The Fall Instructional League (FIL) begins in about two weeks and we will have live coverage from down at Pirate City. We will post the full schedule and complete roster when it is made available, but until that is released, we have the names of the players from the Dominican Summer League, who have been invited to the FIL.
The invites from the DSL almost always return to Bradenton the following year for Spring Training. We had changes this year, which is a rare occurrence. Yondry Contreras and Brian Sousa weren’t invited last fall, then spent the season in the GCL, while Jeremias Portorreal and Ramon Garcia got fall invites and didn’t come back. Portorreal eventually came back, but he spent the majority of the season in the DSL. In most other years, the players invited are the same ones you’ll see in Spring Training next year.
I’ll briefly go over the list of nine players invited. The DSL season wrapped up on Saturday and we will have a complete season recap in a couple weeks, along with recaps for all of the other affiliates.
For pitchers, Leandro Pina, Roger Santana, Yeudry Manzanillo, Sergio Cubilete and Joel Cesar were all invited. For position players, shortstop Rodolfo Castro, second baseman Francisco Mepris, outfielder Kevin Sanchez and infielder Cristopher Perez were invited.
Kevin Sanchez is the big name here, as the player who got the highest signing bonus ($450,000) in the 2015-16 international class for the Pirates. He is a line drive hitter, who has plus speed and can play center field. The 17-year-old hit .235/.359/.275 in 45 games this season. He had an impressive 24:18 BB/SO ratio. The plus speed didn’t show up on the bases with a 4-for-12 in the stolen base department, but don’t let that fool you, he is fast.
Rodolfo Castro was signed as a strong defensive shortstop, who needed some work at the plate. He really turned that scouting report around with a .271/.360/.411 slash line in the pitcher-friendly DSL as the youngest player on the team. He committed 34 errors, but the defense isn’t half as bad as that total sounds. He has a chance to stick at shortstop and if he continues to hit, then he will have a solid future.
Francisco Mepris had a pair of four-hit games in a row a couple weeks ago, otherwise he just blended in. He’s an 18-year-old switch-hitter, who plays 2B/3B/SS and didn’t really put up any special numbers. His .702 OPS is above league average, but if you take away those two big games, he had a .625 OPS in his other 47 games, which is well below league average. Mepris was a low profile signing around the same time the Pirates signed most of their better players from the 2015-16 class.
Cristopher Perez signed a six-figure deal during the 2014-15 signing period and then struggled for most of his first season last year. He was a very skinny player, who gained muscle during the year and was one of the most improved players by the end of the season. That carried over into 2016, as he put up a .720 OPS in 51 games while playing all four infield positions, with most of his time at third base. He turned 19 in August, which put him right at the average age for the DSL this year.
Joel Cesar got some unexpected publicity before the season started, when Baseball America mentioned him in an article of pitchers who hit 100 MPH. I got a report on him afterwards and I was told he hit 97 MPH as a starter. The Pirates tried to use the 5’11”, 190 pound righty as a starter, converting him from a relief role, and he got injured in his second start. Cesar didn’t return to action, so there isn’t much in the way of results or scouting on him. I was told he didn’t have the best fastball command, and then he walked seven batters in his 6.2 innings, so that seemed to play out.
Roger Santana was the pitching version of Cristopher Perez last year. His season stats don’t tell the whole story. Santana started off poorly, but by the end of the season he was the most improved pitcher. He returned this year and posted a 1.98 ERA in 68.1 innings, with 55 strikeouts and a 1.61 GO/AO ratio. The 6’1″ lefty turns 19 at the end of September, so he was slightly younger than the average DSL player this season. He signed a six-figure deal during the 2014-15 international signing period.
Leandro Pina had a great season that saw him get the start in the DSL All-Star game. He finished with a 1.46 ERA in 61.2 innings and only walked nine batters. He had two things which stood out in his scouting report, besides the fact he is still 17 years old and has a solid 6’3″ frame. Pina had excellent fastball command and his changeup was a plus pitch. That explains how he was able to dominate in the DSL despite velocity in the 86-88 MPH range. Due to his age and size, you could definitely see an increase in velocity in his future, which will hopefully come without sacrificing any command.
Yeudry Manzanillo was the highest bonus pitcher for the Pirates during the 2015-16 signing period, getting a $150,000 bonus last July. The 6’3″, 17-year-old righty, did not have strong results. He had a 5.46 ERA in 59.1 innings, with a 24:23 BB/SO ratio. He throws high-80s, with a projectable frame and a curve/changeup combo. He’s another player where you have to look past the stats, and see the innings/bonus the Pirates gave to a player who was more than a year younger than league average. He wouldn’t be coming to Bradenton this year if the Pirates didn’t think he was ready, as they showed with multiple six-figure bonus pitchers last year who weren’t promoted to the U.S.
Sergio Cubilete didn’t sign until after his 21st birthday, which used to be an automatic bad sign, but the Pirates have signed players like Yeudy Garcia and Edgar Santana at a later age because they went to college before signing. Cubilete is a 6’4″, righty, who put up a 3.52 ERA in 61.1 innings, with a .207 BAA. His walks were a little too high and the strikeouts could have been better, but if you look past the age and consider it his rookie season, then he did a respectable job. He throws his fastball 92-95 MPH, with a 82-84 MPH changeup and a 79-82 MPH curveball.
I’ll also point out that Gabriel Brito would have been on the DSL invite list, but he was promoted to the GCL on July 18th. The same could be said for Johan De Jesus, who was promoted early this season when Luis Perez needed shoulder surgery. The usual number of players coming over falls in 10-12 range, so when you include these two players, the Pirates are at their average. They may also decide to invite other players who weren’t on the original list, as we have seen a few times in the past. Those players sometimes include players who are injured and in the process of rehabbing.
The Pirates trail the second wild card spot by a 1/2 game.
Indianapolis has been eliminated from the playoffs. Their season ends September 5th.
Altoona leads their division by two games. The top two teams in the division go to the playoffs, with the first place team getting the home field advantage in the first round.
Bradenton won the first half title. They have home field advantage in the playoffs.
West Virginia is tied for third place in their division, trailing first by seven games.
Morgantown has been eliminated from the division race. They are 7.5 games back for the lone wild card spot.
Bristol has been eliminated from the playoffs. Their season ends September 1st.
The GCL Pirates have been eliminated from the playoffs. Their season ends September 1st.
The DSL season has ended.
PIRATES GAME GRAPH
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates won 3-1 on Sunday over the Brewers. They now travel to Chicago to play three games against the Cubs. Steven Brault will be recalled today to make the start. He has started twice for the Pirates, last pitching for them on July 29th when he allowed three runs over six innings against the Brewers in Milwaukee. His previous/first start was in St Louis on July 5th and he gave up one run over four innings. The Cubs will send Jake Arrieta to the mound. He has a 2.62 ERA in 161.2 innings, with 158 strikeouts and a 1.04 WHIP. He has faced the Pirates four times already this season, posting a 2.67 ERA in 27 innings, with an 0.89 WHIP and 33 strikeouts.
In the minors, Nick Kingham will make his first start for Altoona. He threw six shutout innings for Bradenton in his last start, striking out seven batters. In his only prior Bradenton start, he threw five shutout innings. Kingham pitched six times for the GCL Pirates before joining Bradenton, posting a 3.00 ERA in 24 innings. He has walked two batters in 35 total innings this season. Kingham will be on a six inning/90 pitch limit tonight.
The GCL Pirates will send Braeden Ogle to the mound for his final start. Nicholas Economos is scheduled for Bristol. West Virginia has off today. The DSL season ended Saturday.
MLB: Pittsburgh (67-61) @ Cubs (82-47) 8:05 PM
Probable starter: Steven Brault (3.60 ERA, 5:8 BB/SO, 10.0 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (66-69) vs Toledo (63-73) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Kyle Lobstein (3.69 ERA, 17:41 BB/SO, 46.1 IP)
AA: Altoona (72-60) vs Binghamton (61-71) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Nick Kingham (NR)
High-A: Bradenton (68-63) vs Jupiter (66-65) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Austin Coley (4.63 ERA, 42:83 BB/SO, 130.1 IP)
Low-A: West Virginia (67-65) @ Columbia (63-70) 7:05 PM 8/30 (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD
Short-Season A: Morgantown (32-36) vs Batavia (18-48) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: TBD
Rookie: Bristol (24-40) vs Princeton (35-27) 7:00 PM (season preview)
GCL: Pirates (21-33) vs Tigers East (20-36) 12:00 PM (season preview)
DSL: Pirates (27-42) (season preview)
Here is the walk-off hit from Stetson Allie in the 14th inning of Saturday’s game
8/28: A.J. Schugel recalled from Indianapolis. Adam Frazier optioned to Bristol.
8/28: Pirates activate Tyler Glasnow from disabled list. Optioned to Indianapolis.
8/28: Justin Topa placed on disabled list. Henry Hirsch activated from temporary inactive list.
8/27: John Kuchno promoted to Indianapolis.
8/25: Nick Kingham assigned to Altoona. Chase Simpson activated from disabled list.
8/22: Kyle Lobstein activated from the disabled list.
8/21: Evan Piechota promoted to Morgantown.
8/21: Yeudy Garcia activated from disabled list. Henry Hirsch placed on temporary inactive list.
8/20: Jung Ho Kang placed on disabled list. Josh Bell recalled from Indianapolis.
8/20: Stephen Alemais promoted to West Virginia. Alfredo Reyes placed on disabled list.
8/20: Ke’Bryan Hayes assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.
8/20: Pirates release Edgardo Leon
8/18: Pirates release Josh Outman.
8/18: Juan Diaz assigned to Bristol.
8/18: Jeremias Portorreal and Gabriel Brito promoted to GCL Pirates.
8/17: Josh Smith assigned to Indianapolis.
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a trade of note. On this date in 1987, the Pirates traded away long-time second baseman Johnny Ray, to the California Angels for two minor league players. Ray was acquired near the end of the 1981 season for Phil Garner and he had no Major League experience at the time, but the Pirates put him right in the starting job and he stayed there until this second deal. He finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 1982, and he hit .286 over 931 games with the Pirates.
Former Players born on this date include:
Billy Cox, shortstop in 1941, then again during the 1946-47 seasons. Missed four full years due to military service during WWII. He hit .290 over 121 games in his first year back.
Joe Schultz Jr., catcher from 1939 until 1941. His dad was the farm director for the Pirates and also played for the team during the 1916 season. He also had a cousin named Hans Lobert, who played for the 1903 Pirates and another cousin named Frank Lobert, who spent a season in the big leagues.
Pep Young, infielder from 1933 until 1940. His .264 in 697 games with Pittsburgh. Spent most of his time at second base, but also saw time at shortstop and third base.
Roy Wood, 1913 left fielder. Joined the team in mid-June, playing just 14 games the rest of the season.
Ensign Cottrell, pitcher on June 21,1911. Played just one game for Pirates, coming in late during a blowout loss. He played for five teams in the majors, yet he only played 12 games as a pro. He is the first player to play for a World Series winning team in both leagues, 1913 A’s and 1914 Braves.
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.