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An unofficial Pittsburgh Pirates blog



Updated: 2018-02-22T17:33:39-05:00

 



Poll: Who is the Pirates #17 prospect?

2018-02-22T17:33:39-05:00

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After a tight race:

  1. Mitch Keller, RHP
  2. Austin Meadows, OF
  3. Shane Baz, RHP
  4. Colin Moran, 3B
  5. Cole Tucker, SS
  6. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B
  7. Kevin Newman, SS
  8. Nick Kingham, RHP
  9. Jordan Luplow, OF
  10. Taylor Hearn, LHP
  11. Bryan Reynolds, OF
  12. Kevin Kramer, 2B
  13. Lolo Sanchez, OF
  14. Max Moroff, IF
  15. Luis Escobar, RHP
  16. Oneil Cruz, 3B

Coincidentally, I was going to add Tristan Gray this time.

This poll closes at 5pm on February 24.




Pirates acquire Corey Dickerson

2018-02-22T13:28:23-05:00

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The Pirates have acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson from Tampa Bay in exchange for reliever Daniel Hudson, minor league infielder Tristan Gray and cash.

UPDATE: This probably hasn’t been Daniel Nava’s favorite week ever.

Dickerson almost certainly comes in as the presumptive left fielder. As everybody knows, he had a huge first half in 2017, then fell off badly in the second half. The end result, though, wasn’t out of line with his career production. His OPS+ (which is park-adjusted) in the last four years, two in Colorado and two in Tampa, has been 141, 118, 106 and 120. He is what he is: a guy with good power, a high K rate and weak on-base skills. He seems to be average at least in the field. Unless Dickerson tanks in the spring, Nava, Bryce Brentz and Michael Saunders no doubt will now be competing for bench jobs.

The trade had even better results for the Pirates, though, as they secured the absence of Daniel Hudson while having to pay just $1M of his salary. Dickerson is set to make $5.95M and Hudson $5.5M, so the total cost in dollars for getting rid of a player they didn’t need and acquiring one they did was less than a million and a half. Well, plus Tristan Gray, whom I like but who was definitely expendable. As for the Hudson part of it, he’s not a terrible pitcher. He’s a solid reliever who had one awful month in 2017; unfortunately, it was his first month with a new team. It’s quite possible he’ll be better in 2018 than Michael Feliz or Kyle Cricks. But those two, and other relievers the Pirates have available now, have higher ceilings and the Pirates need to start sorting through them.




Pirates sign outfielder Michael Saunders

2018-02-21T13:59:10-05:00

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The Pirates announced today that they have signed outfielder Michael Saunders to a minor league contract with a non-roster invitation to spring training. Saunders is a nine-year MLB veteran and a 2016 AL All-Star, but he struggled mightily with the Phillies and Blue Jays last season, posting a .202/.256/.344 batting line in 234 plate appearances. He bats from the left side and has experience at all three outfield positions, and will likely compete with Nava, Luplow, Brentz, et al for the open left field job.

UPDATE (WTM): Here are some notes from Brian:

2012-16 (ages 25-29) 249/325/435 759 OPS 111 OPS+
2014-16 (ages 27-29) 257/337/457 795 OPS 116 OPS+

missed 52 games in July/Aug of 2014 with oblique

missed all but 9 games of 2015 with torn meniscus in left knee (stepped on sprinkler Feb 26, 60% was removed) came back 7 weeks

later to play 9 games in late April/early May, but then out rest of year (60 day DL for inflammation on May 10)

good comeback year in 2016 (253/338/478 32 doubles, 24 homers), his best, but horrible in 2017 (202/256/344 in 12 games with TOR, 61 PHI)

good power, good eye, high but not excessive K’s (25-28%)

no platoon splits for a lefty, Oliver projects 229/298/385 vs RHP, 224/295/361 vs LHP, 26% K vs either




Pirates sign Mexican outfield prospect

2018-02-20T22:11:51-05:00

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Pirates Prospects is reporting (sub. req’d) that the Pirates have signed Mexican outfield prospect Fabricio Macias. No signing bonus is known yet, but there were several other teams after Macias. The process for signing Mexican amateurs is different from other countries, as the player must first sign with a Mexican team, which then essentially negotiates his bonus with a US team if there’s interest. The Mexican team gets 75% of the bonus. I don’t think that amount counts against the international bonus pool limit. The Pirates probably had somewhere around the mid-six figures left in their pool.

The Pirates in the past year seem to be sharply ramping up their efforts in Mexican, a country they’ve ignored for a long time. Macias appears to be the most significant of the Mexican prospects they’ve targeted for this signing cycle. He’s 19 and has played at a level in Mexico that’s the equivalent of well above rookie ball.

The fact that the Pirates beat out several other teams may or may not show that they’ve dropped their unwillingness to compete with other teams for talent. We don’t know for sure how this signing came about. When they signed Luis Heredia, Rene Gayo was able to use his connection with Heredia’s Mexican team to shut other teams out of the process, which provoked a complaint from the Yankees to MLB. Hopefully, new international scouting director Junior Vizcaino will be willing to start going after top prospects.




Poll: Who is the Pirates’ #16 prospect?

2018-02-20T18:39:26-05:00

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The list through #15:

  1. Mitch Keller, RHP
  2. Austin Meadows, OF
  3. Shane Baz, RHP
  4. Colin Moran, 3B
  5. Cole Tucker, SS
  6. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B
  7. Kevin Newman, SS
  8. Nick Kingham, RHP
  9. Jordan Luplow, OF
  10. Taylor Hearn, LHP
  11. Bryan Reynolds, OF
  12. Kevin Kramer, 2B
  13. Lolo Sanchez, OF
  14. Max Moroff, IF
  15. Luis Escobar, RHP

This poll closes at 5pm on February 22.




Pirates acquire outfielder Bryce Brentz from Red Sox

2018-02-20T14:00:40-05:00

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The Pirates have acquired outfielder Bryce Brentz from Boston for cash considerations. The Sox probably are making the move to clear a roster spot for J.D. Martinez. The Pirates cleared a roster spot by moving right-hander Nick Burdi to the 60-day disabled list. The latter move was expected from the time the Pirates acquired Burdi, as he’s recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Brentz spent five years on the Red Sox’ top prospect list, per Baseball America, while showing tremendous raw power. He hasn’t generally hit for great averages or gotten on base a lot, as he pretty much airs it out at the plate. He’s tended to strike out in about a quarter of his plate appearances. He has a career line in 383 AAA games of 254/317/462. He had his best year there in 2017, albeit at age 28, batting 271/334/529, with 31 HR. He’s gotten only 90 plate appearances in the majors, divided between 2014 and 206; he spent much of 2015 injured. With the Sox Brentz has hit 287/311/379, with three walks and 26 strikeouts. A right-handed hitter, he’s had some massive platoon splits in the upper minors. He’s been largely limited to left field in recent seasons. Brentz has a history of injuries beyond just 2015, including a gunshot wound he suffered while cleaning a handgun.

Brentz is out of options. In fact, the Red Sox outrighted him to AAA prior to the 2017 season. He spent the entire season there, then was added back to their 40-man roster afterward. Presumably his option and 40-man roster status will give him a leg up on an outfield job coming out of spring training.

Oddly, the Pirates now have the only two players in organized baseball named Brentz.

More in a bit.




2018 Pirates positional preview: Catcher

2018-02-20T12:43:11-05:00

It’s 70 degrees in Pittsburgh today. The sky is blue, the birds are chirping, and, if one is able to ignore that 70-degree February days should be an unnatural occurrence along the rustbelt, it feels like spring. The Pirates are also gearing up for springtime, with their first Spring Training game scheduled to take place this Friday afternoon. By the end of March, we will all be begging for the month-long slog of spring baseball to mercifully end. But the first few games of the season are fun. There are real players on TV playing real-ish baseball. It's a reminder that winter is ending and warm summer nights at the ballpark are right around the corner. To celebrate today’s bit of Indian summer and the start of the Spring Training season, I am going to start the season preview train here at Bucs Dugout and provide positional outlooks for the 2018 season. The incumbent starter will garner much of the attention, as I will recap his previous year, comment on his projections for 2018 (provided by the incomparable Baseball Prospectus), observe his spring training form, and make my own projections, one optimistic and one not-so-much. Backups will also be covered, albeit in less detail. So, without further ado, here is the Bucs Dugout preview of the Pirates 2018 catchers. Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Starter: Francisco Cervelli 2017 Statline: .249/.342/.370, 0.9 WAR 2018 Projection: .256/.345/.322. 1.8 WAR 2015 was a glorious season for Francisco Cervelli. Cast away by the New York Yankees, the oft-injured catcher arrived in Pittsburgh to fill the impossibly large shoes of Russell Martin. And he did so quite well. Cervelli appeared in a career-high 130 games, slashed .295/.370/.401, and provided defense that was similar to Martin’s stellar output. His impressive ’15 campaign, combined with the Pirates lack of organizational depth at the catcher position, helped persuade Neal Huntington to offer him a three-year, $31 million extension early in the 2016 season. It’s a good thing that Cervelli broke out and earned his first significant major league contract because the injury bug that continually bit him with the Yankees reared its ugly head again and claimed a large portion of the Buccos backstop's 2016 and 2017 seasons. A broken hamate bone in his left hand hampered limited him to 101 games in 2016. Last season was even worse for Cervelli, who missed most of June with complications from a concussion and spent much of August on the disabled list with inflammation in his left wrist and left quad. Cervelli, who said last season that he couldn’t remember how many concussions he has endured, only managed to appear in 81 games last season and had his worst season as a Pirate both at the plate and behind it. Even in baseball’s new homer-happy environment, Cervelli’s bat was unintimidating. Pitchers frequently challenged the patient Pirates catcher, hindering his ability to draw walks even as he refuses to expand the strike zone. In 2015, Cervelli owned the lower part of the strike zone. But in 2017, pitchers continually pounded the low outside corner and Cervelli was unable to keep up. Here are two zone charts provided by Baseball Savant. The top one is from Cervelli's 2015 season and the bottom is from Cervelli's 2017 season. More alarming than his decline at the plate, however, is his inability to live up to his previous defensive prowess. In addition to being below average offensively, Cervelli was also a below average defender according to Baseball Prospectus’s metrics. Whether it is umpires adjusting to his illusionary pitch framing or just the multitude of injuries catching up, the once sure-handed Cervelli has fallen precipitously over the past two seasons. Baseball Prospectus does project his framing stats to improve in 2018, however, assuming he can avoid the injury bug. Best shape o[...]



MLB announces pace of play initiatives

2018-02-19T15:31:53-05:00

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MLB is proceeding with rule changes for 2018 designed to improve the pace of play. The rules were formulated in consultation with the players, although the union expressed concern about changes that might alter “the outcome of games and the fabric of the game itself.” One change that will not be implemented is a pitch clock.

The new rules are as follows:

Mound visits without pitching changes are limited to six per team per nine innings. This includes visits by the manager, a coach or a position player, but there’s an exception where the home plate umpire believes the pitcher and catcher need to meet briefly due to a misunderstanding over signs.

There are fairly detailed time limits pertaining to between-inning breaks and pitching changes.

The rule about the batter stepping out of the box remains in effect.

Changes will be made to the instant replay equipment, presumably to speed up replays.