The Twenty: Strong Hitting by Kevin Newman and Cole Tucker Highlight Last Week’s Action

Every week we have live reports from all over the system, while I provided additional views of the minors via, which included Indianapolis, Altoona, Bradenton, West Virginia and Morgantown this week. We also had live coverage of Indianapolis, Altoona, West Virginia, Morgantown and the GCL Pirates in the past week. All of these reports are combined and used each week to highlight the top performers during that time span. We go with the top ten hitters and pitchers, giving you the 20 best players from last week.


Sherten Apostel, 3B, DSL Pirates – When the Pirates signed Apostel in July of 2015, he was described as having raw power. He was 16 years old and already stood 6’4″, 200 pounds. He has added about 15 pounds to that frame, while getting stronger. Through his first 72 career games between last year and this year, that amounted to one home run. Everything changed last week for Apostel. He homered on Wednesday, then came back the next day and doubled his career home run output. After a slow day on Friday when he only reached base three times, he returned on Saturday to hit two homers again. The DSL is not a league where a lot of homers are hit. His five homers are more than eight teams have hit this season. Apostel is seventh in the league in slugging and he has driven in eight more runs (33) than the second highest total in the league. It appears that the 18-year-old from Curacao is having a breakout season and we should see him in Bradenton this fall. – John Dreker

Jordan George, 1B/OF, Bradenton – George is limited to a corner spot, playing the outfield in Bradenton due to the presence of Will Craig at first base. He’s good enough to play the corner outfield positions, and is better defensively at first base. However, he doesn’t have the power for any of those spots. On the season, he has a .136 ISO. This past week he had better results, going 9-for-25 with two doubles and two homers. However, it’s unlikely that this will continue, as that brought him to just four homers on the season. George does a good job hitting for average and getting on base, which should take him to the upper levels of the minors. Without power, he’s unlikely to make it further than that. – Tim Williams

Tristan Gray, 2B, Morgantown – Gray profiles as an offense-oriented second baseman with a chance to hit for decent power.  He had a nice week, going 7-for-20 with his first pro HR.  That left his average at .351 on the season, with more walks than strikeouts.  I saw the last two games, in which he was 3-for-5 with four walks.  Gray has a classic left-handed swing, smooth with a slight uppercut.  It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that, like many left-handed hitters, he hits low balls well.  Gray didn’t get a great deal to hit in the two games, hence the walks.  He didn’t chase pitches out of the strike zone and made contact consistently. A couple times, he fought off two-strike pitches before ultimately getting his base.  If two games are any indication, he has a lot less swing and miss in his game than most of his teammates.  Gray runs reasonably well.  He didn’t get enough action in the field for me to develop any idea about his defense. – Wilbur Miller

Jordan Luplow, LF, Indianapolis – Luplow was promoted from Altoona to Indianapolis because he was tearing up the Eastern League, posting a .903 OPS. In nine games since joining the Indians, he has put up a .295/.405/.588 slash line, showing improvements in all three categories. He has homered three times, giving him 19 on the season to lead all Pirates. The Triple-A results are obviously a very small sample size, but it’s a great start for the 23-year-old left fielder. Besides showing added power this year, he has cut down slightly on his strikeout rate, which wasn’t bad before this year. He has also looked better defensively and showed off an arm that is slightly above average. We had him ranked 38th in our latest prospect guide and noted that we wanted to see more power from him before we rated him higher. The power has shown up, the ability to make solid contact has improved, and his defense has also improved, making him a better prospect than what we saw last year. – JD

Kevin Newman, SS, Altoona – As I wrote last week, Newman has had an issue getting pitched inside, causing him to roll over pitches leading to an increased amount of easy hit balls. He’s doing a better job in that regard lately, seeing more hits to middle-away. In the last week he went 11-for-27 with five doubles, a triple, and a home run. He’s still hitting some weak grounders to the left side of the infield, and a few of those weak hit balls are going for singles. It’s good to see him trending in the right direction, and hopefully the trend continues to the point where he is consistently driving balls middle away, and doing so for extra bases. I have seen Newman hit better than what we’ve seen this year, and he’ll need to get back to that old approach in order to be the starter of the future at shortstop in Pittsburgh one day. – TW

Raul Siri, 2B, Morgantown – Siri had a couple three-hit games this week, which earned him a spot in The Twenty. He has been platooning at second base for Morgantown, while getting a couple starts at third base. Now that third round draft pick Dylan Busby is playing, Siri probably won’t see time at third anymore with Julio de la Cruz also there. Siri is putting up solid numbers so far, hitting .298/.389/.426 in 13 games. That’s much better than what we have seen in the two seasons since he put up big numbers in the DSL. In that 2014 season, he showed a lot of tools on the field, while putting up a .955 OPS and setting a DSL record with 25 doubles. That hasn’t translated into success in the U.S. for the 22-year-old. It will be interesting to see if he can continue to put up solid numbers and continue to get playing time. Morgantown plays with an expanded roster, so it’s easy for a player like Siri to get shuffled to the bench in favor of draft picks if he starts to struggle at any point. – JD

Jacob Stallings, C, Indianapolis – Stallings continues to show why the Pirates turn to him as the fourth catching option. With Chris Stewart having a team option for his 2018 contract and Elias Diaz being out of options next year, Stallings could be the starting catcher for Indianapolis next year. With Diaz up in the majors recently, Stallings showed that he is ready for that role, and on some teams, he might be a backup catcher option in the majors instead. His above average defense and work with pitchers is what gets him the most praise and recognition, but you don’t make The Twenty due to your defense. He is batting .258/.331/.383 this year in 34 games with Indianapolis, which is 39 points higher than his career OPS. He had one very big game this week, reaching base in all six plate appearances. That included three walks, two doubles and his second home run of the season. Stallings will likely get another shot with Pittsburgh this September, possibly sooner if he is needed before that time. – JD

Jerrick Suiter, RF, Altoona – Suiter had been one of the best hitters in the system since the beginning of June. This past week, he had a stretch where he reached base in ten straight plate appearances, which included 9-for-9 with a walk. He hasn’t just been getting on base lately, he has been showing power that has been surprisingly absent from his game. Suiter is big and strong at 6’4″, 230 pounds. Prior to his time in Altoona, that amounted to nine homers in 288 games as a pro. He already has six with the Curve, and that’s after he didn’t hit any in his first 18 games. Suiter had a 1.056 OPS in June and through ten games in July he is at a 1.068 OPS. Since he has a track record of putting up average numbers on his way up the system, you want to see more from him before you get too excited. He has been playing right field regularly since joining Altoona, but his best position is actually first base, where he is most likely the best defensive first baseman in the system. He has at least put himself on the prospect map recently. – JD

Cole Tucker, SS, Bradenton – When he first arrived in Bradenton last year, Tucker showed some promise at the plate with some hard contact, but was very inconsistent with how often he was making that hard contact. He would hit a hard line drive, then follow it up with four easy ground balls that were rolled over to second base. Tucker has been more consistent this year when it comes to making solid contact, showing some nice power production with a .152 ISO, while also hitting for average and getting on base in a very pitcher friendly league. He also continues to be a threat on the bases, stealing 34 bases this year. In the past week he went 11-for-22 with four doubles and four stolen bases in five attempts. He’s also showing smooth fielding defensively at shortstop. He probably needs Kevin Newman to move up from Altoona before moving up a level, but he’s looking like he could be deserving of such a move at some point this summer. – TW

Eric Wood, 3B, Indianapolis He had a slow start to the season, but Wood continues to produce for Indianapolis, as his season is progressively getting better each month. He hit .291 (7-for-24) over the last week, with two home runs and seven RBI and five runs. After having just six RBI in April, Wood now has 45 RBI in 79 games at the Triple-A All-Star Break. Wood was selected as the team’s most valuable player in June, partially due to reluctance to pick Steven Brault for a second consecutive month. But at the same time, Wood put up impressive numbers in June, with a slash line of .323/.376/.527 and an OPS of .903. That’s only the third time in his professional career Wood has hit .300 or higher in a month with at least five games, last doing so with Bradenton in August 2014. Wood is working on not being solely a pull hitter, as described in a feature on him here. He has been putting up all-star caliber numbers the past few months and his July is off to a good start. – Brian Peloza


Tanner Anderson, RHP, Altoona – Between his two starts this past week, Tanner Anderson had gone a stretch of 14.1 scoreless innings pitched before allowing two runs on a string of singles against him on Sunday. Overall, Anderson got 29 groundouts compared to only four fly outs. He has kept his ground ball rate over 60% all season long, keeping the ball on the ground often. His sinker has been very good, but the biggest improvement for Anderson has been his changeup, which he says he has been able to locate much better lately. Of note, Anderson went 100 pitches deep on Independence Day, the most pitches I’ve ever seen from an Altoona Curve starter. His ability to mix pitches, stay down in the zone, and throw better sequences has allowed him to go deeper into games. – Sean McCool

Steven Brault, LHP, Indianapolis – He didn’t have his best stuff in his lone start this week, which says a lot considering his final line. Brault got the start for Indianapolis’ sold-out July 4 home game. He allowed one run on three hits over six innings, walking three and striking out five. Brault said he didn’t have his best slider, which forced him to use his changeup more frequently in its place. He gave up just one run and it came on a walk, hit by pitch, walk and RBI sacrifice fly. That snapped Brault’s 28-inning scoreless streak at Victory Field. Brault has been dominant the past two-plus months and is on the verge of pushing himself up to the major leagues. He was elected to the International League’s Triple-A All-Star team. And because he hasn’t pitched since his July 4 start, there’s a good chance Brault will be able to pitch in the Triple-A All-Star game in Tacoma, Washington on Tuesday. The way he’s been pitching lately, that might be one of the last times Brault represents the Indianapolis team on the mound. – BP

Oliver Garcia, RHP, DSL Pirates – This is the second time Garcia has made The Twenty. Last time was a month ago and I said it was too early to pass judgement on him. He has allowed five earned runs in five starts since then, so it looks like we could have someone who has improved as a prospect compared to last year. The 19-year-old Garcia was a low-key signing two years ago and he put up decent results last year, doing it without the best scouting report. He threw 88-90, without a solid secondary pitch. This season he has been in the 92-93 range with his fastball, while also showing improvements with his slider and changeup. Garcia already had decent control and that too has improved. He has filled out a lanky frame, reportedly adding 46 pounds since signing, which looks possible going by old and new photos I have seen of him. He’s gone from a scrawny 6’3″, to a solid pitching frame in two years at the Dominican academy. – JD

Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Indianapolis  – Glasnow has put together five solid-to-strong outings for Indianapolis since being demoted by the Pirates. His start this past week was one run over 5.2 innings, while striking out seven batters. That’s actually his lowest strikeout total since rejoining the Indians. The interesting part is that he hasn’t pitched out of the windup since going to Triple-A, and that has led to the better results. He’s been throwing more strikes, showing improved velocity that has reached 100 MPH and he’s been able to dominate Triple-A hitters, posting a 1.84 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 29.1 innings. He has issued 15 walks, but he was a little more erratic in his first two starts than his last three outings. We will see him back in Pittsburgh this season, it’s just a matter of when the Pirates feel like his stuff can translate from Triple-A to the majors. He has looked better this year than last, when he was still dominating, but it was mostly due to impatient Triple-A hitters. – JD

Gage Hinsz, RHP, Bradenton – Hinsz went down with shoulder soreness at the start of May, causing him to skip a start. He struggled in his next few outings, giving up 21 earned runs in 18.2 innings over his next four starts. He said that was unrelated to the shoulder issues. Whatever the reason, he’s come out of that funk, pitching well over his recent outings. That included giving up two earned runs in six innings this week, with one walk and three strikeouts. Hinsz has shown improvements with his control this year, and especially so recently. He has walked one batter in each of his last three starts. The other recent focus is on the consistency of his curveball. It flashes plus at times, but needs to do that more often to be a consistent out pitch for him. – TW

Yeudry Manzanillo, RHP, GCL Pirates – The Pirates promoted Manzanillo to the GCL this year, despite poor numbers in the DSL last year. He had control problems most of the year, but saw improvements over his final six DSL starts, earning the promotion. That carried over to this year, where he currently has four walks in 12 innings. His most recent outing saw him throw 4.1 innings in relief, allowing one run on seven hits and two walks, with five strikeouts. He was showing off a nice curveball in the process, leading to the strikeouts. Manzanillo was the top international pitching signing in the 2015-16 class by the Pirates, getting $150,000. He might not remain a starter with all of the pitching talent in the GCL, but that doesn’t seem to matter, as no one is pitching for extended periods at the level. Manzanillo should continue to get innings, whether he’s a starter or a reliever. – TW

Oddy Nunez, LHP, West Virginia – Nunez is showing some signs of wearing down lately, but the Pirates continue to push him further into outings. In his start last week, he threw 5.2 shutout innings and struck out a career-high eight batters. In his previous start he allowed six hits, which was actually his second highest total on the season in 16 games. His only higher hit total was nine earlier in the year and I detailed that start, noting that three of those hits should have been called errors and two others didn’t leave the infield. Basically, he has been tough to hit the entire season. The sign of slowing is that he velocity has dropped a couple MPH recently, but he’s a 6’7″ lefty with a sinker/slider combo that each have a lot of movement, plus he can throw a changeup with solid results. Nunez has a .205 BAA, a 1.05 WHIP and a 2.33 GO/AO ratio in 68.2 innings, which is more than he threw in his first two seasons combined. He is just 20 years old as well, so we could see even more from him next year. – JD 

Ike Schlabach, LHP, Morgantown -Schlabach had his best career outing last week, throwing six shutout innings on two hits and one walk. His previous start was a tough one after two strong games to begin this season. In that third game, he gave up three runs over five innings, with four walks and no strikeouts. He had a 9:0 SO/BO ratio over nine innings in his first two games. Schlabach has improved his control this season by simplifying his delivery. The 20-year-old southpaw used to bring his right knee up to his chest during the windup, which added some deception to his delivery, but made it harder to repeat. His knee now comes about waist-high and he’s showing better results than last year in Bristol. So far, he has an 0.85 WHIP and a .164 BAA. He’s a potential prospect, with good size at 6’5″, 185 pounds and still room to fill out and time on his side. – JD

Eduardo Vera, RHP, West Virginia – Earlier this week, Abigail Miskowiec posted an article detailing Vera’s return from Tommy John surgery. In his one start since then, he allowed two runs over seven innings, which was his longest career start. Vera has been phenomenal this year with a 2.76 ERA in a career-high 71.2 innings. He has a 1.06 WHIP and a 62:8 SO/BB ratio. We would love to say we saw this coming, but there were no signs of this from Vera before this season. He had a strong season in the DSL in 2013 at age 19, but the scouting reports weren’t great. I was told that he didn’t throw hard, but he commanded his fastball down in the zone, and he had room to fill out and add velocity. He did miss a lot of time due to Tommy John surgery since then, but when he returned last year, the scouting report was just slightly better. Things changed this spring when I was told that he was showing huge improvements over last year. Even then there was some doubt, and although we included him in our season preview, we put him just outside the top ten so we could see for ourselves first. Vera is even better now than he was back in April. He hits 95 MPH, mixing that with a curveball he uses as a strikeout pitch and a changeup that has late downward movement. He’s taken a bigger step forward than any prospect in the system this season. – JD

Mike Wallace, RHP, West Virginia – Wallace is a terrific pitcher, who doesn’t have the best stuff, but he can get outs. Early last week, he allowed one run over four innings. On Sunday, he was called on in the first inning after Blake Cederlind was only able to record one out. Not only did Wallace pitch well, he threw 97 pitches in relief. He gave up one run over 6.2 innings. If you remember last week’s The Twenty, he made the list because he was forced into a spot start two days after pitching in relief and all he did was throw seven shutout innings. That’s a terrific pitcher to have on your team. He pounds the strike zone, relying heavily at times on off-speed pitches. In his last 19.2 innings, Wallace has issued just one walk. He needs to keep pitching well so his younger brother doesn’t show him up. Gavin Wallace has thrown nine shutout innings with no walks and ten strikeouts since signing with the Pirates as a 15th round draft pick. – JD

  • Freese needs some more rest at 3B
    Frazier has more value on the bench or in the OF than at 2B wher he is a bad fielder.

    I could see a second half option being: promote Wood play him 2-3 games at 3B.
    A bench of Stewart, Jaso, Frazier, Osuna, and Wood would be the best bench that we’ve had this year.

  • Any reports on how often Glasnow is throwing the change up since he was sent back down. That pitch was actually a very good in terms of swing and miss at MLB level in 2017(he obviously had many other issues). Has he spoken about it since being sent down or is there any data as far as how often he is throwing it? Thanks.

  • I’ve been thinking about this one for a while, and I’m asking everybody (writers, subscribers, etc.) – who has the best future of the 3 top pitchers at W.V., Escobar, Nunez, or Vera? I know Escobar has the highest upside, but who does everybody think will end up being the best/reaching their highest level? Personally, I’m on the Vera bandwagon – love that control.

    • I think if they can get him stretched out I like Nunez a lot. Big lefty, only 20, has 3 solid to above average pitches. A lot to like there.

    • John Dreker
      July 10, 2017 1:02 pm

      You can’t go wrong picking any of them right now. Escobar has the best upside because he has the best fastball, curve and changeup of the group, but he also has the worst control by a wide margin. The thing with him is his problem is an easy fix. His control gets worse when he tries to do too much. When you get him to repeat his delivery, slowing it down to make it easier to repeat, then he is nearly unhittable at this level. He gets too hyped up.

      Nunez has the most room to grow and add to his current stuff. Vera is the safest bet because he has command of his pitches, he’s not only throwing strikes, he throws quality strikes. He’s also the oldest of the group, so he should be closest to his upside, although I was told by a good source that he recently hit 97 MPH. We haven’t been able to Vera-fy (yeah, I went there) that in person.

      So do you go with high upside, projectability or current upside?

      • Darkstone42
        July 10, 2017 3:34 pm

        I upvoted this not for the excellent information, but for the cringe-worthy pun.

        It is well known how much I like cringe-worthy puns.

    • escobar could be a starter or a back end of the bullpen guy, the other two are either starters or middle relief.

  • What is the ceiling for Luplow? If the power stays does he have a shot to be an MLB regular or are there other red flags?

    • I wouldn’t say he has a chance to be an MLB regular with the Pirates anytime soon, just because he doesn’t have the upside of Meadows, but I’m sure he could eventually play that role elsewhere or down the line. The power is legit and his approach at the plate is solid. He’s not overswinging and he has a good idea of the strike zone. That should translate to the majors and his defense is good enough now that he’s considered average.

      I could see him being an average major league outfielder by 2019 and he wouldn’t be a bad fourth option at some point next year. His biggest issue seems to be that he can get pull happy, so you’ll have to see how he adjusts to better pitchers at Triple-A adjusting to him once the scouting reports get out. I think he has to approach/discipline/strike zone judgement to handle that.

    • Other than Logan Hill, he’s the only MiLB with power.
      Unfortunately, NH didn’t feel the need to carry a 4th outfielder this season and CH would never use him because of his lack of veteranosity.
      Maybe his future is elsewhere.