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Let's take a look at our current Pittsburgh Pirates.
Out 1B platoon which looked effective early on in the year has gone ice cold since June. Our 2B has a bad back and can't seem to stay on the field. Our 3B has taken the steps forward we have been waiting for in regards to his plate discipline but it has cost him some of his power and the ability to throw the ball to 1B. Our LF is coming off a concussion and now finds himself in CF. Our all world CF finds himself with a broken rib that will likely land him on the DL but the team has decided to pray for a miracle for a few days. Our RF after a nice start to his career is going throw typical rookie growing pains. The guy who is currently our best hitter was the 25h man to begin the year and our current 25th man is quite possibly the worst hitting non pitcher in baseball. Our backup catcher who came in with a sparkling defensive reputation has shown very little of it. Our backup SS who was widely despised for his lack of bat is injured and is now actually missed by many of those who despised him.
Our ace has been uneven all year, is coming back from an injury and it had gotten to the point people wanted him out of the rotation. Our ace in waiting finds himself struggling to get back into form after an injury and their are cries he should be shut down for the rest of the season. Our promising pitching prospect who was supposed to help this year finds himself on the shelf with Tommy John surgery. The other pitching prospect who might have been able to step up is getting knocked around in AAA. The back of the rotation are filled with reclamation arms the fans would have long since removed from the team. The bullpen has been imploding while the one actual steady pitcher in it has been the victim of a ton of unwarranted criticism. The two arms left go from the pen are thriving in new locales.
All of the above has happened and yet these Pirates somehow someway find themselves in the midst of a pennant race. It is improbable yet here they are. Some people are suggesting a third of the current team needs to turned over if they are to have a chance but that can't possibly be true. If the current group can survive all of the above and somehow find themselves where they currently are then this team can on its own with no outside help pull off almost anything. This is a good ball club going through a horrible stretch of luck. Bullpen help would be appreciated, another arm for... [Read More]
The trade deadline came and went Thursday, and the Pirates have the same team they had last week. Surprised? I'm not. Neil Hunnington was deeply involved in getting Jon Lester and David Price, but in the end, neither worked out. This seems to be a trend. Last year, the Pirates were involved in getting Giancarlo Stanton, but once again, that didn't happen. With a farm team that was ranked #1 by Baseball America this spring, eventually the Pirates have to use some of those prospects to think about the current team. But NH seems very hesitant to get rid of top prospects that will hopefully pan out. I can even understand that.
To get Jon Lester, the Red Sox would have clearly wanted Josh Bell in return. I'm so thankful that Neil Hunnington didn't pull the trigger on this one. If everything went well, Jon Lester would have started 12 regular season games this season. If the Pirates were to win 9 of those games, then we would have traded away Josh Bell, a prospect with tremendous power, for 9 wins. Jon Lester would not be under control following this season, and without a doubt, he would have bolted town as soon as he could. It would have been a horrible deal.
I know that NH and the Pirates were in extensive talks with the Rays as well about David Price. I don't know the price tag that the Rays were asking, but David Price was the way better option between the two. I heard Starling Marte come up a few times in discussion about Price. I'm not quite sure how I feel about that. David Price however, would be under the Pirates control NEXT year as well, which quite a big deal. But still, I can see Neil Hunnington not pulling the trigger.
What I ABSOLUTELY cannot begin to understand is how the deadline came and went without adding a bullpen arm. Tony Watson and Justin Wilson have been falling off. Jeanmar Gomez and Stolmy Pimentel have been even worse. I don't even want to talk about Ernesto Frieri because it may cause me to have an aneurism. And we have to trust that Mark Melancon doesn't have another bad end to the season. If that's all we have in the bullpen, I'm scared. Red Sox reliever Andrew Miller, possibly the best reliever in baseball, went to Baltimore for their #3 prospect overall. The Pirates could have done that, and the Red Sox wouldn't have had to put him within their own division.
Yes, the Pirates prospects look great, but eventually you have to realize that they are PROSPECTS. I can understand... [Read More]
My last post was a list of the position players I have graded as a C or higher. My grades are always in flux and I am constantly reevaluating but that provided a good snapshot of that moment in time. Today I want to present my top 30 pitching prospects. I don't have an exact order for them yet so don't get on me too much about that but I have them sorted into groups based on level and my overall impression of them.
Low Level Average Prospects: Richard Mitchell, Luis Escobar, Neil Kozikowski, Jonathan Sandfort, Billy Roth, Tyler Eppler, Alex McRae
Richard Mitchell and Luis Escobar are regarded as the Pirates two best pitching prospects in the DSL. This is Mitchell's third season with the Pirates. He got his feet wet as a 16 year old in 2012, then moved on to a regular relief role last year where he did a decent job. This year the Pirates have moved him to the rotation and aside from not missing many bats it is going well. Mitchell projects to add some velocity but right now his fastball sits around 90 and he compliments it with a promising change up and curve. Escobar is a newcomer having just signed last season for a 150K bonus which is a large amount for the Pirates to give an international pitcher. Escobar was a 3B up to a few years ago but converted to pitching when he went unsigned. He shows promise on the mound getting his fastball up into the mid 90s but needs work on his breaking stuff. The conversion means Escobar is on the old side for a first time DSL player (18 years old) but his arm has potential and he has been solid so far this season.
Kozikowski, Sandfort and Roth are the best prep arms the Pirates selected and signed (aside from the traded Blake Taylor) in the 2012 and 2013 drafts. Sandfort was taken in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft and after a shaky debut in 2012 he rebounded with a very nice 2013 season. He missed a lot of bats which is odd for a Pirates pitching prospect at that level and while he struggled with his control he kept it pretty much under control. This year Sandfort moved up to Bristol and has shown improved control but his strikeouts are down and he has been getting hit hard. Roth is a similar story to Sandfort just a year removed. Roth was taken in the 16th round last year but ranked much better than that. He has a similar arsenal to Sandfort throwing his fastball in the low 90s with a solid curve and a work in progress change to compliment it. He too moved up to Bristol... [Read More]
When Jim Rutherford started in Pittsburgh, I think most people were disgusted by how he handled the first few weeks. But he has made some big changes, and some good ones at that.
One of the biggest problems the Penguins have had in the past few years is the bottom 6. They have not been the supporting cast that superstars like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin deserve. Let it be known, I'm not letting Crosby off the hook for his sub-par playoff performances. However, it is clear that the bottom 6 was an issue. The reason why it was such a struggle was forward depth. In recent years, Ray Shero has done a fantastic job supplying the Penguins with the young defensive talent they need, through good drafts and good development. Guys like Olli Maatta, Robert Bortuzzo, and Simon Despres. But can we say the same about the forwards?
Beau Bennett is probably the best forward that has been home grown in the past 5 years. Beau Bennett is a good hockey player, but that's not enough. So when you look at the offseason, you see that the forwards have been the main difference from last years team to this years. We all had to face the departure of James Neal, but in return we got a very hardworking and skilled Patric Hornqvist. Add in players like Steve Downie, a player we all loved to hate, and Blake Comeau, I'd say Rutherford knows what he is doing. Not to mention first round draft pick Kasperi Kapanen. Many experts are saying that Kaspanen has a real shot at seeing playing time this season. That's the kind of production I love to see from Jim Rutherford. So I say, we give him a round of applause. For now.
As most of you know following the Pirates minor leagues is a hobby of mine and I keep a running top prospect lists as well as grades for most of the players in the Pirates organization. I'm no expert in the field by any means but I like to think I have well formed opinions on a lot of the players in the system. A couple times a year I go through an overhaul of my process and basically attempt to reset everything. Well I just recently finished that process for the Pirates position players and while I will always be tweaking the list I am ready to present it here.
After grading all the Pirates position player prospects I came up with 34 with a grade of C or higher. A grade C prospect for me is someone who has surpassed the point where he is just a project and is someone who if in the upper levels could be an immediate contributor in the majors (even in a bench role) or if farther from the majors has what I consider an above average chance to develop into a solid player. Not all of these guys have huge upsides or are likely to contribute but they are the ones that have caught my eye. I have them ranked 1-34 so let's count backwards.
34. Edinson Lantigua, OF
33. Danny Arribas, C
32. Chris McGuiness, 1B
31. Eric Wood, 3B
30. Michael Suchy, OF
29. Jaff Decker, OF
28. Jose Osuna, 1B
McGuiness and Decker find themselves on this list primarily because of their high floor. Both players are already in AAA and look like competent depth options for the majors. Ideally neither player should be in the majors full time but as a temporary fill in teams could do worse. Wood and Osuna have both seen their value take a bit of a hit. Both are power hitting prospects in A+ who haven't shown much power the past 2 seasons. If things don't change by the end of the year they might find themselves off the list. Lantigua and Arribas are players far away from the majors who I see as on the rise. Lantigua was just signed last year for 275K and looks like a solid all around left handed hitting outfielder who projects to add power as he matures. He has been a standout thus far this year in the DSL. Arribas is a catcher in his fourth year in the Pirates organization but his first of really catching full time (he split his time between 1B/3B/C while in the DSL and was blocked by McGuire last year). He has hit consistently well each year thus far and his defense has been solid despite limited experience.... [Read More]