- The Pirates placed catcher Jacob Stallings into the 7-day concussion protocol, the team announced. Andrew Susac was added to the active roster for today’s action. To make room on the 40-man roster, Keone Kela was moved to the 45-day injured list. Susac had been on the taxi squad. The 30-year-old backstop made appearances in the bigs for five consecutive seasons from 2014 to 2018 with the Giants, Brewers, and Orioles. He spent 2019 with the Royals Triple-A affiliate. Stallings, 30, misses the final day of the season after slashing .248/.326/.376 across 42 games and 143 plate appearances. Stallings was the Pirates’ primary catcher for the first time in his career this season, starting 40 of the team’s 60 games.
SEPT. 25: Cruz’s bail has been set at RD $2MM ($34K U.S.), per Dionisio Soldevila of Periodico Hoy. He’s facing trial and up to five years in prison if convicted.
SEPT. 22, 7:55pm: Cruz was driving under the influence when the accident occurred, Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes reports.
11:55am: Top Pirates prospect Oneil Cruz was involved in a traffic accident in his native Dominican Republic, El Diario Libre reports. Cruz survived, but the crash tragically took the lives of the three others who were involved. Per the report, the three deceased were traveling on the highway on a single motorcycle with no lights in the same direction as Cruz, who was driving his Jeep. The two vehicles collided.
Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports that there is no indication that alcohol was involved in the accident, adding that Cruz himself did not sustain serious physical injury. The Pirates issued the following statement:
The Pirates are aware of the tragic accident in the Dominican Republic involving Oneil Cruz. We have been in contact with Oneil and he is cooperating fully with the local authorities. We will provide an update as more information becomes available.
The loss of three lives and the unimaginable mental and emotional anguish surely felt by the 21-year-old Cruz transcend any baseball-related tint to this story. We at MLBTR offer condolences to the families, friends and loved ones of all involved in the tragic accident.
The Pirates have selected outfielder Jared Oliva’s contract, per Adam Berry of MLB.com. They placed fellow outfielder Jason Martin on the 10-day injured list with an upper back strain and moved reliever Yacksel Rios to the 45-day IL in corresponding moves.
Oliva, who will turn 25 in November, could now get his first chance in the majors. The Pirates chose Oliva in the seventh round of the 2017 draft, and he made his Double-A debut last season. Oliva impressed at that level with a .277/.352/.398 line, six home runs and 38 stole bases across 507 plate appearances. He now ranks among the Pirates’ top 25 prospects at FanGraphs (No. 9), MLB.com (10) and Baseball America (23), with FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen writing last February that Oliva’s “on-base ability and speed might enable him to be a center field regular.”
The bottom-feeding Pirates need as many reasons for hope as possible, so Oliva could provide some reason for optimism as a rough season draws to a conclusion. The club’s outfield ranks 29th in the league in WAR (minus-1.5) and dead last in wRC+ (50), which helps explain why the Pirates own the majors’ worst record at 15-38.
The Pirates announced Monday that for the second time this season, they’ve claimed right-hander Carson Fulmer off waivers. Pittsburgh claimed Fulmer off waivers from the Tigers in late August but lost him to the Orioles in early September before he ever pitched a game in Pittsburgh. Baltimore apparently tried to pass Fulmer through waivers themselves in order to retain him without committing a 40-man roster spot to him, but the Bucs put in a claim to bring him back.
Fulmer, 26, hasn’t lived up to the billing since being selected by the White Sox with the No. 8 overall pick back in 2015. At various points, the former Vanderbilt star was even considered a potential No. 1 overall pick, but he’s struggled in the upper minors with the ChiSox and been hit hard at virtually every point in his up-and-down Major League career.
To this point, Fulmer owns a woeful 6.34 ERA with 8.1 K/9 and 5.9 BB/9 in 105 Major League innings. But there’s plenty of pedigree here, and he still possesses high-end spin rates on his heater and curveball. His time in the Orioles organization was brief but also encouraging, as Fulmer tossed 3 2/3 scoreless innings with four strikeouts and without a hit. He did walk two batters and plunk another one, however, so his longstanding control issues are still making themselves plainly evident.
Fulmer is out of minor league options, so the Pirates will have to carry him on the Opening Day roster next year or else attempt yet again to pass him through waivers in order to keep him around. He hasn’t even come close to going unclaimed at this point, so that might be unlikely. The Tigers had the top waiver priority when they claimed him from the White Sox on Opening Day, and the Pirates had the top claim priority when they plucked him from Detroit the first time around. Ten teams passed before the Orioles won their claim on him earlier this month, and the Pirates again claimed him with top priority this time around.
The Pittsburgh Pirates announced a trio of trades today. The first deal completes their August deal for Austin Davis, which the Phillies announced earlier today. The Pirates sent right-hander Joel Cesar to Philadelphia to complete that transaction. Davis, 27, has 3 scoreless appearances since joining the Buccos.
The other two trades helped build the Pirates’ 2019-2020 international pool money. The Pirates sent left-hander Domingo Robles to the St. Louis Cardinals and right-hander Connor Loeprich to the Baltimore Orioles in separate trades for international pool money.
Robles, 22, signed with the Pirates on the first day of the international signing period in 2014. Across 5 seasons in the Pittsburgh system, Robles owns a 27-36 record with a 3.76 ERA and 6.4 K/9 to 2.1 BB/9. The Dominican southpaw made it as high as Double-A as a 21-year-old in 2019, going 4-6 with a 4.02 ERA across 103 innings. He was not among the Pirates top 42 prospects listed by Fangraphs at the start of 2020, nor the top 30 listed by Baseball America.
Loeprich turned 23-years-old this month, and he’ll now report to a new team in the Baltimore. Loeprich made it to High-A in 2019, though he spent the greater part of the year with Single-A Greensboro. In two seasons since being drafted out of St. Mary’s College of California, the 6’3″ right-hander sports a 3.68 ERA over 124 2/3 innings with 9.1 K/9 to 2.8 BB/9. Loeprich has largely worked out of the bullpen with only 8 starts out of 55 total minor-league appearances.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have placed infielder Kevin Newman on the 10-day injured list after being hit by a pitch in last night’s ballgame. Jason Martin has been recalled to take his roster spot, the team announced.
Unfortunately, any injury at this point of the season is likely to be a season-ender. Newman suffered a contusion to the peroneal nerve of his left knee, per the team. The 27-year-old has split his time between both middle infield spots while struggling to make much progress at the dish. The righty owns a .224/.281/.276 triple slash across 172 plate appearances. Registering just a 54 wRC+ certainly classifies as a disappointment after hitting the 110 wRC+ mark last season while slashing .308/.353/.446 with 12 home runs. Newman is making hard contact a little more often than last season, though barrelling just one ball on the year. A year-over-year drop in batting average on balls in play from .333 to .250 certainly makes a difference, as does a diminished power output (ISO down from .138 to .051).
Martin won’t take over directly for Newman, but he could see time in left field as Adam Frazier moves into the infield. Jose Osuna and JT Riddle could also come off the bench to take more regular at-bats.
The 25-year-old Martin is 0 for 9 with a pair of walks over a few starts in centerfield this season. Martin came to the Pirates as part of the return for Gerrit Cole back in 2018, but he has yet to carve out a regular spot in the Pirates’ outfield rotation. He spent all of 2019 in Triple-A, but a .259/.312/.419 line wasn’t enough to secure regular playing time in a shortened 2020 season.
Cesar was a member of the Pirates’ 2015-16 international signing class, and the righty has posted some solid results over four seasons on the farm. Cesar has a 3.18 ERA, 2.06 K/BB rate, and 8.7 K/9 over 138 2/3 innings, working as a reliever in 87 of his 90 career games.
The 24-year-old has yet to pitch beyond the Double-A level, though a Triple-A assignment would have been likely had there been a 2020 minor league season. Cesar wasn’t included in Pittsburgh’s 60-man player pool, though he’ll now join Philadelphia’s 60-man mix and report to the Phils’ alternate training site.
- Pirates righty Jameson Taillon chatted with reporters about the rehab of his second career Tommy John surgery and offered an optimistic outlook (link via MLB.com’s Adam Berry). Taillon is facing live hitters and said his elbow feels “amazing” at this point in the process. He’s worked with senior rehab coordinator A.J. Patrick, pitching coach Oscar Marin and bullpen coach Justin Meccage on what he believes to be a more mechanically sound delivery, Berry notes. Taillon acknowledged that changing the way he’s thrown since childhood is “tricky… But I came to the realization that two Tommy Johns kind of lets you know that what you’re doing isn’t working.” He also added that he’s seen his spin rate and spin efficiency increase — a reminder that pitchers are more data-focused than ever before in today’s game.
- The Pirates placed righty Kyle Crick on the 10-day injured list with a lat strain, manager Derek Shelton announced to reporters yesterday (Twitter link via Mike Persak of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). The 27-year-old missed more than a month due to shoulder and lat discomfort earlier this season as well. Crick has pitched just 5 2/3 innings in 2020, and while he’s only surrendered one earned run with seven strikeouts, he’s given up another five unearned runs on seven hits and four walks. Crick hasn’t looked right in 2020, as he’s averaged just 91.3 mph on his four-seamer — a pitch that averaged 95.4 mph in 2019 and 96.4 mph in 2018. Crick was lights-out in 2018, but he’s struggled with control issues and now a velocity dip since that time. He still carries a 3.44 ERA and 4.32 FIP with 10.4 K/9 in 115 frames since coming over from the Giants in the Andrew McCutchen deal, but there are some visible red flags at the moment. Crick is controlled through 2023 and will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter.
The Pirates are set to activate right-hander Mitch Keller from the injured list in advance of tomorrow’s doubleheader against the Reds, manager Derek Shelton told reporters (including Adam Berry of MLB.com). He’ll get the start for one of those games.
The 14-29 Pirates have long been buried in the National League’s postseason field. Nevertheless, it’ll be nice to get a handful of starts from Keller down the stretch, as the 24-year-old is a critical part of the organization’s future. The former top prospect only has a 6.63 ERA in his first 55.2 MLB innings, but his 3.77 FIP hints at the mid-rotation upside for which he’s long been lauded.
While Keller entered 2020 looking like a potential breakout candidate, he’s been limited to just two starts by left side discomfort. Out since August 2, he’s now seemingly in line for three more starts to stake a claim to a spot in Pittsburgh’s 2021 rotation. There should be ample opportunity for Keller to pitch himself back into that mix. Joe Musgrove profiles as one of the league’s more likely trade candidates this offseason, while Chris Archer is a good bet to be cut loose on the heels of thoracic outlet surgery. Trevor Williams has struggled, while Chad Kuhl’s solid 3.38 ERA comes with much shakier peripherals.
- The Pirates have signed Venezuelan right-hander Eduardo Zapata, John Dreker of Pirates Prospects reports (Twitter links). Details on Zapata’s bonus aren’t known, though Dreker says the signing was made possible due to Pittsburgh’s acquisition of $243.3K in international pool money from the White Sox in last month’s trade that sent Jarrod Dyson to Chicago.