September 4, 1979: An Off-Day and a Look at the Pirates’ Farm System

The Pirates had an off-day today.  Montreal meanwhile won its eighth straight game, pulling to within two games of the first-place Bucs.  The Expos are one game up in the loss column.

The Pirates open a two-game set tomorrow in St. Louis.  Don Robinson (7-6, 4.12 ERA) and Jim Bibby (10-3, 2.69) will face John Denny (7-10, 4.86) and Silvio Martinez (12-7, 3.45).

The minor league season is over now.  The Pirates’ have had an incredibly productive farm system for many years now, but it may be slipping a bit.  They operate five affiliates and these were the more interesting players with the three lower level teams this year.  We’ll look at the top two affiliates later.

GCL Pirates

The Pirates’ rookie level team had two interesting pitchers.  First-round draft pick Mike Bielecki made his pro debut, going 1-4 with a 2.29 ERA.  Third-round pick Jose DeLeon made his own debut.  He didn’t put up good numbers, going 2-4, 6.41, with some control problems, but he showed a good arm.

Shelby Pirates

Shelby was the Pirates’ entry in the low A Western Carolinas League.  The team’s big offensive force was 20-year-old first baseman Eddie Vargas, who signed out of Puerto Rico.  Vargas hit 282/329/568, with 31 home runs.  Another hitter who could conceivably reach the bigs is Doug Frobel, who signed out of Canada before the 1978 season.  Frobel, who plays both infield corners and the outfield, split his season between Shelby and Auburn, a co-op team in the New York-Penn League.  He hit 288/361/458 in 35 games at Auburn and 185/223/277 in 48 games at Shelby.

Salem Pirates

Salem’s best prospect was 19-year-old catcher Junior Ortiz.  He was in his third pro season after signing out of Puerto Rico.  Ortiz batted 283/326/384 with five home runs.  On the pitching staff, 22-year-old Steve Farr went 3-10, 4.99 while pitching in a swing role.