Monday, March 29, 2010

News and Notes

Brandon Moss has been released. It was coming. I think he had a total of three hits this Spring, and one of those was a lucky infield hit. He could not hold the job that was his at the beginning of the year, nor could he earn it back at the end of the year. It was time for him to go.

Other interesting news is the fact that the Pirates claimed Hayden Penn from the Marlins. This pitcher is 25 years old so he could develop into something good. It will be interesting to see where he fits in the bullpen. I think his addition makes it less likely that the Pirates will go with a six man bullpen to start the season.

The Pirates have also stated that the Pitcher will hit 8th and McCutchen 2nd. McCutchen hitting 2nd is fine. He hits too good with people on base to lead off. Normally I hate the pitcher hitting 8th because it gets them the more at bats. It is not good. But this time I don't mind because Ronny Cedano is so bad at hitting that it will be good for him to hit less. Even less than a pitcher.

On a side note the Pirates actually won a game. They have won seven. Not good, but admittedly most of those games were against the American League East. They have beaten the Astros. Hopefully the big hits we saw today, including Jones hitting a multi-run homerun, keep going.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Spring Developments

It is official now the 5th starter will be Daniel McCutchen. Kevin Hart will be a starter at Triple A. This was warrented, and Hart needs some more development time in the minors. McCutchen has pitched fairly well.

Also more importantly Dwelven Young appears set to make the opening day roster. Young leds the team in homeruns and RBIs in the spring. He has been working out at Third Base. This was always the biggest obsticle to his making the team. Vasquez can play second and third. Young needs to be able to cover third to replace Vasquez.

Still look for some possible trades before opening day. Vasquez is on the market, and do not be surprised if Brandon Moss is as well. The Pirates lose him if he is not on the opening day roster, and he has been awful this spring. Plus there is not room for John Raynor and Moss. Raynor is Rule and has to stay with the Pirates all year or the Pirates lose him. Raynor has had a good spring and has shown his speed can be a huge asset.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring Training Thoughts

Here is what has become obvious during Spring Training.

1. John Raynor ought to make the team. He was an investment in Rule 5 and currently hitting .385 with two triples.

2. Daniel McCutchen should get the fifth spot. He has done well, but mostly because Hart has been awful. He seems to need more time to work out the new delivery and that needs to be done in Indianapolis.

3. Bobby Crosby should start the season as the starting short stop. Crosby is currently hitting .348 to Cedano's .261. Also Crosby leads in homeruns (3 to 1), RBIs (9 to 2) and has fewer strike outs (1 to 4). Crosby is also a better fielder.

4. Dwelven Young has to make the team even if it means eating a lot of salary for Ramon Vasquez. If Crosby can play 3rd as well as Short then all the positions are covered. Young is on fire. He leads the team with 5 homeruns, 14 RBIs, and 24 Total Bases, not to mention his team leading .900 Slugging and near the top batting average of .367. He defense is good enough and showing signs of improving. Plus, he can then back up two positions (2b and OF). If his bat remains this hot he could see some regular action in the outfield and let Jones play some 1B because Clement is not hitting at all. Oh did I mention Young is a switch hitter with a proven year of pinch hitting. If they keep Vasquez and lose Young because he has no more options then the Pirates can give up on the year because managment already has.

5. Neil Walker is being moved primarily to the outfield. That is a real shame in my opinion because we have such a need at 2B for the next couple of years. The outfield is loaded with people who have a bigger upside than Walker. If you count Raynor then you have not only the starting 3, but Raynor as the back up. Throw in Tabata and you have at least 5 guys ahead of Walker (I am not even going to count Ryan Church). Gorky Hernandez is looming as is Starling Marte if Walker has to wait for a year for the log jam ahead of him to clear out. If he waits much longer than that he might also be staring at Robbie Grossman. The Pirates would have been better to put him back behind the plate. Or as I hoped at second. Walker needs to be traded now rather than take up spots on the 40-Man.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Overview Spring Training

Well, I have been out of town, so I am just going to give a quick run down of the big stuff.

- Joel Hanranhan is not going to be ready for Opening Day clearing another roster spot in the bullpen. Competition gets tougher. Brian Bass may be the leading contender for that spot, but Jack Tachsner looks good as well.

- Daniel McCutchen looks like he is going to get the fifth start spot. Hart is struggling big time and McCutchen is throwing well. Hart hopefully will go to Triple A as his performace does not look good enough for a bullpen spot.

- John Raynor looks like he ought to make the team. Raynor currently is slugging .744 with a .444 AVG. He has two triples showing that his speed is a real threat. He has plenty of at bats so this is not a fluke.

- The Pirate offense looks bad overall. Some bats look like they may be awakening, but Jones, LaRoche, Clement, Iwamura, and Cedano all need to play much better.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Spring Training 0-2

This is not the start to the Spring one would hope for. The pitching bright spot that occurred yesterday diminished and the hitting might have actually gotten worse. Alvarez went 0-4. McCutchen was 0-2, but did draw a walk. Andy LaRoche went deep in a 1-3 day, but it was against pitching that probably will not be in the majors. Crosby was able to plate Dwelven Young in the third inning, but other than that there were no bright spots. I guess if one was reaching for something to cling too is that the Pirates have so far shown an ability to score lots of runs for the meger amount of hits they get. Today’s four hit performance plated 2 runs. A good ratio. Ryan Church had the fourth hit for the team.

The pitching has to be seen as a nightmare. Charlie Morton walked three people in two innings, gave up a hit, and a run. Morton got 5 ground ball outs, but that means little when you still give up runs. I do not believe Morton has what it takes to be in the rotation, but the Pirates are going to put him there anyway. A sure fire way to kill the season. I also think that Lincoln will get the call up half way through the season and replace Morton. Lincoln did give up two hits in one inning, but no walks, and no runs. Pirate pitching gave up 10 walks and 5 hits. That is disturbing. In addition to Morton’s poor performance, Chulk gave up a run and some walks, and Burres gave up multiple runs and four walks. Jeff Karstens was the only one to pitch a clean inning, and Anthony Claggett pitched a hitless inning only giving up one walk. Those two were also facing the lower class players.

So another loss and the Pirates are not looking good. Hopefully the bats get into shape pretty soon.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Spring Tranining 0-1

So the first spring training game is in the books, and it is never to early to start to talk about what we see from the Pirates on the field. So far, not a lot to be hopeful from the bats, but the arms are looking great.

Okay, there was a game that does not count versus a community college. That game had much the same look. People like Justin Thomas and Brain Morris threw a shut out inning. Jeff Sues gave up a run, but everyone else looked good. But then again they should in that game. Alvarez went 3 for 4 from the plate, but no one else had more than one hit. And they should have against junior college pitching. It does not matter to me that Kratz and Pierce went deep, they each only got on hit. Tabata only had one hit. Gorky Hernadez did not get any hits. A 6-1 win that really shows very little.

The Yankees provide a much better glimpse at the Pirates of 2010. What we saw was a battling line up that was not ready for prime time. McCutchen got a hit in two at bats, and Kratz had a nice RBI double. Tabata also picked up a hit in two at-bats, but that was it for the good news. Church hit the ball hard and had a hit stolen from him (Church still got an RBI) as did Milledge, but almost does not count. Worse yet Garret Jones and Ryan Doumit left people on base. Those guys need to pick up runners if the Pirates have any hope of winning this year. Three hits and a walk are not good enough to win ball games. It is actually amazing that the Pirates scored three runs.

On the other hand the Pirates look good on the mound. Four shut out, no hit innings is impressive. Malhom and Ohlendorf looked great. Bass and Carrassco showed they can pitch although Bass hit a batter. Jakubauskas gave up a hit, but no runs. Jack Taschner was really impressive striking out two in his inning, but it was against lower quality hitters. I want to see this guy against the big names. Stephen Jackson gave up a big homerun and three runs. And Virgil Vasquez also gave up a three run shot. Vasquez now has an 81.00 ERA because he only retired one hitter. I hope we can cut this guy soon.

Overall some encouraging signs for the pitching staff, but the offense has to be better for the Pirates. One interesting note is that they played Dwelven Young at Secondbase. I wonder if that means he will be the second baseman at Triple A. Apparently they have not completely given up on the idea of Young playing second base. Also the light hitting Aregntis Diaz made a fielding error. Not a good sign for that young man.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Triple A Indy - a glimpes into the near future

One of the things to watch in the early part of this season is the Pirates Triple A team in Indianapolis. Last year they were awful. Just awful. But this year they are going to be loaded with the future of the Pirates. Just take a look at their probable lineup.
OF – Jose Tabata, Dwelven Young, Brandon Moss/Brandon Jones/Bryan Myrow
1B – Steven Pierce
2B – Brian Friday/Jim Negrych
SS – Argenis Diaz
3B – Pedro Alvarez
C – Erik Kratz
DH – Neil Walker (he will probably makes starts at lots of positions in the field)

There are going to be a host of pitchers at the Triple A level that ought to be high quality. The bullpen will have lots of people who are major league ready and have had major league experience in addition to draft choices like Jeff Sues. The starting rotation will probably include Donald Veal, Brad Lincoln, the loser of the Daniel McCutchen-Kevin Hart competition, and perhaps Daniel Moskos.

The immediate future of the Pirates sits in Indy, and that future will probably mostly be up by the end of the year. Tabata, Lincoln, and Alvarez are the core of the future championships. The Pirates are also very high on Donald Veal, who was lights out in the Arizona Fall League (a hitter’s league by the way) as well as the Hart-McCutchen loser. There is also a lot of potential in Moskos and Walker although where they fit is a bit of mystery. Diaz and Kratz probably will see some time as a back ups in the bigs and Negrych has potential to fill the second base hole, but mostly because of the lack of other options in the system until at least 2012.

So, if you want to see what the Pirates are going to look like next year, and even in the second half of this year keep an eye on Indianapolis. For the first year in a while, this team may actually be very good.