September 10, 1979: An Off-Day and Look at the Pirates’ Upper Minors Affiliates

The Pirates and Expos were both off today.  The Bucs remain a game ahead in the NL East, although Montreal has two fewer losses.  Houston leads Cincinnati by half a game in the West.

The Pirates will be returning home for a three-game series against St. Louis.  The starters in the first two games will be John Denny (7-10, 4.90 ERA) and Bob Forsch (9-10, 4.01) for the Cards, and Don Robinson (7-6, 4.14) and John Candelaria (13-8, 3.26) for the Pirates.  The starters for the third game are TBD.

We took a look at the lower levels of the Pirates’ farm system the other day.  The upper levels have a bit more interest.

Buffalo Bisons

The Pirates’ AA affiliate played in a home run haven this year.  They crushed 198 homers, 96 more than any other Eastern League team.  Leading the way was 22-year-old outfielder Rick Lancelotti, who bashed 41 longballs, along with a 287/358/585 line and 107 RBIs.  The Bisons also got 27 home runs from outfielder Luis Salazar and 25 from first baseman Charles Valley.

The team’s top prospect, though, was catcher Tony Pena, who’s also 22.  He may not show quite so much power going forward, but Pena hammered 34 dingerz and drove in 97 while batting 313/352/557.  He also showed off a good enough arm to rack up 120 assists, 34 more than any other catcher in the league.

Among the pitchers, Fred Breining had a strong first half, which helped the Pirates acquire Bill Madlock from the Giants.  Lefty Dave Dravecky went 6-7, 4.26 in his second pro season after being drafted in the 21st round out of Youngstown State.

Portland Beavers

The Pirates’ AAA affiliate had a couple of players who split their time between Portland and Pittsburgh.  Infielder Dale Berra (324/387/490) and right-hander Joe Coleman (5-1-3, 2.78) performed well in AAA, as you’d expect from veterans.

Among the position players who didn’t get September callups, the best prospect was Vance Law.  The 22-year-old, who’s the son of former Bucs’ ace Vern Law, split his time between short and third, and batted 310/377/395.

Several of the pitchers could have a future in the majors.  Pascual Perez, a 22-year-old from the Dominican, went 9-7, 5.50.  Rod Scurry, a hard-throwing lefty who could end up as a reliever, went 5-5, 4.13, with a good strikeout total but a lot of walks.  Another reliever, Al Holland, also went to San Francisco in the Madlock deal.