Vance Worley to Start Sunday’s Game Against Brewers

By Jason Shetler

hi-res-911e7e16c1d3a5463f2f3d87807907ae_crop_northAccording to Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Vance Worley will make the start for the Pirates regular season home finale on Sunday against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Charlie Morton was originally scheduled to pitch for Sunday, but he dealt with some increased pain from his sports hernia during this past Tuesday’s start against the Boston Red Sox, in which he tossed five scoreless innings. This setback will likely end Morton’s season. The question is whether or not he will need surgery in the offseason.

Meanwhile, Worley will enter Sunday’s game pitching on 11 days rest. His last start against the Brewers came on August 24th when he allowed four runs and 12 hits in 6.1 innings of work.

MLB.com Names Tyler Glasnow Pitching Prospect of the Year

By Jason Shetler

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It was announced yesterday on MLB.com that Tyler Glasnow has been named their 2014 Pitching Prospect of the Year, this after being named the Pirates Minor League Pitcher of the Year earlier this week.

Glasnow’s year didn’t start off well, as he dealt with lower back tightness in Spring Training, but that didn’t stop the hard-throwing right-hander from dominating the Florida State League. Glasnow made 23 starts for the Bradenton Marauders where he posted a 1.74 ERA, a 1.05 WHIP and a .174 batting average against, all of which were best in the FSL. He also had the second most strikeouts in the league with 157, this despite missing the first month of the season.

Entering this year, MLB.com ranked Glasnow #27 on their Top 100 prospects list. There’s very little doubt that he should be a Top 10 prospect going into 2015, if not Top 5.

Looking Ahead to Pirates Arbitration Eligibles For This Offseason

By Jason Shetler 

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As we approach the end of the 2014 regular season, here is an early preview of arbitration eligible players the Pirates will have for the upcoming offseason.

Brent Morel – The Pirates claimed Morel off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays a week before Spring Training. The once highly touted prospect of the Chicago White Sox several years ago has really struggled during his time with the Pirates this year, posting a .421 OPS. Morel will be first time arbitration eligible, and will be non-tendered. He’ll most likely elect to become a free agent before that point.

Chris Stewart – After serving as Russell Martin’s backup catcher in 2012 with the New York Yankees, Stewart reunited with Martin this season. The veteran reserve backstop has done surprisingly well at the plate, hitting .289. Behind the plate, he’s thrown out just 19% of basestealers, which is 8% below league average. He has a 0.7 WAR, indicating that he’s a more viable backup this year than what Tony Sanchez would have been. Stewart earned $1 million last offseason, so expect to see a slight raise in salary. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Pirates bring him back next season as the backup to see if he can bounce back defensively. 

Gaby Sanchez – For the second year in a row, Sanchez has occupied first base for the Pirates as a right-handed platoon man. The 31-year-old hasn’t been as productive this year against left-handed pitching as last season, but he does have a respectable .778 OPS against them. Sanchez will be arbitration eligible for a third time, and will probably be brought back for one more season before he hits free agency. The question is who will he platoon with in 2015? 

Ike Davis – The Pirates 2014 Opening Day first baseman was Travis Ishikawa. The Ishikawa experiment was very short-lived, as the Pirates went out and acquired Ike Davis from the New York Mets in mid-April. The Pirates this season have done a terrific job getting on base as a team, and Davis has played a big part in that with a .344 on base and a 15% walk rate. However, Davis has been disappointing in the power department, as his slugging percentage is just at .365. He’s been a below average defender at first base this season with a -1.4 dWAR. Davis could earn around $4 million in his second year of arbitration eligibility after making $3.5 million for this season. It would be a bargain, if he were to start showing more consistent power like he did with the Mets in 2012. 

Jared Hughes – After pitching well out of the Pirates bullpen in 2012, Hughes had some injury troubles and inconsistency in 2013. He’s bounced back this year with a 2.10 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP and inducing groundballs at a 64% clip. The man known by Pirates announcer Greg Brown as “Mr. Fix-It”, for his ability to strand inherited runners, has been quietly one of the better middle relievers in the National League this season. Hughes will be first time arbitration eligible, and is likely to earn just under a million for next year. 

Jeanmar Gomez – Gomez was a pleasant surprise pitching out of the Bucs bullpen last year. This season, he hasn’t be nearly as effective. While his ERA isn’t bad at 3.28, Gomez has allowed plenty of runners to reach base with a 1.51 WHIP. His K/9 is low at 5.4 while his BB/9 is up from 2013 at 3.3. Gomez is going to be arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason. Because the Pirates have more quality depth in their bullpen moving forward, I would expect Gomez to be given a non-tender.

John Axford – Axford began 2014 as the Cleveland Indians closer. Struggling to throw strikes, he was removed from the role in May. Looking to improve their bullpen for the pennant race, the Pirates went out and claimed Axford off waivers from the Indians in August, and will just have to pay him $1.1 million of the $4.5 million he’s making this year. Since joining the Pirates pen, Axford is posting a 2.20 ERA along with a 1.27 WHIP. The Pirates most likely though will have to non-tender Axford since his salary arbitration would be a little too hefty to take on. 

Josh Harrison – After coming off a couple of subpar stints as a utility man off the Pirates bench, Josh Harrison has been arguably the biggest breakout player in 2014. Harrison currently is batting .317, which leads the National League, and has an OPS of .859. He’s been playing near an MVP level with a 4.7 WAR. Harrison enters the offseason first time arbitration eligible. You certainly can’t rule out the possibility of extension talks.

Mark Melancon – 2013 was an outstanding year for Mark Melancon, and this year has been more of the same. He became the Pirates closer in June after Jason Grilli really scuffled the first two months of the season. Melancon has put up a 1.94 ERA, an 0.86 WHIP and has converted 29 saves in 33 chances. Last offseason, he avoided arbitration by signing for $2.6 million for this year. Melancon is likely to earn a significant salary boost this offseason. The Pirates could put him on the trade block for an overwhelming offer, and insert Tony Watson as the closer for next season. 

Neil Walker – Last offseason, Neil Walker appeared to be in line for an extension based on his 2013 performance, but the Pirates chose to offer him $5.75 million for this season instead. Walker is having a career year in 2014, as he’s posting an .819 OPS, and is the first Pirates second baseman to hit 20 home runs in a season. Walker is due to make some big money in his second year of arbitration eligibility. The Pirates #1 priority this offseason will be to re-sign Russell Martin. If they’re unable to do so, expect them to possibly extend Walker. 

Vance Worley – Edinson Volquez wasn’t the only reclamation project the Pirates took on this season, as they acquired Vance Worley from the Minnesota Twins during Spring Training. After an abysmal 2013 campaign, Worley has given the Pirates rotation a shot in the arm with a 3.18 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. His control numbers have been really good with a 2.1 BB/9. My guess is that Worley will be offered between $1.5 to $2 million to avoid arbitration, which would be quite a bargain for someone who profiles has an above average mid-rotation starter. 

Vin Mazzaro – After being a vital part of the Pirates bullpen success in 2013, Mazzaro for whatever reason fell out of favor this season. The Pirates designated him for assignment not once but twice, and he surprisingly cleared waivers both times. The fact that Mazzaro wasn’t even a September call up is a clear indication that the Pirates will non-tender him in the offseason. 

Pedro Alvarez – The most interesting arbitration eligible player for the Pirates this offseason will be without question Pedro Alvarez. Coming off a season in which he tied for the National League lead in home runs with 36, Alvarez really underperformed in this year, hitting just 18 home runs and posting a .717 OPS. Defensively, he committed a league high 25 errors and underwent serious throwing issues, which caused the Pirates to move him to first base. Alvarez earned $4 million last offseason and it’ll be interesting to see how his salary figure will project this offseason. If the Pirates decide not to bring Alvarez back next year, I would rather see them trade him for something in return, instead of just giving him a non-tender and getting nothing for him.

 

 

 

Charlie Morton to Start Tuesday’s Game Against Red Sox

By Jason Shetler

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Pirates GM Neal Huntington announced on his radio show today that Charlie Morton will start Tuesday’s game against the Boston Red Sox.

Morton has been on the disabled list since August 17th with a sports hernia. He was able to make a rehab start for the Altoona Curve shortly before their season ended. Huntington mentioned that Morton looked really good in two recent simulated games.

If all goes well Tuesday, Morton could stay in the rotation and Vance Worley would likely be moved to the bullpen. Since the beginning of August, Worley has posted a 4.16 ERA and hasn’t been able to limit baserunners much with a 1.49 WHIP.

 

2015 Pirates Schedule Released

By Jason Shetler

Earlier today, the Pirates released their regular season schedule for next season. Here are a look at the notable series they will have in 2015.

The Pirates will open the year April 6th against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ballpark.

Their first Interleague series will also kick off their home opener against the Detroit Tigers on April 13th. They will play the Tigers again July 1st and 2nd at Comerica Park.

Interleague Play will consist of other AL Central teams:

The Minnesota Twins will come to Pittsburgh May 19th and 20th.

A two city-four game series will be played against the Chicago White Sox June 15th-18th.

They’ll host the Cleveland Indians Fourth of July weekend.

Their Interleague schedule will finish up with the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium July 20th-23rd.

The Pirates will close out the 2015 regular season at home against the Reds October 2nd-4th.

To check out the full 2015 schedule, go to Pirates.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pirates Release Ernesto Frieri

By Jason Shetler

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According to Matt Eddy of Baseball America, the Pirates have released Ernesto Frieri.

Frieri began 2014 as the closer for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. However, he struggled badly to the tune of a 6.39 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP in 34 games pitched before being taken out of the closers role. He was traded by the Angels in June to the Pirates in exchange for Jason Grilli, who was also struggling mightily at the time of the trade. Frieri’s time in Pittsburgh was just as worse, as he posted a 10.13 ERA along with a 1.78 WHIP in 14 appearances. The Pirates designated Frieri for assignment in August, and he accepted the outright assignment to Indianapolis. Somewhat surprisingly, he was not put on the 40-man roster to be a September call up.

The release of Frieri makes sense since he was arbitration eligible this offseason, and would have been non-tendered anyway.

Luis Heredia and Stetson Allie Taking Part in Mexican Winter League

By Jason Shetler 

It was announced earlier today that pitcher Luis Heredia and first baseman Stetson Allie will be one of eight players representing the Pirates in the Mexican Winter League. 

Heredia began 2014 pitching for West Virginia. The 20-year-old right-hander made 18 starts for the Power, posting a 4.15 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP. His strikeout numbers left a lot to be desired, as he was only fanning batters at a 4.4 K/9. Heredia dealt with a shoulder injury earlier in the year, so he’ll be able to make up for lost innings in the MWL. Because of the money he signed for in 2010, the Pirates will really need to see significant improvements from Heredia next season at Bradenton, or else he’ll be used in the bullpen. 

Allie had himself a productive season this year, as he hit 21 home runs in 117 games for the Altoona Curve. He also drew 71 walks, which led all Pirates minor league players. The good number of free passes contributed to a .361 on base percentage. Allie is likely to start the 2015 season with Indianapolis.