Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pirates offseason - 40 Man Guess

The 40 Man Roster issue is going to be a large topic of discussion.  One can hope that the Pirates do not make any Rule 5 Picks this year as we appear to be past that point in the development.  I would think that they Pirates will go into the Winter Meetings with a full complement on the 40 Man that includes a few people they might can jettison when they sign a free agent they like. 


Here is my guess at the 40 Man.


AJ Burnett – unless he is angry about Cole getting the Game 5 start, he is going to be resigned.

Gerrit Cole

Brandon Crumpton – has options left and showed he might could be a fifth starter

Jeanamar Gomez – too good to let walk away, but could be dumped if someone great signed.

Jason Grilli

Phil Irwin – has potential and could easily convert to bullpen

Kris Johnson – he is a lefty that will ultimately be a bullpen guy.  Again if better comes, no big deal.

Fransico Lirano

Jeff Locke

Vin Mazzaro – I do think he gets tendered an offer.  Cheap bet, and he did well this year.

Kyle McPhearson – hard thrower.  Pirates have loved him for some time.  Keeper.

Mark Melancon

Bryan Morris – probably, oh well

Charlie Morton

Stolmey Pimentel

Ryan Reid – I think he pitched well enough to be kept.  Has options so AAA bullpen depth. 

Wandy Rodriguiz – the choice to pick up the option is his and he gets good money.  He’ll do it.

Tony Watson

Justin Wilson


Position Players:

Russell Martin

Tony Sanchez

Michael McHenry – I think they bring him back for catching depth.  If not they may sign someone.

Pedro Alvarez

Josh Harrison

Jordy Mercer

Neil Walker

Gaby Sanchez – I think they tender him an offer.  Power bat and few options at first.

Andrew Lambo

Starling Marte

Andrew McCutchen

Jose Tabata


This gives us 31 people, and has us saying good bye to Jeff Karstens, Garret Jones, and Clint Barmes among others. 

Of course there will be additions to the roster.  We have 10 spots.  Let us just assume one will be reserved for a left handed first baseman from the free agent market and another for a bullpen pitcher, giving us 7 spots to fill.


Gregory Polanco - no brainer

Mel Rojas Jr. – too early to give up on a guy who just had his best year and at the AA level.

Gift Ngope – he gets one more year to try and hit.  His glove is great, and could be taken in Rule 5.

Joely Rodriguiz – the Pirates like hard throwing guys, and he is left handed.

Stetson Allie – again might just be for pride reasons, but he showed amazing power.

Justin Howard – his bat is decent and we have a real problem at 1B.  Easily replaceable on this list.

Adalberto Santos – super utility guy who can easily be taken in Rule 5.  Protection.

Casey Sadler – he could go in a Rule 5, but he would be a dump candidate upon signings.


There are some interesting possibilities.  For example, they could let McHenry go avoiding arbitration, and instead add Carlos Paulino to the roster.  Paulino is a defensive rock, but not so good on the offense.  If this spot is just for AAA and emergencies, then it is a risk you might could take, however, if you want Sanchez to get some more swings making him the AAA catcher, then this spot is a major league back up position, and Paulino is not your guy. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

What a season!

That was a great run for the Pirates.  Bring on next season.  Right now.  I am ready. 
The Pirates broke the streak, made the playoffs, eliminated the Reds (which got Dusty Baker fired), and took the Cards to the limit.

I am a believer in Clint Hurdle now.  I thought he made good decisions during the playoff rounds.  Even in Game 5, I think starting Cole was the right thing to do (although Burnett may want to sign elsewhere now, but for winning it was the best bet).  Even though I am not a Justin Wilson fan, I think bringing him in was the right move.  He got the first two lefties, and was probably instructed to pitch around Molina, which is not a bad idea.  You had another lefty-lefty match up, but it just did not work out. 

The big questions now are what to do about next year.  It seems fairly obvious that the big offseason free agent moves will be directed at First Base, and the Pirates always sign someone for the bullpen. 

Most of the team will be back, and that is a good thing.  Lirano, Morton, Cole, and Locke are back with Wandy Rodriguiz having a player option that I bet he picks up since it is for a lot of money and the Pirates are contenders.  Burnett is thinking about retiring, but has hinted he would like to come back to Pittsburg, and I think you sign him.  Don't forget that Crumpton is ready in Triple A and mid season Jameson Taillon might be too, but keeping him down until September may not be a bad thing.  Kyle McPherson and Phil Irwin will be coming back from injuries, but won't take all year to get ready.  In fact, Irwin might could start the year in the bullpen.  Stolmy is ready and could be bullpen material as well.  A lot of decisions there.  As for the rest of the bullpen Grilli is locked in, so no closer issues.

The rest of the team will be back with the exception of Marlon Byrd, Justin Morneau, Garrett Jones, Clint Barmes, and perhaps Gaby Sanchez.  I think you let everyone but Sanchez go.  You resign Sanchez and see if you can get a guy on the free agent market to be the everyday guy.  Mercer already took Barmes's spot at short so no problem there.  And frankly Tabata and Snyder can go back to platooning to cover for Byrd, who will probably require real money to re-sign.  Use that money for Burnett who is going to need it.  Tabata showed flashes of being good again, and don't forget Jerry Sands will probably still be on the 40 man as will Lambo.  Gregory Polanco might make his way onto the team by mid-season.  His Arizona Fall League performance will be important.  Alex Dickerson just hit a career high in doubles and homers in AA too.  So, he will be in Triple A just in case. 

It will be an interesting off season.  One that I will be counting every second.  Come again soon baseball!!!!

Until then I hope Jim Leyland gets another title.  The man deserves it.

Friday, October 4, 2013


The Pirates beat the Reds!!!!!!!

In fact, it appears now that the Pirates cost Dusty Baker his job.  Baker is a good coach at getting his players to stay focused all year.  But much like The Braves of the 90's, Baker cannot coach in single game situations.  The Pirates helped expose that as they lit into Cueto.  Even their outs were crushed.  But Dusty stuck with Cueto until the game was well out of reach.

Although in an act of cosmic karma, the Pirates were destroyed by the Cards in the opener.  It was more than just a bad 3rd inning.  AJ did not have his stuff.  No strikeouts in the first couple of innings, but a walk and a couple of hits.  A double play got him out of the second, but nothing could get him out of the 3rd.

Still, I have not been this excited about Pirate baseball in years.  I think the series as a whole looks good for the Pirates.  Lirano should have the edge when he pitches, and he will start at home.  I like Cole and Morton as having slight edges.  We have to make sure we are not in a bad position when Wainright comes up a again.  I like AJ, and he won't be this bad again, but that match up favors the Cards.

It is good to be a part of Buctober again.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Cards keep us in it, but it is all about the Reds

As the year winds down, it is almost impossible for the Pirates not to make the playoffs.  And I do have to pinch myself when I say that.  However, our bats have deserted us a bit at the end of this year and it cost us against San Diego.  We lost two winnable games and dropped out of first.  The good news is we found the bats today and St. Louis finally lost a close game to the Rockies.  We are a game out and that is doable.

However, the Reds are all that matter.  The Pirates need to get that first round bye or avoid the play in game, however you want to look at it.  But thanks to this series it is more in the hands of the Cards than us.  What the Pirates have to do is avoid dropping below the Reds so they can host that playoff game.  We have a head to head series coming up and it is very important.  VERY IMPORTANT.  All eyes will be watching one of the last real races in the majors.

I do think a word needs to be said about Gerrit Cole.  These last few weeks he has been everything you dreamed he would be when he was drafted.  He pitched us out of the slump that finally got the winning record.  He pitched great the next outing too.  And today he set a career high with 12 K's, breaking another slump of 3 games.  Cole may be the ace now.  He is pitching like it.  This is great news for the future of the Pirates.

So too is the news about Fall Ball.  Jameson Taillon will be pitching for the Scorpions (I think that is who we are associated with).  Taillon did well at Triple A and if he can do will in a very hitter friendly environment, he is not long for the minors next year.  I am just as excited about Phil Irwin going out to Arizona.  Irwin has been a winner at every level and made it to the majors this year only to get hurt.  This means he is back and ready to pitch.  Getting him a few innings is what he needs.  He will be on the outside looking in next year thanks to this injury, but I do believe Irwin has the ability to be a 5th starter in the majors, and a good one.  It is good to see him back.

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Dissenting View on the Trades

So, I have been so nervous that I can barely think much less write blogs.

However, the trading deadline and the trades that have taken place afterward have me a little upset.  Now, I am not all that bothered by either trade in isolation, but I worry about a front office view of relievers that is not realistic when you combine the two trades.

I understand why Byrd and Buck were acquired.  We needed another outfield even with a healthy Marte.  An upgrade of the backup catcher is not bad either.  But I am a big fan of Dilsen Herrera, and have a higher view of him than I do Alan Hansen, whose defense is just awful, and I think Herrera has power potential.  But hey, I guess you give up some stuff sometimes.  I really like Victor Black too.  I had them both in the top 10 prospects.  Black is a hard throwing possible closer.  He along with Welker both showed they could pitch at the major league level and both have future closer possibilities.

Now, Morneau is old, but has playoff experience and is probably an upgrade over Jones.  And I don't mind handing over Alex Presley because in the end Presley does not have a place in Pittsburgh.  With the emergence of Lambo, the off season addition of Jerry Sands, and the arrival next year of Polanco, there really is no place left for Alex at all.  And I can understand that cash or a PTBNL is required to finish it up.  But who?  It should have been a nobody.  Instead, it is now rumored to be Duke Welker.  This makes the deal unacceptable.

First, four future pieces when the Pirates are going to make the playoffs anyway is suspect since the return is all rentals.  Minor complaint.

Second, The Pirates just traded away the best two relievers in the organization.  The two guys who could be future closers will now be future late inning guys with other teams.  I worry that this represents an organizational mindset that relievers really can be found anywhere.  I am not sure that is realistic.  Yes, the Pirates have had some great success with Hanrahan, Grilli, Melanchon, and even back further with DJ Carrasco.  But let us not forget the whiffs with the likes of Chad Qualls.

The truly great relievers are usually homegrown and stay with a team for a long time.  See the now retiring Marino Rivera or Lee Smith.  The traveling closer is a hit and miss thing.  Ask the Red Sox about Hanrahan or the Nationals.  We have had some great success, but it is pretty arrogant to think we can always just find a reclamation project and make it work.  Eventually the percentages will swing back against us.  A homegrown closer from your own minor league system is not a bad thing and frankly a cheaper option.  Trading both Welker and Black is a big mistake.  Who is the best reliever left in the system now?  Tyler Waldron?

I get trading one of them.  We needed the Byrd and Buck trade.  But surely there was another way to complete the Morneau trade.  Next year Welker or Black could have stepped in to learn under Grilli and then stepped into the closer role after Grilli is done.  I hope that this dumping of our great relievers does not come back to haunt us in a few years.  I want long term success not just a division title this year.  

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Trade Deadline

The Pirates are now a half game behind the St. Louis Cardinals.  They are playing two more games here in this stretch, but the real question is whether or not these two teams will look the same by the time this series ends.  The trade deadline looms, and both teams are probably going to make some moves.

The Cards are clearly going to move some pieces and have been attached to a lot of players in rumors.  However, the Pirates have seemingly been rebuffed.  They were interested in Alex Rios from the White Sox, but the Sox want multiple top prospects plus another.  It appears Rios will be a White Sox for the rest of the year.  The Marlins have been just as negative if not more so on trading Stanton.  These are the two most consistent names I have seen connected to the Pirates.  You read the occasional long shot connection to someone like Cliff Lee, but that is not going to happen.  Jimmy Rollins basically said he was not going to wave his no trade clause, so that rules him out.  I do not think that any trade is going to happen this year.

In the end, I think that this is best.  We have some great prospects that I would rather see as Pirates than playing for someone else.  Gregory Polanco for example is one that teams would be asking for and inquiring on.  He is the future in the outfield, I don't think that the Pirates need to leverage the future right now.  We seem likely to make the playoffs, but I honestly don't think we are going to be able to make a run at the World Series.  And no matter who we add, I don't see any of that changing.

The trade deadline is an over rated thing.  Sure, we have a holes at first base (left hand hitting), short stop, and one corner outfielder.  It would be great to upgrade, but trade deadline deals have just a big a history of not working out as they do of putting people over the top.  We did make some good trades two years ago, and they all fell through.  The team got worse, when the talent actually got better.

If the Pirates were to make a minor move for someone like Justin Morneau, I would be okay.  He would take a prospect like a Matt Curry, which is not destroying future plans.  He would be a one year rental, but then that is all we need.  Mid level prospect for aging vet for one year.  Anything more than that, and I will be back in panic mode.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Short Season Ball

The Reds just split a series with us.  And while it was probably better to win the series at home, 2-2 is not too bad.  On to the Angels.  But today is about the excitement of short season ball.  Allow me to speak about who I am watching closely.

In Jamestown it I am watching Harold Ramirez.  He got a huge bonus a few years ago and looks to be a guy who can play.  Had a good year last year, and so the jump in competition is going to be revealing.

Elvis Escobar is also looking good as another outfielder.  Jamestown should not have problem with outfields spots with two legit prospects on the team.

Others are excited about Jin-De-Jhang.  I don't know a lot about him, but he has hype and two early homers, so he will get a watch.

Colten Brewer is still a pitcher I am looking forward to see.  He needs to stay healthy, but I think he still has rotation potential.

More guys will come to this team as more sign from the draft.

The GCL Pirates are even more interesting.  Here we get to see a lot of the high schoolers who signed this year and some who will still be signing.

Other than this year's stock I am hoping to see a good turn out from Candon Myles in the outfield.  He has a high upside.

Catcher looks stacked as I am sure everyone is going to be watching Reece McGuire, but I will also be hoping to see a good amount of Danny Arribas, a Dutchman who has some good international experience, and he is very young.  Able to play other positions, so it will be interesting to see if they let him in other places to get him some extra at bats.  He did play in the DSL last year and hit over .300.

Pitching should be interesting.  Jonathan Sandfort had some control issues here last year, but only was in 8 games.  Hayden Hurst is one to keep an eye upon as well as he makes his debut.  Hopefully more signings will lead to more people ending up here as well.

Either way, it looks a like a great day for the Pirates, both now and in the future.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Comparing Royals and Pirates Draft Thinking

Comparing the Royals and Pirates

I live in Kansas City Royal territory, so I am always flooded with Royals news.  I also find it interesting to compare the Pirates and Royals because they are both in a similar small market boat.  

This year's draft by the Royals should draw immediate comparisons between the KC front office and the Pirate front office.  

Take a look at what the Royals did this year in the draft.  This is a very different approach than the Pirates who took the number 5 and 10 prospects on MLB's top 100 with the 9 and 14th pick.  This was in part thanks to the Royals taking Hunter Dozier 8th.  

The thinking of the Kansas City front office was Dozier would be a cheap sign, which he was as he has already signed under slot by about a million bucks.  This is to help them sign their 34th pick Sean Manaea.  Manaea is a big talent who underperformed this year, so their is some risk in this pick.  If they don't sign him, they don't get compensation.  If they had drafted Manaea first, they would have been compensated if they failed to sign, and whether or not Dozier would have been there at 34 is a debatable point.  Of course if his underperformance is the norm and his summer league the aberration, then this pick is a complete disaster no matter what.

But look at the rest of the Royal draft.  Not a lot of high schoolers and not a lot of people that even had draft reports on  I counted 10 with reports and two more that had videos.  The Pirates this year had 13 with reports and 1 more with a video.  Only one of the Pirates first 10 round picks did not have either a report or video.  They also picked 5 High Schoolers in the first 10 rounds and no college seniors.  The Royals took 4 college seniors in the first 10 rounds and only two high schoolers.  The majority of the High Schoolers taken by the Royals are past round 25 where they are not going to sign.  They seem to be betting on signing Manaea because they do not have high school talent out of the top 10 rounds.  If Manaea does not take the deal where are they going to throw the extra money?  

The more interesting comparison is with the Pirates last year.  The Pirates last year used a pick to draft a tough to sign guy in Mark Appel.  They also tried to save some money in the first 10 rounds with picks like Crumlich, Wood, and even Barrett Barnes who was still about the talent level of the pick.  
But the Pirates seemed to have a back up plan.  They drafted high upside high schoolers Walker Buehler, Maxwell Moroff, and Hayden Hurst in the 14th, 16th, and 17th rounds.  And when Appel refused to sign they were able to pick up Moroff and Hurst.  AND they got to have the 9th pick this year, which turned out to be Austin Meadows.  

The problem with the Royals is not that they went and tried to sign the 13th overall prospect who is considered a hard sign.  The problem is that they don't seem to have a back up plan for it.  If they fail, they do not get a comp pick, and they do not seem to have high upside high schoolers to throw the extra money to in order to get them to sign.  Instead they pick the 46th overall talent who will have to move to third, and may have to move to second eventually.  They continually passed on talents that might have signed if you had an extra million or so laying around from the attempt to sign Manaea.  For example Ryan Boldt is committed to Nebraska, and he went undrafted until round 22 despite being the 39th best prospect.  Boldt could have been drafted in round 14-17 (as the Pirates did last year), and then on top of the max $100,000 they Royals could have added at least a 1 million, and judging from some of the names in their top 10 rounds, probably at least 1 million more.  Boldt might have gone for that.  Isn't it at least worth a try?  

It seems to be a different thinking about drafting than the Pirates, and one that makes me glad we have the front office that we have.  

I think we can all say, "I am glad we are not the Royals."

Thursday, June 6, 2013

2013 Draft Round 1

Okay, so following a successful Pirates team is proving more stressful than I imagined.  I am not sure I am able to cheer on a team that is close to the playoffs, but might well miss them.

But today is a day of looking forward, and it turned out to be a much better day than I had hoped.

Almost all of the mock drafts had the Pirates taking high schooler Reese McGuire with the 9th pick and then getting usually Hunter Renfroe for the 14th or D.J. Peterson or Dominic Smith.  But, when the draft picks started falling into place the Pirates were given the opportunity to pick Austin Meadows, a high school 5 tool outfielder.  Almost all predictions had him going before the 9th pick.  So, the Pirates snatched him up as they had been rumored to want another good outfielder.

Meadows is young and will be a bit of a work in progress, so don't expect massive numbers in short season ball.  But he is highly athletic and has been highly successful so far.  We got a guy that everyone thought would be gone, and was almost universally rated higher than McGuire, so it is reason to be excited.

The best news is that then McGuire was still around at 14, so the Pirates took him then.  It seemed obvious the Pirates thought McGuire a top 10 talent, as all mock drafts had the Pirates taking the high school catcher.  His defense is apparently great and his bat will need the work, but not in the same way that Sanchez needed work.  Expect more from this kid.

With the Pirates clearly wanting McGuire and still getting him 5 picks later than they had planed and thus getting an even greater talent at 9, this was a highly successful Day 1 to the draft.  And there is one more bit of great news.  Mark Appel went #1 to the Astros.  He will not get the amount of money he could have if he had been willing to let the Astros draft him last year, but that is not the great news.  The great news is that many had thought the Astros would pass on Mark again and that would have meant he fell to the Cubs, who would have taken him.  Now Appel will pitch in the American League and never have to cross the Pirates, and especially not have to cross in division every year.  That too is good news.

More tomorrow on the next section of the draft.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Raising Expectations

The Pirates not only came through their important 10 game homestead with flying colors, but then took 3 of 4 from the hated Phils in Philly.  We have won 10 of the last 13 and are leading in the suspended game.  This is great news for the Pirates.

It is made even better by the fact that Andrew McCutchen is in a bit of an unnoticed slump.  McCutchen is hitting only .235 and has a lower walk rate right now than in years past.  Although he has a lower strike out rate as well, his BABIP is a measly .250.  This gives one reason to hope that Andrew will break out in a big way.  But the important thing is the Pirates are winning without him hitting.  Add in the fact that Neil Walker is not hitting that well either, and we see that the Pirates may have actually found an offense.

In years past Neil Walker going down ended the offense as people were able to pitch around McCutchen.  Now we have a lead off hitter in Marte who is playing great.  We have a platoon that appears to be working at first and in right.  We have Pedro who hits homers and nothing else.  We have a catcher who is a power threat and that is enough to give our decent starting pitching and our great bullpen wins.

Let's hope that the platoon continues to work as that still is the place that concerns me.  Better pitchers are on the way as Morton is looking good, and Lirano is stretching out.  Both are an improvement over Sanchez.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

An important homestand

These next 10 games could really set the tone for the year.  Reds, Cards, Braves.  It started off scary, but with a win last night.  It is important that the Pirates are still within a few games and have won some of these series.  It is early to say that this homestead is make or break, but it as close as you can get.  The Pirates could easily come out of this homestead in first place, or in last.  Everything is set up for us from pitching to having a day off before it started.  This is "almost must win territory".

That being said, the Pirates have some good stuff going on in the minors right now.  You have to think that by July the starting pitching will be 3/5ths different.  You would also think that the Pirates might have some new bench players.  Jordy Mercer in particular is going to be hard to ignore if he keeps hitting so well, and the guys in the majors hit so poorly.  Bullpen help is already on the way with Brian Morris.  Vic Black is doing well and could be another.  If Tony Watson continues to struggle, one would imagine he may disappear from the big league roster.  

Either way, keep an eye on these games.  We are not exactly know for making late season charges, so we had better take advantage early, like right now.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Day Off to talk about Stetson Allie

The Pirates could not get the sweep and in fact got blown out.  But I am not too worried yet because the pitcher was a guy who will be replaced as soon as Karstens or Morton or Lirano get back from the DL.  He is not part of the long term team so his success is not that important.

So we might as well focus on the Farm System, and particularly a surprising story from West Virginia in Stetson Allie.  Allie you will remember was a second round pick who could  hit 100 on the radar gun, but never got the control.  So, last year they converted him back to an infielder.  I believe he played third base last year, and not that well in Rookie Ball.  Well, that was last year.

This year he is in West Virginia and playing first base.  He is currently hitting .333 with 2 HRs and 2 doubles.  He has 4 walks and 10 Ks.  However, almost half those Ks came in the first two games where he struggled a lot.  Allie's OPS is 1.012.  Even better news is he seems to be able to do it against both righties and lefties with a homer off of each.  If you throw out those first two games, his numbers get real scary good.  He is currently riding a 5 game hit streak coming into today's game.

It is real early, and Allie could return to last year's .213 AVG and 3 HRs in 40+ games in rookie ball, but the fact he is playing full season ball and doing well is a great sign.  Remember he came out of high school so he is actually about where he should be if he had gone to college.  He would either be in his senior year of college right now and bound to play in Short Season ball or if he had come out as a junior would probably be starting the season at WV anyway.  I admit to being depressed a little when he flamed out as a pitcher, and I dropped him off my top prospect list, but it was always mentioned how much he loved to hit and how good he was at it in High School.  He can play his way back onto the prospect list if he keeps this up.  It is far too early to give up on him.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Forget LA, what about Phil Irwin

The Pirates looked absolutely awful in LA.  Admittedly Zack Grienke and Clayton Kershaw can do that to bats, but still, it was embarrassing.  If not for McCutchen's homer, I think I may have given up all hope for this season.

The good news is we looked a lot better today in Arizona.  An early lead, McCutchen driving in multiple runs, and in the end a great bullpen performance leading to a victory.  Marte and McCutchen look great.  Jones hit a homer, which is a hopeful sign, and Travis Snider has gotten a few hits now.  Hopefully Alvarez comes around soon, and maybe Walker too.  Then we could have a real offense.

The bad news is that Wandy Rodriguiz left with a leg problem that has been described as a hamstring issue.  That is not so good, as both our wins came on his starts.  I am not sure the Pirates can afford to add him to the list of Karstens, Morton, and Lirano of good pitchers not pitching.

If he does go on the DL, what I would like to see is a promotion of Phil Irwin.  I really like this guy.  He just gets the job done.  His first start this year was six good innings.  One walk, one run, five strikeouts.  He has done nothing but win at every level.  He does not have the blow your mind speed on the fastball, but he has the results, and he deserves a shot.  I like him better than McPherson, at least at this point.  I say, bring up Irwin and let him have a shot.

I would rather Wandy not go on the DL at all, but just thinking out loud.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Disappointing Opening

The Pirates dropped their opening series to the Cubs of all teams.  Not exactly an overwhelming endorsement for the season.

But, there is some good to come of it.  The Pirate rotation looks good.  Burnett and Wandy were dominating.  Unbelievable in fact.  I had huge concerns about James McDonald coming into the season.  Was the first half of last season a fluke?  Well, that may still be up in the air, but he pitched well in last night's game.  Not a ton of strike outs, but he only gave up one run.  That ought to be enough for a team to pull out a win or at least have a lead.  Not so with the Pirates pathetic offense.

The offense is currently the problem, but then again, it is early.  Cutch looks great.  Alvarez has hit okay, although had an 0-fer yesterday.  I am not sure why Clint put Martin hitting second yesterday.  This team's offense is going to be dependent on Marte, Cutch, Alvarez, and Walker.  If we want to win we are going to need to get something from the others.  Right now the best candidate is Clint Barmes.  Yikes.  Jones, Sanchez, and/or Martin need to hit with some power and soon.

What was actually more disappointing is the four opening day losses for our minor leagues.  Ouch.  Hansen (who I am not sold on), and Polanco were held hitless in Bradenton.  West Virginia got blanked.  Altoona had some good hitting, but no pitching, and Indy had some pitching without real hitting.  The lone bright spots were Jason Creasy pitching 3 innings of one run ball.  I like that kid.  Victor Black striking out the side (his next inning not as good), and the fact that no injuries took place.

Here is to a better second series in LA.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Preview and Prediction

The 2012 season starts today!!!!

The Pirates start the season  with what I have to admit is a bit of a disappointing line up.  But, this is largely because I am a huge Jordy Mercer fan.  I think he should have a shot, and his spot as the infield back up was taken by a suspect trade for an older Short Stop, who will sit the bench.  I don't have that big a problem with Josh Harrison making the club.  He puts the ball in play and plays with energy.  I hope he does not lose his spot when Brandon Inge comes off the DL.  The Pirates have to start trusting their farm system.

The real concern for the Pirates is the bench.  There is not a big time power threat on the bench unless you count Gaby Sanchez.  Snider and Tabata have potential, but also give you more reason to think they are going to fail than succeed.

The line up should be improved.  Marte's performance will go a long way to how well the Pirates do this year.  They need his bat.  Martin should be a big improvement at catcher.  I also think we will get a slightly better year from Alvarez.  I know I am going against stats projections here, but I think his average comes up a bit this year.  Not a lot, but enough.  Walker really needs to avoid an injury for us to stay in contention this year.  Top to bottom this is a better offensive team in the starting line up.

The Rotation does not worry me as much because it will be totally different by mid June.  Karstens and Morton will be back in June and around that time will be when Cole can be called up.  Burrnett and Rodreguiz are solid 1 and 2, and hopefully James McDonald can put together a full season with some strike outs.  Plus, Locke is ready in my opinion.

The bullpen is also not a big concern to me.  We have plenty of depth in the minors and I think Grilli will be fine as a closer.  In the end, we may not have as dominate a bullpen, but I think it will be fine.

I do think (again) that this is the year we break the curse.  I am going to go with 88-74.  This will only get us a Wild Card birth in my opinion.

Here are my picks for the year:
AL East - Toronto
AL Central - Detroit
AL West - Oakland
Wild Cards - Tampa Bay and LA Angels

NL East - Washington
NL Central - Cincy
NL West - Dodgers
Wild Cards - Giants and Pirates

I am going to go ahead and pick the Blue Jays to win the Series over the Nationals.

It should be an exciting year.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Prospect List

Pitchers and Catchers are in!!!!   Time to get started on another season of Pirate baseball.  And for the first time in a long time the Prospects are deep in the system and the future feels solid.  So, it is time for my top 20 Prospects.

1. Gerrit Cole   - Really, really excited about his appearance this year.  He made it to AAA and a slightly less than impressive year for Tailon gives him the top spot.

2. Jameson Tailon  - Still great.  Probably going back to AA, but he still has ace stuff.

3. Luis Heredia -  I may be a little higher on this kid than some, but all agree he has ace upside.  I think what he did as a 17 year old in Short Season ball last year was amazing.  He may have a way to go, but I think he is the 3rd best prospect.

4. Josh Bell  - Remember when everyone was so high on this kid that he was sometimes listed as the second  best prospect or at least 3rd?  Sure he got hurt and his knee did not heal as fast as we would have liked.  But, there is no reason to think his skills have declined.  He started a little slow, but was coming around when he got hurt.

5. Gregory Polanco - What an amazing year last year.  He has the tools to play.  I don't quite understand why people push him ahead of Bell so quickly, but still a lot to be excited about here.

6. Tyler Glasnow  - Most do not have this young man so high, but he can hit 96, and seems comfortable at 94.  Sure he has some control issues, but who doesn't at 18.  He has good movement on his fastball, and one can expect his curve to get better and a change up to be developed.

7. Dilson Herrera -  This is probably not who you expected to see here.  But I think Dilson got the short end of the publicity stick last year.  Dilson hit GCL pitching very well.  He led the GCL in total bases and extra bases, which I think could turn into power as he gets older.  Bat speed equals power not frame right?  He had 7 homers.  He can field second base without a problem, and does not strike out a whole lot.  And let us not forget that he had an amazing hitting streak in the VSL two years ago that I believe topped 20 games.  The kid can play.

8. Nick Kingham  - I have been high on this guy since he was drafted, and I still am.  He can throw 93, and has a nice curve.  He got promoted to High A, and still seemed to be consistent.  I expect he may start there again, but will get a mid season up grade to AA.  He is a number 3 starter and maybe a 2.

9. Clay Holmes  - He throws in the low 90s and could add more velocity as his frame fills out.  He has a curve that projects well, and he pitched in State College showing fairly well.  A big test for him this year as he goes to full season ball.

10. Kyle McPherson  - It seems odd to have a guy who might be on the staff  by the end of year this low on the list.  This is new for the Pirates.  He pitched a little at the major league level last year and has the arm to do it.  He should start in AAA as he only had a handful of starts there.  Great fastball, and now with a taste of the bigs under his belt, I expect he will do very well.

11. Alen Hanson - WHAT?  Hanson down out of the top 10?  Yes, I am not as high on Hanson as most.  Don't get me wrong, the kid looks to have an amazing bat and a good eye to boot.  Pretty rare for a Pirate these days.  But 40 errors!  Man oh man that is a lot.  He cannot stay at short.  Not with those kind of errors.  And they are not Shawn Dustin errors where his arm is just too jacked up to throw straight.  No, he has glove trouble.  And I hope they put him at second this year because he needs the practice at where he is going to stick.  And I can't see it at short.

12. Vic Black - This guy is a future closer.  I think this is why you trade Hanrahan.  Let Grilli close this year while Black gets some AAA time, and next year with Black as your set up man.  And then Black gets the job full time.  He can do 98 on his fastball and has a curve ball that is above average.  I hear he is adding a two seam fastball.  This should help with throwing strikes to avoid walks which is his problem right now.  But what closer does not make things interesting.

13. Wyatt Mathisen - He hit well for a high schooler, and more importantly he walked almost as much as he struck out.  Another rare feat for a high school kid.  He played short in high school, and that added dimension makes him a high rated prospect for me.

14. Barret Barnes - He seemed to be a fine hitter, but I don't think he will stay in center.  The defensive versatility of Mathisen pushed Barnes down a slot.

15. Bryan Morris  - I admit I have never been very high on Morris, but he had a good enough year in the pen in AAA last year to make me think he can contribute in a major league pen.  He will probably make the team out of camp as he is out of options.

16. Tony Sanchez - His good defense keeps him in the top 20, but his inability to hit makes him the second best catcher in the organization right now.  He looks like a bench catcher, and that is not good enough.  I hope he hits for some average and power as he has been unable to put them together.

17. Justin Wilson  - sometimes I forget this guy should qualify as a prospect.  He was up in 2011 out of the pen.  And again last year.  He should stay in the pen.  He is not going to make it as a starter, and he is not going to lower his walks either.  Good enough stuff to keep him in the top 20.

18. Phil Irwin - I have not seen Irwin get enough credit.  He just does not have the velocity or flare for it.  But his stats don't lie.  The kid wins.  He had a 117/24 K/BB ratio, and that includes a 28/7 ratio in AAA where he only pitched 21 innings and posted a 3-0 record.

19. Jose Osuna  - Hard to say if he deserves it, but played well at Single A.  He hit .280 slugged over .450 and his OPS was near .800.  And surprisingly he only had a 15% strikeout rate.  We will see what he does this year at High A.

20. Colten Brewer - While I could have gone a lot of ways here (Duke Welker, Andy Oliver, Adrian Sampson, Willy Garcia, etc) I went with Colten.  He held his own last year in the GCL.  He had a 2 to 1 K to BB ratio, and only gave up three homers.  He is young, and is going to get faster on his fastball, and better all around.  I think that makes his upside a little higher than the others.

I know this list is a bit controversial.  But overall I am excited about this team.

Bring on the season.

Friday, January 25, 2013

2013 looking better

I hope everyone is enjoying this offseason as a lot has been going on.

The main focus of the front office has apparently been the pitching.  The rotation appears to be shaping up as AJ Burrnett, Wandy Rodriguiz, Fransico Lirano, James McDonald, and Jeff Karstens.  That is a decent rotation with some potential for failure in Lirano and McDonald.  However, this year the Pirates have an abundance of talent to replace any slackers.  The AAA rotation seems to be Jeff Locke, Kyle McPherson, Gerrit Cole, and Phil Irwin.  All of whom I like a lot.  Don't forget Charlie Morton should be back midseason.

The bullpen has undergone a transformation with it now officially being the Jason Grilli era.  He is going to have Mark Melancon as his set up man, and Vin Mazzaro as a long man.  I have my concerns there, but in the pen he was not a disaster like he was as a starter in Kansas City.  Tony Watson is the lefty, and Chris Leroux is out of options, so I would imagine he will make the opening day roster.  I will be awaiting the arrival of Vic Black, who will probably be the closer in AAA, but I like his future.

The Pirates did fix the catcher slot, at least defensively with Russell Martin.  We have to wait and see if his offense disappears and there is some reason to think it will.  The Pirates did add some other guys to help out the bench, but how all of that fits is a big question mark.  For example, I am super excited about the addition of Clint Robinson.  Yet, where does Clint fit.  He has an option, but the Jones/Sanchez platoon at first is good, so no room for Clint on the bench, and he has nothing left to prove after being very good in Omaha.  Another question is what to do with the crowded infield back up slot.  Assuming Barmes is the opening day short stop, that leaves the Pirates with Josh Harrison, Chase D'Arnaud, and Jordy Mercer as back ups.  Harrison is a spark plug that can play second and short, and he puts the ball in play, however, he never ever walks.  Chase is fast and is a more natural short than Harrison, but does not hit as well as Harrison.  Jordy is the best defensive option, and the Pirates like that as he sat the bench and only did defense for many games last year.  He can play any of the infield slots without a problem, and he has the most power potential in the group, but has not been given a shot to see consistent balls at the big league level to see if he is going to be able to put the ball in play at all.

The outfield is just as crowded.  Marte and McCutchen are sure fire starters.  This time last year I would have said Tabata was as well, but he was awful last year.  Awful.  The Pirates went out and acquired Jerry Sands who is a right hand hitting outfielder just like Tabata.  And at the Trade Deadline last year they picked up a left hand outfielder in Travis Snider.  This puts speedy lefty Alex Presley in doubt.  It seems the Pirates will probably platoon a corner outfield spot, but which righty and which lefty?  It seems unlikely that they would carry a fifth outfielder since Garret Jones can play outfield too, and so can Harrison in an emergency.

It will be a more interesting spring training than usual.  Looking forward to it getting started.