Jung-Ho Kang to Start Playing In Minor League Games

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Jeff Roberson – AP

MLB.com Pirates beat reporter Adam Berry has reported that Jung-Ho Kang is ready to begin a minor league assignment, as he looks to build himself up for a potential return to the Pirates. He will start out with High A Bradenton on Friday, this according to Berry.

Kang made quite a first impression with the Pirates in 2015, posting an .816 OPS and a 4.0 WAR, while finishing third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. Despite missing the first month of 2016 recovering from a torn meniscus and fractured tibia, he put up an OPS of .867.

In December of 2016, multiple reports had surfaced that Kang was arrested for DUI in his native South Korea. It was later revealed that he had two drunk driving incidents prior to that. MLB placed Kang on the restricted list, causing him to miss the entire 2017 season. 

This past offseason, Kang took part in the Dominican Winter League. During his time there, he hit just .143 and was released by Aguilas Cibaenas. The struggles weren’t much of a surprise, given that he hadn’t seen live game pitching in over a year. 

It was announced in April that Kang was granted a working visa to return to the States. Since rejoining the organization, he’s been getting himself back into baseball shape at Pirate City. Should Kang make his return to the big league roster, the Pirates would pay him the pro-rated portion of his $3 million salary for this year. He will have a club option for next season worth $5.5 million, but assuming he rejoins the Pirates, he’ll have to really perform well in order for the option to be exercised.







Brandon Waddell Promoted to Indianapolis

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Mark Olson

Pirates Prospects’ John Dreker is reporting that pitcher Brandon Waddell has been given a promotion from the Altoona Curve to the Indianapolis Indians. Yesterday, pitcher Eduardo Vera was promoted to Altoona, so it appeared likely that a Curve starter would be headed to Indianapolis.

The Pirates selected Waddell as a fifth rounder in the 2015 MLB Draft out of the University of Virginia. After a strong beginning to his 2016 season, he was quickly promoted to Altoona in May of that year. 

Last season, Waddell had a 3.55 ERA for the Curve, but was limited to only 15 starts, as forearm issues landed him on the disabled list twice. He made up for the lost time by participating in the Arizona Fall League and pitched very well.

Waddell entered 2018 in his third season with Altoona. In 53.2 innings, he posted an ERA of 2.68, sixth lowest in the Eastern League, while holding opponents to just a .206 batting average against. Waddell is currently the 26th rated Pirates prospect, according to the MLB Pipeline rankings. His fastball is mostly low-90’s, and he also features an outstanding slider and changeup, with the latter being regarded as the best in the Pirates system. 







Eduardo Vera Promoted to Altoona

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Pirates Prospects

The Pirates are promoting pitcher Eduardo Vera from the Bradenton Marauders to the Altoona Curve, this according to John Dreker of Pirates Prospects. 

Vera joined the Pirates organization in 2012, signing with them as a 17-year-old out of Mexico. He lost a significant amount of developmental time, as he underwent Tommy John surgery, causing him to miss the entire 2015 season, as well as most of 2016. 

Since having the surgery, Vera has seen an increase in fastball velocity, going from low-90’s to mid-90’s, while reaching as high as 97 mph. The spike in velocity following Tommy John is similar to fellow Pirates prospect Clay Holmes. In addition to the fastball, Vera’s curveball has shown improvement. 

After putting up solid numbers last season for the West Virginia Power, Vera has picked up where he left off. In nine starts this year with Bradenton, he’s posted a 2.95 ERA, along with a WHIP of 1.00, which is fifth lowest in the Florida State League. Vera has held opposing batters to a .230 average.




Breaking Down Joe Musgrove’s Excellent Pirates Debut

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Gene J. Puskar – AP

After working his way back from shoulder discomfort that he sustained in Spring Training, Joe Musgrove finally made his debut with the Pirates on Friday, as he faced the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park. Musgrove was able to make a terrific first impression, tossing seven shutout innings, while also collecting his first big league hit in an 8-1 victory over the Red Birds. Here now is a breakdown of that start inning by inning.

First inning: Musgrove allowed a one out single to Matt Carpenter, but retired the next two batters, including a strikeout to Jose Martinez on a 96 mph fastball on the inside corner. 

Second inning: Jedd Gyorko singled to begin the Top of the 2nd. After getting Dexter Fowler to lineout to Austin Meadows in center, Musgrove got Francisco Pena to tap one back to the mound to start an inning ending 1-6-3 double play, throwing only four pitches in the process. 

Third inning: The third inning for Musgrove was his first clean frame, as he got Kolten Wong and John Gant to groundout and Tommy Pham to strike out. He needed only nine pitches. 

Fourth inning: Musgrove struck out Carpenter to start the Top of the 4th, picking up his third consecutive strikeout. He then got Martinez to flyout. Following an infield single by Marcell Ozuna, Gyorko lined out to end the inning. 

Fifth inning: Fowler doubled to leadoff the Top of the 5th, the first extra base hit that Musgrove had given up. Pena then grounded out, allowing Fowler to move to third base. Musgrove worked out of it, as he struck out Wong and Gant. 

Sixth inning: Just like the third inning, Musgrove enjoyed his second 1,2,3 frame in the sixth. He got Pham to groundout, Carpenter to flyout and struck out Martinez for a second time. 

Seventh inning: Musgrove allowed a double to Ozuna to begin the Top of the 7th. He was able to settle down once again, as he got Gyorko to fan, while inducing groundouts to both Fowler and Pena.

Analysis: Musgrove displayed tremendous efficiency, throwing just 67 pitches, 50 of which were strikes. Out of the 25 batters faced, he started off 16 of them with first pitch strikes. Musgrove’s four-seam fastball ranged from 91-95 mph, topping out at 96. After using the cutter  5.5% of the time last season with the Houston Astros, Musgrove threw it significantly more in his Pirates debut at 23.9%. He not only had solid command of the cutter, but the pitch itself had great break to it. Musgrove also sprinkled in the sinker, slider and changeup. He induced eight groundouts and did so with his different offerings. In addition to the seven strikeouts, he didn’t walk a batter. Musgrove joins Josh Fogg, A.J. Burnett and Vance Worley as the only Pirates trade acquisitions since 2000 to pitch seven scoreless innings in their debut.







Pirates Designate George Kontos For Assignment

By Jason Shetler

The Pirates announce that veteran reliever George Kontos has been designated for assignment by the club as the corresponding move for Joe Musgrove, who will make his Pirates debut tonight against the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park.

In August of last year, the Pirates claimed Kontos off waivers from the San Francisco Giants, a move that surprised many, given that the Giants got nothing in return, despite the fact that he had still decent numbers. Kontos performed very well after coming over to Pittsburgh, as he put up a 1.84 ERA, a 2.61 FIP and a WHIP of 0.82 in 15 appearances out of the Pirates bullpen.

The 2018 season has been a real struggle for Kontos. He began the year as the setup man to Felipe Vazquez, but lost that role recently, this after opposing batters posted a .965 OPS against him in high leverage situations. Overall, Kontos had a 5.03 ERA, along with a FIP of 6.06 and just a 4.1 K/9 in 21 games.