Top 20 Prospect Update

8-4-22 – By Justin Verno – @JV_PITT on Twitter

OK, so the trade market is zooming along as I write this making it hard to really delve into. With just under 24 hours to go before Cinderalla’s carriage turns back into a pumpkin and the Deadline will be over. But the Buccos prospects will still be plugging away. Let’s get to it.

1-Oneil Cruz

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
Week.214/.241/.429.670.214.288853.4%27.6%
MLB.206/.241/.405.645.198.277774.5%34.6%
AAA.232/.336/.422.758.190.33810312.1%22.7%

2-Henry Davis

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
Week.188/.167/.176.343.059.161-85.6%33.3%
AA.107/.286/.250.536.143.267638.6%20%
A+.341/.450/.5851.035.244.4621798%18%

3-Liover Peguero

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
MLB.333/.500/.333.838.000.39515525%50%
Week.130/.167/.261.428.130.190100%33.3%
AA.263/.304/.404.708.142.310904.7%22.2%

4-Quinn Priester-

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPBB%K%
Week12.11.463.511.056.1%24.5%
AA33.21.872.923.801.106.7%20%
A+2.216.887.522.652.636.7%20%
A30.003.774.7200%10%

5-Nick Gonzales-NO STATS THIS WEEK-

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBA+wRC+BB%K%
week
season.247/.366/..377.742.130.34111213.4%32.8%

6-Endy Rodriguez

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
week.444/.630/.7781407.333.60126829.6%7.4%
season.295/.390/.533.923.238.40714511.9%21.2%

7-Matt Fraizer

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
Week.238/.333/.286.619.048.2927812.5%16.7%
Season.230/.293/.371.664.141.295797%23.9%

8-Jared Jones

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPBB%K%
week114.916.961.188.7%19.6%
season91.14.814.754.161.3510.2%28.2%

9-Bubba Chandler 

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPBB%K%
Week3.22.451.071.097.1%42.9%
A6.17.114.793.831.7413.3%33.3%
CPX150.002.333.090.8516.9%45.8%
BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
Weeks.238/.333/.333.667.095.3199812.5%41.7%
A.233/.294/.333.627100.291808.8%41.2%
CPX.231/.444/.6541.098.423.49018725%16.7%

10-Ji-hwan Bae

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwWRC+BB%K%
week.333/.385/.417 .801 .083 .362 119 7.7% 46.2%
season.297/.364/.450.814.153.3611189.5%17.6%

11-Michael Burrows

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPBB%K%
week7.12.455.381.3615.6%21.9%
AAA25.15.333.163.161.338.9533.3%
AA522.942.733.991.108.9%32.4%

12-Travis Swaggerty

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
week(AAA).343/.439/.543.982.208.3331007.7%26.9%
MLB.111/.111/.111.222.000.099-420%44.4%
AAA.267/.338/.439.777.172.3441079.6%26.8%

13-Miguel Yajure

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPBB%K%
week7.24.705.691.173.3%20%
AAA35.26.564.715.081.549.4%20.6%
MLB14.18.165.776.942.0212.7%5.6%

14-Anthony Solometo

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPPBB%K%
Week39.006.182.6713.3%26.7%
Season25.13.552.801.229.5%25.7%

15-Kyle Nicolas-NO STATS THIS WEEK-

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPBB%K%
week8.24.153.661.2713.5%21.6%
season61.14.2644.284.801.2511.2%27%

MY FIVE

16-Po-Yu Chen

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPBB%K%
WEEK121.502.430.504.9%26.8%
A794.333.283.721.168.8%26.1%

17-Dariel Lopez

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
week.400/.455/.9251.380.525.5752529.1%25%
season.289/.329/.511.839.222.3681214.8%26.5%

18- Hudson Head

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
week.250/.325/.528.853.278.37212310%32.5%
season.233/.340/.391.731.158.33810110.1%34.7%

19-Connor Scott

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
week.265/.324/.500.824.235.3551198.1%24.3%
season.253/.322/.381.703.128.314928.7%21.7%

20-Lonnie White Jr

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
Week
CPX.286/.286/.8571.143.571.4921080%42.9%

A Few quick thoughts-

Lookin good-

Po-Yu Chen got off to a rough start but has really hit his stride as of late. K rate is up and his walks are down. Kid is looking good!

Travis Swaggerty. It was a really nice week and he seems to have found his stride, again. Not at all unusual for a kid to press and get out of sync after an MLB stint. Swaggs looks to be back on track here.

Ji-hwan Bae, because what else is new.

Pitch in-

Quinn Priester continues to really come along. His K rate sits at 20% in AA, I’d like that to get better, but he looks pretty good getting outs when needs to even when doesn’t look dialed in.

Bubba Chandler, the wonderboy continues to impress. Chandler is more advanced on the mound than at the plate. And while his first start was rough he has made a quick adjustment and seems good to go. It’s not at all hyperbolic to say he’s as exciting a prospect as the Bucs have had. That he is raw due to being a two way player and multisport kid in highschool, is what held his scouting grades down a bit. He keeps shoving like this we will likely see a good adjustment to that and we will see it soon.

Michael Burows, as the Bucs continue to stretch and strengthen Burows arm he has really responded well in AAA. Outside of 2 starts he has looked good down at Indy. To start the year some sites still had question marks on his ability to stay in a rotation and I think he has answered those questions with flying colors!

Wonder twin powers, activate…

Endy Rodriguez and Dariel Lopez continue to impress. And I’m really not sure what else either of the two can prove in Greensboro? I get Endy is a catcher and catchers usually take a little longer and I will confess that I am not privy (obviously) to what the Bucs front office wants to see Endy work on as far as his defense goes.

But as far as their bats go? I think they are both ready for the next step. And you may ask, “is there nothing left for them to work on?” Of course there is. A close look at their HOME/AWAY splits shows an area they can both work on.

Endy-

HOME- .297/.417/.587 OPS 1.004 12 HR

AWAY- .291/.347/.463 OPS .810 3 HR

Lopez-

HOME- .309/.349/.597 OPS .946 14 HR

AWAY- .259/.301/.385 OPS .685 4 HR

While Endy does show less pop on the road he still shows good power numbers, and an incredible slash line with almost no drop off on the road. This shows off his approach which is as good as we will see.

Dariel’s power and slash line both suffer on the road. But over his last 4 road trips he’ had a hit in 15 of 18 games, while his BA was just .256 over that stretch it does show a good approach at the plate, and at 20 years old that’s what I’m looking for. Get that approach right.

So yes, both could look to work on adding power while on the road but I think that’s an approach both can work on at the next level. It’s time, they’re ready for the next challenge in front of them.

Note- Oneil Cruz has graduated off the Fangraphs prospect page and Miguel Yajure fell out of the top list, so expect some changes next week!

Changes Need to Come, but Not Just on the Field

8-3-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

I don’t know when every move is coming, but I’m sure later today someone like Tucapita Marcano will replace someone like Yoshi Tsutsugo or Josh VanMeter on the roster. That’ll of course be welcomed by everyone with open arms, if not frustration that it took so long, but it’s also not the change that this team needs most.

Today, I’d like to take a look at some things that simply have to be addressed, specifically beyond players, because the easiest thing in sports is to simply say get better players. Of course that’s true, but making sure those improved talents will have a place to thrive as well as play needs to bubble to the surface.

The Hitting Program

The Pirates have been an offensive mess for the vast majority of Derek Shelton’s tenure here in Pittsburgh. Now, that of course can’t be said without acknowledging exactly what I said we’d avoid, the improvement of the talent, but it’s bigger than that.

Derek Shelton came up as a hitting coach, and he has input over the entire hitting plan here in Pittsburgh as the Manager. Maybe that’s why it was so strange to me that when he got here they decided to retain Rick Eckstein.

Not because Eckstein was someone I thought was a poor coach, as much as I couldn’t fathom Shelton wouldn’t want to put his own stamp on it.

Well, turns out, he did in fact want to own the process a bit. Hiring Mike Rabelo to be the Assistant Hitting Coach afforded the newly constructed staff to bridge the span. The 2019 Pirates weren’t good, but they did hit, so it made some sense to keep someone like Eckstein around for consistency.

Well, in the shortened season of 2020, they performed awfully, but 60 games was hardly enough to decide anything so even after moving Josh Bell, one of the main reasons for keeping that consistency around, they decided to hold steady into 2021.

By the end of that season, it was clear that the two weren’t speaking from the same pulpit any longer. So the Pirates removed Eckstein and allowed Derek Shelton to create a “staff” to fill the role for the last stages of the season. The offense experienced a bit of an uptick.

Enter Andy Haines.

He was an assistant hitting coach in Milwaukee, and that offense did little more than hit homeruns or strikeout, sound familiar?

2022 has been a mortal struggle. Rookies have come up and experienced success, but it’s rarely been sustainable. They’ve looked much different on day one than they did right before being sent back down.

The stars have struggled periodically, the rookies have just about all regressed, and adjustments seem to be daily.

If I had to guess right now, Haines won’t be here in 2023.

Recently, I had opportunity to discuss the hitting instruction with players, and for understandable reasons, they’d like to remain in the shadows.

“He changes everything, wants me to make a smaller move, says I should use a heavier bat, game plan and approach changes and wants us to hunt outside of our strengths”

Tweaks are well within the purview of any hitting coach folks, but some of this constitutes wholesale change. The Pirates promote a “hitting plan” and it’s intended to be organizational. Meaning, when guys come up from AAA they shouldn’t require massive changes because they should be instructed in the same manner as they’re working through the system.

Here’s some more.

“It’s operation overload here with information and it floods us.”

Anyone who’s ever hit baseballs at any level will tell you thinking too much is kryptonite in the box.

Listen, when guys are struggling at the plate, they’re going to not be pleased with many aspects of everything around them, up to and including their socks. I get it.

One thing I can honestly say as someone who watches guys in the minors and MLB, I can physically see the change in approach these guys are trying to employ as early as 2 or 3 days after being called up.

That shouldn’t happen. Stance changes, swing changes, where a hitter stands in the box, that’s formative stuff, not tweak at the MLB level stuff. Ask Chad Hermansen what that sort of coaching does to a kid.

Someone needs to grab hold of this program and reinvent it. Maybe the way they addressed the pitching disconnect from Marin to the minor leagues by adding Dewey Robinson.

All I know is when your entire franchise is depending on developing talent, you best be better than this.

Public Relations

This is an area I have professional experience in so I’ll try real hard not to get too deep in the weeds.

The first thing to acknowledge is really that PR isn’t going to save you from selling a bad product. At some point people just aren’t going to accept what you say if they see the same bad play game after game.

Way back in 2019 when I first started covering the Pirates for Sports Illustrated, my second article was about needing to find a GM and team President who could effectively communicate with the fans. So far, that’s been an epic failure.

Here’s why. You can’t continue to go to the we’re getting better well when it’s painfully apparent you aren’t getting better. If you constantly talk about bringing in more talent yet refuse to bring up said talent and or refuse to cut failed veterans to make room for them, fans aren’t going to buy it.

The Brewers put on a master class recently after trading Josh Hader their All Star closer while leading the division at the deadline.

First, lets start at the top. The Brewers have earned this by providing their fan base with winning baseball. They’ve also physically tried, putting just about every red cent they could into payroll.

That’s not PR, but it makes PR much easier.

I asked people on Twitter who were praising this to try to craft something similar for the Pirates to explain their “state of the franchise”, or at least why they moved a guy like Quintana.

See to me, I don’t need that explanation, I knew from the minute he was signed if he performed even decent he was going to be traded. I’m sure I’m not alone in that, but how could the Pirates do better here?

Transparency.

“Get Better” is vague. It means something, but it means something different to everyone who hears it. More importantly it means something different depending on outcome from he who spoke it. If the Pirates finish this season with 2 more wins than in 2021, did they “get better”?

Sure, technically they got better. But realistically, or in any meaningful way, probably not.

Do they maybe have a more exciting group of young talent to build on? Sure that’s probably fair, but that too isn’t what the team tells us. Instead they focus on the need to keep bringing in more talent, and simply get better.

3 years of that isn’t going to age well, especially when you’re set to finish in the bottom 10 at least for the 4th straight campaign.

PR can also be unspoken.

Extend Ke’Bryan Hayes for 7 years and fans think “OK, here we go, now we start to lock some of our talent down”

Follow it up by taking Bryan Reynolds to arbitration before your owner steps in and forces you to abandon that idea and fans think “In what way does this make sense next to extending Hayes?”

Look, fans aren’t collectively as stupid as you see represented on social media daily. Most fans understand what the Pirates are trying to do, even if they have a healthy understanding of how near impossible it would be should they never spend money in the effort.

I’m not saying they have to throw a dollar figure out there for their maximum budget, but as a Pirates fan, wouldn’t it be easier to understand the plan if you knew 150 million was their ceiling. Wouldn’t it be easier to digest trades if you knew the bottoming out of payroll isn’t in an effort to stay there but instead an effort to build the system and remake the entire team with youth?

As a GM, the last thing you like to do is speak in absolutes. If you say you don’t plan to bottom out again, before you know it you’re Neal Huntington trying like hell to use super glue and twigs in 2018 to try to recapture the magic you let slip through your fingers instead of properly rebuilding. Or, you do it anyway and accept the moniker of liar seeing your words printed everywhere you go.

Already Cherington slipped, and I have to believe that’s what it was, and said the Pirates would be “good earlier than most expect”. A dangerous comment because it’s the wrong kind of vague. To me that may mean 2024, to Joe in Glassport that may mean 2023.

When/if they don’t sign anyone of note this offseason, Joe is going to be fit to be tied, and I’ll still feel ok with Cherington’s statement.

Point is, PR is hard, and it’s possibly the hardest job there is when you have little positive to sell. It’s why they spend so much time talking about Pirates Charities or the Miracle League fields. Great stuff on its own, but fans know it’s not the positivity they seek.

They want more than “We’ll have the payroll when the time is right”. Because again, to Joe or I that time could probably be right now damnit!

Fans want a real commitment. Actually tangibly admitting that not enough was done in the past, and a vision for how to not have the same mistakes repeated. Fans simply aren’t going to trust that Nutting is spending this time, they need to see it. This fan base needs a signing. A message that things are different.

We got one with Hayes signing a record setting deal, but it was a backhanded record. If anything the very fact that 70 million over 8 years set a record is embarrassing on its face.

Not to sound ungrateful, I’m thrilled they did it, but I’m also nowhere near willing to pretend fans should now believe the game has unquestionably changed and we can now expect the trajectory to point upward in perpetuity.

This past off season the team had more than a few giant holes. They addressed them to a degree. Signing Jose Quintana for 2 million to provide a veteran starter, Yoshi Tsutsugo for first base at around 4 million. Daniel Vogelbach for what amounted to 800K, and Roberto Perez at catcher for 5 million.

None of those raised an eyebrow, some of them really performed. Others clearly didn’t. It’s not that they won’t spend anything, it’s that they rarely will spend on someone who won’t be leaving after the All Star Break.

Roberto’s injury prevented us from likely seeing his name at least being a constant rumor. If Yoshi had managed to do anything at all he’d have gotten some attention I’m sure. Now as it would turn out, Quintana was probably the only one of those who you’d have liked to see much longer. Had they signed him preseason for say 3 years, I’ll be honest, at the time I’d have questioned the sanity of every single one of the Pirates Management team.

That’s still what they need though. The Pirates need to find someone of value, and sign him to a meaningful deal. One where fans can feel reasonably assured they can bother vesting in the player, caring about what he does and for once not through a lens of what he may fetch come time to trade him. That’s gonna take years, likely 3, and even at that, it’s just a start.

Keep extending, keep improving.

All of that is going to mean a hell of a lot more than words, even if it’ll need followed up with those too.

As it stands, fans are starting to disbelieve in the plan, and how could you blame them, when the plan has never been uttered publicly, instead being left to observers to guess and estimate for themselves.

The realities of MLB’s economic system are nebulous at best. It doesn’t really matter by how much you believe Nutting underspends, as much as recognizing his top end is still short at least of directly competing with the biggest of big spenders.

Fans don’t expect that, even the dumbest of them. They do expect you to try though, and if you aren’t going to for 2 or 3 years, you do owe them telling you when you will. Better yet, show them.

Pirates Grab Prospect And A New Kevin Newman?

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-bwq9a-128bb3b

The Pirates closed out the period before the 2022 MLB Trade Deadline dealing away Jose Quintana and Chris Stratton for RP Johan Oviedo and prospect Malcom Nunez. We break down the deal and why the Pirates couldn’t move anyone else. Plus, we look at the possible breakout of Kevin Newman. What do the numbers say about what is really going on?

Brought to you by ShopYinzz.com! Craig Toth covers the Pirates for Inside The Bucs Basement, and joins his buddy Chris at a 9-foot homemade oak bar to talk Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball. Listen. Subscribe. Share. We are “For Fans, By Fans & all Pirates Talk.” THE Pirates Fan Podcast found EVERYWHERE podcasts can be found and always at BucsInTheBasement.com!

Five Pirates Thoughts at Five

8-1-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

What a weird time to be writing one of these. I mean, it’s Monday, it’s 5:00 PM, but there is just so much uncertainty out there what with the trade deadline tomorrow. I mean I could turn this into a prediction piece, maybe it’ll wind up one of those where I have to add a 6th or 7th point because trades won’t quit rolling in.

To start, I think we have some bigger picture things we have to focus on though, so lets dig right in shall we?

1. Rancid

Did you ever hear about the bad apple that spoiled the bunch? Sure you have.

I’m not here to tell you that everything bad you watched was due to the fact that the Pirates stubbornly held onto Josh VanMeter or Yoshi Tsutsugo, but I am here to say, they knowingly introduced disease next to pink tissue and ignored that disease has a tendency to spread.

Veterans are wonderful to have about, but veterans who are visibly and historically behind some of the flock they’re supposed to be helping to foster can create more of a cautionary tale than an inspirational scene.

How can you tell someone who goes 2 for 30 that he needs to go to AAA and be further trained while you insert two players into the lineup who have a combined 2 for 50 in their recent history?

Think of what that says to a young player. Imagine you get your call up, you struggle, then things start to click to the point where you start hitting. Homeruns come, accolades start following you, you might even see your name on some lists that get you and your family really excited. Then struggles return as the league starts adjusting to you and your success.

Imagine then being called into the office of the man who stuck by you when you couldn’t hit your way out of a paper bag early on. Someone who told you to “trust the process”, or “don’t get too down or too up”. You walk in no doubt confident that you’ll be told there was something he noticed in your approach, or maybe they want you to try another spot. Instead, you’re told you’re going back down.

What would go through your head after the initial dizziness?

Sure, if you’re a baseball player you look at yourself. You know you’re struggling, you know you have work to do, but at some point don’t you have to give in to human nature and wonder, “How the hell am I worse than those two?”.

This entire scenario is imagined. I’m not sitting here telling you how Jack Suwinski’s demotion went down. I’m not pretending it’s the reason he’s striking out in AAA at an almost 45% clip.

What I am proposing, is that there is far more to dislike about keeping those two around than annoying fans alone. Factor in stuff like this and man it gets really hard to pretend there wasn’t awkwardness created, somewhere anyway.

I hear Josh VanMeter is a very popular figure in the room, so I’m not suggesting anyone is MFing them under their breath, but there are only 26 of these jobs, and each of them is precious. Yes, even on this team.

Sometimes dumb decisions can only travel in one direction as you think about them, worse.

2. Even Winners Can’t Escape MLB’s Economic Reality Either

The Brewers traded Josh Hader to the San Diego Padres today. They also put Kolten Wong and Omar Narvaez up for bids.

The return they got for Hader was, well, a bit underwhelming. He has the remainder of this year and another season of arbitration in which he’ll make somewhere in the 15 million dollar range should it get that far.

They received three major leaguers, Dinelson Lamet, who ‘s struggled mightily, Esteury Ruiz, not much to say here and Taylor Rogers, San Diego’s own prolific closer who’s had recent troubles. Robert Gasser a single A pitcher round out the deal.

So why would the Brewers do this? I mean they’re winning the division. They’re a genuinely very good team?

For one thing, the Brewers spend as much as their market allows, something our dear Pirates fail to do with a near perfect track record, but that comes with limits. Having another closer already on staff and under team control in the form of Devin Williams gives them ability to do this, and allowing an asset like Hader to utilize over 15 million dollars is outside of the abilities of a market like this and then potentially walk away for nothing, yeah, not happening.

Some will say, well they’re good right now, why risk your position?

Because the Brewers have other concerns. Other players they want and need to keep. Other contracts for big stars that they need to maximize.

This is what MLB creates. A situation where even the very best run operations are left with little choice but to take steps counter to the goal in an effort to keep the wheels on the track for a few more years.

Teams all over the league are in that situation. Look at the Rays putting Ji-man Choi up for offers. Even as they make a move to obtain David Peralta. It’s why the Orioles who look better than they have in years dealt Trey Mancini to the Astros.

This stuff only makes sense, when you realize the league itself doesn’t.

3. As I’ve Said All Season Long, Reynolds Stays

This deadline will pass and Bryan Reynolds will still remain a Pittsburgh Pirate. He is playing on a 2 year contract with a yearly salary of 6.75 Million. After that he has 2 more years of arbitration, taking him all the way through the 2025 season. If he mealy continues being a “good” player come 2024 he’ll get over 10 million, in 2025 he might approach 15.

This 2 year contract was an answer to a sticky situation that Ben Cherington allowed them to get into. Taking Reynolds to the precipice of going through an arbitration hearing was something unpalatable to both the player, and fan base, and as we’d come to see Bob Nutting as well.

It’s my belief that the Pirates will either get an extension done with him this off season, or the chances of him surviving another deadline aren’t great. He’ll be 31 years old before he reaches free agency so I don’t expect this to be some 8 year deal, but I do expect the Pirates to attempt to tack on 2 or 3 more seasons beyond his years of control, almost timing him up with Hayes.

Deciding to keep Reynolds even as far back as last season put this on a collision course. He was a member of this “build” from the moment they made the choice way back when. If he wasn’t, they should have made the call before the youth started making it’s way up here. Moving him at this point would suggest a step backward, and for that, with this player, according to people I talk to, Nutting has no stomach to endure.

Of course the extension doesn’t have to be completed this offseason, but if it isn’t, I simply can’t see continuing to build on a foundation while knowing one of your corner stones has a crack in it. THIS is the story of this coming off season. Followed closely by how do they augment the young players.

4. What’s Next?

This should be pretty clear, the youth movement that was started will resume. As clearly stupid as we all see it is that the team forced the fans and players to deal with the silliness of continuing to play players who simply had no business in the league, the fact remains we’ll be getting back to where we were headed.

I expect quite a few young players to make their way back to Pittsburgh and even more still yet to make their debut. This might not lead to a whole lot more wins but it will lead to an environment of baseball in which most highs come from players who matter and have a future here.

The Pirates have delayed this process and while I don’t plan to let them forget it, I also don’t plan to spend the rest of the season pissing and moaning about it. The lessons will be clear, and we’ll have all off season to pick apart how they handled this one, for now, lets just watch some kids play baseball and see if we can’t just work toward seeing what 2023 could start off looking like.

5. Extensions Aren’t Just a One Player Proposition

The Pirates have an elephant in the room, one that I spent considerable time discussing in point number 3, but he isn’t the only one.

See, for this team it’s never going to be easy to retain long term or acquire via free agency top of the rotation talent. You can blame whomever you like, the owner, MLB’s economic system, Ben Cherington being a terrible GM, whatever, it won’t change the facts, a market like this isn’t going to be in that game.

That being said, somewhere they can spend is locking up guys who might be 3’s or 4’s in their rotation. Guys like Mitch Keller and JT Brubaker, just entering Arb 1 next year could be affordable and quality extensions. Even if the Pirates manage to cultivate better starters from their system having guys like this signed reasonably only increases what the Pirates could hope to get for them in a future deal.

I don’t think the Pirates have to do this by any means mind you, it’s just my suggestion. When you find someone who can at least prove their level rises to that of “MLB starter”, try to keep them, because if they rise to the level of “Superstar MLB Starter”, they gone, feel me?

That element is always going to have to come from internally developing them or trades.

We just discussed the Brewers situation, and let’s be blunt, that franchise spends at a level the Pirates simply haven’t shown a willingness to approach. Even they will find retaining pitchers like Brandon Woodruff or Corbin Burnes difficult at best. That’s why you see them extend an unproven younger pitcher like Aaron Ashby or even Freddy Peralta a few years back.

It provides stability for a rotation, especially when you aren’t a team that can afford to pay 8-10 million on the open market for pitchers such as Dylan Bundy or the like, especially when you need 2 or 3 of them because you let too many decent pitchers walk in the hopes of only securing “really good” pitchers.

You may tell me neither of those guys have shown worthy, and I won’t fight you on that. I suggest this simply because of that fact though. All the way proven out commodities aren’t affordable, payers on their way to proven are more in the Pirates wheelhouse.

I don’t suggest this for everyone, but I do suggest it for two guys with really good stuff, showing real progress toward reaching their peaks.

Before you laugh this off, think about how badly you wish they’d sign a guy like Quintana for a couple more years, then remind yourself, teams are allowed to cultivate them for themselves too.

Now if JT or Mitch cost 11 million in 2026 it could either be a 3 or 4 million dollar overpay or a 5-6 million dollar bargain.

These are risks teams like this must take.

I’ll put it this way, finding AJ, Frankie, and whomever else they reclaimed is much harder to pull off than those Pirates teams made it look, and pitching will as always tell the story of how this entire thing progresses.

I suggest the Pirates buy themselves a nice double wide, just in case they never hit the numbers and secure that mansion everyone is looking for. 3 or 4 guys like this can secure a healthy rotation, and more than anything, they have to think like their lot requires.

Unless you think Nutting is going to wake up one day and swing open Ben’s office door with a declaration that the purse strings are gone, go get Walker Buhler! I suggest you embrace things like this.

Everything Oneil Cruz Does Creates an All Out Fight, Enough Already

7-31-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

I’m just beyond tired of it personally.

He’s a 23 year old kid, a ton of tools, close to a month in the league. Honestly, SHUT the HELL UP already. And no, I don’t care for your opinion of what position he should be playing either, even if you did coach T-ball for 3 years. Even if you know everything because you watched winning teams in the 70’s.

I’m exaggerating of course, but everything Cruz, is an all out battle.

Yesterday he wasn’t in the lineup to face an extremely tough lefty. Because it was on national TV many were beside themselves that he didn’t start. Others seemed to understand why he was not started but couldn’t just leave it there, they had to go on to take it too far, as always, and declare he’s a platoon player. Or they’re training him to be a platoon player.

Sigh…

Two base running gaffes in two days = lazy or stupid. Then that spawns the calls that saying that about a Latin player is racist, ignoring that they’d say the same thing about Jason Delay if he did the same. Ignoring that the gaffes were actually not something you should happily tolerate. Ignoring that they also don’t write the story of what he’ll become.

That’s really the entire thing with Cruz isn’t it? He’s not a finished product.

Through every channel I occupy I tried like hell to make sure fans were prepared for this. He’s a very talented kid, tools that very few possess, but he’s also not close to having it all figured out. 2022 was never, ever, going to be the year where you look up and say Oneil Cruz is ______ kind of player.

There are his fierce defenders. They’ve been defending him since his 2 day call up last year. To them he’s already a generational player, despite zero evidence to support such a claim. They confuse elite tools with elite performance, Oh, and you’re evil if you don’t see it. Probably racist too. Maybe even a “bootlicker”. LOL

There are his “educated” advisors. They know everything he does wrong, where he should play, how often he should play, Oh, by the way, you’re far too stupid to see the obvious if you don’t agree or even suggest there might be room before those decisions need made.

We have the “haters” who think he’s already a bust because everyone who’s ever going to be good in the Majors comes up and has immediate success. These folks will ignore that his legal troubles in the Dominican were more about a corrupt local government than wrongdoing, evidence of hundreds of Hall of Fame players who started out rough, and anything he does well is downplayed.

All of these make me want to puke.

I just want to watch and evaluate a player.

I don’t need to care about where he plays, because right now, who’s pushing him out? I don’t need to declare what he is, because who the hell knows at this stage?

Shelton isn’t “screwing him up”, or holding him back by protecting him from facing some extremely tough left handed pitching. There are a ton of left handers I’d have no problem having him face, but a guy who at will can change the shape and speed of every one of his breaking balls with a wicked spin rate isn’t one. Maybe he’ll get to the point where his patience makes that a decent matchup because he’ll take the walk, but right now, he’s just going to swing over top of 3 deliveries and sit back down.

There’s something to be said for letting him see it, and experience it, but maybe we should see some success against lesser lefties before we cry about him getting a shot to hit legitimately tough ones.

I’ve seen him throw a ball twice Michael Chavis’ height. That neither means he won’t get better, or that a 7 foot first baseman would have turned it into a top ten play on Sports Center. It’s just a bad throw.

No need to compare him to Aaron Judge, even if Judge was nice enough to try. And you don’t need to dig up Judge’s early career numbers or point out that at 23 he himself was in AA as opposed to Cruz who of course is in the Bigs.

See what I mean? It’s all so ridiculous.

This is just a prospect. Learning to/trying to make the jump from AAA player to MLB player. Some don’t ever make that leap, few make it easily, fewer still become stars from the jump. Even some of those wind up regressing in their second year. There’s a long way to go folks, and I just hate seeing a player get this kind of divisive treatment because inevitably, far too many people are too stupid to allow themselves to change their stance even when evidence is overwhelming.

I implore you, let this play out. Let him develop.

Learn it with Cruz, because you’re going to watch a whole lot more rookies come up. I’m already seeing Davis declared “not a catcher” and Nick Gonzales a bad pick. I mean, folks, if you can’t watch this part of the process, just don’t.

We’re probably less than 2 weeks from someone realizing Termarr Johnson is short. Half the fan base will compare him to Altuve, half will say Cherington is an idiot for picking him. This is baseball people, not the NFL. Draft picks and rookies don’t come to this league and contribute to a “take over the league” level often.

You know what you need to see from Cruz? Improvement.

Daily, continuous improvement. That takes time, and that’s all.

Pirates Draft: The Best Of The Rest

7-30-22 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement on Twitter)

Not that I need reminded, but every so often it hits me like a punch to jaw…Pittsburgh is predominately a football town; especially when it comes to their Steelers. Some may think this most recent reality check is due to the line of cars waiting to get into Training Camp at St. Vincent in Latrobe, except it’s not.

The discussions on social sites-even ones from certain members of the Pittsburgh Sports Media-surrounding MLB Draft is primarily why. As much as it’s said that the Rule 4 Draft is different from those in any other in professional sports, this fact never really seems to sink in.

If an 18 year-old shortstop is drafted in the 1st Round-and I don’t care if it’s 4th Overall-there is no need for conversations about what to do with Oneil Cruz, Nick Gonzales, Liover Pegeuro. This is not the same as a running back’s job being on the line a la Rasheed Mendenhall and “Fast” Willie Parker. Termarr Johnson is not taking anyone’s job; at least not for the next four years or so. And, even then it’s possible, he or any number of middle infielders have been moved off the position.

Yet, each year we hear these same types of meaningless chatter.

Which is very similar of the fruitless endeavor of making lineups-or 5 man rotations-for 2025 or 2026 with every single player that was selected in the top few rounds of the last 3 or 4 drafts.

Honestly at this point, go make your own Facebook group(s) or Twitter Space(s) to debate this mindless drizzle; and, leave the rest of us out of it.

Or more succinctly put:

Now back to the Pirates portion of the MLB Draft.

After making what were correctly assessed as slight money saving moves at #36-Thomas Harrington ($100,300 under slot)-and at #44-Hunter Barco ($251,100 under slot)-some thought the Pirates would make a big splash in the upcoming rounds; just like they did with Lonnie White, Jr. and Bubba Chandler last year. Unfortunately many overshot the mark by forgetting the near $7,005,800 slot value that would be due to the Pirates First Round Selection, Termarr Johnson.

Had the Pirates opted to go with say a Zach Neto or a Jace Jung they would have been able to negotiate to obtain the extra funds; much like the $1.9 million they saved by drafting Henry Davis #1 Overall in 2021. Then, they might have been able to go overboard.

With that being said Cherington and Company did create a ripple, as opposed to the wave some were expecting, with their 4th Round Pick (#100 Overall); and then went back to playing it safe again.

1) Michael Kennedy-LHP (Troy HS)

Graded out as the best high school left-handed pitcher-#3 overall-in the state of New York by Perfect Game, Kennedy mowed his way through the Flying Horses opponents to the tune of a .60 ERA with 65 strikeouts, 8 walks and just 15 hits across 35 innings.

Named the New York Gatorade Player of the Year, he had a verbal commitment to LSU, but ultimately signed with the Pirates for a cool $1 million ($445,000 over slot).

With a low-90’s (55 grade) fastball, paired with a high-70’s (55 grade) slider and a low-80’s changeup (50 grade), this 17 Year Old-he doesn’t turn 18 until the end of November-As Kennedy could have easily chosen to become a Tiger in the fall; yet, as you can see, he was more than happy with starting his professional career.

2) Jack Brannigan-TWP (Notre Dame)

Each time a Two-Way Player is drafted Shohei Ohtani-or for Pittsburgh Pirates Fans Bubba Chandler-automatically come(s) to mind. No offense to Brannigan, but he really isn’t in the same ballpark as Ohtani; and, I’m not sure it’s even a same church different pew when it comes to comparing Brannigan to Chandler. This is not to say that he isn’t a good player. He is!

In three years at Notre Dame-with the bat-Brannigan grew into a fairly solid contact hitter, with a little bit of pop; but, really didn’t see this transition into the Cape Cod League, using the wood bats. Across his Sophomore and Junior seasons with the Fighting Irish he slashed .292/.373/.516 with 18 homers and 48 total extra base hits. In the Cape during the summer of 2021 he .282 AVG, a .759 OPS and one homer in 352 less plate appearances.

Seen as having on of the best arms in Prairie States due to his 70 grade fastball that sits comfortably between 95-97 mph, a 60 grade mid-80’s wipeout slider and a rarely used 50 grade change up, he never really got much work in between high school in Chicago, his time in South Bend and The Cape.

During Brannigan’s last season with Notre Dame he posted a 7.36 ERA and a 1.636 WHIP, but struck out 28 batters in 14.2 innings. In the Cape he pitched just 3 innings, which makes it pretty much impossible to judge anything.

So truthfully, how likely is it that Brannigan ends up as an infielder, AND a relief pitcher? Not likely in the long term. Will they let him try both? I believe so for right now. Where will he end up? I will say he becomes a member of the bullpen; but, it’s possible he gets a run at the rotation as well.

Last week when I was on The Pirates Fan Forum with Gary and Jim, I failed to make the comparison between him and current Pirates Prospect J.C. Flowers; who pitched just 26 innings during his junior year at Florida State, and is now predominantly as a swing-man/long reliever out of the bullpen. This of course was after he started during the majority of his appearances last year.

Based on was scouts are reporting, Brannigan would prefer to stay as a position player; although know one really knows the conversations he had with the Pirates before signing his $770,700-right on slot-bonus.

3) Tres Gonzalez-OF (Georgia Tech)

Back in 2019 Gonzalez was lauded for having some of the best bat to ball skills among high schoolers in his area; resulting in him being selected by the Dodgers in the 37th round. Be that as it may, like many young men his age, he ultimately bet on himself, and went to Georgia Tech to prove that he could continue this level of play against more advanced competition.

As a result he was selected by Pittsburgh in the 5th Round, and signed to a bonus of $347,500 ($67,100 under slot); thanks mostly to a .314/.442/.461 slash line with 91 walks to 74 strikeouts in a Yellow Jackets uniform, and a .331 average in the Cape.

To his detriment, the one thing he has not been able to consistently add is power; a skill that scout’s believe he could develop. However, for now it’s all speed (60 Grade Run Grade) and Hit (55 Grade)

4) Miguel Fulgencio-LHP (Cowley County Community College)

First off, the dude’s 23. But, that’s what happen when you try your hand at football first-at Oklahoma State University-before turning your eyes back to baseball.

Secondly, he’s a JUCO Bandit-a brand of baseball player that I have become partial to. Attending Crowley Community College in Arkansas City, Kansas, Fulgencio pitched strictly out of the bullpen; logging 33 innings in 2021 and 46 in 2022. Across those 79 innings he struck out 106 and only walked 26; while making appearances in the newly formed Appalachian Collegiate Summer League last year, and the Cape Cod League this one.

Selected in the 13th Round, and given the status quo $125,000 signing bonus, the former Tiger could rise through the system based strictly on his age and make-up.

5) J.P. Massey-RHP (Minnesota)

Massey oozes pure athleticism, raw talent and charisma-or drip as the cool kids call it nowadays.

Set to transfer from Minnesota to Mizzou for the upcoming season, after making 12 starts for the Golden Gophers during his senior season. During this time he posted a 6.52 ERA, 1.736 WHIP and 63 strikeouts; but struggled with control by walking 39, hitting 6 batters and tossing 12 wild pitches.

A lanky 6’5” and 205 lbs, the Chicago Native has both a two-seam and four-seam fastball that reach 95 mph with ease; and, are accompanied by a slider, a changeup and a curve.

A project when he arrived at Minnesota, and still a project when he eventually arrives at Pirate City after signing for $150,000 ($93,000 under the #200 slot value), Massey guarantees to be exciting.

Now obviously these aren’t the only five players-along with the Pirates First Three Off The Board-that could potentially make an impact in Pittsburgh one day; however, they are the ones I found most interesting during my initial assessment(s).

Drafting future MLB talent is hard! Developing future MLB talent is hard! Baseball is hard!

Sellers for 4th Straight Year, Fan Frustration is Justified

7-30-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

Pirates fans are frustrated.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

Nobody is shocked the team isn’t competing for the division in 2022, in fact not many are all that surprised that they aren’t threatening .500 again.

This time it’s a bit different though.

See, this time the Pirates gave fans a taste of what could be, then pulled the rug out from under the fan base, and their seemingly inexhaustible well of belief that fans will accept everything they do in the name of “the plan” is running dry.

Years ago, coming out of a divorce, I was driving a complete piece of crap car. Thing was just not in good shape, but in an effort to sock away as much money as I could, I decided to keep driving it. Then one day on the way to work I was rear ended on the Liberty Bridge and insurance took over. Car in the shop, and a rental car later I was suddenly driving around in a brand new vehicle.

The shop had my old beater for almost two weeks, and when they called to tell me it was ready, I was in no hurry to switch back to what I was driving. Alas, I had to go get it done.

On my way home that night, I realized I had experienced something nice a bit too long to pretend what I was currently driving was ok any longer.

Folks, the Pirates put every one of us through something very similar this year. See, they swapped our old AM/FM-CD player combo named Jake Marisnick with an Apple Car Play equipped Jack Suwinski. They replaced our malfunctioning AC unit of Bryse Wilson with the arctic blast producing unit of Roansy Contreras.

On and on, Yoshi was gone, VanMeter was out Marcano was up, Peguero made an appearance.

Point is, once you show people that there is better out there, making them go back and sit in the stink of what was is nearly impossible.

Don’t get me wrong, even with all those shiny new parts, this team wasn’t going anywhere this year, but you can’t just expect people to forget the creature comforts you exposed them to either.

It’s also not the same as what fans are used to experiencing this time of year. You can trade players, and while they won’t like it, maybe they’re pleasantly surprised by the young guys getting a shot. This year, they’ve been forced to spend almost a month resenting the group of barely movable or completely impossible to believe they could get moved vets who the team allowed to force out some of the hopeful kids we’d started to buy into.

We’ve watched the franchise routinely put a more potent offense together in AAA Indianapolis than we get to experience at the MLB level.

Take ten minutes looking at the roster for Indianapolis and the Pirates, you’ll make about 5 or 6 swaps mentally and the team at least looks loaded with promise, as opposed to loaded with disposables.

If I look at the bigger picture, I still like the farm system. I still like where this is headed. But you all know me by now, my style is to force myself to see as much as possible both sides of everything.

Sure I land on one side or the other most of the time when I form my opinion, but I do so from a place where I at least can understand the why’s and what’s of a situation. The very fact that there simply is and was, never a trade market for Yoshi, or VanMeter, Marisnick or Chang, name who you want, was reason enough for me to just advise washing your hands of them.

The Pirates may have been forced into giving fans a preview of what the kids could do due to injury, but much like my accident on the Liberty Bridge, why or how it happened didn’t matter all that much. Fact is, fans saw that it could be better.

Fans saw a team they could honestly say had room to grow. They saw a team with potential to build on. They saw power from multiple places in the lineup, we watched pitching with ceilings minus the seemingly constant underachieving.

Once you’ve shown that, how do you expect them to take it when the GM, a guy they’re supposed to trust to make the team better, actively makes it worse with seemingly no benefit?

How can fans expect Mr. Cherington to make the right choices two years from now when they’re competing for something, when he’s showing you he can’t or won’t right now?

You can blame Bob Nutting for as many things as you like, but this my friends, this is on the GM. These moves don’t save them money, these moves do little more than placate egos and hold out hope that another GM is potentially even more braindead than our own and believes there is some benefit to acquiring someone that is going to get cut on August 2nd.

The really messed up part to me is that it doesn’t really change the plan, it doesn’t make it less or more likely to work. All this has done is make it a little harder for fans to believe that management knows what they’re doing at the MLB level.

Sometime next week, I believe they’ll make changes to the roster. We’ll see kids come back up, maybe even some new faces and eventually we might even get to that “fun” finish I predicted. That said, I won’t, and you shouldn’t, get past the fact they already had this team at that area and actively chose to take steps backward instead.

Maybe two years from now people will look back and mislabel this as a “collapse” in reality it has been a self inflicted bullet wound in the foot.

There is one line we heard uttered from everyone in this management group. Repeatedly too. Get Better.

We even saw them call their development camp “Get Better at Baseball Camp”. Yet when they actually saw the MLB team start to get better, they allowed it to be broken up in the name of stubbornness and misplaced hope.

I put a line in Five Pirates Thoughts at Five earlier this week, and I think it’s going to become a theme as we move forward. Trust is earned, time to start earning.

I’m aware some fans will swear off the Pirates now. Some will actually stay away too. Most will come back when and if they start winning and act like they never left. That’s why so few tend to understand how the team came to be once it does happen. They forget all those who were moved to bring in who they’re actively cheering for, and honestly it doesn’t matter, so long as they’re winning.

I’ll try to explain of course, but I’ll never be able to explain the month of July in the 2022 season, because no matter how I look at it, this was an unnecessary exercise with such a small crack of possibility it simply wasn’t worth doing.

For a team that always references getting better, I’d settle for hearing one of them say for once that they’re sick of losing. Not that they’d prefer to win. Not that they’d like to improve, but specifically, WE ARE SICK OF LOSING.

After all, their goals should align with the fans, and I can’t think of a better thing to come together on.

Pirates Draft: First Three Off The Board

7-29-22 By Craig W. Toth (aka @Bucs Basement on Twitter)

I already had a feeling that Pirates Fan Social Media was going to overreact to one degree or another, no matter who Pittsburgh took with the 4th Overall Pick. Still, I wasn’t prepared for the immediate calls to trade their #3 and/or #5 Prospects according to MLB Pipeline, Nick Gonzales and Liover Peguero; or, the declarations that he would be in the Major’s at age 20.

Now, obviously Termarr Johnson is an extremely talented young ball player. You don’t just stumble into a 70 Grade Hit Tool, a label as the best pure prep hitter in decades or a comp of being a Wade Boggs/Vlad Guerrero combo as far as bat-to-ball skills are concerned. However, let’s get the kid some at bats before we make any totally irrational statements.

But enough about the hot take machine. It’s more about the how he ended up up in Pittsburgh; and who did the Pirates got in Termarr Johnson.

Well throughout the day, and in the minutes leading up to the Baltimore Orioles Pick at #1, it was rumored that the Birds were set to take Brooks Lee, Termarr Johnson or Druw Jones; in that order. In the end they called Jackson Holliday’s name, which was a slight surprise; although there wasn’t that much distance separating the #2 through about #7.

Then as predicted, Jones came off the board; followed by the the shocker in 2021 Vanderbilt Commodore, and current Tri-City ValleyCats Pitcher Kumar Rocker. Following Rocker’s selection, I honestly had the Pirates Pick narrowed down to three in my mind; in a pretty particular order: 1) Cam Collier 2) Brooks Lee 3) Termarr Johnson. So, when the Pirates went with Johnson there was no reason(s) for me to be disappointed.

For those who didn’t read my Draft Preview Blog Post, here is what I had to say about Johnson:

Johnson is a straight beast at the plate; wowing onlookers with with tape measure taters, and may be the best pure hitter in this year’s class. During his final season in a Raiders uniform he collected 23 hits in 59 at bats; with 15 of them going for extra bases.

Unfortunately his defense is not as polished; often causing many to project him as a second baseman rather than staying at shortstop. Nevertheless, this hasn’t been enough to stop the rumors from swirling surrounding him potentially landing in Baltimore at #1 Overall.

The only thing I would truthfully add to this brief assessment at this point is that, the only reason for the questions surrounding his defense is his 50 grade arm; which is average. His actual fielding ability is a 60; so above average.

Currently the Pirates are set to let him work his way off the position; if and/or when he ultimately does.

In a conversation that General Manager Manager Ben Cherington had with the Pittsburgh Sports Media-including the Post Gazette’s Jason Mackey he had this to say:

“We believe in him as a defender. We think he has instincts to defend. He works hard at it. He cares about it. And he can make plays. He can make plays on the run. He has pretty good body control. Can make throws from different angles. We think he does a lot of good things defensively. He’s a well-rounded player. So we’ll get his career started as a shortstop. We’re excited to see how he progresses.”

As soon as this pick was made, all I could think was go get some arms; which is exactly what Cherington did, starting with Thomas Harington from Campbell University. Go Fighting Camels-Gaylord and Gladys!

In his 2 years years wearing the black and orange, Harrington posted a 2.94 ERA, while striking out 186 batters across 168.1 innings. During his draft eligible sophomore season he set a program record for wins (12) and strikeouts (111). He also second-lowest ERA (2.53) and third lowest WHIP in the nation among pitchers with at least 90 innings of work.

Possessing a high floor-one of the highest in the class according to scout-and a likely ceiling as a #3 starter, Harrington often relies on his mid-80’s changeup (60 grade) for swings and misses; pairing it with a low to mid-90’s (55 grade) fastball, that runs away from hitters.

He does have two other off-speed offerings in the form of a curve and slider; however, these pitches are less consistent. Still, when they are on, they are on.

Ultimately the Pirates signed “Steady Eddie” to $2,050,000 bonus ($100,300 under slot).

Chances are Harrington eventually finishes the season with the Low-A Bradenton Marauders; but, there is also an outside chance he gets an appearance or two in Greensboro as pitchers across the system begin to reach their innings limits.

It’s also not out of the realm of possibilities that 90+ innings of work on the year is plenty good for the Pirates.

Following the selection of Harrington, Cherington returned to the mound 8 picks later. Once again taking a college arm. Only this time, there is no chance we will see this pitcher during the 2022; and, most likely not until at least halfway through 2023.

After dominating, and intimidating opposing SEC-and other conferences-batters for the first few months in a Gators uniform to the tune of a 2.58 ERA and .89 WHIP with 69 strikeouts in 50.1 innings, Jacksonville Native Hunter Barco’s season ended in Tommy John Surgery.

Seen as the top high school left-handed starter in the 2019 class, most teams were scared away by his near unwavering commitment to the University Of Florida. Nevertheless, scouts see his prospective profile and eventual ceiling to be almost exactly what it was back then; when he is healthy of course. Which is something he is currently working on by planking his own body weight, and hopefully beginning to throw in a few months. This is slow process that extremely important, especially now that the Pirates have inked him to a $1,525,000 signing bonus ($251,100 under slot).

Overall these three selections may not be as exciting as the ones-Henry Davis, Anthony Solometo and Lonnie White, Jr-from the previous draft; particularly when you add in the fact that the Pirates acquired Bubba Chandler at the top of the 4th Round. Nevertheless, it not like any of us know exactly who these players will turn out to be until the true development starts, and we actually start to see them make their way(s) from Bradenton to PNC…hopefully.

Two Guys Talkin’ Trades – Rerack it!

7-28-22 – By Justin Verno & Joe Boyd – @JV_PITT & Joe_Boyd11 on Twitter

Justin Verno- OK Joe, here we are. It’s just a few short days before The Trade Deadline. We’ve talked about which Buccos could be traded away. We’ve gone over what types of packages we could get in return. We’ve even suggested that the Pirates could actually add and gave some examples. The only thing left is to chat about some of the specific rumors we’ve heard about these Bucs!

Before we get going there we do have a trade to go over. Since our last piece a few different insiders, Andy Martino and a blog called Metsmerized (they actually had it first) reported that the Mets were in on Vogelbach. A few days later the deal was done. Let’s start by briefly touching on that deal and how Ben Cherington did. 

Joe Boyd – A few weeks ago, we touched on Vogelbach’s value, noting that it was a bit inflated for a bat-only player.  I suggested a 45-FV pitcher in the $4-6M range and JV suggested (to the Mets!) for a position player 45-FV which is a $6M valuation.  So what’d the Buccos get with Reliever Colin Holderman? For starters, he’s 6’7 with a huge fastball, so that’s intimidating.  He actually changed his delivery and spiked from 92-mph up to 98-mph and is somewhat of a late bloomer making his debut at 26 years old.  Longenhagen believes him to be the “third banana on a contending team” and has the ability to pitch high leverage innings.  He’s a 40+ FV, and that’s a $3M surplus value.  Oddly enough, no ZiPS for him as of yet.. So we’ll stick with that valuation. 

JV – And it’s easy to say the Bucs got less than we predicted,  there is however an asterisk that does need to be mentioned, in his very brief stint in the MLB he has looked the part for sure. In his 17.2 innings pitched the results have been terrific.

ERA 2.04   xERA 2.89  FIP2.27  xFIP 3.53   K-26.9% BB-10.4%  

Even though this is less than the suggested SV I still like the return. 

Moving on Joe, as of writing this the rumor mill had been pretty hush. Not that we haven’t heard any, but most had not been pointing in the Bucs direction until Tuesday evening when things started to open up a bit. Here’s what we’ve heard so far-

Quintana interest

Reynolds interest

Joe, there are few more out there but most seem to say the same thing.- A lot of interest in Quintana. 

-A lot of interest in Reynolds.

-Unlikely to move Bednar or Reynolds.

Am I missing anything there? Or has this been a market dominated by Soto news? 

JB – No, I think you’re right.  Soto will probably be creating the logjam. So until that domino falls, we might be stuck in purgatory.

Top 20 Prospect Update

As I sat to write this week’s Top 15 Prospects update I had to ask myself, “is updating stats after just two games really worth it?” And the answer I came up with is, no. So instead of wasting your time I decided to look over the 1st half and some things were glaring to me. Let’s take a look.

-What’s up Doc?

Henry Davis has punished MiLB pitching since the Pirates put a number on his jersey and set him loose on the competition. His punishment, and I’m not saying this was by design, was getting plunked. A lot. 18 times in 150 trips to the plate. Hank, please learn how to duck. So while his AA numbers aren’t eye popping I certainly wouldn’t lose sleep over it. One of the pitches that hit Davis was in the wrist. He had tried to play thru a hairline fracture, I believe, but they later placed him on the IL to help that wrist get right.

One thing I’ll add, opposing starters are likely hoping he takes his time getting back.

Nick Gonzales, Want to talk about a tale of Jekyll and Hyde? This is it. In 2 seasons in the Bucs MiLB system Gonzo has started slow, seemingly made an adjustment and proceeded to remind everyone of why he was a top 7 prospect in the 2020 draft. The difference in the 2022 start of the season is notable-

April 8th -May 16th

.188/.337/.306 .642 OPS 15.4% BB 35.6K% .118 ISO 87 wRC+

May 10th-May 31st

.319/.402/.464 .866 OP 11% BB 29.3% K .145 ISO 139 wRC+

Doesn’t even look like the same player, but it is. One thing I’d note: the OBP and walk rates are solid. Perhaps a sign that his control of the zone was intact. I’d love to hear from the man himself what adjustment was made here, shame he got hurt.

Upon further review-

A quick look at Jared Jones numbers might have a fan a tad disappointed. His stuff is just electric. The fastball motors, capable of hitting 99 and Jones has said his goal is to hit 100 MPH. His spin rates are insane and his pitches dance. So when we see an ERA of 4.98 a FIP 4.64 and xFIP of 4.11 it’s easy to think this kid just isn’t getting better. But if we dig just a bit more we do see some solid growth. In his last 11 outings before the break Jones stat line looks solid-

ERA 3.95 FIP 3.96 WHIP 1.32 9.9% BB 27.3%

While 11 of his 18 starts would be considered quality starts, he’s had 5 starts where he just didn’t have it. Jared has been working on a delivery with a more repeatable motion and though his first start in the 2nd half was one of his misses, he’s a prospect to keep an eye moving forward.

Dariel Lopez might have been a late addition to this year’s Prospect updates but he is proving he belongs. He had a slow start (a common theme throughout the system this year)

.228/.285/.409 .694 OPS .181 ISO 85 wRC+ 7.2% BB 29% K

Then this happened-

.311/.333/.497 .830 OPS .186 ISO 120 wRC+ 2.3% BB 26.4% K

Bring his line up to a respectable-

.276/.312/.459 .771 OPS .184 ISO 105 wRC+ 4.5% BB 27.6% K

Not being on this list to start with is a clear oversight by me, I should be mocked accordingly. You can do so on Twitter: @JV_PITT

If you don’t want me at my worst…

Quinn Priester, is his star back on the raise? Not that he took a massive tumble or anything but he did lose some of that shiny new car smell over the off-season. Not that last year was bad as he finished with solid enough numbers, but he needed to miss more bats and he’s done that in the early going. Bringing last year’s 24.1% to a nice 27.1% in his first 8 starts of the year. I’ve seen a lot of people calling for a promotion to AAA for the young righty, and why not? His slash line could certainly support a call the next rung on the ladder-

ERA-1.65 FIP-2.41 xFIP 3.60 WHIP 1.02 BB%-6.5 k%-27.1

One of the things Quinn worked on in the off-season was deception and having a similar release point. Let’s hope what we are seeing is a direct result of the work he’s put in. However, let’s hold off on that promotion and see how he responds to any adjustment the league throws at him. I have to wonder if we see a similar path for Priester that we saw with Roansy Contreras last year? A late call to the show and a turn or two to end the year with. Cross your fingers!

MY MAN!

By now I probably sound like a broken record with Endy Rodriguez and a recent surge has his name on the tongues of many a Bucco fan. And it’s about damn time. Those that have been reading these updates dating back to last year know of my infiniti with the young catcher. Let’s take a look at why.

I’ve touched on the slow starts that have been a theme in the system, right? And I suppose we can say the same has happened with Endy. Are you sensing a “but” here? I hope so,

April 8th-May 31st

.267/.340/.466 .806 OPS .199 ISO 116 wRC+ 7.2%-BB 27.8%-K

A .340 OBP while “struggling”? an 806 OPS while in a “slow start”? And since?

June 1st-July 24th

.304/.400/.572 .972 OPS .268 ISO 155 wRC+ 13.3%-BB 17%-K

What’s more impressive? He’s learning/playing C, LF, 1B and 2B while doing this. And I don’t mean to pile it on here, but did I mention he’s a switch hitter.

If you haven’t gotten on the Endy bandwagon already there’s still time to get a ticket. And don’t worry, I’ll save you a seat.