Friday, January 29, 2010

Top Prospects List

This last week, many of the baseball writers released their top prospect lists.  To read Jonathen Mayo's top 50 list for, click HERE.  Also you can check out Keith Law's Top 100 for ESPN by clicking HERE.

Naturally Pedro Alvarez was on both list. He ranked 7th on Mayo's and 35th on Law's.  Jose Tabata and Tony Sanchez also cracked he Top 100 on Law's list. Atlanta's Jason Heyward and Washington's Steven Strausberg were one and two on both list.

So what does all of that mean? Absolutely nothing.  Now some of you may be asking, with all of those trades, we only have three guys recognized?    Well that's three more than in recent times.  To look at the Pirates situation, one must look deeper. Out of the Pirates Top 30 prospect this season, 22 of them were either drafted or acquired the last two seasons.

For years, there have been guys ranked high on those list who became average or below average major leaguers and there have been guys not ranked who have turned into studs. It is good for the guys to be recognized, but in reality it doesn't mean much.  I'm very into reading it all and finding out things and looking at projections, but in the end, that's all they are-projections.

Looking at the Baseball America Organizational Rankings, the Bucs are up to 16th, a considerable jump up from the bottom of the barrell.  Looking at a couple less recognized sources, one even has the Bucs as high as sixth. Very few people pay more attention to minor league baseball than me and I can tell you that there are few can't misses and the rest is all guess work. hence the disparity on Alvarez's ranking.

One thing is for sure is that the depth in the organization is much better, but no where near complete. In the next couple of years, we will see more Buccos be recognized on these lists. Until then, strap yourself in for what looks to be another long season of Pirates baseball.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Figuring out the Opening Day Roster

So, spring training is right around the corner and not too many jobs are available.  Today I'm gonna look at the position players and with your help, we will decide wo makes the 2010 squad.

First off, I'm going to assume JR will carry 12 pitchers. Next, I'm going to assume Jeff Clement wins the first base job, something the Bucs are hoping as well.  In your scenerios though, assume whatever you want.

Here are the guys that should have the team made

Catchers- Doumit and Jaramillo
First Base- Clement
Second base- Iwamura
Third base- Laroche
Shortstop- Cedeno
Outfielders- Jones, McCutchen, Milledge, Church
Backup Infielders- Vazquez and Crosby

Assuming they keep 12 pitchers, they have a difficult decision ahead of them.  The final outfield spot.  It will come down to Brandon Moss, Delwyn Young and Rule 5 guy John Raynor.  Longshot candidates include Brandon Jones, Neil Walker and Steve Pearce.

So who gets the final job?  They could go with 11 pitchers but for a young team that will likely use the pen a good bit, that would likely be a bad idea, so we are still assuming only one roster spot is open, barring injury.

I say NH will work out a deal with the Malins to keep Raynor in the system, otherwise they either give him back, or Moss and Young are in trouble.  They love Raynors speed and ability to get on base, so I can't see them offering him back to the Marlins. NH did similar with the Rays in order to keep Evan Meek in the system.

I also would hate to see them give up on Moss so soon, but when there is talent behind you, the pressure is on to perform and Brandon Moss simply hasn't.  I would expect them to wait until closer to opening day, to make sure they are healthy and then deal Moss.

If all that happens, then my last roster spot goes to Delwyn Young.  I was happy with what Young showed last season. I also feel he was more effective as a pinch hitter and a spot starter than playing second base everyday.  Young is a valuable guy to have and he is can play a couple different positions and is a switch hitter, although he is much better from the left side.

Young earns the job in my mind and adds depth to the ballclub.  That's just my opinion though, let me know who makes your opening day roster.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Busy week for Bucs

A busy couple of weeks of moves for the Buccos.  The Bucs signed Ryan Church to a 1yr/1.5mil deal as a fourth outfielder.  I like the move.  Could be a good bench guy.  He is a good fit for the Pirates.  He hits left handed, something they desperately need.  He also plays solid defense and could play everyday if Jeff Clement doesn't work out at first base and they have to move Garrett Jones there.  He was often injured last season, splitting time between the Mets and Braves, combining to hit .273.  Church only hit four homers last season, but did hit 15 in 2007 with Washington.  Not a splashy type of signing, but teams need good bench guys also.

The Bucs also signed a couple relievers in D.J Carassco and Brenden Donnelly.  Carrasco is 32 and will earn a 950k base salary if he makes the squad.  He had a god year with the White Sox last season, posting a 3.76 era in 93.3 innings pitched.  Intresting that Carrasco and Brian Bass (who also signed a minor league deal with the Bucs) were 1&2 in the majors last season in innings pitched by relievers.

Donnelly was signed to a major league deal for 1yr/1.35mil.  He is a bit of a risk, coming off Tommy John surgery in 2007.  He saw his first big league action since 07 last year with the Marlins and was very effective, posting an era under 1.5 in slightly over 25 innings pitched.

The Bucs are also very close to signing Octavio Dotel.

The Pirates also cleared a spot for Donelly on the 40 man roster by dealing Brian Bixler to the Indians for ss Jesus Brito.  I don't know much about him but he is 22 and hit .353 combined between the Indians Rookie and Short Season teams.

I believe for Dotel to be signed, another spot on the 40 man must be cleared.  The likely guy in my mind to be released or dealt is Steve Pearce.

Again, not big named relievers, but the bullpen should be a bit more reliable this season.

One funny note is that with the signings of Donnelly, Carrasco and Chris Jakubauskas- that gives the Bucs three pitchers that used to pitch  in the Frontier League.  Probably three too many.

The Neil Huntington Era- Part IV

Now it's time for the final installment in my NH series. This should be fun, because it's all about everyone's favorite topic to criticize- the trades.

This is the part of the discussion that in the past, I have often been in favor of the job that NH & company have done.  Fact is, the system was in shambles.  Another fact is that the group including:  Bay, Wilson, Sanchez, Nady, etc. had several chances and they just weren't going to win together.

That led to NH saying "It's not like we were breaking up the '27 Yankees," and I totally agree.  This team needed an influx of young talent throughout the system and I think he has done a good job of trying to do exactly that.  When the average person doesn't see top studs coming over in the trades, well he didn't exactly have top end talent to deal. To see how little talent was in the system before NH got here and where it's at now, check out a piece I wrote in August about the prospects. You can click here to read that.

I was going to make a spreadsheet of all the trades, but I found one on MLBtraderumors today so click here to look at all the deals or you can go directly to  For the sake of this discussion, I will look at the major deals and let you discuss them.  Now it's way to early to say who won or lost certain deals, but you can take a shot at it if you want.

-NH made only one deal that calander year, trading away closer/setup man Soloman Torres to the Brewers for prospects Marino Salas and Kevin Roberts.  Evaluation: Torres closed for the Brewers for a year before hanging up the spikes.  Salas struggled in a brief big league appearance.  Neither guy the Pirates recieved is currently on their radar.

- Before the trading deadline, NH managed to add pieces to that season's team in many small deals.  He added bench strength and bullpen help by acquiring: Denny Bautista, Jason Michaels and Tyler Yates.  One real small deal not talked about is NH  re-acquiring Evan Meek from Tampa for cash, allowing them to send the Rule 5 pick Meek to the minors.  Meek looks like he should be a bullpen fixture for years to come.

Now the big deals
 - Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte to the Yankees for Ross Ohlendorf, Jose Tabata, Daniel McCutchen and Jeff Karstens.   Evaluation- How people keep complaining about this deal is mind boggling.  Definite win for the Bucs.  Ohlendorf is a solid middle of the rotation guy, Karstens is a valuable long guy, McCutchen was impressive in his September audition and Tabata is a star waiting to happen.

- Jay Bay for Andy Laroche, Brandon Moss, Craig Hansen and Bryan Morris.  Evaluation- I initally liked this deal, but after watching Bay as a Red Sox and seeing the big deal he signed, it would have been nice to get more in return.  I like Laroche. He has turned himself into a nice third baseman.  I also feel his bat will be fine. I hope he can play second though, because I don't like him enough to keep Pedro Alvarez in the minors for a long time.

As far as Moss and Hansen go, they have both been disapointing to say the least.  I was happy about getting Moss and when he gets hot, he goes on a tear for weeks, but it doesn't outweigh the prolonged slumps.  Hansen will likely never figure out his control and health issues.  Morris was the big part of the deal, but has struggled in the minors and was even suspended once for conduct.

While it doesn't look like a slam dunk for the Bucs, I don't hate this deal and haven't given up on it just yet. They added some pieces and if Morris figures it out, it will look better.  Fact is, Bay would have walked anyways. They did get 4 highly rated guys in the deal, sometimes it doesn't always pan out the way it looks on paper.  However, they did turn down a confirmed deal involving Cliff Lee, Kelly Shoppach and Franklyn Gutierrez.  Where would the rebuild be right now if they pulled the trigger on that one?

- Eric Krebbs and cash to the Dodgers for Delwyn Young.  Evaluation- While NH maybe hasn't made the huge improvement to the club through many deals, he has had some luck with some smaller ones.  Young has proven to be a good young addition.  Maybe not an everyday guy, but valuable off the bench.  NH all along has taken alot of stock in low risk/high reward type of players.  Young fit that bill and if he makes the team in 2010, should be a valuable extra piece. NH also made a small deal to acquire Jason Jaramillo for Ronny Paulino that worked out pretty well. JJ is a competant #2 catcher.

-Nate Mclouth for Gorkys Hernandez, Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke.  Evaluation- I still love this trade.  Great time to deal Nate, while his value was at his highest.  I see alot in Morton and Hernandez I'm very high on.  He will be in PNC Park sometime soon, if their is room in a crowded outfield.  If not, someone like Milledge could be moved to strengthen other areas of the club.  Locke has struggled somewhat, but scouts still like him.  I still say this was a steal for the Bucs.

-Sean Burnett and Nyjer Morgan for Joel Hanrahan and Lastings Milledge.  Evaluation- This one people still complain about but I like it.  NH was purely trading for upside.  I think Milledge takes advantage of the opportunity and has a big season.  I was always high on Hanrahan even with his struggles with the Nats.  He did very well in his brief end of the season stint in the Burgh. He has electric stuff and by the end of the season should wind up being the closer.  I just dont see the big deal for a losing team to deal guys like Nyjer and Burnett. Sure Nyjer was a fan favorite, but I'd much rather take a shot on a guy like Milledge.

-Adam Laroche for Hunter Strickland and Argenis Diaz.  Evaluation- The Bucs love Diaz's glove and are hoping he can hit a little bit (sounds familiar doesn't it).  Strickland showed some godd stuff, including a no-hitter after the trade.  This is a wait a couple years and evaluate the deal scenerio.  Although getting anything for Laroche could amount to a win for NH.

-Ian Snell and Jack Wilson for Jeff Clement, Ronny Cedeno, Nathan Adcock, Brett Lorin and Aaron Pribanic.  Again i like it.  Snell had to go and Wilson was becoming a locker room problem. NH picked up some of the money owed to the two to get better prospects.  Great move.  Clement is the key.  He has to win the first base job and has to hit for power, something the Bucs desperately need.  Not a huge drop off between Wilson and Cedeno defensively at short.  Getting three young power arms also is big.  If one or two of them, plus Clement developes then it's a great deal.  Remember, these deals were made to better the team in the future, not immediately.  Patience. (I know we have been patient for 17 years, but let's see this through)

-Freddy Sanchez for Tim Alderson. Love it.  I never drank the Sanchez Kool-Aid, like most.  Good ball player, but not a superstar.  Definitely not an $8mil per year type of guy. I'd rather have the good young arm in Alderson.  Brian Sabien was ripped to death in the SF media for dealing Alderson and only getting Sanchez in return.  This one should work out good in a couple of seasons.

-John Grabow and Tom Gorzelany for Kevin Hart, Jose Ascaino and Josh Harrison.  This deal I'm still 50-50 on.  Fact is Grabow wouldn't have resigned and Gorzo just was flat out not in the plans.  Hart has great stuff, but struggled with the Bucs.  He, like most of our young pitchers just has to realize that he has the ability to get people out without having to go full count on every hitter.  A full season with Kerrigan may be good for him.  We didn't get to see much of Ascaino, but he has a great arm.  I've heard good things about Harrison also, so this deal isn't a total loss for me just yet.

-Jessie Chavez for Akinori Iwamura.  At first I wasn't thrilled, especially since Chavez got flipped for an arm like Raafeal Soriano, but with all the power arms the Bucs had in the pen and the emergence of Evan Meek, somebody was expendable.  Aki isn't a bad player.  He will catch the ball and can handle the bat.  He should be fine batting in the 2 hole all season, if his left knee stays healthy all season.  This is really the only of NH's deals that didn't stick to the plan of bringing in good young players and good power arms.  After seeing the Delwynn Young experiment at second base not work out that well, they atleast should be pretty solid up the middle this season.

I still like what NH has done for the most part with most of the deals.  They had to be done.  The farm system was a joke and these guys had their shot together and they couldn't win.  NH said it best when he said "It's not like we broke up the '27 Yankees."  He didn't guarentee that the Bucs would win or even be competitive in the future- far from it.  He did; however, give us some hope for the future.  Now it's up to these guys to get to the big leagues and perform.

That wraps up my four part series on the Neil Huntington era so far.  I hope you enjoyed it.  It took alot of research to make sure I had every move.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Who's Gone and Who's New- Looking at the Offseason so far

Well as usual, not much to report as far as the Bucs offseason so far.  Any rumors aren't likely real anyway, so why bother with most of them.

Here is what has happened so far:

•Acquired/Re-signed: Justin Thomas, Akinori Iwamura, Chris Jakubauskas, Wilfredo Ledezma, Vinnie Chulk, Bobby Crosby, John Raynor, Javier Lopez , Jack Taschner, Brian Burress, Neal Cotts, Tyler Yates
•Lost: Luis Cruz, Chris Bootcheck, Jesse Chavez, Eric Hacker, Robinzon Diaz, Phil Dumatrait, Matt Capps
-Recently departed Matt Capps said recently that the difference between his new employer (Nats) and his old one, was that the Pirates ownership had no commitment to winning.  Good for you Matt and truer words have never been spoken.
- Everyone still hate the Jay Bay trade?  look at that contact he just signed and then honestly tell me he would have stayed.  next question is that is Bay really a $60 mil kinda player?

-Did you happen to see Adam laroche turned down a 2yr/$17mil offer from the Giants? Aparrantly he wants a 3yr/$30mil deal. Are you kidding me?  Don't worry though, some idiotic GM will give it to him.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Neil Huntington Era- Part III

The holidays are over and now it's time to continue my Neil Huntington analysis.  Today, we look at all of the signings that NH has made, since his arrival on the job in 2007. Now here is the section of the analysis, wit absolutely nothing to report; because just like his predecessor, NH has not made a big splash by signing anyone of value.  Most of this blame can be put squarley on the owner, but as the product on the field gets worse by the day, NH eventually has to step up and get the job done.

While he has made the farm system much better through trades and the draft, the big league product has suffered drastically and don't expect it to get any better in 2010. Now let's take a look at the studs that NH has inked to contracts.

2007- Kevin Thompson (waivers A's), Phil Dumatrait (waivers Reds), Josh Wilson (waivers Rays), Ty Taubenheim (waivers Blue Jays), Evan Meek (rule 5), and the ever popular Chris Gomez (1yr/$1mil)

2008- Raul Chavez (minor league), TJ Beam (minor league), Luis Rivas (ml), Doug Mienkiewicz(ml), Freddy Sanchez (2yr/$11mil extension), Donnie Veal (rule 5), Ramon Vazquez (2yr/$4mil), Ryan Doumit (3yr/$11.5mil extension), Garrett Jones (ml)

2009- Craig Monroe (ml), Virgil Vazquez (waivers SD), Eric Hinske (1yr/$1.5mil), Paul Maholm (3yr/$14.5mil extension), Nate Mclouth (3yr/$15.75mil extension), John Meloan (waivers Rays), Steven Jackson (waivers Yankees), Anthony Claggett (waivers Yankees), Justin Thomas (waivers Mariners), Chris Jakubauskas (waivers Mariners), Wil Ledezma (ml), Vinnie Chulk (ml), John Raynor (rule 5), Bobby Crosby (1yr/$1mil), Jack Taschner(ml), Javier Lopez (1yr/800k)

2010- Tyler Yates (ml), Brian Burress(ml), Neal Cotts (ml)

I think I got everyone

As you can see, the trend has been to work the waiver wire and the Rule 5 draft.  Every once in a while, you hit pay dirt with a guy like Jones.  Meek has turned out to be a decent arm, but other than that, the reality is the new regime has failed to land one major league caliber player to help the big league product.

Journeymen just don't help teams that are filled with holes.  Now I do realize that it could have been pointless to sign better players until your young talent is ready, but eventually, it is going to have to get done.  The question has always been- What quality player would want to play in Pittsburgh?  Well that's NH's job to get them to want to play here and so far nothing has been done to change things.