The Twenty: Indianapolis Rotation Puts Together a Stellar Week

Every week we have live reports from all over the system, while I provided additional views of the minors via MiLB.tv, which included Indianapolis, Altoona and Morgantown this week. We also had live coverage of Indianapolis, Altoona, Bradenton, Bristol and the GCL 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.

HITTERS

Sherten Apostel, 3B, DSL Pirates – Apostel is becoming a regular here as his time in the DSL is now winding down. He will most certainly be an invite to the Fall Instructional League next month after the season he has put together. This past week was just more of the same we have seen from him. The 18-year-old Apostel homered twice, batted .333 and drew five walks. He leads the entire DSL with eight homers and he’s also the league leader in two more categories, which usually don’t go together. Apostel hasn’t been getting pitched to with runners on base in a while. Yet he leads the 40-team DSL with 46 walks and 47 RBIs in 53 games. In 201 plate appearances last year, he struck out 61 times. He has cut that down to 41 strikeouts in 228 plate appearances this season. The defense still needs work, mostly on throws, but he has an above average arm and plenty of time to work on that flaw. – John Dreker

Albert Baur, 1B, West Virginia – Baur made an adjustment recently with his swing, working to keep his barrel in the zone a little longer, rather than his former approach where he would quickly go through the zone with his barrel, leading to weaker contact and a lot of grounders. The new approach is showing some early results, with him seeing a better ability to get some power out of his large frame. He went 8-for-24 this past week, adding two doubles and a home run. He made this switch at the plate around the start of August, and currently has a .952 OPS in the month, with two homers in 45 at-bats. Baur is 25, and will need to rapidly move up in the farm system in order to be considered a true prospect. – Tim Williams

Clark Eagan, OF, West Virginia – Eagan has been on a tear lately, hitting for a high average and adding some extra base power. He had hits in all seven games this past week, extending his hitting streak to eight games. He went 12-for-28 with two doubles and a triple. The downside to Eagan is that he hasn’t been walking a lot recently, with his last walk coming on July 23rd, which is now 21 games ago. He had more walks before the break, with a .310 OBP despite a .250 average. He’s hitting .296 since the break, but only has a .322 OBP, despite the increase in hits. His power has increased during this time, but he doesn’t project for enough power to be a low-walk type of guy.  – TW

Edwin Espinal, 1B, Indianapolis – Espinal had a decent week, making the team due to a high average and not much else. He went 7-for-20 with two doubles and no walks, giving him an .800 OPS, which usually isn’t enough to make The Twenty at this point of the season, but this was a down week and he got the final spot for hitters. Espinal has been putting up nice stats since his promotion to Indianapolis, which happened about a month too late. He’s coming up on minor league free agency and the Pirates are going to have a small sample size to work with when looking at his Triple-A results. One thing that might help him out is that Indianapolis appears to be headed to the playoffs, so he could get a couple extra weeks to impress the brass. – JD

Casey Hughston, CF, Bradenton – Hughston has had a tough season since his hot start in April, but he finished this week very strong with seven hits over his last three games, including his sixth home run. On May 5th, he had an .846 OPS on the season. Even after these last three days, his OPS now sits at .700 through 100 games this year. He leads the system with 128 strikeouts and has just 348 at-bats. Hughston really needs to cut down on those swing-and-miss tendencies to reach his potential. His defense in center field is some of the best in the system, plus he has a solid arm. He’s one of the fastest players in the system and has terrific raw power. His strikeout totals hide the fact that he could be a power hitter, who steals bases, because he isn’t making enough solid contact and isn’t getting on base enough. – JD

Edison Lantigua, OF, Bristol – Lantigua was easily the best hitter I saw in Bristol this past week. He returned on the 8th, after missing nine days with some shoulder pain. That didn’t seem to impact him, as he went 7-for-15 with two doubles and three walks in his first four games back. He showed an easy ability to go the other way, hitting a lot of line drives to the gap, and making some solid contact. Lantigua could be a special hitter out of the lower levels, but right now his injury history is holding him back. He is managing his best season at the plate this year, despite the shoulder issue recently, and could be positioning himself to move up to West Virginia next year, although he would have some competition in Lolo Sanchez, Jeremias Portorreal, Calvin Mitchell, and Conner Uselton. – TW

Jordan Luplow, OF, Indianapolis – Luplow got a brief taste of the majors recently, playing four games for the Pirates, going 0-or-9 with a walk. That wasn’t anywhere close to enough time for him to prove anything in Pittsburgh, but he’s proving that he deserves another chance and might get that soon with Gregory Polanco looking like he’s headed for the disabled list. Luplow has done nothing but hit since his return, posting a .417/.488/.667 slash line in ten games. On Saturday, he hit his 23rd home run of the season. His Triple-A time should still be considered a small sample size, now at 31 games total, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Pirates to give him an extended look the rest of the way. At the very least, the Major League experience would be good for the 23-year-old outfielder, as he fights for an outfield spot on next year’s club. – JD

Pablo Reyes, 2B, Altoona – Reyes has been getting most of the playing time at second base since Kevin Kramer got hurt in June. He’s taking advantage of the regular play as well. In July, Reyes put up a .304/.379/.543 slash line in 26 games. He got off to a slow start this month, but this past week was solid with seven hits, including a double and a triple, as well as one walk in five straight games. Reyes is definitely an interesting player, but doesn’t project to be more than a bench player if he makes the majors. He could be nice in that role for a team, as he can fill in at shortstop occasionally and he spent some time in center field this year and didn’t look lost. He’s on the small side, but has surprising pop in his bat, getting praised over the years for terrific hand-eye coordination. His defense is solid and he can provide some speed on the bases. That could eventually translate to an MLB bench job for the 23-year-old. – JD

Lucas Tancas, OF, Morgantown – Tancas gets lost on a team full of top ten round picks, as well as other players taken after the tenth round (Chris Sharpe and Tristan Gray) who have hit at the top of the order and shown off some tools. The 23-year-old Tancas was drafted in the 26th round and wasn’t playing everyday until recently. He had hits in all six games he played last week, including a pair of multi-hit games, plus he drove in six runs. The overall stats are still low and he’s lacking in some areas you would like to see better results, such as his .638 OPS, 1-for-5 in steals and 5:24 BB/SO ratio. That being said, he is taking advantage of his recent playing time and his advanced age does come with an asterisk. He missed most of 2016 with a broken wrist and during high school he took some time off from baseball, so there could still be a lot of room for growth. – JD

Adrian Valerio, SS, West Virginia – Valerio went 9-for-26 this past week, hitting two doubles in the process. What has impressed me this year about Valerio has been his ability to remain consistent and stay within his approach. When I saw him last year, he would have a big game or hit a home run, and you could see his approach changing in the following games. He would swing for the fences, trying to be a power hitter, and would see his strikeouts drastically increase, with his overall numbers dropping. I saw Valerio hit homers in back-to-back games at the start of August, and since then he has recorded hits in six of his next nine games, with seven strikeouts in 34 at-bats. He profiles best as a guy with a high average and the ability to hit a few out on occasion, especially with his defensive skills also getting more consistent.  – TW

PITCHERS

Steven Brault, LHP, Indianapolis – It’s hard to find much wrong with the week Brault put together, not allowing a run in either of his starts, going seven innings in both. Brault has been consistently good with Indianapolis since May as he awaits a long-term opportunity with the Pirates. He doesn’t have much left to prove at the Triple-A level, with his 1.94 ERA leading both leagues of that level. Brault allowed three hits and two strikeouts in his seven shutout innings against Buffalo on Aug. 7, following that up by allowing two hits and three walks in seven shutout innings against Syracuse on Saturday. And he was having fun with the Chiefs, at one point throwing a 64 MPH curveball. After the game, Brault said he had practiced throwing some slow ones in the bullpen and told his teammates he was going to try to throw one as slow as possible in the game. He followed the 64 MPH curve with a 93 MPH fastball. Brault also had a single to extend his hitting streak to three games, which makes him perfect on the season as he’s only had a plate appearance in three games. Yes, things are going well for Brault these days. – Brian Peloza

Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Indianapolis – There he was riding off into the night sky on his bicycle, fresh off another pitching gem. OK, a little over the top, but mostly true. Glasnow actually rides a bicycle to and from Victory Field. And he did pitch a gem against Syracuse on Friday, allowing one run in seven innings and striking out 11 batters. And then he ate a meal, showered, did a quick interview and rode off on his bicycle. Glasnow wants to pitch in the major leagues, but is content with his situation. He seems to be enjoying himself and Indianapolis manager Andy Barkett has commented he “seems freed mentally.” Glasnow has struck out double-digit batters in six of his last 10 starts. He has a 1.58 ERA and a WHIP just a shade under one during his last 10 starts. His statistics are slightly better than they were with Indianapolis last season, but there are reasons this season is different, as highlighted in a story that was published here. – BP

Scooter Hightower, RHP, Morgantown – The 6′ 6″ Hightower just keeps putting up results, while mainly relying on strong command of his fastball. He doesn’t throw hard, doesn’t have any plus secondary pitches and he’s a fly ball pitcher, yet it’s working well at this level. On Thursday, he allowed one run on five hits and no walks in seven innings. That lowered his ERA to 2.37 through 57 innings, which ranks him seventh in the NYPL in ERA and second in innings pitched. His 0.93 WHIP is second best in the league and it’s that low because he has walked just five batters all season, while picking up 50 strikeouts. Like almost everyone else in today’s article, Hightower is 23 years old (seriously, look how many times I mentioned that age!). That’s a bit old for this level, so it’s tough to get excited about the results until he shows them at a higher level. – JD

Clay Holmes, RHP, Indianapolis – Holmes did everything you want to see in his start on Sunday. He threw strikes and kept the ball down in the zone, while using all of his pitches. That led to five no-hit innings, along with four strikeouts and a 7:2 GO/AO ratio. Holmes hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in a start since June 16th and he has a terrific 2.98 GO/AO ratio, as well as 89 strikeouts in 96.2 innings. He has recently been mentioned multiple times as someone who could get a look with the Pirates in September. That might not be a bad idea, since he’s already on the 40-man roster and it would get him some big league experience out of the bullpen. He still has time to develop as a starting pitcher with two options left after this season, and he has the repertoire of a starting pitcher (he has hit 99 MPH this season), plus the workhorse frame of a starter. – JD

Mitch Keller, RHP, Altoona – Keller made his Double-A debut with the Curve last Sunday in Trenton, and he made his home debut for Altoona on Saturday against the same Trenton team. Facing off against the best team in the league in his first two starts, he has shown exactly why he is rated as the Pirates’ top prospect, overpowering hitters with his fastball and fooling them with a nasty curve ball. Keller went six innings during his last start, allowing two earned runs and recording nine strikeouts. Keller had complete control of his two main pitches, as he didn’t walk any batters. He dominated through the first five innings before really throwing one curve ball that went middle-up and was hit for a double, his only truly bad pitch of the outing. Otherwise, his manager Michael Ryan said that he displayed “electric stuff” and showed great poise and presence on the mound, not looking overwhelmed by the higher level of hitters. Keller’s fastball topped out at 98 MPH, and his curve ball was crossing batters up all afternoon and sitting between 79-82 MPH. He only threw three changeups in the start. –Sean McCool

Nick Kingham, RHP, Indianapolis – – There were some outstanding pitching performances in Indianapolis this week, but none better than the gem Kingham put together against Syracuse on Thursday. He allowed two hits and one earned run in an 85-pitch complete game, striking out eight and not walking anybody. He only had a handful of pitches that weren’t good location-wise. Kingham’s lone run came on a solo homer by Brandon Snyder, on a pitch that wasn’t placed poorly, down and in. Kingham has been putting things together mentally over his last four starts, throwing at least seven innings each time and not giving up more than one earned run in any of them. Kingham, somewhat following in the Brault school of hitting, helped his own cause with a very nice RBI suicide squeeze bunt, that looked better than some of the bunt attempts from hitters in recent weeks. Kingham’s name is jumping to the front of the list as an intriguing call-up possibility with these recent performances. – BP

Stephan Meyer, RHP, West Virginia – Meyer was recently moved up from Morgantown at the start of August, and after giving up four runs in seven innings during his debut, he bounced back for two solid starts this week. The first one saw him giving up one run in six innings. The second saw him allow two earned runs in seven innings. He doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts, as he’s a sinkerball guy who relies on putting the ball on the ground. He’s had this approach for about a year now, and has really seen his results improve since the switch. He will need to develop an out-pitch in order to remain in the rotation as he continues to move up. – TW

Braeden Ogle, LHP, Bristol – Ogle hasn’t been striking out many guys this year, which would normally be a concern for the quality of a pitcher’s breaking ball. His slider, which he has only used for the last year and a half, is an excellent out pitch. However, his pitching coach, Joel Hanrahan, was restricting him from using the slider, especially with two outs, in order to force him to use the changeup more often. He has gone back to pitching normally the last few games, and has struck out 16 batters in 13 innings over his last few appearances. That’s a big change from 19 strikeouts in 30 innings to start the year. The flip side is that Ogle is becoming a stronger three-pitch guy, rather than a guy who only relies on two pitches, giving him a better shot at sticking in the rotation for the long-term. His results in those last four outings have one earned run on six hits and three walks, showing that his season is taking a dominant turn. – TW

Samuel Reyes, RHP, GCL Pirates – Reyes, as you probably know by now, is the younger brother of Altoona utility man Pablo Reyes.  Samuel isn’t a big guy – he’s listed at 5’11”, 180 – but he has a good arm, which he’s shown so far in the GCL.  He actually opened the season in the DSL, but although this is his first pro season, he moved up after the GCL season started play.  In 11 games and 26 innings there, he’s put up a 2.42 ERA and 0.92 WHIP.  He’s not dominating, but has walked just one batter and, even with a low K/9 of 5.9, he has a solid 3.37 xFIP, a stat that tends to punish low strikeout rates.  Reyes had a standout game on Saturday, shutting the GCL Braves out over four innings, with just one hit, and earning a save.  He did it with good command, a fastball that sat at 91 mph and showed good life, and a slow curve that he was able to drop in for strikes at times.  Reyes is 21 now, so hopefully he’ll be able to move up quickly. – Wilbur Miller

Mike Wallace, RHP, West Virginia – Wallace has been a starter since about the end of June, and looks to stay in the role for the remainder of the season. He made two starts in the last week, combining to allow four earned runs in 12.2 innings, along with 13 strikeouts and four walks. Wallace is a soft tossing right-hander, and uses his secondary pitches more often than most pitchers, in order to keep hitters off-balance. He will have success with that approach in the lower levels, and will get strikeouts against really aggressive teams. However, this approach won’t keep him in the rotation for the long-term, and isn’t likely to have success beyond A-ball. – TW

  • Nova pitching in Miller Park on Wednesday has the potential to turn out really bad really early. I’d like to see the team put him on the 10 day DL with “shoulder fatigue” or “back discomfort”, etc, and bring up Kingham for a couple starts. They need to find out what he can do.

    • Couldn’t agree more. Nova’s struggles have become an issue, especially as it relates to his performance going forward. At least start with a DL stint and “push the reset button” as Homespun Hurdle likes to say

  • BallHeadWonder
    August 14, 2017 7:00 pm

    I really like Ogle!!!! I feel he is going to blow up next season!!!

    • Let’s hope not, that could get messy.

    • Coming out of the draft last year he seemed to have the most upside of the prep pitchers just because lefties with that velocity don’t grow on trees. Hopefully he continues to develop that changeup to pair with his fastball/slider combo.

  • We have Luplow. I’d love to see him get an extended look.

  • Really excited about the possibilities with the pitchers in Indy. But you can’t win many games, even if you have the best starting rotation in baseball, if you can’t score more than 1-2 runs in a game.

  • Glad Sherten has a lot of time to improve, when I hear about 3b and throwing issues I can’t help but thing of Pedro…

    • That happens for any player in the system, their flaw makes them comparable to someone you know. How often do you see player comps made to other Pirates? It’s familiarity.

      If you think about Alvarez and Apostel realistically though, you would see how ridiculous the comp is. Apostel is an 18-year-old from Curacao. Alvarez made the majors at 23, going through a major college program. They couldn’t be anymore different, especially since all indications I’ve got are that Apostel actually works hard at getting better and is in shape. It’s basically like comparing Josh Bell and Jay Bell because they have the same last name.

  • I sure hope that, short of the Bucs trading for an OF’er, that Luplow is given another shot at RF.

    Btw, I vaguely remember being 23….if I didn’t have pictures proving it, I would have great doubts about it, tho.

    • I was 23 23 years ago. I am so old. :/

    • If the Pirates were further away from the division lead, I’d agree on giving Luplow some starts. But he’s not an adequate replacement for Polonco right now in a playoff chase. The Pirates should get a competent major league outfielder to help out the rest of the way. Not acquiring Jay Bruce was a big mistake.

    • yea GP is wearing out his welcome in RF – all that upside but he seems to lack the mental part of the game. He just does not look comfortable … ever! – He was rushed at 23 so maybe we should think about that before rushing Luplow. Rushing outfielders never seems to work out well, unless your name is Judge.

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