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Prior to this era all the other eras have been defined by changes in baseball history such as the end of the dead ball era, the end of segregation and the lowering of the mound but this era finds itself defined by something unique to the Pirates. When I started this exercise I knew I wanted to create an all streak team and that the formation of such a team would cause a pre streak team hence the reason for this era. Now to me this era seems to cover a large amount of time but in actuality it is roughly the same size as all the other eras at just a little over 20 years. Going into this I figured there would be good competitions between the 70's World Series teams and the early 90's NLCS teams and for the most part that held up but surprising me were some strong competitors from the 80s.
Catcher: Only two catchers proved to be worth consideration here and they are Manny Sanguillen and Tony Pena. Both are on the short list for best catcher in Pirates history making this a very intriguing battle. Each player had 2 or 3 seasons which were strong contenders for the crown but coming out on top of my list was Manny Sanguillen's 1975. That year Sanguillen posted a batting line of .328/.391/.451 good for a 134 wRC+. The 9 home runs he hit that year were the second highest total of his career. What made this year stand out above Pena's season and the rest of Sanguillen's was his ability to get on base. The .391 OBP was easily the best of his career and his 8.9 BB% more than doubled his career rate of 4.1%.
First Base: I expected this to end up an easy win for Stargell but he ended up with some tight competition as his best years came in left field. The thought of putting Stargell in left field and choosing someone else here entered my mind briefly before I recalled that Stargell wasn't going to win the LF job. With all due respect to Bob Robertson and Al Oliver this position ended up being a battle between Stargell and 1982 Jason Thompson. Thompson's season wasn't as good as Stargell's best during this era but it was definitely comparable to any season he posted while playing primarily first base. In the end possibly because of sheer reverence to Stargell I gave him the nod. Much like I chose to do with Kiki Cuyler in an earlier era though I didn't limit myself to just picking his best 1B season seeing as he won the position anyway. Stargell's best season as a 1B was either his first 1972 or 1978. Personally I preferred 1972... [Read More]
Before I move on to the Pirates pitching prospects I thought I'd wrap up my overview of the Pirates position player prospects with my personal top 20 list. I will note here that this list isn't necessarily consistent with the previous posts. I have assembled this list based on how I feel today and that is not necessarily representative of how I felt when I wrote the other posts. Any changes will of course be minor but may be present.You can feel free to comment and disagree with my rankings as anyone's opinion is just as valid (or more so) than mine. I am by no means no scout and I have assembled my rankings through the handful of minor league games I get to watch and on the opinions of others. With that out of the way and without farther ado my top 20 Pirates position player prospects (I have also included each player's position and the level I expect them to begin the 2014 season at):
1. Gregory Polanco (OF, AAA)
2. Austin Meadows (OF, A)
3. Alen Hanson (SS, AA)
4. Josh Bell (OF, A+)
5. Reese McGuire (C, A)
6. Tony Sanchez (C, AAA)
7. Harold Ramirez (OF, A)
8. Andrew Lambo (1B/OF, AAA/MLB)
9. Barrett Barnes (OF, A+)
10. JaCoby Jones (SS/OF, A)
11. Michael De La Cruz (OF, Rk)
12. Jin-De Jhang (C, A/A+)
13. Wyatt Mathisen (C, A/A+)
14. Stetson Allie (1B, A+)
15. Max Moroff (SS, A/A+)
16. Adam Frazier (SS, A/A+)
17. Jaff Decker (OF, AAA)
18. Elvis Escobar (OF, A-/A)
19. Julio De La Cruz (3B, Rk)
20. Mel Rojas (OF, AA/AAA)
Now that the Olympics are over, it is now time for the Penguins, as well as the rest of the league, to regain its focus back on the end of the NHL regular season and get ready for their run at Lord Stanley's Cup. It will be quite interesting to see how every team does coming off of the long break. What is even more interesting is to see how long/short it takes for each team to get their chemistry and team continuity aligned like it was prior to the Olympic hiatus. This is not a problem that is unique solely to the Penguins, as all but 5 teams put at least one player onto an Olympic roster. The magnitude, one could argue, probably hit the Penguins harder than most. As we all know the Penguins sent 7 players and their head coach to Sochi. Now I must make a caveat statement before I get to my main point. I do not know what the NHL rules were when it came to practices and workouts during the Olympic break for those coaches and players who did not go to Sochi. And that is important. If, the NHL "banned" organized practices and the like then I would say that sending your head coach and a bunch of players minimizes the impact of sending so many. Since teams were not able to officially practice in team drills/practices etc. there would be no "advantage". However, if the NHL did allow organized practices, drills, and the like, I think that it hurt the Penguins. I think it hurt them more because head coach Dan Bylsma wasn't there to lead those practices. The head coach is the shepherd or sorts, and as anyone who played any sport knows, there is a huge difference in mentality and effort when the practice is organized and lead by a coach, vice players getting together and "doing drills".
The big question that is most likely plaguing Penguins' fans is, how will they perform on the ice against the Canadiens on the 27th (3 days away). I wish I had a crystal ball to tell them, but sadly I don't. What I do know is that 4 of the 7 players the Penguins sent got a medal (Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Jussi Jokinen, Olli Maata), which should help morale a bit. But the long, arduous flight back home and subsequent "jet lag" will most certainly play a role. The good thing is, the Penguins again, will not be the only team suffering. Furthermore, the Penguins won't be on the first slate of games to be played coming off the break as well. I also know that when the Penguins have a 3+ day "rest" period between games, their numbers are... [Read More]
I struggled with where exactly to end this era and what exactly to call it. In the end I decided the best stopping place would be the last year before the pitcher's mound was lowered and the strike zone changed. Basically this is a combination of the Post-War Era and the Dead Ball 2 Era. I really had no clue what to call this time frame though. For some reason I always considered post World War II to be the beginning of the modern era. Why? I'm not really sure maybe itís because it was around this time the relief pitcher role started to become more prominent. Anyway you should all know the drill by now:
Catcher: Like most races we find ourselves with two qualified candidates that have several seasons that fit the bill. Jim Pagliaroni and Smokey Burgess are the two choices here. Pagliaroni's best year came in 1964 and Burgess's best year came two years earlier in 1962. Both were strong candidates but I gave the edge to Burgess as his year featured a little bit more power and he knocked in more runs. During his 1962 campaign Smokey Burgess batted .328/.375/.500 with a wRC+ of 129. He hit 13 HR on the year and like Burgess always was he was particularly difficult to strike out going down on strikes under 5% of the time. Being honest here from 1959-1962 (with the exception of a little less power in 1960) Burgess largely posted the same basic stat line.
First Base: In 1951 Kiner saw his only action at 1B and had it been enough to qualify him his season would have easily won him a spot on this team and quite possibly the 1B job on the all time team. Kiner ended the year with significantly more time in the OF though leaving us with a handful of lesser but still worthy candidates. Donn Clendenon, Dick Stuart, Hank Greenberg and Dale Long all posted at least one season worthy of consideration as did Johnny Hopp but I quickly dismissed his best season due to a low amount of PA. Long was the next one to fall out as I saw his numbers as no better than comparable to the others and he did so in less playing time as well. That left Clendenon's '66 season, Stuart's '61 season and Greenberg's '47. They all had power with the lowest HR total being 25 and all showed good OBP skills with the lowest being .344. Really I could have went with any of three but I ended up giving this title to Stuart's 1961 season where he belted 35 HR and hit .301/.344/.581. It was easily the best power season of the trio and with a wRC+ of 141 it was tied... [Read More]
Top 5 Prospects
1. Gregory Polanco: I only got to see a handful of games last year from Polanco but I came away very impressed with him. The guy is simply dripping with talent and while that doesnít always translate to future success it was enough that I actually got upset hearing his names in any trade rumors last year. Simply put the guy has what it takes to be a truly special player, now whether he puts it altogether remains to be seen. Polanco was originally signed by the Pirates back in 2009 and at 17 was a year older than most international prospects. He had a modestly successful pro debut in the DSL in 2009 but then struggled in 2010 when he moved to the states and fared just a bit better when repeating rookie ball in 2011. Then 2012 happened and Polanco broke out in a big way becoming one of the top prospects in all of baseball. He followed up his 2012 campaign with a very good year in A+ and AA in 2013. Without even considering his hitting ability Polanco possess plus speed, great defense and a very good arm. On the offensive side of the ledger Polanco has great plate discipline which is highly uncommon for a player of his age, skill set and background. The only negatives about Polanco tend to be questions about will his power ever develop beyond the average level and Iíve seen some knock his defense a little saying he has trouble reading the ball off the bat. With all this wonderful stuff Iím saying about Polanco it bears mentioning he still has some issues to work through and is in no way guaranteed to be with the Pirates by mid-season but the possibility of him doing just that and entrenching himself as the everyday right fielder is certainly there.
2. Austin Meadows: The Pirates drafted Meadows with the 9th overall pick in this past draft. Early on in the process he was among the short list of candidates to go number one overall but his stock slipped a little as he was ranked by BA as ďonlyĒ the 5th best player in the draft. Meadows has a huge upside rivaling that of Polancoís but he is much farther away from the major league level making him a bigger risk. A lot of scouts doubt his ability to stick as a center fielder long term but he has the offensive potential to be an outstanding corner outfielder and the Pirates appear to have more than enough center fielder options. Meadows pro career got started this past season in the GCL and for the first few games he appeared to be... [Read More]