First Pitch: Looking Back at Past April Players of the Month

Under normal circumstances, we would be naming the Pirates Prospects Player of the Month and Pitcher of the Month for April this weekend. With that in mind, I wanted to look at the past winners and how they finished out the rest of the season after a great start. I’ll look at the hitters today and pitchers tomorrow.

Here are the seven previous April Player of the Month winners. I’ve listed their April stats, plus how they finished out the season.

2019: Hunter Owen – Owen was with Altoona to begin the season and he hit  .313/.380/.663 in 92 April plate appearances, with seven homers. Owen was promoted to Indianapolis around the All-Star break and hit .192, with a .622 OPS in a high offense year at Triple-A. He had a .935 OPS in 68 Altoona games.

2018: Calvin Mitchell – Mitchell was with West Virginia in April of 2018 when he hit  .364/.418/.625 in 99 plate appearances, with three homers. He remained in Low-A all season and hit .280/.344/.427 in 119 games, with ten homers. His second best month in 2018 was May, when he had a .791 OPS, 252 points lower than April.

2017: Kevin Kramer – Kramer was with Altoona in April of 2017 when he hit .373/.478/.613 in 90 plate appearances, with three homers. He was sidelined for most of the season after being hit by a pitch on his hand in early June. Kramer hit .297/.380/.500 in 53 games in 2017.

2016: Josh Bell – Bell was with Indianapolis in April of 2016 when he hit .312/.411/.519 in 90 plate appearances, with three homers.  He finished the year with the Pirates, putting up a .775 OPS in 45 games. Bell had an .850 OPS in 114 games with Indianapolis.

2015: Deibinson Romero – Hands up if you forgot he was ever with the Pirates. He hit  .320/.463/.640 in 68 April plate appearances, with four homers, while playing with Indianapolis. The Pirates let him go a short time later so he could sign to play in Korea. He’s still active and has played 1,443 games without making the majors.

2014: Gregory Polanco – With Indianapolis in April of 2014, he hit .400/.437/.632 in 105 plate appearances, with four homers. Polanco was in the majors for 89 games in 2014, posting a .650 OPS. He had an .894 OPS in 69 games with Indianapolis in 2014.

2013: Stetson Allie – With West Virginia in April of 2013, Allie hit .351/.409/.660 in 110 plate appearances, with eight home runs. He was just as good in May (1.043 OPS), then got a promotion to Bradenton and his OPS over the final three months was .772 in 79 games.

** In case you missed it last night, we added an update to the MLB Pipeline mock draft article we posted in the evening. Ken Rosenthal had a report that MLB and the players were negotiating the draft rules and the initial proposal by MLB was turned down. More details in the original link.





By John Dreker

Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus a trade to break down.

On this date in 1957, the Pirates traded first baseman Dale Long and outfielder Lee Walls to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for first baseman Dee Fondy and infielder Gene Baker. Fondy would be traded to the Reds seven months later for Ted Kluszewski. Baker was an All-Star for the Cubs in 1955 and played well for the Pirates after the trade, but early in 1958 he got injured and missed all of the 1959 season. When he returned in 1960, he was 35 years old and a part-time player on that championship team. The Pirates released him in June the following season. Fondy was a 32-year-old veteran of seven seasons (all with the Cubs) at the time of the trade. He was a .285 career hitter with some pop in his bat, although that disappeared in Pittsburgh. Before being traded to the Reds, he hit .313 with two homers in 95 games for the Pirates.

Lee Walls was just 24 when the trade occurred, with one full season in at the Major League level. He ended up playing until 1964, mostly as a bench player, but in 1958 he had an all-star season, hitting .304 with 24 homers and 72 RBIs for the Cubs. Long was 31 and was off to a slow start that 1957 season. After the trade, he went on a tear, finishing with a .305 average and 21 homers for the Cubs. He hit 20 homers and drove in 75 runs in 1958, then his production dropped off, although he did stick around the majors until the 1963 season.

The Players

Jose Lind, second baseman for the 1987-92 Pirates. He was signed by the Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1982 at 18 years old, making his debut five years later. In six seasons with the team, he hit .255 in 779 games with 249 RBIs and 292 runs scored. He won a Gold Glove in 1992 when he led the NL with a .992 fielding percentage. Lind scored a career high 82 runs during the 1988 season and drove in a high of 54 runs during the 1991 season. His .646 OPS in 1990 was the best he recorded while with the Pirates. He had a .607 OPS in 20 playoff games. Lind was traded to the Kansas City Royals for two pitchers after the 1992 season. He finished his career .254 hitter in 1,004 games.

Johnny Berardino, second baseman for the Pirates in 1950 and 1952. He looked like a superstar in the making during the 1940-41 seasons with the St Louis Browns, but Berardino missed most of 1942 and all of the 1943-45 seasons while serving in the military during WWII. He had a good season his first year back, but his skills quickly went into decline. He spent half of the 1950 season in the minors, playing briefly for the Indians early in the year before they released him in August. The Pirates signed Berardino four days later and he finished the season as their regular second baseman. In 40 games he hit .206 with 12 RBIs. Pittsburgh released Berardino exactly two months after signing him, and then he signed with the Browns for the 1951 season. In 1952 he signed with the Indians, who would end up trading him to the Pirates in August. Berardino hit .143 in 19 games for Pittsburgh, in what would be his last season in the majors. If you’re keeping track at home, that means his travels in the majors were from the Browns to Indians to Pirates, back to the Browns, Indians and Pirates again in the same order. He was a .249 career hitter in 912 games.

Heinie Meine, pitcher for the 1929-34 Pirates. Before the age of 33, Meine pitched just one Major League game consisting of four innings on August 16, 1922 for the St Louis Browns. He had retired in 1928, but made a comeback one year later with the Pirates. He made his Pittsburgh debut in relief on May 31, 1929. Nearly two weeks went by before his next outing, one that turned things around for him. He threw three shutout innings in relief, earning a tryout in the rotation. Meine ended up that first season with a 7-6, 4.50 record in 108 innings. During the 1930 season, offense in baseball was at its peak. Heinie had a 6.14 ERA that year, which sounds horrible, but it was less than a run above the team’s combined ERA. The Pirates weren’t fooled by the high ERA and they stuck with Meine. In 1931 he led the NL in wins (19), games started (35) and innings pitched with 284, just ahead of teammate Larry French. Twice during that 1931 season, Meine pitched 13 inning complete games, both times without recording a single strikeout. He pitched three more seasons for the Pirates, finishing over .500 all three years. In his career Meine fell just two outs short of 1,000 career innings pitched. He had a 66-50, 3.95 record with Pittsburgh, making 132 starts and completing 60 of them. His brother Walter tried out with the Pirates in 1930 but did not make the team and never pitched in the majors.

Billy Kelly, catcher for the 1911-13 Pirates. He began his pro career in 1904 and didn’t make his Major League debut until early in the 1910 season. Kelly played just two games for the 1910 St Louis Cardinals before returning to the minors until late in the 1911 season. The Pirates purchased him, along with pitcher Marty O’Toole, from St Paul in mid-August of 1911, but only O’Toole reported right away. It was said that the only reason the Pirates paid a heavy price for Kelly was due to the fact he was the only catcher on the St Paul team that could catch for O’Toole. Pittsburgh had a great defensive catcher in George Gibson and a capable backup in Mike Simon, but the deal was made anyway to keep O’Toole comfortable on the mound. In 1912, Kelly hit .318 in 48 games (mostly as the catcher for O’Toole), but his average was an empty one. He drew just two walks all year and he was a singles hitter. He played 48 games again in 1913 and hit .268, once again drawing just two walks all season. After the 1913 season, Kelly returned to the minors, playing four years for Toronto of the International League before his pro career ended. He finished up hitting .293 with 20 RBIs in 102 games while with Pittsburgh.

George McQuillan, pitcher for the 1913-15 Pirates. He played five seasons in the majors (1907-11) before being traded to the minor leagues in the middle of the 1911 season. Two years later the Pirates acquired him from the Columbus Senators of the American Association for relief pitcher Jack Ferry and other considerations. While with Columbus that year, McQuillan had a 12-4 record in 21 games. During his first four seasons in the majors, he had a 49-39 record for the Phillies with a 1.69 ERA. Despite the great ERA for Philadelphia, they traded him to the Reds prior to 1911, and then Cincinnati gave up on him quickly after he began the season poorly. He was not known for keeping himself in the best of shape during his playing days. While with the Pirates in the second half of 1913, he went 8-6, 3.43 in 141.2 innings.

The 1914 Pirates were a very weak team on offense, and the pitchers suffered from the lack of run support. McQuillan had a 2.98 ERA that year, but his record was just 13-17 and he wasn’t the biggest victim of the lack of offense. Only Wilbur Cooper, among the regular pitchers, had a winning record and he was just one game over .500 with a 2.13 ERA. The 1915 season went the same for McQuillan. He had a record of 8-10 with a 2.84 ERA through the middle of August. The Pirates placed him on waivers, where he was picked up by the Phillies. He pitched with Philadelphia in 1916, then appeared for five games with the Cleveland Indians during the 1918 season, his last in the majors. McQuillan finished with a major league record of 85-89, despite an ERA of 2.38 in 1,576.1 innings. He ended up pitching in the minors until 1926, finishing with 165 wins in his 15 minor league seasons.

Bill White, shortstop for the 1884 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He began his pro career in 1883, playing one game for the Philadelphia Quakers (Phillies) and a handful of minor league games. The next season he was the Alleghenys regular shortstop for most of the year. White hit .227 with ten triples and 25 runs scored in 74 games. His defense was subpar with a fielding percentage well below the league average. After spending all of 1885 in the minors, he returned to the American Association with the Louisville Colonels and played much better. Not only did he hit better during the 1886-87 seasons, his fielding was league average for the time. He struggled in 1888, then ended up playing the next six seasons in the minors. White also managed for three years in the minors, all for teams from Wheeling, West Virginia, but the teams played in three different leagues and the years he managed were spread out over a ten-year period.

Tom Forster, shortstop for the 1884 Alleghenys. Born exactly one year before Bill White, both played shortstop for that 1884 Pittsburgh team. Forster began his Major League career in August of 1882 with the Detroit Wolverines of the National League. That year he hit just .092 in 21 games for Detroit, so no one was surprised that he spent the entire 1883 season back in the minors. His manager during that season was Art Whitney, who was also his teammate in 1884 for the Saginaw Greys of the Northwestern League. Both players joined the Alleghenys during the 1884 season, along with another teammate from 1884 named Jay Faatz. Forster played 35 games for Pittsburgh, 28 as a shortstop. He hit just .222 and had a .525 OPS, but he played strong defense, which was well above league average. He played another two years in the majors with the New York Metropolitans of the American Association. He was their second baseman and still had trouble hitting but was good defensively. Forster ended up playing another four seasons in the minors, finishing his pro career in 1890 with Hartford of the Atlantic Association.

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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