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.

Catcher
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?

Bench

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.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Pirates Trade Targets

This week we went through some prospects and MLB players that could be potentially be traded ( here and here), but now the question is what do the Pirates need?

At the MLB level right now their biggest need is pitching.  It has been getting better the past week or so but still has some holes to fill. Some of the bottom teams in the league might be willing to part with some MLB players to help us fill those holes.

Lets check the Twins

Fernando Abad (LHP) - .059 ERA/1.043 WHIP/15.1 IP/18 Games
Notes: It is hard to want a guy who has bad right in his name but he is a fair bullpen lefty having a good season in his last contract year.
Why: Pirate bull pen could use another quality lefty besides Tony Watson. Abad is pretty cheap making about 1.25 Million on the season and most likely a rental that shouldn't take to much to get.

Ervin Santana (RHP) - 3.13 ERA/1.339 WHIP/37.1 IP/7 Games
Notes: Former All-star and Cy Young candidate in LA in 2008 and still has some stuff.  His contract is through 2018 with a team option for 2019 at about $13.5M/year which is not unreasonable for a mid-rotation starter. Ervin has a rough patch after injury last year but came back to be very consistent the last couple months of the season.
Why: Only two for sure starters in the rotation in Cole and Liriano.  Niese, Nicasio and Locke are on shaky ground. If his health checks out and the Twins eat some of his contract it might be an option if the team is unsure on some of the prospects.

Byung-ho Park (1B/DH) - .233/.316/.525 9HR - 136 PA - 35 Games.
Notes: Former teammate of Jung-ho Kang with great power.  Paring him up with Kang may make his transition smoother.  Signed through 2019 at less than $3 million a year and a team option for 2020.  Not known for his stellar defense.
Why: His power, contract and a fun story for the Korean corners.  With questions on Bell's defense, Jaso only controlled through 2017 and Park's cheap contract it is worth looking at.


Checking the Padres..

James Shields (RHP) - 3.07 ERA/1.330 WHIP/58.2 IP/9 Games
Notes: Consistent 200+ innings a season, 2 time Cy Young Candidate, 2 time MVP candidate and All-star.  He may no longer be a top of the rotation arm but he is pretty consistent.  Under contract through 2018 with an option for 2019.  Can opt-out of the contract after this season.
Why: Consistent inning eater.  Contract isn't cheap but if you can talk the Padres in to eating some of it or make his opt-out the end of his deal then it could be worth it.

Drew Pomeranz (LHP) - 1.96 ERA/1.065 WHIP/46 IP/8 Games
Notes: Started a handful of games last season that where not very good but much better so far this season.  Team control through 2018 and is still on his rookie contract so he is pretty cheap.
Why: A lefty that has figured out how to start at under $1.5 million on the season with some control and no stranger to the bull pen.  Seems to fit many needs.

In Atlanta.

Freddie Freeman (1b) - .267/.363/.445 6 HR
Notes: All-star, Rookie of the Year candidate, MVP candidate and all round good player.  Hits for Average, gets on base and has decent power.  On top of all of that he plays a position that the Pirates have been needing help with for quite a while.  Signed through 2021 at $20+ Million a year after this season.  But also note Atlanta's front office has said Freeman is untouchable.
Why: Jaso is good but no Freddie Freeman, Bell still has questions.  Freddie is still only 26 and the contract length is perfect fit how ever the dollar amount isn't.  If Atlanta takes on some of the salary it could be a great pickup.

Julio Teheran (RHP) - 2.73 ERA/1.107 WHIP/56 IP/9 Games
Notes: one of the few bright spots in Atlanta.  Signed through 2019 with a 2020 team option at a very modest price should be a staple of anyone's rotation the next 5 years.
Why: He would come in and make an impact day one at the top of the rotation with Cole.  His contract is good enough to where if you wanted to trade one of your higher pitching prospects to get him you can with out crippling the teams future and his salary is great for his skill level.

Who do you think the Pirates should be targeting?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Which Pirates should be on the trading block?

A couple days ago we went through a few top prospects the Pirates should consider trading, now we are going to look at which MLB players they should consider trading.

John Jaso (1B) - .287/.354/.434
Notes: This catcher turned first basemen has done an excellent job transitioning making very few mistakes. John has been the primary lead off man, while he doesn't have the speed you would normally like to see at the lead off spot he does get on base and seems to see quite a few pitches.  Many teams passed on him because he could not longer be a catcher due to concussion issues but he has rebuilt value as a first basemen on a reasonably priced 2 year $4 Million contract.
Why: IF (note the capital letters) the Pirates feel Josh Bell is ready for prime time at first base John's future with the team is in question.

David Freeze (3B/1B) - .280/.362/.384
Notes: David was brought in to cover third base while Jung Ho Kang was recovering from knee surgery and as extra insurance for Jaso should he have issues at first.  He has done everything we could hope for.
Why: Kang is back, Jaso is doing well at first.  The Pirates have Alen Hanson, Josh Harrison and Sean Rodriguez that can move around to cover those two positions should the injury bug hit.  Freeze has good value as a slightly above average player and is on a 1 year $3 million contract.

Jon Niese (LHP) - 5.28 ERA/1.543 WHIP/4W 2L
Notes: By far the worst performing starting pitcher in the rotation so far but the team still has won 6 of his 8 starts. Most would agree that he is better than his stats so far this season but he just hasn't shown it yet. He is still fairly young at 29 with 2 more years of control with team options and cheap buy outs and he is a lefty there is still some value.
Why:  IF the Pirates feel their prospects will be better in a few more weeks and the Pirates are willing to eat or salary swap his contract it is a logical choice.

Jason Rogers (1B/3B/OF) - MiLB .293/.370/.476
Notes: No longer a prospect due to fairly significant time in previous years.  Solid hitting in the minors and in previous years a bit above average.  Not the best fielder and tons of control left despite his age.
Why: For the same reasons as Jaso and Freeze only Rogers probably would appeal more to those teams in a rebuild phase as he is at near league minimum salary.

Andrew McCutchen (CF) - .248/.337/.471
Notes: MVP, Silver Slugger,Gold Glover and All-Star. Off to a fairly typical slow start to the season but has started to rebound already. Really don't need to explain how good he is and how cheap his contract is. Pittsburgh would flip if he should be traded.
Why: Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Austin Meadows, Harold Ramirez, Josh Bell.  Trading an MVP caliber player would bring back multiple Grade A/A+ prospects and MLB talent, Pirates probably cannot afford to extend him.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Looking back, Pittsburgh Pirates 2011 Draft

Continuing our piece on the Pirates recent drafts we will now take a look back to the 2011 draft.  Here is a link to the 2010 draft results.

Round 1: Gerrit Cole (RHP) was the first overall pick in this season and showed us why he was the first pick right out of the gate dominating the Arizona Fall League. He jumped from A+ to AA in 13 games and then to AAA after just 12 more playing 1 game in AAA before the end of the season.  In 2013 he started 12 more games before getting called up to the major league club.  His career MiLB 2.75 ERA, 1.151 WHIP and 8.1 SO/9 over two a season and a half was enough. While he might not be an Ace level pitcher yet he has the talent too.

Round 2: Josh Bell (RF) taken at the 61st Pick over all in round two would probably be on the major league club now if it was not for the Pirates having one of the best starting outfields in baseball.  Partially because of this Bell has been moved to first and with some difficulty is slowly picking it up.  Minors slash line of .302/.370/.446 with a bit of power should allow him to see time with the major league club this season.

Round 3: Alex Dickerson (1B) has a .304/.363/.493 slash line in the minors and was traded to the Padres for Jaff Decker and Mike Mikolas in 2013.  He has seen some limited action in Left field the past two seasons going 18 Plate appearances in 19 games.

Round 4: Colten Brewer (RHP) has had  a great share of troubles at the lower levels and has not advanced past A+ ball. A 4.45 ERA and 1.359 WHIP over 41 Games and 192 innings do not look to promissing.  He did miss the 2014 year.

Round 5: Tyler Glasnow (RHP) Looks to be the steal of the draft. A minors carere 2.07 ERA 1.070 WHIP and 11.7 SO/9 over 88 games and 421 innings is very impressive.  He does have some control issues that are holding him back a little but we should still see him this season.

Round 6: Dan Gamache (3B) developed a pretty fair bat slashing .278/.345/.401 over his minors career but has had some trouble in the field. the past few seasons there has been an attempt to convert him to 1B/IF Utility at AAA.

Round 7: Jake Burnette (RHP) has been having a rough go of it being stuck in class A ball.  Career 6.69 ERA, 1.812 WHIP  and 6.8 W/9 in teh Minors.

Round 8: Jason Creasy (RHP) Made it to AA last season and hasnt done very well.  At age 24 he still has time to 'figure it out'

Round 9: Clay Holmes (RHP) has done well enough to earn a promotion to AA this season where he is having some early troubles but is expected to turn it around.

Round 10: Taylor Lewis (CF) hasn't made it past Bradenton yet.  Unless he has a break through it is doubtful he will get much time in AA in an already fairly crowded field of OF talent.

There you have it.  All but one of our top 10 picks from 2011 are still with the team.  One other draftee of note is Trea Turner who was selected in the 20th round but didn't sign.  He was later draft by the Padres in 2014 and traded to the Nationals in 2015

Of the 50 players that the Pirates drafted that year (signed or not) only three of them have made it to the MLB so far, two of them with other teams.  Expect that number to increase by two this year when Glasnow and Bell get their calls.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Top prospects the Pirates should consider trading

The Pirates have a lot of talented prospects working their way up the system.  Here are a handful of some of their top prospects the front office should consider putting on the block.

Austin Meadows OF - #17 Top 100 - #3 Top 10 OF  - #2 in organization
 Notes: Having a slow start this year hopefully turn it on soon. He is pretty much a 5-tool guy with a weaker but accurate arm.  This lefty should be ready next season and will only be 22 years old.  Assuming he rebounds from his slow start he should be one of the highest valued prospects on the market.
 Why: Now with Gregory Polonco extended, Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen all signed for the next few years one of our out fielders becomes expendable and Meadows is the highest valued OF prospect we got.

Josh Bell OF/1B - #45 Top 100 - #2 Top 10 1B - #3 in organization
 Notes: Very little question about Josh's bat.  Switch hitting and good contact that leads to a good average and patent at the plate leading to a good number of walks and OBP. He also has fairly good power that could also lead to his fair share of extra bases and home runs.
 Why: Next year only John Jaso is signed on the MLB side and that is probably okay.  Bell may never figure out first well enough to satisfy the coaches and be relegated to out field where he falls into the Meadows problem.  If the team thinks they can get another reliable first base option after next season It makes sense to make Bell available at a high price of course.

Harold Ramirez OF - #6 in organization
 Notes: Good contact, young projectable likely league average or better everyday corner outfielder
 Why: Another one falls into the Meadows problem.  Too good to ride the bench but not good enough to knock out one of the current starters. (Polanco, Marte and McCutchen)

Allen Hanson 2b/SS - #6 Top 10 2B - #10 in organization
 Notes: Good contact but poor OBP. Fast will get his fair share of stolen bases. Decent to above average range on defense. Hits gaps for a fair share of extra bases and the power to get the occasional home run. Has worked out at Corner outfield for added utility.  Could be another Josh Harrison super utility everyday player at no single position.
 Why: Hanson doesn't have the arm to be an every day short stop, Blocked at 2nd by Harrison and the OF utility is in low demand.  Combine that with possible "maturity issues" stemming from being angry about not being called up last season. Taking calls on him *might* be in everyone's best interest.
Additional: Hanson got his temporary call up and his first big league at bat this week where he struck out.

Willy Garcia OF/RF - #13 in organization
 Notes: Big powerful bat that.  Typical power hitter.  Think Pedro Alvarez only in the outfield and better projected fielding at his position.
 Why: Another one that falls under the Meadows problem and the front office is leaning to players getting on base rather than power bats.

All of these players we expect to see in 2016 or 2017 so they could have an immediate impact to what ever team they play on