Thursday, June 23, 2016

Pirates in free fall

The question now is about whether or not the Pirates are going to have a winning season not whether or not they get to the postseason.  And how big a seller will the Pirates be at the deadline. 

I say this because it is hard to think the Pirates are trying much to win right now.  Today’s line up was familiar of the early 2000s.  When your line up includes Rodriguez and Kratz and Joyce, you are in big trouble.  I understand Marte went down with an injury, and it is probably a normal day off for Cutch.  But this is awful. 

First, Stallings is a better option than Kratz.  Hitting a whopping .050 going into today’s game should prove that.  Second, we have better options than Rodriguez right now.  Frazier or Moroff could give you all the flexibility defensively as Rodriguez (since you don’t need to cover first as Freese can do that), and probably hit better than .250 with a high strikeout potential.  Third, yesterday the Pirates started Wilfred Boscan.  Now, Glasnow has not allowed a hit in his last 12 innings in AAA.  I get it he probably does need more work on the change up and seeing multiple games without a loss of control for an inning would be nice, but the Pirates are falling out of contention for anything and Glasnow gives you a better shot than Boscan.  At some point you have to give it a go now.  You could always demote Glasnow after the game if you think Nicasio will be back for the next start.  But Boscan imploded as did the bullpen.  Would Glasnow have done that?  Was it really because Glasnow’s rest was one day off.  Probably not. 

To show you how bad it is today up 1-0 on the Giants in the 2nd inning, the Pirates had a runner at third with nobody out, but you knew he was not going to score.  Due up were Kratz, Rodriguez, and then pitcher Jon Niese.  All three struck out.  Not even a sac fly from Kratz or Rodriguez.  That is unacceptable baseball, especially when your two best players are on the bench.  The trio of Kratz, Joyce, and Rodriguez went 1 for 9 with Joyce pulling in two walks, and Rodriguez managing a meaningless hit late in the game.  Kratz ended the game with a .043.  That is also his OBP because he has not even drawn a walk. 

It is going to be fun to watch the prospects get some big league playing time this year, but it is painful to watch the Pirates tank so that becomes necessary. 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

2016 Draft and what it says about the Pirates

There are many sites that are going to be able to give you better person by person breakdown of the picks.  For example, I still have no idea why the Pirates picked Blake Cederlind.  But, I would like to take a bird's eye view of the draft and see if we can come up with what this draft is saying about the Pirates as a whole.

#1 - The Pirates think they need left handed pitching.    It seems to me that the Pirates went after lefties a little more than normal.  3 of the first 10 picks were left handed pitchers.  And some seem a little like over drafts indicating that perhaps the Pirates think they have a need in the system of left handed pitching prospects.  And that may be fair.  You can quickly name lots of right handed pitchers in the system like Taillon, Glasnow, Keller, and Hinz not to mention some lower tier names.  But who is the big lefty prospect?  Kingham was doing well before surgery, we will see where he is now.  So maybe this is not a bad idea.

#2 - The Pirates believe they can get hitters through International signings.    The Pirates drafted a ton of pitchers.  Hitters are almost non-existent.  Will Craig is a hitting prospect.  Alemais is not a pitcher, but not a big hitting prospect.  Same with Gibbs.  Only 18 of the 41 picks are hitters, and not all of those will sign.  A lot of those 18 are late round guys who are not leaving school  Nor is 24th rounder Brodrato.  So, one has to conclude they have a comfort level with getting guys elsewhere.  Perhaps the success of a Tito Polo helps one think that the draft is more important for pitching prospects than hitting ones.  Consider that 8 of the 18 are either catchers or short stops, the two positions that defense might trump hitting. 

#3 - The Pirates value youth.   This is not just high school.  The Pirates seemed to avoid college seniors as if they had the bubbonic plague this year.  MLB has them only taking 9, but I have heard some debate about whether Vieaux is really a SR making it only 8. 

#4 - The Pirates scouted the Southern Conference a lot this year.    Really the SoCon, not the SEC.  The Southern Conference had 4 guys picked by the Pirates.  Three of those four were from East Tennessee State University and the other was from Western Carolina, the actual winner of the SoCon.  I am not even sure what to make of this, but it is a little weird, right?  I am not the only one who thinks three guys from ETSU, which didn't even finish in the top 2 in a conference that is hardly known for baseball is a little strange?  Not that I don't like some of those picks.  Brown was nasty at Western this year with some pop in the bat. 

So those are some of my thoughts about the state of the Pirate system by looking at this draft.  Other than #4, which I threw in because I grew up on the SoCon, I think the Pirates are drafting for what they can work with knowing that their International system seems to struggle to produce pitching (see Heredia), and is producing hitting. 

It is not a great draft, but it is not a bad one either.  Sometimes you wish things would have gone a little differently.  For example Tom Hatch being drafted by the Cubs right before the Pirates.  He was very good this year for OSU, and would have been a great addition to the Pirates.  I think he has a MLB future, but he was off the board. 

This will be an interesting one to take a look at in a couple of years. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Draft 2016

Day 1 of the draft saw three draft picks, and all were overdrafts by all accounts.  But, after seeing how Cole Tucker has performed, I think the Pirates have earned a bit of a break here.

Yes, it could be also that all of these will sign for under slot and give the Pirates some money to throw at harder signs today or even a Gage Hinz type offer in Rounds 11-13 which we will see tomorrow, so the book is hardly closed on the draft.

Will Craig is a big hitting 3B from Wake Forest.  College Hitters are usually a safe thing, and Craig will probably anchor the Black Bears offense.  We have not really seen a lot of these college hitters work out lately for the Pirates, so this one will have a lot of pressure.

Nick Lodolo is a high school lefty with a lot of height.  He is projectable and that fits with what the Pirates had been doing, but seemed to leave behind.  The Pirate farm system is littered with failed tall projectable types, so Lodolo will probably face increase criticism.  Although I do think the farm system is short on lefty pitching, which makes Lodolo valuable.

Travis Macgregor is a sort of tall high school right handed pitcher who was apparently moving up draft charts, which is an encouraging note.  He already sits in the 90's which should ease comparisons to previous high school failures who shall remain unnamed.  His secondary stuff may also be above what one would expect as well. 

It is unclear whether either of those two guys will pitch much in short season ball. 

Day 1 produces the hype, but I think day 2 makes or breaks the draft, so this is the day I am interested in.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Justin Masterson . . . finally

Justin Masterson has finally signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates and for a minor league deal too.  It makes you think his rehab has not gone as well as hoped. 

He will now try to regain some former form, or at least consistent ground balls with the side of strike out.  The Pirates did leave open the possibility for Masterson as a reliever, which right now looks like the bigger need.  Although he is going to begin as a starter.  Nicasio has been pretty good and Locke is not awful, so he has some work to do to break the rotation.  But the bullpen . . .

The bullpen has struggled and already used several different guys.  Masterson would give a nice long man piece or even just a flex guy.  Although replacing Voglesong with someone would make me feel a little better.  Without Hughes the pen lacks a consistent fourth man.  Watson and Melancon are solid.  Feliz looks decent enough so far.  But other than that the group really looks bad.  Schugel and Scahill are emergency replacements and look like it.  Vogelsong is the long guy with declining skills.  Lobstein is inconsistent and Caminero has shown flashes of greatness, but has also been lit up.  The bullpen desperately needs Hughes back. 

Hughes can help calm the mess being a pitcher who can be trusted in high stress situations.  This can move Caminero back to lower stress situations, and perhaps more rest in-between outings, hopefully improving his consistency.  It will drop one of the emergency guys back to AAA as well.  But it still leaves some upgradeable slots that Masterson would upgrade.  If Vogelsong is untouchable, it at least pushes the other emergency guy back to AAA or perhaps removes the need for Lobstein with a more tried MLB pitcher. 

I for one am very hopeful that Masterson can perform at AAA and get into the Pirate bullpen. 

And maybe just maybe we can make it to that moment when you see Taillon take the mound . . .

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

That was fast . . .

I fully expected Michael Morse to get dropped from the team this year.  I figured it would be when Josh Bell got a call up in June.  Morse will probably stay with the team because I believe the Pirates will still have to pay his salary if he stays in their system.  No one is going to pay him anything near that.  But I did not expect Morse to get dropped after only 8 at bats. 

I think it is the product of two things.  One, clearly it has a little to do with the need for another bullpen arm.  A.J. Schugel pitched tonight, fairly well by the way.  With Lirano missing a start, the long guys taxed from yesterday, and Vogelsong getting the spot start, another fresh arm was needed. 

But mostly I think it is the sign that the Pirates are pleased with Jaso.  Jaso has been great so far this year.  His patient approach has drawn walks and produced hits.  Jaso will not have to platoon now.  Obviously at some point Schugel or one of the other long relievers will get dropped for a fifth bench bat, but not until Lirano is good to go.  Who they bring up then will be interesting, but money should be on Jason Rogers.  If he gets to platoon with Jaso may very well depend on how well Jaso does these next few days. 

The Pirates record may not be where we want it, but having Jaso be the outright first baseman is a problem worth having. 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Exciting Depth should help in trades this year

The Pirates have a great team this year.  They could very well be in the race for the division title and probably in the playoff race.  This is the year that I think the Pirates will go all in by getting a big name trade because the minor league system is so stacked that trades are almost necessary to clear out some room.

This is great news if we need a 5th starter or some bullpen help, trades should be easy to pull off.  Just look at the situation.

Pittsburgh's infield is fairly loaded right now.  Kang has third, Mercer is at short, and Harrison is playing second.  There is not a lot of weakness there.  Maybe you could upgrade the bat at short.  Josh Bell is expected to take over at 1B this year, but Jaso looks pretty good there right now too. 

Indianapolis has on its roster right now Hanson at second.  Many consider him ready now.  It is his second year at AAA.  Jason Rogers plays 1B and 3B.  Dan Gamache, who maybe major league utility player caliber, plays 3B and 2B.  Gift Ngope plays SS and 2B (maybe not a good enough hitter).  Max Moroff plays 3B, 2B, and SS.  Adam Frazier plays 2B and SS.  It is possible that Gamache and Ngope are not good enough for the MLB, but the others probably are.  They can't even all fit in Indy's infield, much less find a home in Pittsburgh.  Maybe one can push Mercer out and maybe another finds the UT spot on the bench, but that leaves quite a few as good trade chips.

Indy also has two major league catchers in Elias Diaz and Jacob Stallings.  The Pirates are not going to re-sign Cervelli, but have Stewart for more time.  So, maybe neither of these guys goes, but maybe one does.

The outfield for the Pirates is set for years, but Willy Garcia is ready in AAA.  He probably finds the fourth outfielder spot in Pittsburgh next year, and the Pirates are going to find some room for their infielders out in the Indy outfield, but look in AA.  Austin Meadows is lurking.  Assuming he is not a tradable piece and they slow walk him, in two years he needs to be playing in Pittsburgh.  Harold Ramirez looks like he might have the tools to be a MLB player and Barrett Barnes was a first round comp draft pick.  They might excite a team enough to be trade pieces, and so they should be because when are they going to crack the outfield in Pittsburgh?  Frankly, Justin Maffei has done enough to require some looks in my opinion. 

Don't get me started on pitching.  The Pirates are pretty clearly saving some places for Taillon and Glasnow, as they should.  And Kingham should not be on the block because he was on track to be a MLB 3rd starter before his injury.  Chad Kuhl could easily be a starter soon in the majors.  In a couple of years the starting rotation for the Pirates could easily be Cole, Taillon, Glasnow, Kingham, and Kuhl.  But where does that leave Brault?  What if Holmes or Eppler has a good year at AA this year?  They would be knocking on the door. And there is this new guy Trevor Williams at AAA. 

The point is that the Pirates have a good major league team finally.  They also have a stacked upper minor league.  I expect some big trades this year if the Pirates are in contention giving away some of that middle infield depth or a starting pitcher.
And if the Pirates can't compete, I expect Cervelli would be on the block and Harrison too (unless he was dominate), maybe even Jordy Mercer because the Pirates have young guys to fill those holes.  And Niesse and Nicasio would be gone before you could count to 10. 

This is going to be a great season one way or the other.  The organization is in great shape it is going to be fun to watch.   

Monday, April 4, 2016

One up , One down

So here we are at the start of another Pirate baseball year.  The Pirates have made the playoffs for 3 straight years, and are going for 4.  For the first time, they are trying it without Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker (one of whom was much more important).  Despite my criticism of their offseason, I actually think they are going to make the playoffs again.

My reasons were on full display in game 1. 

First, the St. Louis Cardinals are good, but should be much easier to beat this year.  Especially here at the beginning when people are recovering from thumb injuries, they are down two short stops, and no new rookies have emerged yet.  This is the time to jump on the Cardinals as the Pirates did yesterday. 

Second, Gregory Polanco.  There is every reason to believe Polanco takes a big step forward.  He started very slowly as did Marte two years ago.  Polanco was heating up as the year ended, as did Marte two years ago.  Marte was on fire last year and this year Polanco should do the same. 

It should be a fun year to watch.  Hopefully the Pirates get off to a better start, and do better in division than last year.  Both of which should happen.  This should more than make up for the fall off that is bound to happen outside the division. 

Go Bucs!