Monday, July 7, 2014

Gage Hinsz and the 2014 draft

The Pirates did it.  They signed 11th round pick Gage Hinsz.  I was a little worried as they did not seem to have a lot left and an Oregon State commitment is not easily broken, but I am glad that they got him. 

That wraps up this years draft, and I like it.  I liked it earlier, but I think now Pirates fans need to readjust their thinking to see drafts like this as good.  This is an average draft, and we should like average.  It is called average for a reason, it happens regularly.  It is going to be harder and harder to get great drafts if the Pirates are going to insist on finishing above .500.  It is evident now that the Pirates were not trying to save money on Tucker, but that other teams also had him ranked in the middle of the first round.  And while you might could quibble about Connor Joe, or Jorge from Puerto Rico, every draft is going to have a few of those picks. 

The Pirates are consistently showing an ability to get a decent pick just outside the 10th round the way they draft.  They have shown a willingness to pay a tax, but not lose a draft pick.  They have clearly strengthened an already stocked farm system.  There may not be an Andrew McCutchen in this group, but there are a whole lot of Josh Harrisons. 

It is not a blow your mind great draft, but those should be rare.  It is not an awful draft either.  This is the average.  And it is an average the Pirates can live with.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Who to trade?

It is starting to look more and more like the Pirates are going to be buyers at the trading deadline rather than sellers.  I still think the playoffs is a long shot, and it would be better to be sellers, but it would not sit well with most of the fan base.

So the question becomes what prospects do we have to watch go away for this long shot hope?

I would start off by saying that Glasnow, Kingham, Meadows, McGuire, and Bell should all be off the table.  Kingham is ready for primetime, and could be a nice addition to the 2015 rotation, and the other guys are the foundation of the Pirates dynasty.  Taillon should be off the table too, but with his injury it is unlikely anyone would want to trade for him.

This means I would be willing to part with anyone else given the right return.  I would actually be ecstatic if we got a good player in return for Alen Hanson, but I have always been low him, much lower than most.  I would have done anything to keep Dilson Herrera last year and trade Hanson, but it is too late now.  Herrera hit over .300 in High A this year and has recently received his promotion to AA where he is hitting a cool .340.  Herrera may not have been able to stay at short, but neither can Hanson.  The fact that Herrera went in a trade makes me think that some of the other teams do not value Hanson as highly either.

Luis Heredia is someone who I would like to keep, but if he brings the right return, then he goes.   I still really like his potential remembering that he is not yet 20, but you can't just trade away people you don't think are going to be any good.  And so perhaps now is also the time to offer up Adrian Sampson.  He is having a break out season, and might bring back some interest.  A lot of our other young interesting pitchers are hurt (like Clay Holmes and Duke Welker), so not many other names pop out as good trade bait.  That is unless you count Casey Sadler and Brandon Crumpton.  Crumpton specifically has shown he can do this at the major league level, and it would stink to lose him, but he should not be off limits.  Maybe he brings back a piece.

I am not sure who would be a good trade piece as a hitter.  Elias Diaz, AA catcher, could be a possibility.  Maybe Mel Rojas too.  Both guys would probably need to be added to the 40 man this year, and trading them now might free up the crunch.  Gift Ngope has some potential with the bat, maybe he gets put in a deal.  Barrett Barnes is just coming back off injury, but he could be a young prospect worth shopping around.  The Pirates are fairly loaded in the outfield anyway.  Keon Broxton probably won't bring much, but maybe he could be packaged to bring back something.

If you could package Broxton, Sadler, and Hanson it might bring back a piece worth having.  But overall, I hope the Pirates do not go crazy.  The odds are long at this point, and the Pirates have not had great success in the trade deadline deal.  It is usually a bad deal for the buyers.  I would prefer staying the course and letting next year take its course.  I just think the Pirates are low in too many places (SS, 1B, starting pitching) for deadline deals to make a difference.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Problem with the Pirates

The Pirates are above .500 and that is a good thing.  But I still think they are in big trouble.  Let me point to one thing that I think is a real problem.  The Pirates cannot sweep anyone.  They fail over and over to put their foot on the throat of lesser teams and finish them off.  And this is not just about getting dominated by David Price and being unable to sweep one of the worst teams in baseball.  It happens over and over and over again.

In fact, by my count, the Pirates have only one sweep all year and that is against the Nationals.  They failed to do it against the Rays, the Blue Jays, the Reds, the Cubs, and many many more.  They just cannot sweep.  Why can be a bit of harder thing to figure out.  Is our pitching just not strong enough?  Is our bullpen too weak?  Do we lack timely hitting?  Who knows!

But I do think it has been enough time to say that the inability to sweep is a real problem.  We are not able to dominate lesser teams.  This was not a problem last year.  Playoff teams are able to sweep lesser teams.  Even with their 5th starter on the mound, they polish off the guys that are no good.

Ultimately that means I think the Pirates are about where they should be.  At .500.  I expect them to hover here for the rest of the season.  They are not going to be able to put distance between themselves and that number because they cannot sweep teams, and they are going to lose series to the better teams. This makes them a middle of the pack team.

All this to say that unless they can come up with a trade that addresses and fixes this problem, then I hope they are sellers at at the trade deadline.  I don't want to lose good prospects to continue to tread water.  And the fact that we are in the Wild Card race is more a commentary on how awful the National League is overall than a commentary on the Pirates being any good.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

What to do at catcher next year at West Virginia?

One of the interesting things that has developed after this year's draft is what to do at catcher next year in A ball (West Virginia).
They already have a bit of a problem in Jamestown between Taylor Gushue and Kevin Krause.  One can DH while the other plays catcher, so it works, but both are top 10 draft picks who should be viewed as prospects.  Getting playing time behind the plate is especially important to Gushue, who only had one year at the position at Florida.
Add to this the new level of Bristol, a Rookie League club, but a high rookie league, and you can have some problems.  At Bristol sits Daniel Arribas.  Arribas is an international signing, and he has talent.  He played GCL last year, and DSL the year before that.  He is talented enough to play any position, focusing mostly on 1B when not playing catcher, but he is a catcher first.  Arribas has a nice bat, but cannot spend a third year in short season ball without it killing his career.  Plus, he has done everything needed to get promoted to full season ball.  The organization needs to be able to evaluate Arribas and now there is a back log on talent at catcher.  Arribas has more years in the system, which means his clock is starting to tick loudly.
You might be thinking that Arribas could just go to 1B for a while so that all three might could play, but that is not really possible because the Pirates have Kevin Ross currently playing 1B at Jamestown.  He was an 8th round pick in 2012 who did well in the GCL in that year, but the next year was hurt, played little, and lost a whole year of development.  He is too young to toss aside.  He probably needs to be seeing time at West Virginia as well.

So next year there will be three catchers who need to be at West Virginia.  Two of them can play other positions, particularly 1B, but that position is has a person sitting on it too.  One of these catching prospects is going to be missing a lot of at-bats.  It will be interesting to see who the Pirates handle it.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The start we wanted

Gregory Polanco has a hit streak going.  Some of those early hits may not have been impressive, but his 5 for 7 night last night including the game winning two run homer was impressive.  Polanco is going to be a great addition to Pittsburgh.

But I was thinking more of the addition of Taylor Gushue.  He has a multiple hit game and a homer as well.  The other hit was a triple.  I was also thinking of Nick Kingham.  He made his AAA debut.  And he was marvelous.  He struck out 8 in 7 innings, with only one walk.  He has a perfect 0.00 ERA.  It is not hard to start day dreaming about next year's starting rotation with Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Nick Kingham, Jameson Taillon, and someone else.  I think I could live with that line up.

The Pirates also apparently have signed Nelson Jorge.  I would imagine he will start in the GCL.  Interestingly the also signed a 21st round high schooler Eric Thomas Jr.  I just assumed he would go to college.  He is a center fielder with upside I guess.  The Pirates don't have to offer him a contract just because they drafted him.  I can't imagine they gave him over slot money as he is not a highly regarded prep player.  They may actually be over their limit anyway.  This is probably the reason we have not yet signed Connor Joe and Luplow.  We need to save some money on those two guys contracts.  Not a lot to be under the amount, but a decent amount if we want to throw any over the slot money on other guys.

Chase Simpson also signed.  I expect him to start at 3B for Jamestown.  And a Junior college pitcher, Palmer Betts, also signed.  He may start out in the new Bristol Appalachian League affiliate.  It used to be the Bristol Tigers, but I assume now it will be the Bristol Pirates.  I watched that league growing up and saw Darrell Strawberry play for the Kingsport Mets.  The Elizabethton Twins almost always win that league.  We will see if the Pirates can keep pace.

Anyway you look at yesterday it was a good start.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Draft over all

I think this is an okay draft.  It is not great by any means and can only be good if some of the day 3 guys sign (like Gage Hinsz and/or Colin Welmon).  Then you should not expect the same sort of excitement that we had last year with two top 15 picks.  Yes, the Pirates probably should have not reached for Cole Tucker at 24.  So his career is off to a really bad start as he will now be measured against a lot of other guys the Pirates could have signed.

I do think there are a few things to be excited about watching.  Nelson Jorge is a pretty big unknown coming from Puerto Rico.  How he does at SS and swinging the bat is one of the potential upside things out of this draft.  I am excited about Taylor Gushue as well.  I know he is behind McGuire at catcher, but he has potential.  I will be keeping an eye on his box score.  I do like Chase Simpson from round 14.  Power hitting 3Bs are always fun to watch.  And I will be watching to see whether Jordan Luplow can put up better numbers than Connor Joe.

But in the end, that is all that I am excited about.  And I am probably stretching it to add the Luplow v Joe battle.  Three guys that I am ready to see signed and on the field is not very many.  Of course if they were to manage to add Gage Hinsz or Colin Welmon they would immediately be added to the list of excitement.  I do expect they will make a real effort at Hinsz.

As I said earlier, I don't a mind a draft like this every now and then as long as they save money and put it into other areas.  Sometimes you do have to shift priorities to another part of the overall budget.  If this means a decent off season signing next year then I can live with this.  If this mean landing a big Latin American talent, then I am okay with this.  There are big league prospects in this bunch, so it is not as if we threw a whole draft away.  Mitch Keller, Trey Supak, Jordan Luplow, and even Connor Joe and Cole Tucker are big league prospects.  But they are not exactly All Star prospects.  It fills out the organization with more prospects, but these guys are not going to top the organizational charts at their position.  And coming away from a draft where we did not really add a new top prospect at any position is disappointing.  And even though I am no where near as high on Alen Hanson as most, I do think he will still be rated above Cole Tucker at SS leaving this draft class in some desperate need of big time production in short season ball to generate some excitement.

I will be interested to see a couple of front office interviews in the next couple of days.

Draft Day 3 round up

The third day of the draft can start with some excitement, but quickly turns into people who are just depth or will never ever sign.  Pirates Prospects draft tracker is up and going.

Gage Hinsz was the 11th round guy who everyone hopes the Pirates will sign.  A high school pitcher with real upside and a fastball tin the 90s already.  The Pirates ought to be able to save money to pay him over the slot money.  He is committed to Oregon State, which shows you something of how highly regarded he is as Oregon State is a power program.  He was rated in the top 200, and the Pirates could use a little more upside guys in this draft.

14th round pick Chase Simpson is someone I like a lot.  He is a switch hitter with the power to stick at 3B.  He played for Wichta State, and hopefully will sign.  The Pirates did take a lot of college hitters, but not a whole lot of power, and power from both sides is rare.

19th Round pick Carl Anderson is a speedy outfielder with a good eye.  He is a junior, but maybe the Pirates could go over the slot to sign him if Hinsz goes to college.

Round 23 seems to be where the Pirates start racking up guys who will not sign.  Both Zack Warren (LHP) and Denis Karas (3B) look very interesting, but neither will probably sign.

The Pirates also drafted a few juniors who will probably return to college as well.  This includes 33rd round Zach Lewis from Wabash Junior College who is a righty who can touch 90 and seems to have great control.  He could be interesting, but probably needs to add some velocity.  Also 34th round Colin Welmon who was ranked as a top 200 talent and projected for the 5th or 6th round.  He throws in the low 90s and probably will return to school.  Maybe if the Pirates really saved a lot of money they could throw it at him, but it is doubtful.

This draft does look like it might be meant to help fill out a new minor league affiliate in Bristol, and there are no real picks that make you excited.  Still I do think there are some potential big leaguers in this bunch.  Signing Gage Hinsz would be a nice bump to a rather dull class.  There a lot of RHPs in this class.