First Pitch: 1/21/20

Some notes and links for today:

**My latest article for Baseball America went up last week, looking at Travis MacGregor’s rehab work through Tommy John, including what he worked on with Chad Kuhl, Edgar Santana, and Nik Turley during the process.

**Ji-Hwan Bae got recognition for being a top second base prospect, despite being a current shortstop prospect. The question was raised whether he should move to second to speed up his path to the majors. That move might get him to the majors quicker, as there would be fewer questions on the defense, and more time to develop the bat. Essentially you’re sacrificing potential value for the hope of getting Bae to the majors quicker.

That’s a process I’m against in this type of situation, where the Pirates don’t need to rush one individual player, or a group of players to the majors. This is a team that needs to maximize value for their prospects, rather than rush them in an attempt at contending sooner.

I also am not writing off Bae as a shortstop. The one downside I see is his arm strength. My question: Why is it that we accept the development strategy of pitchers building arm strength and adding velocity, but we think it’s impossible for fielders? Bae, to me, is a successful arm strength development away from being a future shortstop in the majors, where his batting profile would have so much more value. That should be the key focus of his development going forward.

**The Pirates announced 11 non-roster invitees yesterday, including a few guys who were with the team last year. Of the new guys in camp, I’m looking forward to seeing what Nick Mears and Jared Oliva can do this year as they get closer to the majors.





By John Dreker

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including a pitcher who won over 300 games. We also have a transaction involving a Hall of Fame pitcher.

On this date in 1933 the Pittsburgh Pirates signed pitcher Waite Hoyt, two months after he was released by the New York Giants. He was 33 at the time and had a career record of 195-141, 3.71 in 15 seasons, ten of them with the Yankees. Hoyt would go on to pitch four full seasons with the Pirates, posting an ERA under 3.00 in three of them. His best season was 1934 when he went 15-6, 2.93 in 40 games, 17 as a starter. In 190.2 innings that year he struck out a career high 105 batters. In 1937 he had a 1-2, 4.50 record in 11 games before Pittsburgh sold him to the Brooklyn Dodgers on June 21st. Hoyt had a 35-31, 3.08 record in 156 games for the Pirates. Overall in his career he was 237-182, 3.59 in 21 seasons. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1969 by the Veterans Committee despite never receiving more than 19.2% of the votes from the writers. Hoyt’s career record was helped greatly by pitching most of it with the Ruth/Gehrig era Yankees, where he went 157-98, as opposed to the 80-84 he went when pitching for other teams.

Chase d’Arnaud, infielder for the 2011-12 and 2014 Pirates. He was a fourth round draft pick of the Pirates in 2008. In 2009, d’Arnaud hit .293 with 60 walks and 31 stolen bases, split between low-A and high-A ball. He hit .247 with 91 runs scored for Altoona in 2010, then hit .264 with 20 steals for Indianapolis in 2011 before being called up by the Pirates in late June. He would hit .217 with 12 steals in 48 games for the Pirates, splitting his time between shortstop (29 games) and third base (12 games). In 2012, d’Arnaud played eight games for the Pirates, going 0-for-6 at the plate, with two runs scored and an RBI. He spent all of 2013 in the minors. In 2014, he returned to the Pirates for the playoff run and played eight games without a plate appearance. He pinch-ran seven times and finished a game on defense at shortstop. After the season, d’Arnaud signed as a free agent with the Phillies. He has played 236 MLB games over seven seasons, split between six teams.

Wil Ledezma, relief pitcher for the 2010 Pirates. He was a seven-year major league veteran when he signed with the Pirates as a free agent in November 2009. He had a combined record of 15-22, 5.07 in 160 games, 40 as a starter, prior to signing with Pittsburgh. Ledezma pitched most of the year in Triple-A where he posted a 0.94 ERA in 35 relief appearances. The Pirates called him up in late July and he went 0-3, 6.86 in 27 games, striking out 22 batters in 19.2 innings. He was selected off waiver by the Toronto Blue Jays in early 2011 and in December he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but was cut before ever pitching in the majors. Ledezma pitched in Japan in 2013. He finished his big league career with 99 straight appearances without a win, which immediately followed three straight relief appearance victories with the Detroit Tigers from April 11-17, 2007.

Jeff McCurry, pitcher for the 1995 and 1998 Pirates. He was a 14th round draft pick of the Pirates in 1990. As a rookie in 1995, he went 1-4, 5.02 in 55 relief appearances, pitching 61 total innings. The Pirates put him on waivers following the season where he was taken by the Detroit Tigers. He pitched just two games for the Tigers, allowing nine runs in one three inning relief appearance. He was taken by the Rockies in the 1996 minor league draft and after one season in Colorado, he was granted free agency. The Pirates signed him on December 18, 1997, and in 16 relief appearances during the 1998 season, he went 1-3, 6.52 in 19.1 innings. He signed with the Astros for the 1999 season, his last in the majors. At the time of McCurry’s Major League debut, he was just the sixth player in major league history that was born in Japan.

Danny O’Connell, infielder for the 1950 and 1953 Pirates. He played four years in the minors for Brooklyn before the Pirates acquired him on October 1, 1949 in exchange for minor league second baseman Jack Cassini and $50,000. As a rookie in 1950, he hit .292 with 32 RBIs and 39 runs scored in 79 games, earning himself a third place finish in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. He then spent the next two years in the Army during the Korean War before returning to the Pirates for the 1953 seasons. O’Connell played 149 games that year, hitting .294 with 55 RBIs and 88 runs scored. On December 26, 1953, the Pirates traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers for six players and $100,000. O’Connell played another eight seasons in the majors, finishing his career with a .260 average in 1,143 games.

Fern Bell, outfielder for the 1939-40 Pirates. Bell spent eight seasons in the minors, playing for nine different teams, before he got his first shot in the majors with the 1939 Pirates. He hit .321 with 37 doubles, 17 triples and 14 homers in 173 games in 1938 to earn an Opening Day spot for the Pirates. That 1939 season, Bell hit .286 with 42 walks and 44 runs scored in 83 games, playing all three outfield positions. He began the 1940 season with the Pirates, but just three weeks in, after playing only six games in which he went 0-for-3 with a walk at the plate, he was sold to the Philadelphia Athletics. Bell never played in the majors with them. He spent the next four seasons in the minors before he joined the Navy during WWII, ending his baseball career.

Jimmy Zinn, pitcher for the 1920-22 Pirates. Zinn was a very good minor league pitcher who could never translate that success to the majors. He began his pro career in 1915 pitching for Fort Worth, before moving to Waco of the Texas League the next season, where he was picked up by the Athletics in 1919. He pitched five games that year in the majors, going 1-3, 6.31 in 25.2 innings. He returned to the Texas League and went 18-10, 2.20 in 34 games in 1920, earning a late season look with the Pirates. In six games, Zinn went 1-1, 3.48, earning a spot on the 1921 Pirates Opening Day roster. He made 32 appearances that year, nine as a starter, and he went 7-6, 3.68 in 127.1 innings. Zinn had a 1.68 ERA in five early season relief appearances in 1922 before the Pirates released him to Kansas City of the American Association. He spent seven seasons there, winning at least 14 games each year. He would get one more Major League chance in 1929 with the Cleveland Indians. He went 4-6, 5.04 in 18 games there, ending his big league career but his baseball career was far from over. Zinn pitched another nine seasons in the minors, retiring after the 1939 season with 295 minor league wins to go along with his 13 major league wins. He also managed eight seasons in the minors.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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