Monday, April 23, 2012

As long as we're jumping to conclusions

Ok, I'll admit that title is pretty snarky. I've said a number of times in a number of places to a number of people that I think it's too early in the season to learn anything meaningful from the results. For the most part, this has been aimed at the results from Pittsburgh's major league ballclub. At the same time, I want to take a look at some things that we've seen from the Pirates' minor league affiliates. Therefore, I'm going to ignore the admittedly small sample sizes and take a look at what we've seen so far from down on the farm. If you want to point out that this is pretty hypocritical, go ahead. That's probably true. Still, I will start off by pointing out that since it is early in the year, a lot can change (for better or worse). Of course, you already knew that. Anyway, here what we know beyond a shadow of a doubt about the Pirates' minor leaguers.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Completing the Puzzle

First, I must apologize. As I have ventured out into the world and made myself a blog, I have ignored and forgotten my roots. Those roots are Bucsdugout. The knowledge I have gained here has been invaluable and that's an understatement. The same applies to the benefits of joining the friendly, passionate, and tight-knit community that is the readers here on this blog. In an attempt to return to my roots, I "offer" a post on here "free of charge." No clicking on links! No looking on my poorly formatted blog with it's awful color scheme and slow loading-ness! That said, I certainly wouldn't complain and this post will be re-posted on Buried Treasure. Enter are your own risk.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Minor League Daily Update - 4/13/2012

The Indians dropped another close game, this time losing to the Columbus Clippers 5-4.  Jeff Locke had a rocky outing as the starter, giving up 5 earned runs on 8 hits in 5.0 innings.  Locke did not walk a batter and struck out 3.  Daniel Moskos pitched a perfect inning in relief.  At the plate, Starling Marte hit leadoff and went 1-4 with a strikeout.  Jordy Mercer went 1-4 with 2 strikeouts, but the one hit was a three run blast.  Eric Fryer went 1-4 with a run scored.  Brandon Boggs managed the rare golden sombrero, going 0-4 with 4 strikeouts.

The Curve lost their contest against the Richmond Flying Squirrels 7-3.  Mike Colla started and lasted 5.0 innings, giving up 9 hits, 6 runs (4 earned), while striking out 2 batters and walking one.  Robbie Grossman hit lead off for the Curve and went 1-4 with 2 strikeouts.  He has still yet to walk and has struck out 8 times in 26 at-bats.  Brock Holt went 2-4 with a run scored and a strikeout.  Jarek Cunningham went 0-3 with a walk, a run scored, and a strikeout.  Tony Sanchez matched Cunningham with an identical line.  Matt Curry went 1-4.

Bradenton lost a pitching duel 1-0 to Fort Myers.  Colton Cain got the nod as the starter for the Pirates and had a solid outing.  He lasted 5.0 innings and gave up 2 hits and a walk.  Cain also struck out 2 batters.  At the dish, Mel Rojas Jr. by far had the best game of the Marauders hitters.  Playing right field, Rojas Jr. went 3-3 with a double and a triple.  Wes Freeman went 0-3 with a strikeout and a walk.  Alex Dickerson, Drew Maggi, and Gift Ngoepe each had a single, all going 1-4 with Dickerson adding a strikeout to his final daily line.

The Power managed to prevent an affiliate sweep of losing, beating Greenville 5-1.  Matt Benedict started for the Power and the Orlando Castro came in to pitch most of the rest of the game in relief.  Both had excellent outings.  Benedict lasted 5.0 innings, giving up 5 hits and an unearned run.  He also struck out 4 batters while only walking 1 batter.  Castro struck out 4 batters in 3.0 innings, while only walking one and giving up a sole hit.  Jordan Cooper also pitched a perfect inning with a strikeout.  Offensively, 4 power players had big days.  Alen Hanson hit leadoff for the Power and went 3-4 with 3 runs scored, a triple, a homerun, a walk, and a strikeout.  His OPS on the year now stands at 1.297 and Hanson has maintained a solid 4:6 BB:K ratio in 34 at-bats.  Jose Osuna also had 3 hits, including 2 doubles, a walk and a strikeout.  Josh Bell and Gregory Polanco each had 2 base knocks.  Bell added a double and a strikeout.  Polanco added a homerun - his second in as many days - and a walk.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Minor League Daily Update - 4/12/2012

Sorry, I missed yesterday.  As a result, today will be a double feature.

4/10 Recap

Indianapolis dropped their game 5-4 to the Columbus Clippers to drop to 2-3 on the season. Rudy Owens got his first start of the year and got knocked around a bit.  He lasted 5.0 innings, giving up 7 hits, including 3 long balls, and 4 earned runs.  Owens also struck out 4 and walked 0.  Daniel McCutchen pitched in relief, going 3.0 innings, giving up 2 hits, 0 earned runs, while striking out 3 batters.  Offensively, Starling Marte was 1-6 with 2 strikeouts and 2 RBI's.  Marte also stole 2 bases.  Jeff Clement had 4 base knocks, going 4-5 with a strikeout.  Eric Fryer collected two hits, going 2-5 with 2 strikeotus. 

Altoona won their game 6-1 over the Akron Aeros, improving their record to 3-2.  Aaron Poreda started the gaming and went 5.0 innings, giving up 3 hits and walking 5, but managing to only give up 1 unearned run.  Poreda also struck out two batters.  In relief, Tim Alderson went 2.0 innings, giving up a hit and striking out 1 batter.  Offensively, Robbie Grossman led off for the Curve and went 0-4 with 2 strikeouts.  Jarek Cunningham was 0-2 with 2 strikeouts, 1 walk, and 1 run scored.   Matt Curry was 1-4 with 2 RBI's, a run scored, and a strikeout.  Tony Sanchez DH'd and went 1-4 with a run scored and 2 strikeouts.  Elevys Gonzalez had a big day, going 2-4 with a HR, a run scored, 3 RBI, and a strikeout. 

Bradenton beat the Palm Beach Cardinals 6-2.   Hunter Strickland got the nod as starting pitcher and responded well, pitching 5.0 innings, giving up 5 hits, 2 earned runs and no walks.  Strickland added 2 strikeouts.  Offensively Drew Maggi had a good game, going 3-5 with a double, a run scored, 2 RBI's and a strikeout.  Alex Dickerson had another poor day at the plate, going 0-4 with 3 strikeouts.  Mel Rojas Jr. went 0-4 with 2 strikeouts.  Dan Grovatt on the other hand had a great day, going 3-3 with 2 runs scored and an RBI.

Nicholas Kingham started for the Power and again got rocked as West Virginia dropped their contest against the Asheville Tourists 6-5.  Kingham only lasted 1.1 innings, giving up 6 hits and 2 walks, which resulted in 4 earned runs.  Kingham was unable to even strikeout a batter.  Offensively, Alen Hanson was the inverse of Kingham as he had a strong game.  Hanson, who played shortstop, went 2-3 with a run scored and an RBI.  Hanson also walked 2 times.  Josh Bell went 2-5 with a double, an RBI, and a strikeout.  Jose Osuna was 0-5 with 2 strikeouts, but Gregory Polanco had a solid game, going 2-4 with 2 runs scored and a strikeout.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Minor League Daily Update - 4/10/2012

Indianapolis lost 4-3 to the Columbus Clippers after giving up three runs in the bottom of the ninth.  The loss evened the Indians record at 2-2.  Charlie Morton was on the hill in what should be his last rehab start before rejoining the big league team.  He was downright dominant, going 7.2 innings and giving up 6 hits, 1 walk, and 1 earned run.  Morton also struckout 8 batters and recorded 10 groundouts to 1 flyout.  Bryan Morris struck out the only batter he faced in the 8th inning before handing it over to Jo-Jo Reyes and Tim Wood in the 9th.  The pair of pitchers promptly blew the save.  Starling Marte had a great game, going 2-4 with a homerun.  Eric Fryer went 2-4 with a double and 2 strikeouts.  Brandon Boggs, Jeff Clement and Brian Friday each had one hit.  Chase D'Arnaud did not play.

Altoona lost their contest against the Akron Aeros 5-1, also leaving them with a 2-2 record.  Starting pitcher Aaron Pribanic had a rough outing.  He only lasted 3.1 innings and allowed 10 runners on base via 4 hits and 6 walks.  Pribanic did strikeout 4 batters and somehow managed to only give up 1 earned run, although he gave up 3 total.  Victor Black pitched an inning in relief, giving up 2 hits and 2 runs (1 earned), while striking out 1 batter.  Robbie Grossman went 1-4 with a strikeout and has yet to walk this year.  Jarek Cunningham went 1-4 with a double.  Cunningham has only struck out 1 time in 17 at-bats so far this year, a welcome sight considering Cunningham's struggles with striking out in the past.  Andrew Lambo had the only other Curve hit.  Tony Sanchez has a poor game, going 0-4 with 3 strikeouts.  Sanchez's OPS is still .795 on the young year despite his bad game last night.

Bradenton also lost, dropping a close contest to the Palm Beach Cardinals 2-1.  The Marauders are now 1-3 on the year.  The big story was Gerrit Cole's minor league regular season professional debut (Cole's actual professional debut was in the Arizona Fall League last season.  Cole lasted 4 innings, giving up 1 earned run on 4 hits and 1 walk.  Cole added in a wild pitch, but he displayed his immense talent and ability to miss bats, striking out 7 hitters, 5 swinging and 2 looking.  On balls put into play against him, Cole managed a 6:3 groundball to flyball ratio.  Offensively, the Marauders only managed 4 hits. Drew Maggi had a good game going 2-3 with a walk.  Evan Chambers and Mel Rojas Jr., who's hitting .313 on the year, rounded out the hitting with a base knock each.  Wes Freeman went 0-2 with a walk and a strikeout, giving him a 3:3 walk to strikeout ratio in 13 plate appearances this year, a good sign.  Freeman also hasn't managed a hit yet either.

West Virginia dropped their contest against the Asheville Tourists to complete a winless day for the Pirates minor league affiliates.  The final score was 13-5, dropping the Power's record to 1-4 on the year.  Zach Dodson got the start.  His final line was 4.2 IP, 6H, 7R, 5ER, 3BB, 3K, a poor start to the season for Dodson.  Offensively, Alen Hanson bounced back from two straight hitless games to continue his blistering hot start.  On the day, the Power shortstop - although he played DH in this game - went 3-5 with a double and a homerun.  Jodaneli Caravajal added another multi-hit game, going 2-4 with 2 runs scored.  Gregory Polanco went 1-4 with a run scored, 2 RBI's, a walk and a strikout.  Willy Garcia was 1-5.  Josh Bell did not play.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Minor League Daily Update - 4/9/2012

Indianapolis won 8-2, beating the Toledo Mud Hens to go to 2-1 on the young season.  Brad Lincoln got the nod for the Indians and had a great start.  Lincoln pitched 5 strong innings, giving up 4 hits and 1 earned run.  He struckout 6 batters and didn't walk a single one.  Starling Marte went 2-5 with a double, already bringing his average up to .308 for the year.  Jeff Clement had a big day, going 3-4 with 2 runs scored, two doubles and a walk.  Gorkys Hernandez went 1-3 with a run scored, an RBI, a walk and 2 strikeouts.  Chase D'Arnaud did not play after being hit in the head by a pitch in the game previous.  D'Arnaud was able to leave the game under his own power after the incident.

 Altoona did not play 4/8

Bradenton did not play 4/8

West Virginia dropped their contest against the Hagerstown Suns 8-6.  That gives the Power an overall record of 1-3 so far this season.  Starting pitcher Zachary Fuesser got tagged for 3 earned runs in 3 innings, giving up 2 hits and 4 walks, while recording 2 strikeouts.  Orlando Castro, Rinku Singh, and Robert Kilcrease all pitched at least one inning in relief and each pitcher gave up at least one run, although Singh's was unearned. Castro was the losing pitcher of record, as he gave up 3 earned runs in 2 innings on 4 hits and 2 walks.  Castro was unable to strikeout a batter.  Alen Hanson had his second straight hitless game, going 0-5 and dragging his tripleslash "down" to .294/.333/.588.  Hanson added a strikeout to cap his frustrating day, although he's still had a good season thus far.  Jodaneli Caravajal went 2-4 with a run scored and a triple.  Chris Lashmet and Kirk Singer also each had multi-hit games, with Lashmet managing 3 and Singer lacing 2 doubles and that helped contribute to his 4 RBI day.  Jose Osuna was 1-4 with a run scored.  Josh Bell and Willy Garcia were both hitless going 0-4 each. Bell added a strikeout and a RBI.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Minor League Daily Update - 4/8/2012

Indianapolis won it's first game of the season to improve to 1-1 by beating the Toledo Mud Hens 8-7.  Jeff Locke got the start and only managed to last 4 innings thanks to giving up 8 hits.  Those 8 hits only resulted in 2 runs however, and Locke walked no hitters and struck out four.  Offensively, Starling Marte went 1-4 with 2 strikeouts.  Jordy Mercer had a big day going 4-6 with a double, a run scored, and an RBI.  Brandon Boggs went 2 for 5 with 3 runs scored, a triple, a homerun, a RBI, and 2 strikeouts. Eric Fryer and Jeff Clement both had multi-hit games.  News of note; Chase D'Arnaud was hit by a pitch and exited the game immediately.

Altoona got shellacked by the Erie Seawolves 12-1 to go to 2-1 on the season.  Starting pitcher Brandon Cumpton gave up 5 earned runs in 4.1 innings, also allowing 7 hits and walking one batter.  He did fan two batters as well.  In relief, Victor Black pitched 1 inning and gave up 2 hits and 2 unearned runs. Offensively, Altoona did manage 7 hits, but none for extra bases.  Matt Curry and Robbie Grossman both had two hits, and Curry had the lone RBI.  Tony Sanchez managed to score the run, going 0-2 with a strikeout.

Brandeton also lost, dropping their contest against St. Lucie, 4-2, putting them 1-2 on the year.  Starting was top prospect Jameson Taillon.  He finished with an interesting line in 3.2 innings.  Taillon only gave up 2 hits and 2 walks, but also hit a batter and had several wild pitches.  It resulted in 2 earned runs.  However - and my favorite stat - Taillon also finished with 6 strikeouts, all six swinging.  Offensively, Gift Ngeope finally slowed down, going 0-4 with 2 strikeouts.  Both Alex Dickerson and Mel Rojas Jr. were 2-4, and Rojas Jr. added a triple and a strikeout.  Wes Freeman was 0-2 with a walk while playing left field.  Quinton Miller got some relief action in, going 2 innings, giving up 4 hits and 2 earned runs.

The Power dropped a close game to the Hagerstown Suns, 4-3.  Matt Benedict started for the power and got tagged with an unfortunate loss.  He pitched very well, going 4.2 innings, giving up 0 earned runs (3 unearned) and 3 hits.  Benedict also walked 3 batters but struck out an impressive number of 7.  Offensively, Alen Hanson finally did not have a hit.  He did manage a walk and a run in 3 at-bats.  Josh Bell went 0-3 with a walk and a strikeout.  Willy Garcia was 1-4, with a double, RBI, and strikeout.  Jose Osuna was one of two Power with a multi-hit night, going 2-4 with a strikeout.  Junior Sosa was the other player with 2 as he went 2-3 with a triple.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Minor League Daily Update - 4/7/2012

The Pirates four full-season minor league affiliate teams played yesterday and finished the day 2-2.  Altoona and West Virginia won, while Indianapolis and Bradenton walked away in defeat.  All four teams are also scheduled to play tomorrow.

Indianapolis lost its opener to the Toledo Mud Hens 5-1.  Justin Wilson got the start and pitched 5.0 innings.  He only gave up 2 hits, but walked 6 batters and gave up 3 earned runs, although Wilson also fanned 6 batters.  Chase D'Arnaud led off and went 0-3 with a run scored, a walk, and 3 strikeouts. Starling Marte went 1-4 in his AAA debut with a deep RBI triple and a strikeout.  Jordy Mercer, Eric Fryer, and Gorkys Hernandez each had a hit, giving the Indians a total of four hits.  Reliever Bryan Morris had an inning for the ages.  His inning was perfect and he managed to strike out four batters because of a dropped third strike.  His K/9 currently sits at a nearly impossible to reach 36/9. 

Altoona bested the Erie Seawolves 4-2 to go to 2-0 on the young season.  Nathan Baker started for the Curve and pitched an efficient 5.0 innings, only giving up 2 hits, 2 walks, and an earned run while striking out 5 hitters.  Tim Alderson did well in relief, giving up a hit and a walk, while striking out 3 in 2.0 innings.  Robbie Grossman led off and went 1-5 with a run and 2 strikeouts.  Jarek Cunningham had another good day, going 2-4, with a run, a double, and 2 RBI's.  Tony Sanchez also went 2-4 and he added a double and an RBI.  Ramon Cabrera DH'd and went 0-4.  Quincy Latimore, Elevys Gonzalez, Matt Curry, and Andrew Lambo all each had one hit, while Brock Holt managed two hits. 

Brandeton lost their second game against the St. Lucie Mets to go to 1-1 on the season.  A.J Burnett struck out 5 in 4.2 innings in a rehab start.  He only gave up 2 hits and a walk, totaling in an earned run.  No one had multiple hits on the Marauders, Gift Ngoepe managed a triple.  Alex Dickerson has yet to get a hit on the season, going 0-4 without a strikeout or a walk.  Wes Freeman was once again the DH and went 0-2, but did manage to avoid striking out and actually drew a walk as well.  Tyler Waldron got rocked coming from the pen, giving up 4 hits and 4 runs, 3 of them earned, in 2.2 inning of play.  Waldron also walked 3 batters, but did strikeout two.

Stetson Allie took the ball for the Power and the results were disastrous.  Unfortunately that might be putting it lightly.  Allie only managed to get one out before exiting the game.  He walked the first 4 batters; that sequenced included 3 wild pitches.  He then struck out a better before hitting another batter, driving in a total of two runs thus far.  Michael Jefferson came in and struck out the next two Hagerstown Suns, limiting the damage.  That ultimately helped the Power to win 5-3.  Alen Hanson was again the offensive star, going 2-5 with a double, an RBI, and a strikeout. Hanson also scored twice.  Josh Bell was also 2-5 with an RBI, but both hits were singles and he struck out in each of his other at-bats (3). Jose Osuna went 1-4 and scored a run.  Willy Garcia was 0-4 with 2 strikeouts and an RBI. Gregory Polanco also struck out twice and managed no hits, but he walked once, so he finished 0-3.  Interesting stat alert: the Power gave up more runs than they gave up hits and had errors combined.  The Power gave up 2 hits and committed no errors, but allowed three runs. 

Information about today's games after the jump.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Minor League Daily Update - 4/6/2012

Here is the Minor League Daily Update from yesterday (4/5/2012)

Yesterday saw the season opener for three of the Pirates full-season minor league affiliates.  Altoona and Bradenton won, while West Virginia dropped their first game.  Indianapolis did not play.

Indianapolis did not play on 4/5.

Altoona won their home opener by the a score of 7-4 over the Erie Seawolves.  Reliever Matt McSwain notched the win.  Starting pitcher Mike Colla lasted 4 innings, giving up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 3 earned runs while walking 2 and striking out 3.  Offensively Robbie Grossman started off hot with 2 hits in his first two at-bats, including a 2 run homerun.  He finished 2-5 with 2 RBIs and a strikeout.  Jarek Cunningham also went 2-5 and tallied an RBI in his AA debut.  Tony Sanchez had a nice start to what will hopefully be a bounce back campaign.  The catcher went 1-3 with a triple, a walk, and a strikeout.  Pitcher Duke Welker through 2 innings, giving up a hit and an unearned run while striking out three and walking none.

Bradenton won in extra innings thanks to a walk off hit by pitch as they topped the St. Lucie Mets 3-2.  Colton Cain went 3.2 innings, giving up 4 hits and 2 runs but only one was earned.  Cain also struck out 4 batters but walked 4 as well.  Offensively Gift Ngoepe batted leadoff and went 3-5, all singles, and scored 2 runs. Alex Dickerson went 0-4 with a strikeout and a walk.  Mel Rojas Jr. went 1-4 with a double and a strikeout.  Wes Freeman played DH and went 0-4 with 2 strikeouts.  The bullpen did a good job - Eliecer Navarro, Casey Sadler, and Jhonathan Ramos - giving up 0 runs in 7.1 innings of relief.  They allowed only 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out 7.

West Virginia dropped an offensive shootout 11-9 to the Hagerstown Suns.  Nick Kingham got the start, but only lasted 1.2 innings, giving up 4 hits, 2 walks, and 5 earned runs, although he did strike out three.  Kingham had a rough second inning he couldn't escape after giving up only an opening inning walk while striking out two in the first frame.  Offensively the pre-game star had to be Josh Bell as he made his professional debut.  However, Alen Hanson put forth his best attempt to steal the show.  Hanson day was a good start towards proving himself as a legitimate upper-echelon prospect as he went 3-4 with a double and homerun.  Hanson scored three times and drove in two runs.  He also laid down a sacrifice bunt and had an error while playing shortstop.  Willy Garcia and Gregory Polanco also each had three hits, with Garcia driving in two and striking out once.  Polance scored twice, drove in a run, and one of his hits was a triple.  Jose Osuna went 1-4 with a RBI, run, and strikeout.  Josh Bell had a mixed bag for his professional debut.  He did manage to smack an RBI double, but also struck out three times to finish 1-5.

Tomorrow's preview after the jump.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Opening Day: Minor League Edition - 4/5/2012

Four of the Pirates minor league affiliates - Indianapolis, Altoona, Bradenton, and West Virginia; all full-season squads - will be hitting the ground running over the next few weeks to start their season.  75% of the teams will play today, with Indianapolis not starting their season until tomorrow.

Indianapolis will not play today.  They square off tomorrow at 5:00 PM against the Toledo Mud Hens. The starting pitcher has not yet been announced.

Altoona faces the Erie Seawolves with the first pitch scheduled to be throw at 6:30 PM.  Michael Colla.  Notable prospects that could be playing for Altoona include returning Curve catcher Tony Sanchez and 1B Matt Curry.  Jarek Cunningham and Robbie Grossman could be making their AA debuts.

Bradenton will start off their season playing against the St. Lucie Mets.  Colton Cain will take the mound for the Marauders and the game is expected to start at 6:30 PM.  The pitching staff also includes top prospects Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon.  Positional players of note include Evan Chambers, Alex Dickerson, Wesley Freeman, and Drew Maggi.

West Virginia will play their opener on the road at 7:05 PM against the Hagerstown Suns.  The game will be televised on Nick Kingham is slated to start.  This should be Josh Bell's pro debut. Alen Hanson, Willy Garcia, and Jose Osuna will also suit up for the Power.

Check back tomorrow for results, top players, and info on the games for that day.

Casey McGehee: Should 12 Months Make That Big A Difference?

If the news had broke during the offseason between the 2010 and 2011 campaign that the Pirates had traded for Brewers third baseman Casey McGehee, most fans would have at least been intrigued.  Had more information been gathered and the facts shown that the only player given up by the Pirates was a reliever, the general feeling would have turned to something closer to happiness and excitement.  If even more details were revealed and it was made clear that Evan Meek and Joel Hanarhan - both of whom seemed poised to become two of the best relievers in baseball; Hanrahan would make good on that potential, becoming one of the best shutdown closers in baseball while Meek unfortunately was bitten by the injury bug - were to remain in Pirates uniforms, that feeling may have evolved into euphoria.

Relievers as a general "class" of players have little value compared to the other major "classes," starting positional players and starting pitchers.  The average reliever pitches a small fraction of the innings an average starter pitches.  Without doing extensive research, I'll guesstimate that fraction ranges from one-third to one-fifth.  Since starting pitchers generally don't even have the impact a starting positional player has, relievers automatically are able to affect a baseball season at a significantly lesser degree than other players.  That hurts their value immediately.  Furthermore, apart from the very elite, relievers are fickle and volatile, so they are generally easier to replace year to year than any other class of player.  Thus, as a general concept, trading a reliever, no matter how good, for a positional player, is usually a good idea.

McGehee wasn't just any positional player either.  At the time, he had just turned 28 years old in the offseason and was coming off two excellent years.  Contractually, those two years were his first two years of service time, so any team that had McGegee had team control over him for four more years.  In 2009, McGehee had played 116 games - only about two-thirds of a year - and posted a 2.0 fWAR.  The Brewers rookie played poor defense - he posted a 22.0 UZR/150 at 3B - but hit a partially BABIP inflated .301 and slugged 16 homeruns.  He also posted solid plate discipline ratios, walking 8.6% of the time for a .360 OBP and he only struck out 17.0%.  The next year McGehee posted a 3.3 fWAR, making him the sixth most valuable player according to fWAR on a good Brewers team.  His power dropped off a bit and he walked a small amount less, but McGehee played the entire season, improved his defense, and cut down his strikeouts.

But McGehee is no longer a Brewer.  Instead he's now a Pittsburgh Pirate and the price for that transition was only reliever Jose Veras.  However, there hasn't been any euphoria.  That's because 2011 happened.  Big things were expected of the now-entrenched McGehee, but the Brewers third baseman followed up his 3.3 fWAR campaign with a dismal 0.3 fWAR effort.  Scratching the surface, McGehee saw his tripleslash fall to a .223/.280/.346 mark.  However, the surface isn't always the best indicator of future performance.  McGehee .62 point drop in average is easily explained by his unlucky .57 point drop in BABIP.  In the OBP department, McGehee kept his walk rate literally identical from 2010 to 2011 at 7.5% and only saw his strikeout rate rise 1.9%, a small amount.  Granted, McGehee's ISO dropped .56 points, but his batted balls percentages stayed nearly identical, with a small increase in his groundball rate and the expense of his flyball rate.  McGehee's linedrive rates in 2010 and 2011 were virtually identical, with a .7% difference.  What did change was his HR/FB luck, as his 12.5% number in 2010 dropped to 8.6%.  Putting that into league-wide context, McGehee went from having an above-average rate (which he had maintained in 2009 and 2010, indicative of having that kind of power) to below-average.  Looking under the surface, it seems that most - granted not all - of McGehee's struggles in 2011 came from bad luck.  Plus, with the small sample size alert caveat in place, McGehee posted what were easily his best defensive numbers in his career with a 7.3 UZR/150 at third base in 1233.1 innings. 

In conclusion, it seems to me at least that with a bit of luck normalization and the continued defense improvement that McGehee seems to be showing, that the new Pirates acquisition could be a team controlled 2-4 WAR third or first baseman through 2014.  For the price of Jose Veras, that seems like news to me that should at the very least put a smile on Pirates fans faces, but oh what a difference 12 months seems to make.

The Best Day of the Year

Spring Training was fun. It really was. There were a lot of interesting storylines to come out of Bradenton this year from the emergence of Matt Hague and Starling Marte to the struggles of Pedro Alvarez and the injury to AJ Burnett. Still, I couldn't be any happier that it is finally over. Not because I had grown tired of watching exceedingly boring exhibition games but because I simply couldn't wait for today. In about four hours, the Pirates will officially kick off their 2012 baseball season. Maybe it will wonderful and the team will finally kick off decades of stink and "break the streak." Maybe it will be more of the same and the team will be out of contention by May and out of mind by the 4th of July. I could make some predictions about what I think will happen...hell, why not: 87 wins...but it's nothing more than a guess. Even if I'm right on, it won't show that I'm some kind of genius, only that I was lucky enough to guess the right number. However, I love that I don't know! That's part of the beauty of today, anything can happen!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Under the Radar Breakout Candidates

Every year a group of prospects each take an unexpected big step forward.  It could be a player who was highly touted coming into the system, but had failed to make a big impact thus far in their career.  For the Pirates, that was Robbie Grossman last year.  It could be a lottery ticket type guy who's left for dead that manages to resurrect himself and his career.  Wes Freeman anyone? It could be a player who had come virtually out of nowhere to have an intriguing year the year prior.  That year is then followed up by a breakout year that solidifies their prospect status.  Last year, that was Kyle McPherson.

This year, there are the more obvious candidates to fill that roll.  Tony Sanchez could bounce back in a Robbie Grossman type fashion.  Stetson Allie could have a season that makes him part Grossman, part Freeman.  However, predicting that is somewhat boring and easy.  Instead, it's more fun to look for guys like Kyle McPherson, lesser names who don't pop up as a bright and obvious blimp on a radar.  These three guys - outfielder Willy Garcia, pitcher Victor Black, and shortstop Dilson Herrera - might be those names for this year.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Player Profile: Robby Rowland

Update: Make sure to read this excellent piece/interview about/with Rowland

The Arizona Diamondbacks used their Rule 5 pick to pluck pitcher Brett Lorin from the Pirates farm system.  Rather than keeping Lorin on their 25-man roster for the entire year - the Rule 5 requirement to be able to keep Lorin - the Diamondbacks worked out a deal to send pitcher Robby Rowland in order to keep Lorin indefinitely and with no strings attached. 

Buried Treasure Top 100 Prospect List

This post contains my top 100 prospects all in one list.  Click on a prospect to be taken to the page that contains that prospect's write-up. There are a total of 10 pages with 10 prospects on each (and 11th on the last page).

Buried Treasure Top 100 Prospects: #1-10

1. Mike Trout 
Position: CF
Team: Los Angeles Angels

Justin Upton, B.J. Upton, Adrian Beltre, Andrew Jones, Edgar Renteria, Alex Rodriguez, Ivan Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Juan Gonzalez, and Gary Sheffield.  Along with Trout, those 10 players are the entirety of an exclusive club of players who hit a homerun during their respective age 19 seasons.   Excluding the Upton brothers, who are still in the midst of their careers, Trout will end up with at least 38.7 fWAR as long as he doesn’t finish as the ‘worst’ player on this list, behind Juan Gonzalez.  Using the same list of players (excluding the Upton brothers again), if Trout becomes an ‘average’ player, he will end his career with 67.9 fWAR.  Granted, hitting a homerun at a certain age is a seemingly arbitrary statistic, and it is to a degree, but getting to the majors that fast is impressive and indicative of incredible talent.  Trout managed to do that on the back of his impressive hit tool, good plate discipline, and blazing speed that allows him to be an elite defensive centerfielder.  As absurd as it sounds, 67.9 fWAR doesn’t seem too much of a stretch. 

Buried Treasure Top 100 Prospects: #21-30

21. Archie Bradley
Position: SP
Team: Arizona Diamondbacks
Archie Bradley can bring the heat. As a high schooler, his fastball was often clocked in the triple digits. Bradley adds a hammer curveball that is already a plus pitch. Bradley rounds out his arsenal with a changeup that will need work, but should improve. The Oklahoma high school product – which means Bradley was only the second best prep pitcher from the Sooner State in 2011; that honor would go to Dylan Bundy – also has an impressive 6'4, 225 lbs frame, a clean delivery, and good athleticism. The sky is the limit for Bradley.

Buried Treasure Top 100 Prospects: #71-80

71. Dellin Betances
Position: SP
Team: New York Yankees

Physically, Betances is an absolute monster. The Yankees farmhand stands 6'8 and weighs 260 lbs. With that frame comes an intimidating mound presence and impressive stuff that comes in on a hitter on a steep downhill plane. Betances fastball generally sits in the 92-94 mph range but can touch 98 mph. Generally, Betances is able to command his fastball, but the same cannot be said for his curveball. The power breaker has the making out of a swing-and-miss pitch, but right now Betances's command of the pitch is eratic. A changeup that flashes above-average rounds out his repertoire. Those three pitches give Betances the making of a frontline starter, but command struggles may relegate him to the middle-of-the-rotation or the bullpen as an late-inning reliever.

Buried Treasure Top 100 Prospects: #61-70

61. Zach Lee
Position: SP
Team: Los Angeles Dodgers

When the Dodgers selected Zach Lee in the first round in 2010, it was seen as a ploy. The Dodgers were in financial trouble and Lee had a huge asking price, leading many to believe they had no intent to sign Lee in an attempt to save money. However, those critics were silenced as Lee signed a contract that included a 5.25 million dollar bonus. Luckily for the Dodgers, they were able to spread that bonus over a five year period because of Lee's two-sport background. That also speaks to Lee's athleticism. The Dodger pitcher was recruited to play quarterback at LSU along with baseball. On the mound, Lee features a fastball that can touch as high as 98 when he reaches back for more. Generally it sits in the low 90's. Lee also has an exceptional cutter and three pitches that need development in a curveball, slider, and changeup. Combine that with a projectable frame, a loose, athletic delivery, and impressive command, and Lee is an exciting pitching prospect.

Buried Treasure Top 100 Prospects: #51-60

51. Chad Bettis
Position: SP
Team: Colorado Rockies

Bettis flashes premium stuff, highlighted by a fastball that sits in the mid 90's and touches 98 mph. The Rockies prospect is able to keep that velocity late into games, which portends that he could be a good starter. On the other hand, a lack of a good third pitch – Bettis does have a plus slider as a second pitch – suggests that he will have to be reliever instead. Currently, Bettis is working on developing either a curveball or changeup. Both pitches are currently below-average and the changeup lags behind the curveball, but if Bettis is able to harness a solid third or even fourth pitch, he profiles as a workhorse #2 starter. If that doesn't happen, he could be on the fast track to a closer role instead. Both would be solid outcomes for Bettis.

Buried Treasure Top 100 Prospects: #31-40

31. Wil Myers
Position: LF/RF
Team: Kansas City Royals

Myers was considered a first-round talent in 2009 but fell to the third round where the Royals gobbled him up. It cost the Royals 2 million to sign the high school catcher but as of now it looks like a worthwhile investment. Since Myers strength is his offensive, the Royals made the decision to move Myers to the outfield to expedite his bat up the minor league ladder. In the outfield, he has the athleticism and arm to be above-average in a corner. With a bat in his hands, Myers is all-around offensive force. A solid hit tool, plate discipline, and power could all add up to a pretty .300/.400/.500 slash line from Myers as a major leaguer.

Buried Treasure Top 100 Prospects: #41-50

41. Hak-Ju Lee
Position: SS
Team: Tampa Bay Rays

As it looks today, Lee will almost certainly be the best player the Rays received from the Cubs for trading Matt Garza. I doubt they are complaining. An elite, young shortstop might be the most coveted player type in baseball and the Rays seem to have that in Lee. Lee is a trend setter. He was originally signed by the Cubs as a teenager out of South Korea for a fairly large bonus. Now Lee is an elite defensive shortstop with great range and instincts. Offensively, Lee lacks pop but makes up for it with a great hit tool, electric speed on the basepaths, and good plate discipline. For the last several years that the Rays have been competitive, they've seemingly lacked a franchise shortstop. That soon may change, at least if Hak-Ju Lee has anything to say about it.

Buried Treasure Top 100 Prospects: #11-20

11. Gerrit Cole
Position: SP
Team: Pittsburgh Pirates

Not only would I have selected Bundy ahead of Taillon, I would have also selected Bundy ahead of Cole, hence that ranking.  That said, the actual #1 overall pick in 2011 is an elite prospect in his own right.  Cole has absolutely filthy stuff that rivals Stephen Strasburg, although he’s currently more reminiscent of a guy like A.J. Burnett who was unable to fully harness his arsenal due to a lack of command.  Cole’s arsenal includes three fastballs, highlighted by a 4-seamer than can consistently hit triple digits, a 2-seamer and a cut fastball.  He also has a slider that garners plus-plus grades and a changeup that flashes above-average on some days and plus-plus on others.  If everything works out well, Cole could become the most dominant pitcher in baseball for a multi-year stretch.

Buried Treasure Top 100 Prospects: #91-101

91. Jose Campos
Position: SP
Team: New York Yankees
Arguably the biggest trade in the offseason involved the Yankees sending their top prospect catcher Jesus Montero to the Mariners in exchange for their young stud pitcher Michael Pineda. Each team also got an extra player in the trade. The Mariners received Hector Noesi while the Yankees received pitching prospect Jose Campos. Campos's best pitch is his fastball, which sits in the low 90's and reaches as high as the mid 90's. Campos is also a good candidate to add velocity to his fastball – which also has heavy life – due to a skinny 6'4 frame that has room for added muscle. A slider and a curveball round on Campos's arsenal. The slider flashes plus largely due to late bite. The curveball is raw, but has a chance to be a weapon against left-handed hitters down the road. Campos also commands his pitches well. Based on his stuff and project-ability, Campos has a huge ceiling. His ability to refine his pitches and further improve his command will dictate if he reaches it.

Buried Treasure Top 100 Prospects: #81-90

81. Jeurys Familia
Position: SP
Team: New York Mets

Familia excites scouts and fans alike with premium stuff and project-ability. His fastball touches 99 mph on occasion and sits comfortably in the mid 90's. The heater also has nice sinking and cutting action to go along with it's plus velocity, making it a lethal pitch. Along with his fastball, Familia throws an average, but inconsistent breaking ball that flashes above-average. The Mets prospect rounds out his arsenal with a raw, fringy changeup that at times displays promising sinking action. At the moment, Familia is more of a thrower than a pitcher. He's raw, especially in the control and command department. In fact, Familia's upside is currently limited to a mid-rotation starter or power reliever if he's unable to refine his command. That said, Familia still does have a bit of time to develop and there's no denying his top-of-the-rotation stuff.