Pirates Notebook: Big Weekend for the Pirates

According to Chuck Finder of the PPG, two Pittsburgh Pirates draft picks will be in town this weekend for what amounts to a “recruiting visit”. Those players are sixth round pick Zach Von Rosenberg, and eighth round pick Billy Cain.

Both pitchers are high school players with college commitments. ZVR is committed to LSU, who recently won a National Championship. Cain is committed to Texas, the team that LSU beat to win the National title. Both are expected to be tough signs for two reasons. First, they’re both going to very solid schools coming off of very successful years. Second, they’re both elite talents (ZVR was ranked #41 by Baseball America, while Cain was ranked #109) who will probably be first rounders when they’re eligible again in 2012.

Fortunately the Pirates whole draft revolved around getting the tough-to-sign players, and we saw last year that they’re willing to go way over slot, like when they gave Robbie Grossman $1 M as a sixth round pick, pulling him away from his commitment to Texas (and that looks to be a wise move with his success so far).

Obviously signing ZVR or Cain is not impossible. I don’t think they’d make the trip if they weren’t willing to consider a deal with the Pirates. It’s not like the trip is free of charge. In order to maintain their NCAA eligibility, each player has to pay their way to Pittsburgh, just as they would do for any school they were considering.

Both players probably watched their (hopefully not) future college teams play well the last few weeks. This weekend the Pirates have a great matchup with the Kansas City Royals, and hopefully that will spark a very nice set of games to wow ZVR and Cain, getting both in the mindset of wanting to be a professional ASAP.

As far as stats go, ZVR and Cain were both dominant last year in prep ball. Here are my write-ups on each player from my draft recap of day two:

ZVR: Von Rosenburg was ranked 41st overall by Baseball America. He dominated high school this year with a 0.60 ERA, and a 141:18 K/BB ratio in 93 IP. ZVR (that’s what I’m calling him) has three solid pitches: 88-91 MPH fastball with good life, a curveball with depth, and a deceiving changeup. He is 6’5″, 205 pounds, and should increase his velocity, especially when he commits to being a pitcher (played SS on his days off). Has a scholarship to LSU and was expected to turn that down if he was taken in the first two rounds. My guess is he will cost second round money.

Cain:
Cain was ranked 109 by Baseball America. He is 6’3″, 225 pounds, throws in the low 90s, and touches 94. He posted a 2.17 ERA and a 118:18 K/BB ratio in 58 IP this year. He reportedly wants a seven figure bonus. He has committed to Texas as a two way player. He is also a power hitting first baseman.

I’m going to say that if we did somehow sign these two, the draft would be a success. Of course I’m not saying the draft pick signings should stop there, but these two are going to be very good pitching prospects, with the chance of being solid major league pitchers some day. That’s something we don’t have much of in the Pirates system.

So here’s to hoping the Pirates sweep the Royals, and sign both of these picks.

Nyjer Morgan to Washington?

Ed Price of FanHouse (via Twitter: @ed_price) reported that the Pirates and Washington Nationals have discussed a swap of Nyjer Morgan for Lastings Milledge. The talks reportedly stalled when the Pirates wanted starting pitcher Craig Stammen included in the deal.

I have a mixed reaction on this news. First, I like Nyjer Morgan. On a non-baseball side, he’s a funny guy, and apparently is friends with top prospect Andrew McCutchen. The McLouth trade impacted the team, but how would a trade of Nyjer Morgan, who I’m sure is one of the most favored guys in the club house, impact the team? Furthermore, how would it impact McCutchen?

On a baseball side, Nyjer is excellent defensively (still the #1 OF according to UZR), has speed on the bases (18 steals this year) and hits for a decent average (.263), with a good OBP (.343), although he has struggled at points this season.

Looking at this rumored deal (or I guess rumored trade talk), I don’t think it would be a bad move from a baseball perspective. Nyjer is a solid player, but he’s 29 years old, has no power, and I think this is his upside. He’s basically Juan Pierre, although I’m not sure he’ll hit like Juan Pierre.

As for Lastings Milledge, he’s a bit of a headcase, although we have room for one of those with the recent demotion of Ian Snell. Milledge, however, is only 24 years old, and was the top prospect in the New York Mets system in 2006. Milledge has the potential to be an upgrade over Nyjer Morgan, as he is a five tool player, with the ability to add power, maintain speed on the bases, and maintain good defense in the outfield.

Milledge looked like he was coming on strong last year, hitting for a .318/.378/.485 line in the final two months of the season, with seven homers and 11 steals in 198 at-bats. This year he struggled with a .167 average in 24 at-bats, before being demoted to AAA after showing up late a few times to practice. Milledge then broke his finger, and is currently nearing the end of his recovery process.

As for Stammen, he was ranked as the 20th best prospect in the Nationals’ system by Baseball America (although that doesn’t say much since their system is possibly weaker than ours). He’s currently in the majors, having made seven starts so far, with a 5.49 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP, following a 1.80 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP in seven AAA starts this season. Stammen is only 25, so the Pirates could give him a little more time at AAA, especially with the major league rotation looking good enough right now.

Oh yeah, Stammen has a 50% ground ball ratio in the majors this year, and a career 54.3% ground ball ratio in the minors, including 61.4% this year. That seems to be a trend with pitchers that Neal Huntington goes after.

Overall I’d be much in favor of this deal. The Pirates would add another solid outfield prospect to the mix, one who has shown some major league success, but just needs to learn some humility (and he’s young, so maybe he’ll grow out of it). They’d also get a pitching prospect, which is always nice. Of course the talks are stalled, so no deal is imminent, but if this is what we can expect to see, I’d be all for it.

The MVP Tracker

The MVP Tracker is updated with yesterday’s win. Here are today’s top performers:

1. Nyjer Morgan: .205 WPA
2. Virgil Vasquez: .134
3. Jason Jaramillo: .097
4. Steven Jackson: .073
5. Andrew McCutchen: .060

McCutchen is now up to second place in the tracker, and gaining ground on Freddy Sanchez.

Prospect Watch

The Prospect Tracker is updated with tonight’s games:

-Daniel Moskos had a solid outi

ng in AA. Moskos pitched 7.1 innings, allowing 3 runs on 7 hits, with 7 strikeouts and no walks.

-Gorkys Hernandez went 2 for 5. After starting off 4 for 36 with Altoona, Gorkys has raised his average to .250 since the full-time return of Jose Tabata.

-Jose Tabata went 2 for 3 with 2 walks, raising his line to .306/.415/.389 since his return.

-Pedro Alvarez went 0 for 5 with three strikeouts and two errors. He now has 8 Ks in 18 ABs in Altoona, and four errors in four games.

-Chase D’Arnaud went 0 for 4 and was hit by a pitch. D’Arnaud is 0 for 7 since joining the Hillcats.

-Bryan Morris struggled against a solid Myrtle Beach team, going 4.2 innings with 4 earned runs (3 unearned) on 7 hits, with 3 walks and 1 strikeout.

-Robbie Grossman continues to tear it up for West Virginia, going 1 for 5 with a solo home run. Grossman is batting .348/.414/.506 in the month of June. He has a hit in 19 of 21 games played this month, and has reached base safely in all but one game in June.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • SalemPirate

    Several positives from all this news: A swap of Morgan & Milledge would work for both teams if Milledge could be 'harnessed' a bit. Like what we're hearing about the 'recruits'. Moskos had maybe his best game as a pro. Looking at this year against his previous stints, he looks much improved. And he's on a bad team to boot. Alvarez may get straightened out and field like Mike Schmidt and hit like Pujois, but he looks more and more like Dave Kingman.