Morning Report: A Look at the Top Ten Prospects from the 2017 Bradenton Marauders

From Tuesday through Friday last week, we looked at the progress of the top prospects from the 2017 DSL Pirates, GCL Pirates, Bristol Pirates and Morgantown. Then yesterday we looked at the 2017 West Virginia Power. Today we move up to Bradenton, which was loaded with prospects last year. First I’ll list the players, then comment below.

  1. Mitch Keller
  2. Cole Tucker
  3. Ke’Bryan Hayes
  4. Taylor Hearn
  5. Will Craig
  6. Dario Agrazal
  7. Gage Hinsz
  8. Logan Hill
  9. Mitchell Tolman
  10. Pedro Vasquez

This group was loaded with prospects last year, four of them ranking among the top ten prospects in the system. Those top five players have had some rough patches in the jump to Altoona, but all five have also shown signs of future success as well. The second half of the list has collectively had a very rough time.

Mitch Keller had some shaky control this year early on, but he has been outstanding in his last five starts, cementing his spot as the top prospect in the system. He looks like he is ready to move up to Indianapolis, so now it’s just a matter of what path the Pirates want to put him on to get him to the majors. The longer they wait to promote him to Triple-A, the easier it is to keep him down next year until early June to avoid him reaching Super Two status.

The whole purpose of giving Keller extra time off this spring was so that he would be available for the Pirates later in the year. With the way that they are playing now, that probably isn’t going to be necessary. They could still decide to give him 4-5 September starts and have him in Pittsburgh on Opening Day, but that would mean rushing him through Triple-A at this point.

This might be hard to believe based on stats, but Cole Tucker isn’t having a bad season. He’s having a rough season, but for prospect status, it isn’t bad. The easy explanation is that while he has just a .605 OPS, he has the best exit velocity on the team this year. Sean McCool talked to him about two weeks ago and Tucker didn’t have an explanation for his low average, simply saying that he’s been hitting the ball hard, but not getting any breaks. The exit velocity stat backs that up. He has played strong defense and he’s been stealing more bases recently. Going into Tuesday’s action, he was on a 19-game stretch in which he had a .291 batting average.

Ke’Bryan Hayes had a slow start, then a knee injury sidelined him for a week. He’s played well around those two issues, especially defensively, so his prospect status has remained the same. He’s just one extra-base hit short of his total from last year. The only area where we have seen a fall off is his stolen bases.

Taylor Hearn had a very rough patch at the end of April, then turned things around and has been brilliant since. He’s picking up strikeouts at a high rate, while keeping hits off of the board. His season ended at a tough time last year, as he was really showing a lot of progress late before getting injured. He worked on his pitches in the Arizona Fall League and battled through lower velocity early this year, but everything is back on track and it shows in the results, including a complete game shutout last night.

Will Craig came into camp this year in much better shape and with an adjustment to his swing to add power. It’s not that he wasn’t hitting the ball hard last year, he just didn’t elevate the ball, resulting in hard grounders and line drives, but not over-the-fence power. We noted that the move to the Eastern League would help with his power, but he already has five more homers than last year. If he can get his on base percentage back up to match last year, then he will move up in the prospect rankings.

This last group of five has looked like the softball episode of the Simpsons. Dario Agrazal has been injured since early in the season. Gage Hinsz had the unfortunate heart issue after suffering through shoulder issues most of last year. Logan Hill hasn’t had any injuries since last year, but he has seen an increase in his strikeout rate and currently sports a .265 OBP. Mitchell Tolman served a 50 game suspension for drug of abuse and was pushed back to Bradenton. Pedro Vasquez had an illness in Spring Training that caused him to start late and he hasn’t pitched well since returning.

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 4-3 to the New York Mets on Tuesday night. The Pirates will send Ivan Nova to the mound for his 15th start today. He threw eight shutout innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks in his last start. The scheduled Mets starter is right-hander Zack Wheeler, who has a 4.85 ERA in 81.2 innings, with 79 strikeouts and a 1.37 WHIP. He gave up four runs over seven innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers in his last outing.

The minor league schedule includes Cam Vieaux making his fourth start for Altoona. He has allowed one run in each of his first three starts and he’s holding batters to a .200 average. Gavin Wallace was pushed back to today, after originally being scheduled on Sunday, which was rained out. He was skipped on Monday, then rained out again on Tuesday. James Marvel goes for Bradenton and Alex McRae throws for Indianapolis. Morgantown and Bristol both have off today.

MLB: Pittsburgh (37-42) @ New York Mets (32-45) 7:10 PM
Probable starter: Ivan Nova (3.98 ERA, 66:15 SO/BB, 81.1 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (42-33) @ Toledo (44-32) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Alex McRae (5.30 ERA, 67:36 SO/BB, 71.1 IP)

AA: Altoona (39-33) vs Harrisburg (40-37) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cam Vieaux (1.42 ERA, 17:1 SO/BB, 19.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (36-34) @ Palm Beach (42-27) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: James Marvel (4.52 ERA, 57:20 SO/BB, 81.2 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (41-30) vs Hickory (33-41) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Gavin Wallace (3.59 ERA, 39:10 SO/BB, 62.2 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (5-7) vs Mahoning Valley (9-2) 7:05 PM 6/28 (season preview)
Probable starter: Aaron Shortridge (2.84 ERA, 7:1 SO/BB, 6.1 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (5-3) @ Princeton (3-4) 7:00 PM 6/28 (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD (0.00 ERA, 0:0 SO/BB, 0.0 IP)

GCL: Pirates (2-5) vs Tigers West 12:00 PM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates1 (9-12) vs Red Sox2 10:30 AM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates2 (9-12) vs Colorado 10:30 AM  (season preview)

HIGHLIGHTS

From Altoona on Monday, Mitch Keller’s sixth strikeout. Video includes the full at-bat.

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

6/26: Pirates sign Allen Montgomery.

6/26: Jason Delay placed on disabled list.

6/26: Ryan Haug assigned to GCL Pirates. Will Reed assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.

6/25: Jackson Williams added to Indianapolis roster. Arden Pabst assigned to Bradenton.

6/25: Eric Wood assigned to Morgantown on rehab.

6/25: Pirates release Johnny Hellweg.

6/24: Pirates place Michael Feliz on disabled list. Clay Holmes recalled from Indianapolis

6/24: Jerrick Suiter activated from Indianapolis disabled list.

6/24: Pirates released Kyle Simmons and Cristopher Perez.

6/23: Corey Dickerson reinstated from Family Medical Emergency Leave list. Adam Frazier optioned to Indianapolis.

6/23: Evan Piechota placed on disabled list. Ryan Haug promoted to Bradenton.

6/22: Pirates sign Braxton Ashcraft and Connor Kaiser.

6/22: Francisco Cervelli placed on disabled list. Jacob Stallings recalled from Indianapolis.

6/22: Arden Pabst promoted to Indianapolis. Blake Cederlind promoted to Bradenton.

6/22: Travis MacGregor assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.

6/22: Fernando Villegas activated from Morgantown restricted list. Assigned to GCL Pirates.

6/21: Fabricio Macias activated from West Virginia restricted list. Assigned to Morgantown.

6/21: Pirates sign Kyle Mottice and Steven Kraft.

6/21: Tyler Eppler activated from temporary inactive list.

6/21: Cody Smith assigned to Morgantown from GCL Pirates

6/20: Corey Dickerson placed on Family Medical Emergency Leave list. Adam Frazier recalled.

6/20: Jackson Williams placed on Indianapolis disabled list.

6/20: Pirates sign three draft picks

6/20: Pirates sign Matt Morrow and Pat Dorrian

6/20: Enny Romero assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

6/18: Richard Rodriguez activated from disabled list. Dovydas Neverauskas optioned to Indianapolis

6/18: Pirates recall Jose Osuna. Jacob Stallings optioned to Indianapolis.

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including the first player to hit a ball into the Allegheny on a fly. Starting with the oldest today, we have 1883-84 catcher Jackie Hayes, 1947 pitcher Hank Behrman, 1962-63 catcher Elmo Plaskett and 1995-96 lefty pitcher Lee Hancock. You can find bios for all of these players in the link just above.

The fifth player is Daryle Ward, who played for the 2004-05 Pirates, but it was something he did with another team that makes him special. Ward is the son of Major League outfielder Gary Ward, who had a decent career himself. The younger Ward broke into the big leagues with the Astros in 1998 and on July 6,2002, he became the first player to reach the Allegheny River on the fly. It took 11 years before that feat was equaled by Garrett Jones.

The link above also includes a game recap from 1991, in which the eventual NL East champs, had a ninth inning comeback at home to beat the Cubs. You can find the boxscore of the game here, which comes with complete play-by-play of the game and the ninth inning rally.

On this date in 1903, Deacon Phillippe battled Hall of Fame pitcher Joe “Iron Man” McGinnity for 11 innings, as the Pirates defeated the Giants by a 4-2 score. Both runs were unearned against Phillippe due to a Tommie Leach error, but it was Leach who hit a two-run double that scored Hall of Famers Fred Clarke and Honus Wagner for the winning runs. Wagner had no trouble against his fellow HOF’er, collecting four hits and a walk off McGinnity. The game was witnessed by 32,000 fans at the Polo Grounds and it took two hours and 15 minutes to play.

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