Jake Brentz Promoted to Altoona

By Jason Shetler

The Pirates are promoting pitcher Jake Brentz to the Altoona Curve, this according to the Bradenton Marauders’ Twitter account. 

Brentz was acquired by the Pirates from the Seattle Mariners in September of last year as a player to be named in the Arquimedes Caminero deal. 

This season for Bradenton, Brentz had posted a 3.81 ERA, but was more dominant with things that were in his control, with a 1.81 Fielding Independent Pitching and a K/9 of 11.4 in 19 relief appearances. A few weeks ago, I did a post on how the Pirates return in the Caminero trade could be a potential steal for them, with the way Brentz has performed this year, as well as how good Pedro Vasquez has pitched in the Marauders rotation currently. 

 

 

 

Pirates Sign Steven Jennings

By Jason Shetler

p/c: wjle.com

On Thursday night, the Pirates announced that they signed their second round selection Steven Jennings. MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis reported that the signing bonus was $1.9 million, which was above the slot value at $1.635,500. 

Following their first round pick Shane Baz, a high school pitcher out of the Houston area, the Pirates selected another prep arm in Jennings out of Dekalb County High School in Tennessee at #42 overall. Prior to signing with the Pirates, Jennings had a commitment to pitch at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). He profiles a low-90’s fastball that can hit 95 mph, along with a plus slider and a potentially good curveball.

 

 

 

Bucco Nation Poll Question

By Jason Shetler

Pirates Sign Jared Oliva

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Steven Branscombe – USA Today Sports

According to the Arizona Wildcats’ Twitter account, outfielder Jared Oliva has signed with the Pirates. Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline tweeted out that the signing bonus for Oliva is $200,000.

The Pirates drafted Oliva out of the University of Arizona as a seventh round selection. After a poor sophomore year in which he batted .240, with a .691 OPS, Oliva put up very impressive numbers in his junior season this year, hitting .321, along with an OPS of .883. Defensively, he is considered very athletic, and can cover plenty of ground in center field. Baseball America rated Oliva as the 140th best prospect entering this year’s draft, making him essentially a fifth round pick.

 

 

 

Pirates Unlikely to Trade Gerrit Cole?

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Jeff Haynes – AP

In a recent column from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, Rosenthal thinks there’s a pretty good chance that Andrew McCutchen will be dealt this summer, but does not feel the same about Gerrit Cole, as he doesn’t expect the Pirates to do a full tear-down rebuild. Rosenthal also made mention of Cole having two more years of team control beyond this season. 

Cole got off to a good start this year, with a 3.60 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP in April. However, May and June has been very rough for him, posting a combined 5.89 ERA, along with a WHIP of 1.46. 

Last month, the Houston Astros had expressed interest in the former #1 overall pick. While I’m not suggesting that trading Cole this summer should be mandatory, I think the Pirates have to at least entertain offers for him, especially if he performs well from now until the deadline.

 

 

 

 

Oddy Nunez is a Pirates Prospect Flying Under the Radar

By Jason Shetler

p/c: MiLB.com

Entering 2017, the Pirates farm system was once again ranked in the Top 10. Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects had the Bradenton Marauders as being the most prospect heavy affiliate for this year. The Altoona Curve and Indianapolis Indians also have a good number of prospects. The West Virginia Power came into this season not having as many as the other affiliates. Two of the notables are smooth fielding shortstop Stephen Alemais and pitcher Luis Escobar, who has the potential to become an impact prospect. Another player who is now flying under the radar with the Power this year is pitcher Oddy Nunez. 

The Pirates signed Nunez as an 18-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2015. The 6’5 left-hander began his pro career that year with the Dominican Summer League Pirates as a reliever, where he put up a 2.08 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP in 11 games. Last season, he pitched in relief for the Bucs’ Gulf Coast League club, posting a 2.34 ERA, along with a WHIP of 1.10 in 11 appearances.

After being used in the bullpen his first two seasons, Nunez was stretched out to be a starter for the Power this year. So far, he has performed very well in their rotation, with an ERA of 3.06, a 3.32 Fielding Independent Pitching and currently the fifth lowest WHIP in the South Atlantic League at 0.94. Nunez has also been getting a ton of grounders, as he has posted a 63% groundball rate. Because of his size, he is able to throw from a great downward plane, as well as using a three-quarters delivery to help him keep the ball down. Nunez has good movement to his sinker, to go along with a slider and changeup, which continue to improve. For as many prospects as the Pirates have in the system, they don’t have much in the way of left-handed pitching prospects, so if Nunez can keep up what he is doing, then they may have themselves a diamond in the rough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Case for Felipe Rivero, Ivan Nova and Josh Harrison Being All-Stars this Year

By Jason Shetler

This year’s All-Star Game will take place July 11th at Marlins Park in Miami. With the game being a little less than a month away, the voting process will begin to really heat up soon. While the Pirates have been mediocre for the most part in 2017, Felipe Rivero, Ivan Nova and Josh Harrison have been outstanding. I will now make a case for each, as to why they deserve to be named to the NL All-Star team. 

Felipe Rivero entered this year in his first full season with Pittsburgh, this after being acquired by the Pirates from the Washington Nationals in late July of last season. The flame-throwing lefty has now emerged into one of the best young relievers in baseball. Rivero currently has the second lowest ERA among NL relievers at 0.72, while he has the second best WHIP, also at 0.72, and a 1.1 WAR that is third best. In terms of all NL pitchers in general, Rivero has been one of the most clutch, posting a 2.4 WPA (Win Probability Added), which is tied for second. 

Ivan Nova at this time a year ago was a replacement level pitcher for the New York Yankees. During the trade deadline, he was dealt to the Pirates, and had perhaps one of the best second half turnarounds of any starter in baseball. The Pirates were able to bring him back on a three-year deal worth $26 million this past offseason. Nova has picked up where he left off, as his 2.91 ERA is seventh best among NL starters, while having the eighth best ERA+ at 149. He has also been eating up the innings, having the third most innings pitched at 96. With the combination of solid numbers and durability, Nova’s WAR is 3.0, which is currently the fourth best mark.  

Josh Harrison was able to put it altogether at the plate in 2014. Not only was it a breakout season for him, but he was named an All-Star that year as well. The offensive numbers for Harrison were subpar in 2015 and 2016, making Pirates fans wonder if his 2014 campaign was a fluke. During this past offseason, he was placed on the trade block, but there were no takers. Perhaps those trade talks fueled Harrison, because the offense has been terrific this season. He is posting an .824 OPS and a 120 wRC+, both second best among second basemen in the NL. Harrison right now is tied with Daniel Murphy of the Nationals for the highest WAR by NL second basemen at 2.0.