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Morning Report: An Early Look at the Pirates’ Options For September Callups


Every game is important for the Pirates at this point, with the team trailing in the Wild Card race, and a full schedule of contenders to face over the next month. They lost two of three to the Cardinals this weekend, and more results like that could have them out of the Wild Card race by the time September rolls around.

Still, I’ve seen questions about possible September callups, and wanted to take an early look at the group of possibilities. This group would also be used as possible guys for MLB depth in August if the team needs help.

If the Pirates are contending in September, then I’d imagine more of the older guys with MLB experience from this list will get the call. If they fall out of the race, then they could turn to some of the younger guys and give them some time. By “fall out of the race”, I mean officially eliminated, since they haven’t shown the urgency to start younger prospects in September in the past until they were officially eliminated.

Here are the options to come up in September, or if the Pirates need depth in August.

The Bullpen Depth

The Pirates have had a revolving door of relievers coming up to Pittsburgh this year, and I’d imagine they will call up everyone once September comes around. That means Alex McRae, Casey Sadler, Tanner Anderson, Dovydas Neverauskas, Steven Brault, and/or Michael Feliz will all be in the majors at the same time.

I could see Nick Kingham and Clay Holmes coming up to provide long relief depth, and maybe even a spot start.

There’s also the possibility that they don’t call all of these guys up, just due to a lack of numbers. In the case of Feliz, if they keep him down the rest of the year, they gain an additional year of service time. That’s not really a huge benefit with the way he pitched this year, but it could be good if they believe they can get him turned around in future years.

The Rule 5 Guy

Nick Burdi was a Rule 5 pick this year, which means he has to be in the majors or on the MLB disabled list all year in order to remain with the Pirates. The latter hasn’t been an issue, as he has been recovering from Tommy John surgery. The only issue there is that he needs to be on the active roster for at least 90 days before the Pirates can keep him for good.

He’s currently shut down in his rehab work, and once September rolls around, there won’t be much of an opportunity for rehab in the minors. The Pirates could activate him in September for the sole purpose of adding some days in the majors.

Burdi would still have Rule 5 status in 2019, and would need to be in the majors for the first 60 days of the season before he could be optioned down. Or, if the Pirates don’t call him up, he’d have to be in the majors for 90 days next year. It makes more sense to just let him ride the bench in September this year, rather than having to keep him in the majors for an extra month next year.

The Bench

Just like the bullpen, the bench should get a boost from guys who have been up and down all year. We should see Chris Bostick, Max Moroff, and Jacob Stallings back in the majors. Jose Osuna could be added to that list, assuming he goes down when Josh Bell returns.

Jung Ho Kang could also be a possibility, assuming he’s healthy and ready to return in September.

There could be other bench guys coming from the next section.

The Rule 5 Prospects

Last month I published my early list of Rule 5 candidates, which has already seen some changes. Alex McRae and Tanner Anderson had just been added to the 40-man roster. Casey Sadler has since been added. Taylor Hearn was one of the big prospects who needed to be added, but was just traded away.

That leaves Mitch Keller, Cole Tucker, Kevin Newman, Kevin Kramer, Jason Martin, Tyler Eppler, JT Brubaker, and Brandon Waddell as the top guys who would need to be protected.

Not all of them would come up in September. Some of them won’t be ready, and I think Keller and Tucker would be the biggest names in the “not ready” list. The Pirates only have one open 40-man spot, and that would be taken if they activate Burdi, so they’d have to make decisions on some of the guys in the above lists to create room for these guys, which could limit the choices.

Now if the Pirates protect anyone from this list, they’ll have to make those roster decisions in the offseason. However, it’s a bit easier at that point. You have free agents leaving the roster, and it’s easier to DFA or trade some of the current depth options who have MLB experience. Those depth options might currently be more valuable in September, since they’ve already made the jump to the majors, rather than making their debuts in seldom used moments.

At the least, this might be a good time to get Kramer and Newman some time in the majors, especially since Jordy Mercer is one of the free agents this offseason, and Josh Harrison has an important option decision. I doubt they’d get a lot of playing time as long as the Pirates are in the race (in previous years they haven’t started young prospects until they were technically eliminated), but getting that experience in the clubhouse and getting a few opportunities could be valuable heading into next year.


The Pirates are in third place in their division, trailing by 7.5 games with 50 games left on the schedule. They trail the second wild card team by five games.

Indianapolis is in first place and they lead by 3.5 games with 27 games left in their schedule.

Altoona is in second place and trails by five games with 29 games left in their schedule. They lead the race for the second playoff spot by three games.

Bradenton is in fifth place and trails by 8.5 games with 27 games left in their schedule.

West Virginia is in sixth place and trail by 9.5 games with 27 games left in their schedule. They trail the second place team by six games and could make the playoffs if Lakewood wins the second half title and they finish second.

Morgantown is in sixth place and trail by 13 games with 27 games left in their schedule.

Bristol is in fourth place and trails by seven games with 25 games left in their schedule. They trail the second place team, which also gets a playoff spot, by four games.

The GCL Pirates are in fourth place and trail by eight games with 17 games left in their schedule.

The DSL Pirates1 are in sixth place and trail by ten games with 19 games left in their schedule.

The DSL Pirates2 are in fifth place and trail by 16.5 games with 18 games left in their schedule.


Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 2-1 to the St Louis Cardinals on Sunday afternoon. The Pirates now travel to Colorado for three games, where Joe Musgrove will get the start today, coming off of his last outing on July 29th when he allowed one run over seven innings against the New York Mets. The Rockies will counter with left-hander Kyle Freeland, who has a 3.20 ERA in 132 innings, with 105 strikeouts and a 1.27 WHIP. In his last start, he gave up three runs over 5.1 innings against the St Louis Cardinals.

The minor league schedule includes a very light day for the full-season clubs. Indianapolis, Altoona and West Virginia all have the day off today. Bradenton will send Gavin Wallace out to the mound. He has pitched at least six innings in nine of his last ten starts. Morgantown’s Alex Manasa tied his career high with five strikeouts in his last start. Bristol has a doubleheader. Michael Burrows, the 11th round pick this year, is scheduled to make his debut early this week, most likely today or tomorrow. Braxton Ashcraft will also make his second appearance one of those days.

MLB: Pittsburgh (57-55) @ Colorado (59-52) 8:40 PM
Probable starter: Joe Musgrove (3.63 ERA, 54:19 SO/BB, 67.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (62-51) vs Lehigh Valley (70-43) 7:05 PM 8/7 (season preview)
Probable starter: Tyler Eppler (3.56 ERA, 91:29 SO/BB, 118.2 IP)

AA: Altoona (59-50) @ Trenton (63-49) 7:00 PM 8/7 (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD (0.00 ERA, 0:0 SO/BB, 0.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (50-55) @ Charlotte (58-50) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Gavin Wallace (6.68 ERA, 16:7 SO/BB, 31.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (56-52) @ Greensboro (54-55) 7:00 PM 8/7 (season preview)
Probable starter: Sergio Cubilete (4.85 ERA, 51:30 SO/BB, 59.1 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (17-32) vs Batavia (22-26) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Alex Manasa (4.74 ERA, 25:19 SO/BB, 49.1 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (19-24) vs Johnson City (20-22) 6:00 PM DH (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD (0.00 ERA, 0:0 SO/BB, 0.0 IP)

GCL: Pirates (18-19) vs Blue Jays 12:00 PM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates1 (25-29) vs Dodgers Guerrero 10:30 AM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates2 (21-33) vs Mariners 10:30 AM  (season preview)


From Altoona on Saturday, a nice sliding catch from Tyler Gaffney in right field. That’s Luis Escobar on the mound.


8/5: Dario Agrazal assigned to Altoona. Pedro Vasquez assigned to Bradenton.

8/5: Pirates recall Casey Sadler. Option Alex McRae to Indianapolis.

8/5: Zac Susi assigned to Bristol.

8/4: Pirates released Yair Babilonia and Garrett Brown.

8/4: Corey Dickerson activated from disabled list. Christopher Bostick optioned to Indianapolis.

8/4: Ben Bengtson and Deon Stafford activated from West Virginia disabled list. Raul Siri promoted to Bradenton. Jhoan Herrera assigned to Morgantown.

8/4: Austin Coley placed on disabled list.

8/3: AJ Schugel assigned to Bradenton on rehab.

8/3: Pirates option Steven Brault to Indianapolis. Recall Dovydas Neverauskas

8/2: Alfredo Reyes promoted to Indianapolis. Pedro Vasquez activated from Altoona disabled list.

8/2: Nick Kingham optioned to Indianapolis.

8/2: Leandro Pina placed on 60-day minor league DL.

8/1: Eric Wood activated from Indianapolis disabled list.

8/1: Bralin Jackson activated from the disabled list.

8/1: Pirates sign Mason Fishback. Assigned to GCL Pirates.

8/1: Pirates sign Carlos Jimenez, Andy Maldonado and Franrielis Mercedes.

7/31: Pirates trade Austin Meadows, Tyler Glasnow and a PTBNL to Rays for Chris Archer.

7/31: Pirates trade Taylor Hearn and a PTBNL to Rangers for Keone Kela.

7/29: Ben Bengtson and Rodolfo Castro placed on disabled list. Raul Siri and Jhoan Herrera added to West Virginia roster.

7/29: Erich Weiss activated from Indianapolis disabled list.

7/28: Pirates sign Justin Morris. Assigned to GCL Pirates.

7/28: Josh Smoker claimed off waivers by Detroit Tigers

7/28: Josh Bell placed on disabled list. Jose Osuna recalled from Indianapolis.

7/28: Corey Dickerson placed on disabled list. Austin Meadows recalled from Indianapolis.

7/27: Pirates option Michael Feliz to Indianapolis. Recall Alex McRae

7/27: Jin-De Jhang assigned to Morgantown on rehab.


Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, two of them played for World Series winners and one was related to a Hall of Famer. Starting with the most recent first.

Stan Belinda, relief pitcher from 1989 until 1993. No comment

Steve Nicosia, catcher for the 1979 World Series champs. Played with the team from 1978 until 1983, which was when he asked to be traded because he wasn’t getting playing time behind Tony Pena.

Clem Labine, pitcher for the 1960 World Series champs. Labine lasted until 1961 with the team. He had a 1.48 ERA in 30.1 late season innings for the 1960 Pirates.

Bud Hafey, outfielder for the 1935-36 Pirates. His brother Tom played two years in the majors and his cousin Chick Hafey was a Hall of Fame outfielder for the Reds and Cardinals. Bud played 97 games for the Pirates over his two seasons.

Bud Sharpe, 1910 first baseman. After winning the World Series in 1909, the Pirates moved on from first baseman Bill Abstein and had an open competition between Sharpe and John Flynn. They kept both on Opening Day, but Flynn soon took over full-time and Sharpe was traded away at the end of April.

Brownie Foreman, lefty pitcher during the 1895-96 seasons. He had a 3.22 ERA during his first season with the Pirates, which was one of the best years for offense in baseball history, so that ERA was actually much better than it looks. He didn’t last long with Pirates the following year due to poor performance.

Jim McDonald, 1884 utility fielder. Back in 1884, teams didn’t carry many extra players, sometimes only one position player and a couple pitchers. McDonald played five positions that year and hit .159 in 38 games.

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Tim Williams
Tim Williams
Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.

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