Morning Report: Morgantown’s Pitching Staff is Full of Strike-Throwers

While talking about the starting pitchers for Morgantown nightly in the Prospect Watch and daily in the Morning Report, I noticed a lot of them have some very low walk totals. After last night’s game, I looked up the stats to see how they were doing compared to the rest of New York-Penn League, which is usually a very kind league to pitchers.

The Black Bears have issued 111 walks as a team this season. The worst team in the 14-team league has walked 228 batters, or more than twice as many as Morgantown. The second best team at limiting walks has issued 158 free passes, an average of close to one more walk per game than Morgantown. Limiting those walks has helped the Black Bears to the second best team ERA in the league (3.08) and their 1.14 WHIP is 0.01 behind the league leader.

Their success starts in the rotation, and at the top is Scooter Hightower, who has just five walks in 64 innings. Gavin Wallace, who threw five shutout innings last night, has walked four batters in 44.1 innings. Tenth round draft pick Beau Sulser has limited walks while hurting the overall stats with his team worst 5.40 ERA in 25 innings. Only four batters have reached via walk against him though. Starter Ike Schlabach has walked 13 in 50.1 innings, which only looks bad compared to the rest of the current starters.

Sergio Cubilete is a wild man compared to everyone else in the rotation with 17 walks in 45.1 innings. The thing to remember with him is that he was a rookie in the DSL last year, so the fact that he skipped two levels is somewhat impressive, although he was signed late, so this level is more age appropriate for him. The other thing is that he is showing improved control, going from 4.5 BB/9IP last year down to 3.4 this season.

Among relievers, Joel Cesar leads them all with ten walks and he has balanced that out by holding batters to a .164 average, with 21 strikeouts in 20.1 innings. No one else in the bullpen has anything close to as high as his 4.5 BB/9IP rate.

The Pirates as a system walk 3.3 batter per nine innings, while Morgantown is at 2.0 BB/9IP. The four full-season clubs are all around the middle of the pack in their league, with Bradenton ranking the best. West Virginia has nearly the same exact rate as the Marauders, it just puts them further down in their league. The other three short-season teams aren’t exactly the best at limiting walks, with the GCL team being fourth worst in a 17-team league and the DSL team ranked as 11th worst out of 40 teams. Bristol isn’t as bad as you think, but they prefer to give up their damage with more hits allowed than walks.

What does it all mean really, besides a team just putting up a very impressive walk total? I’ll note that they are the best team by winning percentage in the Pittsburgh system and they are the second best team in the NYPL. I should also note that their average age on the pitching staff is 22.2 years, which makes them the oldest team in the league. They are actually slightly older than the Power this season on the pitching side, although they do much better as a team when you add in the hitters from each club because the Power hitters are old for the South Atlantic League.

Bradenton actually had a younger starting rotation than the Black Bears, so that takes away some of the shine, but then again, their starting staff at the beginning of the year had five top 50 prospects, so they really aren’t comparable in that regard. None of them are top 50 prospects at this point, but there is still some potential within the group. You still need to throw a ton of strikes to be as good as they have been, and the Pirates put together a team of strike-throwers in Morgantown this season.


The Pirates trail in their division by 5.5 games. They are nine games back for the second wild card spot.

Indianapolis is in first place, with a 4.5 game lead. Their season ends September 4th.

Altoona is in second place, one game back and one game ahead of third place. Their season ends September 4th.

Bradenton is in third place, seven games behind. Their season ends September 3rd.

West Virginia is in fourth place, four games out of first. Their season ends September 4th.

Morgantown is in first place, three games ahead. Their season ends September 7th.

Bristol has been eliminated from the playoffs.

The GCL Pirates are in third place, 5.5 games behind. Their season ends September 2nd.

The DSL Pirates are in fourth place, 4.5 games back. Their season ends August 26th.


Source: FanGraphs


Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 11-7 to the St Louis Cardinals on Thursday night. The Pirates will send Trevor Williams to the mound today for his 19th start. He has posted a 2.95 ERA in six starts since the All-Star break. At home this season, Williams has a 3.62 ERA in nine starts and three relief appearances. He faced the Cardinals once this year and allowed one earned run over 5.2 innings. The Cardinals will counter with right-hander Carlos Martinez, who has a 3.56 ERA in 154.1 innings, with 165 strikeouts and a 1.20 WHIP. He faced the Pirates once this season and allowed two runs over seven innings.

In the minors, Steven Brault gets the start for Indianapolis tonight. He leads the International League with a 1.94 ERA and ranks fifth with his 1.07 WHIP and ninth with 109 strikeouts. Brault has thrown seven shutout innings in back-to-back starts. Altoona starter Austin Coley ranks third in the Eastern League with a 3.11 ERA and fifth with 101 strikeouts. Just when I said yesterday that I’ve given up on Morgantown listing a starter ahead of time they go ahead and do it. Tenth round pick Beau Sulser is starting tonight. Braeden Ogle is scheduled to start for Bristol.

MLB: Pittsburgh (58-63) vs Cardinals (62-59) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Trevor Williams (4.19 ERA, 35:83 BB/SO, 111.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (68-55) @ Syracuse (46-78) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Steven Brault (1.94 ERA, 44:109 BB/SO, 120.1 IP)

AA: Altoona (63-59) @ New Hampshire (48-73) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Austin Coley (3.11 ERA, 26:101 BB/SO, 124.1 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (65-55) @ Palm Beach (66-53) 6:30 PM  (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD

Low-A: West Virginia (58-61) @ Greenville (68-54) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Mike Wallace (3.50 ERA, 21:72 BB/SO, 87.1 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (33-22) vs State College (29-26) 7:05 PM (season preview)

Rookie: Bristol (11-41) vs Elizabethton (32-22) 6:00 PM

GCL: Pirates (18-27) vs Tigers West (23-23) 12:00 PM

DSL: Pirates (34-29) vs Indians/Brewers (24-37) 10:30 AM (season preview)


Here are a couple highlights from players who will likely join the Pirates in September. First is a double from Jacob Stallings, who had three doubles in the first two games after Elias Diaz was called up.

Second video is one of two homers from Gift Ngoepe on Tuesday night.


8/17: Francisco Cervelli placed on disabled list. Max Moroff recalled from Indianapolis.

8/15: Gregory Polanco placed on disabled list. Elias Diaz recalled from Indianapolis.

8/15: Austin Meadows activated from disabled list. Jackson Williams assigned to Indianapolis.

8/15: Tomas Morales activated from Altoona disabled list.

8/14: Gage Hinsz activated from disabled list. Jake Brentz assigned to Altoona and placed on disabled list.

8/12: Phil Gosselin claimed on waivers by Texas Rangers.

8/10: Jhan Marinez claimed on waivers by Texas Rangers.

8/10: Nick King assigned to GCL Pirates.

8/9: Joey Terdoslavich placed on Indianapolis disabled list.


Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including the great Roberto Clemente. Three years ago in the Morning Report, I paid tribute to him on his 80th birthday. That article can be found here. Five years ago, I posted an article relating to the day the Pirates took him in the Rule 5 draft and the reactions around baseball to the news. You can see that article here. Other players born on this date include another Hall of Famer.

Burleigh Grimes spent five seasons with the Pirates but it took three different stints with the team to amass those five seasons. He was at his peak with the team in 1928-29, when he won 42 games. The next year, he had very high salary demands and the Pirates shipped him away. He came back four years later to finish off his career with 270 wins, which got him elected to the Hall of Fame in 1964.

Mike Lavalliere, catcher from 1987 until 1993. Hit .278 in 609 games for the Pirates. Came over from the Cardinals as part of the Tony Pena trade.

Paul Popovich, middle infielder for the 1974-75 Pirates. Hit .211 in 84 games for Pittsburgh.

Roger Bowman, pitched for team in 1953 and 1955. Won 22 games in the minors in 1954 and 131 games total in minors, but he picked up just two Major League wins in five seasons.

Bernie Duffy, 1913 pitcher. Made two late-season starts and one relief appearance in his only Major League action. Won 15 games in a row in the minors prior to joining Pirates.

Wally Gerber, 1914-15 shortstop. Pittsburgh gave up on him to soon and he turned into a star player, getting into 1,500+ games in his career. Hit .207 in 73 games for Pirates.

The link at the beginning includes two trades of note on this date, including the 1989 swap of outfielders Billy Hatcher and Glenn Wilson.

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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Chris C

I just have no understanding of what NH has done with the roster these past weeks. Did he have any intention of us competing for the division at all? Why do we have LeBlanc and not Brault? Why do we have Benoit and not Dovydas? Elias Diaz is 26 and being sat for Chris Stewart who is so amazing that Cole and Taillion pitch gems-oh wait that didn’t happen (it is unfair to blame Stewart, I merely mention it to highlight the overemphasis on Stewart’s pitch calling and the results) I like NH overall but I think he blew it last year with Vogelsong and Niese and has yet to figure out where to take this team. He was hamstrung by Marte and Kang for sure but did little to try and mitigate that. This is the first time in his tenure where I am thinking someone other than NH might be a better option…


These are great points. Not much else to say here.


Agreed 100%. I don’t think anyone would have a problem if the team brought in a legit reliever vs. going with a youngster (I have yet to hear a complaint about Kontos). The real rub for me is that they continue to use dumpster dive finds. If that’s the level of player they are going to bring in, why not use youth? For a team that continuously preaches the need to acquire and develop from within, they don’t seem to walk the walk. I suppose they don’t want to burn options, extend years of control, blah blah blah. But I’d reply “what are you saving them for?” More years of mediocrity? if they can help us win now, then maybe they are ready to be brought north.

Tom S

I couldn’t have said it better! Why all the good pitching prospects at Indy if we don’t bring them up! It seems they could their feet wet in our bullpen. Can’t believe he brought in Benoit from the worst bullpen in majors(Phillies)

Scott K

Only plausible explanation is he was convinced the Kang and Marte situations made this season a lost one. Maybe he’s just waiting for next year. Sure seems like it.


You’re preaching to the choir, Chris.

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