Thursday, December 23, 2010

Aaron Thomson and Garrett Atkins, new Pirates

The Pirates continue to amaze by claiming Aaron Thompson off of waivers. He is a pitcher that was drafted by the Marlins, traded to the Nationals, and now arrives with the Pirates. He will probably be in the AAA bullpen or perhaps the rotation of AA. To make room for him the Pirates designated for assignment Ledezma. Ledezma is the only lefty in the bullpen right now, so this is a bit of a shock. Plus it means that Chris Ledoux is still on the 40 man. Amazing. Ledezman had just re-signed earlier this year, so hopefully the Pirates will be able to keep him around.

They also made a minor trade, as in trading some minor leaguers. They get Corey Wimberly from the A's, a 27 year old utility infielder who has also played a little outfield for 23 year old Ryan Kelly. Kelly has pitched at the Low A level with a decent fastball, but with all the pitching talent coming through the system has no hope in the Pirate organization. Wimberly hit .284 at AAA with a nice 56 stolen bases. Clearly Wimberly is a possible major league back up if the Pirates decide against Ciraco. I fail to see how he fits in at a now crowded AAA infield unless the Pirates are planning on leaving at least one of their future stars (D'Arnaud or Mercer) in AA.

Garrett Atkins also signed a minor league deal with the Pirates. Atkins, a third baseman, hit well in the Rockies good year of 06 and again in 07, but has been miserable since. However he has real major league experience that the other candidates for back up third base do not have.

Now, it appears the Pirates are really planning on having some competition in camp to see who the back up in the infield are going to be. The Pirates might be leaning toward carrying a natural third base back up rather than using Neil Walker as the back up third base and going with an extra middle infielder to fill in at second. There are lots of choices for the Pirates to make this Spring, and that can only be a good thing.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Martinez removed from 40 man

I am not sure why this took so long. The Pirates had a 41 man roster for two days.

Joe Martinez came in a trade last year, so it is a little surprising that he was the one dropped. I think he could still stay with the Pirates by clearing waivers. But more importantly it says two things.

One, the Pirates must be having trouble trading Ryan Doumit. That is bad news. His presence on the roster ruins everything. It would probably push Bowker off the team, and probably also keep Pearce in AAA. It might also cost the team Jarmillo, but the Pirates seem bent on keeping Doumit away from the catcher position, so maybe Jarmillo would be safe. Doumit has to go.

Two, the Pirates must think highly of Chris Leroux. Leroux is a bullpen guy, who I think was claimed off of waivers. Most including me thought he was the one to drop. Yet, he remains. After the purge before the Winter Meeting and now after several free agent signings, Leroux remains. I find that development rather intriguing.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Brewers lose their minds and some minor league signings

The Brewers today made the big headline news in trading for Zack Greinke. They Brewers also got Bettencourt, a short stop, from the Royals. The Royals made out like bandits in this deal. They got 4 guys in return.

The Brewers gave up Alcides Escobar, who is better than Bettncourt, and is the best player in this deal. They also gave up Lorenzo Cain, a center fielder who played after September call ups and hit .500 for a 2 week stretch. He is going to be an above average center fielder. In addition to these two top prospects, they got Jake Odorizzi, who projects to be a number 3 possibly a number 2 guy. And they also got for good measure Jeremy Jeffress, who pitches 95-98 without much trouble, but has already got two strikes against him for smoking weed. Jeffress may not make it as a starting pitcher, but with that kind of speed and arm he could easily be an 8th inning guy or with some work a closer. He can outright overpower you. The key is whether or not he can stay clean. His next strike is a life time ban.

In other words the Brewers mortgaged their future on this year. Add in the fact that they traded for Shaun Marcum earlier this off season, which cost them a top second base prospect, and you have the definition of insanity. There is nothing in the cupboard for the Brewers, and while they have a great pitching staff, they do not have enough to win this year. Not only do their top 3 pitchers need to stay healthy, but they are going to be trading away Prince Fielder this year. With all that has happened they would be crazy not to trade him to the Yankees (since they seem to have fallen behind the Red Sox this offseason). The Yankees will be able to sign him this next off season for no return for the Brewers. Trade him they must. The same goes for Ricky Weeks, although they might could re-sign him. But without Fielder I doubt the Brewers have what it takes to attract him back.

I live in the Kansas City region, and the dirty secret discussed in Kansas City all last season is that many believer Zack Grienke emotionally broken. His best pitching days may indeed be behind him. The Royals number 1 ranked farm system just got a lot better and their major league team did too.

In other news the Pirates have re-signed Donald Veal (great news), Tyler Yates (good news - I like him as emergency bullpen help), and signed for the first time Josh Fields (so-so news). Fields is a back up utility infielder with 3B as his normal spot. He has seen major league action and is fairly young. He is just adding that level of competition for back up spots that the Pirates have been preaching.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Lyle Overbay signed

The Pirates plugged a hole with a questionable signing at first. Lyle Overbay who can put up 20 HRs, but hits about .244. Although there is some hope that this will increase. He did play for the Blue Jays so he faced the pitching of the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays regularly. Maybe his average will go up as he sees the Astros and Cubs more regularly.

Still, you have to wonder what this means. Jones is now said to be in a platoon in Right with Matt Diaz. I like that, but Bowker and Pierce were probably as good as Overbay. One of those guys is in big trouble now. With Pearce recently given another option year, I think it means the Pirates will start Pearce in AAA because Bowker is out of options. Bowker will also give them a lefty off of the bench, and Diaz on the bench when lefties are starting.

I would have preferred something else, but in the end Overbay might could be traded mid-season. It is a one year deal, so if he brings something in return, then the deal has to be evaluated in light of that final news. I will hold off criticism and just trust right now.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Winter Meetings 2010 - Part 3 - The Rule 5 Draft

The Pirates selected Josh Rodriguez with their pick in the Rule 5 Draft. While, I preferred a different candidate, or no pick at all, the Pirates did well. They did not go with a pitcher, but rather used the Rule 5 to find the back up middle infielder, which is what I wanted to do (we just had different opinions on who). Rodriguez is a guy who looks to have the tools to play the Utility infielder role, and could actually be a decent hitter. He is a righty, which will help as the back up to Pedro Alvarez at third, and might could beat out Cedano, if Cedano does not show up circa Seattle in 2009.

The down side is the Pirates lost Nathan Adcock. Lots of guys think that the Royals will not be able to hide him on their roster meaning the Pirates will have a chance to get him back, but I disagree. The Royals will keep him all year. I had Adcock as the 19th best prospect in our system, but I admitted he was basically the same as Miller and Lorin who I had at 23 and 25, but got the higher slot because he pitched in the higher level. But then again, I did not have McPherson ranked in the top 50 instead giving him an honorable mention. The Pirates rightly deserve some criticism for this move. While Adcock has never even pitched at AA, the Royals bullpen is about a AA level bullpen anyway. Adcock's 49% ground ball rate make him worth hiding all year. The Royals "need a bigger boat" as their announcer put it when they had to go to the pen in an early season game this year when facing Joe Mauer. Adcock is not a significant down grade for them. His potential will keep him in the Royal's system.

That said, we can see the 25 man roster start to take shape.

C- Snyder
1B - Jones
2B - Walker
3B - Alvarez
SS - Cedano
LF - Tabata
CF - McCutchen
RF - Diaz
Back Up OF - Bowker
Back up SS - Ciraco
UI - Rodreguez
Back up C - Jarmillo
Back Up 1B - Pearce

The question there is more about whether Pearce will be ready to go on opening day. Bowker could also be the first baseman back up if that is the case and another outfielder like Presley could be added.

SP - Malholm
SP - Ohlendorf
SP - McDonald
SP - Corria
SP - Oleson
RP - Meek
RP - Hanrahan
RP - Ledezma
RP - Resop
RP - Karstens
RP - Ascino
RP - ?
Here is where some of the questions remain. A few spots in the pen are up for grabs. Jose Ascino's spot is tenuous at best. He may also still be on the DL. Hart has a shot at one, but he too will probably be on the DL to start the year. Daniel McCutchen has a good shot for one. And Charlie Morton will be lost if he does not end up on the team. Plus the Pirates are making a few offers to free agent bullpen guys, which means that perhaps the Pirates are not done tinkering in the pitching department. Rumors have Paul Malholm on the block. I assume that he would bring back prospects in return, which might open a starting position for Karstens or Morton. In turn that would open another bullpen slot.

In the end, I do think the Pirates are not done dealing yet. Expect Malholm and Doumit to be traded.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Winter Meetings 2010 - Part 2

The Pirates have been busy just as they promised. Two major signings have taken place since the last update.

Kevin Correia signed a deal worthy about 4 million a year for two years. However, I sort of doubt that the Pirates will keep him around for two years. If he has a decent year, I think the Pirates will shop him mid year. Still this signing is excellent. Correia is a solid pitcher and a clear up grade over Zack Duke. This also takes a lot of pressure off of James McDonald as I think this bumps McDonald to the 4th slot and Correia takes the 3rd slot with Ohlendorf at 2 and Malholm at 1. I also think that this means Brad Lincoln starts off in AAA, as I am pretty sure he has some options left. Jeff Karstens is probably back in the pen, Daniel McCutchen may still have a shot at the pen, but might be in AAA himself or traded by opening day. If you are going to get J.J. Hardy someone has to go. I think it spells bad news for Charlie Morton as well because in all probability Scott Oleson is your 5th starter.

The Pirates also signed Matt Diaz to play corner outfield for the Pirates. This guy is 32 and his deal is a two year deal, but it is only about 2 million a year. Reasonable. Diaz can hit lefties, but has struggled against righties. Last year was bad for him, but his career average is about .301. Probably not going to get that high as he is aging. Some are worried that this is not any better than Milledge. Milledge had a higher OBP and AVG against lefties than Diaz, although they had the same Slugging percentage. Milledge is much younger and would have been a little cheaper. I for one and much happier with Diaz. There are three main reasons.
One, Diaz is tradable. There was a lot of interest in Diaz when he was non-tendered from many teams. Diaz has a decent year and those teams like the Yankees are going to be willing to trade for him. Milledge was not tradable because of his bad reputation.
Two, Diaz has more power. Milledge had no power. It was completely gone last year, and I think the Pirates did not see it coming back. He has always underachieved in the power department. He is about at the age where you can say that what you see is what you get. The PIrates desperately need power.
Three, Milledge just did not try and that sort of attitude eats a team away. Milledge loafed in the outfield and often on the basepaths. I can remember at least two clear instances of bad defense from Milledge costing the Pirates games. I mean basic stuff like rout running and hitting the cutoff man. Add in all the times he failed to advance when he should have, got thrown out at third costing the team a run, and other dumb stuff and Milledge had to go. Diaz is going to be a player who knows how to run the bases and play defense. It is a shot in the arm of professionalism that the Pirates can use.

This does make getting rid of Doumit in a trade and near must.

All in all the Pirates are having a good meeting. I believe they still have one spot open on the 40 Man and the Rule 5 Draft is tomorrow.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Winter Meetings 2010 - Part 1

The first updates from the Winter Meetings are in, and the big news is the signing of Scott Olsen. This fills one starting pitcher role. They really could use another unless they feel comfortable with Jeff Karstens as a number 5 guy. So, I think there is still hope for a Webb, Francis, or another like that to be signed. I am not a fan of Scott Olsen. I wish they had not signed him at all. It is like getting another Lastings Milledge. An upside, but a real bad attitude and lack of effort that will rear its head.

Of course the Pirates are still trying to trade Ryan Doumit. I have some confidence that somewhere the Pirates will get this done, but it won't be a great deal. Still just getting rid of him to make room on the 25 man roster is important.

The Pirates are also still talking to the Twins. I like J.J. Hardy, and he is better than Cedano, but I am not sure I want to part with real prospects to get him.

Apparently goal number 1 is young starting pitching which I doubt will come in trades. Olsen might fight that bill, but I think it means the Pirates are going to take a pitcher in the Rule 5 draft.

Jennifer Langosh gives us some more names that I hope don't come to the Pirates. She mentions Kenshin Kawakami as a possible trade pick up. Apparently at a cheap price without a real prospect loss. I think his best days are behind him. I guess if we got him for nothing, it would be hard to complain, but really, give me Jeff Francis. She also mentions a couple of possible short stops in addition to JJ Hardy including Jason Bartlett (numbers getting worse), and Cardinal short stop Brendan Ryan (numbers were never good in the first place). I prefer to keep our internal pieces and wait one more year for D'Arnaud and Mercer and see if we can get Cedano to just hit .250.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Pirate Direction with 4 non-tenders

The Pirates had some surprises by not tendering contracts to a few guys. First, they did tender contracts to Hanrahan, Ohlendorf, Karstens, and Cedano. Those are not surprises. Karstens was a maybe, but he deserved it. He pitched well last year, was misused by coaches to lower his record, and the year before that showed he could be a good long term reliever.

The big surprise is that they did not offer anything to Milledge. I would have thought they would have done that because he was a trade, and he was not all that bad. Not what they had hoped, but not bad at the plate. I think that this shows that the Pirates are taking defense seriously. Milledge was awful in the field and on the basepaths. It is good news for Joe Bowker who has a much better chance to make the team now. It may also signal that Garrett Jones is going to return to left field. This could be a sign that the Pirates intend to sign a free agent first baseman.

Also let go were Brian Burres, which is no big surprise. He was destined to be let go to make room for some free agents. Donald Veal also was not resigned. Veal was a Rule 5 guy with some upside. Jennifer Langoshreports that they are trying to get Veal to a minor league deal, which would make that move understandable. Argenis Diaz was also released. Diaz might could come back in the minor league system. I am a little surprised at this. Ciriaco was going to be in competition with Diaz for the backup slot this year, but I guess the Pirates have seen enough to go with Ciriaco instead.

The real story is that now the Pirates have 4 holes in the 40 man roster. I expected a few, but 4 is more than I thought. It signals that the Pirates are going to be real active in the free agent market. It may also signal that they are going to try to take a Rule 5 guy. It seems from the releases that in addition to pitching, first base might be a target in the free agent game. I think that this also ends the short stop speculation because I think now the Pirates are going to have to ship Cedano out in any trade. That is probably just not going to happen.

Let us get started with the Winter Meetings.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Andy Marte signing what does it mean?

The Pirates signed three guys to minor league deals.
Dusty Brown is just a catcher for AAA.

Fernando Nieve will get his chance to make the bullpen. The Pirates are going to probably sign a lot more pitchers to minor league deals. Nieve is nice organizational depth. Hopefully won't break camp with the team, but is a guy you can go to for those 15 day DL solutions in the pen.

Andy Marte is the real interesting signing. Marte is a AAAA kind of 3rd baseman. A prospect bust for the Indians. The Pirates are currently missing a back up third baseman on the major league roster, but I doubt Marte is expected to get that job. He will have his shot at it, but it is going to be a long shot. The question then becomes if Marte is not the backup third baseman for the big leagues, what is his role?

The obvious answer is the third baseman for the AAA Indians. But since Marte is a 27 year old non-prospect, why put him at third to block real prospects? The Indians were going to have a real nice infield. D'Arnaud, Mercer, and Harrison. Jordy Mercer spent time at third as did Josh Harrison. Marte is not going to be a back up at Indy. I think that this might signal a move for these two guys. Third base is blocked at the major league level. A faster track to the big leagues would be for them to play a different position. Both of them can. Mercer is a natural short stop and plays second as well. Harrison also plays second, but in the Arizona Fall League played a little of everywhere including the outfield. Could it be that the AAA Indians will have Mercer at second and Harrison in the outfield in order to make the more useful quicker at the major league level?

This makes sense no matter how you look at it. Even if you are assuming that Alvarez is going to shift to first soon. Walker is not good defensively at second, and is better at third. Mercer (or perhaps D'Arnaud) makes more sense at second. Harrison then gets to either take the third outfield slot, or more likely be the 4th outfielder who has the ability to be the back up utility infielder as well.

We have to wait and see of course, but I think the Marte signing says more about the prospects in our system now than it does for the Pirates 2011 major league roster.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Huntington does it again

I have to say that Neil Huntington is a genius. He is amazing. He traded away Zack Duke. Duke was not put on the 40 man roster a few days ago, so that the 10 day clock now began. It was clear that the Pirates were not going to offer Duke arbitration, so Duke was essentially a free agent, just waiting on the PIrates 10 days to pass. Yet somehow, Neil Huntington pulls off a trade. Pretty amazing. Now, I know the Diamond Backs are not going to give us anything. The dreaded player to be named later is never a good sign. But, still it is one more guy with a long shot chance than we would have had. It also sounds a little like this guy is going to be someone in AAA or AA. Rumors are that it will be a player who was left open for the Rule 5 draft, as long as the person is not taken. That means it will be someone who did not have what it takes to make it in the Diamondback system. Not so good. This trade still ranks up there with amazing feats. I am not sure yet whether or not this outdoes the trade of Brian Bixler, but it is close.

There is also some discussion about the possibility of getting J.J. Hardy. Having live near the Twins, I think the possibility of this is low. Yes, the Twins just paid 5 million to a Japanese team for the rights to an infielder that will surely replace Hardy. But that guy has not officially signed yet. They have 30 days to do that. However, the non-tender deadline will come before that. With Hardy holding some trade value, I do not see away that the Twins don't hedge their bets knowing that they can trade Hardy if they need to do so. The Twins are the best run organization in baseball, maybe all of sports. Their ownership is not going to give Hardy away for nothing. I think Hardy could help the Pirates, but I also think that his price would be too steep. The Pirates are not that far away from having D'Arnaud and Mercer ready to go. So with at least two guys nearing big league readiness, I would hate to see young prospects go away for an aging Hardy. Wait on the youth. I can endure one more ugly season before the 5 to 10 great seasons we are about to have.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Rule 5 or not to Rule 5

I am not a big fan of the Rule 5 method of adding to the organization. Sure Evan Meek is a great find, but let us not forget that the farm system was really thin at that time. It is much better now. Also we have Meek because they did not want him back. He did not stay up all year. Veal did make it, but he is not a big steal. Raynor didn't make it. All we did was waste money. Doumatrait made it, but washed out soon after.

Tim at Pirate Prospects has a nice rundown of the Rule 5 available players. I still have a hope that we will not try to take a pitcher. The Pirate bullpen should already be full. Resop, Meek, Hanrahan, and Ledezma are in. Karstens, Hart, and Ascino have the other spots even if Hart may not be able to take up his spot right away. Any Rule 5 player would not be able to stand aside for Hart when he got there. Daniel McCutchen also ought to have a real shot at making the bullpen. The starting 5 also ought to be full. Ohlendorf, Malholm, and McDonald are solid. The Pirates are making a big move for at least one, and probably 2 free agents are going to make it here. Karstens could still slide in one spot as could Charlie Morton (hopefully not). So I have large hope that no one will be taken.

Still, one possibility intrigues me. Brad Emaus. Emaus plays 2B and 3B. He hit .298 in AAA and had an .395 OBP with an .890 OPS. That is not a lot of power, but a pretty decent bat. One worth taking a chance on since the Pirates released both their back up Second basemen, and Third basemen. It should be easy to hide him as the starters are firmly in place in both those positions. He would also probably be a defensive upgrade at both slots. It also would probably keep Brad in a position where he would not be the expected pinch hitter. Although, he does have the benefit of being a righty, so you would have the contrast with Alvarez, if you wanted to make sure that Alvarez got his days of rest when a lefty took the mound.

If the Pirates have to take someone. I could live with Brad Emaus.

AFL review

Here are the stats for the Arizona Fall League.

•3B Josh Harrison: 22 G, .330 BA, 19 R, 10 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 6 SB
•OF Andrew Lambo: 28 G, .274 BA, 19 R, 8 2B, 4 HR, 23 RBI
•SS Jordy Mercer: 20 G, .267 BA, 10 R, 4 2B, 1 HR, 13 RBI
•C Tony Sanchez: 18 G, .206 BA, 11 R, 1 2B, 4 HR, 9 RBI
•RHP Brian Leach: 10 G, 0-1, 10 IP, 11 H, 0 ER, 7 BB, 7 K
•RHP Aaron Pribanic: 11 G, 18 IP, 18 H, 4 ER, 6 BB, 9 K
•LHP Justin Wilson: 6 GS, 0-1, 16.1 IP, 19 H, 8 ER, 8 BB, 16 K

Whose stock went up and whose went down? Well, I think you have to say that the big winner is Brian Leach. 10 games no Earned Runs. Any time you can put up a 0.00 ERA you have done some good work. Too many walks, and too many hits, but he got around them (an error undid him once leading to his loss). The other two winners who might be just a little less are Andrew Lambo and Josh Harrison. Harrison was position-less for most of his games. He played both infield and outfield. The .330 AVG is nice, but it is the 10 2B and 2 3B that makes it special. 6 stolen bases are not to be overlooked either. Lambo showed nice power and played a lot of games meaning the coaches down there liked him too. He had 8 2B's and 4 HRs including a grand slam aiding his 23 RBIs.

Jordy Mercer did not really hurt his stock, but neither did he help it. You would want a bit higher AVG from him in the hitters league that is the AFL. Not shown above are also 8 errors which is worrisome. However, Mercer pulled out a decent AVG and showed his ability to get RBIs. He had 13. His homer was in his last appearance and maybe that shows he was on an upswing when the season ended. Aaron Pribonic did not really help or hurt himself either. He had a good start and had a rocky game or two in there leading to a lot of those runs. It is a hitters league, and Pribonic is below the competition level of most of these guys. One hit per inning is not good, but only 4 Earned Runs is not bad.

Those who hurt their stock are Justin Wilson. Wilson was the lone starter, and he got beat up a bit. 19 hits is getting pounded and 8 Earnerd runs is no good. Yet, the high strike out total is a hopeful sign.
Surprisingly the most disappointing is Tony Sanchez. He was coming off a long layoff, which means he probably had to re-find his timing, and not playing as often aas the others made that more difficult. But these are excuses. 4 HRs is a bright spot, but only 1 2B is a bad sign. It is a hitters league. Tony may have just been really tired as he was great in High A. We will see how this experience helps him develop, which overall is the important thing.

Friday, November 19, 2010

40 Man Roster set with a bevy of surprises

The Pirates finally look like they mean business. They have officially turned the team over to the young guys now. Earlier the Pirates had dumped Chan Ho Park, Justin Thomas, and a few others. That freed up a few slots. As expected Daniel Moskos and Jeff Locke were protected.

The surprises came in who was dropped. The Pirates DFA'd Zack Duke, Dwelven Young, and Andy LaRoche. Now, I have to say, I was expecting Brian Burres to get dropped and maybe Ramon Aguero. Yet, both of those guys are kept. Some were thinking Chris Leroux would get dropped, but I think the Pirates have plans. This might show that is true. Alex Pressley would have even made sense considering the crowded Bucs outfield. Burres, however, is the biggest surprise. He has no options left, which means he has to stay on the 25 man roster all year. His time might still be limited as the first guy off when the Pirates sign a pitcher.

Dropping Duke is not a big deal. They were not going to offer him anything. Young is not all that big a deal either. A little surprising that Duke was not traded, but I think this move shows how low the demand is for Duke. He may have trouble finding a position anywhere, and if he does I bet it is out of the pen. The big surprise to me is Andy LaRoche. They need a middle infielder, which Andy was learning. Plus, in close games, they need a defensive replacement for Alvarez. Andy had that covered too. His bat was awful, but this is surprising.

In addition to Moskos and Locke the Pirates added three more guys. Tony Watson, Kyle McPherson and Michael Crotta. Now, Watson looks good since they moved him to the pen, but it is a bit early. Considering his injury history and lack of consistent power, not to mention he is a lefty, that move makes sense. Crotta makes even more sense to me. He has AAA experience unlike Watson. Crotta is not a high profile prospect, but could develop as a 5 starter, and could easily be hidden all yaer in a bullpen, where I think he will play in the pros with the Pirates. Considering the Pirate trouble with the 5th slot this past year, Crotta is good insurance. Remember I thought he was going to be taken in the Rule 5. I think the Pirate might have agreed. The real surprise to me is Kyle McPhearson. A prospect yes, but has not really faced quality competition. Mostly in Low A. No one was going to take a chance on a guy who had not even faced AA. He would never have made it. Surprise move to be sure.

One note. It looks like the Pirates may not take anyone in the Rule 5 draft. I think that is a good idea. Expect the Pirates to make a few signings and see Burres fall of the 40 man to make room for it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Now the offseason gets going . . .

Clint Hurdle is the new Pirates manager. Great. So what does that mean? Hurdle really only had one good season, but it was a good one. He seems like a solid on the basics coach, who has some experience with the young guys. Although it should be noted that he lost them the next season. I would have preferred Tony Pena. But, you get what you can, and Pena is not going to Pittsburgh, at least not in the condition they are now. For those of you worried about JR, don't. He is the new bench coach for Baltimore.

The impact that Hurdle can have now is in helping to lure free agents. Pitching is the biggest need and seems to be where the Pirates are concentrating. They are actively pursuing former Rockies Jeff Francis and Jorge De La Rosa. Now, I am actually against a De La Rosa signing. He is going to command big money, and I don't think he will be worth what he is going to get. It will also cost the team that signs him a 2 round draft pick, which for the Pirates is the first pick of the second round. So, I think that it is better off not signed. Jeff Francis, however, is not coming with such baggage. He has shown he can be great and produce in big games. Hurdle was there for that, and maybe he can whisper the right things in Francis's ear.

Brandon Webb is also supposedly being pursued by the Pirates. Webb was one of, if not the, best pitcher in the NL a few years ago. But injuries destoryed him, and now his fastball was last clocked topping out at 85. Clearly that will go up some, but whether or not he will be any good again is not clear. I think that this might be a mistake to sign him, but the upside is too intriguing to pass on if the price is low enough. I'd rather have Francis.

Oh yeah, Chan Ho Park is thinking about re-signing with the Pirates, a minor league deal. I guess it is hard to object to a minor league deal.

Hurdle could help some of these signings along by getting his pitching coach in order. Leo Mazzoni is available. Who he puts for the rest of his coaching staff is going to be interesting. I still hope the Pirates can find a place for Andy Van Slyke. The Cubs passed on Ryan Sandburg (which is a mistake), so despite the fact that he appears to be the head coach for the Phillies AAA club, maybe he could find a place as the bench coach for the Pirates. Who else could teach defense like Sandburg? Oh yeah, the Iowa Cubs were great last year under him.

Looking forward what comes next.

Friday, November 12, 2010

More inillegible guys

Pirate Prospects reports that Rudy Owens and Diego Moreno are NOT Rule 5 eligible. That is great news as both were sure to be protected. This exta space should ensure that Moskos is protected.

More room on the roster means more room to add guys through free agency or even taking someone in the Rule 5 Draft.

Good news for the Pirates!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

More Roster stuff and Rule 5 possibilities

The Pirates got some great news with Steven Pearce being given an extra year of minor league elligibility. That does open up some real possibilities for the Pirates. If Pearce had been out of options, he would have to be the first baseman or a back up for it. Now the Pirates can use Pearce how ever they want. If he needs to go down for more work in the minors, especially after his injury, he can. This opens the Pirates up a little more to try and find a first baseman on the free agent market as Pearce can start in the minors, freeing up his 25 man roster spot for a free agent.

Also, the Pirates will have to make a decision about who to protect from Rule 5 Draft in Decemeber. The only way to do that is add them to the 40 Man roster. Jennifer Langosh gives a nice run down of who is on the block. I do disagree about one thing. I think Daniel Moskos is a sure fire lock to be added. He is too talented to let his struggle at AAA stop his protection. Another team could swipe him and hide him in the bullpen for a year. I think it also makes Brian Friday assured to be unprotected as well. Langosh thinks he is up for debate. If I am not mistaken he was left unprotected last year and no one took him. He may have a higher stock a little this year, but it is so much easier to hide pitchers than it is position players. The Pirates found this out last year when they failed to keep their Rule 5 pick. But they were able to do that with the two previous Rule 5 pitchers they took (Doumatrait and Veal).

I believe I previously said Sterling Marte was up for Rule 5, but he is not as Pirate Prospects explains how the 2006 signing date has been out there. So, good news for the Pirates because Marte is a must protect, even if hand surgery takes away his power.

By the way, I think that the Pirates could lose a guy this year. It has been a while since a Pirate prospect was taken (lest we forget Jose Bautista was taken in the Rule 5, and we traded to get him back), but Michael Crotta could get snatched. He pitched at the AAA level as was not awful. A bullpen position is not out of the question on some teams. Tony Watson too could get taken. He was very good against lefties. Still, I think the best chance is for Crotta. The question is does anyone want him enough to pay 50,000 and a gamble on someone who may only be a future bullpen guy anyway.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Roster moves

The Pirates have started their off season moves. They began with a little 40-man roster clean up. They dropped Brandon Moss, Jeff Clement, Justin Thomas, Steven Jackson, and Sean Gallagher. They also put all their 60-Day DL guys back on the 40-man: Ohledorf, Pearce, and Ascanio. Thus, we have a net gain of 2. The Pirates need more room than that to protect their prospects. It also appears that Clement will be exposed to the Rule 5 Draft. I think the Pirates are going to go with Pearce, and then maybe they are hoping that Clement will get passed over because his injuries. If he is not taken, then Clement will remain under Pirate control, but the others are all minor league free agents. Although, I read a report today Thomas has already re-signed as a minor leaguer.

The Pirates have also gone after several free agents. Adrean Beltre is supposed to be one of them, but I hope the Pirates don't get him. I think the Pirates are going to be okay with out him. Supposedly the Pirates expected to sign Hiroki Kuroda. This would probably add something to the Pirate pitching staff even if it is just new blood. He is not the answer by any means, but if it helps keep Charlie Morton off the team, then I am okay with it. I have also learned that the Pirate management often signs guys they think they can deal in trades. So, if they sign him, I will be a believer.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Slow Manager Search

The Manager search for the Pirates is going no where fast, and that is actually a good thing. Many candidates like Dave Sevum have removed their names. Others like Eric Wedge have gotten other jobs. Their are still a few names out there, and hopefully a few more from the teams in the playoffs soon to be added.

What this means is that the Pirates are taking their time and making sure they get the right fit. The Pirate job is one of endless potential, but will require some real work. Managers may not make a whole lot of difference normally, but I think with real young teams, they do have a higher impact. The younger the team, the greater the impact of the manager. I think that showed in John Russel. He was really laid back, no emotion, no urgency. He was also apparently not a great communicator, and failed in teaching to his rather young squad. There was no improvement in defensive liabilities like Milledge and Cedano at all, nor was their any improvement in McCutchen and Jones who showed great promise last year. McCutchen is still great, but showed no maturity in his route running in the field, and Jones's defense was not any better and he still cannot hit the outside pitch.

What the Pirates need is a manager who is going to force the team to focus on the details, like rules about base running, how to approach a fly ball and relay throws. The manager will also need to do a lot of coaching for the young guys. Making sure they shake off bad games, stay away from bad habits, and keeping their progress going. This is not a job for just any manager.

The more time the Pirates take, the more I think they are taking it seriously. I am glad they see the value the manager has on a young team. Now I hope they go interview Tony Pena.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wedge out but maybe Tony Pena

There is a nice article about the Pirate manager slot. I had not thought about Tony Pena before. That would be perfect. I hope that the Pirates are holding out for some more manager interviews. With Wedge out of the conversation since being hired by the Mariners, I have two favorites. Ron Wotus (as I mentioned in the last post), and Tony Pena. I think Art Howe is a distant third with Ken Macha behind that.
I have already sung the praises of Ron Wotus, and I think the playoffs are showing what a great coaching staff the Giants have. Now let me wax on about Tony Pena. If memory serves me right, he was the head guy with Kansas City in the past. Not altogether successful, but experience nonetheless. Pena has for some time now sat at the feet of Joe Girradi, a great manager, and been bench coach in New York. There is no place to learn what it is like to win than with the Yankees. Pena also has connections to the Pirate past, which I think is a plus, but I do not think that current management cares as much as I do. I also think he would show more emotion than

I have to admit a coaching staff of Pena with Andy Van Slyke as a third base coach is a dream I can only dare hopes come true.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Managerial Search

Jennifer Langosh is reporting the Pirates have interviewed Ron Wotus, the bench coach for the San Fransico Giants. Eric Wedge has been interviewed as Bo Porter and today Ken Macha and Jeff Banister. There has been talk about Andy Van Slyke in Pittsburgh, and maybe he is interviewing for a lower position. The Double A manager slot is open, and perhaps so are some base coach slots probably. So that makes me get three guys right, or at least two.

Although I have to say that I think Ron Wotus is a great idea. The Giants are beautifully coached. Their pitchers do not wear down, they don't beat themselves, and they win with really a very untalented line up outside of their pitching staff. Wotus has some connections to the Pirates since they drafted him in 79 and he did play here. Wotus is sitting under one of the best coaches in the league today, so he has learned from the best. This might be a good hire. Wedge has suitors, and thus would be expensive. Taking a chance on the cheper Wotus is something, I like.

Monday, October 4, 2010

John Russell gone - let the healing begin

It is official, John Russell is out It is no secret I have been calling for his firing for some time. I think there were just in excusable mistakes all year. Base running, outfield defense, infield defense, and frankly use of players. Even if we cut him slack for his late use of Ryan Doumit and his use of Ryan Church to try and get trade value, there are still several other things that demand a firing. His misuse of pitchers was an all season long thing. Look no further than sticking with Morton, short use of D. McCutchen, and inability to figure out how long Karstens could throw in a game. He over played Garrett Jones driving his stats into the ground. McCutchen too was over used after apparent injuries. Also he overplayed Alvarez having a visible deterimental effect on his play. I could go on, but why bother, the Pirates did the obvious thing. On to who will replace him.

Frankly the list ought to be short. Eric Wedge should be the manager of the Pirates next year. Wedge has all of the attributes the Pirates are looking for: communication, experience, wins. Wedge has it all. He even did it in a small market by training up young guys. I think he should be the top candidate.

However here are some other names that I would like to see considered.

Ken Macha. Macha has great experience coaching small market young teams with loads of talent. He did this with the A's both as a bench coach and head coach. He won a lot of games there and saw the post season. He talked to the Pirates in the past, but maybe this time he will join us. He is not returning to be the 3rd base coach of the Brewers so he is available.

Art Howe. Howe gives you a connection to the successful 70's for the Pirates. Howe has also shown a decent ability to manage at the big league level with a lot of success coming in Oakland. He has a .468 winning percentage, which is not great, but better than the Pirates have now. Howe was recently with the Rangers as a bench coach, but I believe has not done anything since 08.

Tony Gwynn. Okay a long shot. Gwynn manages San Diego St University and has no major league managing experiece, but is a Hall of Famer.

Ryan Sandberg. Sandberg is an outside possibility. He has been managing in the Cubs minor league system and has shown success with the Iowa Cubs this year. He appears to be a front runner for the Cubs opening, but if for some reason they pass him up, I think he might be willing to jump at another Major League offer. Sandberg is ready for the Big leagues, has openly expressed his desire for the big leagues, and is not going to be doing anything other than be the head coach.

Andy Van Slyke. Probably not a great choice, but it would be a popular one. Van Slyke has been a 1st base coach for the Tigers, but was not picked up for the 2010 season, so is currently available. In Dertoit, he learned from the great Jim Leyland, what more do you need. He was in charge of baserunning and outfielders as well in Detriot, which are areas that the Pirates particularly stunk in this year. Pittsburgh fans have great memories of this guy. He would spark some community support right out of the gate.

A whimper (36-62)

The season is mercifully over. Burress lost as he could not hold it, and the offense was gone. Daniel McCutchen showed why he still deserves a shot at pitching going 4 strong before they turned the game over to Chan Ho Park so he could set a pointless record of most wins by an Asian born pitcher. But over all it was just an ugly season. Over 100 losses and heads are going to roll. More thoughts later.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A strange game (34-60)

Zack Duke made the case for letting him walk in the off season. He gave up 8 runs on 8 hits, although a few of those were unearned. Alvarez botched a couple of plays and Cedano made an error just to try and stay ahead of Alvarez in the race for worst defensive player on the team. He currently leads with 17 errors although Alvarez is hot on his heels with 16. Yet the Pirates scored 9. If the bullpen could have held. But it didn't. Martinez gave up two and Karsten gave up 1 himself as he shook the rust off. The Marlins win 11-9. The Pirate bats did not wake up until the 7th.

Oddly enough I feel real encouraged after this game. Duke was a disaster who was left out on the mound for far too long. But he will be gone and maybe JR will go with him. Or at least they will get a permanent pitching coach who will know how to handle a staff. McCutchen went hitless, but that does not bother me. McCutchen is solid, we know that. Tabata had multiple hits, Walker had two himself, one of which was a double down the line to score Tabata. The only early production. But we saw Pedro Alvarez get four hits and five RBIs including a three run blast in the 9th. We saw Bowker get a hit and play a little first again. Interesting. We saw Ciriaco get a pinch hit for a .600 average on the year. Diaz saw some time at short. Presley got a little time too, but no hits. But even better was seeing Brad Lincoln get an inning of work. He struck out the side. Three strike outs, no hits. A perfect inning. Good to see Brad get a good inning under his belt.

The Pirates of the future played pretty well. The Pirates of the past cost them the game, but in this season, I can live with that.

Matt Walbeck fired from Altoona (34-59)

The Pirates start their last game with the news that the League Champion Altoona Curve's manager, who was named manager of the year, was fired. Kind of strange. But probably a good move.

1. No reason to doubt that the reason given is a legitimate reason. Walbeck wanted to move up into AAA. Hard to blame him. Probably deserves it. But, this crop coming to AAA is the future of the franchise. If they don't pan out then Hunington is done and the Pirates are toast for another 10 years. Development is always better when you get a new set of eyes, a new voice. That is the point of having a different manager every year in the minors as you move up. So, no spot for him in AAA, so why not just part ways and let the man get the job he wants elsewhere.

2. I think that Walbeck probably deserves some criticism. Sure the Curve won. They should have with that rotation and that infield. Yet, the best hitting prospect on the team struggled all year in Chase D'Arnaud. Not exactly something you want to hang your hat on in the minors. You judge minor league managers by talent development. I think there is room for criticism here. D'Arnaud's set back. Do we even need to speak of Tim Alderson. He was a big time piece of the puzzle that had to be sent down to High A. Yikes. Those are two serious prospects (or at least used to be) that fell flat under Walbeck's watch. Now take a look at the prospects that got pushed up to AAA. Michael Crotta was lights out at AA, but only so-so at AAA. Does that mean he was not ready? Maybe. Maybe that is just his talent level. What about Daniel Moskos, another big name talent. Moskos was in his first year of bullpen duty, but had pitched at AAA last year. Moskos fell flat at AAA, and actually had to be sent back down to AA. Only Presley, who was a fringe prospect at best had any success in making the jump. Some of that blame has to fall on the manager.

3. I think the Pirates were already suspicious of Walbeck. Think back on the season and think about how many Pirate Prospects at High A were ready for the jump to AA, but never made it. Sanchez was ready, but went no where, and then took a pitch to the face. It was claimed that Hector Gimenez was having such a great season that there was no where to put Sanchez. It is true Gimenez had a great season, but he is a journeyman minor leaguer. Sanchez is last year's number 1 pick. You make room. Sterling Marte was ready before and then again after his hand injury. Yet, he too never made the jump. Marte was a consensus top 5 prospect in the system, and has to be added to the 40 Roster this year, but he has never even seen AA play. He is another guy you make room for, but they did not. They also did not promote Jeff Locke until the very end of the season.

So, I think the Pirates have been planning this move for a while.

As for last night's game it was an ugly loss. James McDonald continues to be impressive as he struck out 7 in 6 with only 1 run allowed. The Pirates lost anyway. Chan Ho gave up two and Martinez another. A late tally for the Pirates was pointless, and that is it for McDonald this year. He looks good for next year, but the Pirates cannot have the offense disappear like that and compete for the playoffs or even .500 next year.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Good News Number 1 overall pick is ours!(34-58)

The Pirates are now the proud owners of the number 1 overall pick. We can now rest players like Doumit and Cedano who were so crucial to us getting this pick. I look forward to seeing some young bats.

Seriously, some good news is welcome, and adding a bat like Anthony Rendon, who could arrive in Pittsburgh in 2014, will help the team. However, we cannot over look how well the Pirates have played recently. They have won 3 straight series, and are now in a position to win another thanks to a big night from Garrett Jones. Jones two run shot early in the game gave the Pirates a 3-0 lead for Burres. Burres did just enough to hold on until John Bowker came through with a bases loaded extra base hit. The Pirates rebounded from last night's embarrassing meltdown by Charlie Morton (surprise!). Morton gave up two leads and ruined a night where Alvarez was a triple shy of the cycle.

This is a look into next year, and the view is nice. Walker is hitting, Tabata is hitting, McCutchen is hitting, and Alvarez is hitting bombs. That is enough to give the Pirates a 8-3 record over their last 11 games. Jones hit today, and Bowker is shwoing signs of making a case for being the platoon mate of Milledge in 2011, but the main lifting has been done by the top of line up. If the Pirates can get better pitching next year, and hitting like this from Alvarez on a more consistent basis, they ought to be fighting for a Wild Card spot next year. Managment has indicated they are going to look for free agent pitching, and Lord willing they are done with Morton, so half of that above equation should be coming true.

Here is hoping that we can ruin the Cards and take this series as well.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My Nightmare (31-56)

The Pirates won on Wed, but lost in the afternoon game today. The bad news first. The win was tossed by Charlie Morton. Yup. Morton won his second after throwing 6 innings of 2 run baseball. That is not good. Nothing is worse than a Charlie Morton showing signs of not being the worst pitcher in baseball. If he makes the rotation next year, it will set the franchise back several years. Like it did this year. Morton has had a few not horrible outings in a row.

The loss today was an example of why the Pirates had such a bad year. Brian Burres went just 2.1 innings, and the game was over by then. Burres has had a few good wins lately, but he cannot sustain it. This is what happens with Burres, and why he is not a big league starter anywhere other than Pittsburgh.

The good news is that Pedro Alvarez is back on track. A day off always seems to reset his swing. He hit a big double and a homer in the win last night, and had a double that hit the top of the wall tonight for the Pirates first run. They only managed one more on a late inning sac fly by McCutchen.

In the end, this can be seen as reducing the magic number for the first overall pick to 5.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I am speechless . . . really. (30-55)

The Pirates have gone on a mini-run and are possibly going to cost themselves the first overall draft pick. Their sweep of the Diamondbacks gained a lot of ground against those same Diamondbacks. The Pirates continued their good fortune with a win today against the hated Cardinals. Thankfully the Diamondbacks won as well.

This streak has been on the backs of Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen, and Jose Tabata. These guys have answered the bell, and shown that when they get half way decent pitching they are going to get you the runs you need to win. Tonight they got good pitching from Malholm and he got a 5-2 win. Tabata got a big two run triple (scoring McCutchen). Tabata scored earlier on a base hit by Pedro Alvarez (good to see him getting RBI hits). And Walker scored on a fielding error off the bat of John Bowker. The Diamondbacks got a good view of Walker when he hit a walk off two run homerun that followed an RBI ground out by Tabata. Meek got a save tonight and one against the Diamondbacks. Those guys are playing good baseball right now.

Another reason this streak is going on is the fact that Jones and Milledge have been hurt. This has given Bowker a chance to play. Bowker has played both first and right field, which also has given Doumit room in the outfield and Synder behind the plate. Synder delivered at least one great game with three hits. Bowker knocked his first Pirate homerun and showed some good defense in both positions. I like him as the back up outfielder next year with Jones platooning at first. Add Synder behin the plate and the Pirates a team with a lot more power.

I have to admit I am enjoying the winning streak. I hope it continues just not so much that we miss out on the number one overall pick.

I still think JR is not using these prospects enough. I want to see the guys at short, I want to see Presley more, and I want to see Brad Lincoln.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Prospect Rankings

Since the minor league season is over, I thought I would post my Top 50 Pirate Prospects. It is hard to get a clear picture on a lot of the guys picked this year. And I put a slightly higher premium on producing at higher levels than some rankers do. Also, for me to get this list out, I had been working on it for a while so the stats are from about the end of August, not the end of the season. It should be noted as well that some of these are close enough to be interchangable. I also think that at about prospect 37 one can see that the rankings are more hope than projection. A lot of those lower guys may never come close to the majors. Some though are hopeful risers through the rankings.

Prospect Rankings:
1. Jameson Tallion. Taillon has plus pitches already. Not potential, but already. High 90’s, great curve. Slider. Knows a change up, but that is probably the pitch that will get the most work. Staff Ace, almost sure fire all star. Just needs to avoid arm problems. West Virginia will be worth seeing play baseball next year. Maybe a hotter ticket than the Pirates.
2. Rudy Owens – why Rudy Owens so high? Well,7.5 K/9 and more importantly 1.4 BB/9. That is the best of all pitching prospects in the system. Also 47% ground ball rate is good. And he did it all at AA. No lower competition in these numbers.
3. Stetson Allie. The only question with this guy is if he can be a starter. I see no reason why not. He can reach 100 mph, and I think his control on those pitches will come. His other stuff is already good, and that makes him a potential staff ace.
4. Sterling Marte. Marte was poised for a promotion before the injury to his hand. He suffered a rehab set back to lose more time, but still came back with the same level of good hitting (.333 AVG and .877 OPS), and good fielding. I think Marte has answered any questions about being able to compete at the higher levels. Still could develop some power, and thus looks to be a future starting outfielder for the Pirates. Can play any position in the outfield.
5. Tony Sanchez. A real shame that he got hit in the face and missed so much time. He gets beaned a lot. His defense is good. His bat continues to be better than had hoped for (.314 AVG and .870 OPS). He hits more line drives than I thought. About a 25% clip. I am starting to be a believer in Sanchez. However, he is not a world changing prospect. I think he is over rated by those who put him in the top two or three.
6. Jeff Locke. 8.5 K/9 and a 1.5 BB/9 along with 43% ground ball rate is great. Throw in the promotion in the middle of the year to AA without missing a beat, and I am a believer. I think Locke is a key move by Hunington in the unofficial project 2012. By 2012 the Pirates will have a new pitching staff, and Locke will be a part of it.
7. Chase D’Arnaud. A rough year for his average, but he got better as the year went on. Part of the reason he has dropped a little. Still, he hits lots of doubles (32), which is a good thing. Power potential. Probably will have to play second at the big leagues. He is only 23.
8. Colton Cain – why Cain this high? He is 19 and has an 8.35 k/9 and a 1.06 WHIP. That is really good. Sure he walked three guys for every 9 innings, but that is something that should improve with age. I am ready for him to get a shot at a full season. Seems early injury troubles did not slow him down.
9. Zack Von Rosenburg. He does not have the K’s Cain has, but much better control. Only a 1.94 BB/9 and a 44% ground ball rate to boot. He might start next year at A+, especially since one has to think Allie and Taillon are going to start at West Virginia (A). If he stays at WV can you imagine the starting rotation (Taillon, Allie, ZVR, and Cain). Wow.
10. Andrew Lambo. What a steal the Pirates got here. An outfielder who is still very young and hitting great. Signs of power at the AA level. Might even be higher, but a history of substance abuse has me worried. The next suspension would break his career. Hope the Pirates can find a place for this guy in their line up.
11. Jordy Mercer. I am not sure why everyone over looks Jordy. Better defense than Chase, and higher average this year as well (.279). High double count, and history of good RBI production. About a 20% line drive rate. Add to that the fact that he can play 3B, 2B, and SS, and you have a highly valued prospect.
12. Luis Heredia. The hype is there, but I cannot put him above some of the guys that are producing at AA level. I hope he lives up to it, but before this 16 year old throws a professional pitch, I cannot put him in the top 10. But over 90 MPH as a 16 year old is great news for the Pirates. Expect to see him GCL next year.
13. Bryan Morris. Okay Morris had a good year, but I am not sold. He has more bad ones than good ones and he should have dominated A+ at his age considering it was not his first time in it. Most people have him in the top 10. I hope that his new mechanics have made him that much better, but he has a history of attitude problems as well. He needs more than one good year to jump up to the top 10. If he does it next year at AAA, then the Pirates have just won the Jason Bay trade.
14. Nick Kingham. Okay, here is where I put him. Projects as at least a 3rd starter. Maybe higher. His first taste of pitching at Rookie league looked good. Strikeouts, no runs, multiple innings. He should be in the top 15 of the Pirates Prospects.
15. Brock Holt. Holt was on fire before his injury. Plus, this was all done at the A+ level. I did not expect him to jump to that level this year, but he showed he was up for he challenge. .354 AVG and .848 OPS in just about 200 ABs. I like Holt. Hope he comes back from the knee okay.
16. Daniel Moskos. I know that this might be high for him, but I think his stats were pretty good. He killed at AA, but struggled a little in AAA. Still 8.8 K/9 is good, and real good for a closer. Sure his walks were too high, but part of that was his struggle at AAA. He has the stuff to be a closer. Remember that this is his first year in the pen in the minors. Not a bad first year.
17. Mel Rojas Jr. Next year will be the year to see how good this kid can be. He has swoons right now, but it is the longest year of his career when you add in the full college season, so some of that should be expected. I want to see this guy over a full professional season. He has all the tools. Only 19.
18. Victor Black – this guy is still good. He had 4.2 innings this year, but still struck out 8 guys. He was hurt in training camp, got hurt again quick. Some of his bad stats are surely related to that injury. He misses an important year, but don’t forget this guy. At worst a very hard throwing closer.
19. Nathan Adcock. 7 K/9 and 49% ground ball rate. Looks good to me. He did this at A+, which makes me ranking him higher than some similar pitchers in the system like Miller, Lorin, and Irwin. Can he do it again next year at a higher level? I sure hope so.
20. Josh Harrison – again he had a real disappointing year last year. I want to see him do it again before I really get excited about him. He was weak after the trade last year, but this year is a different story. I expect him in AAA next year. If he could play short stop rather than just 3B and 2B, it would raise his value.
21. John Bowker. Some power at the AAA level. I like him. But not a lot because he has not been able to show the same stuff at the majors. I think it says good things about the Pirate farm system that he is outside of the top 20. He is out of options, so he has to be a back up at the majors this year. I think his power would follow him to the majors if he got the time, but there in lies the real problem.
22. Michael Dubee – good year and at AAA. It will be interesting to see if he makes the 40 man roster. He was formerly a highly regarded guy. He may have earned that back this year.
23. Quintin Miller. Some injuries slowed him this year. 5.5 K/9 is low, but he gives up a very small number of homers, and a 50% ground ball rate makes me think he has the potential to be a reliable back end starter.
24. Eric Avila. I like this kid. .277 Avg is good, but look at his power potential. He had 7 HRs and 14 doubles in rookie ball. Had good power numbers last year in Dominican too. Still young so this ought to increase.
25. Brett Lorin. An injury plagued year makes it hard to place him. Nothing above A ball, so that hurts his ranking too. 8 K/9 is solid. He could be good.
26. Tyler Waldron. Not sure if he is going to be able to stay a starter, but has convinced me to give him a shot. So his low end is hard throwing bullpen guy. I’ll take it.
27. Justin Wilson. Almost 8 K/9, but also near 4 BB/9. 50% ground ball rate makes up for it a little. 22 and in AA. He has to control his walks. But if he can get that under control, he can pitch at the big league level.
28. Robbie Grossman – yes this is a big fall in my rankings for Robbie. He did move up in competition, but he continues to swoon in the middle of the season. He was awful in May and June, but has hit .275 in July and August. His inability to hit on the road is a problem. Lots of walks, but tons of strikeouts. That did decrease some this year. Still young, but he is getting passed by with the other great prospects coming into the Pirate system.
29. Matt Curry. He hit well in State College. He could use more power since he is playing first base, but right now is the best first base prospect in the system.
30. Jared Lakind. I know, I know. This one is mostly hype. But he has potential on the mound or at the plate. That makes him worthy of this list.
31. Brooks Pounders – this guy has a 6.34 K/9 and a 2.5 BB/9 at the age of 19. Still he gives up one homer per 9 innings. That lowers him.
32. Nathan Baker. A decent strike out rate at 6.4 K/9. A 2.2 BB/9 is okay, but it was in A and A+ competition, so he is not going to be as high as say Justin Wilson who is the same age. 44% ground ball rate is not bad.
33. Trent Stevenson. I have to say I am little disappointed in Stevenson. He was drafted last year with the rest of the young guns, but Stevenson is older than they are. I was hoping he would show that age at these low levels with strong performances. So might be graded low because of my disappointment.
34. Philip Irwin. Age keeps him down. 23 ought to be good in A ball. Still a 8.3 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 is nice. 48% groundball looks real good. He should move up in the system. Next year in High A ought to be very telling. UPDATE: Promoted to a A+ at the end of the season. Too late to factor into ranking.
35. Zack Dodson. 6.5 K/9 is not so bad for this 20 year old in A-. I had higher hopes. His walks are also too high. But he does not give up the long ball and is a 92-93 MPH guy. I still think he has potential to be a back end starter.
36. Drew Maggi. This might be a little low for Drew. He has not had a lot of big league at bats. His defense ought to be up to snuff, but I am more worried than the Pirates about his offense. Still, if he finds a decent bat, this guy could be a starting short stop for the Pirates. His ranking should show I am skeptical of starting abilities for him.
37. Alex Presley. This guy had a great year. But he will be left off the 40 man roster again and it is hard to argue against it. Log jam at his position, and without real power (12 HRs), he does not have a great case despite the excellent year.
38. Evan Chambers. A bit of a disappointing year for Evan. Good power projection with 20 doubles and 13 HRs, but a .240 AVG is a killer especially with the high outfield talent in the Pirate system. It is not too late for him to come on and rise in these rankings.
39. Justin Howard. No power numbers hurt this kid. First base is a power position. Still cannot ignore his .341 AVG. It will be easier to place Howard after he sees some tough competition. Rookie league was clearly to low for him, but other guys stand above him. Maybe next year at WV would make the difference.
40. Jarek Cunningham. I am not as high on this guy as some. Great power numbers with 32 doubles and 12 HRs, but his average is far too low. Only musters a .763 OPS. Not sure he can stay as a shortstop defensively either.
41. Donald Veal. Yes, I dropped him because of his injury mostly. Plus 4 BB/9 is way to high for a guy in AAA with a taste of the majors previously. A bad sign for his future in my opinion.
42. Michael Crotta. A great year for Michael. I don’t think his stats support him being a starter. Not enough velocity. But, this guy might be a plug in the bullpen. A long relief guy capable of making an emergency spot start.
43. Tony Watson. He missed some time last year because of an injury. This is a good comback year. His age is going to hurt him. I still could see him making the bullpen one day. 8.6 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9. That could do the trick in the pen.
44. Diego Moreno. A strike out machine. 15 k/9 with only 1.5 BB/9 and a .70 WHIP. Look out bullpen this guy is a shoe in. Why not higher? Well, AA proved a bit much for him. I need to see success at that level for this 24 year old guy.
45. Adalbeto Santos. Nice year, but where is he going to play defensively? He is small and already displaced in the infield and taking some outfield starts. If his bat stays good, he could be a good prospect, but he has yet to face pitching that includes a lot more than fastball location.
46. Tim Alderson. He is 21 so I won’t throw him under the bus yet. But this kid’s psyche looks ruined. Biggest disappointment in the minor league system.
47. Calvin Anderson. I thought he would be higher, but he collapsed in July. Never recovered.
48. Matt Hague. Not enough power for first base. 25 and at AA. Still hit enough to make this list.
49. Junior Sosa. A 20 year old who hit above .300 most of the year (.296 on August 28). Not showing power potential, but was 20 out of 26 in stolen base attempts. Some one to keep your eye on as he progresses through the system. Should gain a better eye with more experience.
50. Zachary Foster. I still like this kid. He is 23 in A ball, but he struck out 41 in 57 innings. Still 20 walks is a bit bad. And you cannot rank bullpen guys all that high. 5 saves and 2 holds. Finished 20 games.

Some people who are not on this list, but still could find their way on are Aaron Pribonic (strike out rate way too low), Brandon Crompton (This kid came in a pitched really well in his limited pro time but want to see more of him before I get too excited), Quincy Latimore (nice power, but his average is uninspiring), Gorkys Hernandez (this kid is running out of time), Kyle McPherson (great year, but is it for real?), Erik Fryer (good stats at catcher but 25 and in A+ lowers that some), Exicardo Cayonez (high potential, needs plate discipline), Jared Hughes (walk rate is too high. Strike out rate is okay at 6 K/9, but homer rate is a bit elevated. For a guy with 55% ground ball rate it is worrisome so many left the yard), Vincent Payne (drafted this year and had decent beginning), Jeremy Farrel (.868 OPS), Aaron Baker (18 HRs), and Kevin Decker (okay probably not, but he is a Southern Conference man, and I will give him homer attention!).

All in all you can see the Pirates are loaded on pitchers and short on hitters. Still the Pirates look much better this year in the minors than last year. A rash of injuries stopped a few guys from really filling up the stat sheet. I also think we are beginning to see the impact of the Pirates investing in Latin America. The signing of Heredia, the continued improvement of Marte, and good years for Avila and Sosa make the Pirates a deeper organization.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Come on! (26-53)

The Pirates were humiliated last night ending a string of hopeful games. Zack Duke did his best Charlie Morton for the second start in a row. Duke gave up one run in the first, and got out of trouble to keep it that way. He gave up two in the second, but was almost out of trouble (two outs bases loaded single), and then in the third gave up another. In the fourth, he was lifted after only one out. The Mets hung at least three on him in that inning. I stopped watching after that for a while. It should have only been a two run base hit, but Doumit dropped the ball in right while trying to throw. Another horrible example of Doumit in the field. The Pirates only hope of dumping him is in the American League where he can DH.

What was even more frustrating in a situation clearly calling for Brad Lincoln, JR instead chooses to go with five different pitchers. He should have pinch hit for Duke in the third, but failed to do so. If he had lifted Duke for Lincoln, the Pirates might have stayed in the game. Instead, it turned into a night to see the young guys. JR did the right thing and lifted Walker, Tabata, and McCutchen. Some other guys got a look. Cedano also gave way to Diaz, but Lincoln was no where to be found.

Instead, we got to Joe Martinez, who gave up a run in 1.1. We saw Stephen Jackson, who has no future on the team. Gallagher, who pitched a good inning. We saw Daniel McCutchen, who is looking good for a bullpen spot next year. We also got a look at the newest Pirates, recently claimed from the Marlins. He pitched a scoreless inning as well. But no where did we see Lincoln. I don't get it. Someone help me understand.

Brad Lincoln is on this team right? (26-52)

First, I think we should all stop and appreciate what an asset James McDonald is going to be. I am not sure how comfortable I am in his lower velocity (93 instead of 96), but he did go deep into the game and did not give up any runs. It cuts his strike outs in half. Still, a great performance by McDonald. The offense was shut down, but that is not unusual.

The not-so-good goes again to JR. Why does he put in Chan Ho Park? Park is not good at this point in his career. Park had just pitched last night, and Brad Lincoln is sitting in the pen rotting. Lincoln not only can throw many, many innings, but was hittings something like .300 in his brief major league career saving pinch hitters. Yet, JR goes to Park, and the game is soon over. Pirates lose their 3rd extra inning game in the last 4 games. That says the Pirates are close, but not there yet.

The problem for JR is that he may be the reason they are not there. In the top half of the 10th, Andrew McCutchen hits a double. Just what you expect from your super star. Tabata, who is hitting .307, is next. They try to bunt McCutchen over. Now, some think bunting itself was silly. It is hard to argue that with your two best hitters and then your two biggest power threats coming up, bunting seems unneccessary. A base hit scores McCutchen. Even if they gun down McCutchen at home, it ends up with a runner on second and one out, as Tabata has the speed to take second on a throw home. But, since I am usually a fan of the bunt, I don't think it is a completely boneheaded call. A runner on third and one out ought to be automatic run scored. But, Tabata failed and McCutchen is thrown out at third. Basically that ended the threat. Even if we say the bunt is the right call, whose fault is it that a bunt cannot be executed well. JR's of course. If this were the only stupid fundamental the Pirates screwed up all year, maybe you could write it off as a fluke, but it is not. JR does not have this team mentally ready to play.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A nice weekend (26-51)

The Pirates just played a very solid series against the Central Leading NL Reds. They very nearly swept the Reds. Two of the three games went into extra innings, and the Reds won both of those games. The Pirates pulled a ninth inning come back to win the third game. Right now that is the difference between the two ball clubs. And even more impressive is that these games were in Cincy.

The Pirates blew one game, came back and sent the second won into extras, and came back and won the third. The Pirates win was the future of the team. McCutchen’s double with two outs gave the Pirates the lead. In the game before that the Pirates had come close on a double steal with Tabata and McCutchen after those two guys knocked out the closer. Dusty Baker went to Chapman, the 100 MPH rookier hurler. Neil Walker took him back up the middle and the Pirates had innings.

The only problem was again the managing. Yes, some late inning steals in a couple of those games looked beautiful, but it makes you wonder why JR does not run more with Tabata and McCutchen. What was really strange was that in both of the extra inning loses, he kept going with his short inning bullpen guys. He had Brad Lincoln in the pen. A guy ready to go, needing work, and capable of long inning counts. Yet, instead, JR went with nothing but short men, and each time it cost him. You just wonder why they did not go give the ball to Lincoln.

Overall it was an encouraging series for the Pirates. We will see how they build on it versus the lesser competition of the Mets and the better starting pitcher in James McDonald.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Back to normal (25-49)

Zack Duke ended the string of good pitching. This is why he needs to be let go at the end of the year. He is just not good. One inning was all he could manage. His line would have been much worse but Daniel McCutchen got out of a 1 out basese loaded jam for him. Then McCutchen exploded in the next inning, and Sean Gallagher got his shot. In the end 8 pitchers would take the hill. Sad.

But it is not like the Pirates offense was bad, they just couldn't score. How do you get 12 hits in a game and score only 3 runs. Alvarez is hot again with 3 hits in this game. Andrew McCutchen had multiple hits. Tabata chipped in one as did Neil Walker who extended his hit streak to 15. Pedro Ciriarco got his first making everyone wonder why Ronny Cedano is still starting. Alex Presley got a hit, which made you feel bad that there is no room for him on the team, Brandon Moss got one making everyone fear he will get some starts, and now it is time to wait and see what happens with the rest of these guys in the future.

Making matters worse Bradenton lost Game 2 of its play off series (1-1). Altoona dropped Game 1 of theirs.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A series victory (25-48)

Wow. The Pirates looked real good tonight. James McDonald brings a weapon that the Pirates have been missing. Real good pitching. His strike out rate was down, but he got through 7 with a little over 100 pitches. No runs allowed is the most important stat. He was in a real jam in the 6th with the bases loaded and one out, but he got the 5-4-3 double play. Neil Walker has a fourteen game hitting streak. Garrett Jones got two hits, and Pedro Alvarez picked up the Game Winning RBI with a nasty double. Dwelvyn Young hit a monster blast pinch hitting and the Pirates five run 7th inning was enough to get the win.

The main concern on the night was coaching again. I think JR got lucky sending McDonald back out for the 7th inning. He was high in his pitch count and a perfect opportunity to pinch hit came up with one out in the bottom of the 6th. It paid off, but with a bevy of new arms in the bullpen why not go get one and use it. Also, I didn't like using Meek and Hanrahan in the 8th and 9th. These guys need to be the big arms next year, so don't tax them too much this year. With a five run lead, I would have gone with some of the new guys. Martinez, Bass, Jackson, or whomever. If it got tight, you could always still go get Meek and Hanrahan. I appreciate the win, but it is time to start factoring next year into the equation too.

Let us see if we can get the series sweep tomorrow. Hopefully a glimpse at some of the call ups too.

September Call Ups

I personally like what the Pirates did. They have called up just about everyone they could. They have some big decisions to make in the off season, so might as well get a look at everyone you can. And why not go ahead and start bullpen try out right now. Might save some innings on Meek and Hanrahan too.

Here are the call ups. Brad Lincoln, Justin Thomas, Brian Bass, and Steven Jackson as pitchers. Alex Presley, Brandon Moss, Jason Jarmillo, and Pedro Ciriaco for the field.

Now some spots had to be opened up as Moss, Presley, Jackson, and Ciriaco were not on the 40 Man roster. So, Ross Ohelendorf was moved to the 60 Day DL as was Jeff Clement. Then Aki Iwamura and Eric Kratz were Designated for Assignment.

Mostly I like it. I like the massive additions. Clearly Lincoln needs to get some more starts under his belt. Thomas gives you an extra lefty in the pen. Jackson and Bass can help out a pen, so they have a benefit. Jackson has seen action already, and Bass might could give you a post start, which seems to be something the Pirates might need as Karstens looks fragile.

Ciriaco needed to be called up as well since he will be competing for a spot on next year’s roster with Argentis Diaz. He does need to play. I hope we have seen the last of Cedano for the season. Let the kid play. Presley was a bit of a surprise. I figure he will go unprotected this summer, but it is a nice reward for a great season. I look forward to seeing what he can do. I hope this means we will see little to nothing of Milledge and maybe a few more off days for Tabata and McCutchen. Especially McCutchen, who maybe playing through some injuries. Jarmillo, I could take it or leave it. I personally like Kratz better, but it is what it is. Moss played well enough to get a shot as well. He could be a valuable trade piece if they let him see what he can do in the outfield again.

My complaints are small. I like Kratz better than Jarmillo, but Jarmillo is younger. Neither is a prospect so no real issue. Although I think cutting him now gives the Pirates a better chance at him clearing waivers than if they did it in teh winter. So he should still be in the Pirate system. The other is Aki Iwamura. Yes, we are dumping him in the off season anyway. But I feel a little like we paid 4 million for him to play AAA ball. I would have preferred him to get some time at second or third (resting Alvarez) just to get a little more return on the investment. I suppose I would have called him up and left Bass off the roster as he is not fighting for a job next year. I do see how it would have been difficult to find time for Aki other than pinch running, and Bass can be used. Still, it seems like such a waste.

Other than that, I am excited with the new additions to the Pirates. Don’t forget that Bowker and Martinez were already called up. Should be nice to see how they fit into the Pirate picture as well. Let the competition begin.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Spoiler Alert! (24-48)

The Pirates continue to confuse by playing great today and following up a couple of series losses to pathetic teams by beating the Leaders of the National League East Atlanta Braves 3 to 1. Make it even stranger Brian Burres, who stinks so bad out of the bullpen, won his third game this year (all starts) by throwing a quality start, six innings of one run baseball.

It started great. The Pirates leader, Andrew McCutchen got a lead off walk, stole second base, and took third when the Braves catcher threw it into center. Why the Pirates do not put more pressure on teams by running more with McCutchen and Tabata is beyond me. Tabata showed his worth by getting the RBI ground out and the Pirates were up one to zip. Burres gave up a run in the second, but did get out of the mess. Neil Walker followed up a Tabata hit with a two run blast to cap the scoring in the 6th, just in time to get Burres the decision. The Great Pen of the Pirates struck again with Resop holding down the 7th, Meek the 8th, and Hanrahan the 9th. This is the potential the Pirates have.

The problem is also laid bare in this. The bottom of the order was awful, and produced no runs. Alvarez had one hit. Doumit had a hit (and a walk), but they never get together to drive anyone in. Cedano continues to be a joke in the line up and problme of right field today turned out to be Dwelven Young. As long as the top three are the only ones doing anything, then the Pirates have to have quality starts. That has been rare. But today shows that if they get them, they can win even against good opponents. All three of the bullpen guys should be back next year, and the bullpen is good enough to close out most games.

Despite the problems still in the Pirate line-up, I am just going to celebrate a victory.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Charlie's faults (23-48)

I have missed a few games because of important reasons. But the Pirates won two games out of 6 against really bad opponents. The Cubs and Nats are food that real teams eat alive. The Pirates cannot even win a series against them. The good news is that Doumit's bat came alive, Walker is on a roll, and Alvarez makes the most of every hit and finally tonight broke his homer slump with number 11. The bad news is that McCutchen is still slumping and the Pirates are still incompetent at base running and defense. Milledge is a joke on both, and worse yet is the second start of Charlie Morton.

Morton showed tonight why he is unable to be a major league pitcher. Yes, he regularly just throws the game away in the first couple innings by giving up 8 to 10 runs. Tonight, he gave up one run in the first inning, but pitched okay for innings two and three. Rare for Charlie. But then things got tough in inning number 4 and Charlie folded like a lawn chair. An error made sure that four of the five runs he gave up in the fourth were unearned, but they are still Charlie's fault. He cannot handle anything going wrong. This is why he so often collapses in the first innings. If it is tough, Charlie cannot do it. This is why I think he would be awful in the bullpen. Tough situations destroy Charlie Morton. And worse yet tomorrow Brian Burres is starting. Does anyone other than me remember how good Daniel McCutchen was the last time he started? Why has managment given up on "Pitch and Cutch" and still trying to shoe horn Morton in, not to mention Brian Burres? The Pirates stand in real need of Brad Lincoln getting a call up.

The only real good news for the Pirates this past week is that two of their minor league teams are going to the playoffs. More on that in a different post.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sorry Charlie (21-44)

Charlie Morton gave up 8 (7 Earned) in 3.1 innings. Typical Charlie. I admit I really did not even watch the game because I expected as much. I am tired of Charlie getting any pitching time.

Apparently though, he was not the only Pirate that was awful. Cedano, Milledg, and Young all showed why they are defensive liabilities. Doumit had a passed ball. Cedano laid down a no out bunt with runners on the corners with the pitcher hitting after him. Probably a missed sign. Awful stuff. After Morton left the Pirates gave up no more runs. Surprise.

In Doumit's defense, he has been hitting okay lately. He was 2 for 2 today with 2 walks, and a solo HR. Walker also homered. He is also hitting well.

Let's all hope that the Morton experiment is over. Please Brad Lincoln get the call up so you can start.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Again with the mismanagment (21-43)

JR is trying to make a case against himself. He really is. The Pirates have a big lead and the bullpen cannot close it. Granted Duke struggled. He was lucky to get out of 5.1 with only 4 runs scored. Chan Ho Park failed in his job. Sean Gallagher put a runner on in the 7th after getting them out of the 6th. But JR is still the most to blame. The situation is this. The Pirates are up 7-4 with a runner on first in the 7th inning. Prince Fielder is up, and already has one homer in the game. JR wants a lefty to face left handed fielder. Okay, I get it. Good idea. The choices are Wilfredo Ledezma and Brian Burres. Only one of these two has real experience coming out of the pen. Ledezma is the current left handed specialist. Burres came out maybe twice earlier this year for the Pirates and did it once for AAA Indianapolis. Who does JR get in this all important moment in the game? Who does JR go to only two outs away from the dealy 8th and 9th combo of Meek and Hanrahan? You got it. Burres. Burres hangs a slider and the Pirates are only up one, which Park cannot hold and that is all you need to know.

But just in case you are worried I might be wrong about JR. Putting Burres in followed by Park (who gives up the tying run), who was then pinch hit for in the next inning (this pinch hit was the right decision). The bullpen in a tie game was now left to Hanrahan, Ledezma, Resop, and Meek. Hanrahan pitched the 8th. Now still a tie game you pitch Resop in the 9th. What happens if you need to go into extra innings? Do you try to milk a second inning out of Resop? Do you bring in Ledezma and Meek in the 10th and 11th and hope it is over by then? You no longer have a long pitcher to protect against this thing. I guess you have Daniel McCutchen, but he just pitched a start a few days ago. The Pirates bullpen was dead as soon as Burres was removed from the game.

I wrote the above paragraphs in the 9th inning. So, what happened you ask? Ledezma was the one forced to go multiple innings (10th and 11th), and in his second inning, he lost the game on a walk off single. I don’t see how JR can escape blame for yet another mismanaged bullpen.

This loss over shadows a rather good game by Walker (two hits including a solo HR), Tabata (multi hit game including a HR), and Alvarez (2 hit game).

Friday, August 27, 2010

Nick Kingham

So, a lot of fun speculation about the order of prospects in the Pirates system has been going on since the draft. Most of it has been about where to place Allie and the recently signed Heredia. Appropriate questions of course, but I think the better question is where to place Nick Kingham. Kingham has a very high upside. He has 3rd starter written on him right now, and he is only 17. He could very well pick up more MPH on his fastball. That would raise his status even more. So where Nick Kingham fits to me is a very interesting question. The beginning of the answer to that question started last night.

Kingham pitched two innings allowing three hits, but no runs, and two strikeouts. Not a bad debut. Of course he was not the only debut. A couple of other draft guys are seeing action now at the GCL level who might also make an impact for the Pirates one day. Lakind and Grovat played the field. Neither got a hit. Brandon Crompton pitched well in his first start (2nd appearance), and has yet to give up a run. So a good start for the other top 10 draftee. Where these guys fit in the picture is awful interesting. Looking forward to seeing them more.

Guess what happened again . . . (17-42)

The Pirates lost again. James McDonald's final line is real bad. 6 and 1/3 6 runs and 7 strikouts, but the line is bad because the manager is bad. McDonald dominated through 5. He was killing. He gave up a run in the sixth and a close ground ball double play kept the Pirates on top (2-1 at that time). So, now we have seen people start to hit McDonald, he also walked a guy. Pitch count is not super high, but about 80 (don't know for sure). I would think with Meek and Hanrahan rested from the day off you think you can get one inning out of the rest of the pen and try to win the opener on the road. Not, JR. He puts McDonald back out. Lead off hitter in the 7th walks. Followed by a strike out. Next batter reaches. Now the tying run is in scoring position, why not go get him? Well, JR does not and a triple gives the Brewwers the lead: 3-2. Okay, so now we get him, now that he can get the loss. Wait, JR leaves him out there some more. It takes at least another two hits before JR gives a clearly out of gas McDonald the hook. Now the game is out of reach, and the pen gives up everyone on base and then some to make sure the game can not be won. Just awful coaching. Awful.

Still, some positives. Tabata continues to be awesome. McDonald did strike out 7 and was unhittable for 5. Oh yeah, Chris Synder hit another homer. A good sign to have a little extra pop in the line up.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I am back and so are the Pirates (20-41)

I had a little visit with the in-laws, and no time to post. But the Pirates managed a 3-3 split while I was gone including tonight's series win over the Cardinals. Always good to pop them in the mouth. The two game win streak was fueled by the top three hitters in the line up as one might expect. A double (McCutchen), triple (Tabata), and single (Walker) was the highlight of last night's win, but tonight they got together again when Walker got the bases clearing triple. Tabata would add an RBI later in the game and Jones hit a homerun to make the top four all look good. Better yet, Daniel McCutchen got the win. He now has more wins than Ross Ohlendorf despite having an ERA two runs higher. Wierd.

Despite the record while I was gone most of the news was bad. Yes, the top three are hitting, but that has to be expected if the Pirates are going to compete. They are not getting a lot of support. Yes, Jones has two home runs with his last two hits, but his hits are getting rarer and rarer. Alvarez is in a big hitting slump since getting two knocks against Johann Santana. His homer draught is getting kind of long too. Both Jones and Alvarez are over used. Alvarez has done well after a day off, and Jones has only had two all year (I think that is right). But with Clement on the DL, who is going to play first? LaRoche would be the best bet. Again, JR is to blame for the overuse. Doumit continues to supplant Milledge, but his stats don't warrent it. Ohlendorf is on the DL, maybe for the rest of the year. Karstens was a scratch tonight. All of this is not good. Even in two of their wins, they were out hit by the other team. Santana only gave up four hits, it just so happened that two of them were homers and Duke was on fire.

The only real good news is that Brian Burres got called up to replace Ohlendorg and not Morton. This is good because there was no need for Morton to make a start with tomorrow off. Burres was better in the majors than Morton. Bring Burres back. Plus, he can do bullpen stuff, with McCutchen pitching today, they might need an inning eater, and Burres can do it.

Yes, the financial stuff happened while I was gone too. I will probably just post some links tomorrow. There is nothing to say other than ESPN is dumb and so are most of the headlines.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A better sign for the future (17-38)

The Pirates lost after a 2 hit five inning performance by Malholm. He struggled in the 6th and would give up four runs, which was more than enough to sink the Pirates. McCutchen hit another homer, but it just made it a four to two loss.

The more important news is the signing of Mexican 16 year old right handed fireballer, Luis Heredia. And I am going to go out on a limb and say that this is a better sign for the long term health of the franchise than the great draft we just had. In previous Front Office administrations, signing Latin American or International players at all was rare. No real prospects came through the system. But, now the current managment has clearly put a priority on it. Luis Heredia is just the most recent proof. Take a look at Dominican Facility recently built, or the back to back championships of the VSL Pirates, or even the current roster of the GCL Pirates.

Now it is true that we lost out on a high profile signing in the off season, but that kind of stuff happens from time to time. Agents don't give you a chance to match, and sometimes players don't want to play for the Pirates. However, more signings that are big name like Heredia will help change players minds. Agents too probably as they see the Pirates are serious about shelling out money.

Not only that, but note how many new international markets have been opened up by the Pirates lately. A few years ago they signed a pitcher from Japan who pitched in Pittsburgh. They have since signed players from India, China, and Austrilia all firsts for the Pirates. This not only shows we are scouting in far away places, but can lead to new sources of revenue for the Pirates as far as fans and selling merchandise.

The Pirates are committed to international development despite the reputation we currently have. And this is more important to a franchise than even the drafts. At least as far as long term health. The Draft is super important for the Pirates now because they have the chance to change the face of their franchise every year mainly because they are drafting at or near the top. This usually means you get one sure fire prospect and probably another that is decent at the top of the second round. Our recent over-the-slot approach has garnered us more than normal, but a lot of this will change if the Pirates start winning. Back of the first round draft picks are not sure fire prospects and not franchise changing. This means that the best way for winning teams to keep on top is through the International Free Agent pool. Signing young talent like Heredia will be of the utmost importance when the Pirates starting making their eventual runs at the World Series. Thus, doing well now is a far more encouraging sign than even our recent amazing draft.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Again, a loss (17-37)

Another well pitched loss. Poor Ross. A 3-2 loss is ugly. Seven innings of good pitching all for naught. Doumit hit a bomb that left the yard and the stadium. McCutchen is heating up as HR 11 made it a one run game. Meek looked better getting two strike outs. Tabata went 3 for 4. Other than that not much to report. A loss is a loss.

It is getting to the point where there is very little excuse for what is going on at the big league level. You cannot lose this many quality starts in a row. Your pitchers are trying their best. Even if Karsten's start was not officially a quality one, he pitched well enough to win. The bullpen only blew one of these. The rest is up to the bats. McCutchen, Walker, and Tabata are not enough. Alvarez is raising is average, but his power is not as often. Jones is over worked, and thus his bat is regressing. The other positions are weak. Add in Doumit instead of Milledge, and the offense takes a nose dive. Even with the powerless Milledge, it is not enough. Upgrades are necessary.

Already looking forward to next year.

Monday, August 16, 2010

One franchise changing draft

I think we can say that we know where the Pirates stand now having signed 27 of their 50 draft picks. Let me go ahead and go on record. This is a franchise changing draft. Now, I think the 08 draft was good enough to make us competitive, and 09 has great potential, but mostly it was potential. The 2010 draft is fabulous. Let us take a look for a moment at one of the greatest drafts possibly ever.

First, there is Jameson Taillon. This kid is great. He has high 90 fastball that is thrown for strikes. He has a great curve and slider. Apparently he throws a decent change, but that is one the Pirates are going to work on. The kid is 18 and thus in for some growth in power. He has ace potential. Something the Pirates have not legitimately had in some time.

Second, we have Stetson Allie. Allie was a first round draft pick that was picked in the second round because of signability fears. Allie has similar stuff to Taillon, although not as many polished pitches as Taillon, but throws as hard or harder. Control of his triple digit fastball is an issue, but again the kid is 18. He is a clear cut top of the rotation guy with ace potential. Add to the mix that he can hit. A good hitter with power in his bat. Wow.

Then the Pirates signed picks 3,4,and 5. Mel Rojas Jr., is an Andrew McCutchen type player, who is only 19. He will be a touch slower than Cutch, but has that starting center fielder bat and defense. Waldron is okay, could be a good reliever, but Nick Kingham is a steal in my book. He was in the Top 200 according to most ranking systems, and is a solid middle of the rotation pitcher. He has a low 90’s fastball and the Pirates can work on the rest. Another 18 year old kid that ought to bring good times to the Pirates. In the past pitchers like Kingham have been asked to be the ace, but Kingham is the third best pitcher in this draft for the Pirates. So even if all the other Pirate pitchers from last year fail, Kingham does not have to be anything other than a number 3 starter. That is a no pressure situation for the youngster.

Admittedly the Pirates missed out on some guys in the top 10 of their draft, but they were not the sure things that Allie and Taillon are. The only one really worth missing in Zack Weiss and in the end the Pirates were talking to him all the way up until the deadline. They did sign number 9 pick Brandon Crumpton. He is a college kid, so hopefully he can progress quickly and might be some bullpen help just out of not having a place for him in the starting rotation.

Other than Rojas the Pirates added only a few bats. First base seems to be the place that the Pirates improved the most. The race to see who turns out to be the best first baseman in the group will be interesting. The Pirates signs Matt Curry out of TCU, and he is already doing well in State College. Justin Howard hit .456 with a 1.217 OPS at New Mexico. That is pretty good. And maybe we should add Jared Lakind in here out of High School. He is a lefty pitcher who plays first base and he was drafted higher than Howard. These guys could make a real difference in a traditionally weak place of the Pirates.

Middle infield sees only Drew Maggi as a real prospect. He is a sophomore, and looks good defensively and as a hitter for average. He got a big bonus to fore go more school. He might be a difference maker in the weak middle infield. Adalberto Santos also should be mentioned. He signed quick and is doing great at State College. He is small, but so far so good.

The Pirates got lots of other High School arms that might could develop into something. The Pirates shocked everyone with a big payout to Ryan Hafner (17th round). Late round picks Logan Penvy and Brian Trepagnier signed as well. These guys are high 80 throwers now, could they develop into something that helps out the Pirate system?

Now that is a great draft. In four years fully 3 out of 5 starting pitchers could have come from this draft with some of the bullpen guys being there too. Rojas could be roaming the outfield and firstbase could be occupied by a 2010 draftee. And if these things come true, then the Pirates will look real good. Real good. Add that to the fact that in four years you will still control Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, plus last year’s draft number 1 Sanchez behind the plate, and in all probability next year’s overall number 1 pick too. Let us not forget that Zack Von Rosenburg and Colton Cain are in the system and ought to be the other two pitchers in your starting rotation in four years. Really this ought to bring Pittsburgh a championship.

No one could ask for more than this. No one.