Which Free Agents Would Be Really Good Fits for the Pirates?

By Jason Shetler

image

The Pirates will be looking to address a few needs this offseason with the possibilities being catcher, if they don’t re-sign Russell Martin, a right-handed first baseman, if Gaby Sanchez is non-tendered, the bench and the rotation. Here are some free agents who would be good fits for those needs. 

Brandon McCarthy: McCarthy entered 2014 in his second season with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was dealt to the New York Yankees the first week of July. In 32 starts combined for both clubs, McCarthy posted a 4.05 ERA with a 1.28 WHIP, a 7.9 K/9, a 54% groundball rate and a 3.0 WAR. He also showed excellent control, as he put up a 1.5 BB/9. The Pirates could lose both Edinson Volquez and Francisco Liriano to free agency, so McCarthy would make for a good #2 starter behind Gerrit Cole. Because McCarthy was traded during the year, he won’t be attached to draft pick compensation. 

Brett Anderson: The Colorado Rockies acquired Anderson from the Oakland Athletics last offseason. He’s had a history of injuries, and this season was no different. Anderson made just eight starts for the Rockies, as he was DL’d twice with a broken index finger and a bulging disk in his back. The 26-year-old lefty did pitch well in his limited action, posting a 2.91 ERA, a 1.32 WHIP, a 6.0 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a groundball rate of 61%. The Rockies have a club option for Anderson worth $12 million, which will certainly be declined. The Pirates would likely offer him a one-year deal since he’s been hampered with injuries. If Anderson can somehow stay healthy, he’s an above average starter to have near the back end of a rotation. 

Emilio Bonifacio: Bonifacio began this past season with the Chicago Cubs. He was then acquired by the Atlanta Braves at the trade deadline. Combined with the Cubs and Braves, the 29-year-old switch-hitter posted a .650 OPS in 110 games. He did however have a 2.1 WAR, due in large part to his above average defense at second base, third base and all three outfield spots. The Pirates could use some speed off the bench, and Bonifacio would provide that, as he stole 26 bases this past season. 

Geovany Soto: Soto didn’t make his 2014 season debut until mid-July, as he was recovering from knee surgery. The Puerto Rican born backstop was dealt by the Texas Rangers to the Oakland A’s in late August. Soto posted a .665 OPS in 24 games for both teams and threw out 43% of basestealers. For his career, he has a .334 on base with an 11% walk rate and a 27% caught stealing, which is league average. The Pirates top goal this offseason will be to re-sign Russell Martin. In order to do so, they would have to contend with several other clubs, most notably the Los Angeles Dodgers. The chances don’t seem to be promising, which means they’ll have to address catcher. Elias Diaz won’t join the Pirates until midseason, so bringing in Soto would make him a serviceable rental for the time being.

Mark Reynolds: Reynolds signed on with the Milwaukee Brewers last offseason to be in a first base platoon with Lyle Overbay. He also played some third base while Aramis Ramirez was on the DL. Reynolds posted a .681 OPS and hit 22 home runs in 130 games played. Defensively, he played well at first base with a 10.8 UZR/150, and he was just as good at third base, posting a 32.5 UZR/150. The Pirates appear 50/50 on bringing back Gaby Sanchez as a right-handed platoon bat at first. If they decide to give Sanchez a non-tender, Reynolds would be an upgrade with his walk rate and slugging percentage, as well as his defense. For his career, Reynolds has posted an .809 OPS vs left-handed pitching. Signing Reynolds would also give the Pirates an insurance policy for Josh Harrison, if he were to struggle. 

Bucco Nation Poll Question

By Jason Shetler

Pirates Prospects Who Are Under the Radar Heading Into 2015

By Jason Shetler

Here are some Pirates prospects coming off good 2014 seasons, but aren’t getting that much attention compared to other prospects in the system. 

Alexis Bastardo: The Pirates signed Bastardo out of Venezuela in 2012. The 20-year-old outfielder was recovering from a shoulder injury this year and played just 19 games. However, he made the most of his limited action, as he batted .344 with an .835 OPS and stole six bases in seven attempts for the GCL Pirates. Bastardo could play for the Pirates new Short Season affiliate Morgantown next year.

Buddy Borden: Drafted by the Pirates last year in the seventh round out of UNLV, Borden had a solid 2014 campaign. In 27 games pitched (26 starts) for the West Virginia Power, he posted a 3.16 ERA along with a 1.18 WHIP and a K/9 of 8.6. Despite being a right-hander, Borden dominated right-handed bats, holding them to a .556 OPS. He’ll pitch for the Bradenton Marauders next season. 

Carlos Munoz: Munoz signed with the Pirates out of Mexico in 2011. He’s a stocky first baseman, standing 5’11 and weighing 220 pounds. Munoz displayed an excellent approach at the plate this past season for the GCL Pirates, as he drew walks at a 13% rate while only striking out 7% of the time in 54 games. He also posted a .798 OPS. Munoz is likely to begin 2015 playing for Morgantown next summer. 

Eric Wood: The Oakland Athletics drafted Wood in the 37th round in 2011, but did not sign. A year later, he was selected by the Pirates in the sixth round. The Canadian born Wood spent 2014 with Bradenton where he posted a .345 on base and hit 28 doubles in 113 games. The Pirates currently don’t have any legitimate third base prospects, so if Wood can somehow turn his gap power into more home run power, he could be their third baseman of the future. 

Tyler Eppler: The Pirates drafted Eppler out of Sam Houston State in the sixth round this year. The 6’6 right-hander was impressive for the Jamestown Jammers, as he posted a 2.49 ERA, an 0.95 WHIP and held opposing batters to a .592 OPS in 14 starts. He also showed great control, posting a 1.4 BB/9. Eppler will start out next season pitching for West Virginia. 

 

 

 

What Should the Pirates Do With Tony Sanchez Moving Forward?

By Jason Shetler

Chicago Cubs v Pittsburgh Pirates

After failing to take Matt Wieters in the first round of the 2007 MLB Draft, the Pirates drafted Tony Sanchez #4 overall in 2009. Scouting reports leading up to that draft had Sanchez being a good defensive catcher, but that his bat had some question marks. His career numbers in the minors would negate those reports, as he’s slugging .420, and has only been able to throw out 23% of runners. Although Sanchez wasn’t ready to join the Pirates prior to 2013, the Bucs had two years of Russell Martin, which ended up being a blessing in disguise. 

The Pirates will have an interesting decision to make with Sanchez should Martin not return. Sanchez’s numbers in his short time in the Majors haven’t been promising, as he’s posting just a .295 on base and throwing out runners 15% of the time, 13% below league average. The Pirates have Elias Diaz, but he likely won’t be called up until the summer, and they have Chris Stewart, who is arbitration eligible again. Stewart rates as an above average defensive catcher (despite a down year behind the plate), but his offense isn’t consistent enough to receive regular at-bats as a starter. Sanchez potentially has a good bat to hit for some power, however his walk and strikeout rates have been poor, and his defense isn’t as good as Stewart’s. With the uncertainty of Martin, and the likelihood of going outside the organization for a catcher, as well as having Diaz being the regular backstop at Indianapolis, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Pirates consider trading Sanchez this offseason.

Pirates Re-Sign Felipe Gonzalez

By Jason Shetler

According to Baseball America’s transactions page, the Pirates have re-signed pitcher Felipe Gonzalez to a minor league deal. 

Gonzalez was selected by the Pirates in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft last offseason from the New York Yankees. The 23-year-old right-hander spent most of this year pitching for West Virginia where he posted a 2.81 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP and a K/9 of 8.3 in 33 games pitched (eight starts). He also pitched for Bradenton, and appeared in three games there. Gonzalez will likely begin next season for Bradenton. 

Marlins Might Have Interest in Ike Davis

By Jason Shetler

Reds_Pirates_Baseball_inev_t607

We have our first rumor of the offseason, and it involves the Miami Marlins possibly being interested in Ike Davis, writes Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. Here’s what Martino had to say:

“If Davis is once again seeking work, the Marlins are one possibility. The team has Garrett Jones, but at least some in the organization are open to change, and like Davis, sources say.” 

Davis didn’t show much production with the Pirates this past season, as he posted a .721 OPS. Jones had just about the same OPS for the Marlins at .720. However, Davis had a much better on base (.343) than Jones (.309).  Davis will be second time arbitration eligible while Jones is still under contract with the Fish for next season. 

 

 

Baseball America Names Gage Hinsz Best Late Round Draft Pick

By Jason Shetler

Baseball America came out with a list of 2014 draft picks who have the best skill set or potential. Pitcher Gage Hinsz was named the best late round draft selection this year. 

Hinsz was drafted by the Pirates in the 11th round out of Billings West High School in Montana. He had a commitment to attend Oregon State, but opted to sign with the Bucs for $580,000, which was well above slot money. What’s remarkable is that his high school didn’t even have a baseball team, and he pitched American Legion ball a month before the draft. Because he signed late, he pitched in just three games for the GCL Pirates where he had a 3.38 ERA. Hinsz has a low-90s fastball that can reach 94 mph with a smooth three-quarter delivery. Prior to the draft, BA rated him 188th overall, making him essentially a 7th round pick.

For Hinsz to be considered the best late round pick is really impressive when you consider all of the players who were taken in the 10th round or later in a draft that has 40 rounds. 

Does the Dodgers Hiring of Andrew Friedman Decrease the Pirates Chances of Re-Signing Russell Martin?

By Jason Shetler

357110303028_Yankees_at_Rays1

The Los Angeles Dodgers made quite the front office shakeup yesterday when general manager Ned Colletti stepped down to become the senior advisor, and in the process, lured away Tampa Bay Rays general manager Andrew Friedman to be their President of Baseball Operations.

Friedman had served as Rays GM for nine years, and did an exceptional job not only because of working with a consistently low payroll, but taking over an organization who didn’t even have a winning season. While he won’t be the actual GM for the Dodgers, Friedman will certainly have a lot of say when it comes to player personnel.

Pirates GM Neal Huntington has been in a similar situation like Friedman was with the Rays in regards to trying to maximize with minimum. One thing that Huntington and Friedman put a ton of stock in is having catchers with good pitch framing ability, something that Colletti didn’t really focus on. The Pirates will look to aggressively re-sign Russell Martin, but the Dodgers obviously have the budget to sign someone like Martin (an excellent defender and pitch framer), and now adding Friedman to their front office will almost make it certain that they’ll go all out on him.

Gregory Polanco Tops Baseball America’s International League Top 20

By Jason Shetler

13789498663_90174dae73_o_t866kg5q_now1m1gz

Baseball America released their Top 20 prospects list for the International League today, and topping that list is Gregory Polanco. Two other Pirates prospects were mentioned with Casey Sadler ranked #11 and Nick Kingham coming in at #20.

Polanco entered the 2014 season as the Pirates top prospect and BA’s 10th prospect overall. The left-handed hitting outfielder completely raked against AAA competition, as he batted .328 and posted an OPS of .894 in 69 games played for the Indianapolis Indians. Although Polanco’s rookie season with the Pirates was disappointing, he’ll still be their right fielder for years to come.

Sadler pitched very well in the Indianapolis rotation this season, posting a 3.03 ERA along with a 1.19 WHIP in 21 starts. The sinkerball right-hander also displayed good control, walking batters at just a 1.7 ratio. Sadler was called up to Pittsburgh three different times this year including September, and is one of the more underrated pitching prospects in the Pirates system.

Kingham began the year pitching in the Altoona rotation, and was promoted to Indianapolis in June. In 14 starts for the Indians, he posted a 3.58 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. Kingham has good stuff, which makes him not being ranked above Sadler surprising. However, BA probably took into account that Kingham spent only half the season pitching in AAA.

How Impressive Was Josh Harrison’s 2014 Season?

By Jason Shetler

image

Josh Harrison without question was the biggest breakout player in the National League in 2014. It’s easy to look at Harrison’s numbers to know how good of a year he had and how much of a spark he gave a Pirates offense that really needed it. Just to show how good Harrison’s 2014 season really was, here are some of the more notable players in the NL who he performed better than.

Josh Harrison: .837 OPS, 137 wRC+, 4.9 WAR

Justin Upton: .831 OPS, 133 wRC+, 3.9 WAR

Matt Holliday: .811 OPS, 132 wRC+, 3.8 WAR

Matt Adams: .778 OPS, 116 wRC+, 1.9 WAR

Hunter Pence: .777 OPS, 123 wRC+, 4.7 WAR

Ryan Braun: .777 OPS, 114 wRC+, 1.2 WAR

Matt Carpenter: .750 OPS, 117 wRC+, 3.8 WAR

Chase Utley: .746 OPS, 106 wRC+, 4.1 WAR

Pablo Sandoval: .739 OPS, 111 wRC+, 3.0 WAR

David Wright: .698 OPS, 100 wRC+, 1.9 WAR

Ryan Howard: .690 OPS, 93 wRC+, -0.3 WAR

Jay Bruce: .654 OPS, 79 wRC+, -1.1 WAR

Most of the players mentioned have either been MVP winners or perennial All-Stars, making the year Harrison had that more impressive.