Tonight is a big night for prospects on the mound. The top pitching prospect is on the mound in Bradenton, as Mitch Keller gets his first start of the season. The game will be the first Bradenton game broadcast on MiLB.tv, and it’s also the first Florida State League game ever to be broadcast online. We also have two other top 30 prospects in the system making their first start of the season, with Tyler Eppler making his Triple-A debut, and Brandon Waddell returns to Altoona. We actually had three people see Keller pitch live at Pirate City last week, but it’s always better to see them pitch in games that show up on the back of baseball cards. I’ll be watching the game and will have a recap in the Prospect Watch later tonight.
**Baseball America does a yearly article at the beginning of each season, listing the youngest player in every league, including the American League and National League. They posted this year’s article on Friday afternoon and two players from the Pittsburgh Pirates made the list. Austin Meadows (21.9) is the fifth youngest player in the International League and Ke’Bryan Hayes (20.2) is the sixth youngest in the Florida State League.
As for the other teams, including the Pirates, the youngest players are Tyler Glasnow (23.6), Elvis Escobar (22.6) and Oddy Nunez (20.3). Ke’Bryan Hayes would actually be the youngest player on West Virginia as well, though he wouldn’t make the South Atlantic League top ten.
**In other news, right-handed pitcher Junior Lopez was suspended 25 games by MLB for violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. This would have been news enough for an article at this time last year, but Lopez has fallen off, going from a player who looked like he could reach the majors as a middle reliever, to more of a minor league filler. He was sitting low-90s in the past and consistently hitting 93 MPH the last time I saw him, but really struggled this spring with velocity, sitting 88-89 MPH in one of his later spring outings.
Lopez has been working out at Pirate City with the Extended Spring Training group for the last few days. He’s the first player from the Pirates to be suspended for violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program since Clario Perez in December of 2015. The Pirates were the only team in MLB to not have a player suspended in 2016.
PIRATES GAME GRAPH
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates won their first game of the season on Thursday afternoon, beating the Braves by a 5-4 score. Chad Kuhl will be on the mound tonight, making his first start. Altoona will play a doubleheader today. The Bradenton-Charlotte four-game series shifts to Bradenton today. West Virginia has an early afternoon start with Oddy Nunez on the mound making his first career start. The 6’5″, 20-year-old lefty, was rated as the tenth best prospect in our West Virginia season preview.
MLB: Pittsburgh (1-2) vs Braves (1-3) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Chad Kuhl (NR)
AAA: Indianapolis (2-0) vs Toledo (0-2) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Tyler Eppler (NR)
AA: Altoona (1-0) @ Harrisburg (0-1) 6:00 PM DH (season preview)
Probable starter: Brandon Waddell (NR) and Austin Coley (NR)
High-A: Bradenton (2-0) vs Charlotte (0-2) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Mitch Keller (NR)
Low-A: West Virginia (0-2) vs Rome (2-0) 2:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Oddy Nunez (NR)
From Thursday night’s season opener in Indianapolis, Max Moroff hits a long solo home run. He homered again on Friday.
4/7: Junior Lopez suspended 25 games
4/4: Pirates sign pitcher Yoandy Fernandez
4/4: Pirates release Francis Rodriguez, Adrian Grullon, Robbie Coursel and Nestor Oronel
3/29: Pirates release Jason Creasy and Justin Topa
3/29: Pirates release Jared Hughes
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
The list of former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date includes, shortstop John Peters, who played in the first game in franchise history back on May 2, 1882. He played 77 of the team’s 79 games at shortstop that season and finished seventh in the American Association in batting average.
Also born on this date, pitcher Tom Butters, who had a promising career derailed by a back injury. He pitched for the Pirates from 1962 until 1965.
Reddy Gray, left fielder for the Pirates on May 28, 1903, which ended up being the only game of his big league career. He had a single, walk, RBI and run scored in that game.
Pete Daniels, pitcher during the 1890 season, who won the season opener for a team that ended up going 23-113 that year.
Kirby Higbe, 1947-49 pitcher who won 22 games for the Dodgers in 1941 and made the All-Star game in 1946. Went 19-26 in 39 starts and 70 relief appearances for Pirates.
Brian Burres, 2010-11 pitcher. He had a 4.82 ERA in 93.1 innings with the Pirates. Burres played six seasons in the majors.
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.