Tyler Glasnow Adding a Slider to His Repertoire

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates found themselves a diamond in the rough when they drafted Tyler Glasnow as a fifth round pick back in 2011. The hard-throwing righty dominated every level of the minors, with a swing and miss fastball and a plus curveball, while being named the Pirates Minor League Pitcher of the Year on two different occasions.

Glasnow’s rookie year with the Pirates in 2016 didn’t go the way he wanted it to. Entering Spring Training 2017, he was in competition for the fifth starter spot and came out victorious. However, his struggles continued, and he wound up getting demoted back to AAA Indianapolis. 

Despite the Pirates rotation being set going into Spring Training this year, Manager Clint Hurdle hinted that Glasnow would have an inside track for a bullpen spot, since he had nothing else to prove in the minors. 

Glasnow pitched very well during the Spring, and was rewarded by making the Opening Day roster as a reliever. The early going of 2018 has been good so far for Glasnow, with a 3.12 FIP, a 3.28 xFIP and a K/9 of 12.9. His average fastball velocity of 95.7 mph is currently 7th best among National League relievers, while he’s been getting swings and misses with the curveball. Kyle Crick, who the Pirates called up last week, has worked alongside Glasnow and asked him if threw a slider, to which Glasnow responded no. In his last outing on Friday against the St. Louis Cardinals, he sprinkled in some sliders at an average velocity of 87.9 mph, which is pretty good separation from his fastball. Glasnow’s curve is an effective pitch against left-handed batters, so if he can feel more comfortable throwing the slider moving forward, then he’ll have an equalizer for righty batters, especially if he gets the opportunity to become a starter again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Is the Corey Dickerson Trade Already Neal Huntington’s Best?

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Lynne Sladky – AP

During this past offseason, the Pirates garnered a ton of heat for the trades of Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole. The decision to move McCutchen was a definite money saver, while the Cole deal seemed more like getting quantity over quality, although Colin Moran has looked impressive so far.

As the offseason was nearing its conclusion, the Tampa Bay Rays acquired first baseman CJ Cron from the Los Angeles Angels. What followed shortly after became perhaps the most shocking move of the offseason, as the Rays designated their 2017 All-Star Corey Dickerson for assignment to make room on the roster for Cron. 

On February 22nd, the day before the Grapefruit League opener, the Pirates addressed their need for an outfielder by trading for Dickerson. In return, the Rays obtained reliever Daniel Hudson and minor league infielder Tristan Gray. Despite a guaranteed contract with decent money, Hudson not only failed to make Tampa Bay’s Opening Day roster, but wound up being released altogether.

The Pirates offense has opened some eyes in the early going of 2018, averaging 5.0 runs per game, and Dickerson is certainly playing a vital part in that. While Dickerson may be the Pirates best player right now, his offensive figures among MLB left fielders have been quite good to this point. Here’s where some of his numbers rank.

.322 average (3rd)

.351 OBP (9th)

.511 SLG% (6th) 

131 wRC+ (7th) 

Dickerson has been showing the ability to get on base, create runs and drive the ball. He’s also been very tough to strike out, with a 10.3% K rate, which is a pretty wide margin compared to the second lowest for an MLB left fielder (Denard Span of the Rays 16.0%). Dickerson’s defense in left field has been superb, as his seven Defensive Runs Saved is currently tops of among all left fielders, and he’s put up a 5.9 UZR. 

The list of Neal Huntington’s best trade acquisitions include A.J. Burnett, Mark Melancon, Marlon Byrd, J.A. Happ and Felipe Vazquez (formerly Rivero). The start to Dickerson’s Pirates career has been great so far. While I won’t call it Huntington’s greatest trade right now, it’s definitely Top 3, with the potential of being the best. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pirates to Call Up Nick Kingham

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Adam Pintar

According to Stephen Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Nick Kingham will be called up to the Pirates and will make his MLB debut as the spot starter for Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park.

Following Tuesday’s postponement, the Pirates played a doubleheader with the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday. Jameson Taillon started Game 1, while Chad Kuhl pitched Game 2. Because of that, the Pirates needed a spot starter, as both Taillon and Kuhl would be on short rest. Kingham had been listed as the scheduled starter for AAA Indianapolis on Saturday, but instead will pitch for the Pirates on Sunday.

It’s been a long journey for the 26-year-old Kingham, who was drafted by the Bucs in the  fourth round of the 2010 MLB Draft. For quite awhile, he had been considered the third best pitching prospect in the organization behind Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow. Kingham was slated to join the Pirates in 2015, but Tommy John surgery threw a wrench into those plans. He rehabbed his way back in 2016 and put in a full season with Indianapolis last year. In four starts for Indianapolis to begin this year, Kingham has posted a 1.59 ERA, along with an 0.97 WHIP. He was also named the International League Pitcher of the Week for the first week of the season.

 

 

 

 

 

Pirates Trade Todd Cunningham to White Sox

By Jason Shetler

John Dreker of Pirates Prospects tweeted out that the Pirates have traded outfielder Todd Cunningham to the Chicago White Sox for future considerations.

Cunningham signed a minor league deal with the Pirates this past offseason. A former top prospect of the Atlanta Braves, Cunningham was invited to Pirates big league camp as a non-roster player, but his chances of making the club were slim. In nine games with AAA Indianapolis, he had just a .192 on base percentage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

J.T. Brubaker Looks to Be Building Off His AFL Success

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Rob Lynn

When the Pirates drafted J.T. Brubaker as a sixth rounder out of Toledo University in 2015, he was a pitch to contact type pitcher, as he posted a 54% groundball rate and had a 6.0 K/9 in his debut season with the West Virginia Black Bears that year.

Brubaker began the 2016 campaign for the West Virginia Power. He made 12 starts with them, putting up a 3.48 ERA and a 4.11 FIP, before receiving a promotion to High A Bradenton in June. Despite being in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, Brubaker struggled with the Marauders, as he had an ERA of 5.32, along with a 4.42 FIP in 14 starts.

The 2017 season for Brubaker started in Altoona. During the month of May, he had a blister on his right finger and was on the disabled list for about two weeks. In 26 outings for the Curve, Brubaker had a 4.44 ERA, although his FIP was more respectable at 3.67.  

Entering October, Brubaker was one of four Pirates minor league pitchers to participate in the Arizona Fall League. He held his own against some of the game’s top prospects, posting a 2.63 ERA, a 10.5 K/9 and a 1.3 BB/9 in eight appearances, all of which were in relief. 

The success Brubaker had in the AFL has certainly carried over into the early part of 2018. In his first four starts with Altoona, he’s been lights out, registering a 1.57 ERA, with an almost similar 1.60 FIP. He has 27 strikeouts (10.6 K/9), which are tied for third most in the Eastern League, while he’s really limited baserunners, with a WHIP of 0.96. Brubaker’s two-seam fastball has been generating a ton of grounders, as his groundball rate is currently at 61%. A promotion to AAA Indianapolis probably isn’t too far off for Brubaker. He’s shown the ability to locate his four-seam and two-seam fastballs, but his slider and changeup will need to be consistent, once he faces more advanced hitters at the AAA level. If he’s able to do so, then he could become a quality depth option as a starter or long reliever for the Pirates at some point next year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calvin Mitchell Named South Atlantic League Player of the Week

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Sam Santilli

On Monday, the South Atlantic League named their Player of the Week for the week of April 16th-22nd. Outfielder Calvin Mitchell has been given that honor. 

Mitchell was one of two players selected in the second round by the Pirates during last year’s MLB Draft, being taken 50th overall out of Rancho Bernardo High School in California. He signed with the Bucs for $1,357,300, which was right at slot value. Mitchell played his pro debut season in 2017 with the Gulf Coast League Pirates, where he posted a .704 OPS.

Prior to the beginning of this season, MLB Pipeline rated Mitchell the 16th best Pirates prospect in the organization. He’s been off to a very strong start with the West Virginia Power, posting an OPS of 1.070, currently fourth highest in the SAL. This past week, Mitchell hit .467, along with three doubles, a homer, a triple and had nine RBI.

 

 

 

 

Pablo Reyes Promoted to Indianapolis

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Rob Lynn

Infielder Pablo Reyes has been promoted to AAA Indianapolis, this according to Sean McCool of Pirates Prospects. 

The Pirates signed Reyes in 2012 out of the Dominican Republic. During his time in the organization, he’s been arguably the most underrated middle infield prospect. Reyes spent 2017 with the Altoona Curve, his first season at the AA level, where he posted a .765 OPS and had 21 stolen bases in 115 games played. He opened this season appearing in 12 games for Altoona prior to his promotion.