Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bucs Keep Dealing- Grabow Next To Go

Another day, another trade made by Neil Huntington. This time it's free agent to be John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny to the Cubs for right handed pitchers Kevin Hart and Jose Ascaino, along with Class A infielder Josh Harrison.

I'm not surprised, as we all expected this. As far as the return, it's fine with me. Huntington continues to add arms, which the organization desperately needs. The return doesn't have tremendous upside, but he wasn't going to get a big return for Grabow alone. I may have wanted to see Huntington try and package Grabow with either Duke, Maholm or Capps and see if he could get one more big haul before the deadline.

Hart threw today for the Cubs and threw pretty well. I have seen his last 3 starts with the Cubs and like what I have seen. He struggles with his command at times, but I like him. He has made 8 appearances with the Cubs this season, including 4 starts. He is 3-1 with a 2.60 era. Before his start today, he is allowing less than a hit an inning. The only problem so far has been his 18 bb to 13 k's in 27.2ip. He allowed only 1 bb in 6ip today though, looking good getting the win for the Cubs. Hart began the season as the 6th rated prospect in the Cubs system. I expect him to join the Bucs rotation, possibly replacing Virgil Vasquez.

Ascaino has also seen big league time with the Cubs this year. In 14 relief appearances with the Cubs, he was 0-1 with a 3.52era. He is a hard thrower and has struck out 18 compared to 9 bb in 15ip at the MLB level. He allowed less than a hit per inning while on the big league roster. While in AAA, he was viewed primarily as a starter, which is what I think the Bucs will do with him. At AAA Iowa, Ascaino was 2-4, with a 3.16 era in 12 starts. In 51 innings, the ratios applied there as well. Less than a hit an inning and a nice 47k's to 18bb's. He was once a highly thought of prospect in the Cubs system, but despite putting up solid minor league numbers, seemed to be forgotten about. I like his live arm, with his fastball usually touching 95-98 mph. He will probably report to AAA Indy.

As far as, Harrison. He seems like a nice player, and is considered a decent prospect. Harrison, primarily a left fielder/third baseman this season, but his primary position had been second base, has put up solid numbers during the season. He played 79 games at Class A Peroria, hitting .337 with 4 HR/33Rbi and swiped 16 bags. he was promoted to High A Dayton and has played 18 games, hitting .286 with a homer and 9 RBI's. By the way, the major league player that he is compared to the most.....Freddy Sanchez.

I don't have a problem with this deal at all. I like adding the 2 arms and if Harrison progresses, then it's a bonus. The deal does leave John Russell with only Donnie Veal as a lefty in the pen, and there really isn't one to call up. I don't expect JR to be playing many match ups the rest of the season. As far as Gorzo goes, we did kind of sell low there, but face it, he wasn't going to get another shot in Pittsburgh.

While the Bucs are younger the rest of the season, the Altoona and West Virginia teams contain pretty much the entire future of the team, which wasn't the case a season ago. i applaud Huntington for sticking to the plan and blowing the whole thing up. A total rebuild was needed and it's good to see he is committed to it, instead of dealing just one or two vets. I would still like to see Capps dealt (I just read the Dodgers are interested). Remember, the goal isn't .500. the goal is to eventually put a playoff caliber team on the field every season.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Freddy Sanchez Dealt to Giants

Another positive day for the Pirates and GM Neil Huntington. Although the team dropped a tough 1-0 loss in San Francisco, the team boarded the plane without one person. That person was second baseman Freddy Sanchez, who got left behind in San Francisco, as he was dealt to the Giants for pitcher Tim Alderson. The Sanchez deal came about six hours after Sanchez's double play partner Jack Wilson was sent to Seattle in a separate deal.

Huntington did well in the Wilson deal and I think he did just as well with the Sanchez deal. Alderson, a 20 year old right hander was listed as the fourth best prospect in the Giants organization. He is a 6"6 right hander who is considered a premium prospect. How long has it been since we have acquired guys with the upside as we have gotten in the last calender year.

This excerpt from Ben-Nicholson Smith at

5:51pm: Kovacevic is reporting that the minor leaguer is AA pitcher Tim Alderson. This is an impressive haul for Sanchez--Alderson was ranked the #4 prospect in the Giants' system by Baseball America. What we thought was a salary dump has turned into a pretty solid coup for the Pirates.

Sounds to me like we did well.

Alderson was currently at AA Connecticut, posting a 6-1 record (why is the Giants AA team all the way in Connecticut?). Overall, he is 7-2 with a 3.45era in 98.2 ip. He has struck out 68, compared to only 14 walks. The early report on Alderson is he is a strike throwing machine with serious stuff. Early report I hear is that Alderson has a fastball in the low to mid 90's. he has plus breaking stuff which is his out pitches and a developing change up, which scouts say has come along nicely.

Alderson was named 2008 MLB Class A Pitcher of the Year. After being selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2007 draft, Alderson has worked his way through the Giants system. After last season, Baseball America rated him the 33rd best overall prospect in baseball. Keith Law currently ranks Alderson the 26th best prospect in all of baseball. I do that deal for Sanchez easily.

At first, I would have wished we got more, but I am happy getting a guy like this. In the last year, we haven't been dealing just to deal. Huntington keeps acquiring high ceiling talent and while he will be a hated man around Pittsburgh, he is doing a great job rebuilding this organization. It needed a total rebuilding after the last two regimes and Huntington is doing it the right way.

He was able to get a guy like Alderson for Sanchez straight up, without including any cash. Huge win for Huntington. Use that cash to sign Miguel Angel Sano or include it in a deal for Grabow or Capps to keep stockpiling talent. It could be a couple busy days for Huntington, but if you are keeping score at home, he went 2-0 today and he is 4-o on the season.

One more thing to see what others are saying. this from Kovacevic.

6:19pm: Kovacevic says that no money is being exchanged in the Sanchez deal, which makes it all the more impressive for the Pirates. Keith Law (Insider) recently ranked the 20-year-old Alderson the 26th-best prospect in all of baseball.

One other thing is that right before the deal, Sanchez came to the Bucs with a 3 year/$20mil offer to stay. He has to be nuts. Naturally the Pirates declined and made what looks to be a good deal.

One final way to look at this is that the best pitching prospect dealt during the day doesn't get get dealt for Cliff Lee, he gets dealt for Freddy Sanchez? What are you doing Cleveland? Also I hear Brian Sabean is feeling some backlash for dealing Alderson for just Sanchez and no cash.

Here is a link with some good quotes from new Pirate Tim Alderson

Jack Wilson Traded to Seattle

A busy week for Pirates GM Niel Huntington got kick started earlier today when the Bucs shipped Jack Wilson, Ian Snell and cash to the Seattle Mariners for Jeff Clement, Ronnie Cedeno, Aaron Pribanic, Brett Lorin and Nathan Adcock. My first thought was Thank God. Anyone that knows me knows I was not a big Wilson backer. I loved his glove, but he is a an average major league player at best. With Snell, it was probably good to get rid of the baggage that comes along with him. He always has had the stuff, but he could never bring it out on a consistent basis. My second thought was "It looks like we got a lot for two average ball players."

The prize of the deal is Clement. He was the third overall pick in the 2005 draft and was rated the #1 overall prospect in the Seattle system after the 2006 and 2008 seasons. he is a catcher by trade, but has been seeing time at first base over the last two seasons. He has a nice bat and can hit for some power. In 92 games this season at AAA Tacoma, Clement hit .288 with 33 doubles, 14 homers and 68 RBI's. He has seen time with the Mariners and in a short stint hit .237 with 11 doubles, 7 homers and 26 RBI's. He has been assigned to AAA Indianapolis.

Cedeno will replace Wilson on the active roster and he is a similar player. A very solid glove guy with an below average bat and very little power. Sounds like Wilson. Cedeno is a solid professional though and will do all the little things a team needs. Pirates fans would remember him as a member of the Cubs, where it seemed the only team he could hit against was the Pirates.

Now a look at the 3 pitchers. Aaron Pribanic is a 22 year old right hander with a good fastball that hits the 93-95 mph range. He is said to have plus breaking stuff and throws a ton of ground balls. At A Clinton, he was 7-6 with a 3.21 ERA and has allowed only 1 homer all season, pitching in a hitters ball park. He represented the league in the All-Star game. He has been assigned to A West Virginia

Brett Lorin is also a 22 year old right hander. He is considered a strike out pitcher, currently with 87k to 22bb. His fastball is in the 90-92mph range, but is said to have a lot of life to it. he has an above average curve ball and also represented Clinton in the A All-Star game. He has also been assigned to West Virginia

Nathan Adcock is a 21 year old right hander who currently has a 3.31 era. Baseball America rated his curve ball as the best in the Seattle organization. He has been assigned to A Lynchburg.
It is a lot to get for a couple average at best major league players. that's why I am a fan of including cash in the deal. The return is worth it. The Bucs appear to be paying all but 400k of each players salary the rest of the season.

A couple comments on the deal include MLB's Jonathan Mayo, who says the Bucs got a "good haul" in the return and from Kevin Goldstein from baseball Prospectius who says "it's the best deal the Bucs have made in some time."

It won't be a popular move in Pittsburgh, as Wilson was one of the more popular players in this city over the last decade, but these kind of moves need to be made if this team will ever compete. You got a left handed power bat, a above average shortstop and 3 pitchers who are projected as MLB starters for Wilson and Snell. Wilson has missed over 175 games the last 4 seasons due to injury. That's over 1 full season. His production with the bat was really only there for one season and he could be a free agent at the end of the season if the Mariners don't pick up his option. it's another case of buying high and selling low. I'm all for that.

The only argument I'm hearing to the trade is that Jack is such a nice guy. I could care less how nice he is. Also remember that he was given an offer to stay. the offer was low, but it exceeded the production he has given and he rejected it. My philosophy has always been that nice guys don't win championships, talent does and Huntington is doing a fantastic job of adding talent to every level of the organization.

A fine job in my mind Huntington. Your not done yet though. You have more work to do. Make this a deadline that can help shape this team for the future. The Jack Wilson era is over and I couldn't be happier. While I will miss his glove, i won't miss him being a total baby and brat about everything. No longer do the Bucs have to cater to jack Wilson, and I bet the clubhouse will be a better place for it.

Keep doing it I say. Get rid of the losing culture entirely and turn the team over to the young guys. It's going to be a busy week for Huntington. I hear Freddy is next. maybe as early as tonight, following the game.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bucs Notebook 7-27- Trade Deadline Approching

Well, so much for playing decent baseball for ten games. The Bucs offense was damn offensive in the last two games to Arizona. Keeping up the trend of getting dominated by average and below average major league pitching, the Bucs were shutout in back to back games by the likes of Doug Davis and Max Scherzer (although I do think Scherzer will be an above average major league pitcher). The combined score in the two games 16-0. If you are keeping score at home, that's the 11th time we have been shutout already this season.

Davis is the type of crafty veteran who routinely keeps the free swing Bucs off balance and Scherzer, who has a history of reaching the 100 pitch limit by the fifth inning, made it look easy, throwing 109 pitches in 7 innings of work, 85 of them for strikes, easily his best outing of the season. It has amazed me, how the Bucs lineup has showed up to battle staff aces, with a high rate of success, but continue to drop the ball against pitchers the rest of the league do well against. They face Lincecum tonight, so things won't get any easier.

The trade deadline is rapidly approaching and I am almost sick of hearing about what the Bucs might do. I say deal them all. Get rid of anyone associated with the losing culture in Pittsburgh and turn the team over to the young guys. They won't be any worse as a ball club. The losing is like a cancer it will keep growing and poising the young guys minds. Other people close to the Pirates have also reported that the young guys want the veterans out as well. Saying the clubhouse could become divided. One anonymous Pirate even said the clubhouse has become Jack and Freddy and then everyone else. It's time to break up that marriage. So I say show Jack, Freddy, Capps, Snell and Grabow the door. Duke and Maholm are also not untouchable for me. However, we need to keep acquiring upside. Let's not get back into dealing just to deal.

The Minnesota Twins apparently have Freedy Sanchez as #1 on their wish list. The Minnesota Star also reports the deal being talked about is Sanchez for Francisco Liriano straight up. If that's the case, it should have been done last week. Liriano is another young arm I would take a shot on. The second to third year after Tommy John Surgery, pitcher statistically are back to what they once were. Do that deal.

One other team I would look at is the Angels, who could add pieces to a run at the World Series. I know I mentioned Brandon Wood on here a lot, but Sean Rodriguez would be nice also. Rodriguez (24), a great glove guy that can also hit, currently has 23 homers and 75 RBI's at AAA Salt Lake. He can play both second and short. With Macier Izturis improved play as of late and Wood still in the minors, it could be a long road to get Rodriguez to the big leagues with the Angels. He is considered big league ready. Another guy I have has my eye on with the Angels, has been outfielder Terry Evans (27), who currently has hit 22 homers with 75 RBI's and 23 SB's at Salt Lake. Evans, while a bit older could still be a guy to look at. It would be a shame to not pursue a club like the Angels, who have a ton of young talent just sitting in the minors with no where to go.

It might be a perfect situation to eat some of the departing players contracts and bring in a better return. The franchise needs the talent.

The rest of the guys, as usual this time of year have tons of rumors attached to them. It's tough to even know which ones are true, so I won't include any. We will just have to wait and see for 4 more days.

Side Notes

-Not many notes today, but one thing I found funny. Argenis Diaz, the prospect in the Adam Laroche deal, who many have said is MLB ready defensively, made his 28th error of the season yesterday. That's way too many.

- Also Virgil Vasquez should probably be taken out of the rotation. He has lost his last 5 starts and has not pitched well in four of the five outings. Why not give Gorzallany another look as a starter? He also could be dealt though

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bucco Notebook 7-25- Adam Laroche Dealt

It's been a few days since I've gotten to post, but since then the big news of the week has been the trade of Adam Laroche to the Boston Red Sox. The Bucs received shortstop prospect Argenis Diaz and pitcher Hunter Strickland. The report on Diaz is his glove is MLB ready, but his bat isn't. Did we just trade for Jack Wilson? Strickland's fastball averages 90-92 and throws strikes. Neither is considered a top notch prospect, but we weren't going to get top notch guys in return for Laroche.

Diaz will report to AAA Indianapolis and Strickland will report to A West Virginia. Both guys are decent prospects, but getting two guys with a pulse seems to be a fair return for Laroche, who has been struggling big time.

Unlike most of you, I was not an Adam Laroche hater. Unlike everyone else, I knew what to expect out of the older Laroche when we acquired him. I expected a .270 hitter that would hit 25 homers and drive in 80 runs a season. That's exactly what he gave the Bucs every season. Was his prolonged slumps frustrating? Absolutely, but I was never disappointed in Laroche.

When the trade was made with Atlanta to acquire Laroche, most people felt we were getting a franchise saver. That just simply wasn't going to be the case. Laroche just isn't the type of player to bat cleanup and carry an offense. He is, however; a nice player and will do fine in a lineup where he is surrounded by talent and has no pressure on him to produce. To be fair, Laroche really didn't have a ton of protection during his stint as a Bucco.

He should see a ton of fastballs in the Red Sox lineup and should do fine. I feel the short porch in right field at PNC Park actually hurt him when he was struggling. It gave him a target he could aim for and in result he rolled over on alot of balls. In Fenway, he should be able to get back to being a gap to gap type hitter. The Red Sox also get a fantastic defensive first baseman in Laroche. Despite his struggles at the plate, Adam never took his problems into the field with him.

The Bucs didn't send any money to Boston in the deal. The money may have helped bring back better prospects in return, but a team like the Red Sox isn't worried about that. The Bucs save $3 mil for two months of Laroche. That cash can be used for a couple of things. First, they can use the $3 mil to sign their over slotted draft picks that are left. If they do that, I am fine with that.

The other thing they can do is apply the $3 mil saved and use that in a Wilson or Sanchez deal. Send the team some of the money and maybe up the return in the trade. I also am fine with them doing that.

While everything pointed to Garrett Jones becoming the everyday first baseman and Lastings Milledge taking over in left field, the short term plan is for Steve Pearce to get a full time look at first base. This makes sense also. They have to eventually give Pearce a chance, just to see what he has. Playing his natural position, he should be more comfortable both in the field and at the plate. With the team not going any where this season, there is no rush to get Milledge to the big league club.


- The Bucs have been playing pretty good ball since the all-star break. They are still 10 games under, but they won consecutive series against the Giants and Brewers at home and have a chance to take series for Arizona and the Giants on the road.

-Have you noticed how bad, Freddy Sanchez has been since the initial trade rumors started. That's being kind actually. He has flat out sucked. He has tanked plays in the field almost every single game, and the bat just hasn't been there either. Has the rumors gotten to him mentally? Go ahead Neil, show him the door. I actually am getting more comfortable every day with the fact of Delwyn Young playing second.

-Interesting time for Jack and Freddy to be HURTING. Wouldn't you agree?

-Ryan Doumit is starting to come around offensively. Good to see. I've heard his name in a couple rumors, but I've heard the asking price would be very high.

- I can't help but keep liking Jones. He has some serious power and what impresses me the most is his ability to hit the ball out the other way. Here is to hoping he keeps it up. If there was ever a team that needs to find a gem like Jones, it's the Bucs. The question must be asked though, is he going to be a legit every day player with power, or will be be the next Chad Hermansen, Adam Hyzdu, Kevin Young or, my favorite, "Mr. March" Mark Johnson.

-Joel Hanrahan has been doing a nice job since he has come over. He had an ERA at nearly 8.50 when the Bucs acquired him and has it down to around 6.70 already. He has great stuff. I would just like to see him work off the fastball a little more and not get to 3 ball counts with every batter.

-Pearce hasn't looked bad in his first couple starts at first base. He is definitely more comfortable. he made a fantastic diving play the other night and has hit in each game. Only problem is Jones doesn't look so great defensively in the outfield.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Bucs Plan on Negotiating With Freddy Sanchez & Jack Wilson

After all the trade talks, it looks like Pirates management has decided to try and keep it's double play combination here in Pittsburgh. It looks as if talks between the Bucs and both Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson have began on contract extensions. The cupboard is empty as far as middle infielders go in the organization, so I am not totally against bringing both guys back. If you buy into the theory that you build a team up the middle, then the Bucs would be decent with Doumit, Sanchez, Wilson and McCutchen.

My main questions are Why? and Why now? The timing is very odd, after it looked as if Sanchez was gone before the all-star break ended. I wouldn't read too much into this, as it looks like Pirates management is crumbling to the pressure from the fans.

I will answer the Why Now question first. Huntington knows he isn't bringing these guys back at the numbers they are currently earning. He knows they are on the way out the door. Knowing he is going to be ripped apart by the fan base and the media, Huntington offers them contracts he knows they aren't going to accept. That way, when they are dealt, he can say they refused extensions and he had to deal them. Jack and Freddy become the bad guys in all this.

Now the question of Why would he want to extend them? It's quite simple, he doesn't. He low balls both of them with an offer. If they accept, great. If they don't, he shops them. Both guys are 32 years old and will begin slowing down. He offered Jack a 2 year deal at 4mil per. Jack is making over 8mil this season. Wilson also wants a third year guaranteed. While he said he would take a pay cut, I don't think he meant by 50%.

Freddy, has an option that will kick in for next season, paying him close to eight and a half million. Neither of these guys are 8mil type of players. He offered Freddy a 2 year/$10mil deal, voiding his $8.5mil option as well. Freddy naturally refused. It just wouldn't make sense for him to accept that deal.

So there it is, Huntington has made Sanchez and Wilson the bad guys in this. The one thing he underestimated is how much the fan base loves these guys. He will still get ripped apart for dealing them. Trading them makes baseball sense, if they get good value in return. With their big numbers, I just don't see that happening. One thing Huntington said. I do agree with. Neither guy will get bigger deals in the off-season. Especially with the economy and the way some free agents had to take lower offers at the last minute this season, I see the same thing happening next season.

If the Bucs elect to deal them and don't upgrade both positions, it could look bad next season. There isn't much in the free agent market. The second base class is led by Felipe Lopez, Orlando Hudson and Placido Polanco. At short, Khalile Greene, Orlando Cabrerra, Miguel Tejada and Marco Scutaro would be available, but judging by the past, the Pirates won't be active in upgrading the positions through the open market.

So choose your sides. Both guys are likely headed out of Pittsburgh one way or another. My guess is Jack is dealt by the deadline and they hold onto Sanchez at the moment. Sanchez will be dealt eventually though, possibly in the off season. The only thing I will predict is that this situation could get very messy in the media for the next few weeks.

A look at Garrett Jones

If you got to watch all 14 innings of last nights Pirates game, I hope you walked away saying the same thing I did. "What a great ballgame." I love watching pitching and last night was a treat. Maholm is always good at PNC Park and Lincecum is tremendous. As many games as I see, Lincecum is probably the pitcher I've enjoyed watching the most the last four or five seasons. He is flat out has filthy stuff. Maholm, was up for the challenge, and matched him pitch for pitch. Had it not been for Freddy Sanchez's bonehead play, the Bucs probably win 1-0. No problem though, Garret Jones to the rescue.

Jones has been a life preserver to a Bucco lineup that was drowning slowly. He has homered in four straight games, with a total of five in that span; including his two solo shots yesterday, accounting for both Bucco runs. No Pirate has homered in 5 straight games since......Wait for it.......Jose Castillo. Yes, that Jose Castillo. many want to know where Jones came from and why he wasn't on the opening day roster.

Jones is filled with power, but never had the opportunity to play regularly in the big leagues. He was drafted by Atlanta in the 14th round in 1999. Injuries slowed him there and he was signed by the Twins in 2002. He has played over 1,000 games in the minors, homering 158 times. not exactly numbers that jump off the page. In addition, he was only a career .258 hitter in the minors. The thing that worked to his disadvantage the most was he was stuck behind Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer with the Twins.

Jones isn't exactly a prospect, being he already 28. However, there have been guys who didn't get the call until closer to 30 and have become good major leaguers. Most notably Casey Blake, now with the Dodgers, didn't make his major league debut until age 29. Closer to home, Pirates fans will remember Mike Easler didn't get called up til he was 28 or 29 and preformed well.

Given the opportunity, Bucco manager John Russell pushed hard to sign Jones this past winter. Jones used to preform very well against teams Russell managed in the minors. Jones responded by having an outstanding spring, opening many eyes. Problem being he was blocked by Adam Laroche and there wasn't much available playing time in the outfield, so the Bucs elected to keep Craig Monroe and send Jones to Indy.

Since his recall, Jones has wasted no time showing he belongs. In only 12 games, Jones has hit .315 with 7 Hr and 9rbis. He moves real well for a big guy, with 3 steals already and is above average defensively. Russell said he will be the everyday left fielder, while Young and Moss will continue to platoon in right. Jones shows patience at the plate and has shown the ability to hit lefties as well as righties. Four of his 7 homers have come off lefties. It's funny, no one seems to be bitching about the Nyjer Morgan trade now.

I expect Jones to keep producing. The true test will come when teams figure out how to pitch him and the scouting report gets out. We will see how Jones reacts when he goes through a slump. While he's doing well in left, I still he him as the first baseman of the immediate future. Once Laroche is dealt, I see no reason not to move him to first for a couple of years. If things work out, it's a real nice big bat to have in the middle of an order that has no power otherwise.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Down on the Farm- Bucco Minor League Report

First an update on the Miguel Angel Sano situation. The MLB investigation on Sano's age should be completed in the upcoming days. Sources close to the situation leave the Bucs and Orioles as likely landing places for the 16 year old super prospect. It's been reported that Sano has said he wants to sign with the Pirates, but his agent wants him to take the highest offer. We all know how that goes with this organization. It's time for the Bucs to open up the checkbook.

Indianapolis (AAA) (41-49)- Brian Bixler made a position switch, as he is seeing time in center field. Steve Pearce is the team leader with 12 homers. Once second baseman of the future Shelby Ford continues to struggle, hitting .167 with no power. He doesn't appear to be in the plans any longer

On the mound, Daniel McCutchen has 8 wins, but is allowing nearly a hit an inning. There are already too many pitchers like that in the organization. Brad Lincoln has an ERA in the 4's, and is 1-1. Guys who could get a late call up include Tom Gorzelanny, Chris Bootcheck and Steven Jackson- all throwing well at Indy. Ian Snell has thrown 20 innings and is 1-1 with a 0.45era. Snell has fanned 27 to only 3 walks. It makes me sick, but maybe he has figured things out.

Altoona (AA)(33-58)- Curve fans have to be pretty excited. Most of the Bucs future resides in Altoona at the moment. In 16 games with the Curve, Pedro Alvarez is hitting .230 with 4HR and 9RBI, also has K'd 27 times. Jose Tabata is starting to get healthy and has seen the average climb to .275, still waiting on the power at the moment. Second baseman Jim Negrych is hanging in well, but has seen the power drop off. He is hitting .270, but only 3 long balls. After a slump, Brian Friday has picked it back up. The average is only at .250, but has gone yard 6 times.

I've heard good reports on Gorkys Hernandez. I've heard the ball just jumps off his bat and has good gap to gap power. He is currently hitting .285. Jason Delaney is leading the Curve in RBI's with 40

On the hill, I hear Daniel Moskos has been throwing well. Before you ask, my source on that is drug free, because I thought the same thing. Moskos leads the Curve in innings pitched and his era is down to the low 4's, with a 6-7 record. However, almost 1 walk per strike out and well over a hit per inning Kyle Bloom has only 2 wins, but a very nice 3.30 era. Jared Hughes has been up for seven starts and, while only having a 1-4 record, he has posted a 1.89 era. One reliever has shown some promise at the moment and that has been Sean Smith.

West Virginia (A) (38-49)- This years first round pick, Tony Sanchez, has made an immediate impact, starting off hitting .408 with a homer in 12 RBI's in 10 professional games. he isn't the only one to get off to a good start with the power. Outfielder Starling Marte, who the Bucs are very high on, got promoted to West Virginia 15 games ago. He has hit .369, with a homer, 8 RBI and 7 steals in that time.

Last season draft pick Robbie Grossman is hitting .279 with 4 homers and 33 RBI. calvin Anderson and Quincy Lattimore are also performing well for the Power. First Baseman Anderson leads the team with 9 Hr and 52 RBI and Lattimore has 7 bombs and 49 RBI's.

On the hill, Rudy Owens has been the story all season. His 10-1 record and 1.87 era have opened up eyes. As is his 88 strikeouts to 13 walks. It's a wonder why he hasn't been bumped up, but the Bucs say they have a schedule for him and they are sticking to it. Brian Leech and Casey Erickson have also been dominant, and Kyle McPherson is coming along nicely as well.

Lynchburg (A) (51-36) Lastings Milledge homered twice yesterday and should be on his way to Indy, then hopefully to PNC Park. I have heard he has been a model citizen down there, excited about the fresh start. A couple names to keep an eye on are shortstops Chase d"Arnaud and Jordy Mercer. I hear they have opened up some eyes. On the mound, prospects Jeff Locke and Bryan Morris have struggled, both have battled injuries as well.

State College (A) (13-12) Not much to report here, but keep your eye on Evan Chambers, who has got off to a slow start.

GCL (A) (5-12)- Brooks Pounders has debuted here and is throwing the ball nicely. One note is that the two pitchers for India the Bucs signed, Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, have made their professional debuts. Patel has appeared in 2 games, pitching 2.2 innings without allowing a run and allowing only 1 hit. He has struck out 2 without a walk. Singh has pitched in 4 games and has picked up a win. He has allowed 4 runs in 3 innings of work, striking out 3 while walking 2.

Bucco Notebook- Halfway Report

Well as we get ready to resume the second half of the season, I have some thoughts on what to expect. The team has hit a low water mark at 12 games under .500. A record of 38-50 is even worse than last season at the same point. We expected this though, so no panic. Flat out , it looks like the team has given up.

We saw Nate Mclouth dealt. Are they a worse team without him? Absolutely not. They may not be better, but they are no worse. That trade opened up a spot for Andrew McCutchen in the lineup and added Charlie Morton to the rotation. I will take that.

We saw Nyjer Morgan traded. Are they worse off? Again, absolutely not. Garrett Jones now gets playing time and he has a big bat. They are worse off defensively, but I'm willing to take a gamble on Lastings Milledge. The team is not worse off talent wise at all.

The roster will continue to change, both by trades and call-ups for the remainder of the season. Let's take a look at what has happened and what to look forward to the rest of the season.

Catcher- Ryan Doumit gets hurt (AGAIN) and the Bucs do a fine job behind the plate. Jason Jaramillo and Robinson Diaz filled in admirably. Diaz hit .295 before he got sent down and JJ hit .255. He seemed to be getting worn down as he hit in the .280's for most of the season. The Bucs must decide on weather Doumit is going to be the player they want him to be, or even if he can be counted on to be healthy, or trade him and get something for him. My guess is he sticks around and preforms pretty well. First half grade for the position - C+

First base- Adam Laroche didn't get off to that horrible a start, but still has experienced several long rough patches. He is hitting only .250 with 12 HR's. Ignoring the numbers, he has become a tremendous defensive first baseman. With Mclouth gone and Doumit hurt, he has been counted on to carry the offense, something he is incapable of doing. His home and road numbers are insane. He is hitting .357 at PNC Park and only .159 on the road. Here is hoping Laroche gets hot, right on cue. He should be dealt, but with his 7.5 mil salary, don't expect the Bucs to get a big return. If anything, he should be dealt to move Jones to first base. First half position grade- C-.

Second Base- Freddy Sanchez has been performing like... well, Freddy Sanchez. The guy is a hitter. An ideal guy to bat in the 2 hole, but here, he is in a run producing spot. It looks like all the Freddy trade rumors have silenced. It's not that team don't want him, it's that they don't want that ridiculous $8.5 mil option that will kick in next season. Sanchez isn't exactly young, so dealing him makes sense, if they get a good return. If not, there is nothing wrong with having Freddy Sanchez open 2010 at second base. My guess is he gets dealt, but not until the off season. Position grade- B+

Third Base- Andy Laroche has been a surprise, especially after his struggles last season. he has been slumping of late and is down to .269, but I have liked the performance. His defense has improved tremendously as well. I would like to see him start showing some power and run production in the second half, as 4Hr and 34 RBI, just won't do it at a corner infield spot. Position Grade- C+

Shortstop- Jack Wilson has been his usual self in the field and has chipped in a little with the bat. It's his nightly web gems and his mouth that people will remember in the first half though. It's also that mouth that will likely get him shipped out of town. I am not a Jack Wilson fan, but if the Bucs can somehow get him and Freddy to renegotiate their deals and get them at a better number (I have heard this was an option), then I love the up the middle defense. If not, Wilson will be gone. Position Grade - C

Left Field- Nyjer Morgan was a first half surprise and Jones looks like he has a big bat. While Morgan was great defensively and no one else will be nearly as good, I still like Jones a lot. his 5HR in 11 games is double the amount of any other Bucco outfielder. I still see Jones playing first and getting a look at Milledge before the end of July. Position grade C+

Center field- The transition from Mclouth to McCutchen has been a smooth one. Cutch is definitely the guy this team is going to be built around. He is a superstar in the making. His .292 and 23 RBI out of the lead off spot has been fun to watch. In only 36 games, we can see what the hype was about. He is a perfect 7 for 7 swiping bags, something I'd like to see him do more. Position Grade B+

Right Field- I'm a little torn in right field. What a great acquisition Delwyn Young was. The guy can hit, as he stood at .313 going into the break. He is a liability defensively though. I really like Brandon Moss as a player, but have to start seeing production soon. This guy is so streaky. Two prolonged slumps, followed by two torrid streaks. He looks like a guy that will only play vs. righties now. Similar to Andy Laroche, I have to start seeing some power and run production. Only 3Hr and 23 RBI and the break for Moss. Only 6 Homers out of the right fielders isn't good. Position Grade- C

Starting Pitching- Paul Maholm has been ok, especially at home and Zach Duke has taken big strides to become his former self. It's the same old story with the Bucs though. Every time a pitcher takes a step forward, another one or two take a giant step back. Ian Snell was awful before his demotion. Ross Ohlendorf has been good at times, but he is your typical 4 starter. Jeff Karstens and Virgil Vasquez have been up and down as well. Morton was a nice acquisition, I love his stuff. When these guys have pitched well, the offense has tanked it for them. Especially Duke, who in his 8 losses, the team has scored a combined 7 runs.

The problem with the Pirates staff is that they just don't have that true power arm. They also are without a horse that is going to give the team a chance to win every time he takes the ball. I know the pitching has been better, but it's no where near where it needs to be. Expect to see Brad Lincoln in September and for Huntington to keep adding arms through deals. Position Grade- C

Middle Relief- These guys haven't been bad as a group. I like Chavez and Meek's arms, and the acquisition of Hanrahan was great to me. This guy has a cannon for an arm and should get it figured out under Kerrigan. Grabow has been iffy at times, but still gets the job done. I don't like having only one lefty, but that will probably change. Overall, not a bad first half for the middle guys. Position grade- C+

Closer- Matt Capps has not been good. The save numbers don't look bad, 19 of 21, but the way he is pitching just isn't very good. His fastball has been flat and he's not throwing strikes with his other pitches. The velocity is up and down as well. It's rumored teams have been interested and Huntington says he wants a power arm in a Capps deal. My guess is he stays and stays in the closers role, no matter how painful that may be. Position Grade- D-.

Overall, there have been some good things and some bad things. The good, is that some of the younger guys are getting a look and we are seeing a few surprises. The bad, this team has no power, can't win on the road and has an awful record in one run games. I hope Huntington sticks to the plan the rest of the season. I'm interested to see what the product will look like when he's done.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Freddy Sanchez Pack Your Bags

It appears, Pirates fans, that Freddy Sanchez has played his last game in a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform. The ever popular second baseman, who has been nursing a sore back has been the subject of plenty of trade rumors in the last couple of days. It appears the Colorado Rockies have taken the lead in the Sanchez sweepstakes, with the San Francisco Giants still in the mix. he has pretty much been removed from the team and is awaiting a final deal. Sanchez will definitely not be in the lineup during the Philadelphia series.

Sanchez's performance option will be reached this season by reaching 600 at bats, which will trigger his player option. The Bucs don't want to have to pay Sanchez the 8 plus million dollars he will be set to earn next season. If Colorado is the destination, I'm told the Bucs love Eric Young Jr. and so do I. this would make sense because the Bucs are thin up the middle throughout the organization.

Where ever the destination for Sanchez, Pirates GM Neil Huntington needs to cash in on this trade. Sanchez and reliever Matt Capps are the last two chips that can bring in a good return. Huntington can't miss with this deal. I am having a hard time figuring out why the Rocks would want Sanchez. Clint Barmes, the Rockies current second baseman has the same amount of extra base hits as Sanchez and is better defensively. One option could have the Rockies dealing Garrett Atkins for pitching and move Sanchez to third base.

This could also be an opportunity for the Bucs to package Ian Snell in a deal. After looking tremendous in two AAA starts, Snell may have a bit of trade value left and it would be a good opportunity to get rid of Snell's contract. The Rockies were one of the teams that had interest in Snell before his demotion.

With his third trade this month, Huntington assures himself to become the least popular person in the city of Pittsburgh, but it's a move the Pirates need to make to strengthen the organization.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Post All-Star Break Line Up Could Be Exciting

Now despite looking awful against Mike Hampton last night and dropping 12 of 18, I have been taking a look at the Pirates line up and it really could be fun to watch down the stretch. Now there is still no power yet, but the Bucs have a lot of young guys getting at bats. It won't amount to wins, but we will get a chance to see some of these young guys play. Entering today, the Bucs are the majors second youngest team, only behind the Marlins.

Manager John Russell said he is excited about the possibilities and I also have that opinion. Here is what to expect, pre-trade deadline.

Catcher- Ryan Doumit will be back very soon and that alone improves the line up. While he will never be a power hitter, he will bat fourth and hit for average and drive in some runs.

First base- Adam Laroche, at least until he is dealt. It's getting hot out so that means so is Adam. he should drop to fifth in the lineup. A little less pressure but his RBI total will start to pick up.

Second base- Freddy Sanchez, also until he is possibly dealt. I'd like to see him back in the 2 hole, but until someone steps up and can drive in runs in the 3 hole, he has to stay there. Either way, you know what you will get from Sanchez's bat.

Third base- Andy Laroche. Laroche will either hit second or more likely seventh in the order. Nice solid production from Andy. What I would like to see in the second half is a little more run production and possibly more power.

Shortstop- Jack Wilson- Wilson should mover back to the eighth spot and he hasn't had a terrible season with the bat. I have a feeling that there will be no takers on Wilson and his ridiculous contract, so expect him to bat eighth the rest of the season.

Left Field- Garrett Jones/Lastings Milledge- If these guys produce, they could eventually hit third and move Sanchez back up to the 2 hole. I'm excited about the possibilities these guys can give the team. I like what I've seen from Jones so far and I'd like to get a good look at Milledge and see what happens. I like this combo more than I liked Nyjer Morgan in left field.

Center field- Andrew McCuchen will continue to do great things leading off for this team.

Right Field- Brandon Moss/Delwynn Young. This combo has produced this season. While not hitting for power, both have done good things and I see no reason why that won't continue. as with the younger Laroche, I would like to see more run production out of Moss. One of these guys is likely to bat sixth in the order.


1 McCutchen
2. Sanchez
3. Jones/Milledge
4. Doumit
5. Adam Laroche
6. Moss/Young
7. Andy Laroche
8. Jack Wilson

I think this can be a decent line up for a few weeks. Like I said, short on power and maybe weak in the 3 hole but I feel it's an improvement from the opening day lineup. now we will see what the lineup will look like August 1, after 2 or 3 guys are dealt.

Bucco Notebook 7-6: Freddy and All-Star and More Trade Rumors

The Pirates lone representative in the 2009 MLB All-Star game will be second baseman Freddy Sanchez, marking the third time in the last four seasons that Sanchez has earned the honor. No real surprise here. Zach Duke pretty much pitched himself off the team his last two outings, so Sanchez was the only possible choice. Sanchez is hitting .316 and having a very solid season. He missed the Florida series with tightness in his back, but hopefully Sanchez will be fine to take part in the game.

Speaking of Sanchez, his name has popped up in a couple trade rumors as of late. Both the Minnesota Twins and San Francisco Giants have expressed interest in Sanchez in the last week. The Giants have also expressed interest in Adam Laroche, but Sanchez is their top priority. Other Pirates names that have been floated out there as the trade deadline approaches within weeks have been Jack Wilson, Matt Capps and John Grabow.

Neil Huntington needs to be smart if and when he ships Sanchez. Freddy is probably the biggest chip left on the team that can help improve this team and MUST bring back good youngsters. There is nothing behind Sanchez and Wilson, so middle infield depth is a priority, preferably someone who can start with the big club next season. Capps can be had, and Huntington wants a power arm in return. One thing is for sure, the Bucs will definitely be receiving calls on all 5 players in the next few weeks.

One thing I think the Bucs should do is be willing to eat portions of each guys salary. Most teams will take on the contracts, but won't pony up top prospects in return. If the Pirates are willing to eat half of Sanchez and Wilson's salary, the return will likely be greater. Now I'm not suggesting to be stupid and pay money for no reason (Matt Morris anyone), but it can be used as a bargaining chip to acquire better players.


-Garrett Jones has been fun to watch so far. Big time power and he has speed for a big guy. He has been up for four games and now is tied for the outfield lead in homers with 2.

- 10 out of 10 baseball experts agree that the Morgan, Burnett for Milledge and Hanrahan swap is a win for the Bucs. Selling high while buying low is a good formula for any GM.

-I love Joel Hanrahan's arm. Fastball anywhere for 94-98 with a nice slider. I'd like to see him rely on the fastball a little more and work the inner half of the plate, something Joe Kerrigan will be able to help him with.

-Any concern over Ross Ohlendorff's last outing? Fastball barely got to 90 and he had only 5 swings and misses the entire game vs. the Marlins. I hope it was just one start, because I like what Ohlendorff has given the team so far. He is a solid back end of the rotation guy.

-We still can't win on the road.

-Steve Pearce simply can't hit a breaking ball. He looks bad at the plate. it amazes me that this guy ever saw a fastball, even at AAA. I know a AAA breaking ball isn't a major league breaking ball, but his approach isn't very good.

-Ian Snell makes me sick. Another good outing at AAA Indy. Complete game shutout. I really feel he still has good stuff, maybe the best on the team. He has to find away of bringing it out at the big league level. I wanted to find out how many full counts he has had at Indy. I'm sure it wasn't 3-2 on every single batter, like we are used to. If anything, maybe this will help get his trade value back up.

- Tough decision for the Bucs as Donnie Veal must be activated by Wednesday. The guys with options left have all been pitching well. Meek, Chavez, Jackson and Karstens. Your guess is as good as mine, but I'm leaning towards Meek.

-With Doumit coming back soon, there has been talk of moving Robinson Diaz to a backup infielder role. I hope he catches the ball better in the field than he does behind the plate, but the bat is very nice still.

- Congrats to former Bucco Tim Wakefield for making his first all-star team at age 75. Maybe it's like 43 but you get the point. Very classy guy and has done the job forever. Wakefield is having a great season and it's good he was recognized.

- Bucs get Mike Hampton tonight and if they have proved anything this season, it's that they can't hit the vetern lefty. Hampton has dominated them twice and the last time out got 17 out of 18 outs on the ground.

-No update on the Sano situation. It looks as if it will come down to the Bucs or Orioles. Both clubs are waiting out the MLB investigation on Sano's true age, which is expected to be concluded sometime this week. The Bucs better get him.

-Last Note is that Charlie Morton was flat out nasty earning his first Bucco win Friday vs the Fish. Fastball was hitting 96 with that nasty curve. One hit allowed through 6. If he didn't have to sit 45 minutes through a rain delay he probably would have kept pitching.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Breaking down the Nyjer Morgan-Lastings Milledge Trade

Ok, here we go. I can hear you Pirate fans ripping the team again, but stop. This is really not a bad trade at all for the Bucs. In fact, it's another win for Neil Huntington and his staff. The particulars in the deal are Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett in exchange for Lastings Milledge and Joel Hanrahan.

First of all, Morgan really grew on me and they will miss his glove in left field. Reality is though he is a 29 year old outfielder with no power. He is also a guy who has never proven he can perform over an extended period of time He lacks fundamentals, especially on the base paths, where he could be the worst base runner in the game.

Had you told me before the season, we could get a five tool talent in Milledge and Hanrahan for Morgan, I would have laughed at you. To me, Burnett is the bigger loss. He had settled down in his role and really became a valuable lefty out of the pen.

Morgan, on the season was hitting .273 with 18steals in 28 attempts. Not a very good percentage, but he was great in the clubhouse. Burnett's ERA was sitting at 3.03 and in 32 innings of work had allowed only 37 base runners while fanning 27 batters.

While we mill miss Nyjer's smile and personality. Personality doesn't win titles, talent does. Is Milledge a head case? Yeah. Does he have an attitude? Yeah. Is he a gifted athlete with every tool in the book? Yeah. Is this trade a risk? Yes it is, but I think it's a risk the Pirates had to take.

Milledge, still considered one of the best young talents in the game, may just benefit from a fresh start. He knows he won't get too many more opportunities. He brings power and speed and a rocket for an arm. He didn't perform for the Nationals and was sent to AAA, but it's been so long since we have acquired this much raw talent in the organization. Too much talent is a great problem to have. Milledge could very well become a Milton Bradley kind of player, both on and off the field, but he realistically could become even better. Milledge is currently recovering from a thumb injury and should be up to the big club in about 10 days. He's just 24, and the Bucs hold his rights til 2013. Another positive is that if Milledge works out, there is no rush to get Tabata or Hernandez to the majors.

Hanrahan, has struggled in Washington, but I really like him. He pitched very well in the WBC. Manager Davey Johnson used him more than any other reliever in tough spots. Many feel the WBC hurt him this season as it has many pitchers. He has an inflated ERA, but his strikeout rate is up and his walk rate is down from last season. He has an explosive fastball and mixes in a slider and change as well. It never hurts to have power arms in the pen. He has closed for the Nats and could be insurance for Matt Capps if he has problems or is dealt. Like Milledge, the Bucs have Hanrahan's rights through 2013.

Many baseball experts agree and say its a win for the Bucs. If Milledge realizes his potential and cuts down the attitude, he has the talent to be a star and basically the Bucs get Hanrahan for free. I don't like the deal for the Nats but like it for the Bucs. It's the kind of trade the Pirates would have been on the other end of during the Littlefield regime. Finally the Bucs are selling high and getting talent in return, instead of just bodies.

It breaks down simply like this. The Pirates add two pieces to their future while giving up two guys that were not part of their plans. You have to like the risk and hope Milledge realizes his full potential.

This deal to me just isn't about the major league roster. By dealing Hinske, Morgan and Burnett, the Bucs were able to free up even more money for the international signing period, which begins Thursday. Now if they sign super prospect Miguel Angel Sano (they better) then everything makes sense. It looks as if the Bucs and Twins are the two main suitors for Sano, with the Orioles possibly sneaking in. This could be a long process though, so don't expect Sano to sign right away. This is a race the Bucs must win. Give the guy the money and make him a Pirate.

Jack Wilson spoke out against the trade and believe me if the Bucs had any alternative at short, he may be on his way out the door sooner than later. I really do feel bad for the current players, but their job is to perform and not try and play GM. As it is, I can see Wilson, Capps and Adam Laroche moving before the deadline. I have a feeling Grabow may stick around now, being the only lefty in the pen. I also don't see Freddy Sanchez being moved with so little middle infield depth in the organization. That's the next area Huntington needs to look at acquiring. I still target Brandon Wood as I wrote in a previous thread.

Back off of Huntington. Again it's a risk, but this trade could very well be a steal for the Bucs. Even if Milledge blows up and becomes a bust, the Pirates really didn't give up much to take a chance on the guy.