West Virginia Power 2017 Opening Day

By Steve Samek

The forth team and last to begin play on April 6,2017 from the Pittsburgh Pirates organization is the West Virginia Power. The announced their opening roster recently in this article. https://www.milb.com/power/news/play-ball-2017-roster-announced/c-222470256/t-196097280 Tie to break down the roster.

Upon first glance none of the pitchers stand out. Though after a second look the Power will be with the services of 14th ranked prospect in the Pirates system Luis Escobar. Escobar is making the jump to full season ball after playing in the New York Penn League last year with good results. http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?sid=t525&player_id=650813#/career/R/pitching/2017/ALL

He could be this year’s Mitch Keller as far as breakout potential.

Behind the plate also brings system newcomers and unknowns.

The infield is led by 18th ranked Pirates prospect Stephen Alemais. Alemais is returning to the Power after a short stint with them last year. While he struggled a bit in his first looks with the Power Alemais is another talented infielder in a deep Pirates system. Listed as a shortstop it should be interesting to see if he stays at the position.


The rest of the infield and outfield are very limited in the talent pool. The only other name I recognize on the roster is Trae Arbet. Arbet is a second basemen that hit well for Bristol in 2015, but saw no time last year.  This could be a shape up or ship out kind of deal. http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?sid=t525&player_id=641315#/career/R/hitting/2017/ALL

This roster does seem to be the forgotten child of the organization. With just two top 20 Pirates prospects to start the season, the initial look is skewed to the negative.  Though on the positive side it won’t surprise me if one of these unknowns has a break out year. Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte and Mitch Keller are some of the names in the recent trend of turning unknowns into potential studs starting in West Virginia. Another potential thing would be to see this squad boosted with promotions and draft picks later on in the year. For right now though hold off on watching the Power too closely if you’re looking for big time prospect updates.


Bradenton Marauders 2017

By Steve Samek

Today the 2016 Florida State League champions the Bradenton Marauders begin their title defense. They do so with a loaded roster of prospects.

Starting with third ranked prospect and breakout hit of 2016 Mitch Keller. Keller started last year with West Virginia before a promotion. Keller then went on to pitch in three late season contests for the Marauders, including two in the playoffs. The most memorable of those games being an eight-shutout inning performance in game two of the finals series. Keller was then sent to the AFL to continue his development. I don’t think Keller will be here very long, especially if he dominates. Keller can be read about further in this post. https://hammerdownsportsblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/22/after-strong-season-mitch-keller-is-a-top-three-pirates-prospect/?frame-nonce=ff71ea4687


Gage Hinsz and Taylor Hern are the other big name arms to watch. Hinsz is the 11th ranked prospect in the system, while Hern is the 12th. Hern looks to show why he was traded for in the Mark Melancon deal.

The infield also carries some solid prospects. Ke’Bryan Hayes plays at third and is the fifth best in the Pirates top 30. Hayes was playing well at West Virginia before an injury last year. http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?sid=t3390&player_id=663647#/career/R/hitting/2017/ALL. Number six prospect Cole Tucker comes back to Bradenton after playing in 65 games there last year. http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?sid=t3390&player_id=657061#/career/R/hitting/2017/ALL

Will Craig last year’s first round draft pick also gets a look at high A. Craig is skipping over low a West Virginia Power after a season with the short-season West Virginia Black Bears. This to be a bit of an aggressive call up to me. http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?sid=t3390&player_id=643269#/career/R/hitting/2017/ALL

The catching position doesn’t feature much to watch, not does the outfield. Though it may be worth noting Kevin Krause behind the dish and Casey Hughston in the outfield. Hughston struggled last season with both West Virginia clubs after being a third-round pick in 2015. I didn’t like this pick when it happened and in less he breaks out this season it may be shipping out time for him.  http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?sid=t3390&player_id=641713#/career/R/hitting/2017/ALL

The Marauders have a full lot of players ready to defend the title. Though a lot of it will depend on the pitching. Having a strong defense in the infield will help this staff out a lot. This is the team to watch if you want to get a glimpse of the future Pittsburgh infield. Mitch Keller should also jet up prospect boards and into double a if he looks sharp during the first half of play. Making this squad one to watch for sure.

Altoona Curve Opening Day 2017

By Steve Samek

Our third roster analysis post gives you the Double-A Altoona Curve.

The Pirates forth ranked prospect Kevin Newman heads up this talented team. Newman was a first-round pick in 2015 and has risen up the system quickly.  Expectations that Newman gets to the majors in September aren’t unreasonable, but he needs to build off his strong 2016 across two levels of the minors. http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?sid=t452&player_id=621028#/career/R/hitting/2016/ALL

19th ranked hurler Brandon Waddell is another 2015 draft pick on the fast track. http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?sid=t452&player_id=663399#/career/R/pitching/2016/ALL

Joining Newman in the infield is 20th ranked prospect Kevin Kramer. Kramer is another 2015 draft pick and should form a double play duo with Newman at short and Kramer at second.

The rotation was to be boosted by 27th ranked prospect Tyler Eppler ,though Eppler was assigned to triple a. http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?sid=t452&player_id=621169#/career/R/pitching/2016/ALL.

The outfield is led by 29th ranked Barrett Barnes. The final man in the top 30 for the Bucs is infielder/outfielder Eric Wood. Wood has been underrated as a prospect for ever and could look to make a mark in a role similar to Adam Frazier this season. Wood has been sent to Indianapolis this season, rather than an initial listing with the Curve. Barnes has shown skills, but as a hard time staying healthy.  He is still a valuable prospect, but has a lot to prove to unseat Austin Meadows to earn a spot in Pittsburgh’s starting outfield. http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?sid=t452&player_id=608627#/career/R/hitting/2016/ALL

The Curve have a lot of interesting arms to watch. Angel Sanchez is coming off of Tommy John surgery and could pitch in the majors at some point and will not be pitching in Altoona as initially though. Jared Lakind pitched in the World Baseball classic for Team Israel.  Though the most intriguing arm has to be Montana Durapau. He returns to Altoona after winning the fireman of the year last season. Durapau converted 22 of 26 save chances last season, and is 37 of 42 in three minor league seasons. This kid would be my pick for a future closer ceiling, and arm in the major-league pen at the low end. http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?sid=t452&player_id=657566#/career/R/pitching/2016/ALL

The rest of the lineup seems to be holdovers still in the system and a few other names I haven’t heard of before. Though I should get a person look at them when I attend the April 30th game against Harrisburg. http://www.milb.com/roster/index.jsp?sid=t452. The Curve start the season on April 6. 2017.


Indianapolis Roster 2017 Opining Day

By Steve Samek


The Pittsburgh Pirates have named a 25-man roster for opening day against Boston. As a result of moves by the big club the minor-league affiliates are stocking their rosters. In this series of posts I plan take a look at each affiliates roster to see which is the team to watch in the Pirates system.

First up is the Indianapolis Indians triple A club. The obvious highlight of this club is top prospect Austin Meadows. Meadows hit at a .333 clip this spring including a hit in the final exhibition game of the spring against Toronto. https://www.milb.com/milb/news/pittsburgh-pirates-prospects-austin-meadows-josh-bell-log-base-hits-in-spring-training-finale/c-221858976/t-185364810


While Meadows is ranked number two on the Buc top 30 list he should slide into the top spot as Tyler Glasnow has made the 25-man roster and should lose his prospect status by acquiring enough major league service time. http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2017?list=pit. Meadows is knocking on the door in Pittsburgh as well. He hits at a .300 clip during his time in the minors and as hit triple a at age 21. Plus, with the decline and possible trading of Andrew McCutchen, many have called Meadows the heir apparent in center field flanked by Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte. http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?player_id=640457#/career/R/hitting/2016/ALL


Joining Meadows in the outfield is 29th ranked prospect Jose Osuna. Osuna was one of the last cuts in camp. Osuna also has seen reps at first base.


Behind the dish is 11th ranked prospect Elias Diaz. Diaz is another high upside player getting playing time in triple A, though has seen some time in the majors last season. http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?sid=t484&player_id=553869#/career/R/hitting/2016/ALL


The infield features Max Moroff and Gift Ngoepe. Both got extended looks during the spring and are on the 40-man roster. Chris Bostick is another 40-man roster spot holder joining the tribe this season. https://www.milb.com/indy-indians/news/spring-training-spotlight-gift-Ngoepe/c-221419300/t-196097292

The Indians Pitching staff is an interesting mix. Nick Kingham, number nine of the Bucs top 30 highlights the list. Other top 30 rated pitchers include 10th ranked Steven Brault, 23rd Ranked Clay Holmes, 24th ranked Dovydas Neverauskas, 25th ranked Edgar Santana.,stopped them from making an  A.J. Schugel saw time out of the Pittsburgh bullpen last season and was very efficient, leaving a few to question why he was sent down. http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?sid=t484&player_id=519263#/career/R/pitching/2016/AL


Pat Light and Drew Hutchison are two 40-man roster players to throw in the mix. Hutchison only recently being sent down after losing the battle for the fifth starter position. Hutchinson has seen major league action, but spend most of last season in the minors. Hutchinson also struggled this spring and has yet to show why he was traded for last season. http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?sid=t484&player_id=571800#/career/R/pitching/2016/ALL. The rest seem to be roster filler, but never count them out as the could contribute should the circumstance require it. Though a look at the potential of each pitcher on the staff can be viewed here. https://www.milb.com/indy-indians/news/tribe-pitching-staff-starting-to-take-shape/c-221690076/t-196097292.


Indianapolis should be a good team. A team with a good mix of prospects both top and fringe making them an interesting team to watch. If nothing else the development of Meadows should be on Pirates fans radars. They could win a division and make the playoffs. It’s also interesting to note as of the writing of this post the roster isn’t all filled out yet. Additions may be made prior to opening day on April 6,2017. http://www.milb.com/roster/index.jsp?sid=t484











2017 Pirates Opening Day

By Steve Samek

On Sunday, the Pirates named the 25 names picked to make up the opening day roster. While the main position battle was for the fifth starter a couple surprise names made the list. http://m.mlb.com/pit/roster

Starting behind the plate is Francisco Cervelli. No surprise there, the only way Cervelli is out is because of injury. Hoping he remain healthy and productive this season. Backing him up is Chris Stewart. Stewart also battled an injury, but is ready to go. Though Elias Diaz a top ranked prospect is ready to make a run at the big leagues this season.

The infield features Josh Bell, a top ranked prospect making the club out of spring training at first base. Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, John Jaso and David Freese return after seeing significant playing time last season. Adam Frazier a super utility guy makes the club. Frazier can play both infield and outfield positions and saw some time in the majors last season with some success. http://m.mlb.com/player/624428/adam-frazier

Phil Gosselin joins the Bucs after a trade this off-season. He should provide depth at any infield slot. http://m.mlb.com/player/594838/phil-gosselin

Probably the most interesting choice for a roster spot is Alan Hanson. The former top prospect has been dropping off a bit as of late. The production wasn’t where it was in years prior and attitude problems resulted in a suspension while Hanson was at Double -A. Both of these as well as, the emergence of other talented infielders started to number Hanson’s days. Though Hanson makes the club over Gift Ngoepe, a talented gloveman, that isn’t known for his bat. Hanson should get looks off the bench, but don’t be surprised if he is on a short leash with the team. http://m.mlb.com/player/593700/alen-hanson

The outfield features Gold Glove Winner Starling Marte shifting to centerfield. Gregory Polanco and Andrew McCutchen flank him. The main story line is can McCutchen have a bounce back year and adjust to his new position?

The Pirates rotation is Gerrit Cole, Ivan Nova, Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl and Tyler Glasnow. The latter three are highly rated prospects ready to emerge after seeing time in the majors last season. Nova looks to maintain the success he had after coming over from the Yankees in a trade. Cole needs to show that he can keep progressing toward being an ace.

In the bullpen, Tony Watson takes over as closer. Watson did have his struggles in the position last year, but looks to be the best arm in the pen. Felipe Rivero and Daniel Hudson should contribute strong performances as well. Trevor Williams made the roster too after being a candidate for the fifth starter. Looking for him to be a long reliever type.

The lineup looks pretty solid, though a lot will depend on bounce back years or prospects coming up and performing well. I’ll predict a .500 season and we sit out of the playoffs. http://m.pirates.mlb.com/news/article/221821846/pirates-25-man-roster-predictions-revisited/


Playing for Peanuts

Got to love YouTube. Through this wonderful social media channel I was introduced to the topic of Todays Post.

Introducing the show Playing for Peanuts. The show was a 10-episode mini documentary about the South Coast League of independent baseball. It mostly focused on the entry known as the South Georgia Peanuts. This motley crew was led by former big league player Wally Backman.

The shows 10 episodes focused on the trials of independent league ball. Problems ranging from bad umpires to lack of clubhouses and mediocre pay.  Though a lot of good things happen to the Peanuts. They play exceptional baseball and sit atop of the league standings for all 10 episodes. The roster featured a couple former big league players in Curtis Goodwin, Desi Wilson and Mike Caruso. Sad to say now of the former players made it to the majors, but a few did get picked up by professional teams.

I must admit this show is filled with drama. The league is criticized for poor facilities awful umpiring and poor handling of drug testing. Fans fail to show up for games as the league tries to make its mark on independent baseball.

Backman takes a lot of heat for standing up for his players against the leagues short comings. It gives the show a bit of the scripted feel, but Backman does care for his players. Not to mention he gives a rousing pregame speech in an extra episode. Pg13 on it though lots of cussing. Not to mention it does show just how hard it is to start up a league. Though it was just so comically bad how much this league failed.

Though the Peanuts were good sports the entire time. They had a lot of fun on the field and played pranks and tried to stay out of trouble off the field. It made the show very lite in tone despite some serious issues going on.

I highly recommend checking out this show. It’s fun, but serious at the same time. It really appeals to casual and serious fans.  You can enjoy the good on field play and the silly off the field antics. It also serves as a historical marker as the league only lasted 1 season. Read more about it here. https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/a-look-back-on-the-south-coast-league-where-baseball-went-to-die.

Watch the first episode here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZaAtGTJ4Vgk

By Steve Samek