Big Night in the Minors: 4/18

Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

Last night was quite the night for the Pirates minor league affiliates.  There were some high scoring games, good pitching performances, a rehabbing player, and of course a couple top prospects making some noise.

Triple A Indy:

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The headline of this game was the rehabbing player.  The Piratess 2015 breakout player, Jung-Ho Kang, officially started his way back to the show.  Many questioned all off-season when Kang would make his return.  He was placed on the 15 day DL to start the season.  It is beginning to look like the Colorado series at the beginning of next week could be that date.  Kang, in his first official game of 2015, went 0-3 with 2 strikeouts and a walk.  Nothing to get you overly excited, but you should be excited enough just to see his name back in a lineup card.  He will be back up in black and gold very soon and it will be fantastic to add him to an already deep bench.

Next on the list is Jared Hughes.  Hughes is expected to start his rehab this week and many thought he would see game action yesterday.  He did not, however, but expect to see him soon.

The last player to talk about is of course Jameson Taillon.  The big right-hander made his second start since coming off Tommy-John and a sports hernia (since 2013).  In his first start he was quite good, pitching 6 innings giving up 1 run and fanning 6.  This time out he was not quite as good, but he was not bad by any means.  Taillon only got through 4.2 innings while giving up 2 earned runs and striking out 4.  The Pirates wanted Taillon to throw 90 pitches tonight and get as far he could.  He was able to get through 4.2 innings on 89 pitches. Typically you may see teams let their pitchers try to get the last out, but with Taillon’s injuries the last 2 years, they will be more strict with him.  The biggest thing to take away from Taillon’s two starts is he has yet to issue a walk.  As long as Taillon keeps throwing effectively and getting his pitch count to a good spot, then you should be encouraged.

Double-A Altoona:

Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports /

The Altoona Curve won their game tonight 12-5.  The biggest note from this part of the organization comes from behind the plate.  Reese McGuire hit his first home run of the season, a 3 run home run in the 2nd inning.  McGuire is off to a really good start this year.  So far he is batting .308 with an OBP of .455 and a slugging percentage of .462 (.917 OPS).  This is a great start for McGuire, and one I was hoping for.  This off-season I wrote about how McGuire needed to turn a corner this year and show a little more offense, particularly some pop.  So far he has done that, as his .462 slugging percentage suggests.  His numbers this year are all higher than his career line which is .272/.324/.331/.655.  One thing I did note is that McGuire is still very young, and that his power could start to develop this year as he matured (turned 21 in March).  Will he continue to own a .900+ OPS? Probably not, but if he can show significant improvement over his career line, then we will see why the Pirates used the 14th overall pick in 2012 on him.         

Single-A Bradenton

The Marauders also won tonight by a score of 4-2.  The two notes from this game are from the pitcher’s mound.  Last Friday my “Future Friday” article was about Pirates left-handed pitching prospect Brandon Waddell, tonight Waddell picked up another win.  Waddell threw 5 innings while giving up his first 2 runs of the season.  The lefty also racked up 6 strikeouts while walking only 1 during the 5 inning performance.  This was Waddell’s 3rd start on the year and he continues to impress.

The second note goes to a former top prospect of the Pirates, who picked up the save in the game. The Pirates are using right-handed pitcher Luis Heredia out of the bullpen this year.  Why I am happy to see this, is because I mentioned this as a possibility on my old website and to my writers numerous times last year.  Heredia has always lacked two things: command and being in shape.  I argued that moving him to the bullpen at such a young age could allow himself to “refind” himself as a pitcher.  Still just 21 years of age, he could recreate himself as a pitcher by pitching in a different scenario.  If he knows he is only going to pitch an inning or two, he may feel more confident to pound the strike zone with his plus stuff and not worry about nibbling as much for longevity.  Heredia has a fastball that can reach the mid-90’s, but while starting he was sitting around 90 mph, and he was not in shape enough for his stuff to carry deeper into games.  Allowing him to throw less innings, he can now come out and give his best stuff without having to worry about how his body might react 4 innings later.  So far it has worked, Heredia has thrown 6.2 innings and has struck out 5.  He has also shown better command with only walking one batter thus far.  This could be due to the reason I mentioned above. He very well could be trusting his arm and stuff more by going right at batters because he knows that he will only be throwing for an inning or so.  I will not say that Heredia will never be used as a starter again.  If the Pirates feel that Heredia has overcome previous issues and want to give him one more shot at becoming a starter, they very well may give him another chance.  However, even if he does not turn into a starter, but rather an effective reliever, I will take that.  At this point if he can turn his career into anything, I will be happy as at this time last year it looked like he was done.

Low-A West Virginia

The Power won 8-7 in 16 innings last night.  Obviously there was a lot of at-bats to go around. Leading the group is none other than 3b Ke’Bryan Hayes.  Hayes is off to an unbelievable start this year batting .415/.467/.610/.1076 ( BA/OBP/SLUG/OPS).   Tonight he went 4-6 with his first professional home run, 5 RBIs, and he drew 2 walks.  Hayes seems to be blistering everything. Even when he has had down games by going 1-4 or 0-3, he seems to bounce back with an even bigger game like tonight.  I know the Pirates like their prospects to get a certain amount of at-bats at each level, but Hayes is already proving why many scouts consider him the fastest rising prospect leading into the draft last year.  

The other player who had a nice game is outfielder Tito Polo.  Polo went 3 for 9 tonight which equates out to be a .333 batting average, which gets you into all-star games.  This keeps his average sitting at .348 on the year as Polo continues to show improvements at the Low-A level where he struggled last season.

It was quite the night in the Minors and was fun to write about all of the happening.  Hope you enjoyed reading about it.  Leave a comment!

Here is the article on Waddell if you missed it:

Related Story: Future Friday: Waddell