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Prospect Watch: Bradenton Advances to the Florida State League Finals

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P2 Top 30

A look at how the current top 30 prospects did today. If a player is in the majors and loses his prospect eligibility, he will be removed. Everyone below him will be shifted up a spot, and a new player will be added to the bottom of the list. If a player is out for the season, he will be removed and everyone below him will move up a spot. Removing these guys doesn’t mean they have lost prospect status. It is just an attempt to get 30 active prospects on the list. Rankings are from the 2016 mid-season update, and links on each name go to their Pirates Prospects player pages.

We’re working on a solution for the PHP stat codes not working in the app.

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2. Austin Meadows, CF, Indianapolis – [insert_php]
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3. Josh Bell, 1B, Pirates – [insert_php]
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4. Kevin Newman, SS, Altoona – [insert_php]
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5. Mitch Keller, RHP, Bradenton -[insert_php]
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6. Nick Kingham, RHP, Altoona – [insert_php]
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7.Cole Tucker, SS, Bradenton – [insert_php]
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8. Will Craig, 3B, Morgantown –  [insert_php]
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9. Steven Brault, LHP, Pirates – [insert_php]
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10. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B, West Virginia -[insert_php]
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11. Elias Diaz, C, Indianapolis – [insert_php]
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12. Clay Holmes, RHP, Altoona – [insert_php]
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13. Yeudy Garcia, RHP, Bradenton -[insert_php]
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14. Gage Hinsz, RHP, West Virginia  – [insert_php]
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15. Trevor Williams, RHP, Pirates – [insert_php]
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16. Alen Hanson, 2B, Pirates – [insert_php]
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17. Brandon Waddell, LHP, Altoona – [insert_php]
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18. Tyler Eppler, RHP, Altoona -[insert_php]
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19. Max Moroff, 2B, Indianapolis -[insert_php]
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20. Taylor Hearn, LHP, West Virginia – [insert_php]
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21. Adrian Valerio, SS – Bristol – [insert_php]
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22. Braeden Ogle, LHP, GCL Pirates – [insert_php]
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23. Kevin Kramer, 2B, Bradenton -[insert_php]
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24. Travis MacGregor, RHP, GCL Pirates – [insert_php]
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25. Max Kranick, RHP, GCL Pirates – [insert_php]
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26. Frank Duncan, RHP, Indianapolis – [insert_php]
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27. Dovydas Neverauskas, RHP, Indianapolis – [insert_php]
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28. Connor Joe, 3B, Bradenton – [insert_php]
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29. Erich Weiss, 2B, Altoona – [insert_php]
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30. Stephen Alemais, SS, West Virginia –  [insert_php]
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P2 Top Performers

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Prospect-Watch-Altoona-Curve

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Altoona had a 7-3 lead through six innings on Wednesday night, and ended up dropping the opening game of their playoffs by a 12-8 score. Akron took the first game of the best-of-five series and now they have a big advantage, with the last three games all in Akron.

Altoona went with Alex McRae and he had a tough first inning, which was a sign of things to come. McRae allowed just one run in the first, that coming on a solo homer. He also allowed a single and hit a batter, while all three outs were hit well, so that wasn’t a good sign from the start. He gave up a single to start the second, but it ended up being a very quick inning anyway, retiring the side on nine pitches total.

In the third, McRae allowed two singles and a long sacrifice fly for Akron’s second run. They would add a third run right afterwards on another single. McRae finished the third inning with two strikeouts, then worked a very quick fourth inning.

In the fifth, Akron hit the ball well three times, but failed to score. After a line drive single, they hit into a double play. Then they collected a double, which was followed by a hard single up the middle and Elvis Escobar fired a laser on the fly to Jin-De Jhang, who caught the ball just as the runner was sliding into him. The throw was just slightly up the third base line and Jhang had a very minor collision at the plate which resulted in the tag and the out.

McRae surprisingly came out for the sixth and it seemed like a good decision, as he retired the side in order. Altoona manager Joey Cora pushed his luck and sent him out for the seventh. That turned out to be the beginning of a disaster, with McRae giving up three more hits without getting an out. All three of those runs would score and McRae’s final line was six runs on 12 hits in six innings. He was pounding the strike zone with 62 of his 95 pitches for strikes, but Akron had no trouble putting good wood on the ball, including a lot of hard outs, so it could have been even worse.

It didn’t get any better after McRae left. Josh Smith walked the only batter he faced, then Miguel Rosario came out and allowed two runs of his own to score, plus two inherited runners. Junior Lopez would give up three runs in the eighth to give Akron the 12-8 lead.

Altoona started the game off quickly on offense, loading the bases on singles by Kevin Newman and Erich Weiss, followed by a walk to Barrett Barnes. A wild pitch would bring home Newman, then a two-out double by Jin-De Jhang brought home both Weiss and Barnes.

Altoona took a 5-1 lead in the second inning, with doubles from Eric Wood and Kevin Newman, followed by an RBI single from Barnes.

They added one run in the third inning on a lead-off homer from Anderson Feliz, which looked like a routine fly ball to left field that just kept carrying. Jhang and Stetson Allie each singled after the Feliz homer, but they were left stranded.

Allie would add a run in the fifth inning on a solo homer to center field, which just barely got over the fence. It actually looked like the center fielder caught the ball, then lost it as he hit the fence, though they didn’t show a replay to confirm that.

After going down 9-7 in the top of the seventh, Altoona scored a run in the bottom of the inning as Anderson Feliz connected on a second lead-off homer. That would be it for the Curve, though they had two runners in scoring position in the ninth and came up empty.

Eric Wood had a big game with two doubles and two walks. Jhang also had two doubles, and added a single to give him three hits. Eric Weiss had three singles, while Newman had a single, double and an RBI. The Curve had a lot of base runners, but they went 3-for-16 with runners in scoring position. It’s hard to blame the offense though when they put eight runs on the board. Altoona will look to even up the series with Clay Holmes on the mound tomorrow. – John Dreker

ALTOONA, PA – During the regular season, Akron was the worst hitting team in the Eastern League, bringing up the rear at at .242 batting average. Those hitting numbers meant nothing to them against Altoona this year, though, as they hit .275 against Curve pitchers this season. That means there was a 39-point different between how Akron hit the rest of  the league (.236 AVG) compared to the Curve (.275).

That trend continued tonight, as the Rubberducks had 18 hits in 41 at-bats against Curve pitchers. In total, the combination of Alex McRae, Josh Smith, Miguel Rosario, Junior Lopez, and Montana DuRapau gave up four doubles, a triple, and two home runs against Akron.

“We didn’t make pitches,” Curve manager Joey Cora said. “McRae was trying to survive out there without his best stuff. He left some right over the plate, and that’s what they’ve done all year against us. Obviously, the bullpen wasn’t as good as we expected. We didn’t get the job done. It’s that simple.”

After throwing 87 pitches through the first six innings, Cora sent McRae out for the top of the seventh. The Pirates as an organization talk about “stress pitches” as the barometer for pitchers’ limits. Tonight, it seemed like McRae had a high level of stress pitches within those first 87; however, Cora was trying to get seven innings out of him tonight.

“We were trying to get him through seven,” Cora said. “He was pitching a little bit better at the end there. He got it running a little bit, but they got a hit [in the seventh], and we misplayed a ball in center field. From there, we couldn’t stop them.”

The misplay in center field was an awkward diving attempt by Elvis Escobar, where he really didn’t have a shot at actually catching the ball.

“He wasn’t even close,” Cora said about Escobar’s fielding attempt that led to a triple. “He was diving for the ball. He wasn’t close to the ball to be sliding for the ball. He should of just kept them to a single and tried to get a double play ball.”

McRae said that he liked the aggressive nature of the play, and the seventh inning just took a bad turn with some unfortunate luck against them.

“I like the aggressiveness,” McRae said about the ball that got past Escobar. “Obviously, it would’ve been nice to keep the ball in front, but I still liked it. He may have scored anyway. You never know.

“It was just a couple bad luck plays there in the inning. A ball down the line took a bad hop over [Edwin Espinal]. I could’ve mixed a few more pitches.”

Other than that seventh, McRae said that he felt he competed well without really having his best stuff tonight.

“I definitely didn’t have my best stuff,” he said, “but I thought I did a good job battling through six innings. I fell behind a lot of hitters, getting to 1-0 or 2-0. I was up in the zone a lot today, too, which didn’t help. With what I had today, I thought I did a good job battling through and keeping it small in some innings.”

Offensively, even with going 3-for-16 with runners in scoring position, the Curve were able to put up eight runs tonight. Cora said should always be a recipe for success, but the pitching just faltered tonight.

“We scored eight. In Richmond, we had a hard time scoring three. When you score eight runs, you should be able to win the game. We didn’t make pitches. It’s that simple.”

Anderson Feliz, who played right field tonight in place of Stetson Allie who was the designated hitter, took advantage of the playing time by hitting two home runs, the second which cut the Akron lead to 9-8 before they put up three more runs in the eighth inning.

“I’m just trusting the process and looking for a pitch to hit,” Feliz said.

As for being able to play multiple positions, Feliz said that he is most comfortable in the infield, but he will take any opportunity to get on the field.

“They know I can play in different positions,” Feliz said. “Thank you God for giving me that ability. They know I will work hard no matter where I play.”

For tomorrow, the Curve will have to “shower well” and be ready to take the second game of the series.

“Tomorrow we will come in and go for the win, then we will take our chances in Akron,” Cora said. “What we went through in Richmond trying to win one game, we will be there until the end. They have to beat us three times, and we now need to beat them three out of four the rest of the way.”

An Altoona group that is exudes confidence even in defeat, shortstop Kevin Newman said that the team will be ready for tomorrow.

“We’re going to come back and be resilient,” Newman said. “We’ll leave everything on the field tomorrow.”

Notes: 

*Stetson Allie told me after the game that he cramped up on his game winning double in the tenth inning in Richmond, forcing him to be pinch run for in that final inning of the regular season. He did not play the field tonight, with Anderson Feliz manning right field; however, he looked fine at the plate by contributing with his own home run in the fifth inning.

*Elvis Escobar was moved to the nine-hole in the lineup for the first time this season. He did hit eighth multiple times this year, including over the weekend in Richmond. Cora has said that they want to utilize his tools as a speedy player, but he has been striking out way too often.

“If he puts the ball in play, he has a chance,” Cora said. “If he doesn’t, he doesn’t have a chance to use his tools. Right now, he’s striking out too much.”

*Clay Holmes will take the mound tomorrow in Altoona for Game Two. Holmes went 2-2 with a 7.23 ERA against Akron this season in 23.2 innings. Those numbers are inflated by a 6 ER/2.2 IP outing against the Rubberducks in April; however, he did allow five eared runs in four innings against them on July 21st, his last time facing Akron. -Sean McCool

Prospect-Watch-Bradenton

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BRADENTON, Fla. – The Marauders beat the St. Lucie Mets 4-1 tonight, taking their second straight game of the best of three series to advance to the Florida State League finals this weekend. Tonight’s win was led by a strong outing from JT Brubaker, and good hitting from the offense, led by Connor Joe and Michael Suchy.

The offense got to opposing left-hander P.J. Conlon early. Conlon wasn’t aggressive with his fastball, and was using more of the off-speed stuff today to record a scoreless first inning. The Marauders made an adjustment in the second inning, and got on the board early.

“We talked about our game plan today,” hitting coach Keoni De Renne said. “We knew that pitcher was going to be kind of soft. Sometimes attack with his fastball, but he’s going to go off-speed a lot. This is a guy we can’t try to pull, because if we do, it’s going to be a lot of off-speed pitches that we’re going to pull into the ground, we’re going to hit off the end of the bat.”

Connor Joe got things going with an opposite field solo home run to start the second inning. That was followed by an opposite field single by Michael Suchy, and a double to left field by Wyatt Mathisen, in which Suchy ran through a stop sign at third base and was thrown out on a close call. The Marauders caught a break though, as Logan Ratledge popped one up in the infield with two outs, and the ball dropped in the middle of four Mets defenders, allowing Mathisen to score the second run.

“Connor’s home run to the opposite field set the tone for us,” manager Michael Ryan said. “He sort of gave the blueprint of what to do against him. Everybody behind him followed. Offensively, the start that we had last night in the first inning gave us nothing but confidence. We were able to carry it to tonight.”

The Marauders got another run in the third inning, thanks again to Joe and Suchy, who combined for back-to-back doubles. Joe pulled one down the third base line, and hustled into second for the extra bag. Suchy took one to the opposite field for a double off the wall, scoring Joe and putting Bradenton up 3-0. It was a big turnaround from yesterday, when both players combined to go 0-for-9, despite Bradenton scoring 11 runs in game one.

“Yesterday I had a bad day,” Joe said. “My teammates were able to pick me up. Today, me and Michael were able to come in … we helped them out today.”

While most of the offense saw a lot of off-speed stuff, Suchy saw a lot of fastballs, which played into his game.

“I was just able to see more fastballs today than I had seen in previous games against them and other teams,” Suchy said. “I consider myself a good fastball hitter, and just took advantage of that situation.”

The offense gave JT Brubaker plenty of breathing room, and he took advantage of it. While his mound opponent got hurt by relying on the off-speed stuff too much, Brubaker had success because he actually turned to the off-speed stuff a little more often tonight.

“It was the first time all year, to be honest with you, that we saw him mix a lot,” Ryan said. “He was going a lot of fastball heavy in his last outings. Falling behind in counts just because he didn’t have command. I think the off-speed and the way he mixed tonight was able to allow him to find command of his fastball. Against that team over there, you have to keep them guessing, and that was the game plan coming in. That’s exactly what we want to do.”

Brubaker worked the changeup in a lot, seeing early results with the pitch and throwing the slider when needed.

“I just got ahead early in the counts, and let the changeup play,” Brubaker said. “And later in the game, changeup/fastball worked really well to get the ground balls late. … Once I started throwing [the changeup], and they were taking swings and they weren’t making good contact, I didn’t think they were seeing it very well.”

Brubaker had a key moment to end the fifth inning, striking out the opposing hitter on a slider looking. Ryan said that throwing the slider for a strike in that situation is something Brubaker hasn’t done all year. It was a result of reading the hitter and seeing his reaction to the pitch.

“Earlier I threw him two sliders, got behind 2-0,” Brubaker said of the at-bat. “Came back with two fastballs and got back in it. I think I threw another fastball. It went to a full count. I threw him two and he didn’t show any signs of swinging at it, so I was like ‘let’s go for it, I have to throw it for a strike here’.”

Brubaker threw the final one and got the strike looking to end the inning, which got him out of a jam with runners at second and third. Overall, he went six shutout innings, with six hits, one walk, and two strikeouts. Tate Scioneaux came on for two shutout innings, getting a lot of ground ball outs, including a few nice picks at third base by Wyatt Mathisen, who showed off his arm strength to make the close plays. Sean Keselica ran into some trouble in the ninth, giving up a run, but closed out the win and the series.

The Marauders will play the winner of tomorrow night’s Tampa/Dunedin game in the championship series this weekend. – Tim Williams

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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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