June 6, 2015
by Bill West
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Because of the concerning recent performances from Jeff Locke and Antonio Bastardo, the topic of left-handed pitchers touches a nerve with the Pirates’ faithful.
Judging by their minor league acquisitions this season, members of the Pirates’ front office are among those who are actively seek a southpaw or two to boost Pittsburgh’s bullpen or starting rotation in the somewhat distant future.
There’s still too little data available to make much of the young new lefties in the system, but here are some small-sample updates.
Stephen Tarpley, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound 22 year old, was the prized piece of the Pirates’ trade that sent outfielder Travis Snider to the Baltimore Orioles in late January. Shoulder fatigue caused Tarpley, a third-round pick by Baltimore in 2013, to miss the beginning of the regular season, but in three starts (15 innings pitched) with Single-A West Virginia Power, he had a 1.20 ERA with a 9.0 K per 9 innings rate, a 2.4 BB/9 rate, and a 1.27 WHIP.
Steven Brault, 23, also came to the Pirates via the Snider trade — he was the player to be named later. The 6-foot-1, 175-pounder had a 3.27 ERA in 55 innings spanned over 11 starts with High-A Bradenton. His 6.1 K/9 rate is below his career average of 7.3. And Brault’s 2.5 BB/9 rate is his highest mark since his 2013, when he pitched for Baltimore’s Low-A affiliate as a rookie.
Bradenton’s rotation also features 22-year-old Jayson Aquino, who joined the Pirates’ system after being acquired for cash considerations from Toronto in May. Aquino had a 3.72 ERA in 29 innings pitched during five starts. He also had a 5.6 K/9 rate and a 2.5 BB/9; both marks are close to his career averages.
Obviously none of these three will join the Pirates anytime soon — Indianapolis’ Clayton Richard (2.08 ERA in 30 1/3 innings pitched) or Altoona’s Zack Dodson (2.63 ERA in 54 2/3 innings pitched) are the buzz-worthy lefty starters in the minors, and Indianapolis reliever Bobby LaFromboise already has spent time with the Pirates this season. But the lefty newcomers avoided damaging their individual credibility during their first few outings.
Perhaps no organization welcomes the chance to move a runner over with a sacrifice bunt more than the Pirates.
From top to bottom, the Pirates and their affiliates give up an out to get someone into scoring position far more often than their opponents, according to baseball-reference.com data.
Leading the way is Single-A West Virginia, which leads all MLB and MiLB teams with 40 sacrifice bunts.
With 31, Indianapolis leads the International League and is tied with the Albuquerque Isotopes for the most in Triple-A.
With 23, Bradenton has the most in the Florida State League and second most in High-A.
And with 25, Altoona has the second most in the Double-A Eastern League.
Sanchez’s DH duty
The abundance of catching talent on Indianapolis’ roster has necessitated a 50-50 split in playing time between Tony Sanchez and Elias Diaz, as a story in Sunday’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review will detail.
One aspect of the story that didn’t make the print edition was Sanchez’s thoughts on serving as a designated hitter; he and Diaz bat at DH to stay in the lineup during series with American League teams.
It’d suffice to say that Sanchez doesn’t see the DH role, or really any offense-first position, as a new avenue to the major leagues
“I give a lot more credit to Big Papi and DHs in the American League, because it’s not an easy position to play,” Sanchez said. “All you’re doing is worrying about your at-bats and getting hits. That’s the only way you can contribute to a team. And being a catcher, there are multiple ways you can contribute to winning a game. So it’s something I had to get used to. I had to come up with my own routine for what I’d do between at-bats when I am DHing. So it’s a learning process, but keeping my bat in the lineup is the only thing that matters.”