Seven Players to Represent Pirates in the AFL

By Jason Shetler 

The Arizona Fall League announced their rosters on Wednesday. Seven minor league players for the Pirates will be playing for the Surprise Saguaros. Those players are Austin Meadows, Dovydas Neverauskas, Edgar Santana, Eric Wood, Jin-De Jhang, Montana DuRapau and Trevor Williams. The AFL season begins October 11th. 

Meadows will be playing in the AFL for a second straight year. The Pirates #2 prospect has put up an .896 OPS this season combined with the Altoona Curve and Indianapolis Indians. 

Neverauskas began the year with Altoona and was promoted to Indianapolis in June. Combined with the two affiliates, Neverauskas has posted a 3.10 ERA with a 1.21 WHIP in 47 appearances. He represented the Pirates in this year’s Futures Game in San Diego. Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects reported on Tuesday that both Neverauskas and Gift Ngoepe were arrested this past weekend in Toledo due to a bar incident. 

Santana has played across three levels this season with Bradenton, Altoona and Indianapolis. The 24-year-old Dominican righty is posting a combined 2.69 ERA along with a WHIP of 1.06 in 41 appearances. 

Wood has been in the Pirates organization since 2012 after being taken as a sixth round selection. The 23-year-old native of Ontario, Canada is having his best season in 2016, hitting 16 home runs, while putting up an .805 OPS with the Altoona Curve. 

Jhang signed with the Pirates out of Taiwan back in 2011. The 23-year-old backstop has played with both Altoona and Indianapolis, as he’s posted a combined .709 OPS. Defensively, Jhang has thrown out 31% of basestealers. 

DuRapau is quite possibly the best reliever right now in the Pirates minor league system. A 32nd round pick in 2014, DuRapau is putting up solid numbers this year as the primary closer for Altoona with an ERA of 2.81, a 9.4 K/9 and a .212 batting average against in 48 appearances. 

Williams took part in the AFL last year, shortly before being acquired by the Pirates from the Miami Marlins as essentially compensation for losing their pitching guru Jim Benedict. Williams entered 2016 as the Pirates 24th ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline, and has been terrific this season for Indianapolis, posting a 2.68 ERA, while holding opposing batters to a .249 average. 




Pirates Call Up Kelvin Marte; Kyle Lobstein DFA’d

By Jason Shetler 

The Pirates have announced that Kelvin Marte has been called up from AAA Indianapolis. In order to add him to the 40 and 25 man roster, Kyle Lobstein was designated for assignment, while Steven Brault is being sent to Bristol as a paper move. 

Marte signed with the Pirates this past offseason on a minor league deal. The 28-year-old southpaw has spent the entire 2016 season with Indianapolis, posting a 3.67 ERA with a WHIP of 1.17 in 34 games, four of which have been starts. 

Lobstein was acquired last offseason by the Pirates from the Detroit Tigers for cash considerations. Despite making the Opening Day roster, he’s been with Indianapolis most of the year, putting up an ERA of 4.11 with a 1.43 WHIP in 19 games (six starts). Lobstein made 14 appearances in the Pirates bullpen where he posted a 3.96 ERA along with a 1.48 WHIP and a Fielding Independent Pitching of 4.67. 





Mike Wallace Promoted to Morgantown

By Jason Shetler


The Pirates have promoted Mike Wallace from their Bristol affiliate to the West Virginia Black Bears, this according to John Dreker of Pirates Prospects. 

Wallace was a 30th round draft choice by the Pirates in 2015 out of Fairfield University. The 22-year-old right-hander is having himself a terrific season this year for Bristol. Among pitchers in the Appalachian League with at least 50 innings of work, Wallace posted the seventh best ERA at 3.10, while his 0.96 WHIP was tops in the league. He could begin next season pitching for the Bradenton Marauders as a starter or reliever. 




Barrett Barnes Named Eastern League Player of the Week

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Sean McCool - Pirates Prospects
p/c: Sean McCool – Pirates Prospects

For the second time this month, the Eastern League has named Altoona Curve outfielder Barrett Barnes as their Player of the Week. 

Last week, Barnes played in six games where he batted .409 along with three home runs and two doubles against the Harrisburg Senators and the Erie Seawolves. 

Barnes has been on an absolute tear during the month of August, as he’s hitting .367 with a 1.186 OPS. He’s played in 117 games this season for the Curve, batting .311, which is tied for fourth highest in the Eastern League, while posting the fifth best OPS in the league at .863. Barnes is currently the 30th ranked prospect in the Pirates system by MLB Pipeline. 




Gerrit Cole Placed on DL with Elbow Inflammation

By Jason Shetler 

p/c: Doug Pensinger - Getty Images
p/c: Doug Pensinger – Getty Images

The Pirates have announced that Gerrit Cole is headed to the 15-day disabled list with posterior inflammation of the right elbow, retroactive to August 25th. 

This marks Cole’s second stint on the DL this season. His first came on June 14th when he experienced a right triceps strain. Cole was pitching well the first half of the year, but has been the complete opposite in the second half, posting a 4.71 ERA along with a 1.51 WHIP and a batting average against of .311 in eight starts since the All-Star break. 





Pirates at Cubs Series Preview

By Jared Lankes 

The Pirates had a great weekend, sweeping the Brewers in Milwaukee of all places. This has propelled them ahead of the Marlins and behind the Cardinals by just 0.5 a game in the NL Wildcard standings. It’s safe to say that this weekend couldn’t have been any better for the Pirates. But now they face a great Cubs team in Wrigley Field. The Cubs have been red hot in the second half and are sure bets to take the NL Central crown. This won’t be easy for the Pirates.

Monday: Steven Brault (0-1 3.60 ERA) vs Jake Arrieta (16-5 2.62 ERA) 8:05 ET

This is a pitching matchup that looks like a mismatch on the surface. A rookie in just his third start vs one of the best pitchers in the entire MLB. Steven Brault gets the call for Gerrit Cole, who is having his elbow examined, Monday. He has been good but not great in his first two MLB starts. Nothing spectacular but good enough to keep the team in it. For the Cubs, Jake Arrieta gets the nod. He had a bad start last time he faced the Pirates just before the break. Pirates want to replicate that for sure. Steven Brault beating Jake Arrieta would be a shocker in so many ways, but anything can happen in baseball.

Tuesday: Chad Kuhl (3-1 3.50 ERA) vs Kyle Hendricks (12-7 2.19 ERA) 8:05 ET

Chad Kuhl consistently turns in good outings for the Pirates. It’s very impressive stuff he’s shown, especially as a rookie. He’s going to need his best stuff to compete with a potent Cubs lineup. Kyle Hendricks goes for the Cubs. Beginning of the year, and throughout much of his early career, he was a fringe starter at best. However, this year he has turned in a quiet Cy Young caliber season. He has a 2.19 ERA, which is very elite and no signs of stopping. The Pirates offense is going to have major troubles you would think because everyone else does. Who knows, maybe the Pirates will get to him. It’s an uphill climb, but not all climbs are impossible.

Wednesday: Ryan Vogelsong (3-3 3.02 ERA) vs Mike Montgomery (4-5 2.60 ERA) 8:05 ET

Ryan Vogelsong’s last few starts haven’t been as flashy as his first few, but he’s been effective nonetheless. He’s still exceeding all expectations placed upon him. He’s faced a lot of challenges in his career and this start is just another one for him. Maybe he will pass this one as well. Mike Montgomery gets the ball for the Cubs. He has been pushed into the rotation because of injuries after being acquired as a reliever in July from Seattle. He’s been an effective pitcher all year and he’s a lefty to boot. The Pirates are very capable of getting runs off of him. This is the easiest test they’ll get this season, and even then it’s not an easy task.

This is a huge series for the Pirates. If they can prove they can win in Chicago, that’ll go a long way in their push for the playoffs. The pitching matchups aren’t favorable by any stretch, but they aren’t the worst either. I think the Pirates have a shot if they play like they did in Milwaukee. However, the Pirates haven’t shown consistency, so let’s see which version of team we are going to get this week.

Juan Nicasio has Found his Niche in the Bullpen

By Jason Shetler 

p/c: Jennifer Stewart - USA Today Sports
p/c: Jennifer Stewart – USA Today Sports

In his first four big league seasons from 2011 to 2014, Juan Nicasio wasn’t having much success in the rotation with the Colorado Rockies. During his time in Colorado, he posted a 5.03 ERA and was a replacement level pitcher for the most part. Prior to the 2015 season, Nicasio was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers where he pitched primarily in the bullpen. He had his best season with them, posting a 3.86 ERA, a 2.83 Fielding Independent Pitching and a K/9 of 10.0 in 53 games. Despite the good numbers Nicasio put up, the Dodgers made a surprising decision to non-tender him this past offseason, making him a free agent.

The Pirates were looking to add some pieces to their bullpen after losing Antonio Bastardo and Joakim Soria to free agency. In December, the Pirates struck a deal with Nicasio for one-year at $3 million. 

Going into Spring Training, Ryan Vogelsong was penciled in to be the fifth starter in the Pirates rotation. However, Nicasio began pitching lights out while Vogelsong struggled, prompting the Bucs to insert Nicasio in the rotation over Vogelsong to begin the 2016 season. It was an opportunity for Nicasio to show that he could be an effective starter in a big league rotation. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case, as he posted an ERA of 5.07 in 12 starts. 

On June 24th, the Pirates moved Nicasio to the bullpen, the role that he was originally intended to be in before the year began. That decision is paying huge dividends now, as Nicasio is putting up a 2.25 ERA along with a 1.14 WHIP, 1.90 FIP, 2.38 xFIP and a 12.5 K/9 in 36 innings. He’s certainly playing a big part in the Pirates bullpen being significantly better in the second half. There’s clearly a comfort level with Nicasio as a reliever, based upon the work he did with the Dodgers last year and what he’s currently doing now in that role in Pittsburgh. Although Nicasio signed a free agent deal with the Pirates, he’ll be arbitration eligible this offseason, so it’s almost a certain that he would be brought back as a bullpen piece for 2017. 




Mitch Keller Promoted to Bradenton

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Robin Black
p/c: Robin Black

Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects is reporting that Mitch Keller has been promoted to the Bradenton Marauders. 

Keller entered 2016 in his first full season with the West Virginia Power. The 20-year-old right-hander has put up phenomenal numbers, posting a 2.46 ERA with a 9.5 K/9 and a South Atlantic League best 0.92 WHIP in 23 starts. A few weeks ago, Keller was voted the best pitcher in the SAL for 2016. He’s quickly emerged as one of the top prospects in the Pirates system, ranking #5 according to MLB Pipeline. 




Steven Brault to Start Monday vs Cubs

By Jason Shetler 

p/c: Dilip Vishwanat - Getty Images
p/c: Dilip Vishwanat – Getty Images

The Pirates have announced that Steven Brault will be recalled from AAA Indianapolis to start Monday’s game against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Gerrit Cole was originally scheduled to make the start, but is dealing with elbow discomfort. 

Brault has spent the majority of 2016 pitching with Indianapolis, as he’s posted a 3.91 ERA along with a 10.2 K/9 and a batting average against of .243 in 71.1 innings of work. The 15th ranked prospect in the Pirates system will make his third spot start for them. His two other starts came on July 5th in St. Louis and July 29th in Milwaukee.