First Pitch: The Reality on the Pirates’ Chances to Contend Beyond 2015

The Pirates have been contenders during each of the last five seasons. Granted, the 2011 team was weak and only a contender because the division was also weak. The 2012 team couldn’t finish their season and make the playoffs. But the team kept getting stronger, and eventually made the playoffs three years in a row.

One of the big fears each year during this span was the idea that the window was closing for the Pirates, and that they wouldn’t be able to compete in the future. A lot of these fears hinged on the idea that Andrew McCutchen couldn’t keep repeating his MVP performances, and the team would see a decline (or eventually see their window closed when McCutchen left in the future).

As I noted today, McCutchen did see a decline in 2015. He was still one of the best players in the game, but he dropped to a 5.8 WAR, down from 6.9 in 2014, and way down from 8.4 in 2013. And despite that drop, the Pirates finished with their best season during this five-year span, winning 98 games. Sure, they lost in the playoffs, but the playoffs are random, which is why the Cubs were able to beat the Cardinals, and why the Mets are up 3-0 on the Cubs, despite both teams being ranked lower than their opponents.

The 2015 season should put the idea to rest that the Pirates are a team that relies on one star player to compete. It should also put to rest the idea that everything needs to go perfectly in order to contend. Aside from McCutchen seeing a drop in value, they also saw a drop with Starling Marte, saw Josh Harrison take a step back from his breakout year, saw key injuries to Jung-ho Kang, Jordy Mercer, Harrison, and A.J. Burnett, and yet they still won the second most games in baseball.

The Pirates also didn’t get much help from their farm system this year. That will be overblown into something it’s not — an idea that the Pirates have done a poor job with their farm system because they don’t graduate top 20 prospects every season. The reality is that the guys who would have graduated (Jameson Taillon, Nick Kingham) were injured, thus preventing a call-up. Next year will see up to five of the top ten prospects in the system getting the call to the majors, which will certainly help. However, the Pirates managed fine this year without the prospects, and that’s probably due to the guys they’ve called up in previous years (Gerrit Cole, Gregory Polanco, and Starling Marte combined for 11.3 WAR).

There were other things that went right which off-set some of the downfalls. Francisco Cervelli and Jung-ho Kang were two of the best moves by any team in the off-season. J.A. Happ was one of the best additions by any team at the trade deadline. And these are continued trends that the Pirates have shown each year — an ability to get value, even in markets where other teams are paying big prices.

I bring all of this up because you’re probably going to hear a lot about “windows” this off-season. A lot of that will be related to McCutchen only having three years remaining on his deal, but others will cite the same old arguments — the Pirates just won’t be good for some reason, the best players will regress while everyone else stays the same with no breakouts, and other NL Central teams will be adding talent and will surpass the Pirates.

The truth is that the Pirates are past the stage of needing an elite year from Andrew McCutchen in order to contend. They will have some players regress next year, but they’re also past the point where everything needs to go right in order to have a great season. And the Cubs can add pitching, the Cardinals can make improvements, and the Reds and Brewers can reload, but the Pirates will most likely continue finding value, all while adding some of the best ranked prospects in baseball throughout the 2016 season. Essentially, the key difference here is that the Cubs will spend a lot of money to get their improvements, while the Pirates will continue getting improvements at a lower cost.

Overall, it’s not going to be an easy road back to the playoffs, but the Pirates are no longer a team that needs that easy road in order to make the post-season, as we saw in 2015.

**2015 Center Field Recap: A New Andrew McCutchen and a Possible Future Without Him. A look at how McCutchen is still one of the best in the game, despite slipping in a few areas. Also, a look ahead to when the Pirates might be better off moving on from their current MVP.

**Orioles Claim Vance Worley From the Pirates. There was a lot of talk at the end of the year about how Worley was a better starter than Jeff Locke or Charlie Morton. That simply wasn’t true. Morton had a 3.87 xFIP this season, while Locke had a 3.94 xFIP. Meanwhile, Worley had a 4.57 xFIP in his time in the rotation, with his better numbers coming in the bullpen. He was a good depth option, but that was the extent of it for the 2015 Pirates’ rotation.

**First Pitch: Your Input is Needed For the Pirates Prospects Reader Survey. From last night, our annual survey, which has gotten a ton of responses, and has led to a few new ideas for the site. Keep the responses coming!

  • Both teams were contending for the majority of the season, and both were buyers at the deadline. But there is a clear difference between those teams contending and the 2013-15 teams contending.

  • They’re going to need more starting pitching next year. Who is the next project “value” player we get? Also did Happ’s 2 months of success put him out of the Pirates price range?

  • I thought this was one of his best years for clutch hitting. At one point he had the highest batting average with runners in scoring position.

  • Tim–Where do you get those rose colored glasses you are wearing? I want a dozen pair for the 2016 Bucs’ season and the national elections..

    • Oh good, you included a political reference in with it. Always quality when that happens on a sports website.

    • It’s the same pair I’ve had for the last several years. Got them back around the time when I was one of the only people saying the Pirates would soon be contending year after year. With this team, they never go out of style.

  • The Pirate’s suffered this year due to the unbalanced draft attacks that they have tried to use since Huntington took over. First stocking up on pitchers, then stocking up on position players. With no balance to the draft, what you see is what you get, a AAA club with only pitchers(who became injured) and little or no help elsewhere. And now, if the position player draft choices do much of anything, you will have a bunch of them all arriving with little or no pitching help being available when the times arrives. So that is why many of us have questions regarding the draft practices of the Pirates. When you put all of your eggs in one basket, you are kinda screwed if someone sits on it.

  • In all fairness to McCutchen, we do not know how much the “knee injury” really existed or to what extent it held him back early in the season. Remember, Cutch also lost time last year after being hit in the back. I think last year would have been a 7+ OPS year if he had not been injured in Arizona as well. Maybe it is a slide in production or maybe it is just injury/bad-luck catching up to him.

    Regardless, if the Pirates really want to field the best team possible, Cutch might be better served in RF with Polanco shifting to LF and Marte to CF. I have seen people suggest McCutchen to LF, but in Pittsburgh that would be a disaster…the throws from LF are much, much longer, especially as you approach the notch, than even from center field. Also, Cutch’s penchant for playing deep would be better served in RF with that wall as a backdrop. I know it is, highly, unlikely that he gets moved but it doesnt mean that he shouldnt get moved! I think we get better defensive production in the OF with that alignment and also get much less wear-and-tear on Cutch’s body in RF.

    • I agree 100%. I think Cutch would benefit greatly if he were moved to right, however I doubt that the Pirates will ask or that he’d be willing. It might also save his legs enough that he’d be able to be the base stealing threat he used to be.

      • If Cutch moved to right I imagine he’d be able to play more (less wear-and-tear on his body) and hit better, both out-of-the-gate and throughout the season. Cutch’s value comes offensively…lowering his negative defensive value and potentially increasing his offensive value I think would be a boon to the team and, ultimately, to Cutch as well. I think we would see him at the 7 WAR number again and see our defensive numbers improve in the outfield as well.

    • That’s how I feel.

    • does not have the arm for right – he gets taken advantage of in Center – it would be worse in right. Left is the only option.

      • With our ballpark, LF asks for a good deal of arm strength as well. Anything hit in the gap can allow a runner to go 1st to 3rd, and anything down the line is doubles territory.

        We’ve seen the impact a big arm can have in LF with Marte, so as odd as it sounds i might actually say RF is the spot in PNC where you can best hid a weaker arm. Play deep, allow yourself to come in on everything. Only big issue is the throw to home, but no matter where he plays Cutch wont be quality throwing home.

    • McCutchen in right will be a disaster, he has IMO the worse arm I’ve seen on a regular outfielder and RF requires a strong arm. The only alignment that might make sense is a move to LF, but the way that PNC plays he will not fare that much better than cf. you could have him play cf at home and lf on the road…..but if you think about it leaving him in cf makes more sense. He just have to give left center to Marte and be encourage to hit the cut off, Mercer and Walker have strong arms

    • Staying healthy all year is not normal for any ball player.

    • There is no easy OF position at PNC. Left is huge and deep, CF is the most important, and RF requires longer throws. The only thing to do is move him to 1B. 😀

  • We will need one more year of data to determine if the Cutch downward WAR numbers are a trend or an blip – injury related. Adding a bat and an elite starter SHOULD be possible – but if the Pirates insist on sticking to the ~$100M payroll number it won’t happen.

    • Doesnt it start to get boring to post the same thing over and over and over? Just write a script and copy/paste it to save time. Must add (insert obvious needs) but wont because (insert line about being cheap and it’ll never happen).

      Its like Mad Libs generic Pirate fan version.

      • Then don’t read my posts – personal attacks are not an option – expect that on the DK site – but not here.

        • Wasnt an attack by any honest measure, more a personal dig at never ending posts ending with “but since they wont spend blah blah, it wont happen”.

          We get it, you think this team is cheap and doesnt spend “what it takes to win”. But ending 90% of posts that way annoys and ill feel free to make that clear to ya.

          • Settling for being “competitive” and “making the post season” is equally annoying – and I will feel free to continue to state that until this team is willing to spend at competitive levels the World Series Banner is not going to fly in Pittsburgh. You have fun watching your “competitive” bucs – me – I will be 69 years old in less than a month and I want another World Series in Pittsburgh – then I can die happy

            • Does that mean the Dodgers are idiots for spending more than the Mets but not being in the WS?

              So basically your argument is: We gotta spend X amount to win a WS, but after X amount anything more doesnt actually guarantee a WS. Which is, logically, really dumb. Gotta spend to win, but only so much and then its no biggie.

      • (Including myself in both groups): sometimes we discuss what they should do regardless of money, and sometimes we try to guess what they might actually do, taking money into account. Nothing wrong with either one IMO.

        • If it was an honest attempt, im fine with it. He (in my opinion) wants to always make sure to make clear he thinks the team is cheap. Its holding onto a narrative that is old and petty.

          He believes you must spend 115-120 million to win, and that every team can do that. Which is lazy.

      • Jesus. Pot, meet kettle.

    • I have no idea what sort of budget Pirates or any team actually has but I’d be shocked if they could add an elite starter even if they wanted to. By elite I’m thinking at least 140-180 MM maybe more over 6-7 years. Maybe slightly less. We’re not adding an elite starter nor should we.

      Perhaps you have different definition of elite starter than I do and what it would cost.

  • I am also feeling some of the depression of can we have a team
    as strong as last season. It will take a lot of real good decisions
    in the off season and minimal injuries during the season to repeat
    98 wins in my opinion. This division is down right tough. (of course
    is does create some great games and rivalries during the season
    and every win can be celebrated).

    I am taking a positive or two into the off season. The first is that
    we have recently made some good decisions in putting together
    rosters, Second, I would think we have a stronger revenue stream
    to be able to pay and keep better talent.

    • This was an extraordinary year for the division. There is a real good chance that no team in the division wins 97 games next year but it will still be competitive as hell.

    • I believe it will not take 100 wins to win the division next year. That would require the top three to dominate every other division again. Don’t think that will happen. With the top three and Cincy and the Brewers getting better, I expect the division can be had with 88-92 wins. Any thoughts Tim.

  • How many of us really think McCutchen will be here beyond his current contract? I don’t think the Bucs will, or should, pay the $150m or more that will be needed to sign him. He’ll still be in his prime, granted the tail end of his prime, but there will be enormous pressure from the union (and his ego) to get the most $$$ he can get, so we can forget any significant home team discount.
    They’re not going to let him walk and get only a draft pick, if that’s even in the collective bargaining agreement by then. I think he’s gone in two years.

    • I don’t know if I would actively shop him this off season. But I would listen. Still has sky high value on one of the best contracts in baseball. You could get a haul, maybe a major pitching asset. Not saying you could replace his numbers in the field. But find something useful and upgrade somewhere else.

      Heads would spin, but Cutch’s value will never be higher. Wont happen, but I wouldn’t light my torch right away.

    • You are right Cecil. In all the sports, the unions try to make sure their members get as much as they can. In non-sports, I think unions are needed, but why, when you negotiate you own contract, do you need a union. You saw what the players union did when the umpires went on strike. They went through the picket line under the guise of “personal player contract.” Pretty convienent.

      • Players, much like regular people, dont negotiate their own contracts. Its why they have an agent and often agents/agent services with years of experience negotiating with teams. For better or worse, the union isnt a terrible thing for a group of players that may otherwise feel at the mercy of the owners.

        • you miss my point..the union does not degotiate contracts for the players. The union does however degotiates minimum wages.

    • First time around, his ego wasn’t interested in the money as much as he was being the guy who saved Pittsburgh. So that could happen again, or he could change his mind. Whether he is a Pirate or not I think depends on him, since I doubt the Bucs will pay market value.

      • If you don’t remember, watch this (or jump to 8:00)

        • Never saw that before, very well done. Thanks for posting that. My only thought is that he paid back the franchise with his current contract. He knows he doesn’t owe them anything any more.

          I don’t have the best memory but can anyone think of a baseball player who, in his prime, took a contract much less than market value? Cutch is a great player and the kind of person you root for but I doubt he will be among the first. I would bet the union puts enormous pressure on big ticket free agents that they owe it to their fellow players to keep raising the salary bar. Bottom line is that to the players it’s a job.

          In regard to the players having a union: just go back and read how players were treated under the old reserve clause. The union isn’t there to protect the McCutchens of the league, it’s there to protect the Vin Mazzaros and Jaff Deckers of the league.

          • Those are fair points. He doesn’t owe the Pirates anything anymore. One could argue he never did, but he felt he did, or else he just really wanted to save the Pirates, any in that regard he probably did nearly all he could do.

            Regarding the union, I’m not sure if it makes sense for them to fight for higher salaries for their superstars, or to fight for higher salaries to the fill-in players. One could argue that reducing the amount the top guys gets leaves more available for the others. But I don’t think that’s the way the union works. It seems to me they knee-jerk fight management on everything all the time. They even fought Chase Utley’s suspension rather than defending their other members like Ruben Tejada & Jung Ho Kang, who have their careers put at risk by guys plays like Utley’s.

    • Just a hypothetical: Cutch, who seems to be a genuinely sincere person in his religious beliefs, is enjoying his time in Pittsburgh and the team is still successful, around the middle of the 2017 season has his agent offer the Pirates 3 years, 60 million or more realistic 4 years, 80 million. Do the Pirates take the offer?

      • If his production continues I think they’d jump at that, but it would never happen. His agent will be looking for a lot more money and five years. Cutch is loyal to the team but he also has to be concerned about not undercutting the market for his fellow players.

        The union is defending Utley’s rights, not his slide. Even serial killers are entitled to legal representation.

        • Interesting take re: Utley’s rights… I’ll have to think about that one.

          If you had a serial offender, someone like the equivalent of Raffi Torres in hockey, at what point should the union say “look, we’re not going to fight your suspensions because frankly you’re a menace to the other 600 members of our union. Letting you get suspended forever will keep everyone else safer.” ?

          • The union will make sure that management follows the disciplinary procedure outlined in the contract. If they do then they’ve done everything they can. The union can’t pick and choose who they defend just because the individual may be unpopular. The language in the contract is important and it applies to every member of the bargaining unit. (In a former life I was a union president, and trust me, sometimes you do want to throw the occasional jackass to the wolves.)

  • Before we get too far into the ‘we can contend again in 2016’ frame of mind, we need to pick up at least one if not two pretty good starting pitchers.

    I trust NH, right now we are Cole, Liriano (okay so far), Locke (ugh), Morton (‘ugh-er’) and ??????

    We have the #1 in Cole and the #2 in Liriano and then a bunch of # 5’s.

    Even IF we sign Happ, he is, somewhere between his Bucs’ starts and his career starts, which put him, in my book, a #4. Remember how well Worley pitched for us in 2014? I see that with Happ, only Happ won’t regress as far as Vance. jmo.

    • Think a lot of people are nervous Happ goes somewhere else and goes all Volquez. Two different guys.

      Of course my head will explode if KC signs Happ. 🙂

      Really, really interested in the Happ market and price tag. Cards may be interested. They rarely chase the big pitching fish.

    • Keep Locke in the rotation for half the season, then bring up one of the studs. Locke has always been a pretty good #4-5 in the first half of the year.

    • I agree! I don’t mind Locke or Morton as long as they are not relied on to be more than what they have shown. If they breakout, great, but don’t count on it. You need IMO at least 7 SP to get through a year, so I’d love it if Locke/Morton could start the year as #5/#6. And you need to allow for the possibility that either Cole or Liriano has an off year, so I’d like to see them bring in a #2 and a #4. Don’t care where that comes from, but I think that’s the need in terms of SP.

    • I’m not too worried about this before the off-season even begins.

      Last year at this time they had Cole, Locke, and Morton heading into the off-season, and Cole took a big step forward this year. They’ll add some people this off-season. They’ve added pitching every off-season (Burnett in 12, Liriano in 13, Volquez in 14, Liriano/Burnett in 15).

      I’d also say that Liriano is much better than “okay so far”.

    • I’d agree that Happ is a #4 and i’ll concede that Locke and Morton at times both pitch like #5’s, and other times like a 3.5 lol- is that good enough, i’d agree with you and say no

  • Fangraphs has Cutch’s WAR at 5.8, Marte’s at 3.6, and Cole’s at 5.4. That’s a total of 14.8. Tim, where did you get your WAR figures?

  • Tim: Are you supporting the position that the Pirates should try to sign ‘Cutch long term – make him a career Pirate? Converting all of those very high WAR numbers at today’s prices would indicate to me that he has been worth at least about $140 mil to the Pirates over the past 3 years.

    The Pirates had a much better year than many of us ever expected at the beginning. Three straight years in the playoffs, and plenty of talent still in the tank – multiple years with our whole very productive OF, multiple years at 3B, SS, C, and young prospects ready and waiting to step into 2B, 1B, and on the mound. We endured the famine that was 1992 through 2012, but this feast period we are in can keep the Pirates in the playoffs for many years to come.

    • I would support this if they could sign him to a *Front*-loaded contract. Pay a little more for the tremendous value they are getting now, and also make it not so much a burden if he falls off dramatically in a few years.

    • I don’t think the Pirates need to make a decision right now. And I can’t really answer that right now, because there are still three years left.

      However, if Meadows lives up to expectations, and if Polanco/Marte are also meeting expectations, it would make more sense to move on from McCutchen, rather than paying big for his decline years.

  • I’m going to give NH the benefit of the doubt regarding the 25 man roster April 2016. I’m just not sure what they get from Indy later on throughout the year.

    • Farm system hasn’t produced many bats over the years. (Polanco 2013, Marte & Mercer 2011) One a year is probably good enough, but it looks much worse in a year when all the other playoff teams got big contributions from their farm systems.

      Fortunately, NH filled the gap in the farm system this year by bringing in Kang. Yet another reason why NH & co. have earned the benefit of the doubt.

    • They’ve got a pretty good class this year. The top guys are Glasnow, Taillon, Hanson, Diaz, and Bell. Then there are several other guys who could play roles as bench/bullpen/spot starters. A lot of the Altoona guys like Kuhl, Brault, Frazier, Moroff, Gamache, etc will be moving up throughout the year, and could provide that depth if needed.

      • C’mon Tim. Don’t piss away another year of Cole with a bunch of rookies who will have an OPS below .700

        • Who are these rookies you speak of?

          • Bell and Hanson, and the lower grade types like Broxton ect.

            I love your work man. I really do. But if the Pirates had taken the pennant last night, I seriously doubt the headline would have been “The Playoffs are Random”…It would have been ” Huntington, Gayo and and Searage are Geniuses.”

            • I don’t think Bell and Hanson will struggle to have an OPS above .700. The Pirates tend to bring guys up when they’re ready to contribute, and often get criticized for holding them down too long as a result.

              As for my alternate timeline headline, that’s just ridiculous. I’m not saying that the playoffs are random because the Pirates lost. I’m saying it because it’s true. It would have been true if the Pirates would have won and made it this far. It just might have seemed less random.

              • How many rookies have the Pirates brought up since Huntington joined the buccos whom have posted above a .700 OPS in more than limited action? marte barely did, Polanco didn’t, Mercer didn’t, Harrison didn’t…..Lambo couldn’t get on the field enough to prove he couldn’t- and Kang though technically was a rookie, doesn’t count

                • Pedro, Walker, Cutch, Tabata, Marte

                  • I don’t really know how much credit you can give for walker or Cutch since they were already in AA by the time Huntington came on board, but they are valid answers to my question. You can’t say Pedro was ready given his sophomore year- and I would say his rookie year was still limited action although I know that’s up for debate. I completely forgot about Tabata and i’ll give you that one. Notice that the ONLY players who accomplished this feat were #1 draft picks outside of Marte and Tabata. That’s not real encouraging if you ask me considering there are still more players whom struggled to reach .700 OPS that those who easily accomplished this goal during that stretch of time

  • More capable talent in the batters box, confidence is part I of my perscription for continued success in our division and overall. The Cubs showed that talent in the box can come earlier, and it just so happens we have some talent as well that is primed to enter the show.
    1. A switch hitting beast at 1b. Josh Bell – defensive experience aside, which like Pedro will simply have to come with time will be off-set with an ability to dominate with a Shwarber-like .300 + average and power that will surprise..
    2. Another cub-like talent in Alen Hanson – similar to their SS Russell this kid is ready for the show. Confident and atheletic enough to cause havoc taking over games.
    3. A similar player to Michael Conforto in the NY system, Austin Meadows will push the system with a dominate bat that will require finding AB’s.
    4. Also similar to the Mets this year, a rush of big time Arms that may be forced to be used in a variety of ways. Arms that are pushing high velocity and nasty movement.
    Taillion, Glasnow, Kingham, Kuhl, Brault, Garcia, Tarpley… Add these guys to Cole, Liriano, and whoever NH adds… JA Happ would be fine by me by the way.

    So, In summary the addition of bats like the Cubs this year, and the addition of Arm like the Mets this year to a team that already hit 98 wins. I’m not sure what this Frankenstein roster will completely look like but when it comes to talent the next few years are going to be exceptionally fun to watch.

    • BB: I like it and agree with most except Schwarber is not a .300 hitter (.245?), but he does hit HR’s, and does not strikeout a lot. I think Bell passed Pedro on defense in his first year of infield play, and I think he has the capability to be similar to Garrett Jones at 1B in the beginning.

      • Schwarber doesnt K a lot? The dude just had a K% of 28% after a AAA line of 34%. He’s the definition of 2 outcome hitter. Tons of HRs, tons of Ks.

        • And he isn’t close to Bryant in SO % !

        • He’s a 3 outcome hitter , not 2 outcome. Tremendous walk rate. Does more than just k and hit home runs.

          • Im not really convinced he walks purely out of a great eye and patience. Teams are careful with him and throw him junk because he Ks a ton, and as such at times when he isnt totally swinging away he walks.

            He does walk well, but thats one player i see as way overvalued right now. Low average, high K, DINGERS. I think its a guy the league could very well adjust to a bit and make him a 25-30 HR .240 hitter with no defensive value. In fact, that may already be happening in the second half of the season. Its Pedro-like.

            • LOL it’s already happening? He had a near 130 WRC+ in 2nd half after 160 in first half. His worst month was September which was 111 WRC+. Keep in mind Polanco had had exactly 3 months higher than 111 in his career. And after that terrible September slump he is has 1.40 OPS in the postseason. Yeah, he can’t play defense but I’m not seeing evidence of the league “adjusting already”

              • 4 HRs in September. He cannot last all that long being a guy that walks enough and hits 20-25 HRs. Even at 30, he’s good value but flawed overall.

                They will have to move him to 1B/C full time eventually, and that hurts his pure WAR due to defense and a lack of anything but great power. He’ll be a useful player so long as he’s cheap, but that skill set isnt something i see as being reliable.

            • We must have been on the keyboard with these ideas at the same. tim

        • Check the W/K Ratio.

      • Have you seen Bell defensively ? At AA he was worse than Alvarez.

        • leo: Based on what? Alvarez has been an infielder forever, and has set new standards for horrible defense at 3B in 2014 and he carried that over to 1B in 2015. I have not seen Bell field one ball in person, but I have seen Alvarez on TV, and there just cannot be anyone that bad. I will take the guy who is still learning every time. I have not looked in a long time, but I thought Bell had as many or more chances than Alvarez at 1B with fewer errors?

          • Based on I have seen them both, and Bell was worse when he was in Altoona. What else do you want me to say ? You haven’t seen him, I have. He was awkward, his arm is no great shakes as he short armed the ball a lot, and was relatively unsure as to how to field many balls. I have seen here that he has improved since going to AAA, and am definitely hoping he succeeds. But that aside, I can only say what I saw last Summer. He had 13 errors in 84 games in AA, and a fielding % of .985. He also had 3 errors in 31 games at Indy & his fielding jumped to .990. If you want to disagree, fine by me. But just saying ” there can’t be anyone that bad ” ( as Alvarez ) tells me something. It sure doesn’t sound like a solid judgement based on facts. And I will add, I HAVE seen worse.

    • #2 Comparing Hanson’s “Cub-like” potential to Russell’s is almost laughable. One was a consensus Top 10 prospect, while the other hasn’t cracked a Top 100 list in some time, if ever (I think he did one year, but I am old and the memory often fails).

      #3…the word is “dominant” :).

      #4….what rush to arms in 2016 are you talking about? Glasnow and Taillon will be lucky to see the PNC mound by July, if then.

      • Haha on #3, I think that all the time but just let it go.

        On #2, I actually believe he has been a top 100 prospect for the past 3 years on all major sites. He was a top 50 two years ago but now he’s consistently in the 60’s and 70’s. He’s not Russell but if he’s Starlin Castro I’ll take that.

      • Yes I thought same thing on Hanson. Even with improved defense I think people are taking funny pills if they think he will approximate walker’s war anytime soon.

        • A lot of the “experts” like Hanson and that is why he is still a Top 100 Prospect. He was a 2B/3B when the Pirates decided that he should move to SS. For 3 years or more he endured the frustration of not being very good at SS, and when he reacted to that frustration like a kid, he became a “head case” to many.

          This year the Pirates decided to put him back at 2B and he was one of the best in AAA defensively, but his batting average dropped about 20 points to .264. The kid is a player and deserves the chance.

          I do not think anyone is looking for him to post a 2.4 WAR in 2016, but he will be in his age 23 season making $500K while Walker will be in his age 31 season making about $10.5 mil and will be a FA after 2016. We need a 1B for the first 3 months and that is where I hope they put Walker and bring up Hanson to start the year at 2B.

          • can’t afford to give games away and let kids learn with the Cubs and Cards in our division Emjay. Those games might not seem like they mean much, but we take 2 of those games that we lost from miserable play in April and one more against the cards, and we probably would have won the division

    • Bell – “A switch hitting beast”?
      No power – no glove – no good RH…
      I still want the Korean

      • Your commemt isn’t far away from what I saw this past season.

        • And your thoughts on “the Korean”?

          • I have only seen videos of him unlike Bell, who I saw in all but a couple of AA home games. Park has tremendous power, even more so than Kang. This guy hit over 50 in the last two seasons there. I would have to really get to see his swing slowed down to form any kind of personal opinion though his swing looked really good to me on the surface. And, that would be a true amateur opinion, as the folks that REALLY can analyze swings see things that I don’t…..till they point it out that is.

        • I think the question I have is if Pirates are relying on Bell by June or even July how much better is he than 2014 Pedro?

          Better defense? Perhaps minimally
          Better vs left handers? Probably a wash
          Better contact percentage? Most definitely
          Better power? Big dropoff and even if we just talk about ISO I’d expect a dip.

          People keep talking about the defense getting better with reps but sure hope we see evidence of that in April and May next year in INdy.

          • I am not sure that he will be “so much better than Pedro” but he might provide similar overall numbers (better average/OBP…less SLG)…and at a much lower cost that might allow us to improve elsewhere. Consider, even if Bell provides replacement-level production…he will do it at $8+M less per year. That gives us $8M to increase WAR elsewhere…maybe in the starting rotation…maybe keep Melancon in the bullpen…or retain/procure other bullpen arms…keep a deep bench. I dont know where/how the money would be utilized, but it is not hard to get “replacement-level production” and it would likely be a much, much lower cost.

            • Yes and I meant to add that above. If he duplicates Pedro’s 2014 performance(slightly better than replacement level) that will open up money for other needs. It’s not an easy answer and I’m sure Pirates are deliberating over all their options. I just think a sizeable portion of fanbase expects more than they will get from Bell next year.

              • Totally. I think the average PP subscriber has tempered expectations. Elsewhere he’s the 5 million dollar uber prospect that will labeled a bust after 3 games.

                • The guy I’m worried about is hanson. Not sure we have ideal 2b in system. Maybe moroff down the road. Assuming kang doesn’t have any long term issues I guess they could move jhay there in 2017 but I dunno. I’m not convinced kang comes back same hitter he was even if he is strictly 3b in future

                  • Kang will be back and JHay will bridge the 2b to either Hanson, Frazier, Moroff or who ever

                  • Agreed. Opinions of Hanson seem to be extreme both ways. I think he’ll fall somewhere in between, meaning his young and he’s got to learn ML plate discipline. And its no given.

                    • One positive for Hanson would be keeping Walker another year and keeping him at 2B. Harrison covers 3B until Kang arrives, Walker at 2B and Hanson gets quality work in AAA as injury depth.

                      How close the FO feels Hanson is to ML ready may be seen by how they handle Walker this offseason. A lot of faith in Hanson’s ability would seem to make Walker moveable, either in position or in general.

                    • I agree with that. Kangs injury definitely alters some things. Hansons struggles since August only fanned the flames.

                    • very solid post Luke- upvoted

                • Ha ha…truer words have never been spoken….or typed.

            • Morse can do better than 0 WAR, hell even Lambo can

        • very true. Bell also didn’t supply any power or glove and stunk against righties this year as well, good call Leo

      • I’m with you Bruce. Bell proponents are setting themselves up to be really disappointed anytime before 2017 if Bell is in the majors next year

    • The Cubs are a team whose ” talented ” hitters have a lot of power, but largely are “mistake” hitters. Not unlike Pedro Alvarez in reality. Stay in the lower third and on the corners and they produce very little but strikeouts and popups. Rizzo might be the only hitter in the lineup who can hit a good pitch. Look for a lot of regression coming their way. The best hitting team I have seen in MLB the last two seasons are the Royals. Watch their ABs and how they can string hits together. I personally think I would like to see more of that in Pittsburgh than the Cub’s model.