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.