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Morning Report: What’s Up With the Pirates’ 2018 Draftees?


I normally try to hold off drawing any definitive conclusions about the Pirates’ drafts.  I’ve generally found that my initial impressions usually aren’t very accurate.  So when I really disliked the Pirates’ 2018 draft, I just figured I could be wrong again.  So far, though, it’s not looking good.  I’m going to focus here on the Pirates’ college picks from the top ten rounds, which excludes prep pitchers Braxton Ashcraft, who hasn’t pitched much yet, and Gunnar Hoglund, who didn’t sign.  I’m also going to leave aside Travis Swaggerty, who probably needs more than a quick look.

A quick aside first — The Pirates generally send their early-round college picks to Bradenton for their first full seasons.  An advanced college player, if he’s a real prospect, generally should be able to handle skipping low class A, or playing there only briefly at the end of his debut season (as Swaggerty and Connor Kaiser did).  By the same token, a college draftee, if he’s truly a good prospect, should be able to dominate low A if he does end up there for one reason or another, like being blocked by another prospect.  (Are you old enough to remember Matt Curry?)  So a college draftee struggling in low A, even briefly, is reason for concern.

Here are the 2018 picks, with round in parentheses:

Connor Kaiser, SS (3):  A solid defensive shortstop, Kaiser struggled badly at the plate last year in Morgantown, hitting 212/303/260.  He batted a BABIP-fueled .302 in 16 late-season games for the West Virginia Power, but he’s back at that level now with Greensboro and hitting just 162/333/189 through 11 games.

Aaron Shortridge, RHP (4):  The success story so far in this group, Shortridge pitched very well for Morgantown and moved up to Bradenton this year.  Through three starts, he has an 0.53 ERA and 0.77 WHIP.

Grant Koch, C (5):  Drafted as a catcher with power potential, Koch hasn’t hit at all.  With Morgantown he batted 188/304/263.  He’s in Greensboro now and batting 091/143/121.  He also hasn’t shown impressive receiving skills.

Michael Flynn, RHP (6):  Flynn gets an incomplete.  He mostly pitched well for Morgantown last year, but unknown health issues limited him to just 16.2 innings.  This year he wasn’t pitching in camp and isn’t assigned to a full season team.

Brett Kinneman, OF (7):  Kinneman finished with passable numbers — 253/344/413 — at Morgantown thanks to a big final month.  At Greensboro so far, he’s struggling to make contact, fanning 20 times in 45 at-bats.  He’s hitting 200/294/333.

Zach Spears, LHP (8):  Spears had a rough time at Morgantown, posting a 6.07 ERA and 1.72 WHIP, with poor walk and strikeout rates.  He wasn’t assigned to any full season team out of spring training.

Logan Stoelke, RHP (9):  As a late-inning reliever at Morgantown, Stoelke dominated.  He allowed just eight walks and eight hits in 20.1 IP, and fanned 31.  The Pirates sent him to Greensboro rather than Bradenton, which was a little surprising, but he’s had a rough time there so far, with an ERA of 9.00.  He’s only thrown five innings, so hopefully it’s a minor glitch.

Mike Gretler, 3B (10):  Gretler is a good defensive player who had a solid debut with Morgantown, albeit without much power.  The Pirates moved him up to Bradenton, but he’s served as a utility player, so it seems likely that could be his role going forward.  So far he’s batting 189/231/216.

Obviously, it’s very early and any of these guys could turn things around.  But the results are so poor across the board, and at this point are occurring mostly at a level where college draftees should do well, that it’s hard not to be concerned.  It’s another thing to monitor as the season goes along.


Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates won 3-2 in ten innings over the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday night. The Pirates are off today. They begin a seven-game homestand with three against the San Francisco Giants, starting on Friday night. Jordan Lyles will make his third start. He has allowed one earned run in 11 innings this season. His mound opponent will be Madison Bumgarner, who has a 3.12 ERA in 26 innings over four starts. He has an 0.92 WHIP, a .213 BAA and 23 strikeouts. Bumgarner allowed two runs over seven innings at home against the Colorado Rockies in his last start.

The minor league schedule includes the third start for Eduardo Vera in Indianapolis. He threw six shutout innings in his first game, then gave up three runs in the first next time out. He ended up allowing four runs over five innings in that game. Altoona’s Scooter Hightower has made two starts since moving to the bullpen, giving up two runs in each outing. Cody Bolton has made two starts for Bradenton and allowed one run in each outing. He has 14 strikeouts in 11 innings. Greensboro’s Brad Case has an 0.69 WHIP and a .159 BAA in two starts, to go along with his 0.77 ERA and 10:1 SO/BB ratio

The full 2019 Pirates Prospects Prospect Guide is now available, up to date as of April 3rd, with every player in the minor league system. Includes full reports on the top 50 prospects, reports on over 150 other players, as well as looks back at the recent drafts and international signing classes.

MLB: Pittsburgh (10-6) vs Giants (8-11) 7:05 PM 4/19
Probable starter: Jordan Lyles (0.82 ERA, 12:4 SO/BB, 11.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (9-4) vs Toledo (5-8) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Eduardo Vera (3.27 ERA, 8:5 SO/BB, 11.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (6-7) @ Richmond (6-5) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Scooter Hightower (3.48 ERA, 6:2 SO/BB, 10.1 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (9-5) vs Jupiter (7-6) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cody Bolton (1.64 ERA, 14:3 SO/BB, 11.0 IP)

Low-A: Greensboro (7-7) vs Delmarva (11-1) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Brad Case (0.77 ERA, 10:1 SO/BB, 11.2 IP)


From Indianapolis on Tuesday, Mitch Keller picking up his fifth strikeout

Wilbur Miller
Wilbur Miller
Having followed the Pirates fanatically since 1965, Wilbur Miller is one of the fast-dwindling number of fans who’ve actually seen good Pirate teams. He’s even seen Hall-of-Fame Pirates who didn’t get traded mid-career, if you can imagine such a thing. His first in-person game was a 5-4, 11-inning win at Forbes Field over Milwaukee (no, not that one). He’s been writing about the Pirates at various locations online for over 20 years. It has its frustrations, but it’s certainly more cathartic than writing legal stuff. Wilbur is retired and now lives in Bradenton with his wife and three temperamental cats.

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