Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Matt Curry and Minor League notes

The Pirates had a great come back win to stop their mini-slide. Good to see. However with the draft upcoming, I have to admit that I am enjoying the minor leagues a little more right now. Although major league debuts from Dusty Brown and Josh Harrison resulted in hits for both. Harrison in fact had the game tying RBI.

Matt Curry is the big news. He made the jump from A ball where he was hitting .370 or so to AA. Big move, but in two games he is hitting .250 with a hit and a run in each game so far. Howard will now get some field time. I think this was a good move by the Pirates, and I think it means Matt Curry is going to go to the Arizona Fall League. You have to get exceptions if they are not in AA. Now Curry qualifies and they can beg exceptions on other players like Victor Black.

That is right Victor Black is back in West Virginia and pitched two nice one inning outings. Joining Victor in the WV bullpen is Vincent Payne a late round pick last year. He did briefly make an appearance at State College, but spent most of the time in Rookie League.

Drew Maggi has returned to the land of prospects. He had one of the worse Aprils I have ever seen. But in May he is hitting .252, and he is walking more as well. He is hitting .270 in his last 10.

Eric Fryer has moved up to Indy while Dusty Brown is in the majors thanks to an untimely injury to Ryan Doumit. He got a hit in his first game, but was hitless today. It is worth keeping an eye on him.

The VSL and DSL have started. Last year signee Dilsen Herrea has hit safely in every game now (I believe that is correct). He looks very good with the stick. He hit his 5th double today.

Last year's draft keeps looking better and better. Taillon is amazing. Mel Rojas started slow, but is hitting now. Brandon Crumpton is on fire. Literally blazing through hitters. Tyler Waldron is also showing he has decent stuff. Curry is already in AA. Maggi is coming around. Justin Howard has been near .300 all year. And best of all is Daniel Grovatt. He is hitting .300 as well and drawing a lot of walks. We have not even seen Allie, Lakind, or Penvy yet this year. And even the guys who are really just minor league depth like Kevin Decker are pitching well.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Malholm Complete Game Shut out

Paul Malholm had one of the most dominate games I have ever seen. He went the entire game throwing only 91 pitches. Over 75% of his pitches were for strikes. He gave up only 3 hits. One of them was with 2 strikes and 2 outs in the ninth. It was a great game. In addition to Malholm, every Pirate starter got a hit. Wood came into the game for Pearce and Wood failed to get a hit. Pearce already had one. Pearce had stiffness in his leg apparently. It was also a homerun derby that allowed the 10 run out burst. Ronny Cedano hit a three run shot. Overbay whacked one. McCutchen got one for two runs. And Snyder hit another.

Before Pearce got hurt, I was going to make the argument that it is time to get him in the game regularly. Pearce got his RBI hit today against a right handed pitcher. He can hit the lefites and he is showing he can hit the righties as well. Now, I am not trying to say Pearce ought to take the place of Alvarez, but I am saying that we ought to trade Overbay while we can and let Pearce have first base by himself. He is hitting in the .290's. Overbay is hitting in the .230's. Maybe we would be giving up a little power, but maybe Pearce would go up in power if he hit everyday. Even if he does not, we are not giving up too much power. Just a little defense. But I am willing to do that for a prospect.

The Pirates had a big offensive night in AA as well. Holt, Sanchez, and Marte look great down there as does Farrell. Mercer is coming on, and they all had hits to save Aaron Thomson from a bad outing. Tim Alderson has a sub-1 ERA out of the pen and this two nights in a row that he has had a scoreless inning. He may have a future coming out of the pen.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Beating up the Cubs, and other great news

The Pirates won the afternoon game with the Cubs thanks to 7.1 innings from Correia. The Cubs did not score until Biemel walked a guy and gave up a homer to Soriano in the 9th. Hanrahan came in and struck out the side to put down any hopes for the Cubs. Pearce had decent game, but was hitless. He did commit and early error at third, but made some good plays, and out ran a force out attempt to get a run for the Pirates. His sac fly also got the second run home. Tabata is back and is hitting. Walker got an RBI and the Pirates were decent over all at the plate.

The better news is Victor Black is back and pitching out of the pen at West Virginia and had a perfect inning to start off last night. Philip Irwin was filthy again with 10 strikeouts of the 18 outs he recorded. Overall it was his worst outing to date. He might need to move up a class, just like Matt Curry who is out of control in West Virginia.

Good news for us, but bad over all is the injury to Buster Posey. The Giants will likely lose their all star catcher for the year. However, the Giants are very much in contention for the NL West title and still have the pitching to take them places. They will need a real replacement for Posey and the Pirates happen to have a catcher who is available in Ryan Doumit. One has to believe that Doumit's decent play has raised his stock, and that perhaps this injury has helped raise the chances of a Doumit trade taking place.

Either way, the Pirates are very competitive for .500. It is realistic. We are now 6 games out, so NL title is starting to look a little less likely. But, we are usually further out than this. The Pirates have a real chance at .500 and I think it is time to get excited about breaking the losing streak. It might actually work out for us to have a winning season, but still be far enough out to deal some guys like Doumit, Malholm, and Biemel without looking like a sell off when we might ought to be buying. Best of both worlds.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

We score, but lose in 11

An interesting game but a bad outcome. Jose Tabata appears to be finding his stroke again. Steven Pearce hit a homer and had a blooper that landed for an RBI in the third. The Pirates could do no more than that. McDonald pitched well allowing 2 in 6 innings striking out 6, but Jeff Karstens gave up a 2 run shot in the top of 11th (Karsten's second inning) and the Pirates went quietly in that 11th inning.

Pitching Karstens was an interesting choice. The bullpen still has Ascino who could have given them an inning and Meek as well. They also could have gone longer with Dan McCutchen earlier in the game. With a day off Karstens will obviously miss his start and that is okay. I don't have a big problem with it, but Karstens often gives up the long ball. But you might could have used another pitcher before going for Karstens and the long haul.

I think part of this recent struggle to score is a result of no Pedro Alvarez. Even with Pedro hitting so poorly, he was still a bat that could park it over the fence. You had to respect his power. Despite Pearce's blast today, Wood and Pearce do not have such a threat. Nor does Diaz who is a big step down from Jones this year. the last few games have been lefties, and Jones has been sitting it out.

The Pirates are needing a bat. At some point you have to start thinking of bringing up someone who can help. Since the AAA club does not have a bat like that then the Pirates are going to have to make a move for someone who can give them some offense soon. In my mind this means that Hanrahan is probably going to be traded this year. I fully expect Malholm, Veras, Biemel, Doumit, Hanrahan, and perhaps Overbay to be traded this year. Only Hanrahan has the trade value to really get a major league ready bat (maybe Biemel).

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sorry for the absence

I have been gone for a while because of work, but I have kept up with the Pirates even through the very disappointing Brewers trouble. Thankfully, the Pirates are looking up a little thanks to a two game sweep of the Reds. The Pirates are a fourth by half a game behind the Brewers. Interleague Plays starts this weekend, and it could be bad for us.

However there are some really good signs for the Pirates. McCutchen is hitting okay. Morton and McDonald are pitching very good. It looks as if they are going to be able to stay decent all year. But the really is good signs are in the minors.

Brad Lincoln is pitching very well. There is not a place for him in the majors right now, but he is looking like a starter. If we should trade some pieces, Lincoln is ready. Also at the Triple A level and doing good is Chase D'Arnaud. His bat was asleep early in the year, but he is almost up to .300. Not quite the power you want, but he is looking better. Behind him in AA is Jordy Mercer. Mercer is having a nice May after an awful April. You still want him to hit for better average, but his homers are good and his walks are actually leading the team. Sterling Marte is ready for a promotion and Sanchez ought to get one before the year is over as well. Brock Holt is slowing, but still doing very well. He may be ready soon too. In high A, Robbie Grossman is looking like a prospect again, as is Jarek Cunningham (although Evan Chambers is not looking like one anymore). The Power are loaded with talent in pitching to go along with Matt Curry, who needs a callup now and Justin Howard as well as Kawami Pai. Tallion lost the other day, but is striking people out and not walking them. He looks good. Colton Cain looks the best, but Waldron is okay and while Von Rosenburg might have higher expectations, he is not behind where he ought to be as his strikeouts are ridiculously high despite poor win totals. Brooks Pounders has the best WHIP, so good pitchers litter this Power line up.

Even better is let us remember the Pirates have two more big time prospects yet to make a start in Allie and the 16 year old phenom from Mexico. Oh yeah, Victor Black has not shown up yet either. And the draft is coming up where the Pirates are bound to get at least one big new prospect and probably two or three that will excite us.

Looking forward to seeing the Tigers and Leyland again.

Monday, May 9, 2011


The Pirates beat the Dodgers today thanks to a decent start from Jeff Karstens, and nice bullpen work from Crotta, Biemel, Veras, and Hanrahan. Also, Neil Walker and Lyle Overbay showed off a little back to back double action to plate two runs and give the Pirates a nice victory to get over the .500 mark. The best thing about being over .500 is that the Pirates look like they can sustain this for the long haul. Take a look.

The Pirates started this season with a pretty rough group of games. They played the Rockies 7 times! The Rockies are either in first in the west or close to it all season so far. The Giants, who are also near the top or on it out west have also played the Pirates. The Pirates played the Reds and the Cards the top two teams in the Central early. They played the Marlins who are not the Phillies, but competing for second in the East. It was not until recently that the Pirates started to play the games against teams that are not top of the division competition. The Pirates just came out and played weak teams for the first time basically starting with the Padres. They won that series. Then they got the Astros for the first time and they won that series. Now they take game 1 from the Dodgers, who are not very good this year. The Pirates have shown that they are capable of beating the other teams that are middling or bottom feeders with the lone exception of the Brewers who took two from us early this year.

I guess what I am saying is that these wins are not flukes. They are just better than teams like the Astros and the Padres. They have shown an ability to beat teams in the NL Central, but so far have not been so dominate that they sweep series. It is time to say that this is what the Pirates are: contenders in the Central, but still a step below elite teams overall in the NL. Yes, some people are playing above what you think they can do all year like Snyder, Doumit, and even Karstens and Morton. But, some are playing below what they ought like Alvarez, McCutchen, Tabata, and Meek.

What will be real entertaining is if the Pirates are in contention for the NL Central title near the trading deadline. What do you do then? Biemel was signed to be trade bait. Do you trade him despite being in contention? It is a question that I think the Pirates will be dealing with as the Reds and Cards are not going to hide and the Pirates are able to keep this up.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Who would have thought catcher would be strength?

The Pirates got back to the .500 mark and stay in contention a little longer. They did so by winning their series with the Astros 2 games to 1 despite dropping game 1. Karstens did not pitch poorly, but it was not great either. He labored, and the Pirates ended up couching up a game. Morton then did amazing in game 2 getting ground ball after ground ball. Game 3 was another masterful performance by McDonald. He was consistently around 91 MPH, but his curve was killing people at about 77-78 MPH. McDonald hit 93 when he needed it and had a career high in strikeouts. Sadly, that did not give him the win as his 2-0 lead evaporated when Resop did not get anyone out and a bunt scored a run from second. Really that was Walker's fault as Wood fielded the bunt cleanly, but had to double pump while Walker got to the bag. This made the runner at first safe and Walker's throw home was late. Daniel McCutchen gave up his first run of the year in the next inning, but Ryan Doumit hit a three run homer to give the Pirates a one run lead. Hanrahan made that lead stick.

The bullpen could be an area of concern as Resop has had a couple of sub-par outings. Crotta has had a couple of bad outings in a row, although in game 1 Crotta got stuck with two runs because the only two hitters he faced got infield singles to Ronny Cedano. Both were weakly hit, and at least the second one could have been turned into an out at second had Cedano come up with it. Tough play, but a decent short stop makes one of those two plays.

Something to be excited about is the catcher position. Snyder has the highest average on the team, and is hitting great. Doumit is only hitting about .250, but is hitting for some power. He had a grand slam the other day, and his clutch 3 run homer tonight shows what Doumit can bring to a team. His trade value is probably going up.

Up next is the Dodgers. The Pirates are on a good streak. Let us see what the top of our rotation can do for us.

Also Jameson Taillon allowed 1 run in 5 innings with 5 strike outs and no walks. He has had three outings now and has looked very good.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Minor Leaguers you should be paying more attention

The big name prospect guys often eat up all the press and get all the notification. Let me just drop a few names that ought to be getting a little more attention.

Dan Grovatt. Dan is hitting .274, but has a nice .440 OBP. He obviously has command of the strike zone and his defense seems solid. This is his first full season of professional ball, and he is doing rather well.

Robbie Grossman. Grossman was highly touted, but is repeating High A because he has had strike out problems. Although the strike out totals have gone down every year, and he is on pace to go down again this year. In fact he has drawn 23 walks to lead the Marauders in that category. He is hitting in the .260's, but has an OBP of .404. He has a couple of homers as a lead off guy.

Brooks Pounders The first thing that jumps off about Pounders is his 18 strike outs to 1 walk in 12 innings. He has an ERA under 3, and a WHIP of 0.92. This guy is not getting the notice of some of the other draft picks of the last few years, but he is not about to go away anytime soon.

Jordy Mercer. Yes, Jordy Mercer. He has a .398 SLUG despite only hitting .215. However, this number is on the rise. He appears to be coming out of his early season slump, so don't give up watching him. He was left to repeat AA to lower his strike out rate and increase power. He has struck out 12 times in 96 ABs, so that is not too bad. His power . . . well almost half of his hits have been for extra bases including 4 homers.

Mel Rojas. Oddly enough Rojas has not gotten the press I thought he would. Starling Marte is the next big thing in the outfield, but Rojas was the 3rd round pick this past year. Taillon and Allie deserve their attention, but Rojas should get some too. He started slow, but is up to .289 in his BA. He needs to work on plate discipline as his strike out rate is too high and walks are almost non-existent. Still, Rojas is young (he only had one year of college), and this looks like a good pick for the Pirates.

Philip Irwin. Irwin has pitched 11 innings over 3 games and has an impressive 0.82 ERA. His strike outs are kind of low, but he has only given up 6 hits. You have to like that. In the end, Irwin is looking very good and has historically been pretty good with the strikeouts.

Those are just a few of the guys we ought to be taking a nice look at as the season goes on.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A great day for the organization

James McDonald has righted the ship. The Pirates are now on a winning streak. McDonald tonight looked more like the pitcher people were hoping for at the end of last year. 5 strike outs was his best performance so far this year. He did not give up any runs until the 6th, which he escaped with only 2 thanks to a well placed strikeout. So give that man a quality start. Synder continues to play well and got his first homer of the year and Garrett Jones put one over the wall as well. The Pirates are getting off to fast starts. They are not always adding to their first inning performances, but it is putting our pitchers at ease when they hang runs on the other team from the get go.

Better news yet is the big game from Jameson Taillon. He went four innings striking out 6 while not walking anyone and only giving up 2 hits. Justin Howard had two hits as did Mel Rojas Jr. as the Power won the opening game of their twin bill. The second game was also a win thanks to Brandon Crumpton's nice pitching along with two innings from Trent Stevenson. Each allowed only one run. This was just enough to make sure the Power won as Mel Rojas Jr., went 3 for 3 with a run scored and an RBI. Dan Grovatt scored twice on what was officially an 0 for 1 day. That man is a living base on balls. The Power are loaded with great talent this year as Curry, Howard, Rojas, and Grovatt all look great. Even Emlsey-Pai is hitting .386.

Altoona broke out the rally caps and won the game. Jordy Mercer now has a couple of games with good swings raising his average back to .200. That happened on a 3 for 4 night with 2 doubles. Jeremy Farrel was 2 for 2 and Sanchez was 3 for 5. The pitching was not so good, but a 10-9 come from behind win is good enough. The win was accomplished with a one out walk drawn by Mercer. You bet, a walk. Shelby Ford singled and then Tony Sanchez singled scoring Mercer to tie the game and Kris Watts doubled scoring Ford to end the game.

Bradenton did not really fit this great day for prospects mold, but Jarek Cunningham continued his hot hitting with a double and two hits. Kyle McPhearson struggled and the Maurders were easily bested.

Overall, the prospects played great at most of the levels including the big leagues. Let us not overlook that we gained a game and now sit only two out of first and half a game out of second.

An encouraging series

The Pirates returned the favor to the Rockies by taking 2 of 3 in Colorado. Correia pitched great in game 1. The Pirates lost all hitting in game 2 and then Morton pitched good enough but the Pirates offense exploded for two four run innings without any long balls.

Several wonderful things from the Pirate perspective happened. Alvarez and McCutchen both hit. Alvarez was 2 for 4 in the finale. McCutchen was 2 for 6 in the last game with an RBI and a run. McCutchen had a homer in Game 1 and a leadoff homer in Game 2 for that games only run. These are good signs that their bats might be warming up.

Daniel Moskos made his debut and it was successfull. No hits, no walks, no runs. Can't complain about that. Hanrahan continues to look dominate. Veras and Biemel are doing what they were signed to do and Resop looks like he will be able to hold down the 8th inning until Meek gets better.

The Pirates now head out to San Diego trailing the Cards by 3 games, but are only 1 game out of second place. It is the back half of the rotation, so we will see how they hold up on the road. How will McDonald follow up his best game so far this year? Getting game 1 is an important thing for the Pirates.