First Pitch: International Signing Recap, McCutchen, Kingham, Meadows

The Pirates were busy today with the opening of the 2014-15 International Signing Period. They signed five players to six-figure deals, with the biggest deal going to outfielder Yondry Contreras. The International Signing Tracker can be found here, and keeps track of the players signed and the bonus pool spent. Here is a link to information on each player signed.

 

 

**Andrew McCutchen was named the NL Player of the Month, which is no surprise if you looked at his numbers. Two years ago, McCutchen had a .953 OPS, and everyone wondered how the Pirates could compete going forward, figuring he wouldn’t be able to repeat that. He hasn’t touched that number, but he’s been above a .900 OPS ever since. Not only is he continuing to look like one of the best hitters in the league, but the Pirates have a lot of strong hitters surrounding him now, which wasn’t the case two years ago. They finished with one of the best offenses in baseball in June, and McCutchen was a big part of that. Now that Polanco has joined McCutchen and Marte at the top of the order, it’s going to be scary watching what the Pirates offense can do going forward.

**Nick Kingham Has His Season Back in Control. Ryan Palencer writes about Nick Kingham’s control problems early in the season, and how he has overcome that to dominate in his debut in Triple-A.

**Four Indianapolis Indians Selected to the Triple-A All-Star Game. Several depth options here for the Pirates later in the season.

**Prospect Watch: Alen Hanson Homers; Austin Meadows Shines in Rehab. I’d expect Meadows to be in West Virginia by this time next week.

**Pirates Sign Catcher Chris Harvey. A non-drafted free agent.

**Prospect Highlights: Cole Tucker Hitting and Fielding

**Minor League Schedule: John Kuchno Has Been Strong at Home This Year

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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  • emjayinTN

    Things I think I think at Mid-Season – it took a long time, but the Rotation is starting to look a lot like it did last year, and the best part about that is that there are a lot of new faces contributing; Jordy Mercer and Brad Miller (Mariners) led all MLB Shortstops with 5 HR’s in June, and Mercer was 4th overall in RBI’s at 15; Andrew McCutchen is going to be a consideration for MVP again this year, and we need to cobble together an extension; Gregory Polanco has been everything we had hoped for; Starling Marte has 20 Walks already – had only 25 all last season; Russell Martin is an essential piece of this puzzle; Very quietly Pedro Alvarez put together a strong June and is on pace to get close to or surpass the 30 HR mark again for the 3rd straight year; Can we hold Nick Kingham back until June of 2015 for “additional seasoning” – NOPE; Alen Hanson hit his 7th HR at Altoona – at the same point last year, Gregory Polanco had 6 – promote Hanson to AAA; Tony Watson deserves to be selected for the NL All Star Game; Josh Harrison is a super-sub for the Bucs, but deserves the opportunity to play full time; Francisco Liriano will probably not want to go to the minors for any rehab starts – if he thinks he is ready, he wants to pitch in the bright lights. Best part of all of this is that the Pirate Fanbase is getting stronger and attendance at the games is fantastic.

    • bucsws2014

      I hope Frankie does do at least one rehab start. Bucs can’t force him, but we don’t want another start like Cole’s last one. I’d hate to think how a “bad” Frankie might derail momentum, especially since someone who’s been better (Locke or Volquez) has to move out of the rotation to accommodate him.

      Good things are happening though. One game out in loss column for WC. One of the best home records again. 14-11 on the road since April. Brewers are starting to come back a bit. Cueto is getting hit around. Bucs should be in it to the finish, though I don’t see ATL/WAS/LA/SF giving away much ground.

      Sweeping the final six games from the Brewers would go a long way :-)

      • John Dreker

        Shortstop is always a loaded position for Int’l players, but many of them end up moving right away to other spots. Perez wasn’t really mentioned by anyone, so it’s hard to say how far back he was. The Pirates obviously liked him enough to give him a six-figure bonus and it’s possible he could end up being the best shortstop they sign. His scouting report didn’t say anything about defense, so he may be one of those players that moves off the position. The Pirates have spent about 60% of their bonus pool money already, so I wouldn’t expect anything great at the SS spot this year

        • leadoff

          Does it really matter? they have shortstops coming out their ears now.

          • bucsws2014

            When one of them does something that merits attention as an actual prospect, please let us know.

          • John Dreker

            I’ve never once heard a team say they had too many shortstop prospects. When that happens, then I’ll say it doesn’t matter

      • mysonisnamedafterRoberto

        The Pirates are in a stretch of 23 games against team they should win, which they have. That stretch ends with the Phillies the 4th of July weekend. I wrote back while playing the Marlins, they had a chance at being 10 games over .500 by July 5th. They wouldn’t do that, but they should be a solid 5 to 8 games over.

        St.Louis still isn’t hitting the ball and have two thirds of their rotation on the DL. They are starting to look like the Rays and can only win with their ace on the mound. They have a game left in S.F. and then the Marlins at home. They will probably go 2-2 over those games. Cincy host the Brewers, that is a good things, would love to see a Reds sweeps, even though they played bad on the West Coast. Cincy takes two from the Brewers. If the Pirates go 3-1 over the rest of the week. All three team would be within 6 games of the Brewers with the Pirates 4.5 out after the weekend.

        The true measure as to whether they are going to be contenders during the second half may happen right before the All-Star break. A seven game road trip with 4 in St. Louis and 3 in Cincy. If they play as well as they have, they can really turn this into a two team race in the central. Or they could be back under .500 with a bad trip. I think they could put off a 5-2 road trip. Three from St. Louis and two from Cincy. The Pirates have a chance to be within 4 games of the NL Central lead, if they take care of Business.

        There could be some separation in the standing if any of the teams get hot. Of the 4 teams: the Cards play 7 games the rest, The Reds 6, the Brewers 6 and Pittsburgh 7. leading into the break. If Pittsburgh is within 5 games that would be great.

        After the All-star break 31 games before they play back in the division and 19 those games are against the NL West.

        They have 6 games left after the All-Star break against each of the big 3.

    • R Edwards

      In my opinion, here are the top performances and disappointments for the first hald of the season:

      Top Performances:
      (1) Harrison – Its hard to rank someone ahead of Cutch, but Harrison’s performance to date has been the story of the first half and totally unexpected. And, its not just his hitting – throwing guys out at the plate from RF/LF, making highlight reel plays at second base, and good baserunning.
      (2) McCutchen – After a bit of a slow start, he’s reasserted himself as one of the best players in the game. MVP candidate again for sure.
      (3) Watson – Other than that one hiccup in Miami, he’s been lights out all season. Definite NL All Star candidate.

      Top Disappointments:
      (1) Cole – Yes, he has 6 wins – but overall, I have been very disappointed him after a very impressive rookie season. He doesn’t look like a #1 yet.
      (2) Alvarez – Yes, he has had a better June – but the numerous errors, strikeouts, and low HR totals puts him on this list.
      (3) Wilson – Very disappointed in his performance – I thought he would be another Watson.He is still young and a definite candidate for a strong bounce back in second half.

      • piraddict

        Surely Liriano should be on the disappointments list, as should Mercer and Marte to an extent.

        • R Edwards

          Liriano, possibly – although I did not have the same expectations for him as I did for Cole. Mercer and Marte have come around quite a bit over the past 2-3 weeks, otherwise they would have likely made that list.

      • smurph

        Plus
        Polanco, Worley, Volquez
        Minus
        Grilli, Wandy

        • R Edwards

          Polanco and Worley – Too small a sample size to date.
          Volquez – Too much up and down – not consistent

  • Joe Sweetnich

    Alvarez has what, 12 homers, and we are past the halfway point. That’s kind of like less than 24.

    • emjayinTN

      I think it was 12 or 13, but Pedro has not yet hit that stretch where he starts to put HR’s together in bunches – I took that into consideration. Last year his K/W was almost 4/1; this year he is just a tad above 2/1, and that is an impressive improvement. If the Pirates are going anywhere in 2014, he has to be a significant contributor, therefore I am hoping for .250 and 30+ HR’s. He is also starting to talk a lot like somebody who may want to stay in Pittsburgh. With the problems other Boras clients had this year holding out, and then losing money and half of the season, Pedro may see the benefit of staying a part of the Pirates. For all of the expectations, he is still only in his age 27 season with a 30 HR, 85 RBI year in 2012 and a 36 HR, 100 RBI year in 2013. Those are expensive numbers to find in a young player, and CH needs to get off the experimentation routine and insert him in the #4 spot against RHP’s and just challenge him to fish or cut bait.

  • leadoff

    With the bonus pool set up the way it is, how can the Yankees sign top 8 international players?

    • Matt Beam

      Tim/John – with the Yanks thumbing their noes at MLB and making a complete mochery of the international $ pool because they can afford to, what, if anything, will occur going forward? I saw they signed 20+ players for $15M-ish in the last 2 days… no wonder it’s so easy to hate them and Bud

      • https://profiles.google.com/100212786463678215436 Nathan Swartz

        What if the league capped the number of signings, but not the amount spent? That way, the Yanks can still sign 10 high profile guys, but that’s it. That means the other 10 they can’t get are left for other teams.

    • st1300b

      The absolute joke that the Yankee’s are going to follow any rules in place by MLB, have actually been outdone by the Yankee’s as they not only went into the 100% tax bracket, but blew past it looking at almost $30 million when said and done per scout.com. It’s one thing for the Pirates to contend $ for $ on a player, but now it’s the player $ plus twice that or more in $ for nothing???
      The only way, the ONLY way a program like this works is if the penalty is loss of draft picks, and/or losing all rights to sign international players period for years (x amount over slot… ie 2 x overslot – no signings next year, 3x overslot – no signings next two years) because saying your pool is zero means nothing to the Yankees. Complete BS!

    • emjayinTN

      I guess we will see if Bud Selig has any control whatsoever over the League. As a lame-duck Commissioner, this is when he needs to come down hard on the Yankees and not leave a mess for the next guy to try to clean up. Declare every one of their signings after exceeding the limit as void. Without some real penalties, this is just a matter of who is willing to spend the most TV money, and they have a lot to spend. But, since we are talking about Bud Selig, he will probably want to address this at the Winter Meetings – push it on down the road, Bud!

  • piraddict

    The difference in record between the Pirates and the Brew Crew can largely be attributed to too many blown saves and sub Par starting pitching early in the season. The Pirates addressed the saves issuing by demoting and moving Grilli and moving Morris. Now the question is whether Hughes/Wilson in the 7th, Watson in the 8th, Melancon in the 9th can return to last year’s, or at least to MLB average, bullpen performance. Regarding the starting pitching, the Pirates released Wandy (starting the season with him was a questionable decision), but the questions remain myriad. Will Worley/Locke/Cumpton continue to pitch above expectations? Will Cole continue below expectations or return to #2 status? Will Liriano recover last years form, or does he continue this year’s performance and if he does will the Pirates move him? Will Volquez mature out of his Jekyl / Hyde mode and only show his excellent side? Do the Pirates trade him? Should the Pirates stretch out Pimental for starting duty? With lots of open questions there is plenty of room for 2nd half drama because the offense should be good enough to make the Playoffs and reach the NL Championship series.

  • https://profiles.google.com/100212786463678215436 Nathan Swartz

    An aside: does anyone on here have a recommendation for a website to buy/trade Pirates baseball cards? I’m kinda eBay’d out but like to find other Bucco fans to deal with. Any pointers would be greatly appreciated!

  • W Zimmerman

    With the focus on the International signings does it mean that the Pirates have closed the books on unsigned draftees – Hinsz etc…? If he does not sign it appears they will be under their $. Or is this going to come down to the 18th and then if he doesn’t sign are they going to throw some $ at a couple other guys at the last minute?

    • emjayinTN

      W: We are now in the “blinking” stage of the game. I think Hinsz could be signed. He committed to Oregon, so it is money now or wait 3 years and hope he works himself into a first or 2nd round pick. If he does not, the HS LHP from Florida will get the money. I am sure they have made all of the necessary overtures to both of them and now it is up to them. Since the Pirates gave up last year’s second round pick, a HS LHP, as the PTBNL in the Ike Davis trade, I think the Pirates abandon Hinsz if the kid from Florida (Zach Warren) decides he wants to sign.

  • R Edwards

    I see Lambo is now rehabbing with the GCL team – starting and playing first base. Barrett Barnes is also in their lineup today.