Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Justin Masterson . . . finally

Justin Masterson has finally signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates and for a minor league deal too.  It makes you think his rehab has not gone as well as hoped. 

He will now try to regain some former form, or at least consistent ground balls with the side of strike out.  The Pirates did leave open the possibility for Masterson as a reliever, which right now looks like the bigger need.  Although he is going to begin as a starter.  Nicasio has been pretty good and Locke is not awful, so he has some work to do to break the rotation.  But the bullpen . . .

The bullpen has struggled and already used several different guys.  Masterson would give a nice long man piece or even just a flex guy.  Although replacing Voglesong with someone would make me feel a little better.  Without Hughes the pen lacks a consistent fourth man.  Watson and Melancon are solid.  Feliz looks decent enough so far.  But other than that the group really looks bad.  Schugel and Scahill are emergency replacements and look like it.  Vogelsong is the long guy with declining skills.  Lobstein is inconsistent and Caminero has shown flashes of greatness, but has also been lit up.  The bullpen desperately needs Hughes back. 

Hughes can help calm the mess being a pitcher who can be trusted in high stress situations.  This can move Caminero back to lower stress situations, and perhaps more rest in-between outings, hopefully improving his consistency.  It will drop one of the emergency guys back to AAA as well.  But it still leaves some upgradeable slots that Masterson would upgrade.  If Vogelsong is untouchable, it at least pushes the other emergency guy back to AAA or perhaps removes the need for Lobstein with a more tried MLB pitcher. 

I for one am very hopeful that Masterson can perform at AAA and get into the Pirate bullpen. 

And maybe just maybe we can make it to that moment when you see Taillon take the mound . . .

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

That was fast . . .

I fully expected Michael Morse to get dropped from the team this year.  I figured it would be when Josh Bell got a call up in June.  Morse will probably stay with the team because I believe the Pirates will still have to pay his salary if he stays in their system.  No one is going to pay him anything near that.  But I did not expect Morse to get dropped after only 8 at bats. 

I think it is the product of two things.  One, clearly it has a little to do with the need for another bullpen arm.  A.J. Schugel pitched tonight, fairly well by the way.  With Lirano missing a start, the long guys taxed from yesterday, and Vogelsong getting the spot start, another fresh arm was needed. 

But mostly I think it is the sign that the Pirates are pleased with Jaso.  Jaso has been great so far this year.  His patient approach has drawn walks and produced hits.  Jaso will not have to platoon now.  Obviously at some point Schugel or one of the other long relievers will get dropped for a fifth bench bat, but not until Lirano is good to go.  Who they bring up then will be interesting, but money should be on Jason Rogers.  If he gets to platoon with Jaso may very well depend on how well Jaso does these next few days. 

The Pirates record may not be where we want it, but having Jaso be the outright first baseman is a problem worth having. 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Exciting Depth should help in trades this year

The Pirates have a great team this year.  They could very well be in the race for the division title and probably in the playoff race.  This is the year that I think the Pirates will go all in by getting a big name trade because the minor league system is so stacked that trades are almost necessary to clear out some room.

This is great news if we need a 5th starter or some bullpen help, trades should be easy to pull off.  Just look at the situation.

Pittsburgh's infield is fairly loaded right now.  Kang has third, Mercer is at short, and Harrison is playing second.  There is not a lot of weakness there.  Maybe you could upgrade the bat at short.  Josh Bell is expected to take over at 1B this year, but Jaso looks pretty good there right now too. 

Indianapolis has on its roster right now Hanson at second.  Many consider him ready now.  It is his second year at AAA.  Jason Rogers plays 1B and 3B.  Dan Gamache, who maybe major league utility player caliber, plays 3B and 2B.  Gift Ngope plays SS and 2B (maybe not a good enough hitter).  Max Moroff plays 3B, 2B, and SS.  Adam Frazier plays 2B and SS.  It is possible that Gamache and Ngope are not good enough for the MLB, but the others probably are.  They can't even all fit in Indy's infield, much less find a home in Pittsburgh.  Maybe one can push Mercer out and maybe another finds the UT spot on the bench, but that leaves quite a few as good trade chips.

Indy also has two major league catchers in Elias Diaz and Jacob Stallings.  The Pirates are not going to re-sign Cervelli, but have Stewart for more time.  So, maybe neither of these guys goes, but maybe one does.

The outfield for the Pirates is set for years, but Willy Garcia is ready in AAA.  He probably finds the fourth outfielder spot in Pittsburgh next year, and the Pirates are going to find some room for their infielders out in the Indy outfield, but look in AA.  Austin Meadows is lurking.  Assuming he is not a tradable piece and they slow walk him, in two years he needs to be playing in Pittsburgh.  Harold Ramirez looks like he might have the tools to be a MLB player and Barrett Barnes was a first round comp draft pick.  They might excite a team enough to be trade pieces, and so they should be because when are they going to crack the outfield in Pittsburgh?  Frankly, Justin Maffei has done enough to require some looks in my opinion. 

Don't get me started on pitching.  The Pirates are pretty clearly saving some places for Taillon and Glasnow, as they should.  And Kingham should not be on the block because he was on track to be a MLB 3rd starter before his injury.  Chad Kuhl could easily be a starter soon in the majors.  In a couple of years the starting rotation for the Pirates could easily be Cole, Taillon, Glasnow, Kingham, and Kuhl.  But where does that leave Brault?  What if Holmes or Eppler has a good year at AA this year?  They would be knocking on the door. And there is this new guy Trevor Williams at AAA. 

The point is that the Pirates have a good major league team finally.  They also have a stacked upper minor league.  I expect some big trades this year if the Pirates are in contention giving away some of that middle infield depth or a starting pitcher.
And if the Pirates can't compete, I expect Cervelli would be on the block and Harrison too (unless he was dominate), maybe even Jordy Mercer because the Pirates have young guys to fill those holes.  And Niesse and Nicasio would be gone before you could count to 10. 

This is going to be a great season one way or the other.  The organization is in great shape it is going to be fun to watch.   

Monday, April 4, 2016

One up , One down

So here we are at the start of another Pirate baseball year.  The Pirates have made the playoffs for 3 straight years, and are going for 4.  For the first time, they are trying it without Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker (one of whom was much more important).  Despite my criticism of their offseason, I actually think they are going to make the playoffs again.

My reasons were on full display in game 1. 

First, the St. Louis Cardinals are good, but should be much easier to beat this year.  Especially here at the beginning when people are recovering from thumb injuries, they are down two short stops, and no new rookies have emerged yet.  This is the time to jump on the Cardinals as the Pirates did yesterday. 

Second, Gregory Polanco.  There is every reason to believe Polanco takes a big step forward.  He started very slowly as did Marte two years ago.  Polanco was heating up as the year ended, as did Marte two years ago.  Marte was on fire last year and this year Polanco should do the same. 

It should be a fun year to watch.  Hopefully the Pirates get off to a better start, and do better in division than last year.  Both of which should happen.  This should more than make up for the fall off that is bound to happen outside the division. 

Go Bucs!