For two years in a row, I’ve opened the season with a list of things to watch for during the upcoming season. Both years I’ve numbered the list according to the consecutive losing streak, and the year the Pirates were currently on. Last year at the All-Star break, I reviewed the list mid-season, and to continue with the tradition (or I guess to make a tradition out of it), here is the mid-season update from my 18 Things to Watch For in 2010.
UPDATE: What a way to start. Little did we know at the time that Russell and Huntington had been extended before the season even started. I could go in to that situation, but it’s already been beat to death. In short, I didn’t think it was a bad idea to extend either Huntington or Russell before the season, I don’t think it’s a bad idea now, and the only thing about the situation that sticks out is the strange decision to keep the extensions a secret.
As for Russell, a lot of people are calling for his head, but my stance is pretty much the same as above, with a few changes. This season we’ve learned that Russell was not the root of strategies like the “no-triples” defense, but that those decisions came from above. It’s not that I think Russell is doing a good job. I just don’t think it really matters who the manager is if the manager isn’t going to be making decisions like these.
UPDATE: I thought Locke would start out in AA, but he ended up going back to high-A. He was just promoted to AA, and Altoona
comes to Richmond at the end of the month, so perhaps the Jeff Locke BUCCO Fans curse will live on. The curse did rear it’s ugly head back in April, and all it took was a quick glance at Gameday:
If you’ve read this site for any decent amount of time, you probably know about the BUCCO Fans Jeff Locke curse. That curse took a new turn tonight. I was following the Bradenton game on Gameday when I realized I didn’t know who was pitching. Bradenton was up 4-0 at the time, after five innings. I scrolled down to see that Locke was the pitcher, and that in his five innings he had allowed one hit, two walks, and struck out ten.
Immediately after seeing this, the results of the sixth inning started to come in. Throwing error by Jeremy Farrell to put a runner on first, leading off the inning. Another throwing error by Farrell, putting runners on first and second. A fielder’s choice to second base, with no outs resulting in the play, followed that. Then Locke allowed his second hit of the game, a double, bringing in two runs. Coincidence? I think not.
UPDATE: It’s been a rough season for Sanchez. He didn’t have problems hitting in high-A, but he did run in to issues with injuries. Sanchez had an injured shoulder in the month of April, which allowed runners to run wild on him. At the start of June he was hit in the head with a pitch, and missed a few games. Later that month, he was hit in the face with a pitch, fracturing his jaw in two places, and forcing him to have surgery, putting him on the shelf for at least six weeks.
Sanchez currently has his jaw wired shut, and has lost 12 pounds, according to an interview he did with Rocco DeMaro. I thought he could be in the majors by 2011, but the string of injuries this year could push that back to 2012.
UPDATE: This has been one of the bright spots in the majors this season. Octavio Dotel ran in to some trouble in April, but has been great ever since then, he has put up a 2.81 ERA in 25.2 innings, with a 30:12 K/BB ratio.
On the surface, Donnelly looks bad, with a 5.33 ERA in 27 innings, and a 21:21 K/BB ratio. However, Donnelly has been good when the Pirates need him to be good. Donnelly has a .160 BAA and a .610 OPS in high leverage situations. He has a .250 BAA and a .625 OPS in medium leverage situations. His problem is that in low leverage situations (when the team is up or down by a large margin) he has a .295 BAA and a .962 OPS.
The best parts of the bullpen this year have been the two players who were here coming in to the off-season: Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan. Meek was good enough to be the Pirates’ All-Star representative, with a 1.11 ERA in 48.2 innings, and a 45:14 K/BB ratio. Hanrahan doesn’t have the ERA, with a 4.06 ERA in 37.2 innings, but he has the better secondary numbers, with a 52:14 K/BB ratio.
UPDATE: That one outing turned in to every single outing during the 2010 season. Morton was a huge disappointment this year, and has since been optioned to AAA. I don’t think Morton is as bad as his 2010 season, as there must be something wrong with him. You can’t go from the success he saw in 2009 (outside of that one start) to totally bombing in 2010 the way he has done. That said, the “it was only one start” theory is pretty much shot to death. A more appropriate theory would probably be “he’ll have one of those starts every once in awhile”. Well, maybe that’s an optimistic theory, considering his
UPDATE: Ohlendorf is half-way to a 4.50 ERA, with a 4.22 ERA, falling between his 2009 numbers and that 4.50 mark. He’s seen a slight increase in his strikeouts, and his walks are up about one per nine innings. His FIP is still around 4.70, which is where it was last year. His BABIP is a little low at .291, although not as lucky as his 2009 numbers. His strand rate is the same story: a little high, but not as high as 2009. Ohlendorf is getting lucky with the long ball. In his career he has allowed a homer in 11.1% of his fly balls. This year that number is 8.7%. Ohlendorf will eventually see a correction, which means he needs to get more grounders to limit the impact of the inevitable 10-11% HR/FB ratio.
UPDATE: Milledge isn’t hitting for power on the season, with just three homers, although all three came recently. After a .570 OPS in April, Milledge jumped to a .706 OPS in May, and a .905 OPS in June. Milledge hasn’t let up in July, with a .982 OPS, although he has seen some playing time disappear to Ryan Church recently. It’s too early to tell whether the success in June and July are the real deal for Milledge, or just a fluke hot streak.
UPDATE: LaRoche started off strong, with a .333/.415/.456 line in 57 at-bats in April. From that point forward LaRoche hit for a .188/.240/.250 line in 144 at-bats. His defense also slipped at third, which hurt his main value from the 2009 season. LaRoche has been moved to the bench, and has learned a little bit of second base in the process, although at this point he’s going to have a hard time escaping the bench.
UPDATE: Doumit hasn’t really bounced back at the plate, with a .260/.334/.415 line in 265 at-bats this season. He’s been horrible on defense behind the plate, catching only 11% of base runners stealing, down from 31% in 2009. With Jason Jaramillo recently being optioned down to AAA, I have my speculation that Doumit could be traded by the deadline, with Jaramillo only spending time in AAA to get ready for the starting role after Doumit is dealt.<
UPDATE: This pretty much played out as mentioned above. Taillon wasn’t off-limits just because he was a prep pitcher, and they went for overslot guys in the later rounds, including Stetson Allie in the second round. Now they need to get them all signed.
UPDATE: I only feel that I should update 7 and 8 at the same time, so…
UPDATE: The pitching depth didn’t work out. Hart and Veal are both out for the season, and will probably miss time next season too. Lincoln is in the majors, but getting adjusted. They currently have Jeff Karstens making starts, and the sad thing is he’s considered their MVP. It’s looking like 2011 will be when the pitching rotation gets a boost, with guys like Owens, Wilson, Locke, and Bryan Morris all capable of challenging for a rotation spot come June 2011.
Going back to number seven, I don’t think it’s a guarantee that Duke and Maholm will be traded. If I had to pick one who could go, it would probably be Duke, although his value is down coming off his injury. Duke will make the first start after the All-Star break, which should maximize the amount of starts he has before the trade deadline rolls around.
ortstop in the Cal Ripken mold. Josh Harrison is a speedy second baseman who might turn in to a David Eckstein type player, and might make a strong utility player with the ability to play third base and right field as well.
UPDATE: Surprisingly, Neil Walker ended up being the middle infield option that emerged. Coming in to the season, Walker was looking like a utility player at best. His career at AAA coming in to the season featured an on-base percentage around .300, with very little power, not a good thing for third base. Then Walker decided to learn second base, learned it well, and drastically improved his OBP skills, with a .321/.392/.560 line in 168 at-bats in AAA this year. In the majors he has been good, with a .275/.318/.423 line in 142 at-bats, although his walk rate is slipping, which is a concern.
As for the AA players, Harrison has been the best of the trio at AA this year, with a .313/.357/.413 line in 310 at-bats. Harrison projects more as a utility guy, especially with Walker playing second base in the majors and Harrison lacking te power for third base. D’Arnaud has struggled at the plate this year, but is getting back on track recently, with a .316/.383/.500 line in June, although he’s struggled again in the start of July. Mercer has also had some problems this year, although he’s been doing much better in June and July, even seeing a .799 OPS so far in July. D’Arnaud and Mercer could compete for the starting shortstop position, as early as June 2011, although one of them will have to step it up from now until then.
UPDATE: As I expected, Clement’s defense really wasn’t an issue. The issue was his hitting, or lack of hitting to be exact. Clement was optioned in early June, and might have trouble getting back to the majors with the Pirates. He did play one game at catcher, so that could be a scenario to watch, although he’d have to get more work in for the “Will Clement go back to catching” rumors to start. At this point, it can’t hurt him to try catching again.
>Nelson Pereiraand Jhonatan Ramos. Pereira looked good last year, although his season numbers don’t reflect it. Ramos looked strong when I saw him at Pirate City. He may be small, but last year his numbers looked very effective, and in my brief time watching him it didn’t look like he was afraid to go after hitters.
UPDATE: Morris definitely was the breakout player this year, although I still don’t consider that a breakout performance. Cayonez has been great so far in the GCL, but it’s way too early to call him the next Marte. Matt Hague isn’t hitting for the power you’d want from a first baseman, although Calvin Anderson is doing a good job in Bradenton. He’ll probably put up Adam LaRoche numbers before he comes close to Ryan Howard numbers though.
It’s too early to tell on the prep pitchers, although Nathan Baker is having a good year in West Virginia, even though he’s a little old for the level. The Pirates released Pereira before the season, and Ramos started with West Virginia before being demoted to State College. Ramos has been great since the demotion.
It’s hard to pick a breakout prospect mid-season. Do you go with a guy like Neil Walker, who is more of a bounce back prospect? Do you go with Nathan Adcock, even though he’s been struggling lately after his hot start? That’s a hard decision to make mid-season, and it’s even tougher considering the Rudy Owens act that the 2010 breakout player has to follow.
UPDATE: It’s too early to tell here, although there have been some good results with the K/BB ratios. That’s going to be the big thing this year, and early next year, as all of these pitchers will work on their fastball control and command.
UPDATE: McCutchen has been excellent this year, with a .287/.363/.435 line, and eight homers in 324 at-bats. He’s also stolen 20 bases in 26 attempts. That’s almost similar to the performance we saw from him in 2009, although his power has taken a bit of a drop. He could end the season with 15 homers and close to 40 steals.
Jones has seen a dip in his production, with a .272/.337/.431 line in 327 at-bats, and 11 homers. Part of that could be due to being pitched around early in the season. Jones was on fire in the month of June, going from a .771 OPS in May to a .904 OPS in June. Coincidentally, that’s when Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, and Jose Tabata arrived to join Jones and McCutchen at the top of the lineup. Jones is struggling some against lefties, with a .675 OPS and three homers in 127 at-bats, compared to an .826 OPS and eight homers in 200 at-bats against right handers.
UPDATE: All three players have gotten off to a slow start in the majors, although all three have shown potential. Alvarez hit for a .152/.216/.196 line in 46 at-bats in June, with no homers. In 38 at-bats in July, Alvarez has hit for a .289/.341/.605 line, with three homers. It usually tak
es Alvarez some time to adjust to a new level. Let’s hope his start to the month of July is proof that he’s adjusted to the majors.
Tabata has struggled at the plate, with a sub .700 OPS so far, although he’s good at getting on base, and has some skills stealing bases, stealing eight out of 12 so far. Tabata needs his hitting to arrive at the major league level in order to maximize his value as a leadoff man.
Lincoln had a great outing on June 30th, pitching seven shutout innings, with four hits, one walk, and six strikeouts. Before that time he was struggling. Since then he’s made two starts, with his best outing being a six inning, three run on seven hit performance, with two walks and three strikeouts.
All three should come around, hopefully well before the start of the 2011 season.
In short, it’s been a disappointing half-season for the Pirates. The major league team is on pace for an embarrassing record, and what’s worse is that they might not even be bad enough to get the number one overall pick next year, likely to be college star Anthony Rendon. The minor league system has seen some big injuries to top prospects, as well as some struggles with other prospects who looked to be the future coming in to the season.
The silver lining is that the Pirates have a good group of young talent in the majors with Alvarez, Tabata, Walker, Jones, McCutchen, and Lincoln, with a lot of pitching prospects at the AA level, likely to get the call to AAA by the end of the year. This year is pretty much shot, so the second half will be all about getting the major league players adjusted to the majors for 2011, and getting the minor league pitchers ready for a mid-season call-up next year as well. Although the biggest thing for the team’s future might be that Anthony Rendon watch for the 2011 draft.