Pirates Prospects » Top Stories http://www.piratesprospects.com Your best source for news on the Pittsburgh Pirates and their minor league system. Sat, 17 May 2014 16:45:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 Prospect Reports: Phil Irwin Getting Back the Feel For His Pitches http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/prospect-reports-phil-irwin-getting-back-the-feel-for-his-pitches.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/prospect-reports-phil-irwin-getting-back-the-feel-for-his-pitches.html#comments Sat, 17 May 2014 16:33:27 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=78996 April was a month to forget for Phil Irwin. In the month, Irwin had an 11.57 ERA in 14 innings, with 20 hits allowed.

“When you take a year off from surgery and don’t get as many innings in the spring as you want, I was just struggling to find the timing on my delivery,” Irwin said. “I just did not get the feeling of comfort on the mound early in the season. It obviously resulted in a bad April.”

However, Irwin turned it around in May. He started the month with 7.1 shutout innings, after being sent to the bullpen after a pair of April outings. The right-hander struggled last night, with three runs allowed, but has a 3.52 ERA on the month. He also has eight strikeouts in 7.2 innings in May.

“Right now, I have been working on my delivery,” Irwin said. “Everything feels good. My timing and my arm feels good. It was just feeling the ball out front. I did not have a lot of feel for it at all.”

Due to this lack of feel, Irwin’s walks were way up as well. While he walked a staggering ten hitters in April, he has yet to allow a free pass in May. He also hit four batters. Irwin said that this was because he “literally did not know where the ball was going.”

The fastball command is back for Irwin, but most importantly, he said that the command of his patented curve ball is back.

“For a lot of guys, if the fastball feels good, everything else feels good,” Irwin said. “For me, it is the other way around. It has always been to build my delivery around my curve ball. If the curve ball feels good, everything else does. If the fastball doesn’t feel good, I throw a curve ball to get back to the fastball. It’s really backwards. The curve ball felt awful (early in the season).”

Irwin said that he can tell how the curve ball is by how the hitters are seeing it and the contact that they make. He also said that they were getting good wood on it and not chasing the ones in the dirt. With this, batters were hitting an astonishing .339 in April against .200 in May. He also allowed three home runs and a double in April. In May, he has kept every offering inside the park and allowed just one double.

The biggest mechanical adjustment for Irwin is getting to the back leg and generating power from it. He said that this also allows his arm time to get around in the back. When he is late in this action, the ball will spray back to the right-handed hitters. Indianapolis pitching coach Tom Filer concurs and said that they have been working on it.

“His timing was off a little bit,” Filer said. “He was a little bit out in front of himself. He is now getting back up over the rubber. He is staying in the box and his arm is catching up and he is throwing downhill. Also, his breaking ball has come back, which is the biggest thing.”

With the command and the feel coming back, Irwin has also seen an increase in velocity. He went from around 86 MPH in his first few outings to 90-92 in his last appearance. He said that he has “not seen that (velocity) for a while.”

Even though he did not pitch early in May when he was recalled by the Pirates for bullpen help, Irwin said that the organization showing confidence in his abilities was nice to see and boosted his confidence tremendously.

“It was good for me,” he said. “It got me back into feeling comfortable and good about baseball again. It can change your mindset whether you throw or not. It shows that the organization does still believe in you still, even though I hadn’t been pitching as well as I want to. I came back down and everything has been good since.”

In addition, Irwin is pleased with working out of the bullpen. He said that it has been in discussion for the past two years. He realizes that two-pitch hurlers don’t tend to have long-term success in the big leagues. Despite the success at most levels in the organization as a starter, he said that “all they have to do is sit on the fastball if they recognize my curve ball” as a starter in Pittsburgh. Irwin is also pleased that he can pitch and help the team win every day.

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Podcast: Previewing the Pirates-Yankees Series With River Avenue Blues http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/podcast-previewing-the-pirates-yankees-series-with-river-avenue-blues.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/podcast-previewing-the-pirates-yankees-series-with-river-avenue-blues.html#comments Sat, 17 May 2014 16:30:50 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=78947 For those of you who have been asking “when is the podcast coming back”, you’ll be happy to know that the answer is…soon. In fact, there’s a 90% chance that the podcast will return next week, and I’ve already lined up the first guest.

On the surface, what you see me doing with this job involves the writing, podcasts, and anything that shows up on the site. Behind the scenes, I’ve had a lot going on this year involving a few projects that we hope to roll out this season, along with a few side projects that you’ll find out about soon enough. I’ve also been adding writers throughout the season, as you’ve already seen with the great work that Ryan Palencer is doing in Indianapolis, and which you will see with a few new writers over the next few weeks. Most of the writers we added are just finishing up with school, and will be making their “debuts” shortly.

In the process of adding writers, working on behind the scenes stuff, and my general role of managing the site, I haven’t had time to do any podcasts until now.

But if you’re looking for a podcast now, you should check out The River Avenue Blues podcast, which I was a guest on this week, discussing the upcoming series between the Yankees and the Pirates. Joe Pawlikowski and I discussed the Pirates this year, including looking at some of the former Yankees who are now Pirates, along with a quick preview of the pitching matchups this weekend. A few of the highlights:

**We talked about the reputation Jose Tabata has with Pirates fans of being lazy, which was the same reputation he had with the Yankees.

**We discussed why pitchers like Francisco Liriano, Mark Melancon, and Edinson Volquez have gone from some of the worst numbers in the league, to respectable numbers.

**I found out that Gerrit Cole is the Yankees version of Miguel Sano. Every time a prospect list comes out, or every other week (whichever comes first) I hear something about Sano. I always wondered if other teams fan bases do the same thing with “the one that got away”. Apparently they do, even when it’s the Yankees.

To listen to the podcast, head over to River Avenue Blues. Hopefully by this time next week, I’ll be announcing the first episode of the new season of our podcast.

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First Pitch: The Pirates Short and Long Term at Shortstop http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/first-pitch-the-pirates-short-and-long-term-at-shortstop.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/first-pitch-the-pirates-short-and-long-term-at-shortstop.html#comments Sat, 17 May 2014 07:41:31 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=79033 Today I wrote about Jordy Mercer and how I think he’s going to bounce back offensively this year. He may already be in the process of doing just that, but I don’t want to put too much stock on his recent hot streak, which is a sample size of six games.

If Mercer doesn’t bounce back, then the Pirates once again find themselves in trouble at the shortstop position. That’s not an uncommon thing, as shortstop is the hardest position in the game to fill.

The Short Term

Jordy Mercer (Photo by: David Hague)

Jordy Mercer (Photo by: David Hague)

Jordy Mercer – The Pirates need Mercer to bounce back. If he doesn’t, then there’s no one for the position until mid-2015 at the earliest, and possibly later than that if Alen Hanson isn’t ready by then. It would be nice if the offense returns to the 2013 levels, and the defense stays with the good 2014 numbers. But the Pirates could settle for last year’s version of Mercer, without the defense.

Stephen Drew – If Mercer isn’t working out a month from now, the Pirates might want to consider signing Stephen Drew. If he is signed after the draft, they wouldn’t have to give up a first round pick. Drew wouldn’t be available until the start of July, at the earliest, since he’d have to get ready for the season. If the Pirates have no shot at contending by mid-June, then they might want to just ride it out with Mercer, give him the entire year to fail or rebound, and then act accordingly during the 2014 off-season.

The Long Term

Gift Ngoepe (left) and Alen Hanson (right).

Gift Ngoepe (left) and Alen Hanson (right).

Alen Hanson – He’s currently the top shortstop prospect in the system, and over the last month he has a .301/.339/.505 line in 103 at-bats. That removes his slow start during the first two weeks of the season, which is the same thing he did last year before taking off with his bat. Hanson could use some more walks, since he projects to be a leadoff hitter. He should remain with Altoona the rest of the season, with a chance to move up to Indianapolis at the end of the year. Best case, he could be in the majors by the middle of the 2015 season. A more conservative projection has him in Pittsburgh in 2016.

JaCoby Jones – He’s making a lot of noise right now due to his bat. On the season he’s hitting for a .259/.335/.420 line in 143 at-bats. That’s down, in large part, due to a recent slump that has seen him hitting for a .565 OPS in the last ten games. Jones has shown some power, with five home runs in 143 at-bats, and a .161 ISO. He’s a converted outfielder, and I’m not sure how he’ll handle the shortstop position over the long run. I think the best and most realistic thing to hope for would be that he ends up what you’d want Mercer to be — a guy who can stick at the position, won’t kill you defensively, and will provide a decent bat with some power.

Gift Ngoepe – He had an .822 OPS in April, but that has dropped thanks to his .690 OPS in May. Ngoepe is the best defensive shortstop in the system, although that title could soon go to Adrian Valerio, who signed for $400,000 out of the Dominican Republic last year (file Valerio under the long-long term). Ngoepe also has a ton of speed, and draws a good amount of walks. The problem is that he strikes out too much, and doesn’t hit for average. I’m not convinced that he can hit enough to be a regular. You might point to Clint Barmes as an example of a guy who didn’t hit and was a regular. However, if Ngoepe is striking out 25-30% of the time in Altoona, then he’s at risk of putting up Brian Bixler numbers in the majors.

Links and Notes

Pirates

**Pittsburgh Pirates Positive Regression Candidates: Jordy Mercer

**Podcast: Previewing the Pirates-Yankees Series With River Avenue Blues

Prospects

**Prospect Watch: Locke and Glasnow Pitch Well; Three Hits For Polanco

**Minor League Schedule: A.J. Morris Has Been Impressive This Season

**Prospect Highlights: Home Runs From Stetson Allie and Gift Ngoepe

2014 Draft

**Draft Prospect Watch: Updates For Players Linked to Pirates First Round Pick

**First Mock Draft From Jonathan Mayo Has a Familiar Name For Pirates

**Baseball America’s Second Mock Draft Has Pirates Going With Monte Harrison

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Prospect Watch: Locke and Glasnow Pitch Well; Three Hits For Polanco http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/prospect-watch-locke-and-glasnow-pitch-well-three-hits-for-polanco.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/prospect-watch-locke-and-glasnow-pitch-well-three-hits-for-polanco.html#comments Sat, 17 May 2014 04:53:37 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=79008 TOP OF THE SYSTEM

A look at how the current top 20 prospects did today.  Note that this list doesn’t include players currently in the majors (Stolmy Pimentel #13). If a player is in the majors, he will be removed, everyone below him will be shifted up a spot, and a new player will be added to the bottom of the list. If a player is out for the season (Jameson Taillon #2, Clay Holmes #12), he will be removed and everyone below him will move up a spot. Removing these guys doesn’t mean they have lost prospect status. It is just an attempt to get 20 active prospects on the list. Rankings are from the 2014 Prospect Guide, and links on each name go to their Pirates Prospects player pages.

1. Gregory Polanco, CF, Indianapolis - 3-for-4, BB, SB

2. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Bradenton - 6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 0 HR

3. Austin Meadows, CF, West Virginia - Disabled List (4/22 Update)

4. Alen Hanson, SS, Altoona - 0-for-4

5. Nick Kingham, RHP, Altoona - 6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 0 HR

6. Reese McGuire, C, West Virginia - 1-for-4

7. Josh Bell, RF, Bradenton - 1-for-4

8. Luis Heredia, RHP, West Virginia Power - Disabled List (4/22 Update)

9. Harold Ramirez, OF, West Virginia - 1-for-4

10. Andrew Lambo, OF, Indianapolis - Disabled List (5/7 Update)

11. Joely Rodriguez, LHP, Altoona - DNP

12. Blake Taylor, LHP, Extended Spring Training - DNP

13. Cody Dickson, LHP, West Virginia - 5.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 0 HR

14. Barrett Barnes, CF, West Virginia - Disabled List (4/14 Update)

15. JaCoby Jones, SS, West Virginia - 0-for-4

16. Michael De La Cruz, OF, Extended Spring Training - DNP

17. Wyatt Mathisen, 3B, West Virginia - 1-for-4

18. Jin-De Jhang, C, Bradenton - DNP

19. Brandon Cumpton, RHP, Indianapolis - DNP

20. Casey Sadler, RHP, Indianapolis – DNP

 

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The 2014 Prospect Guide is now available, and is the perfect resource to follow the minor league system during the 2014 season. You can order your copy on the products page of the site.

 

DAILY SUMMARY

Top Pitcher: Jeff Locke, LHP – 7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 0 HR

Top Hitter: Chris Dickerson, CF – 3-for-4, HR

Home Runs: Chris Dickerson (3)

 

AAA: INDIANAPOLIS INDIANS    

Box Score

Result: Indianapolis 6, Pawtucket 5

Starting Pitcher: Jeff Locke, LHP – 7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 0 HR

Top Hitter: Chris Dickerson, CF – 3-for-4, HR

Other Notable Performers:

Gregory Polanco, RF – 3-for-4, BB, SB

Chris McGuiness, 1B – 2-for-4, BB

Game Notes: Jeff Locke pitched a gem tonight, throwing seven shutout innings, with one hit allowed, three walks, and five strikeouts. In his two starts since returning to the minors, he has given up two earned runs in 14 innings of work, along with seven hits, five walks, and ten strikeouts. Indianapolis won in walk off fashion after a three run ninth inning. Gregory Polanco and Chris Dickerson each had RBI singles, and Indianapolis won on a Chris McGuiness single to score Polanco.

 

AA: ALTOONA CURVE

Box Score

Result: Richmond 2, Altoona 1

Starting Pitcher: Nick Kingham, RHP – 6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 0 HR

Top Hitter: Drew Maggi, 2B – 2-for-3, 2B

Other Notable Performers:

Keon Broxton, LF – 1-for-4, 2B

Game Notes: The skidding Curve dropped their 3rd in a row tonight, with a 2-1 loss to Richmond. Top prospects Nick Kingham and Kyle Crick toed the rubber for the Curve and Flying Squirrels. The game lived up to the pitching duel that it was headlined to be.

Kingham maintained 90-92 MPH for almost his entire 6 IP, dropping down into the high 80’s for a handful of pitches in the 6th. He did continue to struggle with his command early surrendering his 3 unintentional walks in the first 3 innings. Kingham changed gears after the 3rd however, generating 5 of his 9 groundouts, as well as 2 of his 4 strikeouts for the night in innings 4 through 6. The only runs Kingham allowed were generated from an Angel Villalona single in the 3rd that scored 2.

The Altoona offense looked completely different from their last outing against Crick. Baseball America’s #33 prospect only allowed 3 Curve hitters to reach base, in the form of a Drew Maggi single, a Justin Howard single, and a walk to pinch hitter Willy Garcia. Keon Broxton contributed an RBI double in the 7th after Crick’s departure, and Drew Maggi collected 3 bases on 2 hits, but not much more of note happened tonight for the Curve offense. - John Kokales

 

A+: BRADENTON MARAUDERS   

Box Score

Result: Dunedin 3, Bradenton 2

Starting Pitcher: Tyler Glasnow, RHP – 6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 0 HR

Top Hitter: Raul Fortunato, LF – 1-for-3, SB

Other Notable Performers:

Max Moroff, 2B – 1-for-4, 2B

Game Notes: Tyler Glasnow had a much better start compared to his last time out. He still worked heavy with the fastball, throwing it in 66 of his 83 pitches. His control was a little bit better, especially early in the game. In previous outings, Glasnow has struggled with his control early in the game. He had some control problems in the middle innings, but his early work was dominant — working fast with a 93-96 MPH fastball, and getting quick outs. Last time I saw him, he allowed six stolen bases. Tonight he did a better job in that regard, going 1-for-2 in the stolen base department. That could just be because Dunedin wasn’t running as much, so I wouldn’t chalk it up to him fixing the problem just yet. The one run Glasnow allowed was due to what should have been ruled an error on third baseman Eric Wood.

Josh Bell’s swing looks bad from the right side. He often looks off balanced and awkward, almost like he’s just learning how to swing a bat from that side of the plate. He had a few nice swings tonight, but the majority of them were the cringe-worthy type. His one hit was an infield single, and was a questionable call at first base. That extended his hitting streak to ten games. He did hit a hard line drive to the shortstop on one of his nicer swings of the night. He’s got a .603 OPS against left-handers this year, and the swing from the right side does a good job of explaining why.

 

A: WEST VIRGINIA POWER   

Box Score

Result: Augusta 2, West Virginia 1

Starting Pitcher: Cody Dickson, LHP – 5.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 0 HR

Top Hitter: Reese McGuire, DH – 1-for-4

Other Notable Performers:

Harold Ramirez, RF – 1-for-4

Wyatt Mathisen, 3B – 1-for-4

Game Notes: The West Virginia offense didn’t do much tonight, getting just five hits, and all of them singles. Reese McGuire picked up a hit, extending his hitting streak to nine games. Harold Ramirez extended his hitting streak to six games, getting a hit in each of his games since returning from the disabled list. Wyatt Mathisen continued a hot month of May, in which he is hitting for a .300/.354/.517 line in 60 at-bats. Cody Dickson continued his struggles with the walks, and now has 16 walks in 38.1 innings this year.

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First Mock Draft From Jonathan Mayo Has a Familiar Name For Pirates http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/first-mock-draft-from-jonathan-mayo-has-a-familiar-name-for-pirates.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/first-mock-draft-from-jonathan-mayo-has-a-familiar-name-for-pirates.html#comments Fri, 16 May 2014 20:04:42 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=78976 It’s been a busy last two days for mock drafts and three of the bigger names that cover the draft have put their best guesses out there for all to see. Yesterday we saw the first mock draft from Keith Law and he had Vanderbilt pitcher Tyler Beede dropping to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Baseball America had their second mock draft, selecting toolsy prep outfielder Monte Harrison for the Pirates. Jonathan Mayo posted his draft prediction and his name in the 24th spot has been mentioned with the Pirates a couple times before, Wichita State first baseman Casey Gillaspie.

Casey Gillaspie - Photo Credit: Wichita State

Casey Gillaspie – Photo Credit: Wichita State

Gillaspie was part of our first draft preview two weeks ago. We also posted a scouting video on him at the same time. Gillaspie is a switch-hitting first baseman with huge power. Just over two weeks ago, Gillaspie was rated 24th by MLB.com and a mock draft from Chris Crawford had him going to the Pirates. There has been a lot of coverage of him recently, so if you’ve been following the draft here, he is definitely a name you are familiar with already.

Gillaspie is hitting .401 this year through 53 games, with 48 walks and 24 strikeouts. He has 15 doubles, 14 homers and a 1.229 OPS. His bat plays up from both sides of the plate, with power and average from the left and the right. He can handle first base well and his running is below average despite going 8-for-8 so far in steal attempts. Due to that lack of foot speed, he is strictly a first baseman, but his bat has a chance to be special. One scout according to Mayo, said that Gillaspie has a chance to be as good as a couple other top switch-hitters, Lance Berkman and Mark Teixeira. That is high praise and definitely the type of value you’d like to get when selecting far down in the first round.

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Pittsburgh Pirates Positive Regression Candidates: Jordy Mercer http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/pittsburgh-pirates-positive-regression-candidates-jordy-mercer.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/pittsburgh-pirates-positive-regression-candidates-jordy-mercer.html#comments Fri, 16 May 2014 18:11:51 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=78959 It was almost a year ago that Jordy Mercer played his first game of the 2014 season at shortstop. Mercer came up in early May to play second base with Neil Walker on the disabled list. Walker returned on May 13th, and Mercer started his first game of the season at shortstop on May 15th. A few weeks later, Mercer was named the primary starter, which was a relief to Pirates fans who were tired of seeing Clint Barmes’ bat in the lineup.

When it comes to the shortstop position, defense has a ton of value, and is highly underrated. That’s especially true for a team like the Pirates, who have had the highest ground ball rate in baseball the last two years. Barmes has been one of the best defensive shortstops in the league, but has no offensive value. That overall package still has value, especially to a team that gets a 50% ground ball ratio. But that doesn’t mean you need to have a defense-only shortstop.

The Pirates made the switch to Mercer, sacrificing some defense in exchange for much better offense. Barmes had a .558 OPS last year. Mercer had a .772 OPS. Barmes was much better than Mercer defensively, but Mercer was much better than Barmes offensively. Overall, Mercer’s increase in offense trumped Barmes’ increase in defense. That led to a 1.4 WAR from Mercer, compared to an 0.6 WAR from Barmes in almost the same amount of playing time.

The hope coming into this season was that Mercer could improve his defense, which is something he was working on with Barmes during spring training. So far, Mercer has improved his defense. He went from a -9.4 UZR/150 last year to a 5.3 UZR/150 this year. One disclaimer about UZR is that you need to factor in sample sizes.

When it comes to explaining sample sizes, I compare UZR to batting average. If a guy hits .300 in a month, you wouldn’t call him a .300 hitter. If he hits .300 in a year, you wouldn’t call him a .300 hitter, but he would be closer to that label. You’d only call a guy a .300 hitter if he does this consistently over several years. It’s the same with defensive ratings and UZR. Mercer was bad defensively last year, and has been good in about a month and a half this year. Neither of those are good enough to make a grand conclusion.

That said, it is good to see Mercer starting off so well defensively. The downside is that his offense has really taken a hit. Mercer has a .545 OPS this year, meaning that so far he has been Clint Barmes offensively, and Clint Barmes-lite defensively. He has been hitting well lately, going 9-for-23 with three doubles and a homer since the start of the Cardinals series last week. But that’s a sample size of six games, and all you can do is hope that’s the spark he needs to turn things around.

Looking at the advanced metrics, there are signs that Mercer will turn things around. He has a BABIP of .242, which is well below his .330 last year, and his .300 career BABIP. In the minors, he mostly stuck in the .300 range, and was never as low as .242. I don’t expect this to continue.

Likewise, his power is way down, with an .082 ISO. He had a .150 ISO last year, and he had a career .132 ISO in the minors. A big factor here is his HR/FB ratio, which is at 3.6%. Mercer was at 9.9% last year, which is a normal range. A normal range this year would have given him about two more home runs on the season. His line drive rate is also down, at around 10.9%, compared to 22.8% last year. The downside is that this has been replaced with ground balls, with his ground ball rate going up to 58.7%, from 46.8%.

This is all very similar to the trends that Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez were displaying at the end of April. They both had low BABIP, HR/FB, and line drive ratios. Since that point, both have gotten back to normal.

When I wrote about Walker, I pointed out that if his BABIP numbers regressed to the mean, then he’d be putting up a .314/.360/.510 line going forward. His line since that article? .321/.438/.509. I actually wrote that I thought Walker would end up below the line I calculated, but he has been above that line so far. I still think don’t think he’s capable of these monster numbers going forward, but I do think he could post an OPS above .800.

Likewise, Alvarez had a .667 OPS at the time, and I said he should have an .828 OPS going forward — and possibly higher — if his BABIP were to regress to the mean. Since that point, he has had a .777 OPS, which isn’t great, but is much better than what he was going previously.

Due to the limited amount of playing time in his pro career, I’m not sure I could come up with a similar analysis for Mercer that wouldn’t end up with “he’s probably going to return to last year’s numbers”. I do think the BABIP and HR/FB ratios are low, and I think they will be closer to last year’s numbers than this year. To be fair, we couldn’t also say that Mercer’s defensive improvements will stick around, while dismissing this year’s offensive struggles. The hope would be that Mercer’s offense indicates some bad luck, while the defense indicates that his work with Barmes during the off-season is paying off.

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First Pitch: The Pirates Have Returned to the Days Where They Can’t Beat Milwaukee http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/first-pitch-the-pirates-have-returned-to-the-days-where-they-cant-beat-milwaukee.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/first-pitch-the-pirates-have-returned-to-the-days-where-they-cant-beat-milwaukee.html#comments Fri, 16 May 2014 05:26:51 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=78935 There were so many reasons that the Pittsburgh Pirates were winners last year. But one key aspect to their winning season was the fact that no one team dominated them. Their worst record against any team was 2-4, which happened against the Rockies and Dodgers.

In the years leading up to the 2013 season, there was one team that always dominated the Pirates: the Milwaukee Brewers. Whether it was at home, or in Miller Park, the Pirates could never beat Milwaukee. From 2007-2012, the Pirates combined for a 24-69 record against Milwaukee, posting a losing season every year during that stretch. But just like almost every other team last year, the Pirates managed to beat the Brewers.

That’s not the case this year. The Pirates are currently 2-8 against Milwaukee. Their season record is 17-23. A .500 record against the Brewers would have also resulted in a .500 record so far for the team this year. A performance like last year would have the Pirates above .500.

Last year the Pirates were a team that got the best of almost every other team. There was no team that dominated them. They were legitimate contenders and one of the best teams in the league. This year they’ve gone 2-8 against Milwaukee, and have also gone 2-5 against Cincinnati. Outside of their record against the Brewers, the Pirates are a .500 team this year. The Brewers are looking like legitimate contenders so far this year.

You don’t need me to tell you this, and you don’t need simple analysis of the record against the Brewers to tell you this either: the Pirates aren’t legitimate contenders this year. At best, they’re a team that could battle for a Wild Card spot — one of the next tier teams behind the true contenders.

If there’s any consolation to all of this, it’s that the Pirates have been .500 against the rest of the teams in the league. And while they’re 2-8 against Milwaukee, the losses haven’t been in the 20-0 variety of old. The eight losses against Milwaukee this year have been by a combined 14 runs. That’s an average of just under two runs per loss. Four of those losses have been one run games. So while the Brewers are the better team, the Pirates aren’t exactly getting blown away here.

But let’s say the Pirates are just struggling against the Brewers, and aren’t going to be as bad against every other team. They’ve still only got a .500 record against other teams this year. They now have 122 games remaining, including nine games against the Brewers. They still need to win at a .566 rate the rest of the season to get to 86 wins and try to sneak into the Wild Card game. The Pirates went 6-3 before this recent series against Milwaukee. They need two more similar runs to get to .500. Then they need two more of those runs, plus .500 ball the rest of the season, to get to 86 wins.

It’s not impossible, but it is improbable. The good thing is that they don’t see Milwaukee again for a few weeks, followed by a long stretch where they don’t see them until the middle of August. So can the Pirates up their game a bit against the other teams in the league? Or have the Brewers put them in a hole that is too deep to climb out of?

Links and Notes

**Minor League Schedule: Tyler Glasnow and Nick Kingham Lead Big Friday Night

**Prospect Watch: Alen Hanson and Josh Bell Homer, Six No-Hit Innings From Buddy Borden

**2014 Pirates Draft Prospects: Kyle Schwarber, Matt Imhof, Forrest Wall, Foster Griffin

**Keith Law’s First Mock Draft Has Pirates Taking Vanderbilt’s Tyler Beede

**Pirates Activate Wandy Rodriguez, Option Jaff Decker

**Prospect Highlights: Strikeout From Casey Sadler, More From JaCoby Jones

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Prospect Watch: Alen Hanson and Josh Bell Homer, Six No-Hit Innings From Buddy Borden http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/prospect-watch-alen-hanson-and-josh-bell-homer-six-no-hit-innings-from-buddy-borden.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/prospect-watch-alen-hanson-and-josh-bell-homer-six-no-hit-innings-from-buddy-borden.html#comments Fri, 16 May 2014 03:27:55 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=78913 TOP OF THE SYSTEM

A look at how the current top 20 prospects did today.  Note that this list doesn’t include players currently in the majors (Stolmy Pimentel #13). If a player is in the majors, he will be removed, everyone below him will be shifted up a spot, and a new player will be added to the bottom of the list. If a player is out for the season (Jameson Taillon #2, Clay Holmes #12), he will be removed and everyone below him will move up a spot. Removing these guys doesn’t mean they have lost prospect status. It is just an attempt to get 20 active prospects on the list. Rankings are from the 2014 Prospect Guide, and links on each name go to their Pirates Prospects player pages.

1. Gregory Polanco, CF, Indianapolis - 1-for-4, SB

2. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Bradenton - DNP

3. Austin Meadows, CF, West Virginia - Disabled List (4/22 Update)

4. Alen Hanson, SS, Altoona - 2-for-3, HR, RBI, HBP

5. Nick Kingham, RHP, Altoona - DNP

6. Reese McGuire, C, West Virginia - 1-for-4

7. Josh Bell, RF, Bradenton - 5-for-9, 2B, HR, 4 RBI

8. Luis Heredia, RHP, West Virginia Power - Disabled List (4/22 Update)

9. Harold Ramirez, OF, West Virginia - DNP

10. Andrew Lambo, OF, Indianapolis - Disabled List (5/7 Update)

11. Joely Rodriguez, LHP, Altoona - DNP

12. Blake Taylor, LHP, Extended Spring Training - DNP

13. Cody Dickson, LHP, West Virginia - DNP

14. Barrett Barnes, CF, West Virginia - Disabled List (4/14 Update)

15. JaCoby Jones, SS, West Virginia - 0-for-3, BB, R

16. Michael De La Cruz, OF, Extended Spring Training - DNP

17. Wyatt Mathisen, 3B, West Virginia - 2-for-4, 2B

18. Jin-De Jhang, C, Bradenton - 0-for-4

19. Brandon Cumpton, RHP, Indianapolis - DNP

20. Casey Sadler, RHP, Indianapolis – DNP

 

2014FrontCoverORDER YOUR 2014 PROSPECT GUIDE

The 2014 Prospect Guide is now available, and is the perfect resource to follow the minor league system during the 2014 season. You can order your copy on the products page of the site.

 

DAILY SUMMARY

Top Pitcher: Buddy Borden, RHP –  6.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 7 K, 0 HR

Top Hitter: Josh Bell, RF – 5-for-9, HR, 2B, 4 RBI

Home Runs: Alen Hanson (3), Josh Bell (3)

 

AAA: INDIANAPOLIS INDIANS    

Box Score

Result: Pawtucket 4, Indianapolis 0

Starting Pitcher: Adam Wilk, LHP – 5.1 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 HR

Top Hitter: Gregory Polanco, RF – 1-for-4, SB

Other Notable Performers:

Matt Hague, DH – 1-for-4

Game Notes: The Indianapolis bats were cold on Thursday morning, as they got shutout 4-0 by Pawtucket. The Indians had just five hits and one walk, with a double by Blake Davis accounting for the only extra base hit. Gregory Polanco stole his ninth base of the season. He also committed his fourth error of the season. On the mound, starter Adam Wilk allowed all four runs over his 5.1 innings. Jay Jackson, Andy Oliver and Cody Eppley combined to throw 3.2 scoreless innings.

 

AA: ALTOONA CURVE

Box Score

Result: Binghamton 3, Altoona 2

Starting Pitcher: Adrian Sampson, RHP – 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR

Top Hitter: Alen Hanson, SS – 2-for-3, HR, RBI, HBP

Other Notable Performers:

Stetson Allie, 1B – 1-for-4

Gift Ngoepe, 2B – 1-for-4

Game Notes: Adrian Sampson gave up just two runs over seven innings, as Altoona dropped a 3-2 decision to Binghamton. Sampson struck out six batters after picking up just four strikeouts total over his last three outings. Through eight starts and 42.2 innings, he has a 2.32 ERA. Quinton Miller picked up the loss when he allowed a walk-off home run on the second pitch he threw. Alen Hanson reached base three times, including his third home run of the season. Seven other Curve players in the starting lineup contributed one single, with only Sampson in the pitcher’s spot not joining in on the offense. Hanson and Willy Garcia had the only RBIs for Altoona. For both of them, it was their 18th RBI of the season.

 

A+: BRADENTON MARAUDERS   

Game One Box Score

Result: Bradenton 7, Lakeland 6

Starting Pitcher: Jason Creasy, RHP – 4.0 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 HR

Top Hitter: Josh Bell, RF – 3-for-5, HR, 2B, 3 RBI

Other Notable Performers:

Max Moroff, 2B – 2-for-4, RBI, BB, SB

Jeff Roy, CF – 2-for-3, BB, SB

Game Notes:  In the first game of a doubleheader, which was supposed to go seven innings, the Bradenton Marauders won 7-6 in 10 innings. Josh Bell hit his third homer of the season, plus added his ninth double. All nine players in the starting lineup had at least one hit. Robby Rowland pitched three no-hit innings in relief to pick up the win. Jason Creasy had a rough game, his second straight poor start. In each of his last two starts, he has allowed five runs over four innings. Prior to that, he had allowed ten runs in his first seven starts combined, a total of 31.1 innings. Ryan Hafner followed Creasy and allowed one run on three hits and three walks over three innings. In 25.1 innings, Hafner has allowed 17 walks and 33 hits, so this season in not going good for him.

 

Game Two Box Score

Result: Lakeland 4, Bradenton 3

Starting Pitcher: Orlando Castro, LHP –  6.1 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 0 HR

Top Hitter: Taylor Lewis, LF – 2-for-3, BB, SB, RBI

Other Notable Performers:

Josh Bell, RF – 2-for-4, RBI

Max Moroff, 2B – 2-for-3, BB

Game Notes: Orlando Castro retired the first 18 batters he faced before giving up a walk to lead-off the seventh inning. He allowed a hit and recorded an out before leaving the game for Thomas Harlan to close it out. Both runners ended up scoring, putting a damper on an otherwise terrific outing. Harlan ended up giving up three hits and a run of his own before getting his first out. In the eighth inning, Harlan gave up another run and lost the game. Josh Bell, Max Moroff and Taylor Lewis each had two hits. Bradenton had a total of 14 base runners and four hits with runners in scoring position, but they still managed just three runs. Bell finished the day with five hits and four RBIs. Jin-De Jhang went 0-for-4, leaving him 6-for-36 in his last ten games.

 

A: WEST VIRGINIA POWER   

Box Score

Result: Augusta 2, West Virginia 1

Starting Pitcher: Buddy Borden, RHP –  6.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 7 K, 0 HR

Top Hitter: Wyatt Mathisen, 3B – 2-for-4, 2B

Other Notable Performers:

Reese McGuire, C – 1-for-4

Erich Weiss, 2B – 0-for-2, BB

Game Notes: The start of the game was delayed 80 minutes due to rain, but that didn’t bother starter Buddy Borden. He threw six no-hit innings, striking out seven batters. The only downside to his outing was four walks, tying his season high. Borden lowered his ERA to 2.23 through 36.1 innings. Will Kendall followed Borden and threw a scoreless seventh, but Augusta broke through for two runs in the eighth inning and ended up winning. Wyatt Mathisen led the offense with two hits, while Reese McGuire collected the Power’s only other hit. He extended his hit streak to eight games.

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2014 Pirates Draft Prospects: Kyle Schwarber, Matt Imhof, Forrest Wall, Foster Griffin http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/2014-pirates-draft-prospects-kyle-schwarber-matt-imhof-forrest-wall-foster-griffin.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/2014-pirates-draft-prospects-kyle-schwarber-matt-imhof-forrest-wall-foster-griffin.html#comments Thu, 15 May 2014 17:00:00 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=78864 This is part three in our weekly draft preview leading up to the draft. We profile four players each week, focusing on a college pitcher, college hitter and prep pitcher, prep hitter, who have all been mentioned in the Pittsburgh Pirates range in the first round. The 2014 amateur draft starts on June 5th and the Pirates have the 24th overall selection. You can view the previous previews below.

Week One: Braxton Davidson, Spencer Adams, Casey Gillaspie, Sean Newcomb plus videos of these four players.

Week Two: Luke Weaver, Michael Conforto, Kodi Medeiros, Michael Chavis

Kyle Schwarber, C, Indiana – Schwarber is listed as a catcher, but if the Pirates draft him, you will likely see a move to first base. He may also end up as a corner outfielder, though first base is a position of need in the system and his big lefty bat will play well there. All of his value is in his bat, which comes with tons of power potential and he should be able to hit for average in the pros as well. He has a solid approach at the plate and has shown the ability to draw some walks and not chase bad pitches. His bat is one of the best in this class and as a college player, he should move quick through the system.  Schwarber recently matched up with the Pirates in Baseball America’s first mock draft. Video courtesy of Baseball Prospectus.

Matt Imhof, LHP, Cal Poly –  Imhof is a lefty with command of a good fastball that has low-90′s velocity, plenty of movement and he throws it downhill. He is listed at 6’5″, 220 pounds, so he has the size you would like from a starter. What he is missing is a second above average offering, so while he gets by with his stuff in college, he will need to improve his change-up and slider in the pros. In 13 starts for Cal Poly, he has a 2.44 ERA, with 116 strikeouts and a .195 BAA over 84.2 innings. He also struck out 13 batters in his last start versus Cal Irvine, including four strikeouts against Taylor Sparks, who will be drafted somewhere in the first two rounds. Imhof is young for the class, turning 21 in five months. For comparison, Forrest Griffin, the prep pitcher listed below, is only 21 months younger than Imhof. That still gives Imhof some upside and a chance to develop into a middle of the rotation starter. Video courtesy of Big League Futures.

Forrest Wall, 2B, Orangewood Christian HS (FL) – Wall has been around the Pirates range all season, usually rated in the 30-35 range, but some have put him higher. The position limits his draft potential, as most teams won’t pick a second baseman too high in the draft. Wall is athletic, but past injuries limit his arm to second base. That might not be a problem though because his bat is strong and he has above average speed, making him a valuable offensive player. Wall should hit for average, hit for power and add in some stolen bases. As a lefty, the power will play up at PNC. His defense at second base is at least average, though his arm is not. With his speed and athleticism, he shouldn’t cost the team anything on defense. Video courtesy of Baseball Instinct.

Foster Griffin, LHP, The First Academy (FL) – Griffin is a projectable lefty that already offers a strong arsenal. He has decent size at 6’5″, 195 and the frame to handle a heavy workload in the future. He sits low-90′s, with good control and an above average change-up, but needs work on his third pitch(curve or slider depending on who you ask). That type of pitcher seems like a perfect fit for PNC Park and the Pirates system. They focus on fastball command and developing a change-up and he has already checked both of those things off. Once he fills out, he can be a 200 IP pitcher with two plus pitches from the left side and an off-speed offering that should eventually be average. That would make him the top LHP prospect in the Pirates system. He has more upside than Imhof and isn’t that far behind him when you could consider the velocity is the same and the change-up is better. Video courtesy of Baseball Factory.

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Keith Law’s First Mock Draft Has Pirates Taking Vanderbilt’s Tyler Beede http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/keith-laws-first-mock-draft-has-pirates-taking-vanderbilts-tyler-beede.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/keith-laws-first-mock-draft-has-pirates-taking-vanderbilts-tyler-beede.html#comments Thu, 15 May 2014 15:27:21 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=78907 Keith Law has posted his first mock draft for subscribers to ESPN Insider and he has the Pittsburgh Pirates taking Vanderbilt pitcher Tyler Beede. This is the first time all year that Beede has been connected to the Pirates, but Law mentioned that questions about his makeup has caused the right-hander to slip in the draft.

We have been covering Beede’s starts all season long here, but not really concentrating on him because he has been rated much higher all season. If a pitcher of his caliber actually drops to them, it is someone they have to strongly consider. In 13 starts, Beede has a 3.43 ERA, with 82 strikeouts and a .218 BAA in 76 innings. He sits low 90′s with his fastball and has touched 97 MPH. He also has a plus change-up and a curve that isn’t far behind. Beede has good, clean mechanics, although he doesn’t always throw enough strikes.

I have included a video that was posted by Big League Futures.

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