Pirates Prospects http://www.piratesprospects.com Your best source for news on the Pittsburgh Pirates and their minor league system. Thu, 30 Oct 2014 05:08:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 First Pitch: Your 2017 World Series Champions, the Chicago Cubs? http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/first-pitch-your-2017-world-series-champions-the-chicago-cubs.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/first-pitch-your-2017-world-series-champions-the-chicago-cubs.html#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 05:08:11 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=90049 The NL Central is turning into a difficult division. The Pittsburgh Pirates have been contenders for the last two seasons, and have one of the top farm systems in the game, with some of their best prospects coming up in the next two years. The St. Louis Cardinals are routinely at the top of the standings. But perhaps the biggest threat might be coming from the Cubs.

Today it was rumored that the Cubs had hired Joe Maddon as their next manager, although there were some mixed reports saying a deal wasn’t finalized yet. It seems like the report is true, and it’s a move that makes a lot of sense. It’s also a move that should scare other NL teams a bit.

The Cubs already had Theo Epstein as their GM, and Epstein has done a great job of rebuilding the team. According to Baseball America’s mid-season top 50 list, they had three of the top seven prospects in baseball. Kris Bryant rated number two, Addison Russell was number five, and Javier Baez was seventh. Joining them in the top 50 was Arismendy Alcantara. The list didn’t include Jorge Soler, who was in the top 50 in the pre-season, and who came up and posted a .903 OPS in his first 97 plate appearances in the majors.

The young hitting is in place. They have a great GM and a now a great manager. The only thing missing is the pitching. They did watch Jake Arrieta emerge this year as a top starting option, but that’s just one pitcher. Fortunately for the Cubs, and unfortunately for the rest of the NL Central, they have a lot of money to buy some of the top pitchers in the game. That’s made even more possible by the fact that their young hitters will be so cheap over the next few years.

There are a lot of top starting pitchers about to hit the open market. This year’s group is highlighted by Jon Lester, Francisco Liriano, Max Scherzer, and James Shields. Next year’s group could include Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, David Price, Jeff Samardzija, and Jordan Zimmermann. There will be plenty of opportunity for the Cubs to add a top starting pitcher or two, and if that happens, they could be a dangerous team to contend with in the NL Central.

Links and Notes

**Pre-Order the 2015 Prospect Guide

**Joe Maddon to be the Next Manager of the Cubs?

**AFL: Scouting Reports and Video For Tyler Glasnow and Josh Bell. The Pirates sent a great group of prospects to the AFL this off-season, and Tyler Glasnow and Josh Bell lead the way. Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo provide some good reports on their progress from Arizona.

**2014 Recaps: Pirates Showed You Don’t Have to Spend Big to Upgrade the Bullpen. They had a horrible bullpen for the first half, but by the end of the year they came together and posted one of the top groups in baseball.

**Winter Leagues: Stetson Allie Isn’t Hitting Homers, But Keeps Getting On Base

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AFL: Scouting Reports and Video For Tyler Glasnow and Josh Bell http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/afl-scouting-reports-and-video-for-tyler-glasnow-and-josh-bell.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/afl-scouting-reports-and-video-for-tyler-glasnow-and-josh-bell.html#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 22:27:10 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=90047 It was a relatively quiet day for Pittsburgh Pirates players in the Arizona Fall League. Scottsdale didn’t have a single Pirate in their lineup and after Thomas Harlan pitched yesterday, that meant there was still another day before Tyler Glasnow and Joely Rodriguez(Friday) would get their starts. Earlier in the day, Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo posted a video about the Pirates in the AFL, focusing their attention on the play of Josh Bell at first base and the exploits of Glasnow on the mound. That video is below.

Scottsdale lost 7-5 to Mesa on Wednesday, dropping them to 9-11 on the season. They have 12 games left and trail first place Salt River by 5.5 games. Salt River finished in a tie today for the third time this season.

Angel Sanchez came on to pitch in the sixth inning with one out, a man on third and Scottsdale trailing 4-0. Sanchez  hit the first batter he faced, then gave up a single that allowed the inherited runner to score. The next batter reached on an error that scored another run, which was followed by a ground out to shortstop that scored Mesa’s seventh run. After a walk, Sanchez got a fly ball to center field that ended the inning. That was the end of the day for Sanchez, who allowed a walk, a single and hit a batter. Both runs that scored against him were unearned. He threw 17 pitches in the inning, 11 for strikes.

Adrian Sampson came in for the eighth inning and got a ground out to second base from the lead-off hitter. The next batter singled, then made it to third base on an error. Sampson walked the next hitter, then with runners on the corners, he ended the inning with a double play. Despite the walk, Sampson threw just four of his ten pitches for balls in the inning. That was his only inning of work.

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Joe Maddon to be the Next Manager of the Cubs? http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/joe-maddon-to-be-the-next-manager-of-the-cubs.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/joe-maddon-to-be-the-next-manager-of-the-cubs.html#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 21:34:02 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=90050 The Chicago Cubs have hired Joe Maddon to be their next manager, according to Jon Heyman.

When Maddon left the Rays last week, it was speculated that he could join the Cubs, especially after teams like the Mets and Dodgers were ruled out as possible destinations. The Cubs have been rebuilding under Theo Epstein, and have added some of the best young hitting prospects in the game. They are now adding one of the best managers in the game. The final piece is a need for pitching, and their resources, combined with the low payroll they’ll get from the young hitting talent, will give them plenty of money to go after some of the best available pitchers on the market.

In short, none of this is good news for other NL Central teams.

UPDATE 5:59 PM: Several Chicago writers are saying that Maddon’s camp is denying that a deal is in place, but that doesn’t mean a deal won’t be reached. Ken Rosenthal says he’s talking with the Cubs, and other teams.

Keep in mind that game seven of the World Series is tonight, and MLB typically tries to hold back any other news from taking any of the spotlight away from the World Series. That could be a factor here, and is definitely why I don’t think anything will be official for another day or two.

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2014 Recaps: Pirates Showed You Don’t Have to Spend Big to Upgrade the Bullpen http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/2014-recaps-pirates-showed-you-dont-have-to-spend-big-to-upgrade-the-bullpen.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/2014-recaps-pirates-showed-you-dont-have-to-spend-big-to-upgrade-the-bullpen.html#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 16:33:17 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=89900 For the past few years, the Pittsburgh Pirates have acquired a lot of bounce back candidates in their bullpen, with a lot of those guys actually bouncing back. That approach led to one of the top bullpens in baseball during the 2013 season. Most of that bullpen was returning in 2014, and the Pirates looked to be in good shape.

What led to the success in 2013 was the Pirates going out and getting players who were coming off down years, but who had advanced metrics that indicated they would bounce back. That trend didn’t work as well in 2014. In fact, the Pirates saw two pitchers bounce back on other teams, after struggling in Pittsburgh. They also tried a few of their own reclamation projects, and missed.

Jason Grilli and Bryan Morris were the two players who struggled. Grilli’s struggles were worse, with a 4.87 ERA and a 4.54 xFIP that suggested he was on the decline. Then, he was traded to the Angels for Ernesto Frieri in a deal that looked like the Pirates were getting back the big reclamation project. It turned out that Grilli was the one who rebounded, going on to put up a 3.48 ERA and a 3.40 xFIP. Meanwhile, Frieri continued to struggle, to the point where the Pirates didn’t even call him up in September, despite paying the remainder of his $3.8 M deal.

Bryan Morris wasn’t exactly struggling from an ERA standpoint, as his 3.80 ERA wasn’t much worse than the 3.46 mark in 2013. However, he had a 4.51 xFIP, and a 5.92 FIP, showing he was getting a lot of good breaks. Morris was dealt to the Marlins for a first round compensation pick, which was eventually used on Connor Joe. He immediately turned into a late inning option with Miami, posting an 0.66 ERA and a 3.15 xFIP. His strikeout rate went to a career high 7.97 K/9 and his walk rate dropped to a career low 2.66 BB/9. The biggest change he made was using his cutter more often. He was throwing his fastball 61% of the time in Pittsburgh, with a 31% usage of his cutter. That was switched to 47% fastball and 44% cutter in Miami.

The Pirates bullpen was hurting in the first half of the season, with one of the worst bullpens in baseball. Mark Melancon and Tony Watson were two of the best relievers in baseball, but outside of those two, almost everyone else was struggling. Seeing Grilli and Morris go on to turn things around elsewhere really hurt. Jeanmar Gomez and Justin Wilson were two other returning relievers who also struggled, compared to their success in 2013.

There were a lot of rumors at the deadline connecting the Pirates to available relief pitchers, but they opted against making a big move. Instead, they claimed John Axford and Bobby LaFromboise off waivers, and called up John Holdzkom, who was signed out of indy ball over the summer, and was consistently hitting the upper 90s with his fastball. They also showed patience with guys like Wilson and Gomez, and the results were good.

The bullpen was middle of the pack overall in the second half, but it really showed improvements down the stretch. Everything came together in the month of September, after the additions of the new relievers, and the Pirates had the fourth most valuable bullpen in the majors, and the best ERA and xFIP. Holdzkom (9 innings, 1 earned run, 14 strikeouts) was a big reason for this turnaround, although credit also should go to Justin Wilson (3.52 ERA in 7.2 innings) and Jeanmar Gomez and Bobby LaFromboise, who combined for seven innings and one run. Jared Hughes, who was the only reliable middle reliever all season, continued pitching well down the stretch. And Watson and Melancon continued being two of the best relievers in baseball.

The Pirates had one of the worst bullpens in baseball in the first half, leading to calls for that bullpen to be upgraded down the stretch. They didn’t trade a bunch of prospects for Huston Street like the Angels did, and instead stuck to their approach of finding value in the bullpen. That ended up working out just as well down the stretch.

The Future

The Pirates are fine with a late inning combo of Mark Melancon and Tony Watson. Due to the usage of both players, they could opt to trade one of the two and try to get a huge return. But they’ve still got multiple years of control with each player, so that’s not necessary this year.

The middle of the bullpen was an issue this year, due to struggles from guys like Justin Wilson, Jeanmar Gomez, and a few of the players who departed in the middle of the season. By the end of the season, Wilson was pitching well, and John Holdzkom emerged as a hard throwing right-hander with a nasty palm ball, giving the Pirates two potentially strong options. Jared Hughes had a good year the entire season, although his advanced metrics suggest he shouldn’t have been that good. Still, those advanced metrics had him as a solid reliever.

Melancon, Watson, Wilson, Holdzkom, and Hughes is the start of a good bullpen. They could use two more solid relievers. Some of the internal options are Casey Sadler, Bobby LaFromboise, and Stolmy Pimentel. It also wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Pirates try and bring in help from the outside.

Last year the Pirates didn’t bring in many relievers in the off-season. Neal Huntington said during Spring Training that this was a result of their strong bullpen in 2013, and a lack of opportunity in Pittsburgh. That prevented them from being a destination for relievers looking for an opportunity. They certainly won’t have that problem this time around.

The Pirates don’t usually spend on relievers, and that is a process that has worked for them. I don’t expect them to spend big on relief pitchers this off-season, but to acquire a lot of options that could lead to a few bounce back candidates and sleepers.

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Winter Leagues: Stetson Allie Isn’t Hitting Homers, But Keeps Getting On Base http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/winter-leagues-stetson-allie-isnt-hitting-homers-but-keeps-getting-on-base.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/winter-leagues-stetson-allie-isnt-hitting-homers-but-keeps-getting-on-base.html#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 14:23:03 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=89994 Monday night was a slow night in winter ball, with just one game scheduled in each active league. In the Dominican, Wirfin Obispo retired all three batters he faced. He has thrown 4.1 innings, allowing just one unearned run. In Venezuela, Julio Vivas threw a scoreless inning of relief, allowing one hit. He has thrown 2.2 scoreless innings over four appearances, giving up one hit and no walks. In Mexico, Dean Anna went 0-for-3 with an RBI. He was also hit by a pitch in the seventh inning.

On Tuesday in Mexico, Stetson Allie went 0-for-3 with a walk. He has reached base at least once in all 14 games this season. Allie has a .291/.391/.345 slash line in 64 plate appearances. He has an 8:18 BB/SO ratio, but hasn’t shown any power yet in a league known for offense. Allie has just three extra-base hits, all doubles. His .736 OPS ranks 26th in the league, while his slugging has him ranked 37th overall and it’s 14 points below his team’s average. His OBP is in line with what we have seen from him during the last two regular seasons, in which he led all Pirates minor league players with walks each year. So he is getting on base, just not getting past first base often.

Just like with Josh Bell’s lack of power recently, there is little reason to worry about Allie yet. The overall talent in Mexico this time of year is better than what Allie saw in AA. There is also the matter of 14 games being a small sample size. Unlike Bell, who went 200 plate appearances during the regular season without a homer, Allie was hitting them at a nice clip at the end of the year for Altoona.

The pitcher Allie faced yesterday is typical of the opposition he has seen this off-season. Tommy Solis is a 32-year-old that has been pitching in the Mexican Pacific League since 2002 and that league is AAA equivalent, the highest level of play in Mexico. The pitcher for Allie’s team was Jose Contreras, yes that Jose Contreras. On Sunday, Allie faced Alejandro Armenta, a 36-year-old lefty that began his baseball career back in 1997. Basically, these aren’t the type of pitchers that Allie was seeing in AA this year.

During the regular season, he had a stretch of 16 games and another one that lasted 14 games, in which he didn’t hit a home run(or hit much at all for that matter). The important thing is that he is keeping his approach at the plate the same. He is getting on base at a strong clip and the strikeout rate is about the same as he has during the regular season. That obviously isn’t a good strikeout rate, but it’s good to see that it isn’t getting worse. Allie is getting a taste of the type of competition he will see next year and perhaps a little bit of struggling isn’t a bad thing. It could confirm what he already knows, there is still a bit of work to do before he can be considered major league ready.

Back to the rest of the action from Tuesday night. Dean Anna went 1-for-4 with a run scored and two strikeouts. For the second straight game, he was hit by a pitch. Anna has reached base in all 15 starts this winter.

In the Dominican, Wirfin Obispo pitched for the second straight game and faced three batters. He allowed one unearned run on a single, double and he picked up a strikeout.

Rafael Perez made his fourth appearances and struck out the only batter he faced. He has allowed two runs over three innings, though he’s thrown shutout ball in three of his outings.

In Venezuela, Jhonathan Ramos made his fourth appearance and retired the side in order. He has thrown 3.1 shutout innings this winter season.

The winter leagues in Australia and Puerto Rico both start play tomorrow. We will have a complete list of Pirates players when they become available. As of right now, Sam Kennelly and Nick Hutchings will play in Australia and Yhonathan Barrios will play in Puerto Rico, but there should be at least a couple more.

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First Pitch: Would Adam Lind Be a Good Trade Target For the Pirates? http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/first-pitch-would-adam-lind-be-a-good-trade-target-for-the-pirates.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/first-pitch-would-adam-lind-be-a-good-trade-target-for-the-pirates.html#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 05:05:54 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=90019 Last year the Pittsburgh Pirates were connected to every first base option that might have been available, regardless of whether the players were actually available or not. One of the connections was Adam Lind, with the Pirates reportedly asking Toronto about him, and the Blue Jays also reportedly asking for Neil Walker in return.

The rumor mill last year said that the Blue Jays would consider moving Lind, but that they were intending to keep him on the roster. Obviously that’s what they did. As for the talks between the Pirates and Blue Jays, that could have been as simple as the Pirates asking if he really was available, and Toronto throwing out a hypothetical deal in which they’d move him.

This time around, it seems Toronto is more likely to deal Lind. He’s back on “the trade block” in the early off-season rumors, only this time it seems the Blue Jays are actually willing to part with him. That theory strengthened today when they claimed Justin Smoak off waivers. Smoak has a $3.65 M option with a $150 K buyout. The Blue Jays could decline that, then offer him arbitration, which would give him a small raise over his 2014 contract of $2.6375 M. That would be considerably less than the $7.5 M option for Lind, who also has an $8 M option in 2016, and $1.5 M guaranteed if he’s not dealt and his option is declined.

Lind is coming off a year where he was injured for about two months out of the season, and relegated to being a strict platoon player. He was exceptional in the role when healthy, putting up monster offensive numbers. His defense struggled, and in total he had a 1.6 WAR in just over 300 plate appearances. The platoon worked for him, as he posted a .942 OPS against right-handers. In his career, he has an .860 OPS against right-handers and a .588 OPS against lefties.

The Pirates currently have a decision to make between Ike Davis and Pedro Alvarez. Both players are under team control for the next two seasons, just like Lind. The difference is that Alvarez and Davis are arbitration eligible. Alvarez is estimated to make $5.5 M, while Davis is estimated at $4.4 M. So would it make sense to try and get Lind, while parting ways with Davis and Alvarez?

Lind would be more expensive than Alvarez and Davis. If the alternative is Alvarez, then the Pirates would be spending an extra $2 M on Lind. The numbers might be closer to even in 2016, depending on the type of year Alvarez has, and what he’ll end up making in arbitration. But what would the Pirates get with the extra money?

There’s no guarantee that Lind would continue his career trends, or his 2014 numbers. However, he has been a much better hitter than Alvarez and Davis. Both of those guys are coming off bad years, although the career numbers don’t touch Lind. Here are the comparisons versus right-handers.

Lind: .860 OPS, 2834 PA

Alvarez: .792 OPS, 1735 PA

Davis: .813 OPS, 1663 PA

The numbers have clearly been better for Lind. The downside for him is his defense and his health. Defense wouldn’t be as big of an issue in this case. He rated the same as Davis, and while Alvarez hasn’t had enough time to establish himself defensively at first base, it’s unlikely that he’ll provide positive value at the position. The bigger concern is Lind’s age. Alvarez will be 27 next year and Davis will be 28. Lind will be 31, turning 32 during the middle of the season. He has dealt with back injuries, costing him half a month in 2011, a month in 2012, and almost a month in 2014. He also fractured his foot in 2014, missing another month.

It seems likely that you’re only getting Lind for five months out of the year, and maybe less. Even if he keeps hitting, that would impact his value. To illustrate this, look at the difference in playing time between Davis and Lind. Davis was a platoon player all year and had about 100 plate appearances more than Lind. He also had replacement level production. So what happens when you replace Lind for 1-2 months with a replacement level player? The career numbers go from an .860 OPS to an .826 OPS. When you consider the career numbers for Alvarez and Davis, then that offensive improvement doesn’t necessarily warrant a trade for Lind, plus the extra money.

If Lind cost very little, it might be a different story. If the Pirates could get a decent return for Alvarez and Davis, then that would also help. But that seems like a dream scenario where you get a potentially better player, then deal two players who are worse and have the deals wash each other out. When I first looked at Lind, and first considered the idea of the Pirates adding him, I was for it. His career numbers are superior to Alvarez and Davis, and his 2014 season was amazing against right-handers. But you’re not getting Lind for the full season, and those monster numbers in 2014 can’t be relied on to repeat in 2015. The career numbers would be more likely, and when you deduct the time Lind projects to miss, you see that he would be a marginal upgrade who would cost several million more, along with prospects or players going the other way in a trade.

Links and Notes

**Pre-Order the 2015 Prospect Guide

**AFL: Thomas Harlan Strikes Out Seven, Two Hits For Elias Diaz in Loss

**Joely Rodriguez Named AFL Pitcher of the Week

**A Look at What Free Agency Could Bring For Russell Martin and Edinson Volquez

**Update on Alen Hanson’s Hand Injury Doesn’t Sound Good

**AFL: Should Josh Bell’s Lack of Power Worry Pirates Fans?

**Josh Bell and Elias Diaz Named to AFL Fall-Stars Game

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AFL: Thomas Harlan Strikes Out Seven, Two Hits For Elias Diaz in Loss http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/afl-thomas-harlan-strikes-out-seven-two-hits-for-elias-diaz-in-loss.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/afl-thomas-harlan-strikes-out-seven-two-hits-for-elias-diaz-in-loss.html#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 22:07:37 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=90010 Before getting into the game recap from Tuesday, there is an Arizona Fall League update for Friday afternoon. Originally, no Scottsdale games were listed on the tv schedule from the AFL site, but that was(and still is) wrong. Scottsdale will be on MLB Network Friday afternoon and Joely Rodriguez will be the starting pitcher. He was just named the AFL Pitcher of the Week. Two other interesting notes from that game. It is played in Salt River, which is where MLB is trying out the new rules to speed up the game(details in the link). Also, the opposing pitcher will be Mark Appel, who Pirates fans remember as the 2012 first round pick that wouldn’t sign.

Three Pittsburgh Pirates players were in the starting lineup on Tuesday, while a fourth started the game on the mound. Josh Bell was at first base batting fifth. He was followed by third baseman Dan Gamache batting sixth and catcher Elias Diaz was hitting ninth. Scottsdale ended up losing the game 4-3, dropping them to 9-10 on the season with 13 games to go.

Thomas Harlan was on the mound for Scottsdale, pitching in a stadium that has PITCHf/x available. In the first inning, Harlan gave up a hard hit single that deflected off the glove of Josh Bell. Harlan settled down quickly, getting two strikeouts and a fly ball to center field to end the inning. He threw 12 pitches, nine fastballs, one change-up and a two breaking balls. Like his last start, Harlan’s fastball was 87-88 MPH, although the single came off the one 89 MPH pitch he threw all game. Eleven of his 12 pitches in the first were strikes.

In the second inning, Harlan gave up another deflected hit, this one going off his own glove. The next batter quickly jumped on a fastball for a ground rule double, putting two runners in scoring position. The third batter also doubled, although the runner from second base only made it to third on the play. That runner came home one batter later on a ground ball to shortstop, which resulted in an out at third base. Harlan picked off the runner at first, then struck out the batter to retire the side. He allowed two runs in the inning on three hits. Through two innings, he threw 23 of his 26 pitches for strikes. Harlan threw four off-speed pitches in the second inning and his fastball was down a tick to 86-88 MPH.

Harlan started the third inning with his fourth strikeout. He also struck out the next hitter, then ended the inning with a grounder to second base. He needed 14 pitches to get through the inning, throwing more balls in this inning than he did in the first two combined. He was also working heavy with off-speed pitches to the first two batters. PITCHf/x went down when the third batter came up, so there weren’t any readings for his last few pitches.

The fourth inning went great for Harlan, retiring the side in order again. He also picked up two more strikeouts, giving him seven on the day. That’s a huge turnaround from the pitcher that gave up five runs over one inning last time out. He needed just nine pitches in the fourth and he went heavy with off-speed pitches again. Except for the first three batters in the second inning, this was a terrific outing for Harlan, who threw 39 of his 49 pitches for strikes.

On the offensive side, Josh Bell lined out to right field to begin the second inning. In the fourth, Bell struck out swinging. In the seventh inning, he battled for an eight pitch walk, then scored Scottsdale’s second run three batters later. With his team down one run, Bell led off the ninth inning with a double, but never advanced. Besides the ball that deflected off his glove, Bell had just four chances in the field.

Dan Gamache flew out to center field in his first at-bat. He ended the fourth inning with a fly ball to left field. Gamache flew out to left field again in the seventh inning. During his final at-bat, he flew out to right field, leaving him 0-for-4 on the day with four fly ball outs. In the fifth inning, Gamache made a throwing error, his second miscue of the season.

Elias Diaz led off the third inning with a double to center field and scored Scottsdale’s first run two batters later. In the fifth inning, Diaz grounded out to third to end the inning. He came up in a big spot during the seventh inning. With two outs and runners on the corners, Scottsdale trailed 4-2. Diaz singled home a run to bring his team within one. He was in the on-deck circle when the final out was made. Diaz was 1-for-2 in throwing out runners.

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Joely Rodriguez Named AFL Pitcher of the Week http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/joely-rodriguez-named-afl-pitcher-of-the-week.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/joely-rodriguez-named-afl-pitcher-of-the-week.html#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 19:46:25 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=90013 The Pittsburgh Pirates announced today that left-handed pitcher Joely Rodriguez was named the Arizona Fall League Pitcher of the Week. Rodriguez won both of his starts last week, giving up one run over eight innings. He allowed six hits, one walk and struck out eight batters. In four starts, he has a 1.35 ERA in 13.1 innings, holding batters to a .234 BAA, while posting a 13:3 SO/BB ratio. Rodriguez makes his next start on Friday afternoon in a game that will be shown on MLB Network.

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A Look at What Free Agency Could Bring For Russell Martin and Edinson Volquez http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/a-look-at-what-free-agency-could-bring-for-russell-martin-and-edinson-volquez.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/a-look-at-what-free-agency-could-bring-for-russell-martin-and-edinson-volquez.html#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 19:23:08 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=89997 Over the last two days, there have been a few articles written on two of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ free agents, Russell Martin and Edinson Volquez, looking at what those guys could make in free agency. In Martin’s case, everyone agrees that he will receive a huge payday, although there hasn’t really been a consensus on the amount he could receive, or the years. From the looks of things, there is no consensus in MLB front offices either.

Buster Olney had an article today looking at Martin’s pending free agency. In the article, he polled executives around the league, who had some mixed opinions on what Martin could get. The key takeaway was that some felt a four-year deal would be a tipping point for Martin, versus a three-year offer. Other executives felt the key number to get Martin to sign will be five years. Olney comes up with a guess of four years and $50-60 M.

I’ve been more on the “five years is the tipping point” in my writing about Martin, mostly because big market teams like the Dodgers, Cubs, Rangers, and Red Sox have a need at catcher. If the price is four years and $50-60 M, then that’s a price the Pirates should pay.

There is some risk involved in paying Martin that much for his age 32-35 seasons. Travis Sawchik looked at that risk, noting that the decline in catchers from age 32-34 is pretty big, especially after the steroid era. He also notes something I’ve argued, that pitch framing — which is one of Martin’s big values — doesn’t see as sharp of a decline. I think that, plus his work with the pitching staff, will bring enough value to make him valuable for the duration of his deal. Dave Cameron made the same arguments about framing skills over at FanGraphs.

The Pirates will almost certainly be more risk-averse than big market teams. But Martin is a guy you take a risk on, and if the price is what Olney suggests, then that’s a risk I think they should take.

As for Volquez, MLBTR released a free agent profile, looking at what the pitcher could receive on the open market. The expected contract was a two-year, $18 M deal. Last week I wrote about reclamation projects, noting that Volquez could technically still qualify if the Pirates believe they can turn his top stuff into a true top of the rotation pitcher. I noted that if the price was $8-10 M per year, then it wouldn’t be a bad price to pay. All of that depends on whether you believe the advanced metrics (which say Volquez is a league average starter) are gospel, or if you believe he can take another step with more work from Ray Searage and Jim Benedict. Volquez has some of the best stuff in baseball, so I’d lean on the side that there’s more to him than the xFIP shows.

If the Pirates did go for Martin and Volquez at these prices, they’d be adding about $20-24 M to their 2015 payroll, which is currently projected at $65 M. I’m guessing that will go down a bit with an Ike Davis or Pedro Alvarez trade, meaning the Pirates would be at $80-85 M in 2015, giving them room for a second reclamation project starting pitcher.

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Update on Alen Hanson’s Hand Injury Doesn’t Sound Good http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/update-on-alen-hansons-hand-injury-doesnt-sound-good.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/update-on-alen-hansons-hand-injury-doesnt-sound-good.html#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 22:59:42 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=89984 Last night in the Dominican Winter League, Alen Hanson was hit on the right hand by a pitch from Daniel Cabrera and immediately left the game. It was reported that his hand was “pretty swollen” after the game and the extent of the injury was unknown. Reports from the Dominican today are that he is now in a cast and will probably be headed to Pittsburgh for further evaluations. It doesn’t sound like this is a minor injury and it could possibly end his winter season. While you obviously don’t like to see any type of injuries, one like this is better this time of year, rather than the end of the winter league season, which extends into late January.

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