Sunday, June 27, 2010

What Should the Pirates do With Charlie Morton and Daniel McCutchen?

In what appears to be the year of the starting pitcher, the only team that seems to have missed out on the trend have been the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Entering today with a major league worst 5.38 team era, the Pirates have to do something with their starting staff, which has a combined era of 5.91, also a major league worst.

The current guys obviously aren't getting the job done, so what should they do between now and the July 31st trading deadline?  The two first steps are to deal both Zach Duke and Ryan Doumit.  Their value was higher last season, but now it's to the point that Neil Huntington has to get what he can for these guys.  They have had plenty of chances each, and simply haven't got the job done.

Step two is to acquire a veteran catcher.  Someone that is capable of working with a young pitching staff.  I want a good veteran defensive catcher who can handle a staff.  I could care less about his bat right now, especially with the way the offense has performed to date.  Having a good veteran catcher behind the plate could go a long way into developing some arms at this level.  Believe me, Doumit isn't that guy.  Take last night for example.  How many times did we have to see Daniel McCutchen throw fastball after fastball on the outer half of the plate.  You want to get crushed? Keep throwing 88-90mph fastballs to the middle and outer half.  It's not just McCutchen though, that's how the game is called on a daily basis.

Pirates pitchers refuse to work the inner half of the plate. The mentality has to change to be effective.  Since there is no way John Russell or Joe Kerrigan's job is in jeopardy, let's get a quality backstop and let them handle the young staff.  I don't care if Huntington has to overpay for one, but these young arms need a real catcher.

The next two pressing questions are what to do with Daniel McCutchen, and more importantly Charlie Morton.  First let's look at McCutchen.  Nothing he does really jumps off the page at me, but I feel he should get a longer look.  Your already 24 games under .500, so it won't hurt to let him pitch.  You have to see what you have and don't have in McCutchen. The kid has the ability to throw strikes and I hate to keep nagging on the veteran catcher thing, but it could help big time with guys like McCutchen, Morton and Brad Lincoln.

 How smart were the Washington Nationals when they signed Pudge Rodriguez?  Don't overlook how that signing will help their young arms in the long run.  They can send McCutchen back to AAA, but after the trading deadline, he should be a part of the rotation for the rest of the season.

Now for Morton.  The Pirates just don't need Morton to rebound.  He HAS to rebound.  First, read the Braves scouting report in 2007 on Morton by clicking HERE.  As you can see, they had the same questions about Morton that we currently have.  Weather he has it mentally or not to pitch effectively in the majors is one thing, but there is no questioning his stuff.  He can be nasty when he's effective, but he hasn't nearly been as effective as often as he should be as a Pirate.

If the Braves organization are left scratching their heads over Morton, then the Pirates won't have a clue.  Though reading the scouting report, you have to hold out hope for the very last line to come true- "The sky's the limit for Morton."  It's getting a little late to believe that, but Morton has to be a big part of what will be the future rotation. Again, a veteran catcher would help Morton a great deal.

Morton's  rehab assignment ends July 3rd, so the Pirates have to make a decision soon.  Morton's last start at Indy was his best as a pro, firing a 2-hit complete game shutout.  Charlie Morton can pitch at the major league level.  He showed what he could do at the end of last season.  The smart thing to do is to insert him right back in the rotation and give him the ball every fifth day. Let's just forget about the start of the season for Morton and let's just start over.  It's vital to the future that a guy like Morton figures it out.  Let's just hope the trip to the minors was a wake up call.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Top 10 Pirates Moves the Last 10 Years

I didn't feel like re writing this so I'm just posting the link for it on Bleacher Report.  Way to many pictures to fit on here.

Click Here to read it

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Why is Ryan Church getting so many starts?

What is John Russell's obsession with playing Ryan Church so much?  Please, someone tell me.  Church should be the fourth outfielder on this team and nothing more.  He should be a left handed bat coming off the bench and nothing more. He is on this team to be dealt at the deadline.  Somebody will look into acquiring an extra left handed bat off the bench.  Why then is he taking so many at bats away from Lastings Milledge?

Don't say it's because of the DH either.  Even Delwyn Young offers a better bat to use as the DH rather than Church.

When you are sitting at 25-46, play your best eight players please.  Russell shouldn't be worried about keeping guys like Church fresh. He offers very little to this team.  He doesn't hit, he's average defensively and overall he appears to be a lazy ballplayer.

The Pirates signed him, hoping he could produce similar to what he did in 2007, when he hit 15 homers and drove in 70 runs for the  Washington Nationals.  Instead they got the guy that has combined to hit only six homers and drive in 53 over the last two seasons. If you look over a three year span, he's only hit 18 bombs and driven in 102 combined.  I didn't mind the signing, but it didn't work out.  Can we please stop running him out there?

Church's numbers on the season aren't good.  He's hitting .186 with two homers and 13 RBI's in 129 at bats.  Yet, Russell continues to bat him in the middle of the order.  He is a rally killer.  Batting him, or Ryan Doumit fifth in the order is asking for quick innings when the top of the order is getting on base.

What does he do better than Milledge?  Not much.  Milledge may not be the best defensively, but he's going to bust his butt for you, which is more than I can say for Church.  Milledge may make some stupid base running mistakes, but at least he's being aggressive all the time, which is more than I can say for Church.  Keep running Milledge out there.  He should be the everyday right fielder until the club finds someone better.  That option doesn't exist on this current team.

Sure Milledge offers no power, but neither does Church.  Milledge is at least hitting a respectable .270 and has driven in 22 runs.  He offers the team a much better bat with men on base as well, hitting to a .392 clip with RISP, while Church is hitting a whopping .161 in similar situations.  How does that go ignored?

Do I feel like Milledge is the answer to all of the problems?  No, of course not, but he is the best option at the moment. Now, Russell doesn't have great talent at the moment, but his sole job is to put his guys in the best position to succeed.  He is simply not doing that.  When your 21 games under .500, stop picking the lineup out of a hat and run you best eight guys out there everyday.  There is no reason to see Ryan Church getting three or four starts a week, while Milledge is losing playing time.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What to do with Ross Ohlendorf and the Other Pirates Starters

Another Pirates game, another Pirates loss and another up and down outing from a Pirates starting pitcher.  Last night it was a typical Pirates start.  A few very good innings and then one thing goes wrong and the starter goes down hill both mentally and physically.

Ross Ohlendorf last night cruised through three innings. Yet,  the second time through the order struggled big time once again.  The problem always seems to be that the opposing hitters adjust the second time through, but the Pirates pitchers aren't capable of making adjustments as well.  If you want to throw some of the blame at Ryan Doumit as well, I'm fine with that;  but take Brad Lincoln out of the equation and these guys aren't rookies anymore.  They need to be better as a group.

What should the Pirates do?  Looking at all of the young guys they brought up.  For argument's sake, let's just say that by next season things start coming together and they have an above average offense that can score at or above the league average.  If that happens, well they still have no starting pitching.  I don't care what league you are playing in, you have to have good starting pitching to compete.

Let's take a look at the current crop of arms.

1. Zach Duke (3-8, 5.49era)-  The gutless wonder as I like to call him.  Duke may be a fifth starter on an average team.  It amazes me how he is aggressive in the zone until he gets two strikes on hitters.  I felt they should have dealt Duke last season when his value was at it's highest. It will now never be higher.  Duke simply doesn't have the ability to get consistent outs on a consistent basis.  He may throw you a gem every two months, but that's what fifth starters do for you.  Top of the rotation guys are supposed to take the ball every fifth day and give you a chance to win.  Duke isn't in that class of pitcher.  He will always be more than a hit an inning type of guy.

2. Paul Maholm (4-5, 3.77)- Maholm is hands down the team's best pitcher.  He battles and gives the team an opportunity to win most night's out.  That's all I can really ask for.  He doesn't give into hitters the way Duke does.  He doesn't have the greatest stuff, but will challenge hitters all game long.  Maholm is a three or four starter but he is a keeper.

3. Ross Ohlendorf (0-6, 5.43)-  Ohlendorf is similar to Charlie Morton, to the point I can't figure either out.  Ohlendorf has had some bad luck, but like Morton, seems to suffer mentally when things start to break down.  I'm concerned about his dip in velocity. He still may be having some back issues as well.   I don't think Ohlendorf is as good as his numbers from a year ago, but I don't think he's as bad as his current numbers.  In a perfect situation, Ohlendorf is a good back of the rotation guy.

4. Brad Lincoln (0-1, 6.50)- I'm not concerned with Lincoln at all.  He's pitching like most rookies pitch-up and down.  He has glimpses of looking dominant and at other times, well he looks like a rookie.  Rookie pitchers in the majors aren't supposed to look like Stephen Strasburg, They tend to fare more like Lincoln. He's got great movement on his pitches.  I would like to see him utilize his changeup more, especially to left hand hitters.  Overall, Lincoln should be fine.  It's three starts.  I don't think he will eventually be a one or two type starter, but instead; will be a solid middle of the rotation guy.

5. Jeff Karstens (2-2, 4.72)- Say what you want about Karstens, but Karstens flat out does his job.  He doesn't necessarily have major league stuff, but what Karstens does is compete.  Karstens hangs around just long enough to give the team a chance to win most night's.  He's not pretty and definitely not overpowering, but he is gutsy.  Team's often need a guy like Karstens.  I have no problem giving him the ball.

Overall, you look at the current crop of starters and basically, we have a pair of number three's (Lincoln and Maholm) and really three guys who wouldn't be in most rotations around baseball.

Facts are the Pirates need pitching as much as talented position players such as Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata.  The next wave of arms to come through are all performing well at Altoona.  That list includes Rudy Owens, Bryan Morris, Tim Alderson (although his drop in velocity concerns me as well), Jared Hughes and Justin Wilson.  Also keep an eye on Nathan Adcock and Jeff Locke, currently performing well at Bradenton.

Add to that a draft class that includes power arms Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie (who the team MUST sign both), the future staff has some promise, but that's still probably two years away.

You can root for Alvarez and for the Pirates to promote Tony Sanchez all you want, but any success for the Pirates in the future depend solely on the arms in the organization.  Hopefully, a few can get to the big club within the next season or so, because the current crop of arms just won't get the job done.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Pirates Extend Huntington and Russell- Pirates drop the ball twice in one week

The Pirates announced yesterday that they have agreed to contract extensions with both General Manager Neil Huntington and Manager John Russell.  The deals were actually agreed upon before the season began and only now announced, due to speculation on the job status of both men.

The Pirates dropped the ball on this the same way they dropped it on the Pedro Alvarez promotion. As I've noted here before, the Pirates should have taken advantage of Alvarez's arrival to fill the ballpark the last two days, but no, not the Pirates.  They prefer to play to a half empty ballpark and then afterwards complain about the attendance.  They should have taken note from the way the Nationals handled Stephen Strasburg's arrival and should have been able to generate extra revenue from it.

Now, onto today's issue.  First, Huntington.  I don't have a problem with this one bit.  In my opinion, he's done an above average job of bringing in talent to the organization.  he should be able to see this through for the next couple of seasons.  It's not his fault that Dave Littlefield left the cupboard bare for him.  Look at the entire organization now and before Huntington arrived.  The Pirates as a whole are in much better shape now.  Having said that, within the next calender year, the results are going to have to start coming.

As for Russell, here is where the Pirates dropped the ball.  They should have announced his extension when it happened.  Why hide it?  Are they that much concerned with the public backlash by extending Russell?  All of the deception actually makes me wonder if indeed he did receive an extension, but for now I will take it at face value.

Again, a case of the Pirates front office dropping the ball.  They come out of this once again looking like an incompetent organization.  Why extend him in the first place though?  I buy into the thought of not wanting a lame duck manager, but that's why you announce it before the season.

Only the Pirates front office would extend Russell in the midst of an 11-game losing streak.  The timing is even more peculiar than actually giving him the extension.  Now that the rumors have heated up concerning Russell's job status, giving him an extension in the middle of the season definitely means he isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

You don't want these young players playing for him.  I still say make the move now and really go after a Phil garner or Willie Randolph.  I'd even settle for Eric Wedge or Jose Oquendo who were rumored.  Either way, the team will not improve and become competitive under Russell and the Pirates once again dropped the ball, looking foolish in the process.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pedro-Palooza begins

Let the fun begin.  The best and most hyped Pirates prospect since none other than Barry Lamar Bonds finally got the call the the show last night. He advanced through the Pirates system in a little over a year.  It's center stage for Pedro Alvarez as he should be in the lineup tonight, likely batting fourth or fifth, playing third base.

While I'm very excited to see Pedro up here, the Pirates dropped the ball on him big time.  So a little over a week ago, Pedro was deemed not ready when Jose Tabata and Brad Lincoln were promoted.  Neil Huntington said "We will bring Pedro up when we feel he is ready."

So what happened in a week?  Two days ago, NH reiterated that Alvarez "wasn't ready" and suddenly he gets the call he should have gotten a while ago. He didn't just magically become "ready" in the span of a week.
I personally agreed with Huntington though.  What's the rush?  The Pirates aren't competing this season, so to promote the guy, they had to be sure.  He has improved hitting lefties and will strike out a lot at the major league level, but I could care less about that.  Power hitters are supposed to strike out.  I want to see runs being driven in.  He's obviously ready, so why all of the smoke screens?

If the Pirates were smart, they would have announced days in advance that Alvarez was coming up tonight.  Look at how the Nationals handled Stephen Strasburg.  They generated a buzz and filled the ballpark.  All we hear about from the Nutting's is them whining about attendance.  Well, they had the perfect opportunity to start to do something about it and quite frankly dropped the ball.

That's the difference between well run organizations and the way the Pirates are being run.

Alvarez will sell tickets, but the Pirates could do a better job as well.  What should we expect?  i would expect the Pirates to start scoring around the league average, which is about 4.5 runs per game for the rest of the season.  they are currently well below that mark.

Haven't seen Alvarez swing the bat yet?  Well this is what you should expect.

I think it's fantastic that we finally have a guy get to the big leagues so quickly.  Trust me, many more are on the way.  While Pedro will do fine on his own, if the Pirates got behind him right, maybe some people wouldn't lose interest as soon as Steelers training camp starts.

One final note, to make room for Alvarez on the roster, the Pirates DFA'd Aki Iwamura.  that should make many of you happy.

I wish this were true

Found this courtesy of

9:31pm: ESPN's Buster Olney hears from sources that "there is absolutely nothing to the speculation" about Russell being fired (via Twitter). Rosenthal also tweets that Pirates president Frank Coonelly has denied that discussions about Russell's future have taken place.

8:58pm: With Pedro Alvarez on the verge of making his debut in the black-and-gold, the young prospect might never get to play for current Pirates manager John Russell. Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of report that the team is "holding internal discussions" about Russell's fate, though it isn't apparent if the manager might be fired soon or possibly until after the season.

Russell "has drawn criticism within the industry for his stiff, impassive demeanor," according to Rosenthal/Morosi. With the likes of Alvarez, Brad Lincoln and Jose Tabata either on the major league roster or nearing it, Pittsburgh management might want a new face in the dugout to signify this fresh start for the organization.

Russell has a 152-234 record since being hired as the Pirates' manager before the 2008 season, though given Pittsburgh's roster, it's hard to attribute their lack of success to Russell's managerial skills. Rosenthal/Morosi say that the Bucs will look inside the organization for an interim manager to finish out the season, and note that former Indians manager Eric Wedge and Cardinals bench coach Jose Oquendo are long-term candidates to take over the job.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Around the Diamond- Part 8- Right Field

Final position to analyze before the pitchers.  My team would look like this.
C- Anybody but Doumit
1B- Garrett Jones
2B- Neil Walker
3B- Pedro Alvarez
SS- Ronny Cedeno
LF- Jose Tabata
CF- Andrew Mccutchen

Suddenly, the Pirates would start to have a decent lineup, assuming JR wouldn't switch the lineup everyday.  With what the Pirates have right now, my everyday right fielder would be none other than Lastings Milledge.

This won't be popular among many, but I really have no problem with Milledge.  As a matter of fact I love the way he goes about playing the game.  He's committed himself to being a team guy and that wasn't the case the New York or Washington.

He hustles all of the time.  I like his energy.  Does he make mistakes?  Far too many, but he's still the best option to play everyday.  There are some very talented outfielders throughout the organization, but for the time being, the team should be committed to Milledge because he is committed to them.

His numbers aren't good. .255/0Hr/17RBi's.  However, I suggest once all of these pieces are in place; batting him sixth or seventh on a regular basis. His numbers with runners in scoring position are outstanding.  His .364 average with RISP shouldn't be ignored. As a matter of fact, he's pprobably the one guy on the team I would want up with the game on the line.

It's very odd how much his approach changes with nobody on.  He simply tries to do too much. A good hitting coach should be able to work on this.  First we need to get a good hitting coach.  I'm not too concerned about the power not being there.  He doesn't seem like that type of hitter, though I can see him as a 15 homer guy.

He may be the worst base runner in the big leagues, but again; good coaching can correct that.  His mistakes aren't necessarily mental, but they are hustle mistakes.  Stupid plays, yes. At least he is aggressive, which is more than I can say for most of the team.

Defensively, Milledge has come a long way.  he still has work to do and can take a curious route to a ball every now and then, but Milledge gives you 100% for all nine innings.  I think it would be a mistake to replace him so soon.

What are the options though?  Ryan Church and his .186 batting average?  He's driven in exactly 7 runs since opening day.  maybe give Delwyn young a few more at bats, but in the end, it would be a mistake to take the job away from Milledge at this point.

This is Funny

This is kind of intresting. looking back on the old stuff. Thanks to Bill Gorby for sending me this

Monday, June 14, 2010

Why the revolving Lineups?

Before I get into this, I read a couple different draft experts ranking the draft.  Two had the Pirates as the best draft, one had them ranked second and the other fourth.  That's a real good sign that things are turning in the right direction, providing they sign their picks. One said, "How can you not like what the Pirates have done?  They get the top two arms in the draft."  I like to hear praise like that.

Now onto today's issue.  Is anyone besides me tired of seeing a different lineup every game?  Let the talent play.  That's why they are starters.  I'm all for giving a guy a day off every now and then, but how can John Russell expect his regulars to hit with any type of consistency when they aren't playing consistently?  You don't need to keep your bench guys real fresh when they don't produce

It often appears that JR is picking his lineup out of a hat.  Guys like Crosby and Aki don't need regular AB's.  The other thing that drives me crazy is that every time someone seems to be going good for a couple days, he finds himself on the bench.

Clement started swinging the bat good, hitting the ball hard and suddenly he didn't play for four days.  Delwyn Young goes 2-4 with a homer and double then doesn't play.  This has happened all season.  I'm surprised he has the sense to keep writing Cutch's name in there everyday.  This is not the way to handle young players, especially when the team isn't going anywhere.

Suddenly, the conspiracy theorists are out.  Now we hear that Neil Huntington is telling JR who to play everyday.  I can't believe this is happening, or the Pirates are in much worse shape than even I thought.  I don't think either guy looks at scouting reports or anything.  I truly believe JR is just guessing everyday and hoping he gets lucky with the right eight guys.

Also I've heard Huntington is sabotaging the team.  For what?  To cost himself his job?  While I've been very happy with the guys he's brought in via trade the guys he brought in via free agency haven't been so good.  To his defense, he wasn't going after good free agents, he was going after cheap bodies to fill spots.  he was hoping to get lucky with a guy or two the same way he did with Garrett Jones.  Now isn't the time anyways to load up with free agents.  It is the time though to see exactly what you have with some of these guys and you can't do that by not playing them.

It's a little to late to be tanking it.  Don't give them that much credit.  If they were that smart, we would have David Price, Steven Strasburg and Bryce Harper as well.  The fact is that they are trying to win.  It's taking some time, but I'm still liking what I see down on the farm.

Russell has tried everything from batting the pitcher 8th to moving Cutch all around the order.  I really believe JR is out of options and just flipping the coin on guys.

To JR's defense (and that will be the only time those words will EVER come out of my mouth), his third baseman has 12 RBI's in the middle of June and his current right fielder having 17.  His five bench guys have a total of 46 so it doesn't get much better.

Right now this lineup stinks after the first 4 hitters.  However, he has to keep playing Laroche and Milledge.  Sitting them down every other game doesn't help one bit.

While it's true JR doesn't have the talent right now and maybe he should get the chance to see this rebuild through, I'm still not convinced he's the man for the job.  Pull the trigger on his job and bring in a more established manager like a Willie Randolph or a Phil Garner. This just is flat out not working.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Pirates should look into Jake Fox

The Oakland A's today designated Jake Fox for assignment. The Pirates should make a movie at trying to acquire the 27-year old.

Fox is struggling with the bat in Oakland, but he showed last season with the Cubs that he can swing the stick.  After tearing through the minor leagues last season, Fox got the call up from the Cubs and hit .260 but showed some power- hitting 11hr/44rbi in just 216 at bats.

Fox is versatile.  He can play first, third and both corner outfield spots.  What makes him valuable though is that this season, he proved he can catch as well. 

The A's are hoping to sneak him through waivers, but the Pirates should put in a claim on Fox and work out a deal.  he can offer some pop from the right side of the plate and they should work him in behind the plate.  He can't perform any worse than Ryan Doumit has this season.

Around the Diamond- Part 7 -Center Field

First, if you missed another disappointing loss, take a listen to my post-game recap by clicking HERE.

We are on to center field in my look around the diamond and truthfully, there isn't really much to discuss here.  Andrew McCutchen is and will be the center fielder for the Pirates for years to come.  I don't want to hear any of your uneducated "until he gets traded to the Yankees," comments.  The Pirates will make a statement in the next year or so by locking up Cutch to a lengthy extension.

Cutch has now been in the big leagues for a full calender year with good numbers that will just go up.  In his first go around in the bigs, Cutch has a .292avg, 19Hr/36Sb, with a majority of that run production coming from the lead off spot.  Now that he is batting third, he should get even more opportunities to drive in runs.  I want to see Cutch use all of his tools as much as possible.  Use that speed as an advantage.

Offensively, the guy is a doubles and triples machine and the average should be around .310-.320.  I don't need many homers out of him, but need that stolen base number to consistently exceed 50 and drive in around 80 runs if he's batting third all season.  As Jose Tabata and Neil Walker continue to get on base, the RBI numbers should go up, providing Cutch has a bat protecting him in the clean up spot.

Defensively the guy can cover ground and make plays.  He has a above average arm, but likes to show it off a bit too much for me. The throw doesn't have to come home every time.  Other than that i have absolutely nothing to criticize this kid about.

Cutch is the face of the franchise and it's deserving, considering he is the most talented player this team has seen since Barry Bonds.  He is a flat out stud.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Looking back at the Matt Capps Situation

After the Washington Nationals just swept the Buccos with former Pirate Matt Capps getting saves in the first two games of the series; it's a perfect time to look back at the Matt Capps situation last off season.

Did Neil Huntington make the right move regarding Capps?  As much as I usually have NH's back on his moves, he dropped the ball regarding Capps.  Would this team be better with Capps as the closer? No. Should Capps be a member of this bullpen? Not at all.  The bullpen has done a fine job.  However, there is absolutely no way Capps should have been released.  They could have gotten something for him last season or even during the off season.  It's just a simple case of the Pirates over valuing their players as usual.

Let's take a look at both Capps and Octavio Dotel's season up to date.  Capps is 0-3 with a 3.38 era and 20 saves while Dotel is 0-2 with a much higher 5.40 era and 12 saves.  Naturally, Capps is doing a better job, Right?  Not really.

Capps got off to a tremendous April, saving 12 games, sporting a 0.68 era.  On the other hand, Dotel wasn't very good in the season's first month, notching only 3 saves with a 10.61era.  Since that time though, Dotel has been much better.  He has notched 9 saves with a 0.82 era in May and June, while Capps has been more Capps-like.  The former Pirate has 8 saves in the last month and a half,  but an era of 6.12.

Given the choice of the two. I'd still go with Dotel.  Most of the reason his numbers look bad is due to having to pitch in a bunch of Pirates April blow outs where he didn't pitch well.  On the other hand, much of Capps early success is due to being able to pitch in save situations on a regular basis.   Closers can't be run out every fifth day like a starter would and pitch effectively.  Good closers need to pitch three or four times a week.  Obviously that won't be the case in Pittsburgh.  Capps performance of late, along with the call up of rookie Drew Storen; already have Nats fans wondering how long the team will stick with Capps as it's closer.

NH should have been more aggressive when dealing with Capps.  He had value and should have been moved at the deadline last season.  This season, I expect only two or three deadline deals, with most of the Pirates young future already starting to arrive.  With the emergence of Evan Meek along with Joel Hanrahan, they should be able to handle the ninth inning just fine.

Dotel should have value to contending teams at the deadline. Let's hope NH doesn't drop the ball with him as he did with Matt Capps.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Around the Diamond- Part 6 - Left Field

Having to do both Pirates and Wild things games, I've fallen a bit behind on the Around the Diamond series, but will wrap it up this weekend.

So far I would like to see
C- Anyone other than Doumit
1B- Garrett Jones
2B- Neil Walker
3B- Pedro Alvarez
SS- Ronny Cedeno

The promotion of Walker helped some things fall into place and now the promotion of Jose Tabata has helped even more.  My original post on this topic was to promote Tabata and move Lastings Milledge to right.  Now that I don't have to write about that, let's look at what Tabata brings to the table.

Offensively, the top of the order should perform.  One through three, Tabata, Walker and Andrew McCutchen should be on base a ton.  Now they just need to find someone to drive them in.  That could happen when Alvarez comes up.  The lineup just gets deeper and tougher to pitch to if Jones is batting 5th, Milledge 6th and Doumit 6th.  Until then, there are still holes in spots where guys need to drive in runs.

I'd like to see the rest of the way, how John Russell plays things.  I would love to see him utilize the speed of Tabata, Walker and Cutch and be very aggressive on the bases.  It will turn into more runs in the long haul.  I'm not overly concerned about running out of an inning here and there.  Knowing JR though, they will likely be even more passive then they have been in the past.

Tabata's presence should make the Pirates a better defensive team as well.  We may actually see a Pirates left fielder get to a ball hit down the line.  I'm sure bench coach Gary Varsho won't adjust to Tabata's speed so I'm sure he won't play too much of a traditional left field, so don't hold your breath.

Either way, as the youngsters start to emerge, the team is slowly getting better.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Tabata and Lincoln to Debut

The Pirates have made strides to showing off the future of the franchise.  It looks to be a third consecutive good draft, assuming the clubs signs top picks Jameson Taillon and Stetson Aliie.

Tonight is another step towards the future as the team unveils top prospects Brad Lincoln and Jose Tabata to make their debuts tonight against the Nationals.

They won't be met with the national media flare that Stephen Strasburg did last night, but they are just as important to the teams future as Strasburg is to the Nats.

Lincoln will get the start and Tabata will likely play left and bat either first or second.  It's been so many years since the team has had "REAL" prospects.  So this is a time to get excited and see what these young guys, as well as the talented youngsters to follow can do.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Pirates Select Hard Throwing Taillon With Second Overall Pick

Well the Pirates made their pick and have made me very happy, selecting the 6'7 flame throwing, Texas right hander Jameson Taillon.  Taillon was viewed as one of three can't miss guys that also included Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

Naturally Harper went first overall to the Nats and after the Bucs selected Taillon, Machado went third to the Orioles.  I would have been happy with either Taillon or Machado, but I was a little more excited to get Taillon.

As much as I liked Machado, ultimately he is viewed as a third baseman instead of a shortstop.  Unless the Pirates were committed to moving Pedro Alvarez to first base, then the pick didn't make much sense.

With Taillon, we get a guy viewed as a top of the rotation guy with a great make up and excellent stuff.  He has three plus pitches- fastball, curveball and slider.  he is also throwing a change up some now and scouts have said that is coming along very well.  It's the kid's make up though which have had scouts in awe. The guy is tough as nails and is the ultimate competitor.

Give the Pirates credit.  For a team that was running JVB, Brian Bullington, and other stiffs out to the mound just three years ago, they know have some good pitching talent in the system.  In 2-3 seasons, we could see a young rotation of Tailon, Brad Lincoln, Bryan Morris, Tim Alderson and Rudy Owens.  Things are looking much better for the future of the Pirates.

Now all we gotta do is sign the kid.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Around the Diamond- Part 5- Shortstop

We've been taking a tour around the diamond and today we are at short and Ronny Cedeno.  Cedeno isn't ever going to be a big star, but I'm happy with him at the moment.

He's an upgrade over Jack Wilson, which really isn't saying much, but Cedeno does his job.  Defensively, he is good and he offers a little bit with the bat.  he is currently hitting only .240/4/14.  I'm fine with that though.

He grinds out good at  bats and is consistent in the field.  He doesn't cost you anything by being the everyday shortstop.  The reason I like him is that he is a good 2-3 year stop gap at the position.

Cedeno is a solid pro and should remain the everyday guy for the next year or so.  By then, Chase D'Arnaud should be ready.  D'Arnaud got off to a slow start this season at Altoona, but many consider him to be the best athlete in the organization.  He has raise his average to .225 and his game is gap hitting and speed and he brings that everyday.

The future is D'Arnaud's, but he's about two years away.  Unless the Pirates are smart and draft Manny Machado, then Machado could be the future ss of the Pirates.  Either way, Cedeno is the guy for the next couple of seasons and there is nothing wrong with that.  Shortstop has become the first position that I don't feel the Pirates need to change in the immediate future.

Looking Ahead to the Draft- What Will The Pirates do at #2

By 7:15 tomorrow evening, we will know who will be the next big piece of the Pirates rebuild.  With Bryce Harper surely to go to the Nats, the Pirates likely will choose between high school ss Manny Machado (featured yesterday) and high school right hander Jameson Tallion (pictured to the left).

Most scouts agree that after the top three prospects (Harper, Machado and Tallion) that there is no real difference from prospects number four to 44.  Therefore, despite the cost and the presence of Scott Boras, it is vital the Pirates take one of the two and lock up a deal.

The Pirates have had the number two pick on two previous occasions- selecting OF Mark Merchant in 1987 and 3B Pedro Alvarez in 2008.  Merchant was one of only two players picked second overall that never reached the majors.  With so many of the Pirates youngsters on the verge of the majors in the next 2-3 seasons, it is vital they continue things and have another good draft.  We can't have another Chad Hermansen, Bryan Bullington, Daniel Moskos, Bobby Bradley, Sean Burnett or JVB (I could go on with this list all day long).  NH needs to go for impact.  We need a stud with this pick.

I looked at Machado yesterday, so today let's take a look at Tallion.  First the scouting report

Jameson Taillon
The Woodlands HS (Texas)

Ht/Wt: 6-7/230
B/T: R/R
Year: Senior
Age at Draft: 18y7m

Filed By: Nick James

Filed On: August 18, 2009

Last Updated: April 30, 2010

Aflac All-American Game, August 16, 2009 (film)

Under Armour All-America Game, August 8, 2009 (in attendance)

Perfect Game National Showcase, June 11-14, 2009 (film)

Perfect Game World Showcase, January 3-4, 2009 (film)

Close to maxed-out, but already big league body. Sturdy, workhorse build. Good athleticism and well above-average body control. Moves well and shows excellent awareness of his actions.

Taillon has a simple side step into his motion with little movement in his upper-body. He has an exaggerated closed leg kick (closed all the way to the LF side of the 3B bag), adding some deception and making it difficult for the hitter to pick-up the ball out of his low hand break. He moves to a drop-and-drive approach to the plate as he begins to rotate his body back towards home. Explosive in his stride, he has a sizeable step, giving his arm plenty of time to get into the cocked position as he plants. He gets good hip/shoulder separation, creating good rotation through his core and helping to generate his plus velocity. He drives directly towards home consistently, fully utilizing all the momentum he builds-up through his kick and stride. His arm comes from a 3/4 slot and is easy, coming across his body. His follow-through could be cleaned-up some, falling off towards first (though he's generally under control). Most impressive is his body control and the repeatability of his mechanics -- a rarity in a high schooler with such a big body. One other "knock" is that Taillon can get a little stiff (some would call it herky-jerky) in his actions, but he repeats well and there aren't big flags on the arm action outside of flashing the ball some (which can be cleaned-up).


Fastball - Generally sitting 93-95 mph with good life, touching 96 (reports have him as high as 98 mph this spring). Taillon can pound the zone with his fastball and it's good enough to simply throw by hitters at this point. He'll need to improve his command in the zone, but it's already a plus pitch that could be plus-plus down the line.
Curveball - Taillon's curve is an impressive power breaking ball with 2-plane action and plus late bite. Already excellent depth, the pitch could be a plus to plus-plus offering as he improves his feel and command. Potential strikeout pitch as both swing-and-miss and in the zone. Through the summer/fall, he sat 77-81 mph with the pitch, which is what I've seen from reports this spring, as well.

Slider - Taillon's wipeout slider has good tilt and comes out of the same slot as his fastball. Low- to mid-80s on the gun (82-84 mph) and could be another swing-and-miss offering at the pro level. Doesn't command pitch yet.
Change-up - Not needed much at this point, but shows feel for the pitch. Good arm speed. Could be yet another average to above-average offering depending on the work put in. Good velo separation from fastball (around 10 mph), but can throw too hard.

Nick's Notes:

Taillon has been nothing short of incredible each time I've seen him (on film and in person), and I do not pass that compliment out lightly. As mentioned above, his body control really stands out for such a big-body. There's an excellent combination here of well above-average pure stuff, an ideal Major League pitcher's body, athleticism and poise. In some ways, this past summer made things more difficult on Taillon, as he set the bar very high for the spring season and opened himself up to an extra level of criticism reserved for those picks under consideration for top 3 overall selection. At the same time, I never expected to enter the 2010 season with anyone but Bryce Harper atop my big board -- while Harper has retained his crown, Taillon has given everyone reason to examine that slot more closely. He has all the makings of a potential front-end starter, with price tag and his Rice commitment the only potential hurdles to top 5 overall selection.

Projected Position: Front-end Starter

4/30/2010 - Taillon has enjoyed a successful spring, though he has been dinged some due to the extra scrutiny thrown his way after a wildly successful summer/fall. The most common complaints are a couple of outings in which he surrendered some hits and runs, and a stated "inconsistency" in his stuff from start to start. Some have also referred to his stuff as "hittable". Based on my few conversations with some baseball people in the Houston area, these reports are primarily examples of picking at nits, and there are no red flags with Taillon that should greatly alter his position as top arm in the draft class (and one of the better high school arms in recent years). One person in particular, who I spoke with at the Houston College Classic the night after Taillon's sole loss of the season (a 2-0 loss to CC Moody HS), stated several scouts in attendence were almost going out of their way to find something to point out as an "issue", but that "Jamo" was his same dominant self with easy plus stuff. Taillon has posted multiple double-digit strikeout performances, highlighted by a 19 SO no-hitter against Conroe HS. On the year he has totaled 96 SO in just 47 IP. Nothing unexpected has cropped-up to alter his stock, and he should be the first prep arm off the board based solely on talent and OFP (Overall Future Potential).

11/27/2009 - Taillon's summer/fall circuit did not conclude in Jupiter, as he opted to skip the event in favor of shutting down after a long summer of traveling and throwing. His last pre-season showcase came in the form of two starts for Team USA's 18U squad in the PanAm Games, posting an impressive line of 13.2 IP, 7 H, 28 SO, 3 BB and .149 BAA. His starts came against Panama and Cuba, with the gold medal Cuba start resulting in a single-game record of 16 strikeouts over 7.2 IP and his second win of the tournament.

8/18/2009 - Taillon continues to roll on, making a case to be the first high school player off the board next June, and perhaps the top overall. Taillon cruised through two innings at PetCo in the Aflac All-American Game, striking out four batters in the process. He's still sitting mid-90s with his fastball, even after a long summer circuit.

8/15/2009 - Taillon took home MVP honors for Team One at the Under Armour All-America Game. He was selected by PnR Scouting as the top performer at the event (article here; rankings here).

Other scouting reports have Tallion often clocked at 99 and compared to Roger Clemens at times.  I went with the worst scouting report I saw.  The kid looks on film like the real deal and he's already got a big body and live arm.  Here is a look at Tallion.

I love the 6'7 big body and the live arm and the fact that he has four pitches he commands pretty well.  He is also the only other player that scouts say should go number one, ahead of Harper.  One area to be concerned with is that he is a high school arm.  High school pitchers taken in the Top 3 generally don't pan out and that will likely be the Pirates excuse for passing on him.

Only seven prep pitchers have been taken in the top three in the last 20 years.  Josh Beckett and Steve Avery had good careers while the other five never made it, including Brien Taylor.  However, he is an arm from Texas and that actually means a great deal.  Texas pitchers are power pitchers and have numbers on their side. Only 19 of 43 prep pitchers taken in the Top 10 the last ten seasons have made the majors and half of them are from Texas.

I'm torn on who to take, Machado or Tallion.  I love both guys.  You can never have too much pitching, but the Pirates seem to have some good arms throughout their system right now.  For that reason, I may lean towards Machado a little more. However, I can't pass up on a big power arm like Tallion.  So my pick at #2 is indeed Jameson Tallion.

Who will the Pirates pick?  I'm guessing LHP Drew Pomeranz from the University of Mississippi.  He's a very talented arm with almost an unhittable curve ball,  but there is no way the Pirates should pass up on either Machado or Tallion.  Though you know as well as I do, that they tend to not take the best player.

There are three players labeled "can't miss" in this draft.  At 7:15 tomorrow night, one of the three better be property of the Pirates.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Looking Ahead at the Draft- What will the Pirates do at #2

Let's take a look at Monday's upcoming amateur draft and lets take a look at what the Pirates will do with the second overall pick.  With "The Chosen One" Bryce Harper going to Washington at number one, many names have surfaced about who the Bucs will select.

I've cut that list down to two, as there should only be two real candidates for that pick.  It should either be Miami Brito High School shortstop Manny Machado (pictured to the left) or right hander Jameson Tallion out of The Woodlands High School in Texas.

Let's look at Machado today.  Here is the scouting report on him.

Manny Machado - SS
Miami Brito HS, Sr.

Birthdate: 7/6/92

Height: 6'3"

Weight: 190lbs.

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

Scout's report filed: 3/18/10

Scouting Report

Hitting ability: Machado is swinging the bat very well, with authority. He led Team USA in hitting last summer
Power: He has the chance to have good power.
Running speed: He's run well in the past, though he might slow down as he matures.
Base running: He's fine on the basepaths.
Arm strength: He's got plenty of arm for his position.
Fielding: He makes the plays he can get to.
Range: This is the question, whether he'll have enough range to stay at shortstop as he gets bigger and stronger.
Physical Description: A big, strong athletic high school shortstop in the Miami area, Machado obviously draws young Alex Rodriguez comparisons.
Medical Update: Healthy.
Strengths: Big, strong, looks the part, plenty of tools, especially with the bat.
Weaknesses: Already pretty big, he may not be able to stay at shortstop in the long-term.

Summary: Machado entered the season as the top high school position player and has done nothing to diminish that evaluation. Big and athletic, he can do just about everything on the baseball field, with the ability to hit for plenty of average and some power as he matures. He's got more than enough arm to play shortstop and is fine there for now, though there is some concern he'll outgrow the position. Even if he does, he'd be just fine at third, both in terms of handling the position defensively and providing the kind of offense teams look for at the hot corner. Regardless of his position, Machado is primed to be one of the earliest names taken off the board in June.

You can also Check out video on Machado and other prospects

Here are clips of Machado playing in World Wood Bat Championships

He will be 17 at the time of the draft and it's hard for me to pass up on a guy with five tool talent like Machado.  Anytime a player draws any type of comparison to A-Rod then you have to pay attention.  At the end of May, Machado was hitting over .670 for his high school team.  Now this is Miami, so the competition is legit.  He has also hit 12 homers so far.  That number likely won't go up much as Machado is being intentionally walked most of the time now.

I would be all for taking this guy because most scouting reports have the "Can't Miss" label attached to him.  The Pirates are thin at short, but some see Machado being a third baseman in the big leagues.  If that were the case, it would likely mean a move to first base for Pedro Alvarez in three or four seasons.

The Pirates will likely pass on Machado though.  Reason one- well, they are the Pirates. Daniel Moskos, anyone?  Secondly, you guessed it.  Machado is represented by Scott Boras.  Could be a long and interesting summer of negotiating.

I will give you the full report on Tallion tomorrow.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Around the Diamond- Third base

It's been a few days, but I'm back to pick up where I left off, today looking at the third base position.  As a refresher, I was hoping Ryan Doumit would be dealt, but can deal with him hitting lower in the order for the time being.  I want Garrett Jones moved to first and Neil Walker as the full time second baseman.  One of the three have since happened.

Today let's look at Andy Laroche.  The numbers aren't great.  Just a .250avg/3/11.  The difference with Laroche is that I really like him, but the numbers aren't coming. 

I love his approach at the plate.  Granted he pulls the ball way too much, but when he is hitting to all fields, I feel he is a legit major league ball player.  I wish he had the numbers to back up my argument.

Just like at first base, the Pirates have to have run production out of their third baseman as well.  After all the trades, the younger Laroche was the first, of many more to come, real major leaguers the Pirates had acquired.  He is versatile.  He can, and has batted pretty much everywhere in the line up.  He's made himself into an outstanding defensive third baseman as well.

For two months, I kept saying that Laroche has done nothing to lose his job.  I don't feel that way right now.  Pedro Alvarez is,and always was the teams third baseman of the future and now I believe Alvarez should be the third baseman of the present.  Bring him up.

Start working Laroche out at second.  He can share time with Walker and Walker can also play other positions when Andy is at second.  Yes Walker is on fire right now, but I really want to see how he does after a month or so when the scouting report gets out on him.  He's already seeing more and more off speed stuff, so hopefully he can adjust.

The team will see a drop off defensively with Alvarez at third, but the time is now.  I'd rather see a power bat that can hit the ball out of the yard.  In turn, it should make the whole line up deeper and better.

By no means should they give up on Andy, but he in turn he has to produce.  I'm hoping the bad numbers have something to do with his back problems.  They should make sure he gets about three starts a week, but in the meantime, turn the job over to Alvarez.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

This is Real Funny

Found This. This is a couple Years Old But It's funny as hell