Breaking Down Pirates Prospects Who Received Promotions this Season

By Jason Shetler

Mitch Keller – p/c: Sean McCool – Pirates Prospects

As the regular season in the minor leagues is nearing its conclusion, here is a break down of each Pirates prospect who were given promotions this season, and how they’ve performed after being promoted.

Cole Tucker: The Pirates 2014 first rounder put up good numbers with the Bradenton Marauders, as he batted .285, while posting a .790 OPS. He was promoted to the Altoona Curve on July 20th. Tucker has struggled since the promotion, hitting just .198. He is however still young for the AA level, turning 21 a month ago. Tucker has been making an impact in the speed game this year, combining to steal 41 bases.

Dovydas Neverauskas: Since signing with the Pirates out of Lithuania in 2009, Dovydas Neverauskas quietly emerged through the system as a high upside reliever. After pitching five scoreless appearances with the Indianapolis Indians, he was called up to Pittsburgh on April 24th, becoming just the second Lithuanian born player to reach the Majors. Neverauskas has been up and down between AAA and the bigs this season, but he’s certainly an intriguing bullpen arm for the Pirates moving forward. 

Edgar Santana: It’s not often that the Pirates, or any other organization, would promote a player across three levels of the minors in the same season, but that was the case last year with Edgar Santana. The 25-year-old righty had a 1.93 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP, before receiving his call up to the Pirates on June 10th. Santana’s big league stint contained really unfortunate luck, because despite a 5.87 ERA, his BABIP was .474, with a lower Fielding Independent Pitching of 4.05. He should be recalled by the Pirates in September. 

Edwin Espinal: After spending all of last season with Altoona, Edwin Espinal returned there to begin 2017. The numbers were solid in his second go-around with the Curve, as he put up an OPS of .797 and hit 15 home runs. Espinal’s promotion to Indianapolis came on July 27th. Although he’s batting .292 for the Indians, he hasn’t walked much and the power has been non-existent. 

Jake Brentz: The Pirates acquired Jake Brentz from the Seattle Mariners in the Arquimedes Caminero deal last year. The hard-throwing lefty reliever started off this season with Bradenton, posting a 3.81 ERA, while holding opponents to a .230 average. June 23rd was his promotion to Altoona. Brentz has now been experiencing control issues, walking 12 batters in 9.1 innings, which has led to an ERA of 7.71 for the Curve.

Jordan Luplow: The biggest breakout prospect in the Pirates system this year has been Jordan Luplow. He began the season with Altoona, and was very productive, putting up a .903 OPS. Luplow was then promoted to Indianapolis on June 30th. He was even better when he arrived there, as he posted an OPS of .975. On July 28th, Luplow got an unexpected promotion to the big leagues, albeit going hitless in nine plate appearances. He will likely rejoin the Pirates as a September call up.

Jose Osuna: Last year, Jose Osuna was one of a few Pirates prospects who broke through, to at least get noticed, if nothing else. 2017 was Osuna’s first big league camp, and he made quite an impression. So much so, that there was chatter about him actually being on the Pirates roster for Opening Day. He was sent back to Indianapolis, but it didn’t take long for him to come to Pittsburgh, as he was called up April 18th. Osuna has been with the Pirates ever since, posting a .765 OPS in his rookie season. 

Kevin Newman: Currently the Pirates top shortstop prospect, Kevin Newman’s starting destination for 2017 was Altoona. The former first round selection didn’t really tear it up with the Curve, as he hit .259 and put up a .669 OPS. His promotion to Indianapolis was on July 20th. Newman’s average has gone back up in AAA at .312, but the OPS hasn’t been any better at .688. He will likely arrive to the North Shore at some point next year. 

Logan Hill: The Pirates discovered Logan Hill in the 25th round of the 2015 draft. He showed off his power for Bradenton, clubbing 16 home runs, which is impressive considering that the Florida State League is pitcher friendly. Hill was promoted to Altoona June 30th. The success has carried over for him, putting up an .803 OPS for the Curve. 

Mitch Keller: A year ago, Mitch Keller was the biggest breakout performer among Pirates prospects. Not only that, but he was also named the 2016 Pirates Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Keller is now the top pitching prospect in the organization. Although he dealt with back stiffness earlier this season, that hasn’t stopped the 21-year-old from being dominant, as he posted an ERA of 3.14, while limiting opposing batters to a .207 average in 15 starts for Bradenton. Keller was recently promoted to Altoona on August 4th. In his first three starts with the Curve, he has posted a 3.00 ERA.

Montana DuRapau: Just like Dovydas Neverauskas and Edgar Santana, Montana DuRapau is another homegrown reliever who has emerged in the Pirates system. A 32nd rounder in 2014, DuRapau is having another good season this year. He had a 1.49 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP for Altoona. DuRapau joined Indianapolis on July 14th. His ERA currently there is 3.86, but he’s actually done a better job of limiting baserunners, with a 0.86 WHIP.

Stephen Alemais: Drafted by the Pirates as a third rounder last year, Stephen Alemais is already one of the best defensive players in the organization. He began this season with the West Virginia Power, where he posted just a .266 on base percentage. Alemais was given a promotion to Bradenton on July 20th. The approach at the plate has all of a sudden been improving for him with the Marauders, as his on base is at .444. If Alemais is somehow able to show that he can hold his own offensively, combined with his excellent defense at shortstop, he will be a legit prospect. 

 

 

 

 

 

When Should the Pirates Play Jose Osuna at Third Base?

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Justin K. Aller – Getty Images

Over the last few years, Jose Osuna had been one of the more underrated prospects in the Pirates system. His production combined with AA Altoona and AAA Indianapolis last season began to get him noticed. Entering his first Major League Spring Training this year, Osuna was looking to make a good impression. He was a hitting machine, and was the talk of the entire Grapefruit League. His performance was so outstanding that he was actually considered a candidate to make the Opening Day roster, despite having no big league service time. 

Although Osuna reported back to Indianapolis to begin the season, it did not take long for the Pirates to bring him up. He received his call up on April 18th, and has been on the team ever since. Osuna currently is posting a .742 OPS, with most of his good work coming against lefty pitching (.815 OPS). So far in the early going of his big league career, he has played first base, right field and left field. 

As the season has gone along, there had been rumblings in regards to Osuna possibly getting some work at third base. Since the All-Star break, he has been working out at the hot corner with Pirates third base coach and infield instructor Joey Cora. With Osuna now putting in the reps there, when should the Pirates play him at third base during game action?

Given the fact that Osuna is just recently learning a new position, it’s likely doubtful that the Pirates would try him at third base in their remaining games. One possibility is having him play third in Winter Ball, although it will be interesting to see if he would get to in his homeland of Venezuela, with the ongoing political protests down there. In addition to the offseason, it seems like a for certain that Osuna would see action there during Spring Training. Whichever setting he starts to play third base, I imagine it’ll be sooner rather than later. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Max Kranick Promoted to Bristol

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Tim Williams – Pirates Prospects

Pirates prospect Max Kranick has been promoted to Bristol Pirates, this according to John Dreker of Pirates Prospects. 

The Pirates drafted Kranick last year as an 11th round pick out of Valley View High School in Pennsylvania. He signed for $300,000, above the slot value of $200,000. 

Kranick is one of the more intriguing arms the Pirates have in the lower levels. His fastball tops out at 93 mph, but what really makes him stand out is his solid changeup, which generally is a pitch that most pitchers out of high school are trying to develop. Kranick was supposed to start the season at Bristol, however, shoulder tightness in late May set him back. He made his season debut with the Gulf Coast League Pirates a couple weeks ago.

 

 

 

 

Bucco Nation Poll Question

By Jason Shetler

Options for Pirates if Gregory Polanco Goes on the Disabled List

By Jared Lankes

The Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco suffered yet another injury to his hamstring this weekend in Toronto. And by the looks of it, he will likely hit the disabled list for the third time this season. It has been reported by some outlets that Polanco isn’t only seriously injured, but he was also seen hugging teammates after sunday’s contest, speculated to mean that he will not make the trip to Milwaukee with the team which could prelude a DL stint. How long Polanco will be out is still up in the air, but depending on how long it is expected to be could influence how the Pirates handle filling the void. Here, I will discuss some of the potential ways to fill the void depending on how things shake out.

1) Stick with what is on the roster:
It is very plausible, almost likely, that the Pirates stick with what is currently on their roster. The Pirates have four guys, good or not, that can play in the outfield. These guys being John Jaso, Jose Osuna, Adam Frazier, and the newly acquired Sean Rodriguez. The Pirates could certainly see the bevy of options they possess and just choose to stick with it. I mean, they did just that when Marte was out during his suspension and when Polanco was hurt the previous two times, and that was before they acquired another option in Sean Rodriguez. They could also play Harrison in the outfield a bit and show off some Frazier or Rodriguez at second base, or even get Moroff some reps at second base as well.

2) Get help from AAA:
There are a couple outfielders in AAA that could help in some sort of capacity. While Meadows is still rehabbing on his way to getting back to AAA, he could be an option upon returning, but I can’t envision that. This leaves Danny Ortiz, Chris Bostick, and Jordan Luplow. Danny Ortiz is a career minor leaguer, so it shouldn’t be him. Bostick is intriguing, but like all the other extra outfield options they currently have on their major league roster, he is an infielder by nature. This leaves us with Jordan Luplow. Luplow, a guy who has barely been in AAA a month, has been dominating at every level the last few seasons, including making AAA look like the little leagues. He was called up to the majors for a few games just a couple weeks, and while he went 0-9, he did not look overmatched. While he may not be ready, maybe the Pirates think he is developed enough to be given a look. However, in my opinion, if he will get called up, I think he has to be given the opportunity to play everyday. He can’t be sitting on the bench five times a week not getting many at bats. That is no good for him. They would have to let the guy play more often than not, and I cannot see the Pirates giving him a majority of at bats over the guys they have right now.

3) Find external help:
One of the things that has killed the Pirates this season is not having a true 4th outfielder. As I said before, they have an array of options, but many of them are infielders by nature and are guys that don’t prioritize playing outfield. With the Marte suspension, the Polanco injuries, and everything seemingly going wrong with Meadows, the gaping hole of no other true outfielder option is huge, and with Polanco hurt again, we see that gaping hole once again. If the Pirates, who are 4.5 games back of division lead as I am writing this, really believe they have a chance at this thing, maybe they find a way to fortify their roster even more by acquiring an outfielder to assist with Polanco out and make the bench stronger when/if he gets back. This would also provide cover if the Pirates would make the playoffs and Marte would be ineligible at that juncture. Given the way the position player market is, maybe the Pirates can find something that fits.

In my estimation, I can definitely see them just sticking with what they have. The reason for this is because, through everything that has happened this season, that is precisely what they have done. I cannot envision a sudden change in direction like that unless it is said that Polanco is out for the season, and even then the realistic chances this team wins the division are slim at best. It is hard to prepare for the postseason or winning a division when a team is currently below .500, four games back, and in fourth place. If Pirates were in 1st place or 2nd place and only one or two games back, it would become much easier to make that move. Truth is that another outfielder to replace what they currently have or to just fill-in for a bit will not make much of an impact at all. I think it is a much safer bet for the Pirates to stick with what they have and/or call up the young talent from AAA and let them show themselves off.

Steven Brault Named International League Pitcher of the Week for the Second Time

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Indianapolis Indians

After being named the International League Pitcher of the Week during the month of May, Steven Brault was given that honor a second time for this past week.

Last Monday, Brault pitched seven shutout innings versus the Buffalo Bisons, the Toronto Blue Jays AAA club. On Saturday, he tossed seven scoreless again, this time against the Washington Nationals affiliation, the Syracuse Chiefs. 

Brault has been pitching exceptional this year for Indianapolis, posting an IL best 1.94 ERA, along with the third lowest WHIP at 1.07 in 120.1 innings. In late July, Brault was recalled by the Pirates, making two relief appearances. 

 

 

 

 

A.J. Schugel Has Been an Unsung Hero in Pirates Bullpen Again

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Charles LeClaire – USA Today Sports

Looking to add depth to their bullpen for the 2016 season, the Pirates claimed A.J. Schugel off waivers from the Seattle Mariners. Schugel pitched well last year, as he put up a 3.63 ERA, along with an ERA+ of 113 and an even better 3.18 Fielding Independent Pitching. 

Despite his good work, the Pirates optioned Schugel on two different occasions, once with the call up of Tyler Glasnow, the other with Steven Brault. Schugel had better numbers last season than Jared Hughes, and it was especially odd, given that Hughes had options remaining to be sent to AAA. 

Entering Spring Training this year, Schugel appeared to have a pretty good shot of making the Opening Day roster. His chances seemed even better, following the release of Hughes during the final week of Spring. However, the Pirates made a surprising decision by cutting Schugel, optioning him to Indianapolis. 

April did not go Schugel’s way at all, as he posted a 9.82 ERA. He did experience extreme bad luck though, with a BABIP over .400. Things really began to balance out for him in May and June, posting a combined ERA of 1.67, a 1.06 WHIP and a .194 batting average against. 

The Pirates recalled Schugel on July 7th. His numbers have been even better to this point the second time around, allowing only two earned runs in 15.1 innings for a 1.17 ERA. The FIP is higher at 3.20, but it’s still a good figure. Perhaps the biggest thing for Schugel this year is getting a heavy amount of grounders. Schugel’s groundball rate is currently at 63%, which is a 21% increase from a year ago. He is throwing the two-seam fastball about 7% more this season at 68%, while his superb changeup is being thrown 31% of the time. The Pirates bullpen has performed better since the beginning of July, and Schugel is quietly playing a vital part once again.