Top 5 Greatest Non-MVP Seasons in Pirates History

By Jason Shetler

Around this time, the MVP awards are decided, which usually is followed by debate on who really should have won. The Pirates have had several MVP winners, including Roberto Clemente, who was the first Latin born player to win it, two-time winner Barry Bonds, and Andrew McCutchen, the most recent recipient in 2013. However, there have been Pirates players who have had great years, but no prestigious hardware to show for it. Here now are the five greatest non-MVP seasons in Pirates history. 

5. Barry Bonds 1991: As mentioned, Barry Bonds was a two-time recipient of the National League MVP for the Pirates in 1990 and 1992. Although his 1991 campaign wasn’t as strong as the other two, he was still very productive, leading the NL in OBP (.410), OPS (.924) and OPS+ (160). Bonds finished runner-up that year to Terry Pendleton. 

4. Willie Stargell 1971: In 1979, Willie Stargell was named NL MVP, sharing that honor with Keith Hernandez. His first MVP season almost happened in 1971, as he was runner-up to Joe Torre. Stargell led the NL in home runs (48), OPS (1.026) and OPS+ (185), while posting a 7.9 WAR. 

3. Willie Stargell 1973: Stargell’s 1971 season was certainly outstanding, but the numbers he put up in 1973 were even better. He was tops in the NL that year in homers (44), doubles (43), slugging percentage (.646), OPS (1.038) and OPS+ (186). Despite this, he lost out on the MVP again, this time to Pete Rose.

2. Ralph Kiner 1949: Ralph Kiner had some extraordinary offensive seasons during his career with the Pirates. The best of those seasons came in 1949. Kiner posted a league leading 1.089 OPS, an OPS+ of 186 and had an 8.1 WAR. Even with traditional stats, he led the NL in homers with 54 and had 127 RBI, both of which were career best. Surprisingly, Kiner didn’t even finish in the Top 3 of the NL MVP ballot. The Pirates won only 71 games that year, so there’s no doubt that the voters held that against him.

1. Arky Vaughan 1935: The greatest season for a Pirates player to not capture the NL MVP was Arky Vaughan’s in 1935. He put up astonishing numbers for a shortstop that season, as he was tops in OBP (.491), which still remains the single season franchise record, OPS+ (190) and had a WAR of 9.2. Vaughan finished third in the voting.

 

 

 

 

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Pirates Pitching Prospects Shine in the AFL

By Jason Shetler

The 2017 edition of the Arizona Fall League featured a total of seven Pirates prospects, four of which were pitching prospects. Those pitchers were Mitch Keller, Taylor Hearn, Brandon Waddell and JT Brubaker. The AFL regular season concluded on Thursday, with each performing very well. Here is a recap of what all the pitchers did. 

Mitch Keller: The Pirates sent Mitch Keller to the AFL, not only to make up for lost time due to lower back stiffness, which required a DL stint, but also to work on his changeup. The Bucs top prospect was arguably the best pitcher entering this year’s AFL. Keller led all AFL starters with a 1.52 ERA, while his 1.04 WHIP was fourth lowest. He also started in the Fall Stars Game. Although Keller throws a power fastball and plus curveball, it was the pitch he was working on, the changeup, that really opened some eyes, getting swings and misses with it, as well as topping out at 90 mph with the offering.

Taylor Hearn: Half of the 2017 season for Taylor Hearn was spent on the DL, because of an oblique injury. He was considered one of the most intriguing southpaws in the AFL. The Glendale Desert Dogs used Hearn as both a starter and reliever. He pitched well overall, posting an ERA of 3.06, and limiting opposing batters to a .230 average. Along with the upper-90’s fastball, Hearn did a good job of mixing in the slider and changeup. 

Brandon Waddell: Just like Keller and Hearn, Brandon Waddell also made up for missed time, as a forearm strain landed him on the DL twice. Waddell was used mostly in the bullpen for Glendale, as he put up a 2.57 ERA, which was sixth best among AFL relievers. He displayed good control, with a 2.6 BB/9, while he posted a 9.6 K/9. Waddell’s main weapon was the changeup, a pitch that Baseball America recently named the best among all Pirates prospects in the organization.

JT Brubaker: Most Pirates fans may not be familiar with JT Brubaker, but he is certainly one of the more underrated prospects in the system. As a matter of fact, I did a post on Brubaker last year, mentioning him as a sleeper prospect. Upon being drafted by the Pirates in 2015, Brubaker threw in the low-to-mid-90’s with the fastball, but that velocity has since increased, throwing it consistently mid-to-upper-90’s. During the AFL, he topped out at 99 mph. Brubaker pitched exclusively relief with Glendale, posting a 2.63 ERA. He put up a strong 10.9 K/9, while showing excellent control, with a BB/9 of 1.4.

 

 

 

Pirates Sign Todd Cunningham

By Jason Shetler

Per John Dreker of Pirates Prospects, outfielder Todd Cunningham has signed a minor league deal with the Pirates.

The Atlanta Braves selected Cunningham in the second round of the 2010 MLB Draft out of Jacksonville State. He made his debut for the Braves in 2013, playing in just eight games. In 2014, MLB Pipeline rated Cunningham the 18th best prospect in the Braves system. Prior to the 2016 season, he was claimed off waivers by the Los Angeles Angels, posting just a .438 OPS in 20 games played for the Halos.

Cunningham signed a minor league contract with the St. Louis Cardinals last offseason. In mid-July, he was acquired by the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for cash. Combined with AAA Memphis and AAA Oklahoma City, Cunningham posted an OPS of .819, although it should be noted that both clubs play in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. The AAA Indianapolis outfield is most likely where Cunningham will begin at next season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jin-De Jhang to Play Winter Ball in Australia

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Mark Olson – MiLB

Pirates minor league catcher Jin-De Jhang will play Winter Ball in the Australian Baseball League for the Sydney Blue Sox, this according to John Dreker of Pirates Prospects.

Jhang has been in the Pirates organization since 2011, while becoming the first ever Taiwanese catcher to sign with the Bucs. Jhang spent the entire 2017 season playing for AA Altoona, as he posted just a .591 OPS in 296 plate appearances. Behind the dish, he was very strong, throwing out runners at a 47% clip. The Pirates re-signed Jhang to a minor league contract a few weeks ago. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pirates Dismiss Rene Gayo as Latin American Scouting Director

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Dali Kovacevic

According to a report from MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal, the Pirates have dismissed their Latin American Scouting Director Rene Gayo, because of an investigation by MLB, which revealed that he received an improper payment from a Mexican Summer League team several years ago. While Gayo is likely going to be disciplined, the Pirates as a whole will not.

Gayo (seated in the photo) first joined the Pirates in 1989 as a part-time scout in both Texas and Louisiana. He was also a scout for both the Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians. Former Indians GM John Hart appointed Gayo as the Scouting Director of Latin America in 1999. 

In 2004, Gayo returned to the Pirates organization to serve as the Latin American Scouting Director. He was a big component in signing older amateurs, who were talented, but were overlooked by other teams, because of their age. Gayo was best known for helping Luis Heredia become the highest paid Latin amateur player in Pirates history. Current players on the Pirates roster that Gayo helped sign were Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Elias Diaz, Jose Osuna and Edgar Santana.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bucco Nation Poll Question

By Jason Shetler

Bucco Nation Poll Question

By Jason Shetler