he will go to Arb this year meaning most likely a bump to at least 4.5million. While teams would be able to let the Pirates DFA him and potentially sign him as a non roster invitee next year for a much lower salary. You have to look at the entire picture.

Bruce Humbert

low cost – arb eligible ~ $3M a year – some folks just don’t understand the basis for valuing pitchers. He would be claimed fairly early – a team like Miami would slot him in as a #4 or 5 starter and Bannister could get him back to his old mechanics over the winter…


I disagree. Miami is in a fight for the wild card they are not going to add a pitcher like Locke to their rotation. Their #4 will be Chen when he comes back from the DL as early as next week. They will use one of their 2 young rookie pitchers for the #5 slot as both have more potential then Locke does. Who would they remove from the 40 man roster. I could see that being a team that would approach him in the offseason as a NRI to spring training. I simply said he may. ONLY because a team will have to make room for him and they may feel with the Pirates current situation of pitching he will be a free agent after the season making him cheaper.

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