Still Sweepless on the North Shore, Phillies Take Game 3, Keller Underwhelming

8-1-21 – By Gary Morgan

With much promise comes much expectation.

Today Mitch Keller fresh off a recall from AAA made his 13th start of the season and his 29th since making his debut back in 2019.

In 2019 he was baseball’s 7th ranked prospect. Not pitcher, not Pirates, in all of baseball he was deemed to be the 7th best prospect. So of course that came with expectation. I’ve seen the media blamed for hype, the organization blamed for hype, well how about looking at the pitcher himself who up until hitting the majors showed a ton of confidence and promise.

His stint in AAA wasn’t great, and no I don’t mean numbers. He needed to work on some things, movement on his fastball, creating more than a 3 MPH separation on his his changeup, and probably more than any of that, needed to start consistently placing his breaking pitches in the bottom of the zone. He did none of those, and my partner Craig Toth was there to see it in person.

So I understandably had some questions when they called him back up anyhow. He got through 5 innings surrendering 4 runs and while some will say it could have been better if this play went this way, I think you could more than cancel those out with the times his defense bailed him out.

The only thing the Pirates were able to locate and change for Mitch was his windup delivery. He had transitioned almost all the way to pitching from the stretch and Joel Hanrahan who is quickly becoming the Pirates pitching fixer found Mitch had more consistency and comfort going with the wind up. I will say, that aspect was at least easier to watch today, but they claim nothing mechanical was altered.

Sounds like a really incredibly nice way of the organization telling a guy it’s in your head young man.

Next year he’ll be out of time. He’ll come into Spring with an opportunity, one that he simply must take, or the Pirates and potentially Oscar Marin will have to move on.

You can get mad and he certainly could never turn out. But I love baseball history. Look at a pitcher like Denny Neagle, he started in the bullpen in 93 and 93 then transitioned to starter in 1994 where he started 24 ballgames to the tune of a 5.12 ERA. In 1995 everything started to click. 31 starts and a 3.43 ERA. The next year was even better before being moved to Atlanta.

Denny was just as promising, and he didn’t just walk in here with everything figured out. Thing is by the time Keller does, I guess I should say if he does, figure it out he too will be on his way elsewhere.

The Phillies beat up more than just Keller in this one, Ponce, and Oviedo let them pile on top of Mitch’s 4 runs to the tune of 13 runs before handing it to Nogowski to let more in and make it an even 15 runs. The Phillies celebrated like they didn’t just drop 2 of 3 to the Pirates while they’re supposed to be in a pennant race.

Now, want a positive from Keller’s outing? He threw many more strikes than he was before being demoted. He also surrendered 8 hard hit balls, 7 over 100 MPH exit velocity. Clearly work to be done.

In the ninth Rodolfo Castro singled and Michael Perez hit a two run shot to make it 15-4.

The Pirates now head out on the road to face the Brewers in Milwaukee.

Newly acquired Bryse Wilson will get the call against Eric Lauer.

News & Notes

  • Hoy Park recorded his first career MLB hit. A well struck double to right. He would later score on a sac fly by Kevin Newman.
  • The Pirates remain without a sweep. They’ve had 8 chances to get this done but it just hasn’t happened.
  • John Nogowski had to finish this one up again today. He’s actually listed as a 1B/RF/P on baseball reference he’s been involved in so many blowout contests and pitched.
  • Luis Oviedo wasn’t expected to struggle this season, even be hidden, after coming this far, he’ll finish the season out and go to the minors, but it’s fair to ask, was he someone they maybe swing and missed on. If he needs two years of development can they afford a 40 man spot that long? Going to be interesting to see how they handle him.
  • Kyle Gibson was really good today, but I question how many pitches they let him throw in this one. If you acquire a guy to help you get to the playoffs maybe don’t try to kill him in his first outing.

What to Do With John Nogowski

8-1-21 – By Gary Morgan

Colin Moran and Erik Gonzalez are both on rehab assignments with the AAA Indianapolis Indians, and within a week or two the Pirates will be forced to face a tough question or two.

Erik Gonzalez to me isn’t a lock to come back, nor should he be. I don’t think I can justify his return causing ether Phillip Evans or Rodolfo Castro to be sent down, but I certainly can’t rule out that the Bucs will do just that.

Colin on the other hand will absolutely come back and this is really where most of the questions will be created.

Many of you have been asking me for weeks now, what do we do with John Nogowski when Colin Moran returns, and honestly, I kept kicking the can down the road in my answers. I’d simply tell you if Nogowski is still making you ask that when he returns, good.

Well, guess what, he is, and now I need to really answer.

First, he and Colin aren’t the same player. Colin has power that John simply doesn’t, or at least hasn’t shown, but John has been a consistent solid contact producer that keeps the order rolling and they both play defense at first fairly well.

Colin will likely be traded this off season or by the next deadline, and John is just about the same age with much more control. The point here is Neither are the future per se, but John can be a piece that helps for a bit longer.

All that being said, there is still the matter of how they both get playing time. Nogowski has been so consistent, it’s difficult to see taking him out. He can play right field, but he might just make Polanco look like Willie Mays out there.

They could platoon the two, but Colin was pretty vocal facing lefties was part of what helped him hone his new opposite field approach that made him the reliable hitter he had become.

I mean, what’s most important really is that they manage to not lose Nogowski in the course of getting through this last couple months. Even if he has to ride the pine, they need to keep an answer in place so they can comfortably move Moran.

Nogowski is not a typical Cherington pickup. He covets versatility and Nogowski has little. That’s part of what is making this a conversation. Colin doesn’t have much either, and don’t feed me that he’s played at 2nd or could play third, he could of course, but just as well as I see Nogowski handling Right Field.

Here is what’s important.

Showing Colin is healthy, and showcasing his abilities. I think you can understand why that supersedes the lineup right now.

Not losing John Nogowski who has one option in the process.

Bottom line, both will live on the roster, and likely John loses some at bats.

It’s not ideal, but it is reality. Kudos to Nogowski for making this a conversation worth having. Kudos to Cherington and his staff for identifying him in the first place.

It would be best if one of them could play elsewhere, but pardon the cliché here, it’s a good problem to have.

Pirates Take Second Straight From Phillies 3-2, Jacob Stallings Again

7-31-21 – By Gary Morgan @garymo2007 on Twitter

The Pirates came to the ballpark yesterday eager to finally have the chaos of the deadline behind them. It’s now time for this team to stop wondering which strings would be pulled and instead allow the tangled web of a clubhouse come back together.

How does that start to happen? Veterans who remain can lead. They can show the youngsters that baseball goes on. They can talk a guy through the difficulties of watching someone they grew up playing with as a professional move on and no longer be your sounding board.

Sometimes youngsters can lead. They remind the veterans that every time someone moves on someone else gets their shot. It reminds them of their breakthrough and opens a door to feeding off their youthful energy.

Sometimes it a coaching role, someone who has been a constant throughout the process who can make sure you know what the plan was, and what it is moving forward.

Times like these in baseball guys can get inwardly focused, much more worried about what they’re doing and less about the team, that too is a time when coaching can really lead the way. It’s important to remind guys that this is all part of building a winner, and you wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think you could be part of that.

Sure, guys are smart, but this is still something everybody wants to hear.

Tonight and last night we were treated to some of those things playing out on the field. And the coaching played their role too.

Wil Crowe stepped up, everyone with starting potential watched Tyler Anderson get moved and Chase De Jong fall to injury, and they all know it’s their time to make sure they hold onto what’s theirs. That was last night. And the coaching staff showed confidence him him to take a step forward, get those three more outs and put together a quality 6 innings.

Tonight was JT Brubaker’s turn, and man did he ever. A beautifully pitched 6 innings of 1 run ball.

Chasen Shreve and Kyle Keller got the job done in the 7th.

David Bednar gave up the lead in the 8th.

Stratton handled the 9th.

Then Bryan Reynolds led off the bottom half with a double. Polanco grounded to the left side but Reynolds read the play and knew he could still advance. With one out Nogowski stepped up with a chance to win it. He would walk to put runners on the corners for Jacob Stallings. He of the legendary grand slam to win an epic comeback game against the Mets.

A grounder to third. Great break by Reynolds. Play at the plate. Catcher blocked the plat with his leg and Reynolds slid through it! Video Review and SAFE!!!

Reynolds wanted it.

That double was going to be a double from the moment he made contact. All hustle. Hustle to get to third. Hustle to score the run.

Such a fitting ending to a wonderfully played ballgame.

Tomorrow the Bucs are back at it against the Plillies.

The Phils send newly acquired Kyle Gibson to the mound to face just recalled Mitch Keller at 1:05 EST.

News & Notes

  • The Pirates chose not to make David Bednar the closer tonight, instead opting to use him in the 8th to preserve a 1 run lead. Shelton said after the game he wanted to use him there specifically to face the heart of the order. I’ve long liked this method more than a traditional closer who only pitches the 9th. Not sure it will stick but I like that.
  • Largest crowd in almost 2 seasons at PNC tonight. (Cutch fans and Philly travels)
  • This was Jacob’s 7th walk off hit.
  • Ben Cherington said something interesting during his in booth interview tonight. When asked about what the plan was with Rodolfo Castro he said he only planned on this being his AA year. Sounds like they still intend to send him down at some point but it got me thinking, I wonder if Ben likes to do more full years with prospects at a level than mid season promotion. Something to watch, we haven’t seen him operate a full season yet.
  • Bounce back game for JT Brubaker, really did a wonderful job placing his stuff. Worked the corners, didn’t give in to hitters when he needed a strike he just made a better pitch. Interesting.
  • Pretty weird to see the Phillies keep the infield in with runners on the corners in the 9th. A double play there get’s them out of the inning and you have Nogowski at first and Stallings in the box. Seemed like a bad strategy to me, but hey, I don’t have all the numbers that essentially manage today’s game.
  • Kevin was 1 for 3 tonight with a near homerun triple. He’s quietly and steadily improving. Interesting player as to what they do with him. If he finishes strong his glove more than plays. If he finishes weak he certainly can’t be seen as a lock to hold his spot with the talent right behind him.
  • 6th Walk off win this season
  • 12th series win this season
  • Mitch Keller will get the start tomorrow.
  • Colin Moran and Erik Gonzalez both have started rehab assignments in AAA.

The Pirates Make A Minor Trade In The Morning, And A Couple Of Major Ones At The Closing Bell

Anyone who knows me, or at least reads my articles, knows that I am an avid fan of anything Minor League Baseball; especially when it comes to the Pittsburgh Pirates Farm System. Luckily for me, almost two years ago, I was given the opportunity to write about one of my passions at the now defunct SI/Maven InsideThePirates team website; which ultimately led to the creation of this blog, by myself and my good friend Gary Morgan, that exists today.

Of course, during this time prospects have not been my only focus, but as I look back to the early days of our site I can see all of the Young Pirates I was excited to watch progress during the 2020 season; one of whom was a left reliever that had finish the previous season with the Bradenton Marauders-the Pirates High-A Affiliate at the time. His name…Braeden Ogle.

Flash forward to the days, and months, leading up to the Rule 5 Draft on December 10th, 2020, I suggested that General Manager Ben Cherington protect three eligible players, Max Kranick, Rodolfo Castro and Ogle. We know now that Ogle was the only one of the three left off the list; but he wasn’t selected, so no harm no foul.

Beginning the season in Triple-A Indianapolis with the Indians, Ogle had appeared in 24 games across 32.1innings. During this time he posted a 3.13 ERA, a1.326 WHIP and struck out 42, good for a career high 11.94 K/9. The one concerning stat was another career high; his 6.54 BB/9.

Then came July 30th (yesterday), which also happened to be Ogle’s 24th Birthday, when he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for the healthy member of the failed Tyler Anderson Trade, Abrahan Guitierrez.

After my immediate reaction that was undoubtedly frustration-having watched Ogle grow from the lanky kid out of Jensen Beach High School in 2016, to a potential piece of the Pirates bullpen in 2023 and beyond-I understood the implications of possibly leaving Ogle unprotected for the second year in a row, and risk losing him for a $100K with no player coming back in return. Guitierrez himself is also Rule 5 eligible, but is clearly at less risk of being selected and carried on a team’s 26-Man Roster for the entire season, as he has only reached High A in his career.

For the remainder of the day it looked as if Ben Cherington wouldn’t move the fairly obvious trade piece, Rich Rodriguez, up to and even a few minutes after the 4 PM cutoff. Then came the Jeff Passos tweet, followed soon after by one from Keith Law.

Cherington had made not only one, but two trades at the last minute before the closing bell sounded.

The first was a low risk high reward move for a former 26th overall pick from the Boston Red Sox, Michael Chavis, who was selected by his successor and protege Mike Hazen. As a rookie in 2019, Chavis had batted .254 with 18 homers, but had struggled recently; seeing his average fall to .190 during the current season, where he was continuously bounced between Triple-A Worcester and the Big League Club. Assigned to Triple-A Indianapolis, the hope is that he can recapture some of the early prospect shine, and all it cost the Pirates was a reliever, acquired from the Phillies last August for a PTBNL.

The headliner of the RichRod trade has a similar pedigree to Chavis, and track record of bouncing up and down as well. Making his debut as a 20 year old in 2018, right-handed starter Bryse Wilson has been up with the Braves every year since, but just hasn’t been able to stick. With a career 5.45 ERA in 74.1 MLB innings, Atlanta’s former top 10 prospect still has the potential to be a back of the rotation starter in years to come; much like Wil Crowe and JT Brubaker.

The second piece is little bit more of a risk in my honest opinion. Currently ranked at #24 on Atlanta’s Fangraphs Top Prospects, Ricky DeVito has been on the IL with elbow soreness since June 9th off this year. He had, however, posted a 2.66 ERA, a 1.28 WHIP and struck out 27 in 20.1 innings prior to being shutdown, so if he is able to get back on track it is possible the risk could be worth the reward.

Now, with all of the moving and shaking of the past week out of the way, it is time to see how these guys perform in the Pirates System, who stays and who goes to make room in the Minors, and maybe the Majors, and what happens in Pittsburgh’s last 59 games of the season.

Trade Deadline is Over, What Should be Next for the Pirates?

7-31-21 – By Gary Morgan

The Pirates didn’t make a big splash in the trade market, and there’s a reason for that, they didn’t have a whole bunch of things other teams wanted.

Adam Frazier, Tyler Anderson and Richard Rodriguez brought back decent returns, but it’s kind of hard to compare to being able to shop Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javy Baez.

That’s a benefit of building a winner in the first place, it makes it a ton easier to rebuild when the time comes. Well, you know, beside the winning.

So what should the Pirates do next? And let’s not get bogged down in thinking what they will do, let’s keep it to should. I spend a ton of time writing what I think they’ll do, today I just want to spend some time dealing with what I’d like to see.

Extensions

This isn’t going to shock anyone, but before Spring Training in 2022, I’d like to see Bryan Reynolds locked up, and not just to buy out his arbitration plus a year or two, no I’d like to see him extended through the end of the decade. It’s high time this club finally bests the extension of Jason Kendall.

Most of you are going to probably tell me Hayes too, but I’ll be honest, one at a time. Get me the Gold standard and give Hayes another season to get his legs under him before we decide how much he’s worth.

Offseason Trades

There isn’t much left to be honest, but I think we can still see Chris Stratton moved this off season. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised to see Kevin Newman wind up being moved and while I can’t see him returning a bunch, I could see someone wanting to take a shot at him.

Rumor on the street is that Jacob Stallings will be a target for a few clubs this off season, I could see that, but I also think they need to keep him around at least one more year. When your entire pitching staff is young you need experience back there and despite overhauling the catching position organizationally, none of them are close. They don’t need to extend Jake, but they do need to keep him.

Colin Moran is the next, and really only chip they have to move. He’ll be right in the wheelhouse for making moves like this and at some point next season Mason Martin will be breathing down his neck. In fact the new prospect Chavis they just picked up from Boston could compete for his spot this Spring. Go get what you can, if not he’s the new Adam Frazier at the deadline in 2022.

OK, maybe Colin isn’t the only biggish chip. Chad Kuhl and Steven Brault could also be moved this off season. Both will be entering their last year of arbitration and while I think both will receive tendered contracts, I think both could easily draw interest.

If I’m honest, I’d like to see Brault get a modest extension, maybe 2-3 years. I think he could help in the rotation or the pen and his ego wouldn’t be crushed by whatever they want to do with him.

Guys It’s Time to Move on From

This list isn’t hard to come up with. Ka’ai Tom, and this really should have been done already. He got a nice chance to show his skill set and man I just don’t see it.

Erik Gonzalez, even if all the new prospects they brought in that play middle infield aren’t potential All Stars, there is no need to hand a roster spot to a guy like Erik. Give the spot to someone who at least has a viable opportunity to play a role on this club into the future.

Obviously Gregory Polanco should get his 3 million dollar buyout, I’m literally only writing it to save you the keystrokes in the comments.

Phillip Evans has been given a shot to prove his worth, and while I appreciate the effort and ability to play multiple positions, they have young guys I’d rather see do it. Not much different from Erik Gonzalez really is he?

OK, this is a longshot, but man it’d be nice if they’d move on from Michael Perez, he’s not awful, but man he’s just so vanilla. I just don’t see anything that stands out and on a building team, that should kind of be a prerequisite.

Off Season Signings

As much as things change, they stay the same.

This team needs another veteran outfielder, and at least one starting pitcher. Think Tyler Anderson here, not Max Scherzer, well, you’ve been around you know that. As I see next season the rotation should be something like, Yajure, Brubaker, Keller, Kuhl/Bault (if they stay), Crowe, De Jong, Kranick, and Bryse Wilson, with a Contreras and Bolton chaser. Bring in a couple vet arms and see what this group has.

The outfield they’ll have Gamel (I assume and absolutely would offer him his last year of arbitration), Reynolds and arguably Swaggerty should be in the conversation. Some of the middle infield prospects they brought in like Park, or Marcano can also play out there, hey they could even use Nogowski although I’m more than a little frightened by how that might look. Point is, I’d bring in another, make Swaggerty force the issue. They of course have Oliva too, but I can’t help feeling the team has made up their mind on him. Rodolfo Castro too could be an option and his power certainly would play in a corner outfield spot.

Starting to See the Youth Integrate

This is where I’ll end. I think we see a much younger team next year and what can be exciting there is sometimes they just don’t know they aren’t supposed to be good enough. This is where we start to see some of the vision come through.

Look for debut performances and growth from young guys.

My candidates for breakouts next season are, Miguel Yajure, Chavis, Marcano, and yes, Mitch Keller. Next year they’ll be a bit better and by the end, the excitement for some guys who this season are tearing apart AA will be knocking on the door if not busted through.

This season the feeling of helplessness was overwhelming as we had to rely on waiver claims or meaningless trades to fill the roster. Next season real talent will be on the doorstep in AAA.

Players like Oneil Cruz will be in the conversation, Canaan Smith-Njigba will make a push, Cal Mitchell and Mason Martin will be having fans clamor for their call up.

The Job is obviously not done, but man it’s going to start looking a lot closer to showing fruit as next season plays out.

Ok, have fun with this and tell me all the things I messed up or missed!

Two Guys Talkin’ Trades – Quick Deadline Day Analysis

7-31-21 – By Joe Boyd & Justin Verno

Joe Boyd – Justin and I are back trying to examine the flurry of action on Friday.  I wanted to get a quick analysis out on the deals that were done, but I think we’ll be back Monday to tie everything together.  

Braeden Ogle to Philadelphia for Abraham Gutierrez, C 35+ FV ($1M)

JB – It would’ve been nice to have saved my piece on Gutierrez from the first time around, but it appears that Cherington got his guy on Friday.  The deal is curious considering they have added so much to the catcher position this month, but I’m not here to talk depth, I’m here for the numbers.

On the face, Ogle is unranked on the Pirates Fangraphs prospect rankings, however they do give him a 40-FV on his personal page.  So if we go with that grade, he is worth $1M and this is a very even trade.  So why make it?  Both are Rule 5 eligible in 2021, but the thought, as many have pointed out, is that there is a higher likelihood that a Triple-A LHP will be selected over a Single-A catching prospect.  

Sounds like Pittsburgh got a high character guy as mentioned in Baseball America, “You can’t ask for a better person,” Josh Bonifay said. “He shows up ready to work every day and he’s a true leader behind the plate. Good bat-to-ball skills, good arm, excellent receiver. He’s really coming into his own.”

Gutierrez, like several other acquisitions this week, seems to have amazing bat control only striking out 14% of the time with an OBP of .418.

Austin Davis ($2.7M)  to Boston for Michael Chavis, 1B/2B/OF Graduated 45-FV ($6M)

JB – Austin Davis was not really on our radar.  We thought about putting together a Shreve valuation, but I’m pretty sure Davis never came up?  Nonetheless, he’s a Free Agent in 2026 and his 2022/2023 ZiPS are 0.2 WAR each.  Plug that into the system and you get a surplus of $2.7M.  

In exchange, Boston gave up their former #3 prospect, and graduated 45-FV Michael Chavis (quick soapbox here, this is why saying ‘I want the team’s #3 prospect in a deal!’ is foolish.  San Diego’s #3 != Boston’s #3).  Chavis has been slumping, but has had very few opportunities this year.  Fangraph’s latest Chavis scouting report from way back in 2019:  

“Chavis was a well-known Atlanta-area prep prospect, who in high school was a strong statistical performer with easy plus raw power that showed up in games. He didn’t have a clear positional fit as an amateur, and that’s still mostly the case now–he was a shortstop in high school but wasn’t an athletic fit there, tried catching, which didn’t work, and scouts generally projected third base or first base long term. Though he has mostly played third, pro scouts see Chavis as a first base-only type, and he started seeing time there during the 2017 Fall League and again late in 2018. He missed much of 2018 with an 80-game PED suspension, which ominously came after a breakout 2017 campaign during which he hit 31 homers. He has now reached Triple-A, and had a strong half-season after the suspension was up, but scouts are wary of being all-in on a player whose entire profile is dependent on power and who has also had a recent PED suspension. One-dimensional hitters who are limited on defense tend to end up in a first base platoon (and in this case, it’d be the lesser side of one) or as a low-end starter like Kevin Millar. Either way, it seems unlikely a high-payroll, contending club like Boston would wait for a young player with limited upside to break in as an everyday player. We think Chavis is a low-end regular, who may be trade bait once he further establishes his level of performance post-suspension.”

Chavis’s star has clearly diminished, but he still brings a power bat to the lineup.  He may be a ‘change of scenery’ guy and who better to turn him around than the guy who saw enough to draft him in the first round of the 2014 draft?  

Richard Rodriguez to Atlanta for Bryse Wilson, RHP graduated 45-FV ($4M) & Ricky DeVito, RHP 40-FV ($1M)

Justin Verno – This is an interesting deal and frankly Joe, a tad surprising. I won’t get lost here, we’ll save this for later, but getting an MLB player or a player close to the majors isn’t something either of us expected in any of these deals really. And getting Bryse Wilson here changes the equations. 

Bryse flew up the Braves system, side stepping a lot of their ballyhooed talent along the way. Making his MLB debut in 2018 at the age of 20  Bryse won’t wow you with his stuff, he doesn’t bring the heat but what he does do is work his stuff. He has a good 4 pitch mix and a feel for the plate. If he can find that effective cutter and spot his slider he could be a solid #5. 

Look, I get it, that’s not the hope we had for the RichRod return. But when you get an MLB player back that has 5 years of control attached to him it really changes the math, ZiPS has him projected at a WAR of 1.7 and 1.7 over the next two years. Even if you use a WAR of 1 over his arbitration years you get a massive steal for the Bucs, at least on the surplus value end of it. Using those numbers gives us a win value of 57.6 millions. And Joe, even if we used a ridiculous payroll number, let’s say 30 million over those 5 years(and Wilson isn’t making that) we’d have a surplus of 17 million. That alone is a surplus win. It’s not sexy but teams need a good 4-5 starter as much as they need an ace. 

Ricky Devito is a 40 FV ($1M)starter that likely projects to the bullpen. A solid 3 pitch mix Devito has experienced a velo bump and can now hit 97, after sitting low to mid low 90’s,  and has a splitter that could be plus offering, per fangraphs.  

The value in the RichRod deal comes from Wilson. It’s a win from the surplus value point of view, and in the end this is what Joe and I have been playing with here? But it’s not at all the return we all expected but it works. 

JB – Justin, I did the same evaluation for Wilson and got a whopping $46M in surplus based on those projections. To make the trade even, Wilson needs to average 0.5 WAR for his career.  Same goes for Chavis, I could come up with a Surplus Value of $14M based on his 0.8 and 0.7 WAR projections from ZiPS.  I think Justin and I expect an adjustment on these projections for both prospects, but this is the difficulty of making an analysis of recently graduated prospects.  

When we see a player on the farm that’s a 50-FV position player, we can be comfortable tagging him with the $28M valuation.  But if he has moved to the majors, we now have to start looking at projections, ZiPS, arbitration numbers, and age.  It becomes a case-by-case evaluation, so you have to add some subjectivity.  We both came away from these trades as clear wins for Pittsburgh, regardless.  The Boston trade should be a fairly straight forward value victory from the way that we have been analyzing trade values throughout our time on ITBB.  And the deal with Atlanta is not exactly what we had hoped with a 45 & a 40 FV.  But Wilson’s projections should excite the fanbase, not only for the rebuild, but for the near future as something to enjoy in the near term.

Buccos Blank The Phils, Just Like We All Expected

If I were the Pirates, I am not sure what the exact protocol would be for following up a trade deadline where you lost your most consistent hitter, a member of your starting rotation and your default closer; as well as getting swept by the Brew Crew-getting shut out twice. Now, I guess I know. You are supposed to combine for one hitter against your cross state rival Phillies, while putting up seven runs on twelve hits.

Prior to the game there was a strange scene, described by the Post Gazette’s Jason Mackey, where Richard Rodriguez came on to the field to an ovation from the Pirates players on the field. Was it in congratulations? Or was it because he was still there? Either way, within minutes notifications began to blow up on everyone’s phones that RichRod was on his way to Hotlanta.

This little scene, playing out in front of those inside PNC Park pretty much incapsulates the nature that is the MLB Trade Deadline. Teammates one minute, and then potential rivals, or at the very least players on completely different paths because of the standings in the blink of an eye.

As Gary wrote about last night, it might be easier for the guys left in the home dugout tonight to settle down and settle in for the remainder of the season without the distractions of who had already gone and who could be on their way out.

Now I’m not entirely sure if that’s what happened to the Pirates in their 7-0 victory over the Phillies, however, it was nice to see; especially when you consider many of the players who contributed.

News and Notes

  • Bryan “Don’t Call Me B-Rey” Reynolds started the scoring with a well struck triple in the bottom of the first. As the de facto most productive player left on the Pirates, what Reynolds does for the rest of the season could set a tone for the entire ball club. And as always it has to be said. #ExtendReynolds.
  • Wil Crowe was cruising, for the most part, through his entire six innings of work. Allowing only one hit, but walking four, Crowe pitched what was clearly the best game of his Major League career. Over his last seven starts he has posted a 4.04 ERA, a 1.40 WHIP and 3-1 record. Of course I know record doesn’t really matter as much as it used to in the analytics community; nevertheless, if you are giving your team a chance to win the majority of the time you take the mound, that still means something.
  • For a guy who was designated for assignment by the Cleveland Indians after only 14 at bats, Ben Gamel has been a pleasant addition to the Pittsburgh Pirates Outfield. As a .8 WAR player with 200+ plate appearances, he is the perfect player for a rebuilding team to have in their lineup; consistently putting together professional at bats, playing solid defense and showing the younger players what it takes to remain in the league as a contributor to a Big League Club.
  • Yes, there were trades. One expected (RichRod) and a couple that were definitely off the board. Expect our insight coming very shortly concerning the final day of trades, and especially the returns.
  • On the draft front, the Pirates only have 3 players left unsigned with Sunday being the deadline to do so.

The Pirates will look to make it two in a row against the Phillies as JT Brubaker (4-10, 4.67 ERA) takes the mound against Aaron Nola (7-6, 4.37 ERA) at 7:05 PM EST on Saturday Night at PNC.

Brewers Route Pirates 12-0

Two months of baseball remain, and every indication is it’s going to be a long two months. I expect the team to settle down a bit after the deadline and it’s really all about individual performance from there on out. There will also be nights where you just don’t get even that level of enjoyment.

The Brewers represent the only team East of California with a shot to win this league, and they did what they’re supposed to in a series like this. Stack wins.

Even before the moves both teams made prior to the deadline this was a likely outcome, but a clearly distracted and affected Pirates club played some really uninspired baseball this week.

This one wound up 12-0 for the sweep and it wasn’t that close.

I mean, what happened in the game you ask? Well, the most exciting thing on offense were Castro’s near homerun to center and his near extra base hit to right-center. Gamel and Reynolds each had a hit. That’s the list.

And the Brewers took advantage of Chad Kuhl minus his good slider. Not a pitch he can afford to be without. Through 5 innings Chad did a great job of working around what he had and didn’t have holding the Brewers to 1 run. In the 6th he ran into trouble and wound up giving up 3 earned runs.

Chris Stratton got beat up.

A bright spot was Nick Mears throwing a .1 inning outing.

Just not much to talk about. I have no attachment to anyone who might get moved tomorrow. Shreve, Rodriguez, or Stratton could all be on the move and it wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. But no matter who goes, I can’t wait for this deadline to be over. At least then we know who’s here and can flip the page to better business, like getting younger guys promoted and moving into a deeper understanding of what the team plans to do with all the middle infielders they picked up.

It wouldn’t hurt if the players who did stick around decided to play every now and again too. two or three guys can’t carry the pulse for 26.

Back at it tomorrow after the deadline mercifully ends.

Oh, and Nogowski pitched the 9th. and gave up 3 of the runs. I don’t think he’s gonna make it as a back end arm.

The Phillies come to town and send Vince Velasquez against Wil Crowe.

News & Notes

  • The Pirates only scored 3 runs since the 1st inning of Sunday’s game against the Giants. That’s stinky.
  • As we move forward with this season. I think we should be all done with a few guys, and I think I’m going to write about it on Saturday. The September callups only expanding rosters to 28, I think we still need that cup of coffee for a few guys. Let me see the whole picture and I’ll come back to this
  • Interest was quiet today on trade front for the Pirates, but they have fairly middle of the road chips left so that makes sense. Expect early afternoon trades if there will be any.
  • 9-0 on Tuesday, 7-3 on Wednesday, and 12-0 Tonight. That my friends is domination and the Brewers aren’t even at top strength.
  • Kind of surprised we haven’t heard Chad Kuhl come up in trade discussion more. He’s thrown well for a few weeks now and with pitching being so desperately needed, I’d think someone would want to take a run at him with his one more year of control too.
  • Manny Pina belted two homeruns for the Brewers tonight.

The Pirates Lose Second Straight To The Brewers, While Injecting Youth Into The Lineup

After watching the Pirates drop their 63rd game of the season in a 7 to 3 loss to the Brewers, my mind wondered aimlessly as I considered exactly what I would write about. So, I did what I normally do during these circumstances, which is randomly shuffle my way through Pirates Twitter, and pretty specifically on Facebook, to find comments on previous stories myself and Gary have posted over the past few days. I know this isn’t the best, or most healthy way to occupy my time; often causing me to shake my head at people who just respond to headlines, while trying to still trying to figure why people-not associated with a particular team-feel the need to post stats from random Pirates Minor League games or worse a play-by-play. The highlights are cool at times, but just putting up stats makes me wonder if their followers haven’t heard of the MiLB app or, I don’t know, Google. But, I digress.

As I was getting to the end of one of my perusal sessions, having not gotten any further toward having an idea for the game recap, I noticed one post; whose message has gotten a lot of play over the past few years. Play The Kids. This seems simple enough. With Adam Frazier and Tyler Anderson gone, and Gregory Polanco standing in the middle of the doorway on his way out, the idea of seeing what you have in your younger players, as they obtain Major League Experience makes total sense.

Then I thought to myself; what game did they watch? If they watched it, or even loosely followed along.

In the Pirates Starting Lineup on Wednesday versus Milwaukee, there was exactly one player north of 30-Jacob Stallings-written down by Derek Shelton. Their starting pitcher Max Kranick is 24, the hot corner was manned by 24 year-old Ke’Bryan Hayes, 26 year-old All-Star Bryan Reynolds roamed in centerfield, Kevin Newman at 27 played up the middle and 22 year old Rodolfo Castro stood where Adam Frazier had just a few days before.

And even though I still remained confused, I thought they might be referring to younger players in the Minors or on the bench, that veterans like Ben Gamel and Gregory Polanco-both 29-could be holding back. The obvious answer would be Jared Oliva, and if this is what kids plural would mean, I am cool with that. However, if there is some sort of belief that there is a slew of young prospects pushing their way onto the Major League Roster, I am sorry, you are sorely mistaken.

Sure, the newly acquired Tucupita Marcano and Jun Hoy Park, are now in Indianapolis Indians Jerseys, so I could see an argument made for at least 25 year-old Park getting an extended look to see if he is worthy of a 40-Man spot at the end of the season. Marcano is getting one no matter what, and is only 21 years old, so I don’t necessarily see a reason to rush him.

Still, beyond that, are there any young players they are not giving the opportunity to? Oneil Cruz, Roansy Contreras and Miguel Yahure are all injured, and Cole Tucker just got back on the field after a week off from trying to make a diving catch in the outfield; not that .211 batting average with the Indians is making any short of case for Big League playing time.

Now, if we are talking promotions from Altoona to Indianapolis that is another story, and another article altogether.

News and Notes

  • Max Kranick’s final line of 5 IP/10 H/6 R/6 ER/1 BB/3 K didn’t look great, yet, I can’t get too upset about a 24 year old kid with a total 42.1 innings above Double A pounding the zone at a 68.5% strike rate. Don’t worry he will learn pitch sequencing, his curveball will get a little tighter and he will see the importance of throwing a ball, while getting a guy to chase.
  • It is possible that groundbreaking on the construction of a John Nogowski Statue outside of PNC Park may need to be halted. In his past seven games, he is slashing .200/.310/.400.
  • David Bednar has the closer role on lockdown. Over his past 15 appearances across 14.2 innings he has only allowed 1 earned run, while striking out 16. Now do your thing Cherington, and trade RichRod.
  • Rodolfo Castro owned the night as he became the first player in MLB history-since 1901-to have his first 5 hits all go for homers.

  • I would have to assume that Ben Cherington makes at least one more deal before the 4 PM deadline tomorrow, with a few legitimate trade candidates on the market.

For those who are interested, the Pirates will look to avoid the sweep at the hands of the Brewers tonight at 7:05 PM EST at PNC Park.

Chad Kuhl (3-5, 4.38 ERA) is on the bump for Pittsburgh against Freddy Peralta (7-3, 2.29 ERA) for Milwaukee.

If This Looks the Same, Get New Glasses

7-27-21 – By Gary Morgan

Remember the scene from My Cousin Vinny where the indescribably beautiful Marisa Tomei knew from the difference in tire tracks that a different car was at the scene of the crime?

Well, if you’re watching a plan like this unfold with a baseball franchise and I specifically mean the way most do, meaning from a distance, you can see how someone might get the wrong identification.

Some of you absolutely have your Tomei eyes on. You’re watching deeply, intently. You notice every little move, analyze every decision, argue when you feel it deviates. And mostly, you feel a need to defend it.

The funny thing is, and you know this is true if you really think about it, this makes you one of the weird ones. Hey, I’m there with you, but if you ever really want to understand why I don’t get into fights online about stuff like this, well, understanding that I can’t expect others to invest as much time as I do in this process is the reason.

As we watch player after player get moved for prospects you continually hear things like “same old Pirates” or sometimes regardless of anything else, despite any evidence like actually sending along the remainder of this season’s salary, this all boils down to Bob Nutting not wanting to pay a guy.

Take something like this year’s draft. Let’s follow the bouncing goalposts shall we?

First it was they would take a lesser pick number one to save money, you know, because Bob’s cheap. Maybe you argued about this making sure whoever said it knew the Pirates record of spending in the draft.

Next it was, hey if they don’t sign all these picks none of it matters! That one guy will absolutely play for Clemson! That guy is locked in at Penn State! They made these picks because they knew they wouldn’t sign so, you know, cheap.

Now they’ve signed all of those first round talents and for that matter a few more they “had no chance at” and left with no recourse we find ourselves at “They still have to develop them” which is certainly true, and impossible to really qualify for several years. AKA, they’ve found an argument that sticks. Rather than say, well credit where due, Ben got them to sign…

Point is, you could argue every single step of the way, but with each successful argument or each new milestone passed they’ll simply give you another. For instance, say they do develop all of those players (you and I both know that’s a tall ask, if not impossible) it’ll simply be that they weren’t good enough picks, or there’s a reason they “fell down the board”.

You can’t win this fight. So stop fighting.

You know this build is different because you weren’t just watching players get traded and blindly believing before any more than you are now. You understand the plan as it sits, and what you hope the Pirates understand is that even for you there is a line.

One of the questions I get most often is “When is this Team Going to Stop Trading Good Players for Prospects?”

Well, I’m an honest guy, the answer is never.

This doesn’t mean Bryan Reynolds is getting moved anytime soon in fact he’ll very likely be extended. It means under baseball’s current system this team is never going to keep everyone. They’ll keep some core pieces, not unlike what they did with Cutch, Polanco, Marte, even Harrison. And when that core stops being enough, or they stop having anyone in the system coming they’ll have to break it up.

The Pirates aren’t alone in this.

Look to the North side of Chicago right now. I mean, what are those bums doing? How could they not keep Rizzo, Bryant, Baez, Contreras, Schwarber? Well, they have next to nothing in their system, specifically on the mound, and even the Cubs with all that money know they can’t pay all those guys AND buy enough pitching to make it count.

That’s the truth. They’re anything but a small market, and it won’t take them nearly as long to turn it around as a team like the Pirates because they can get to the point where they feel they’re close enough to go buy patches long before a team like Pittsburgh could.

it’s the reality of baseball under this system.

What Ben Cherington is trying to do, and yes, TRYING, still has to be used, is stock the system so deeply that by the time they start making the big club there are more knocking on the door.

In other words, they don’t want to have to go get a Kolten Wong to backfill the bench. They don’t want to have to go buy a Top of the rotation starter, instead they want to maybe go get a Tyler Anderson Type.

As the prospects start coming up the vision will start to become more clear. Rodolfo Castro who just hit his fifth homerun with his fifth hit, a MLB modern era record by the way, is an exciting young player who still has much to learn, but if you really want to get excited about him, how about this, he isn’t even one of their top 30 prospects.

In other words, while nerds like me or Craig have been excited about him, the team isn’t counting on him to be the next big thing. Oh, they’d take it if he turned into that but they’ve built in a ton of protection against that happening.

This isn’t like drafting Pedro Alvarez and feeling 3B needs no other attention. This isn’t like drafting Taillon and Cole, sitting back and waiting for them to develop knowing full well even if they both turned into stars they’d need more.

As we speak, 14 of the Pirates top 30 are starting pitchers. Sounds like a ton, but rest assured, they aren’t done adding them. They want more like 20, to increase the odds that most of their pitching staff is internally developed. If you want the whole truth, it’s also so should they desire, they can take a guy like Max Kranick 4 years from now and move him yes for more prospects but also because they have 5 pitchers knocking on the door.

It’s what Tampa does. It’s what Boston does. It’s what teams that have learned to work with the system understand.

All that aside, what it really is to you the fan, is different.

It doesn’t feel different if you only watch the big club, but much like a pond covered in scum it says nothing about the thriving environment just beneath the surface.

Now, if indeed this still looks the same, I get it.

If someone tells you this is the same, let them.

Because the system isn’t fair, and our owner makes it harder than it needs to be, the rebuild needs to be deeper than a team like Chicago, well, the North Side anyway.

No, this doesn’t make you or I “real fans” and those who don’t get it “fake”, it just means there are some that are going to watch a good team play baseball and know how the sausage was made, while others just offer simple platitudes like “they finally drafted better”, or they learned how to develop.

Some won’t understand when they trade players in the future anymore than they do now, and it won’t be your job then to make sure they know that’s how they got good in the first place. If you trust the process, cool.

We really must stop arguing over this stuff.

The next time this team is in a pennant race, the crowd will be made up of those who have watched every agonizing move, those who haven’t understood a damn thing the entire way, it’ll even have plenty of people who simply haven’t watched in 3 or 4 years. Here’s the thing though, all those cheers will sound the same.

You’ll just be able to look back and remember the whole movie, not just the Tomei moment.