Morning Report: Waddell and Barnes Work Their Way Back from Second Injuries

Brandon Waddell and Barrett Barnes don’t appear to have much in common other than playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates. One is a left-handed pitcher for Altoona who moved quickly through the system before this season. The other is an outfielder for Indianapolis who has hit many bumps in the road during his slow climb through the system. They do have a lot in common right now though. Both of them are currently at Pirate City rehabbing from their second injury of the season. They are also both missing time now due to the same injury that put them out earlier in the year.

Waddell came into the season as our 26th best prospect. That was after he jumped over West Virginia to start last year, then pitched so well in Bradenton that he needed just five starts before the Pirates decided he was ready to move up. He had inconsistent outings with Altoona, but that is quite the advanced placement for someone in their first full season of pro ball. He finished with a 4.12 ERA in 118 innings, with 94 strikeouts, a 1.55 WHIP and an impressive 1.99 GO/AO ratio. The WHIP was high due to some control issues, but he isn’t someone who you would call a wild pitcher.

When you’re a lefty and your main pitch is a two-seam fastball that sits 88-90 MPH, you get the finesse/soft-tossing tag. Waddell does have a four-seam fastball that sits 92-93 MPH and was as high as 94-95 before he got hurt, which gives him decent velocity. So that finesse tag isn’t exactly right for him. He also throws a curve, slider and a changeup, giving him five pitches to work with, but the two-seamer is his main pitch to attempt to get quick outs on the ground.

We haven’t been able to get a good idea of what kind of improvements he could show this season with that repertoire because he has been out twice with a left forearm strain. The first time was after his first start of the season, which didn’t go well, but it’s hard to get down on one game that he left early and may have been pitching through the injury. When he first came back nearly a month later, he was on a limited pitch count. When Waddell finally got his pitch count up, he had three starts in which he allowed a total of two runs over 16.1 innings.

It looked like we were seeing him at his full potential, but then he re-injured the arm in the first inning of his start on June 4th and this time the Pirates decided to take his return slower. His first game back was on Saturday in the GCL and he threw three shutout innings with four strikeouts. I’ll note that the boxscore says it was Friday, but he pitched the completion of a suspended game on Saturday.

The results were great, although they don’t mean a lot when it’s a Double-A pitcher going against GCL kids. The important part is that he returned healthy enough to throw three innings. From here, assuming all goes well, he will get stretched out to start again and at this point in the season, he should still have nine more starts before the end of the year. If Altoona makes the playoffs, he could get extra in, but he would be a prime candidate to add innings in the Arizona Fall League.

Barnes is Back at Pirate City

If you ask Barrett Barnes, he will probably tell you that he would be happy if he never sees Pirate City again, at least in every month not named March. He has spent a lot of time there since being drafted back in 2012, but surprisingly, he has only played seven games in the GCL over the years. That’s mostly due to the timing of his injuries, with some ending his season early and others happening before the GCL season starts. He has played his share of Extended Spring Training games though, including earlier this season after coming back from a Spring Training hamstring injury.

Barnes was set to join Indianapolis for the first time on Opening Day this season. He didn’t make it there until May 14th and he got off to a slow start. That’s understandable, because there is a huge difference from Extended Spring Training pitching and Triple-A pitchers. After his first ten games, which included a .105 average and a lot of strikeouts, Barnes found his swing.

From May 29th through June 11th, he hit .400/.476/.600 in 12 games. It was the return of the Barnes we saw last year with Altoona when he was named our Player of the Month for both July and August. Unfortunately, another thing returned, and that was another hamstring injury. That has kept him out for just over five weeks now, but just like Waddell, he is in the process of making his return. Barnes took batting practice with the GCL players on Friday, as did Austin Meadows, who is also rehabbing a hamstring injury. Both players went through normal workouts with the team on Monday.

Batting practice on the field means that the player is moving along with their rehab, as in it’s not one of the first steps. We saw early last week that Meadows was hitting in the indoor cages and working off a tee first. So, assuming all goes well, then Barnes will probably get into a handful of GCL games, working up to the point that he can play nine innings of back-to-back days.

Injuries Affecting Prospect Status

With both players missing some much time, you have to consider how that would affect their prospect status. You’ll soon find out where each player ranks in our mid-season top 50 updated list, so I won’t give too much away now.

I will say that Barnes already had the fragile tag put on him, so that was taken into consideration when we ranked him 29th overall coming into the year. With the stats he put up during the second half in Altoona last year, he would normally be ranked higher, but there is always risk involved in the rankings. Eventually all of these leg injuries will catch up to him, although you could say they have already as he was once an above average runner with the ability to play center field and now he’s a corner outfielder with average speed. The problem this year is that it’s just more lost development time, which will also catch up to him eventually.

Waddell came back from his first left forearm strain this season and within a few weeks, he was pitching better than last year. He has been injured twice this season, but he is far from being considered injury-prone. So you have to have some concern with his injury, but you also have to take into consideration where he was right before the injury and the fact that he can make up time in instructs and the AFL if the Pirates feel that it’s necessary. He may perform well during his return and they could shut him down and have him concentrate on his off-season program instead.

At least with Waddell, we know he is back on the field and able to throw three innings. That means that he really wasn’t shutdown for long because getting to three innings is a process that involves throwing from flat ground, then bullpens, then sim games for him consisting of one inning and two innings, while also getting him on a five-day schedule. Waddell threw a bullpen on Monday, so all went well with his outing on Saturday.

For Barnes, we really won’t have a good idea when he could be back with Indianapolis until we see him playing games in the outfield. Those will be partial games at first, so don’t panic if you see the boxscore and notice that he was replaced early. For position players, it takes about a week to go from not playing, to playing a full game.

PIRATES GAME GRAPH


Source: FanGraphs

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Milwaukee Brewers by a 4-2 score on Monday night. The Pirates will send Ivan Nova to the mound for his 19th start. He faced the Brewers on June 22nd and allowed four runs on 11 hits in seven innings. At home this season, he has a 2.63 ERA in eight starts. Milwaukee will counter with right-handed pitcher Junior Guerra, who has a 4.78 ERA in 49 innings, with 39 strikeouts and a 1.59 WHIP. He faced the Pirates on June 21st and allowed three runs over six innings.

In the minors, Drew Hutchison starts for Indianapolis. He ranks ninth in the International League with a 3.47 ERA and 11th with 80 strikeouts. JT Brubaker had his best start last time out since his back-to-back shutout appearances in mid-June. He allowed three runs over six innings last week. Domingo Robles is due to start for Bristol and 42nd overall draft pick Steven Jennings is the probable for the GCL Pirates, making his third pro start. West Virginia is off today.

MLB: Pittsburgh (45-48) vs Brewers (52-42) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Ivan Nova (3.21 ERA, 15:67 BB/SO, 120.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (53-41) @ Durham (57-37) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Drew Hutchison (3.47 ERA, 38:80 BB/SO, 98.2 IP)

AA: Altoona (48-44) vs Harrisburg (37-56) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: JT Brubaker (5.17 ERA, 24:68 BB/SO, 76.2 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (51-39) vs Fort Myers (50-41) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Bret Helton (3.72 ERA, 22:56 BB/SO, 67.2 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (40-50) @ Kannapolis (49-44) 7:05 PM 7/19 (season preview)
Probable starter: Oddy Nunez (3.27 ERA, 22:65 BB/SO, 74.1 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (16-11) @ Auburn (10-17) 7:05 PM  (season preview)
Probable Starter: TBD

Rookie: Bristol (7-18) @ Elizabethton (16-9) 7:00 PM

GCL: Pirates (7-12) vs Tigers West (8-10) 12:00 PM

DSL: Pirates (20-17) vs Indians/Brewers (15-21) 10:30 AM (season preview)

HIGHLIGHTS

Here is a Morgantown highlight that isn’t Bligh Madris. This is fifth round pick Deon Stafford with the walk-off base hit.

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

7/15: Taylor Hearn placed on disabled list.

7/15: Cody Dickson activated from Altoona disabled list.

7/15: Raul Hernandez promoted to Morgantown.

7/15: Brandon Waddell assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.

7/14: Brent Gibbs placed on disabled list. Yoel Gonzalez added to West Virginia roster.

7/14: Will Reed assigned to GCL Pirates.

7/14: Montana DuRapau promoted to Indianapolis.

7/13: Dany Hernandez promoted to Bristol. Will Reed assigned to GCL Pirates from Bristol.

7/13: Pasquale Mazzoccoli promoted to West Virginia. Andrew Potter released.

7/12: Luis Escobar activated from temporary inactive list. Nick King assigned to Morgantown.

7/11: Hector Garcia assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.

7/10: Starling Marte assigned to Bradenton on rehab.

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a big game from Ralph Kiner. We start with pitcher Windy McCall, who was a lefty reliever for the Pirates during the 1950 season. He pitched twice for the Bucs, allowing seven runs in 6.2 innings.

Also born on this date, we have two groups of two players that match up well. First up are outfielder Johnny Hopp and pitcher Al Lyons. They were traded for each other, as Lyons played for the 1947 Pirates, while Hopp came over from the Braves and played three seasons with Pittsburgh. Also included in that trade was the great Pirates’ manager Danny Murtaugh, who was a player at the time.

Wilbur Fisher and Bill Haeffner go together well because they were born on the exact same day in 1894. Fisher only got to play one Major League game, pinch-hitting on June 13, 1916. Haeffner was the team’s third-string catcher in 1920, but got a chance for some regular playing time when the starter and backup both got hurt in the same game. He retired right in the middle of his playing career when the Pirates wouldn’t meet his salary demands prior to the 1921 season.

On this date in 1951, the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers by a 13-12 score. Ralph Kiner helped the last place Pirates squeak past the first place Dodgers by going deep three times. He hit a first inning grand slam, a two-run homer in the fourth and a solo homer in the eighth inning. The link above has a full recap of the game and the boxscore can be found here.

  • I wish Barnes could stay healthy and play the game. He seems like he has vast potential but the injuries will not let him show it.

  • piraterican21
    July 18, 2017 9:47 am

    Does the IL ranking for Hutchinson a bit misleading? What I’m trying to ask, due to players promoting to the bigs do those ranking come with an asterisk? And no I’m not a Hutch hater.

    • That same thing holds true for every league, not just the IL. Players who get promoted will eventually drop off the list. Players who stay in the league and do well, will rank high, but you can’t rank that high just by sticking around, you actually have to do well. It works just the opposite too, as guys who don’t perform well get demoted or released and don’t have enough to qualify.

  • John … Two things:
    1. Is there no concern that Waddell’s forearm strain turns into Tommy John surgery?
    2. You mention Barnes hamstring injuries impacting his speed which I would understand. However, I haven’t heard anyone mention that the same injuries have sapped a bit of Meadows speed. Have they?

    • John Dreker
      July 18, 2017 9:27 am

      I don’t think Waddell would have been back on the mound so quickly if they had concerns about surgery, especially after the second time. He threw three innings 41 days after his last start before the injury. As I mentioned, it takes some time to get to three innings. Flat ground is usually a week, then a bullpen(s), then one inning, five days later he throws two innings and another five days for that third inning. If you work your way back:
      2 IP: July 10th
      1 IP: July 5th
      bullpen: June 30th
      begins flat grounds: June 23

      Just rough estimates, but that’s only 19 days between his start and flat ground pitching, so he didn’t even stop throwing for three weeks. If they were cautious with his throwing, you may be talking about even longer where he was just throwing before he amped it up.

      As for the difference between Barnes and Meadows, you’re talking about huge difference in both the amount of injuries and time missed over the years, plus the four years age difference works in the favor of Meadows. The first time he got hurt, he was still filling out, but Barnes was a solid/stocky player out of college when he first got hurt and he is about to turn 26 later this month. Meadows was drafted a year later, but has still played 27 more games. He hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down, but Barnes did already a few injuries ago.

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