Pirates Place Michael Feliz on DL; Clay Holmes Recalled

By Jason Shetler

According to Pirates GM Neal Huntington, pitcher Michael Feliz has been placed on the 10-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. Meanwhile, pitcher Clay Holmes is recalled from AAA Indianapolis to take his spot for the time being. 

Feliz came over to the Pirates from the Houston Astros as one of the pieces from the Gerrit Cole deal. The hard-throwing righty reliever had pitched extremely well in April, posting a 0.75 ERA, along with a 0.92 WHIP. Following the struggles of George Kontos, Feliz was inserted as the setup man, but has struggled in his own right since then, as he’s posted a 6.42 ERA and a WHIP of 1.60. He’s allowed at least one run in 9 of his last 11 appearances.

Holmes entered this year as MLB Pipeline’s 18th rated Pirates prospect. The 25-year-old right-hander was on the Pirates roster as the 26th man for their doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers on Easter. Holmes made his MLB debut versus the Cincinnati Reds on April 6th, pitching two innings. His numbers have been terrific this season for Indianapolis, putting up an ERA of 3.39, a 2.92 FIP, a 9.6 K/9 and a 59% groundball rate in 13 games (12 starts). Holmes will provide the Pirates with a multiple inning arm out of the bullpen.

 

 

 

 

 

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Bucco Nation Poll Question

By Jason Shetler

Examining the Pirates Trade Block

By Jason Shetler

After being a season high nine games above .500 in May, the Pittsburgh Pirates have fallen on hard times since then, as they are currently three games under at 36-39. At one point, they had lost seven consecutive series. Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington however has continued to suggest that the club will look to add. Unless they begin to go on a hot stretch from now until the July 31st trade deadline, then I don’t see that happening. Here are the players that the Pirates could look to move.

Corey Dickerson: The Pirates made a fantastic trade in February when they acquired Corey Dickerson from the Tampa Bay Rays for pitcher Daniel Hudson and minor league infielder Tristan Gray. The 29-year-old outfielder has been solid for the most part, hitting .302 and posting a .789 OPS, however, he has struggled in June, with an OPS of just .628. Should Dickerson start to catch fire again, there’s a good chance the Pirates could sell high, although he is under team control for next season, so there isn’t a rush to move him either.

David Freese: Last season, David Freese was the primary third baseman for the Pirates, this after the legal troubles of Jung-Ho Kang. Following the acquisition of Colin Moran from the Houston Astros in the Gerrit Cole deal, Freese entered this year as a utility man. He currently has a .735 OPS and his OPS+ is right at league average (100). Freese provides steady defense at third base, so that certainly helps his trade value. It’s likely that Freese could draw interest from several contending clubs looking to upgrade their bench.

Francisco Cervelli: Coming off two injury plagued seasons, Francisco Cervelli is having his best year offensively so far in 2018, putting up an OPS of .876 and a 2.0 oWAR. In addition to improved offensive figures, he continues to be a reliable pitch framer behind the plate. Elias Diaz is having a breakout year as well, so that could allow the Pirates to trade Cervelli for a great return and plug in Diaz as the regular catcher moving forward.

Ivan Nova: Following the 2016 season, Ivan Nova entered free agency. The Pirates were able to bring back the veteran right-hander on a three-year deal worth $26 million, which was viewed by most as a real bargain. Nova was outstanding in the first half of 2017, but really scuffled in the second half. His struggles had carried over into the early part of this year and he wound up being placed on the disabled list with a finger issue. Since returning from the DL, Nova has made three starts, allowing just two earned runs total. It’s unlikely that Nova will continue to pitch this lights out, but if he can raise his trade value up from now until the deadline, then the Pirates have to pull the trigger. In turn, it would allow Nick Kingham to rejoin the rotation.

Jordy Mercer: 2018 marks the fifth season for Jordy Mercer as the Pirates shortstop. He got off to a slow start in April, with just a .662 OPS. Since the beginning of May, however, he’s posted an OPS of .785. The narrative continues to be that Mercer is still a very reliable defensive shortstop, but that’s not the case, as his combined Defensive Runs Saved since 2015 is -19. For the Pirates to get a good trade return for Mercer, they’ll need his bat to keep heating up until the deadline.

Josh Harrison: With the trade of Andrew McCutchen this past offseason, Josh Harrison came into this season as the longest tenured Pirate, being with the club since 2011. After suffering a fractured metacarpal on his left hand by a pitch last year, the same injury occurred again in April. So far this year, Harrison is batting .272 and has a .700 OPS. While he does provide solid defensive work at second base, he’s also displayed above average defense at third base and the outfield in the past, so that’ll give him value for any contender looking to acquire a versatile player that can handle multiple positions well. Harrison though will need his offense to pick back up, if the Pirates are going to get an even better return.

Fabricio Macias Added to West Virginia; Blake Cederlind Promoted to Bradenton

By Jason Shetler

Outfielder Fabricio Macias has been added to the West Virginia Power roster, while pitcher Blake Cederlind is being promoted to the Bradenton Marauders, this according to John Dreker of Pirates Prospects.

Macias signed with the Pirates out of Mexico in February. He had drawn interest from several clubs, including the Pirates. As a 19-year-old last year, Macias played in the Mexican League, which is the equivalent of AAA ball, and really held his own by hitting .318. He was supposed to begin this season with the West Virginia Power, but there detail issues in his contract. Macias was in Extended Spring Training, and had to wait for final approval.

Cederlind was taken by the Pirates out of Mercer College in the fifth round of the 2016 MLB Draft. He throws a mid-to-upper-90’s fastball and a curveball. Cederlind began his first full season of pro ball last season with West Virginia (Power), and really struggled, as he posted a 7.76 ERA and a 5.71 FIP. He returned to West Virginia this year as a full-time reliever. In 19 games, he put up a 2.86 ERA, along with a FIP of 2.79. Cederlind’s K/9 was 11.4, while he induced groundballs at a 51% clip. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will Craig Named Eastern League Player of the Week

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Kevin Pataky

Altoona Curve first baseman Will Craig was named the Eastern League Player of the Week on Monday. 

The 2018 season is Craig’s first as a member of the Altoona Curve. The former first round selection had been a Top 10 prospect in the Pirates system, but entered this year #17 by MLB Pipeline, with the drop in rankings mainly due to his lack of power production. 

Craig came into 2018 wanting to sacrifice his batting average for more power. That’s been the case this season, as despite hitting .263, he’s posted a .493 slugging percentage. He has 11 home runs, which currently leads the Curve, and is tied for third most in the EL. This past week against the Binghamton Rumble Ponies and New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Craig batted .522, along with five homers and 12 RBI. 

 

 

 

Chad Kuhl Showing Why He Belongs In the Pirates Rotation

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Joe Sargent – Getty Images

Before arriving to the big leagues, Chad Kuhl was one of the most underrated pitchers in the Pirates system. While he may not have been considered a top tier pitching prospect, he was quietly putting up solid numbers. 

Kuhl joined the Pirates in June of 2016 and had a decent rookie season, as he posted a 4.20 ERA and a 3.95 FIP in 14 starts. Entering Spring Training of 2017, he had the inside track for a spot in the rotation, and did enough to secure that spot. 

The first half of last season was a struggle for Kuhl, posting a 4.96 ERA, along with a .281 batting average against and had a difficult time going past five innings. Heading into the All-Star break, there became debate as to whether or not Kuhl should be moved to the bullpen, but the Pirates chose to keep him in the rotation. Kuhl performed much better in the second half, with an ERA of 3.63, an opponents average of .254 and a 9.0 K/9. 

During the second half of 2017, Kuhl began incorporating the curveball more into his arsenal. All of a sudden, the curve became a weapon against left-handed batters, while his slider continued to be effective versus righty hitters, leading to a signifcantly higher K rate and just better success overall.

The curveball and slider have both been plus offerings for Kuhl again this season. In terms of fastball command and stuff, his best outing came on May 6th against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park, where he pitched seven shutout innings of one-hit ball. Kuhl has been very good lately, as he’s up put a 2.47 ERA and a K/9 of 8.7 in his last five starts. For the season so far, he currently has the second lowest ERA among Pirates starters at 3.76, while his 8.5 K/9 is tops on the staff. Even if Chad Kuhl doesn’t reach an All-Star level, the fact that he’s been providing quality outings is more than enough for him to be a mainstay in the Pirates rotation.

 

 

 

Pirates Four-Man Outfield Rotation Doing More Harm Than Good

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Mark Alberti – Icon Sportswire

Following the trade of Andrew McCutchen, the initial plan for the Pirates was to have Starling Marte move to center field and to plug in Adam Frazier as the left fielder to begin this season. That plan changed however, as Corey Dickerson was acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays in late February, a move that has become an extraordinary steal for the Bucs.

Despite a great showing in Spring Training, Austin Meadows began 2018 with AAA Indianapolis, since the Pirates starting outfield consisted of Dickerson, Marte and Gregory Polanco. All three were being productive in their own right in April, with Dickerson and Marte getting on base consistently, while Polanco was leading the club in home runs. 

On May 18th, the Pirates called up Meadows from Indianapolis, this after Marte had been placed on the 10-day disabled list with a right oblique issue. Once Marte returned from the DL, the overwhelming speculation was that Meadows would be sent back to Indy, but the Pirates made a surprising decision by optioning Jose Osuna instead. Manager Clint Hurdle announced that they would go with a four-man outfield rotation of Dickerson, Marte, Polanco and Meadows. Fast forwarding right now and that experiment is looking like a failure. 

Believe it or not, I was actually in favor of the outfield rotation at first, being that it’s starting to become a trend with some teams, as well as something different for the Pirates to implement. But for an outfield rotation to be effective, you must have all four outfielders playing well, but because Polanco continues to scuffle mightily, it obviously defeats the purpose of having it, and a big reason why I’ve soured on the concept. 

The worst part about it is that a struggling Polanco keeps seeing a good amount of playing time, while a very productive Meadows is inexplicably not receiving everyday at-bats. It’s become crystal clear to this point that not only is Hurdle being too protective of Polanco, but that management also wants to justify his contract. If you don’t believe that to be the case, then why haven’t the Pirates even considered sending Polanco to AAA despite having two options remaining?