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Watching two top draft picks in Bristol

I got to Bristol to see the Pirates Appalachian League affiliate play on Friday and Saturday against Greeneville. As luck would have it, the starters were the Bucs’ second and first round draft picks from 2017, Steven Jennings and Shane Baz (pictured). Bristol lost the Friday game, 13-9, in 11 innings due to a major bullpen meltdown. They won the Saturday game, 3-0. These are just a few notes from the two games.

Jennings breezed through the first three innings, but started getting hit hard the second time through the order. (It’s conceivable the Greeneville hitters weren’t entirely focused early in the game, as they witnessed a fatal, three-car accident about an hour before the game. Some of the players tried to assist at the scene and were apparently shaken up afterward.) Jennings’ fastball looked good (I couldn’t get any gun readings), but if he had a useful secondary pitch I didn’t see it.

Steven Jennings

He repeatedly bounced his breaking ball in front of the plate, sometimes far in front, and wasn’t able to use it effectively. Like most Pirate pitchers, he consistently tried to locate his fastball at the knees and was fairly good at doing it, but eventually the hitters seemed to catch on. Ultimately, Jennings gave up five runs on eight hits in six innings.

Baz was far more effective, throwing five shutout innings in probably his best game as a pro. The control problems that have plagued him at times this year weren’t much in evidence, as he walked only one. He’d occasionally have a couple pitches get away from him, but always recovered quickly. Baz showed a plus fastball, getting quite a few swings and misses with that and with his breaking ball. At least two of his six strikeouts came on changeups.

On offense, Bristol has had one major skill this year: they draw walks. They easily lead the league, which is why they have an average OBP despite a team batting average that’s 14 points below the league average. In these two games they drew 15, two of them with the bases loaded. (Bristol also had a bases-loaded hit-batsman.)

None of the hitters especially stood out, except maybe Chase Lambert, who made the most hard contact. He had five hits between the two games. Catcher Zac Susi, who was moved down recently from Morgantown, had four.

Chase Lambert (throw by Zac Susi) gets the would-be thief

Jonah Davis, who’s physically very similar to Jason Martin, went 2-for-10 in the two games. He also had a drive that was caught at the fence in straightaway center.

Jonah Davis

Mason Martin had a tough time making contact, although he’s not afraid to take pitches. He went hitless in seven at-bats, with six strikeouts and four walks. He swung through a very large number of pitches, rarely even managing a foul tip. It wasn’t that he was chasing sliders in the dirt, either, as most of the pitches he swung through were in the strike zone or at least close.

Mason Martin

Sherten Apostel unfortunately didn’t play, as he was nursing a sore forearm following a hit batsman. He returned to action today. Dean Lockery also was dinged up and didn’t play, and also is back today.

Dean Lockery and Sherten Apostel on their day off
Yes, they shift in the minors, too