Pittsburgh Pirates Wake Up Call: Eppler shining early for Pirates

In our daily Wake-Up Call, we get you ready for the day with a complete look at all things Pittsburgh Pirates.

On Jan. 22, former sixth round draft pick Tyler Eppler received an invitation to spring training as a non-roster invitee with the Pirates.

Over a month has gone by since that date, and Eppler, who started the Pirates’ spring training opener against the Tampa Bay Rays on Feb. 23, has put up some impressive numbers.

The 25-year-old 2014 draft selection has appeared in three games this spring, pitching five innings and striking out five. He hasn’t allowed a walk or a run and has given up just one hit.

Eppler doesn’t have the most impressive minor league statistics. He sports an ERA just under 4.00 in 83 career minor league appearances and will undoubtedly start the season in the minors, likely at Triple-A Indianapolis where he went 8-9 with a 4.89 ERA in 27 appearances last season.

However, in the early going of spring training, he has been a clear bright spot. He is among the plethora of young pitchers the Pirates have in their minor league system, joining guys like Mitch Keller, Nick Kingham and Shane Baz to name a few. Not to mention the young major leaguers the Pirates have in their rotation and bullpen including Jameson Taillon, Trevor Williams, Chad Kuhl, Tyler Glasnow and Steven Brault.

Despite the fact that he won’t be in Pittsburgh to start the season, Eppler could have a chance to be seen in a major league uniform in the future. And if his small spring training sample size is any indication of what he can bring to the table, he could eventually serve as a quality asset to the big league club.

Polanco with a lot to prove

It’s no secret that there is more than just a little bit of pressure on Gregory Polanco heading into 2018. After an injury plagued season in which he hit .251 with 11 home runs in 108 games, Polanco will be expected – as he is every year – to be a key contributor in the Pirates offense. But his presence will be even more crucial with the offseason trade of Andrew McCutchen.

Aside from being counted upon to make an impact defensively, Polanco will need to contribute at a higher level while likely hitting in the heart of the Pirates batting order.

This is the year that we see what Polanco is made of. Maybe he’ll return to 2016 form when he hit 22 home runs and drove in 86 runs. Or maybe he’ll continue to struggle with injuries and thus suffer at the plate and in the field. Only time will tell which Polanco we will see in 2018, but my guess is the one we see this year is the one we can expect in the foreseeable future.

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Jose Negron

Jose Negron is a 22 year old journalist from the North Huntingdon area. A recent graduate of California University of Pennsylvania, Jose has written for Rumbunter and Pirates Breakdown for the past year. He is the former Editor in Chief and Sports Editor of Cal U's campus newspaper, the Cal Times. He also covers high school sports for the Mon Valley Independent and serves as a contributor for Pittsburgh Sporting News, covering the Pirates. During the summer of 2015, he also interned with TribLive Radio, writing for their online blog, helping in the production of various radio shows and even appearing on the air.