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Prospect Watch: Bradenton Marauders Win the 2016 Florida State League Championship


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.

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30. Stephen Alemais, SS, West Virginia –  [insert_php]

P2 Top Performers



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BRADENTON, Fla. – There was a point when I just knew the Marauders were going to win the 2016 Florida State League title. It didn’t come during the season, because they made the playoffs due to their first-half team, with several of those players gone by the playoffs. It came at the start of the playoffs, when they had a rotation that included Mitch Keller, JT Brubaker, and Yeudy Garcia for a best of three series. That’s about as strong of a trio as you can ask for in the High-A playoffs. All you need from there is some solid hitting, which the Marauders got throughout the series from their entire lineup.

In short, the Marauders got hot at the right time, which led to some outstanding starts from three talented pitchers, and a lot of offense from a boom or bust group, resulting in the championship that they won tonight.

“It’s the best we’ve played all year,” Bradenton manager Michael Ryan said of their playoff performance. “We had a portion of the end of the first half where … we were playing pretty good, but nothing like we did in the last six games. …With all three phases (pitching, fielding, hitting), just unbelievable. We got five really good starts. Just an amazing stretch. Just by far the best that we’ve played all year. The goal is to play your best baseball at the end of the year, and that’s what we did.”

The Marauders followed a similar script tonight as they’ve seen throughout the playoffs. They got a great start from their starting pitcher, and some early offense to provide that starter with support. The starter tonight was JT Brubaker, who threw six shutout innings last Wednesday to clinch the first round and advance to the finals. Brubaker followed that up with one run in six innings tonight, with no walks and five strikeouts.

The lone run came on a solo homer to Kevin Cornelius in the second inning. After that, Brubaker settled down, retiring nine of the next ten batters.

“The mix of pitches, depending on the situation,” Brubaker said on what worked tonight. “Trusting [catcher Taylor Gushue] the entire way. He’s seen these guys before. I’ve never faced the Yankees in this league. I was going off of him. It’s a mix between off-speed and coming back with the fastball. It’s a mix of getting ahead by pitching backwards.”

Brubaker ran into a little bit of trouble in the fifth inning, hitting Tito Polo with a pitch and giving up a single to put runners at first and second with one out. He got a double play ball hit to Pablo Reyes, and the Marauders turned it, escaping a jam with the first base runner to make it in scoring position (not counting the homer, obviously) during the game.

“I knew these guys coming in were free swingers, so if I keep the fastball down around the knees, and let the two-seam run, they’re going to put the ball on the ground,” Brubaker said of the play. “They’re going to swing aggressively. That’s what my plan was. One pitch, one out. I just fed a fastball, and luckily I got a ground ball to Pablo, Kramer, and Suiter to finish it up there in the fifth.”

There was additional trouble in the sixth inning, as Brubaker gave up two singles, including one with two outs to put runners at the corners, bringing Cornelius up again. The Marauders only held a 3-1 lead at the time, and this matchup prompted a visit from Scott Elarton. As Brubaker explained it, the exchange went like this:

“This guy is looking to pull the ball. He’s been looking to pull the ball all series. What do you want to go with?” Elarton asked.

“Let’s go slider,” Brubaker replied.

He then threw a first pitch slider for a strike, got Cornelius swinging on a slider low and away on the next pitch, and stuck with it for another swing and a miss on a low and away slider for the strikeout.

“I think he attacked,” Ryan said of Brubaker’s outing. “Wanting to be the guy on the mound. I know last year with [Morgantown], he pitched really well in the playoffs. Some guys like the big lights. Love to pitch in those types of games. For him to throw those two games that he just threw, the reason why we’re currently celebrating. He was getting off-speed over when he wanted. That’s a really good team over there that he attacked and kept off balanced. You could tell how focused he was more than any time this year.”

Brubaker combined for one earned run in 12 innings in two playoff starts this year. In the start that Ryan referenced last year, he pitched six innings with one run, walking one and striking out six. Brubaker said after the game that he didn’t have much playoff experience in high school and college, so didn’t know if the “big game” label fit.

“I don’t know. I rise to the occasion I guess?” Brubaker said “I live for it. I love these types of situations. There’s no real added pressure. Pressure is just stuff you put on yourself. Obviously just went out there and treated it like any other start. It’s just how I went out and attacked it.”

This was just another example of getting hot at the right time. Brubaker didn’t have the best numbers in Bradenton, with a 5.32 ERA in 67.2 innings over 14 starts after a mid-season promotion from West Virginia. He did start improving in his final two regular season outings, combining for two earned runs in 9.2 innings, along with eight strikeouts and no walks. Brubaker discussed how he adjusted to the new level at the right time.

“I thought coming into this, I was ready for it,” Brubaker said of the playoffs. “Just little hiccups here and there. Me and [Jeff Johnson] worked hard to get the ball where it needed to be, and then when Elarton came in, he continued right where JJ was. And coming down the stretch, it all came together. That’s kind of how it was in West Virginia right before I got called up here. It was all clicking, and coming here I think it was just more of a level change. I was excited about it. I think that’s what got my ball up a little bit more. I didn’t try to do anything different. I think the excitement and everything coming up in the middle of the season was what it was. Once I figured it out and got a couple of starts under my belt, everything started to work out.”

Brubaker’s run support tonight came from his catcher. Gushue tied the game in the third inning with a solo home run, his second homer of the post-season. He added the go-ahead run in the fifth inning, hitting a sacrifice fly to right field after two singles and a passed ball put runners on second and third. Michael Suchy added another run on an RBI ground out in the next at-bat. Brubaker got some insurance in the eighth inning when Pablo Reyes led off with a double, and scored two batters later on the contact play, after Kevin Kramer hit a hard grounder to a diving third baseman, with no chance for the play at home.

The Marauders turned to Tanner Anderson for the final three innings. The right-hander with the high leg kick and an improved 92-94 MPH fastball was outstanding. He gave up just one hit in three innings, while striking out five, working mostly off his fastball. The plan coming into the game was to go to Anderson for two innings, and then give the ball to Sean Keselica in the ninth if they had the lead. However, Anderson was pitching so well that he earned the final inning.

“With the way Anderson was throwing the ball, we just let him go his third inning,” Ryan said. “He’s been three innings five or six times this year out of the pen. Just the way he was throwing it and getting ahead and putting them away, that probably would have been a bad decision to pull him out of the game. We had Keselica ready if anything happened. That was just an amazing three innings by him.”

You can see the final inning and the celebration in the video below. As for the championship, with the entire team celebrating in the locker room a few feet away, Michael Ryan described what the win meant to the team.

“We just talked about it in there after,” Ryan said. “Just enjoy this night. Understand all the hard work. All the blood, sweat, and tears that you went through all year. We expected this coming out of Spring Training. We prepared for it, and for it to come true is absolutely amazing. They played so well. We talked about it before the playoff started that we had to play five perfect games. There wasn’t any panic with any of the guys. They all played loose. Trusted their abilities, trusted their dream. It just means so much. I’ll never forget that group, I’ll tell you that right now. Just an amazing season.”



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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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