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First Pitch: Bryan Reynolds and Paul Skenes Named to the All-Star Game

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The Pittsburgh Pirates will have two representatives in the 2024 MLB All-Star Game. Rosters were announced on Sunday evening, with Bryan Reynolds and Paul Skenes named to the team as reserves.

Reynolds is having one of the best seasons of his career. After a 25-game hitting streak last month, he’s batting .281/.344/.483 with 16 homers in 398 plate appearances. The only season where he’s been better than this was his 6.3 fWAR season in 2021, when he hit .302/.390/.522. Since the start of June, Reynolds is batting .336/.387/.626 with nine homers in 142 plate appearances, exceeding that 2021 pacing.

In the first half of the season, Reynolds ranks 30th with a .357 wOBA and 33rd with a 131 wRC+. He ranks 10th overall in both advanced offensive metrics since the start of June, with a .432 wOBA and a 182 wRC+. The league average in those stats this year is .310 and 100.

Skenes becomes the first pitcher in MLB history to make the All-Star game one year after being drafted. He arrived in the majors on May 11th, and has a 2.12 ERA in 59.1 innings through his first ten starts. Skenes has 78 strikeouts and just 12 walks during that span. What’s more impressive is that Skenes has yet to exit a start with the Pirates trailing. They’ve been ahead in seven of his starts, and tied in the other three.

The selection of Skenes was a bit of a surprise, as most of the best pitchers this year are sitting with 100+ innings pitched. It’s hard to argue with the results since Skenes has been in the league. He ranks 10th overall in fWAR since May 11th, with a 2.7 mark so far. His 2.12 ERA ranks fourth, and his 2.78 FIP ranks eighth. Only three pitchers have more strikeouts than Skenes since he arrived in the majors, and the difference between Skenes and the leader during this span, Garrett Crochet, is just four strikeouts.

Aside from the overall results, Skenes has some of the best stuff in the majors, with more 100+ MPH pitches thrown than any player, and one of the highest rated individual pitches with his splinker. Skenes being in the All-Star game as a rookie seems like an appropriate beginning to a career of a guy living up to his generational pitcher hype.

This is the second All-Star game for Reynolds, and likely the first of many for Skenes.

Henry Davis to Triple-A

The Pirates ended the rehab assignment of Henry Davis on Sunday night, and optioned him to Indianapolis.

Davis was originally rehabbing in Altoona, before being shut down after two games with complications following a concussion. He returned to Triple-A for the remainder of his rehab, playing three complete games, with two behind the plate, while going 5-for-11.

Davis hit well in Indianapolis earlier this year, after being sent down following his struggles at the plate in the majors. He’s got a .315/.447/.641 line with seven homers in Triple-A this year. Going forward, he will need to figure out a hitting approach that can find success at the big league level.

The Pirates have Joey Bart and Yasmani Grandal in the majors, with Bart showing more promise in the short-term and long-term. After being drafted second overall by the Giants in 2018, Bart struggled in a similar way to what Davis has shown so far. The Pirates acquired him at the start of this season, and he’s batting .250/.345/.458 in 84 plate appearances. Those are his best results of his MLB career, albeit in a small sample size.

With Davis in Triple-A, the Pirates can see what they’ve got in Bart, while giving Davis time to adjust his game.

Brent Honeywell Jr. Added to the Bullpen

With Bailey Falter hitting the injured list on Sunday, the Pirates purchased the contract of RHP Brent Honeywell Jr. from Triple-A.

Honeywell has a 4.85 ERA in 39 innings with Indianapolis this year, along with a 33:17 K/BB ratio. He’s pitched in extended relief, with 11 of his 31 appearances going longer than one inning.

The Pirates have a shortened pitching staff, with their closer David Bednar out, along with two starters injured in the rotation. Honeywell will provide short-term depth for the week heading into the All-Star break.

Luis Ortiz Looks Great Again

The Pirates lost 3-2 to the Mets on Sunday, dropping to 42-47 on the season. The bright spot from the game was the continued success from Luis Ortiz, who threw six shutout innings. Ortiz allowed four hits, no walks, and struck out five.

Since the start of June, Ortiz has been working in a long-relief and then a spot-starter role. He’s got a 2.67 ERA in 30.1 innings during that stretch, highlighted by an impressive 28:2 K/BB ratio.

Ortiz worked in the rotation last year, showing long-term promise as a 24-year-old starter with a good fastball/slider combo. He struggled to the tune of a 4.78 ERA, which was due in large part to a 4.98 BB/9 and a reduced strikeout rate of 6.13 K/9. It’s encouraging that he’s now having success while almost eliminating walks, with nearly a strikeout per inning.

One thing that has helped Ortiz has been the improvement to his fastball. The pitch has been more effective this year, getting more swings in the zone than last year, along with less contact in the zone than last year. This has led to his swinging strike rate on the pitch more than doubling. His slider is still getting swinging strikes, led by an above-average chase rate, and poor contact on chase swings.

In his age-25 season, Ortiz is more than just depth for the current season. He has five years of control remaining beyond this season, and could be a factor in the back of the Pirates’ rotation going forward if he continues this level of performance.

Pirates Prospect Watch

The minor leagues were off on Sunday, so there’s no Pirates Prospect Watch today. My focus on the site this week will be previewing the upcoming draft, so look for a draft article to hit the site this afternoon.

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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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