Seven Pirates Prospects to Take Part in Arizona Fall League

By Jason Shetler

On Tuesday, preliminary rosters were announced for the Arizona Fall League. Seven Pirates prospects were named to play for the Glendale Desert Dogs. Those players include Mitch Keller, Cole Tucker, Kevin Kramer, Taylor Hearn, Brandon Waddell, Logan Hill and J.T. Brubaker. The AFL will begin October 10th. 

Keller is the second best Pirates prospect in the system according to MLB Pipeline. He began the season with Bradenton, posting a 3.14 ERA. Keller was promoted to Altoona in August, where he currently has a 3.77 ERA.

Tucker is ranked fifth best among Pirates prospects. The switch-hitting shortstop posted a .790 OPS for Bradenton. Tucker was then promoted to Altoona in July. He has done much with the Curve, putting up just a .662 OPS, but he is playing the AA level at a young age. Tucker has 43 stolen bases this season combined with both affiliates. 

Kramer was on his way to having a breakout season this year, but a fractured right hand in June put a big damper on that. Before the injury, he batted .297 and had an OPS of .880 for Altoona. Kramer is the tenth best Pirates prospect. 

Hearn is the 12th best prospect in the Pirates system. The hard-throwing lefty posted a 4.12 ERA, along with a 3.43 FIP and a 10.9 K/9 with Bradenton. Hearn hasn’t pitched since July, after being placed on the DL with an oblique injury.

Waddell returned to Altoona to begin this season. The Pirates 24th ranked prospect sustained a left forearm strain in April. He then re injured the forearm in June, and was just activated off the DL last week. Waddell has put up an ERA of 3.66 with the Curve. 

Hill has been quite a find for the Pirates, this after being selected in the 25th round of the 2015 MLB Draft. He started off this year with Bradenton, posting an .864 OPS. Hill then received a promotion to Altoona in June, where he has an OPS of .803.

Brubaker was a sixth round selection of the Pirates in 2015. The 23-year-old right-hander has spent all of 2017 pitching for Bradenton, where he has posted a 4.33 ERA and a FIP of 3.72.




Edison Lantigua Named to Appalachian League All-Star Team

By Jason Shetler


On Friday, the Appalachian League announced their 2017 All-Star team. Outfielder Edison Lantigua was named the lone representative for the Bristol Pirates.

In 2013, the Pirates signed Lantigua out of the Dominican Republic as a 16-year-old. Lantigua began his pro career the following year in 2014 with the Dominican Summer League Pirates, posting an .823 OPS. 2015 was a real struggle for him, as he had an OPS of .556 for the Gulf Coast League Pirates. 

Last year, Lantigua returned to the GCL club and put up a more respectable .723 OPS. He is playing in the Appalachian League for Bristol this season, which is considered an advanced rookie league. Lantigua currently has an .860 OPS, thanks in large part to an outstanding .399 on base percentage, good for sixth best in the Appy League.







Jung-Ho Kang Reportedly to Play Winter Ball in the Dominican

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Jeff Roberson – AP

According to a report from Grandes en los Deportes, Jung-Ho Kang will be playing Winter Ball in the Dominican Republic. Update: Pirates GM Neal Huntington confirmed the report Thursday afternoon.

Kang joined the Pirates in 2015, and had one of the best rookie seasons in franchise history, posting an OPS+ of 123 and a 4.0 WAR, while finishing third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. Despite missing the first month of last season recovering from a torn meniscus and fractured tibia, he was productive again, as he posted an .867 OPS, a 129 OPS+ and a WAR of 2.3. 

Back in December, Kang was arrested for drunk driving, marking his third DUI offense. In addition to not receiving a working visa to return to the States, he was also given a suspended jail sentence of eight months. However, the sentence can be dismissed, if he is able to remain crime free for two years. Winter Ball will give Kang the opportunity to face live pitching that he obviously didn’t see at all this year. 








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.