Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Trade for McGee and 25 man roster

The Pirates have traded for 3B Casey McGee from the Brewers for Jose Veras. I think that this is a great trade because McGee has power and can hit .280. Last year his thumb injury hurt his stats. It gives us real insurance against another Pedro failure. It gives us an option to platoon Jones at 1B. I like this a lot because I think Veras was over used last year and is due for a flame out this year. If not then it is a pretty fair deal for both teams. We have replacements for Veras since Meek is back, and we need the power hitting. The Brewers just signed Amaris Rameriz, so they don't need McGee.

This means your opening day roster will probably look like this.

OF - Tabata
OF - Presley
OF - McCuthen
3B - Alvarez
SS - Barmes
2B - Walker
1B - Jones (platoon)
C - Barajas
UI - Nunez
UI - Navarro
1B, 3B - McGee
C - McKenry
OF - McClouth

SP - Erik Bedard
SP - Kevin Correia
SP - Jeff Karstens
SP - James McDonald
SP - Brad Lincoln
SP - Charlie Morton (starts out on DL for about a month)
RP - Daniel McCutchen
RP - Tony Watson
RP - Evan Meek
RP - Joel Hanrahan
RP - Jason Grilli
RP - Chris Resop
RP - OPEN SPOT (my guess Moskos)
The last one is an open spot because it is unclear who they are going to put here, and they may even still sign a lefty for the bullpen. Chris Leroux could go here, but they have shown signs of putting him back as a starter, which means he would need to start out in the minors to stretch his arm. Hurdle has spoken of his desire to have 2 lefties in the pen which means that Daniel Moskos should have the inside track, but Justin Wilson is an option as well. Wilson might benefit from coming out of the pen for a while at the AAA level since he was a starter last year until the September call up. Bryan Morris has an outside shot at this spot as well since he was made full time bullpen last year.

That is a pretty good team with a AAA infield of Harrison, D'Arnaud, Mercer, and Hague. I like it. Gorkys is ready in the outfield and hopefully Lambo will have a bounce back year. Jeff Locke, and Rudy Owens are potentials for the rotation before the year is out.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Winter Meetings 2011

The Winter Meetings were great this year for the Pirates. The Pirates were really the only team that got better. Maybe you could say the Cubs got better with the signing of DeJesus to play RF. But that is pretty minor for what happened with the Pirates and what the Cubs needed.

First off the Cards were ruined. Pujols went to the Angels. So, that is a large chunk of offense gone and makes a declining Matt Holiday even more vulnerable. The Brewers were taken to the cleaners by K-Rod who accepted their arbitration offer. This will cripple them financially. They did not resign Prince Fielder, nor did they sign one of their other bullpen guys. The Reds basically stood pat. And the Astros did little because they are still under several bad contracts. They have some trade interest for some pitching, but they have not pulled the trigger yet, which should make them worse for this year, and then they will be gone. The Cubs signed DeJesus, but they also traded Tyler Colvin and LeMahieu for Ian Stewart. Stewart will replace Aramis Ramieriz at 3rd, but this is not a great upgrade. They were active, but did they get much better, probably not.

Second, the Pirates signed Eric Bedard. Bedard is a health risk, but is immediately the best pitcher on the team. He is the first legitimate top of the rotation guy in years for the Pirates. Now, he can get hurt pretty easy, and it would be silly to expect a full year, but if he could only miss a start or two by the trade deadline, he could bring back prospects plural. And if the Pirates are in the thick of things, it would be nice to have him healthy headed into the playoffs. This is clearly the best move of any of the NL Central teams. The Pirates are now ready to make a run at the top spot.

Third, the Pirates did make a Rule 5 selection. Gustavo Nunez is the pick. He is not such a great hitter, but could develop as he is only 23. He can play 2B, 3B, and SS and has played all 3 outfield spots. I don't get it unless the Pirates are hoping to be able to keep him later after dumping him from the roster. This takes Harrison's spot on the 25 man, which I don't see unless they want to get him a few weeks of hitting and starting at AAA while he plays SS and d'Arnaud plays 3B (and Mercer 2B). This would get some consistent practice at the new defensive positions for those guys, but he is not going to make it all year. The Pirates did lose Bret Lorin in the Rule 5, but that was inevitable, and ought to be a sign of a healthy minor league system.

Fourth, the Pirates pulled off a trade that was for today, not for tomorrow. The traded Brooks Pounders (along with Diego Noris who was at his limit of being in the DR) for Yamiaco Navarro. Navarro has a .260 type bat with a strike out problem, but real power potential. He is our back 3B and a power threat off the bench. I am okay with this move only because Navarro is major league ready now. I am higher on Pounders than most. I think he can be a legit 3rd starter because of his ground ball rate and the improvement in his fast ball. But looking at our system, Pounders is not as a good prospect as Cole, Taillon, Cain, Von Rosenburg, McPherson and Kingham and Heredia are younger, but better. Might as well as trade him for a guy who can contribute right now.

You have got to like what the Pirates did, and what the rest of the NL Central did not do. Now some Free Agents are still out there, so it is not over by a long shot, but I am excited already for the Pirates.

Friday, December 2, 2011

CBA not that bad

I have been a way for a while. I apologize for that. But it seems like a time to give some thoughts about the Pirates and the CBA. Overall I don't think it is that bad for the Pirates.

Now the new CBA has a slotting system with a minor tweak here or there. That is no doubt bad for the Pirates. They will be given a set amount for the first 10 rounds. If you don't sign a guy you lose his money no matter what. If you sign a guy under the slotted amount, you can carry that over to sign other guys over the slot. If you go over by a certain percent you are taxed 100% on it. If you go over too much then you lose a 1st round pick next year. If you go over a lot you lose 1st round pick the next two years. This is bad, bad, bad for the Pirates. Not good, but not bad for teams always picking at the back of the draft, and out right great news for College Seniors who will see themselves get drafted higher now.

However, some okay things are in there. There were some changes to the Type B free agency and comp picks that won't hurt. Also there is a draft lottery that would give small market and losing teams an extra pick or so. This is good news for small market clubs like the Pirates. More picks means quicker filling up of a depleted minor league system.

The best news in the CBA is the International signing system. Now all International players will be in one common pool. That means less money spent on scouting in Latin America. No more advantage for teams like the Rangers who were far sighted enough to really pour money into Latin America. There is also a set amount that you can spend on players out of this pool, and it is a higher amount for bad teams like the Pirates. Also, if you want you can trade money in the International pool to other teams. This means if a big name prospect has made it clear he is not going to sign with the Pirates. The Pirates can give the money to an AL team for a A ball player or something in order to make sure the prospect signs with an AL team rather than an NL competitor. Instead of just losing out on signing a guy, we can get an A ball player for it. Not bad.

In the end the advantages picked up in the International market I think out weigh the hard slotting system of the CBA. The Pirates ought to benefit. Especially if you think that one day the Pirates will not be picking in the top 10. If we get competitive the International Market becomes vastly more important than the Draft.

The other thing that this can do is encourage the Pirates to sign free agents. I don't think the GM's will like the new system, but I think owners do. Now owners can know how much they are going to spend on international signings and the draft because it is basically slotted for them. This part of their budget is now fixed. No more needing to hold back 10 million because you need to sign the number 1 over all pick. You now know exactly what he is worth. That can save you a couple of million that you can plug back into the current major league product via free agency.

I also think holding down the signing bonuses of guys who have not played pro-ball will help keep prices low in the free agent market at the major league level. Having huge bonuses and MLB contracts for guys in the draft will eventually make mediocre guys in the bigs want to get more money.

So overall this deal is not bad, maybe even slightly helpful. If you think that the Pirates are going to be bottom of the barrel for a while and will have a decade worth of top draft picks then it looks like a bad deal. However, as soon as the Pirates turn competitive, this will look much better or at least not hurt so much in the draft. Even then we could get an extra pick in the draft lottery for our small market.

This CBA puts the focus now a lot more on good scouts rather than big bucks. We will see how that works out of the Pirates.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Minor League Review: West Virginia

The Power are the team that actually had me the most depressed as they were stacked coming in. But then you kind of realize they were decimated by promotions and it tempers one's angst.

Jameson Taillon - He had high expectations, and he did not exceed them. But he probably met them. A 97:22 K:BB rate is amazing and was the second best on the team. His hits allowed were a little high, but the insistence on throwing fast balls is mostly responsible for that. Maybe one would like to have seen a few more innings, but pitch counts kept him removed often. His last start was dominate, and he is ready for the next jump.

Zack Von Rosenburg - Zack had a horrible start to the season getting beat around. His fastball was up. He gave up 19 HRs, but only 23 walks (part of a 114:23 K:BB ratio). He needs to work on getting his pitches down. He showed improvement in the last part of his season, so there is good hope here. One still needs to hope for an increase in velocity as well.

Colton Cain: Cain was great. Everything you wanted him to be. He maxed out some innings and got sent to the pen, which gave him a few bad outings toward the end of the year, but Cain was dominate. 81:33 ratio is good and shows that Cain has the speed and the ability to strike guys out.

Brooks Pounders: He was the big surprise. He added speed on the fastball and looked great. 72:14 ratio is very good. He did it mostly out of the pen, but there is room to squeeze him back into the starting picture next year. It was an exciting year for his development.

Tyler Waldron: He started here and was okay. Nothing great. But he got promoted. He looks more like a bullpen guy, and one who needs more strikeouts.

Brandon Crumpton: He was demoted to the bullpen after a horrible start. He was great there, got back into the rotation, rattled off several amazing wins in a row striking out people, and got promoted. Great year for Crumpton.

Zack Dodson: 46:15 in 66 innings is not bad. He was injured and had a long come back, but was doing well before the injury and did well after. He has pitched his way into nice looking prospect status.

Victor Black: He made it through a season without getting injured and that might have been the most important thing. He needs to work on his control giving up too many walks, but he did get a late season promotion to Bradenton. Probably a bullpen guy with nice heat. One thing worth mentioning is he did not give up a homer at West Virginia. Only one at Bradenton. Keeping the ball in the park is good.

Matt Curry - He will be discussed elsewhere. Needless to say, he was great in WV with an OPS north of 1.

Dan Grovatt - He had a very consistent year. He was constantly between .280 and .300. He drew lots of walks, hit for some surprising power with 8 HRs and a good double total. Plus he has the arm to stick in a corner outfield spot.

Drew Maggi - He was freezer cold for the first month or so of the season, which tells you how good he was to the end as he earned the promotion for the last few games. His defense is supposedly good enough to stick at short, but was still a bit error prone. Some of that I think was his bad plate performance affecting his defense. Did show some double/triple potential as well. Good speed.

Justin Howard - The concern was his power, which he showed hints of during this season with doubles and the long ball, but now his average needs to improve. Still, this year has to be a success for Howard.

Kwami Elmsely-Pai - This guy was blazing at the beginning of the year despite not getting a lot of playing time. He did cool down, but was still good enough to go up a level next year. His defense also seemed strong. Considering we picked him up for nothing, it was a great season.

Mel Rojas Jr. - Obviously a bit disappointing, but he too started very cold. He needs to work on plate discipline as his strike out total was too high. However, he has speed. And one can expect his plate discipline to improve as he is still pretty young. Not a great season, but not a failure either.

There were some real disappointments such as Eric Avilia. Wow. The kid had shown power and decent hitting, but was just awful. Did end strong enough to almost get to .215, but not quite. He also had over 20 errors. That is just plain bad. But the real prospects at this level did okay to good with a few greats scattered in there.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Minor League Review: State College

Ross Ohlendorf just pitched his first homer, and got a win. Good news for the Pirates. I still think you let him go during the off season, but hey, it is still nice.

State College was not very good this year, and a lot of that was the result of getting only 4 seniors in the draft. But, I am still higher on what was at State College than most. Let's take a look.

It is true that there were not a lot of break out seasons here except Nick Kingham, but they were not disastrous either.

Nick Kingham:
He had a 1.10 WHIP and a 47:15 K:BB ratio. He threw in the low 90's and looked great after a shaky first start. He could very well be a top 10 prospect.

Stetson Allie:
Disappointing in some ways because of his hype, but we all knew he had command problems. He walked 29 and struck out 28. The command problems were there. Still, the dominance was also there. His fastball sits at 95, and when he is on, he is going to blow away the competition. He has plenty of time to get control of his walk total. So, I think he had a better season than most do. The walks were to be expected. He also seemed to be improving a bit until they moved him to the pen so as not to overload his innings. The adjustment to coming in from the pen was rough. July was 15 strikeouts to 10 walks with 5 starts. No starts in August resulted in 12 walks and only 6 strikeouts. That hurt his numbers a bit, so it is not as bad as it might look.

Ryan Hafner:
I am a little higher on Hafner than others as well. His fastball is still high 80's, and that will never get it done even out of the pen. Still he pulled off a 1.19 WHIP and a 31:20 K:BB. That is too many walks, but an impressive number of strikeouts considering he was not overpowering anyone. Remember he came from high school, so I think power can come with age. It might have been that some of his walks were nibbling at corners. I still think he adds power, and then he can be real good.

As for what we got in the draft, I do like Josh Poythress as a future reliever. A 29:10 K:BB is not a bad start. I am not ready to give up on Matt Benedict either. A 39:15 K:BB is enough to keep me watching and hoping, but he gave up far too many hits.

Alex Dickerson:
He came late to the league, but was as advertised. .313 AVG, .886 OPS with 3 HRs. He has to learn 1B, so his defense is below average, but his bat looks great.

Samuel Gonzalez:
He thrived at this level. He hit over .300 and only struck out 15 times, which is a big thing. Add in 14 walks, and I like his plate presence. Needs more power, and needs to play better defense, but it was a good year for him.

Wes Freeman:
Now I am not as high on Freeman as others. He was repeating this league, so he should have dominated it. Still, he hit 6 homers and hit .303. His defense is good enough for the corner outfield. You have to call this a success.

Now I would not worry about a lot of the others that some are pointing to as disappointing. Dan Gamache hit .231, but he was recovering from a hand injury and only had 20 games to get adjusted. I am also not too worried about Taylor Lewis nor Derek Trent. Trent is not a big time prospect anyway, but it was a major jump in competition for those guys and they had to learn the wooden bat at the same time. They played in lower college conferences as opposed to Dickerson and Gamache. Both showed good plate discipline with Lewis leading the team in walks with 34 and Trent was 4th with 20. Both played good Defense. Lewis also had 7 triples. No kidding. Lewis had 35 hits and 7 of them were triples. 20% of his hits were three baggers. He added on double, and he stole 16 bases (being caught 4 times). His speed should keep him on the prospect radar. Kirk Singer was another draftee who got better as the year went on, so he should not be thrown under the bus.

There were a few huge disappointments. Exicardio Caynoes was awful and thought to be a nice prospect. Junior Sosa should have done better as well. And the Pirates has seen enough of Justin Benscko, as they have him listed as released now. So the team had some disappointments.

My thoughts overall is that this team was weak from the beginning, did not have real good performances from the early signers in the draft, which matched up with disastrous performances from Caynoes and Sosa. They got better, but it was too late to make the team look good. But they showed enough to not be depressed.

Sub .500 again

The Pirates lost the other day and ensured another losing season. A real tough break as it was all the result of one bad stretch in August. Some of it was increased competition, but most of it just came down to injuries and pitching fatigue. More than the blown call in Atlanta I blame the series against the Cubs. Getting swept by them completely deflated me as a fan and probably the team as well. Having Presley out hurt and Derrick Lee out hurt along with Tabata were huge factors. The pen got tired as some of them really failed to produce (Biemel), and Meek's season long injury ended up catching up to the Pirates as they had to over use Veras.

Still in the end, the Pirates are having a better season than last year. It is an improvement, and I think a nice strong finish could really help the team for next year. A lot depends on Alvarez being a major league caliber hitter, but time will tell on that one.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Reviewing the Minors: GCL Pirates

McCutchen clocked two today and Hughes made his debut, and the Pirates got the win, which went to Tony Watson for his one out in the top of the 8th.

The minors are done for the year and it is time to look at what we have before we come to the list of top prospects for the year. We will start at the bottom and work up.

The GCL Pirates, a Rookie League team, was actually very good and very interesting this year. They lost a one game playoff, but it is the individual success that was even more exciting than the team success.

Luis Heredia - of course it starts with him. He did pretty well considering his young age. He had some control issues. He struck out 23 and walked 19 in 30.1 innings. He threw a lot of fastballs, so he had some long at bats because he was not allowed to throw the curve to get people out. This led to a lot of pitch totals being high and him coming out of the game. Nothing to worry about here, you expect a 16 year old to have some command issues. He throws mid-90's, so he has what it takes.

Orlando Castro - Wow. This guy looks like a major league bullpen guy for sure. He started here threw a 22:2 K:BB ration in 25 innings, and was on his way to the next level.

Logan Penvy - He looked okay. He is still a bit of a project and a long shot, but a 23:13 ratio is no reason to write him off. It is not great, but not bad either.

Dovydas Neverauskas - He too is still a big project, but occasionally looked good coming out of the pen. Not enough strike outs, but still has a projectable frame that might fix that problem as he goes forward.

Diomedes Mateo - He actually led the team in strike outs with 33 and only 16 walks. He got a late season look at State College, which is where he ought to end up next year.

Rodarrick Jones - Clearly the big excitement on the team. He was drafted in the high rounds, tore up GCL and got promoted. Showed some signs of power.

Jonathan Schwind - He played well both offensively and defensively. His age says he ought to, but he played at a small college, so it is good to see him dominate. He tied for the team lead in doubles (14), and had on OPS over 1.000. He should go to full season ball next year.

Jose Osuna - The .331 average and the other with 14 doubles. He got a late season call up to SC. He looked like a bat with some promise in the OF.

Willy Garcia - He led the team with 5 dingers. The hint of power is enough to be exciting.

Yonathan Barrios - Decent defense at SS and an .815 of OPS.

Alen Hansen - He swipped 24 bags and hit 13 doubles. Not consistent hitting, but the skills are there. Throw in 7 triples and you begin to get an idea about the speed.

There were some disappointments here including Jared Lakind, Joey Schoenfeld Junior Sosa, and Jorge Bishop.

Candon Myles played just a few games and it is not enough to say much.

The number of good hitting prospects was exciting. Osuna, Hansen, and Jones are very exciting players. Most of these guys have plate discipline issue left to solve, but you expect that here. Not as much pitching, but enough to think it was not a bust. Castro in particular. A nice showing by a team that was mostly from the Latin American market.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Is Derrick Lee Willie Stargell

Probably not, but Lee is hitting homers at an amazing pace. Remember he has only played about 7 games as a Pirate and has 4 homers. His price tag for next year is pretty big, but I would not be opposed to paying it. Offering him arbitration might be a good thing. If we get stuck paying him, we get a power bat at first which has been a problem. If he does not take it, then we get a Type B repayment, which is a draft pick after the second round and before the third round. I can take it.

Still, over all the Pirates have been playing better again. It was nice to see them beat up on the Cubs since the Cubs were there during our darkest hours this year. We owed them. Today versus the Astros was nice too. McDonald went 7.1 innings, which is a full inning longer than any of his other outings this year. Hanrahan got another save, and the Pirates only gave up one run, which should have been on an error. Tabata spun around like a top, jumped for no reason and still had it hit the side of his glove.

Another thing is don't look now, but Ryan Doumit is hitting .291. Are you kidding me? Two doubles today with a single thrown in to boot, and he looks great right now. I favor re-signing Doumit over re-signing Snyder. I really would rather them get someone new completely, but Doumit looks like a better player than Synder right now. More durable as well.

Soon there will be more call-ups as the Indians did not make the AAA playoffs so I expect Alvarez back up and a few others as well. The only one I am really looking forward to seeing is Evan Meek. I would like to see his speed and his performance after such a long rehab.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Another bullpen melt down

Wandy Rodriguiz always pitches pretty good against us. He did so again tonight. He had a rough 3rd inning, but even that was not all that bad. Harrison got a hit. McCutchen hit a fly ball to right that in most ball parks is a pre-warning track out, but in Houston was a two-run homer. Walker got on and Doumit hit a double to score Walker, but even that was played poorly by their left fielder. I thought it was catchable, but even if it wasn't he played the ball off the wall so bad that it gave at least an extra base to Doumit and Walker. After that inning Wandy was solid.

Ross Ohlendorf went 5 pretty good innings. He allowed two runs and struck out six. Nice work. Then everyone gave up a run. Veras came in and the game was already tied, and Veras allowed Carlos Lee to hit a three run homer. Look, I am not trying to be one of those Veras-stinks guys, but his arm is dead now. He had a great season, and I would not complain too much if they brought him back next year. But this year I think the work load is showing.

Brandon Wood went 0 for 4 with 4 K's. d'Arnaud might have joined him if he had not been lifted. He was 0 for 3 with 3 K's. Put those two guys in front of the pitcher and that is three easy outs in a row.

The Pirates did add one in the ninth when Jones walked and Cedano tripled, but what good is losing by three.

It is starting to look like the losing streak is still alive. I hope to see some guys get some playing time in September call ups. The real good news is that Jameson Taillon dominated the other night striking out 9 with no walks and no runs.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

It was over in the top of the 1st

It really was over in the top of the 1st. What was really frustrating is that you could tell. The Pirates got on quick. Tabata and Presely both were on with McCutchen up. Now McCutchen got an RBI base hit and the Pirates now had runners at the corners with no one out. These are not just any runners, but speedsters. A good fly out scores Presley. Heck, a double play scores Presley. But with Walker, Jones and Harrison up, the Pirates did not get a second run across much less a third or fourth. And you could tell right then and there that this game was over.
Karstens then held up his part of the loss by giving up three runs. He would give up five by the fourth. He was not himself. Either he is not really right or was worried he was not right from his shoulder cramp last outing. He got beat around. Chris Resop would give up two more in his whole one out performance. The Pirates did push across four runs, but it was over by the time they scored their second run.

Not that this whole game was bad. Chris Leroux was amazing for 2 and a third. Multiple strikeouts and he faced the best in the line up. Daniel McCutchen also was okay. He got the Pirates out of the jam made by Resop. Both guys are probably in next year's bullpen. McCutchen has shown it all year, and Leroux is making his case. Right now I have to say it is a case I am impressed with.

Josh Harrison had two hits, but did not get the big hit when he needed it. Presley had a hit and a walk. These young guys played okay. Really when the Pirates put up four runs that should be enough, but today it was not. Many of the at bats were just going through the motions so that the game does not last all day.

Anyway, we are just a couple of days away from expanding the rosters. I expect that at least by the end of the AAA season that we will see quite a few people back. I would imagine that Moskos would be back. I imagine that Ciriaco probably comes back too. I don't see a reason not to bring back Alvarez. I do believe that there is no reason to leave Gorkys down when the season is over. Meek is almost certainly ready to be back, and will probably try to get a few innings in. However, that will mean a 40 man roster move. The question is do you drop Aaron Thomson. Right now I think not. He is probably going to have to come back as well since Karstens might be hurt. I think that means either Fryer or Jarmillo gets the ax off the roster. Whoever stays will probably come up. I think those are the only 6 coming up. No addition of Hague, and no Morris.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Here's hoping for a brawl

The one thing the Pirates are missing is some swagger and anger. They did just take 2 of 4 from the Brewers, but they dropped the first to the Cards. Watson did the best thing I have seen all year . . . he threw behind Berkman. It was right after a homer and Tabata had already been beaned. It was really the first time all game where a retaliation pitch made sense. They were losing and now it was out of hand. Time to get even. The Pirates had let a lot of that go all year. No response for beanings and brush backs of McCutchen. No response to the breaking of Lee's hand. It is time to get angry about being treated this way.

Over all the Pirates got their young guys back, and it provides some hope. I am pretty excited about this part of the year. Presely and d'Arnaud ought to get a good look along with Harriston. Lincoln is now in the starting rotation. That is good. Ohlendorf is back and should get some work. That could be bad, but necessary. The Pirates are ready for a push to .500. We will see what comes of it.

I would be more confident if tonight we rumbled.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Playing Long Ball can be fun

The PIrates won today by playing long ball. A rare sight. Karstens pitched okay, but not great. Albert got him once, and a RBI double in the 6th put Karstens out of the game. The game was tied at that point. 3-3. So 3 runs in 5.1 is not bad nor good. Less than what Karstens has been doing, but it kept us in the game. The Pirates saw Hanrahan give up a go-ahead run in the 9th on a sac fly. Weird. However the Pirates tied the game on a Neil Walker long ball. This was the first time the Pirates had scored since the Andrew McCutchen long ball. Resop pitched the 11th inning cleanly and saw G.I. Jones hit a walk off homer. Unbelievable. Jones crushed the ball that one-hopped into the river.

The Pirates have not won very many of these close games, and it is nice to get one. Walk off wins are always good. Tabata is back, and that is nice to see. The Pirates can right this ship and get back over .500 now. It is far too late to get back in the race, but we ought to be able to end the streak. The Brewers won again tonight, so no ground gained. If we could have just won once in Wisconsin, this upcoming four game set would have been much more interesting, but it is not the Pirates year.

The Pirates go for the sweep tomorrow night. We have not had too many of those this year either, so it is an important step in the development of this club to get a sweep or two before the year is over.

Cole and Bell in a big day

The PIrates won by the way. Doumit's towering blast lifted the Pirates past the Cards. But nobody cares today because the Pirates have the best farm system in the majors . . . or at least are now in the argument. Mostly because of the draft signings, but let us not over look the great AAA debut of Jeff Locke. He was good through 5. Good to see.

Gerrit Cole signed a MINOR league deal, which is unbelievable. It is at least 8 and apparently has incentives of another 9 mil if he makes the pros by 2013. Cole is probably going to be the 2 overall prospect in the Pirate system, and is clearly a future number 1. You have to love a rotation of Cole and Taillon.

Josh Bell adds some much needed hitting to the Pirates organization. They were very weak in position prospects with power, and Bell has that. Power, average, athleticism. The short stop of the future is Josh Bell.

The PIrates also inked Clay Holmes yesterday. Holmes is a great pitching prospect who throws 91-93. He has work to be done, but is young and I expect he will start in State College next year. It is probably that Holmes might could make the Top 50 prospects.

Overall the Pirates did great. They added pitching over on top of pitching, and a couple of good bats with Bell and Dickerson. Cadnon Myles is a guy who looks like he could be a major leaguer as well. Great speed, no real power, but athleticism to spare. Also 37th round pick Rodderick Jones is hitting well in GCL. He looks like he might turn out to be a real prospect. Taylor Lewis is apparently Andrew McCutchen like in his speed and has shown so with his love of the triple. So, there are some guys who can really play in this draft. I like it.

Great day for the Pirates. Great one.

I admit it

I admit that I have not been blogging because of getting swept by the Brewers. It was depressing. Nothing like getting your draft picks in to cure that!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Season on the Line

This series with the Brewers cannot be understated. The season comes down to this. We need a sweep. A sweep would put us only 7 games out, a series victory 9 games, and a series loss would be the end.

The Pirates did stop their ugly ways with a series win against San Fransico. We avoided their best pitchers, but we still got the win. McCutchen appears to be out of his slump, and we are hitting a little better now. The bad news is that we pitched our three best pitchers, and now we are going in with Correia, who has been outright awful, Malholm, who is okay, and then Morton (I think). The first two guys have to show up big.

As for everything else, the Pirates are making great progress in signing prospects. I have heard 60% and no chance of signing Bell, but the Pirates have signed almost all of the top 10 picks, and getting them into games at the GCL. It appears they are offering good money to a couple of other guys, and I have great hope for the Pirates.

The VSL played in its 6th straight championship, but this time they lost. Still a good sign for the Pirates as the VSL is loaded with some real good looking prospects.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A brief reply to Charlie at SBNation

It is always dangerous to disagree with Charlie as his command of the facts and stats is always impressive. His posts are great. But this time, I have to disagree with his view of our farm system.

Charlie's argument is that the farm system is a disappointment this year. Our top prospects are not excelling and exceeding expectations. He gives some good examples by going through his top 10 prospects.
He is okay with Taillon, disappointed in Sanchez, okay with Heredia and Allie, fine with Marte, very disappointed in Owens and Morris, and just okay with Cain while disappointed in Von Rosenburg.

I felt this needs a bit of a rebuttal. I will use my list of top prospects.

We can agree that Taillon is doing fine. There was really no way he could have exceeded expectations.

I had Rudy Owens next, and we can agree that he has really struggled. But I think there is reason to hope he is coming out of it, but still, he has had a bad year.

Allie was third on my list and we all knew walks were going to be a problem with him. He has shown that impressive ability in many of his games. He is young enough that this is real good year considering he is facing college juniors and seniors.

Marte is my next prospect and he has had a great year. Continuing to hit well despite the injury last year and the new AA pitching. His defense also sparkles along with his throwing arm. This guy looks great.

Sanchez has dropped off. His power is gone and his consistent hitting gone. The most troubling thing is his defense is also not so good anymore. I mentioned how I still think he is overrated, and apparently I overrated him too.

Locke started slow, but has been coming out of it. He has not had a major blow up year like Owens, and if he continues on his current path his overall year will not look that bad. A bad start held him back, but he is back on track.

D'Arnaud made it to the big leagues and while not a world beater up there, he had a great AAA year. He was hitting about .290 when he was called up. In the bigs he added third base to his position total. No reason to say he had a bad year especially remembering his low average last year. This was an improvement.

Cain has had a great year. I would say he is exceeding expectations. He is not doing so well out of the pen, but he is a starter who is getting tired.

Von Rosenburg has had a bad year giving up a lot of hits and homers. However, it is not a giant concern as his walk total is low, his strike out total still very impressive, and he has not yet added the speed that everyone thinks his body will add. Not a break out year, but not a bad year.

Now, I had Andrew Lambo at 10, and he has had the worst year of any prospect in our system. Just awful. But to make up for it, Jordy Mercer had a near break out year in AA, and has found his power is sticking around in AAA. He was a little slow to start there, but is getting into his groove now.

One could also argue for great years from Grossmann, McPhearson, and a break out year for Nick Kingham and Ryan Hafner. They have all been terrific.

I also think that Charlie fails to count those who made it to the pros. The farm system started off the year including Alex Presley, Josh Harrison, and Chase D'Arnaud not to mention Eric Fryer. All of these guys made the big leagues and did at least okay if not out right amazing like Presley. Also Daniel McCutchen was in AAA at the beginning of the year and he has pitched great in the pros. Daniel Moskos did alright, and is doing fine at AAA. This is great since some were worried last year he showed himself to be a bust. Not so.

Also it is true State College is struggling, but I think they are beginning to hit as Alex Dickerson is showing himself to be a good hitter and many of the others are adjusting to wooden bats. Dan Gamache is recovering from a hand injury, but is tearing up Rookie ball as he ought. Those are the two big contributors from this year's draft. The others are signing, but are high schoolers.

The farm system is not in bad shape and I think may actually be better than it has in years past.

Finally, a win

The Pirates got another great start from Charlie Morton and this time they scored. Just to make sure Charlie went one inning longer and gave up 0 runs rather than 1.

Garrett Jones had a great game with 4 hits. Walker and Ludwig, our RBI guys, each had at least one RBI. Alvarez had one too, but it came on a bases loaded walk.

Even better news is that State College hit well. Everyone on their team got at least one hit as they scored 14. Alex Dickerson hit a 3 run homer in the 9th to cap his 3 hit 4 RBI day. Ryan Hafner pitched great, and got the win. In Rookie League ball Luis Heredia got his first win pitching 3 good innings.

The Pirates did gain a half game, and the Reds lost so they leap them. The Pirates need to keep it going if they have any prayer of catching up on the Brewers.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Ten in a row . . . ugh

This losing streak is just gut wrenching. We went from losing games to the Phillies, including one where we had a two run lead in the 8th, to losing to the Cubs, but mostly in close game fashion. We blew a two run lead in the 8th in that one too, and lost a one nothing game. Then the Padres came into town and our first game with them we open up a two run lead, give it up only to grab the lead back in the next inning four to three, only to give it up so that Doumit could hit a solo blast to go back up five to four. Only to give it up with a grand slam. We never recovered from that. We gave up double digits the next night too, and then tonight we were never close, but managed to keep them to seven runs. We lost seven to three thanks to a late inning three run shot by Brandon Wood.

The two good things on this losing streak have been Pedro Alvarez is raising his average and Brandon Wood is hitting long balls. Usually pointless long balls, but he still hits them. Wood ought to be the starting Short Stop. Cedano was benched yesterday for his lousy play. Not the first time this year. That is the real problem with Cedano. He gives up. He has shown this year he can play some defense, but he has occasional mental lapses. He will break the wrong way on a ground ball every now and then. But, worse than that. He quits. Whether it is not hustling down the line on a weak ground ball, having horrible at-bats because the game is out of reach, or double pumping on throws the first base allowing runs to score it is usually because Cedano has given up. You can see it. He just turns it off and goes on cruise control. There is no urgency to throw the ball because the game is over. Why bother getting an out and stopping another run. Why bother trying to turn that double play? It is awful. Wood has some power and the Pirates are desperate for power. And most importantly Wood does not give up. I hope by September never to see Ronny on the field again.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Time to worry about .500 again

I like what the Pirates did at the trade deadline. Derrick Lee and Ryan Ludwig are both upgrades. The problem is two fold. One is that the injuries are just catching up to the Pirates. Catcher, Third base, and corner outfield spots have been ruined by injuries creating four holes in the line up. When Presley went down after Tabata went down, it was too much. McCutchen and Walker both hit little funks at that time and that was it. Add in one screw job by the umps and the Pirates are back at .500.

The other big thing is that they had other holes that were not showing up. I am not talking about every one saying the pitchers will come back to earth. I do think Morton and Karstens are going to be fine the rest of the way. So will Malholm, although I would not have minded trading him. However, I think Correia was gassed about the All-Star break. No, I am talking about Ronny Cedano the walking hole in the line up. His defense had been better, and his offense had been around .250, which meant he was not the biggest problem on the team. Still, we need an upgrade at short. Cedano is injury prone. He often quits in the middle of games and will not hustle. He also still is a bad hitter and a bad defender. His inability to turn a clean double play probably cost the PIrates the game Malholm pitched against the Cubs.

One can hope that with Doumit coming back tonight and Alvarez hitting better than when he got hurt, we can expect to see a turn around in the outcomes soon. Morton has a big game tonight. He was beat down like old Morton last time out. However, that was against the Phils. This is the Cubs. He has to keep the Pirates in the game, who are scoring runs on the Cubs. They just need the defense and pitching to not put them in an early hole. The Brewers beat down the Cardinals, and the Reds are only a game behind us, so this is a must win tonight.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Trade deadline deal

A lot happened in the week, I was gone. The Pirates split a 4 game set with Atlanta and lost game 1 (and now game 2) with the Phils. We did get cheated by the Umps that cost us a game. We really need to end this on an up note with a big win tomorrow.

To that end, Derrick Lee is now a Pittsburgh Pirate. We traded away Aaron Baker to get him. That is a great deal. Baker was probably below Matt Hague coming into the season. Hague has had a great year and Baker only so-so. He has power, and was hot a couple of times, but still strikes out a lot. Matt Curry clearly jumped him in Curry's first full season. Not just on the prospect list, but actually jumped over the High A league where he was to play AA ball. Curry has done well there too, so that pushes Baker to 3rd on the prospect list. The Pirates 3rd round choice of Alex Dickerson, who is learning first base in State College, drops Baker to 4th on the prospect list. One assumes Dickerson will improve on the defense. This means the Pirates traded away the 4th best first basemen for an upgrade right now at the major league level. I will take it.

Add in the fact that everyone thinks Alvarez will end up at first, and the fact that Justin Howard hits for nice average behind Baker, and really this is a great deal because the Pirates are not giving up anything.

As for the debate about whether Derrick Lee at this point in his career is better than Overbay, I think he is. Overbay has not hit well, and is lacking power. Even if Lee only hits for the same average, he has a bigger power threat than Overbay. The defense is probably the same, as Overbay has not been as good as year's past. Plus, just the morale boast of the Pirates front office trading to get pieces is important. That should be a shot in the arm for the whole team.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A win, but not a good series

The Pirates suffered a set back in this series with the Cards. Yes, we won one at the end in dramatic fashion to gain that game back and if the Brewers lose (currently they are tied with the Giants), the Pirates will be tied for first. Yet, the Pirates offense looked real bad in every game except the first one. The pitching suffered. Even Morton, who had a nice game today was shaky at times. He got out of serious trouble in the 5th giving up only one run. That trouble was his fault with lead off walk and a wild pitch that Fryer may have been confused on. He seemed to be thinking it was outside rather than inside.

The only real positive is Chase d'Arnaud. He hit the ball well this series. He has had some rockets that have just been caught coming into this series, but a 2 for 4 night last night and a 1 for 4 night tonight with the walk off sac-fly. His one hit today was a double that just missed being a two run homer. He needs to heat up if the PIrates are going to continue with him as their third baseman.

Eric Fryer had an interesting night. He was 2 for 4 and scored a run. He was a little shaky catching, I thought. The Wild PItch seemed like a communication problem. He dropped a few out of his glove that concern me. Overall, I think that this is an area of highest need for the Buccos.

I will not be posting for a few days, but will be back for a week in review next weekend.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Still winning, but getting worried

The Pirates won on a great night of pitching, and the Cards lost, although the Brewers are going to win.

The Pirates came out swinging and they put up a base hit, a double, and an RBI ground out. That would be half of the hits they got all night and the only run. Harrison had the single, Walker the double, extending his hit streak. Later Lyle Overbay would get a two out base hit. And even later Alex Presley would get a lead off base hit before getting thrown out stealing. In Presley's defense that may have been a hit and run, which I would have approved of in that situation. Harrison usually puts the ball in play, the count favored the hitter, and Presley is speedy. Harrison swung ugly, and Presley just got tagged before the bag. Later the Pirates would lose pinch runner Xavier Paul by a mile.

McDonald was on fire for five innings. He struck out seven and was not very high in the pitch count. In the 80's I think when the 7th started. He lead off with a walk, and then got an out on a bunt. The next one was a bang-band play at first giving the runner an infield hit. McDonald got a visit from the pitching coach. A walk anyway, and they pulled him. This was the only real chance the Reds had all day. Biemel got pinch hitter Jay Bruce to strike out, and then Resop got Stubbs to ground out to end the threat.

Hanrahan made it interesting giving up two base hits with two outs. Jay Bruce came up again, but grounded weakly to first. You have to love the Pirates making the rest of the Central play catch up to them. A win tomorrow would really put a hurt on the Reds chances.

Monday, July 18, 2011

First place all alone

Tony Watson is great!!! He really stepped up tonight. He pitched 2.2 innings in relief of Morton, who struggled but did not allow any runs. This was real important heading into these stretch of series. We need a rested bullpen, and coming off an extra inning affair having Watson eat innings was good. He did fail to get out of the eighth but it was because of a questionable catcher's interference call. Although judging by the reaction of McKenry after the final out of the inning was recorded, it may have been. That help was Daniel McCutchen who needed just a few pitches to get the pop out. Hanrahan, who blew a save last night, nailed this one down with ease.

There was not much in the hitting department. d'Arnaud broke out of his slump with a hit, an aggressive base running play allowed him to score on a McCutchen ground out. He went first to third on a Walker base hit. He took a knee to the head and left later with a stiff neck. Walker continued his now 12 game hitting streak. McCutchen continued his mini-slump, but did get that RBI ground out. He is closer to his 100 run and 100 RBI season. That has not happened since Jason Bay was still a Pirate.

Morton got the win, but was very wild. How he avoided giving up runs is beyond me. He plunked two guys. He made it through 5, but was close to 100 pitches by that point. Watson did the rest.

The Pirates go for the series win tomorrow. The Brewers lost out in Arizona in what promises to be a tough series for them, so this is the time for the Pirates to grab a division lead, put the Reds out of it, and go into the Cards series on a roll. The Pirates are now 6-1 against the Reds this year.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Strike outs, but a win

The Pirates blew a couple of leads, and Hanrahan actually blew his first save (although it was a run that went to Veras), but the Pirates still win. One thing that the PIrates still need to improve upon is strike outs. They struck out 11 times. It is far too much.

However, winning a game where McCutchen goes hitless in five at-bats is a plus. Although in fairness he reached on an error that lead to a run. Presley came up with a couple of big hits. Fryer got a hit. Correia helped his own cause with a two run double.

The Cards lost so the Pirates are a half game behind the Brew-crew with the Cards coming up. I think that d'Arnaud's time is over. Pearce is on fire in AAA, and even Alvarez is hitting some. He hit a homer tonight as well. Harrison has been on the bench two straight games. I think d'Arnaud goes down for Cedano in the next couple of days. Wood will be the back up short stop. I think Wood is getting a look because Pearce will require a decision between Harrison and Wood. Wood has shown some hitting in these last two games, so I think you have to keep him.

Trade rumors are flying. I have not loved any of them so far, but we will see what they do. I will not bother reporting on rumors, just analyze it when it happens. It does appear that they will make one.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Blown call leads to blown game

The Pirates lost. Thanks to one of the worst calls I have ever seen.

Malholm started off rocky, and the Pirates left 7 guys on base in the first four innings. However, they were hitting the ball hard. d'Arnaud had rocket with the bases loaded, but it was right at someone. Overbay had a rocket to the deepest part of the park and it was caught at the wall. Finally, those hits started to fall in the right places, namely over the fence. Walker homered as part of his four hit night. He had a great leaping catch as well. Overbay did clear the wall later and Wood tied it with a third homer. Walker then had a basehit to give the Pirates the lead.
Enter Jose Veras. Veras was not sharp. He had a runner on third with one out. Bouncer to d'Arnaud and he comes home. The quick tag applied clearly got the runner before he slid across the plate. The ump disagreed and called him safe. The ump was in position, and had the best angle. Somehow despite an enraged Hurdle, the call stood. Just a horrible call. This led to an error to put runners on first and third, a base hit to score a go-ahead run and then another run scored, but I was so mad I don't remember how. Now we are a game back of Saint Louis.

The good news was from the farm system. Jordy Mercer had an insane night that included a homer, but he left after getting plunked. They put Pearce at SHORT. No kidding. Pearce by the way was 2 for 4.

Altoona saw multiple hits from Tony Sanchez and Starling Marte (both 2 for 5) including a Sanchez homer. Matt Curry also had two hits (2 for 3). He is on the upswing again.

Bradenton had a bad night. Robbie Grossman had a hit. In fact almost everybody got one, but they lost.

Mel Rojas got a hit then left the game. Dan Grovatt was 2 for 4. Justin Howard was 2 for 4. Drew Maggi had a hit. Brooks Pounders was great, Victor Black had a solid inning and got the win. The bad was Tyler Waldron. He got beat around pretty good.

State College stinks, but Lashmet had a hit and Alex Dickerson had a double in his debut game.

Neverauskas pitched his first game and he was good. 2 innings 1 walk 1 strike out and 2 hits. No runs. I will take it.
The bad was Jason Jarmillo again. He failed to record a hit. I think he will not be on the 40 man after the season. The emergence of McKenry means Jarmillo is gone.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Top of the Heap

The Pirates are now in a three way tie for first place. However, it was only a so-so game offensively. McCutchen, Presley, Harrison, and Walker all got one hit and d'Arnaud got two. That was it. They just managed to get them in bunches. Walker got a key hit in the first to take a 1-0 lead. McCutchen got a nice triple in the 3rd to plate Presley and d'Arnaud for a 3-0 lead. Then it went ugly. Except for Karstens that is. He sailed. His only real trouble was in the ninth when he had first and third with one out. He got a grounder right up the middle, but d'Arnaud was positioned perfectly. He got it, flipped it backhand style to Walker, who tagged second and sent it on to first for the inning ending double play. Then just to kill any hopes the Astros had the Bucs played small ball. Jones got on because of a walk, and Hurdle went to the pinch runner: Xavier Paul. It worked as the Pirates got home the insurance run. Karstens gave the bullpen the night off and the Pirates win 4-0.

Interesting night in the minors as well. Taillon got hit around, but only walked one and struck out 5 in 5 innings. Two bad outings in a row, but he is going further than he ever has before and putting some innings on his arm is important right now. He is not walking batters, and still getting strike outs at the same time. Getting hit is not something I am worried about at this level.

Luis Heredia only lasted 1.1 innings. He gave up a couple of runs, and walked 3 so that he hit his pitch limit. However, every out he got was a strike out. All four. He has impressive stuff.

State College actually won. It took Nick Kingham dominating, which is always good to see. Chris Lashmet had multiple hits and an RBI. He is actually the only one hitting consistently.

Robbie Grossman hit a homer and a triple in a four RBI day. Steven Pearce had a homer in his rehab start where Brad Lincoln had a quality start. Yhonathon Barrios was 4-8. Seriously. Logan Penvy had five scoreless. Matt Curry had a multi-hit day as well.

All good signs.

Welcome back baseball. It has been a long two days.

Rudy Owens - close to ready?

The Pirates did some interesting things the other day. Joe Biemel is back and Moskos was sent down. Pearce hit a homer at AAA, but overall the most interesting things for me was Rudy Owens.

Owens has had a tough year with higher walks and lower strikeouts. This has lead to a lot of hits, and a lot of runs. He still gets ground balls, but is just getting hit a lot. However, a corner may have been turned. His last outing saw him get 8 strikeouts, his best result of the year. So, I was anxiously waiting this game. He did not disappoint. He struck out 7, and walked only 1. He also only gave up 5 hits, a lower number than last game.

The month of June has already seen Rudy's highest strike out total of any month. He probably has at least one more start left too. It would be nice to see Rudy put in a few good starts so that perhaps he could get the call up in September. We need Rudy to break camp with us next year as one way or another we will probably be without Maholm.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What is left for a good draft?

First, let me note the International Signings. The Pirates did sign a big name for over a million bucks in Harold Rameriz, a 16 year old outfielder. They also handed out some big bonuses to Caesar Lopez and Elvis Escobar, a Right handed pitcher and outfielder respectively. Other than that it is pretty quite. Juan Mendoza is a hard thrower but 25. I don't think I have seen him on any team yet. Danny Arribas is playing in the Dominican, but he is having a bad year so far. He plays both catcher and third. The other one that interests me is Carlos Mesa, a 20 year old from Cuba. I hope to see him in GCL next year.

The Pirates have now signed 17 guys. They just inked Alex Dickerson the third round pick, who can hopefully add some hitting to State College. They also have fourth round pick Corey Brewer lined up to go to GCL Pirates. Jason Creasy was signed the other day as well, 8th round high school pitcher. Dan Gamache is hurt, but signed and 10th round pick Taylor Lewis is already playing at State College and is struggling, but has a surprising triple total. The other signees are all expected signs who are long shots at the majors with the exception of Josh Poytress, a hard throwing 18th round pick from Fresno State. He could have bullpen potential. And I can always hold out hope for Derek Trent at catcher.

So what would it take to make this draft a real success? We can expect the Pirates will get a deal done with Cole, so let us go ahead and call it 18 people signed. Let us paint two scenarios. One with Josh Bell, and one without.

With Bell I think the Pirates have a good draft, but probably ought to sign one or two more people. 21 is a good number if Bell is one of them. I heard that 5th round pick Tyler Glasnow would be an easy sign. He needs to sign. That way the PIrates have signed all of the first 6 rounds, and then they could add one more prep guy, and it really would not matter who. In my opinion if they can do that, then the Pirates are in great shape with this draft.

Without Bell is a bit more interesting. It does not immediately mean they had a bad draft. They still need to sign Glasnow, but two other names pop up as important. Clay Holmes and Kody Watts. The Pirates would have to sign one of these two guys to make up for the loss of Bell. Both are top 150 prospects. Signing them both would make a good draft for sure. I would like to see the number signed go up as well. 24 would be one to shoot for. Candon Myles is someone I would like to see the Pirates sign if they lose Bell. He has a ton of speed and potential. Frankly, I hope the Pirates get him no matter what, but losing the bat of Bell would make Myles more important. One of the Aaron Brown and Jordan Dunatov group would be important as well. And of course the Pirates could make a run at one of their top 10 pick Jake Burnette. That leaves one more that could be anyone.

So, in my opinion the Pirates are close to having a really good draft. I think they will get both Cole and Bell. MLB has announced high school signings. This means now we can expect to see some of the signings to start flowing in. Keep an eye on those important names, action on the draft front will now start to get fast and furious.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Prospect Update

It is midseason, time to see how my Top 50 Prospects are doing.

I'll just put the updates in bold, so we can see my thoughts from last year.

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.
Nothing but good news here. He is having a good showing in his first full season. Some tiredness, but that is to be expected.
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.
Oh my. What has happened. Owens has been lit up. Walks surprisingly up, strike outs down. He did strike out 8 in his last outing, so maybe that is a good sign, but he will be dropping.
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.
His control is not good, but that is improvable. That is why he started a level below Taillon. Still he has the ability to strike out the side. Looks good.
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.
Has not missed a beat. Probably will be getting a call up to AAA soon.
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.
Started off well in AA, but has regressed. No power right now, but he was not really a power hitter when we drafted him. Some questions about his defense have arisen and that is bad. Disappointing year so far, but on the good side, no ill affects from his injuries.
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.
Just an awful year for Jeff. He has not taken a step forward and is not looking to get a promotion soon. He has been very hittable.
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.
He has played okay in the majors. Was hitting very well in AAA. He was asked to play 3B in the majors and did so-so. His time at short has shown that he is probably not a major league short stop. Still, his speed is scary and his hitting looks like it will be decent in the majors.
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.
Expect Colton to move up the list. He has been great. He has admitted to some tiredness, but so far he is a top prospect and projects well.
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.
He has gotten hammered and is giving up as many homers as walks. So he is clearly leaving the ball up. However, the walks are low and he is still getting decent strike out numbers. The leaving the ball up is fixable.
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.
He had to be demoted after not being able to handle AAA pitching. Bad sign, bad news.
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.
Mercer has lowered his strike out rate, re-discovered power, and still is a good defender. He had a little bit of a slow start to AAA, but is showing power there too.
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.
Okay, he can pitch. He will be in the top 10 now that he has thrown his first professional pitches. The kid has velocity and is doing better than you would think at the GCL as a 16 year old.
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.
Morris did not keep up his resurgence. He is now a bullpen guy, but doing okay from the pen. He could be a part of the pen next year, maybe even in September call ups if they elevate him to AAA soon.
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.
A little inconsistent, but you can see the promise. He had one dominating start and a few other okay and one rocky. Still, Kingham looks good.
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.
The knee is okay. AA has not slowed Holt down. He is hitting at a near .300 clip. He too might see AAA by the end of the year.
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.
Moskos has made the majors, but will probably return to AAA when Biemel is healthy. He was great in AAA and not bad in the big leagues. He will start off on the roster next year and will be called back up in September for sure.
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.
Rojas started very slowly and still has swoons. But some power potential and great speed.
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.
Black is pitching out of the pen to help protect his arm. Probably will be a pen guy in the future. He is doing excellent out of the pen. I hope to see him promoted to High A soon. His age demands it.
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.
Doing well . . . FOR THE ROYALS!!!
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.
The man is tearing up the majors with a .280 AVG. However, his defense is not starting material and he cannot take a walk to save his life. Good utility back up for years to come.
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.
He has potential, but has never really been given a long period of time to show it. He hits better than Overbay and can play 1B, but he will not get a shot. Doing well in AAA, but his time with the club is gone. Prospect status ought to be gone too. He has had lots of ABs in the majors now. Was DFAed and no one claimed him. That says it all.
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.
Bullpen arm is all he can ever be. Not keeping pace with last 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.
Miller needed to gain ground this year and more treaded water. Could be a prospect we throw in a trade package.
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.
He has completely folded. He will drop off the prospect list for sure.
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.
I would have liked to see more progress, but this last half season will be important for him.
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.
Waldron has had mixed results. He has had an injury, but seems to be back and okay. Nothing to worry you here yet, but nothing to make you think he is not a bullpen prospect either.
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.
He has made the leap to AAA and is doing better there than Owens. Who would have thought?
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.
Grossmann is lowering his strikeout total. Gaining credibility as a leadoff hitter, but will probably never be a centerfield and has no real power. An Alex Presley type maybe.
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.
The best season for a prospect so far. He dominated A ball and jumped all the way to AA. He has not dominated there, but is coming out of a little mini-slump. Power is still there, so he looks good.
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.
Maybe the worst start ever for a prospect in Rookie League, but he has since hit multiple homers and is raising his average. I think he will be fine by year's end.
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.
A pretty good year mostly from the pen for Pounders. One wonders if the transition is permanent. He is raising his stock.
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.
He is doing okay. Could be another prospect traded at the deadline.
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.
Still disappointing me.
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.
Irwin dominated A+ this year, but should have as a 24 year old. He is getting his feet wet in AA which is big. Age wise he ought to be there or above. How he does the rest of the year is vital for his future.
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.
Just coming back from an injury. He will probably be moving up this list.
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.
Another amazingly poor start. But he has been on fire lately. The kid can play Defense and hit A ball pitching. I am ready to see him rise a level.
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.
Okay, I underrated him. I thought he was a one year wonder. I was wrong. He will be off the list because I do not think goes back to AAA. Wow.
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.
He has had a melt down at A+. Not good.
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.
Can hit, but lacks power. A powerless first baseman is not going to rise too high in this ranking.
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.
Starting to come around a little, but still needs to finish well to keep prospect status going forward.
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.
Is recovering from surgery and still in his rehab stint. He might could help the Pirates pen, but I don't think he has long term value anymore.
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.
He was a plug in the pen. I expect he will be called back up in September.
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.
I wish he were better at the major league level against lefties, but he is still decent. He won't return to AAA.
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.
Time will tell on him. Time will tell. I have a bad feeling he will not make it to the pros.
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.
Just does not have a position. He still hits okay, but is not going to find a spot to play. Probably will fall off of this list.
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.
He is thriving in the pen. He has his curve back and gets results, but is in AA still. He is only 22 so it might be early to erase him from the list, but he is nothing to be excited for. Clearly not worth Freddy Sanchez.
47. Calvin Anderson. I thought he would be higher, but he collapsed in July. Never recovered.
Collapse continues. Won't make the next list.
48. Matt Hague. Not enough power for first base. 25 and at AA. Still hit enough to make this list.
Hague is still hitting. If he had some power he would be in the majors. Still might make the team as a lot of people are clamoring for it. Probably moves up the 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.
Did not make the State College club. Not good.
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.
His age makes him no longer a prospect. With new draft picks clearly he will fall off this board.

Here are the other people I listed.
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!).
McPherson is on the 40 man and I didn't have him in the top 50. I still don't understand that move, but he is living up to it so far. Promoted to AA and doing okay. Baker is hitting for power still, but was skipped by Curry. Crompton will make the next list as he has been lights out after a slow start. Cayonez is justifying my leaving him off the 50 Prospects list. Demoted back to State College.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Double your pleasure

It was double day, I suppose. Not just at bat. Walker had a couple of doubles. Jones had a big two run double. Presley had one. But Malholm also induced one double play in each of the first four innings, and one that they failed to turn. After the fourth Malholm really got into a groove and got more strike outs to end the day with 8 in the 8th. Resop and Veras finished it off.

It is the All Star break and the Pirates are 4 game over .500 and 1 out of first although two teams are tied for first. The Brewers have a run differential of -1, so they might be coming back a little in the second half. Let's hope.

The Cubs are the real mystery to me. That team is loaded with hitting. Ramirez and Soriano are actually hitting this year. Byrd is hitting, Castro is hitting and their All Star. They got a couple of new guys that are hitting near .300. Fukadome is not awful. Why is this team so bad?

I guess it is the pitching. Ramon Ortiz is a joke and pitched like one today. But still they have Zambrano and Dempster, so they should not be this awful. I really believe they should have hired Sandburg. The real bad thing for the Cubs fans is that this team is going to get worse before it gets better. Don't expect Byrd and Castro to be the beginning of something for the Cubs. They are still hamstrung by Soriano, and they have not yet begun to tear down this mess.

Tomorrow we will look at the draft again and some Latin American signings!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Cubs went crazy . . . literally

The first inning really told the whole story. The Pirates started off with a double by Presley and a base hit by d'Arnaud. Presley was sent home and was just thrown out. I don't have that big a problem. That is a team that wants to push it on the basepaths, and that is a team that was sure it would get more chances. Well, it looked worse when Walker got a hit in the next at bat. McCutchen then popped out and Overbay whiffed.
The bottom of the inning had Correia shaky with a walk and a double to put people on 2nd and 3rd. But he battled back with a grounder to third so no one could advance and a strike out made it look like the Pirates would escape. Instead, Marlin Byrd hit a grounder just out of Harrison's diving reach, but d'Arnaud did dive and get it. That stopped two runs from scoring, but there was no way to get Byrd, so one run did score. Then Correia uncorked a wild one to make sure that second run got home.

Correia was not bad, just not really hitting his spots. He gave up one more run in the second, and one more in the third. With two outs in the fourth he gave up one more on a grounder to Harrison at third and the runner beat the throw getting the run home. He was so close to getting out of jam after jam, but never really did. He walked more than normal and just seemed unable to get people out. Everything was a struggle.

Daniel McCutchen was very good in relief. Lerux made an appearance as he pitches for his spot on the 40. He is the latest in a string of try outs. Moskos pitched a nice 8th, but put the first two on in the ninth. Tony Watson came on and could not prevent the sac fly, but no further damage done. I like Moskos, and I still think he is a part of the future bullpen, but if Biemel is ready, I vote Moskos goes back down. He has to be able to get lefties out more consistently, at least.

McKenry had multiple hits and Presley had a double and a triple. But overall the Pirates just fizzled. Three runs was more than they really deserved because they just did not get the big hit. Even after a lead off triple by Presley they scored on an RBI groundout.

The real entertainment was the meltdown that is the Cubs. Quade the manager pinch hit for Dempster in the 6th. He was furious and went crazy. Yelling match, throwing stuff. Oh yeah. It was a bit of a strange decision. Dempster was doing okay, and had not yet thrown 90 pitches. He was on pace for a quality start. Dempster is probably their ace and the bullpen is no good and blew a game last night with their closer. So, hard to blame Dempster for being angry. I thought the Cubs should have hired Sandburg, and Quade is driving this team in the ground. Armaris threw his bat in the 9th. Who knows why. He swung and missed so it was not a bad call or anything. This team is awful. I cannot believe we lost to them.

Friday, July 8, 2011

McKenry's first a game winner

Sorry it has been awhile. I had company.

Tonight's game was brilliant. The Pirates battled back and then won it in the bottom of the 8th on McKenry's first career homer with a three run blast. His blast will obscure an amazing all around offensive night, especially from Josh Harrison, and cover up the poor outing from the pen.

The Pirates battled all night long. Every starter got a hit except Garret Jones, and he was taken out in a double switch in the 6th, so he did not get as many chances. Xavier Paul who replaced him did get a hit, so the position did get a hit. The Pirates were down 0-1 in the first inning, but came back to take a 2-1 lead in the 3rd. They fell behind again in the 6th 2-3, but in the bottom of the inning tied it up. The top of the 8th they dropped behind again 3-4, but the Pirates pulled a nice rally out to win 7-4 after Hanrahan closed down another.

Unbelievable night. McKenry should be happy. He took a hanging slider and did what major league hitters ought to do, punish it. However, let us not forget that the game was already tied up thanks to Josh Harrison. Harrison, who went 3 for 4, singled in the tying run with 2 outs. Presley had a 2 for 3 night and McCutchen went deep. Really a pretty good night over all.

Except for the bullpen. Jose Veras was bad. He did not seem to have his normal velocity, and just got beat. Resop allowed his inherited runners to score in the 6th, and came back out to get two outs in the 7th, but had to be removed because he got into another jam. Tony Watson got the only guy he was asked to get, as did Daniel McCutchen. Hanrahan was filthy of course, but Veras and Resop need to produce down the stretch if the Pirates are going to win this division.

At one point tonight it looked like the NL Central lead was up for grabs. The Pirates were tied, the Cards were tied, and the Brewers were tied. Then it looked as if the Pirates would be in first as the Brewers were losing by 2, the Cards by 4. But the Brewers found a way to come back and beat the stupid Reds. Still, the Cards lost and the Pirates are a force going into the All-Star break.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Unwritten rules

The Pirates won. They hit fairly well tonight. Everyone who started got a hit except McHenry the catcher. At least I think that is his name, they change so often. Presley got a triple as did Overbay (actually a double with a one base error). Both scored. The Pirates were able to get this big win with Walker getting the night off. Harrison did well in his absence and the decision to play Wood as the DH payed off nicely as Wood hit a big two run blast.

Karsten did give up two solo home runs. Both in the same inning separated by one out. Still, he made seven innings and pitched a normal game for him. He is becoming a reliable starter. He does not have the stuff Ohlendorf has, but he gets results by simply not throwing balls. The difference between Karstens last year and this year boils down to two things. One is a better defense behind him. Karstens makes the hitters beat him, and the defense then sees action. Last year we stunk at defense. This year we are better. Two is that Karstens has been a starter and his arm is stretched out a little more. Karstens had been in the bullpen the entire season two years ago. When he was called upon to be the starter he had a real wall on pitches and innings. You could bet in the 5th he weakened and by the 6th he was done. Good ole JR never saw it and always left him in long enough to hang him with a loss. This year he does not have that limit or that limit is higher. Whether it is because his arm is stretched out or because he focused on getting more endurance in the offseason is hard to know. Perhaps a combo of both. Still it has made all the difference in the world.

The big news is the punch to Matt Diaz on a double play break up slide given by Escobar. Apparently there was a gentlemen's disagreement about a slide Diaz took on Tuesday. Escobar thought it was spikes up, Diaz thought it okay. The unwritten rule about breaking up double plays is hard slides are allowed in the play is close. If the throw is away the slide is not a take out, if not then breaking it up is accepted. Spikes are different story. Spikes are frowned upon more these days than they used to be. Mostly now spiking is reserved for someone who is blocking the bag. A few years ago Rays short stop Jason Bartlett dropped his leg to cover second because the slide was always head first from some runner, whose name I can't remember. Spikes are a way to ensure that sort of thing does not occur. This is not a problem on a double play because they are not blocking a bag. So if Diaz went in spikes up, then he probably deserved some retribution.
The accepted retribution is a low throw above his head. Baserunners are supposed to slide into second and not block the throw. A middle infielder can get even by dropping his arm angle and buzzing the runners head. Escobar felt he should do this to get even. Well, Escobar then violates the rule because he kept dropping the arm. Diaz clearly goes lower to avoid the buzz, and Escobar never throws the ball. Instead he drops so low that he whacks Diaz in the stomach with the ball. Note in the photo Diaz gets a kick in of his own on the play. Probably not an accident despite his claim. Hard tags with the ball are used, but usually they are in the glove. Escobar appears to have gone for the buzz throw and decided instead to whack. Probably a bit of a mistake on his part. It also of course broke up the double play.

It is a little bit of a shame that this is it for the Blue Jays. Escobar's next at bat would have been interesting.

I hate the Blue Jays

I always have. Joe Carter's shot still makes me sick.

The Pirates played good enough to win but did not. Malholm worked out of a lot of jams, but gave up two runs and that was enough to lose. The Pirate made some base running mistakes, but really just did not get the big hit. The hitting was more the problem than the base running. Bautista threw out Walker at home one a chopper in the infield. It was worth the try. Diaz got caught in a run down while Overbay scored. This one was bad as it ran us out of a rally. Cedano hit a bloop base hit. Overbay was waved home from second and looked like he was going to score. It appears as if Diaz stops completely at second and then starts up again. So either he missed a sign, or wanted to get in a run down to score Overbay, although Overbay appeared to score without trouble. Diaz needs to make the decision faster. Still he kept the rundown going long enough to get Cedano to second with only one out. No hits behind it. That was the real problem. One more base hit and Cedano scores. The third one was Jones slipping while trying to steal. That is technically bad baserunning because slipping is not recommended. He tried to get back to first and got thrown out. That stuff happens sometime.

The problem is that we are now counting a lot on newbies and bench players. Diaz and Jones are both playing because Tabata is out. Presley is new. d'Arnaud is new. Our catchers are new. That is too many new guys and 4th outfielders having to play consistent good baseball.

The Pirates don't need to go get help at the trading deadline. They just need to get healthy. The addition of Doumit alone would really help this line up. Tabata as well. Alvarez would also jump start something in all probability. Meek might help make Veras available as a trading piece if we want one, but overall the Pirates just need guys to stay healthy.

I like today's line up. Wood DH, d'Arnaud and Harrison and Presley all playing. You might as well do it to see what they can do. Wood played in the AL so maybe he can have some experience hitting on some of these guys.

By the way the GCL Pirates won today and Jared Lakind got his first hit. Joey Schoenfeld also got a hit. Overall there are some good players in the GCL, but I wish these two guys would step it up a little.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Call up and Pirate wins

It is good to beat the Blue Jays and Jose Bautista. He stunk when he was a Pirate. Now he hits 54 homers for the Blue Jays. Well tonight showed one reason why. The Sky Dome is a launching pad. Alex Presley got a homer as did Bautista and Encarnacion and McCutchen. Not exactly power guys. I know no one else is saying it but Bautista's numbers are too strange to not be suspicious. He ought to be drug tested often and for the good stuff.

But that ugly subject is better forgotten since the Pirates won. d'Arnaud had been doing well since his call up. Josh Harrison is coming back since Tabata got hurt. And Presley went 2 for 5 with 3 RBIs. Even if the Pirates do not find a trading partner they are getting a real good shot in the arm from their farm system. It has been a long time since that was true. McCutchen and Walker both got RBIs tonight showing that the big guns still work and even Matt Diaz went crazy tonight with 3 hits including an RBI triple that scored Overbay. So really everyone was in on this win.

Speaking of the farm system. The Pirates got a great performance from Colton Cain, and a base hit from Pedro Alvarez in a rehab start. Kyle McPhearson was also very good tonight with lots of strikeouts. Jordy Mercer made his first start in AAA and he went 1 for 4, but had 2 strikeouts.

The next guy that needs to get promoted is Starling Marte. He is killing AA right now. He went 3 for 4 with 2 doubles tonight.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What is wrong in State College?

First things first, the Pirates beat Baltimore to win the series and return to .500. They are just 3 games out going into a day off and a scary series versus the Boston Red Sox.

Today the topic is the State College Spikes, the Pirates A- minor league team. They were shut out the second night in a row and held to 3 hits. They have just one win to their credit and are an absolute disaster on offense. Nick Kingham did a lot to remove worries about his abilities by going 5 giving up 1 run and striking out 8. A nice recap can be found at Pirate Prospects.

A quick look at the stats shows that of those people with 10 ABs only two appear able to hit. Derek Trent is hitting .286 and Samuel Gonzalez is hitting .500 with an OPS over 1. Other than that the next best hitter is Carlos Mesa at .222. There are 6 players below .200 and 3 below .100 with the requisite number of ABs. Only 1 HR has been hit so far. This is not a good start.

The question is why such a slow start to the offense? Is this just what happens when you only draft 4 seniors, 2 of whom are pitchers, and one of whom just played his first game tonight where he went 1 for 4. Derek Trent is the other, and he was one of the hitters with an acceptable average.
But this cannot be the whole answer as a few college juniors are struggling like Brian Sharp and 10th round pick Taylor Lewis. Plus, some of these guys were fairly well regarded prospects coming in such as Exicardo Cayones, who is hitting below .100 right now. Cayones is easily the biggest prospect on this team and he is currently 1 for 11 with 5 strikeouts. That is not good.

I know that this is early in the season, and that many more prospects will be showing up such as hopefully Alex Dickerson (3rd round pick), or maybe Dan Gamache (6th round), who should help the offense quite a bit. But, has been 6 games, and this is not a promising start. This team is not going to win when only 3 players are hitting (Justin Bencsko is one AB short, but will be at least a .300 hitter when he gets that 10th AB). Cayones and Lewis are the two who need to start hitting and hitting now. Wes Freeman ought to be hitting as well. He is 21 and has had enough minor league experience that he ought to be hitting. He is hitting .214 and has that lone homer, but that is not good enough for a guy who has this much experience in the minors.

No matter how you look at it, this is not a good start. While it is too early to panic. The Pirates are going to need a wave of bats, and some of these guys are going to have to figure out how to do it.