According to John Dreker of Pirates Prospects, the Pirates have signed first baseman Shendrik Apostel out of Curaçao. His older brother is Sherten Apostel, who signed with the Pirates in 2015.
Prior to signing with the Pirates, the younger Apostel has played in many International competitions, most notably the 2012 Little League World Series. As a 12-year-old in the LLWS, Apostel was listed at 6’2, 189 lbs. Now at age 17, he is 6’5, 225 lbs. The scouting report on him is that he has a strong frame for his age, along with raw power. Apostel will take part in the Dominican Fall Instructional.
The Pirates have announced that Jordan Luplow and Steven Brault are the organization’s Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year for 2017.
Luplow began this season with AA Altoona, where he hit .287 and posted a .903 OPS in 73 games played. He was promoted to AAA on June 30th. Luplow batted .325, while posting an OPS of .914 in 44 games for Indianapolis. Combined with both affiliates, he clubbed 23 home runs to lead the system this year. Luplow is currently with the Pirates, and receiving a good amount of playing time in September.
Brault entered Spring Training in competition for the fifth spot in the Pirates rotation, but lost out, being optioned to the minors in the process. Most of the 2017 season for Brault was spent pitching for Indianapolis. The 25-year-old lefty registered the lowest ERA in the International League this year at 1.94, while his 1.07 WHIP was third best in the IL. He also held opponents to a batting average against of .199 in 120.1 innings pitched. Like Luplow, Brault is now with the Pirates.
Pirates prospect Kevin Kramer has been playing shortstop in the Fall Instructional League, and will continue to get reps there during the Arizona Fall League, this according to Jonathan Mayo of MLB Pipeline.
Kramer is currently ranked as the ninth best prospect in the Pirates system by MLBP. The former UCLA standout was putting up superb numbers this year with the Altoona Curve, hitting .297 and posting an OPS of .880, before a right hand fracture in June ended his season.
The majority of Kramer’s games in his minor league career have been at second base. He has played shortstop only four times, all of which came in his first season of pro ball in 2015.
According to news and notes from MLB.com Pirates beat writer Adam Berry, Jose Osuna is expected to play third base during Winter Ball in Venezuela. Osuna told Berry that he would like to play there four or five times a week.
It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that Osuna will be playing third base in Winter Ball. He had been working out there with Pirates third base coach Joey Cora since July, and it was just a matter of when he would see live game action at the hot corner. Osuna has spent majority of his 2017 rookie season as a utility man, playing first base, right field and left field.
The Pirates have announced that Drew Hutchison cleared waivers and was outrighted to AAA Indianapolis. In the process, he has been removed from the 40-man roster.
During the 2016 trade deadline, Hutchison was acquired by the Pirates from the Toronto Blue Jays as part of the Francisco Liriano deal. After arriving to Pittsburgh, he posted a 5.56 ERA in 11.1 innings of work.
This past offseason, the Pirates signed Hutchison for $2.3 million to avoid arbitration. He appeared to have the inside track for the fifth spot in the rotation, but a poor showing caused him not to make the Opening Day roster. Hutchison spent the entire 2017 season with Indianapolis, posting an ERA of 3.56, while holding the opposition to a .248 average in 159.1 innings pitched. Because of his service time in the minors, he will be a minor league free agent once the World Series is over.
Starling Marte tells Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he would like to play Winter Ball in the Dominican Republic this offseason.
Marte was the Pirates best player in 2016, as he was named an All-Star for the first time, while capturing his second National League Gold Glove award as a left fielder. With Marte being the top defensive left fielder in the game, the Pirates made the decision to make him the center fielder, moving Andrew McCutchen to right field in the process for the 2017 season.
In mid-April, a shocking development came about, as multiple reports had surfaced that Marte tested positive for Nandrolone, a performance-enhancing drug. He was given an 80-game suspension by MLB for the infraction. Since returning from the suspension, Marte is batting .240, along with an OPS of .634. The decision of him wanting to play Winter Ball would obviously make up for lost time, and perhaps a chance to get him back on track for next season.
The Pirates have announced that they have claimed pitcher Jack Leathersich off waivers from the Chicago Cubs. He will report to AAA Indianapolis for the playoffs.
Leathersich was a fifth round draft pick of the New York Mets in 2011. He made 17 appearances with the Mets in 2015, posting a 2.31 ERA, but a very high WHIP of 1.63. In July of that year, he underwent Tommy John surgery.
Prior to the 2016 season, Leathersich was claimed off waivers by the Cubs. He spent most of last year working his way back from Tommy John. Leathersich put up a 2.84 ERA with AAA Iowa this season, which is impressive in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. He also appeared in one game for the Cubs. Leathersich has the ability to rack up strikeouts, but he does issue free passes quite frequently.
Following the 2015 season, Pirates pitching guru Jim Benedict joined the Miami Marlins organization. As compensation, the Bucs received Trevor Williams. During 2015, Williams was a Top 10 prospect in a mediocre Marlins farm system, but was still considered a legit pitching prospect nonetheless.
Much of the 2016 season for Williams was spent at AAA Indianapolis, where he posted a 2.53 ERA. His good work in the minors earned him a much deserved September call up. He struggled with the Pirates, posting an ERA of 7.82, albeit in a small sample size.
Entering Spring Training, Williams was one of the Pirates pitchers who competed for a spot to be the fifth starter in the rotation. Although Tyler Glasnow was named the final starter, the Pirates added Williams to the Opening Day roster as a long reliever.
In early May, Jameson Taillon was placed on the disabled list, this after being diagnosed with testicular cancer. The Pirates then inserted Williams into the rotation. His first start of the year did not go well, as he allowed eight runs (six earned) against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Despite the bad outing, Williams’ first half ERA as a starter was 4.04. The second half has been even better for him, with a 3.44 ERA since the All-Star break.
The success for Williams this season has hinged on keeping the ball in the ballpark on a consistent basis. Among all qualified MLB starters since May 14th, Williams has the lowest HR/9 at 0.6. He also has a 2.1 WAR, which is a good enough mark to stick in the rotation. Trevor Williams has certainly been one of the most pleasant surprises for the Pirates in 2017, and should be a lock in the rotation for next season.
At the 2017 trade deadline, the Pirates dealt Tony Watson to the Los Angeles Dodgers, which did not come as a surprise. Juan Nicasio was not traded at the deadline, but the feeling was that he still could be, if the Pirates began to fall out of contention. Earlier this week, the Bucs made the very curious decision to place Nicasio on irrevocable waivers, meaning that any team could claim him, in order of win-loss record. On Thursday, the Philadelphia Phillies surprisingly claimed the veteran right-hander. The Pirates received a large amount of backlash from both fans and media alike, and it was certainly warranted, given that they certainly could have gotten something in return for Nicasio, rather than losing him for nothing. So which players could the Pirates look to move this offseason? – Here are the potential candidates.
Andrew McCutchen: After coming extremely close to being traded to the Washington Nationals last offseason, the former NL MVP will no doubt be involved in the rumor mill again this offseason. The Pirates however hold a 2018 club option for McCutchen worth just over $14 million, so there is a possibility of exercising the option, especially since Austin Meadows won’t be on the Opening Day roster, because of Super 2.
Daniel Hudson: The Pirates inked Daniel Hudson to a two-year deal this past offseason to serve as a late inning arm out of the bullpen. 2017 has been disappointing for the 30-year-old righty. With the upside of younger guys, such as Dovydas Neverauskas and Edgar Santana, as well as having August waiver claim George Kontos under team control beyond this season, the Pirates could make Hudson expendable in the offseason.
David Freese: Last year, David Freese signed with the Pirates twice. The first time came in Spring Training, where he signed a one-year deal, while the second was in August, coming to terms on a two-year extension. With the Jung-Ho Kang saga, Freese has been the regular third baseman this season. Because he will be owed less money in 2018, it’s likely that the Pirates would hang onto him, but there will be interest from other teams, looking to upgrade their bench.
Gerrit Cole: In 2015, Gerrit Cole had one of the better seasons by a Pirates starting pitcher in franchise history. That year, he was named an All-Star for the first time, while finishing fourth in the NL Cy Young voting. Cole dealt with injuries last season, and was looking to get back on track. 2017 however has been an up and down year for him. In a perfect world, the Pirates would obviously like to receive a big return for Cole, but based on the results this season, other teams may not want to, especially if they don’t view him as an ace type starter. Cole will arbitration eligible for a second time this offseason, so there also isn’t a rush to trade him either.
Ivan Nova: After being acquired from the New York Yankees at last year’s trade deadline, Ivan Nova put up stellar numbers with the Pirates. The 30-year-old right-hander decided to remain in Pittsburgh, by signing a three-year deal worth $26 million. Nova picked up where he left off, as he performed at an All-Star level in the first half. However, the second half has been a real struggle for him. With the Pirates having younger starters, like Tyler Glasnow and Steven Brault, they could look to move Nova this offseason. Contending clubs could look at Nova as someone who can provide quality innings at a reasonable cost.
Jordy Mercer: Jordy Mercer entered 2017 in his fourth season as the Pirates shortstop. The 31-year-old continues to be league average with the bat, while still providing steady defense. Mercer is arbitration eligible for a final time this offseason. He is likely to draw some interest from other teams, who will look to upgrade at shortstop, but the Pirates are likely to keep him, with prospect Kevin Newman expected to join them at some point next season.
Josh Harrison: Last offseason, the Pirates had Josh Harrison on the trade block. The move was going to be a salary dump, but there was virtually no interest, since he was coming off a down year offensively in 2016. Harrison has bounced back nicely this season, being named an All-Star for the second time. He is one of a few players that the Pirates could really sell high on this offseason. A Harrison trade seems realistic for a few reasons. The first obviously being that he would net the Pirates a good return. The second is the emergence of Adam Frazier, who could take over at second base regularly. And lastly, if the Pirates are going to pick up McCutchen’s $14 million dollar club option for next season, they will look to move Harrison (owed just over $10.2 million for 2018), in an effort to allocate that money for McCutchen.