Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Pittsburgh Pirates Off Season Primer: Second Base

Moving on through the Pirates off season primer we will check out Second base.  The Pirates had eight players play second base in 2017. I'm only going to mention those with 100+ innings, still with the team and Sean Rodriguez. (stats from fangraphs.com)

The List

Josh Harrison 83 games, 2.6 WAR, 3.6 DEF, $7.75M
Adam Frasier 42 games, 1.1 WAR, -4.9 DEF, $0.5M
Max Moroff 28 games, 0.5 WAR, 5.5 DEF, $0.5M
Gift Ngoepe 20 games, 0.0 WAR, 0.3 DEF, $0.5M
Sean Rodriguez 8 games, -0.5 WAR, -1.2 DEF, $5.75M

Brief overview

Josh Harison is generally a fine second basemen.  for 2017 he ranked around the middle of the pack among qualified MLB second basemen.  J-Hay every day happens today.  Harrison played 128 games but only 83 from his primary position of second.  As long as his health checks out she should be starting somewhere out of spring.

Adam Frasier.  Man he can hit.  In his first full season playing a total of 121 games and over 450 plate appearances he did a very fine job at the plate.  Look for big things from him. His problem is he isn't the greatest fielder.  Probably better suited to a utility or coner outfield that can play infield in a pinch.

Max Moroff is a defensive wizard the only thing that has held him back is his work with the bat.  In 2015 he had a 'break out' year in the minors slashing .292/.374/.349 and followed up the next season with a .367 OBP in AAA that earned him a quick look in 2016, in 2017 he continued getting on base at an astounding rate of .390 which eventually got him back in the show.  He only slashed .200/.302/.325 in 140 PAs but he also had 3 HRs a triple and 21 RBIs.  Not great buy any stretch but worth watching.  His value isn't his bat however.  If he can get close to league average with his bat he would have a starting job somewhere.

Gift Ngoepe, If Moroff is a defensive wizard, Ngoepe is the grand wizard.  He is another that has been held back by his bat.  He is a great story as well.  Hopefully he can get it going at the plate and make some sort of impact.

Sean Rodriguez,  brought back in a late trade that probably cost a little too much.  He is a great guy to have around especially with the questions about Kang.  He has played every postion in his career except catcher and pitcher and done so fairly well.  Last season in Pittsburgh he hit great over 342 PAs and 140 games but after his accident hasn't gotten completly back to form.  Expect him to be better next season where ever he ends up on the field.

My opinion

Josh is the starting second basemen with the current roster.  That can easily change however depending on what happens at third or if another second basemen is picked up. Max and Gift are more defensive/depth options right now until their bats produce. Adam's fielding just isn't good enough to put him there for the long term most likely working with Sean as a Utility player filling in where and when needed.

The offseason/draft

Everything depends on Kang.  The team will be looking for a third base option or possibly a second base option and move Harrison to third.  Neil Walker is now a free agent.  He will probably demand too much money after being paid $17M last season and he is probably looking for a four to six year deal.  Probably not the best option considering Newman, Kramer and Tucker should all be ready the next couple years.  But if if he takes a discount on fewer years, a no trade and more option years.. why not? PR would be great and I think few fans would mind bringing him home.  It wont' happen but it is fun to think about.  Outside of that there really is not much in the way of second base free agents that would be equal or better than Josh Harrison.

The upcoming draft should not include a middle infielder the the first few rounds unless it is a steal of a pick.  Always take the top talent available but it shouldn't be a focus right now.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Pittsburgh Pirates Off Season Primer: First Base

To continue where I left off we go on to first base.  The Pirates had six players act as first basemen this season, I'm going to leave out those with less than five innings.

The List

Josh Bell 147 games, 0.8 WAR, -11.9 DEF, $0.5M
Jose Osuna 23 games, -0.5 WAR, -1.4 DEF, $0.5M
John Jaso 29 games, 0.3 WAR, 0.4 DEF, $4M
David Freese 3 games, N/A (at first), -0.6 DEF, $6.25M

Brief overview

Josh Bell is starting to live up to the hype.  On the season went .255/.334/.466 tied the Pirate rookie record for home runs and greatly improved his defense at first.  Baring something crazy he's the teams first baseman for years to come.  He still needs improvement at first and will need to watch that AVG/OBP but he was still seeing quite a few pitches so his eye is still pretty good.

Jose Osuna has some power, still needs some work both offensively and defensivly.  Played mostly corner outfield and first during the season and did so reasonably well.

John Jaso didn't have much luck this season. He came out of his slump for a short time but fell hard again.  Jaso did a great job learning first base last year but it might be the end of the road for him as he is contiplating retirement.

David Freese didnt' have to play first much this season, thankfully everyone else stayed pretty healthy.

My opinion

With out a doubt, Bell is the first basemen next season.  With both Freese and S-Rod back on the team Osuna might end up back in AAA until needed or he forces the issue.  This is especially true if Kang returns.  No changes 'need' to be made at this position.  If anything they could attempt to trade Freese if Kang is returning and call Osuna back, but really not nessiscary, David is a quality bench piece who is capable of being an everyday starter if needed and is reasonably cheap.

The offseason/draft

No changes need to be made, What is even better is that Freese is making $2M less next season and with Jaso's contract expiring the team is saving $6M with out even making a change.  Doubt Neal's personel selections all you want but the man is thrifty and knows how to save money.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Pittsburgh Pirates Off Season Primer: Catcher

In what will hopefully be a series of posts I intend to go over the eight positions to help determine what the best course is for the future of the team. 

The List

Francisco Cervelli 78 Games as Catcher. 0.8 WAR 3.5 DEF $9M
Elias Diaz 53 Games as Catcher. -0.1 WAR, 5.3 DEF, $0.5M
Chris Stewart 48 Games as Catcher. -0.7 WAR, 3.0 DEF, $1.4M
Jacob Stallings 4 Games as Catcher. -.1 WAR, 0.2 DEF, $0.5M

Brief overview of each

After a pretty fine season at catcher in 2015 where Cervelli stayed pretty healthy and hit for average, got on base and was a pretty good defender the Pirates rewarded him with a three year extension worth $31M through 2019.  In 2016 he only played 101 games and in 2017 he was shut down due to injury and only managed 81 games, with a handful of those only being for pinch hitting.  Along with the reduced time his bat has falling off along with his defense.  Neither extremely poor but certainly not what you would expect from someone making 9M this season.  Average at best is how I would describe his performance the past two season.

Elias Diaz has become a nice addition to the roster.  His bat hasn't gotten there yet but his value is for his defense.  Once his bat comes around to above the Mandoza line he is at worst a solid back up.  Should he start hitting closer to league average (.255/.325/.427) then he should be a fair starter on a team that doesn't have a catcher like Posey or Molina.  He is smart, has a rocket of an arm that is accurate and seems to work with many of our young pitchers well.

Chris Stewart has been around with 6 different teams in 11 years.  Picked up to back up Russell Martin and then Cervelli he has done a generally fine job.  The past couple seasons have seen his bat drop off but as a back up he has done well and seems to handle both pitchers and umpires fairly well.  Chris is signed through 2018 team option that probably should be picked up at $1.5M even if he is traded shortly after.

Jacob Stallings is the Pirates depth piece only seeing a handful of games since his debut in 2016.  pretty fair defensively and was raking it at the plate in AAA Indianapolis in 2017.

My opinion

It is my opinion that Cervelli should be traded.  His value is pretty low right now with injury and poor performance but if the team can get a couple mid grade prospects for him they should do so.  Now professional teams usually keep insurance on players so if they get injured they get reimbursed for some of the players pay... that isn't too much of a concern, but if the team wants to move forward and appear to compete they need a steady team out their daily.  Cervelli has had the opportunity to play 486 games as a pirate (three full seasons) but has missed 174 of them, including rest days.

Elias should take over the starting catching duties permanently if not free agents are picked up ( i'll get to that in a minute).  We haven't gotten much in the way of hitting from the catching position the past couple seasons so this really isn't a loss on the offense, however Elias is superior at defense and is far cheaper.  All the team will loose is Cervelli's OBP which was still pretty good and the childish look on his face after taking a "bump" that all catchers deal with.

If the team does as I suggest and Cervelli is off loaded in the off season, Stewart is very necessary to the team.  If Cervelli is kept and the Team is fairly comfortable with his health then his option picked up and traded after spring.  Stewart doesn't have a lot of value but a team hit with an injury bug could be willing to part with a mid range pen arm or fringe prospect(s) for a more than capable backup catcher.

Stallings is more of a career Minors player that provides depth.  Should he leave the organization it wouldn't be the worst thing, however if possible he should be kept to see if that bat he showed in AAA during the 2017 season is for real.

The offseason / draft

There is really only one catcher of note that is a free agent after 2017 and that is Jonathan Lucroy.  As a Pirate fan I loved to hate this guy and the only reason was is that he was a Brewer.  Well since he went to Texas and now Walker plays for the Brewers I don't mind him so much.  Since going to the AL he has tanked and hard.  Now Back in the NL at Colorado he has done much better.  I think it is safe to say he is looking for an NL team next season unless he is looking for a place he can DL to save his legs.  However even with Lucroy's down performance in the AL, he will still cost too much.  I would speculate he gets 2y/40m with a vesting option or maybe 3y/55m but only from an NL team.  I wouldn't bet on the Pirates being that team, but if they are able to trade Cervelli and sign Lucroy to a 2y/30-40m deal it would be a huge win for the organization. (both are unlikely)

Any significant trade (Polanco, Cutch, Cole, Harrison, Freese, Cervelli, etc) A catcher should be coming back to the team.  Even a fringe prospect.  Of course Pitching is priority but after Elias the Pirates have few options in the minors.

In the '18 Draft the Pirates should be looking for catcher first and take the best available catcher in the first or second round. I'm not sure

The To Long; Didn't Read (TL;DR) version, trade Cervelli if you can.  If Cervelli is gone make a huge push for Lucroy but if it doesn't happen use Elias as starter and it would still probably be an overall upgrade at catcher. Stewart backing up and Stallings for depth.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Pirates off season opinion...

So far the Pirates off season has been eventfully uneventful.  They picked up what appears to be a quality Rule 5 arm in Tyler Webb that should be easily hidden on the 25 man roster if not a significant piece of the bull pen.

They also made some minor league contacts with spring invites that could prove to be decent depth options should the year take its toll.

Two losses so far include Sean Rodriguez to the Braves and Matt Joyce to the A's  The Pirates made attempts to keep S-Rod and it would've been nice but Matt Joyce got a great deal from the A's and the Pirates probably didn't even attempt to get close to that.

Ivan Nova is still out there and the Pirates are making an attempt to bring him back but given the thin starter market Nova's cost is likely to inflated to make it a real option.  Do not expect to see him in the black and gold in spring.

What is probably the most important news, the team tried to trade Andrew McCutchen.  After looking at other deals this off season it is pretty obvious to me that the attempt to trade him was less serious than what most probably think but still could have happened.

The biggest news and only real chatter came from the Nationals, they ended up getting Adam Eaton from the Tigers for two highly rated prospects and one mid level with a lot of promise.  in my opinion they got three of the better pitching prospects out there.  Eaton may not ever play to the level Cutch has done, but he also comes with lower price tag and quite a few more years of control, which could even out the value, especially given Cutch's poor season.

So with that you have to wonder, what was Pittsburgh asking for in return for Cutch?  To me the answer appears to be, everything.

This is how I think it went down.  Neal Huntington saw some teams needed an outfielder and Neal through his name out there.  When teams called back Neal made what most would consider an unreasonable request and almost all of those teams walked away... except the Nationals who have quite a few pitchers that could be wasted in their organisation if not moved.  A few calls back and forth to see if they could make something happen and the Nationals realized that the cost was still very high and moved on.

This leads me to believe that the Pirates really didn't have the intention to trade the "Face of the Franchise", But if they found someone dumb enough to give them their very high demands they would.

So, what did the Pirates do wrong here?  Nothing really.  The only thing they could have really done is tell Andrew this so that there would be lower tension.

Of course all that is just my opinion, should the trade have happened and it ended up being what we would expect (a quality MLB starter, a pen option and a couple of prospects) then we'd be talking about how Neal is probably a genius and sad that Cutch is gone but wish him well.

In other trade rumors, Josh Harrison's name was floated but nothing really serious.  At this time there is no one in the organisation to play second base should he leave.  Tony Watson and Antonio Bastardo's names are also out there and probably the most likely to be traded.

Watson and Bastardo are both lefty pen arms in a pen that includes 4 lefties.  Combined to make well over $10 Million and both in their final years of their contracts.  Both have had performance that could return a couple mid level prospects or a fair bench bat.  The problem with moving these two is that they need to make a move to fill the void.  There are some options still out there, Greg Holland and Joe Blanton for example.

A couple other names that could be on the trading block, John Jaso and Alan Hanson.  One or both could be traded for a reasonable pen arm, however their value to the team increased after Jung Ho Kang's continued and compounding legal troubles both here in the states and in Korea.

Just a quick overview of the Pirates post season, things should be getting more settled in early 2017.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Pirates get to take a knee...

Now that the Pirates 31 games in 31 days run (sounds like the punishment judges used to give DUI offenders) is over and they finally get an off day we have time to stop and think about reinforcements from the minors and possible trade targets.

Lets go through the Pirates current line up through 63 Games.

First Base
John Jaso .287/.358/.410, 3 HR, 19 RBI, 22 Runs
John has done a fine job going from catcher to first and over the season hasn't hit bad and has a fair OBP.  However since May 1st he has a slash line of .267/.336/.379.  It probably isn't' too much to worry about as long as he stays steady in the field and keeps getting on.

Second Base
Josh Harrison .310/.338/.412, 2 HR, 30 RBI, 27 Runs
One of the spark plugs on the team.  In one play he can change the momentum of the game all by him self.  He is invaluable especially in slumps like this.  While I would like to see him get on base and be a little more patient at the plate, it is still respectable and does just fine.

Third Base
Jung Ho Kang .283/.348/.596, 8 HR, 23 RBI, 12 Runs
There where some questions on how his knee would hold up, so far so good.  I don't think putting him at short for an extended period is much of an option but should the need arise he could probably do it okay.  In just 30 games and 112 plate appearances he has 8 HR and 23 RBIs.  No question he is the power stud is on the team.

Short Stop
Jordy Mercer .264/.357/.341, 2 HR, 22 RBI, 27 Runs
On the season he is doing about what we would expect and want from him how ever since may first his slash has taken a serious downward turn at .228/.331/.293.  His OBP is till fair all things considered.  He has also made quite a few mistakes in the field so far this season.  I'm a fan of Mercer and he will probably turn it around but getting him some help/competition for the everyday position might help keep him on his toes.

Chris Stewart .206/.316/.294
With Cervelli out for an extended time Stewart will be the man hopefully later this week.  His glove should be fine and anything he can give on the offense is bonus.  Hopefully he can get his slash lines back to what he has been his past two seasons in the black and gold.

Right Field
Gregory Polanco .296/.379/.531, 9 HR, 39 RBI, 43 Runs
Polanco should be a staple in the Pirates line up for years to come, no problems here as long as he keeps his head in the game.

Left Field
Starling Marte .332/.375/.489, 5 HR, 23 RBI, 33 Runs
The glue to the out field defense and always on base and stealing them.  Expected a few more home runs but those doubles are just as good in many cases.

Center Field
Andrew McCutchen .241/.321/.408, 9 HR, 25 RBI, 37 Runs
Something is wrong.  Low average, OBP and high strike outs but still driving in a couple runs and scoring them.  He is trying too hard maybe?


David Freese 3B/1B .294/.374/.439 5 HR, 23 RBI, 29 Runs
Matt Joyce OF .296/.436/.593 6 HR, 22 RBI, 16 Runs
Sean Rodriguez SuUT .257/.336/.505, 6 HR, 17 RBI, 21 Runs
Erik Kratz Catcher

Pirates have a pretty good bench, Freese should be in the lineup somewhere at least half of the time, Joyce's numbers are down the past few weeks but has done a good job and S-Rod is being S-Rod.

Who to upgrade?

Looking at the current team where do you look for upgrades.  Clearly catcher but unless we find Cervelli is done for the season and Stewart gets and stays better we will probably hold the line.

At short, getting a player considered an upgrade in trade will cost too much so we will probably cost too much.

Outfield, specifically center field.  Andrew has been pretty bad by our standards.  What ever his going on he better try to find a fix for it if he wants to stay in the lineup most everyday.

MiLB Options?

There are quite a few options just in prospects to help bolster the MLB team except for at Catcher where our closet to MLB ready catcher is also on the DL for an extended time.

Alen Hanson 2B/SS/OF, he is fast and a contact hitter, like J-Hay I would like to see a bit more discipline at the plate but it generally works well for him.  He is mostly a second basemen but came up a short stop and has a few innings in the outfield.  Could give Mercer that little push he needs or might be able to prove that he can play short at the MLB level.

Josh Bell OF/1B no questions about his bat, but his glove might prove to be an issue.  If his bat translates to the MLB watch out! Putting Bell in right, Marte in center and Polanco in Left would give Cutch time to work through his issues or.. possibly make Cutch expendable.  Also Bell has been training at first for a year and a half so he can also give Jaso a breather.

Jason Rogers OF/1B/3B Similar to bell just a bit of third base in there as well, not quite the pojected bat as Bell but can allow more time for Bell to work on first base

Adam Frazier SS/2B/OF Playing mostly out field, partially due to circumstance of the roster.  He doesn't' appear to be in the running for any future gold gloves but his bat has made up for any defense issues.

Possible trade targets for position players?

Generally trading for a position player directly does not appear to be the best option unless there is an injury bug going around, even then you will want someone reasonably cheap in both what you have to give up and salary.  In a quick look around the probable sellers to players stood out to me.

Biggest need is a catcher to hold the line if Stewart is also out an extended period.  Oakland has Stephen Vogt, and may even be interested in selling other players in a package to bolster pitching (that will hopefully come in a later story)

The Twins also have Eduardo Nunez SS/2B/3B/OF and also controllable through 2017.  seems to have found his bat last season, while he probably wont' win a silver slugger he could be a reasonable utility option.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Pirates draft Will Craig P/3B at Pick 22

With the 22nd pick in the 2016 draft the Pirates picked 21 year old Will Craig third basemen and relief pitcher.  [ link from thebaseballcube.com ]

Will was originally drafted in the 2013 draft by the Royals at pick 1104 in round 37 but like many drafted in those later round did not sign and instead went on to play in Wake Forest where he an amazing slash line of .350/.465/.632 with 37 home runs over 159 games and 692 plate appearances in three seasons.  Over those three seasons he had a 15.6% walk rate along with 13% strike out rate shows that is has had pretty good plate discipline in the aluminum bat leagues.  In wooden bat leagues his average and power dipped significantly but he was still able to keep his on base percentage respectable showing that the discipline extends to different leagues.

As a third basemen he has the arm strength to stick but his arm and glove may force him to first or outfield.

As a pitcher he does not appear to be anything exciting but does have 105 innings under his belt between college and the north woods leagues.

Between the two, his bat will probably force him from pitcher to position player, however it could make for some interesting double switch situations in extra inning games.

Over all it is hard to dislike the pick.  Expected quality bat, could possibly stay at third but will probably move to first both are weak point for the Pirates minor system with a remote possibility of moving him to the bull pen.

It is too big of a risk to pick Perez with his recent PED issues especially when you consider the number of short stops the Pirates already have in their system.  IF the Pirates didn't have multiple promising middle infielders already a risk on Perez would be more acceptable.  Instead Perez was picked by St. Louis with the very next pick.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Pirates: May Checkup

How are the Pittsburgh Pirates doing so far this season?  Well despite what most bloggers seem to think they are doing pretty well.

A look at the Central Division

Rk Tm W L W-L% GB Strk
1 CHC 30 14 0.682 --- W 1
2 PIT 25 19 0.568 5 W 2
3 STL 24 22 0.522 7 L 1
4 MIL 19 26 0.422 11.5 W 1
5 CIN 15 31 0.326 16 L 9

The Pirates have the fifth best record in the National League and are in second behind the Cubs in the Central.  

If you take a look at their pitching and the struggling Andrew McCutchen you would expect them to be much worse off.  Andrew's slash line for April was pretty horrible at .226/.339/.441 but since May 1st he is a .284/.333/.481.  Still some room for improvement but over all better.

The Pirates defense early on was also pretty horrible across the board but the infield especially. The defense along with the pitching has came around the past few weeks with multiple starters getting in to the 7th inning and the pen finishing it off.

The offense over all has been one of the better ones to start the season

The past 10 games the Pirates are at 7 Wins and 3 Losses where as the Cubs hit a rough patch going for 4 Wins and 6 Loses allowing the Pirates to make up some ground.

I have a feeling pretty soon we will soon forget those first 20 games where the team in general was pretty bad.

At this pace the Pirates will have another 90+ win season, that should be more than enough to make the playoffs even if it is yet another wild card. 

If the Cubs do not right their ship there is a real possibility that the Pirates and/or the Cards could catch them.