First Pitch: Reviewing the Pirates Career of Tim Alderson

Tim Alderson

Tim Alderson’s career with the Pirates ended today with a trade for Russ Canzler.

The Tim Alderson/Russ Canzler trade wasn’t exactly a blockbuster deal. It was a marginal trade, and the type of deal you’d expect in early-to-mid July as the hot stove season starts to heat up. The Pirates sent away a guy who profiled as a potential middle reliever, and who wouldn’t have even been an option for them this year due to their relief pitching depth. In exchange they got a guy who crushes lefties and profiles as a potential platoon option. The Pirates don’t need bullpen depth, but they do need guys who can hit left-handers.

It’s not exactly trading for a big bat, but it is trading from a position of strength for a position of need. My only question on that deal is wondering why Canzler didn’t come to the majors right away to replace Brandon Inge on the roster.

There’s not much to say about the actual deal. Alderson may or may not make it to the majors, and probably will play a minor role. Canzler could fill a role that has been a need for the Pirates, but he’s not ever going to have the impact of an everyday player. It’s a swap of role players. I did want to talk about Tim Alderson one last time to kind of wrap up his story with the Pirates. I did a big article at the start of last season on Alderson, which is a good starting point for the review of his Pirates career.

Tim Alderson was an enigma. He wasn’t a top prospect for the Pirates, yet for some reason articles about Alderson saw as much traffic as articles on Gerrit Cole or Jameson Taillon. There was so much interest in how he was developing, even though we haven’t considered him a top prospect for a few years. The other crazy thing about Alderson is how his story has been butchered like no other player. The facts were never right.

The primary mistake was the velocity. That was also the biggest topic with Alderson. He saw a drop in his velocity in 2009. Many say the Pirates caused this, although the velocity drop happened before he was traded. It was largely the reason why the Pirates were able to get him for Freddy Sanchez, who was injured at the time and had one year on his contract, plus a ridiculously priced option the following year. Alderson wasn’t the top prospect from the start of the year when he was traded. He was a guy who had lost his velocity and curveball, and turned into a project.

The loss in velocity was a big subject, and that led to the topic of long-toss. A report came out about Alderson, saying the Pirates didn’t allow him to participate in long toss and that’s what prevented his velocity from returning. The problem with that report was that I already had published interviews talking about how the Pirates did have their pitchers participate in long-toss, and even had some guys going to extreme distances. Then there was the video I had of Alderson long-tossing.

I’ve heard conflicting reports on whether Alderson was long-tossing all along. I heard that he was long tossing in 2011 when he was still hitting in the upper 80s, so the jump to 90-93 in 2012 may not have been the result of long-toss from extreme distances. It should be noted that “long-toss” is an all encompassing term. “Long-toss” includes throwing from 120 feet, which is the most common. “Individual throwing program” is what you’d use to describe what Alderson was doing by going out to 300 feet. But “long-toss” is most commonly used, and no one would know what you were talking about if you didn’t refer to it that way.

Alderson’s velocity came back in 2012, and he paired it with the return of his big breaking curveball. He dominated out of the bullpen that year, and got a chance as a starter. The splits were noticeable. As a reliever he had a 3.00 ERA in 30 innings with a 7.2 K/9 and a 4.0 K/BB. As a starter he had a 4.80 ERA in 60 innings, with a 6.3 K/9 and a 1.91 K/BB. This year he has been in the bullpen the entire year, with a 2.41 ERA in 56 innings between Double-A and Triple-A.

As I mentioned before, for some reason Alderson has a lot of name value. I received several comments today with people referring to dealing Alderson as if the Pirates traded a top prospect. That’s probably the name value coming into play. I think he’s got a chance to reach the majors, but at this point I don’t see him as a starter, and he doesn’t have the stuff to be a late inning reliever.

Alderson came to the Pirates as a project. In 2009 he entered the year as one of the top prospects in baseball, but lost his velocity and his stuff. The Pirates acquired him with hopes of turning him around. They did turn him around, although he never got back to his former potential of a major league starter. And now they move on. If this was the Pirates in 2009 or 2010, we may have seen Alderson in the majors this year. We may see him in the majors with Baltimore or some other team down the line. But there was almost no chance of that happening with the Pirates, and he would have left after the season as a minor league free agent. This way the Pirates get something for him, and hopefully Canzler can fill that need of hitting left-handed pitching.

Links and Notes

**Download the newest episode of the Pirates Prospects Podcast: P3 Episode 13: What Are the Needs For the Pirates as the Deadline Nears?

**2013 Pittsburgh Pirates Draft Pick Signing Tracker.

**2013 Pittsburgh Pirates International Signing Tracker.

**Pirates Prospects is Looking For Writers and an Ad Sales Representative.

Prospects

**Prospect Watch: Stolmy Pimentel Throws Eight Shutout Innings; Lambo Homers.

**DSL Prospect Watch: Pirates Drop Mets, De La Cruz Reaches Base Four Times Again.

**Minor League Schedule: Taillon Headlines Busy Saturday.

**Pirates Sign 11th Round Pick Erich Weiss to Over-Slot Deal.

Pirates

**Jordy Mercer Breaks Slide with Walkoff Single in 3-2 Win Over Mets.

**Pirates Notebook: David Wright Talks about Adding Alvarez to Derby.

**Pirates Acquire Russ Canzler For Tim Alderson.

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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  • tempman89

    I think he will be up once walker is back. They probably want Inge to get some AB’s at 2nd to see if he can turn around his bat. And if that doesn’t happen, Russ will be up. That is my thought.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

    Tim…Thanks for setting the record straight about, uh, TIm.
    .
    :)
    He was always just another ‘bounce back’ candidate. Low Risk/ High Reward.
    .
    Foo

  • buster09

    I saw Alderson’s 1st start in Altoona,and he was probably sitting around 90,topping out at 91-92. That was the last time I saw that kind of velocity out of him till 2012 in an appearance or two. But he was mainly if the high 80s with a pretty good breaking ball in the low 80s any time I saw him in 2012 or this season.

  • http://www.facebook.com/susanne.klichlangford Susanne Klich Langford

    Alderson’s hype is the 3rd most peculiar topic the fans have beaten up after “When is Matt Hague is gonna finally get a chance?” and “Is there a chance Neil Walker might get moved back to catcher, or 3B, or maybe to RF, or SS?”

    – Fred

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeremy.j.stein.3 Jeremy J Stein

    I wonder if the Pirates will get Canzler some work at 3B in Indy.

  • BostonsCommon

    Look, if Alderson turns into Grilli in 10 years then great, good for him, and shame on the Pirates. But the Bucs are trying to win now, this season, and the bottom line is that Alderson wasn’t going to help them do it this year. So they moved him and brought in someone who might help THIS season. Even if there is a chance that Canzler helps THIS season, its a good move, because Alderson wasnt going to. I see nothing wrong with the move and wish the kid success in the future.

    The question I have is about the continued attempts to turn AAAA, former prospects/high draft picks, into productive big leaguers. Is this approach similar to what they do with the projectable prep pitchers? Just keep signing these guys and one or two are bound to produce and provide the mega value were looking for… It’s certainly low risk, low cost, but G. Jones is about the only guy that panned out.