Jordan Luplow Reportedly Joining the Pirates

By Jason Shetler

The Fresno State Bulldogs Twitter account was congratulating outfielder Jordan Luplow on his call up to the big leagues, so it appears he will join the Pirates before Friday’s game in San Diego.

In the 2014 MLB Draft, the Pirates chose Luplow as a third round selection. He was productive in his first full season of pro ball for the Low A West Virginia Power in 2015, as he posted an .830 OPS. He then spent all of 2016 with the High A Bradenton Marauders, posting an OPS of .784. 

Luplow began this year with AA Altoona, and made quite the impact offensively for the Curve, as he hit 16 home runs and put up a .903 OPS in 73 games. He was promoted to AAA Indianapolis on June 30th. The offense carried over, with a .975 OPS, while hitting five homers in just 21 games played. Luplow is currently the Pirates 20th ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline.

 

 

 

 

Pirates Trade Targets: Infielders

By Jared Lankes 

The Pirates recent surge has propelled them into a state of being buyers at the trade deadline (or at least buyers and sellers) as they try to win the NL Central crown for the first time since moving into the division. Knowing this, the team has definite holes to fill. So throughout the week as we approach the trade deadline, I will look at some options that could fill these holes that the Pirates could, realistically or unrealistically, look to acquire. I will start with infielders.

Pirates have some infielders, but the main area of weakness has been 3rd base. David Freese hasn’t been good in an everyday role and we don’t have any clue if/when Kang will return. So, in short, Pirates could use an upgrade. Pirates can go two ways about this though. One way is to grab a 3rd baseman and keep Harrison at 2nd base. Another is to grab a second baseman and move Harrison to 3rd base. So, I will look at some options at 3rd base and 2nd base.

Joe Panik:
Joe Panik has had a rough go of it on both sides of the ball this season and over the last calendar year. However, the Giants are in no hurry to just give up on him, especially when they have very little in their pipeline to take over that spot. Panik is not a free agent until after the 2020 season, so the Giants can definitely afford to hold onto him and hope he bounces back. They will not trade him for a small return right now, but if they would, maybe he could fit as a bounce back guy with years of control attached.

Jed Lowrie:
Lowrie has enjoyed a renaissance of his career and is having a very productive offensive campaign. Like Nunez, he is flexible in positions, though he cannot play outfield. The kicker is that Lowrie would come with an extra year of team control, which may make him a more attractive trade candidate even though it’d cost more.

 Yangervis Solarte:
Solarte has been an above average offensive player for years and would add instant pop to the Pirates lineup. However, he is on the DL right now and likely won’t return in time for the trade deadline. Padres would be trading a very good player at low value, and I just can’t see that especially given Padres GM AJ Preller’s history of not disclosing medical concerns in trades.

Brandon Phillips:
I know, I know. Brandon Phillips is so gross if you are a Pirates fans. All of the years of him just showing up, crushing the Pirates for no reason, and smiling through it all has annoyed us. Right now, the 36-year old of the Atlanta Braves still gets it done enough at the plate and in the field. He’d be a decent upgrade, for what it’s worth. However, like I mentioned before, he’d be a rental, and I cannot see the Pirates springing for something like that. Additionally, the sheer weirdness of Brandon Phillips residing in the Pirates lineup and wearing a Pirates uniform may be too difficult to stomach. But hey, at least he’d see his old buddies with the Reds a lot in the second half of the season.

 Asdrubal Cabrera:
Asdrubal Cabrera has really not played third base at all in his career and got somewhat mad at the Mets for having him at second base. Those are the two main positions he would play if he went to the Pirates, so I don’t know if it’d work out at all. He does carry an extra year of control after this though, so that’d be a bonus.

Some of these options could push Harrison to 3rd base. Some would keep Harrison at 2B. In any case, the Pirates could definitely use an upgrade from David Freese at 3rd base, as he doesn’t look like a player that should be playing everyday. If the Pirates could grab any of these guys, they’d be upgrading a huge position of need.

Pirates Reportedly Scouting Sonny Gray

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Doug Duran – Bay Area News Group

According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Pirates are one of seven teams who had a scout in attendance to watch Oakland A’s starter Sonny Gray pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Center on Tuesday. 

Gray is arguably the biggest trade candidate heading into the deadline. The 27-year-old righty has spent his entire big league career with the Athletics to this point. Gray’s best year came in 2015, posting a 2.73 ERA, a 143 ERA+ and a 3.7 WAR, while being named an All-Star for the first time, as well as finishing third in the AL Cy Young voting. 

Looking to build off his strong 2015 campaign, Gray had a difficult time staying healthy last season, which resulted in a 5.69 ERA. He has bounced back nicely this year, putting up an ERA of 3.43, along with a 3.24 Fielding Independent Pitching and a 2.2 WAR. Gray will have two more years of club control beyond this season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pirates Trade Targets: Starting Pitchers

By Jared Lankes

The Pirates recent surge has propelled them into a state of being buyers (or at least buyers and sellers) at the trade deadline as they try to win the NL Central crown for the first time since moving into the division. Knowing this, the team has definite holes to fill. The starting rotation doesn’t sound like a spot they need to upgrade, but at this time of year, you never know as every team vying for the playoffs could use the help. So, I will be looking at some starting pitching options that could help the Pirates.

 Sonny Gray:
Sonny Gray would immediately jump the Pirates rotation from a good rotation to a great rotation. A top of a rotation lead by Cole-Taillon-Gray-Nova is a pipe dream for any Pirates fan out there right now. Nobody would want to look back at that rotation staring down at them. However, the prospect cost may be too hefty to get what is, as of now, the prize of this year’s trade market.

 Jeff Samardzija:
Jeff Samardzija may not be a top pitcher, but he is a solid, consistent workhorse that gets it done. A lot of teams will be calling about him as Giants are looking to unload some salary and enhance a weak farm system. Would the Pirates pay the extra prospect cost to have Giants eat half of Samardzija’s salary through 2020. I doubt it. He’d fit right in though.

Matt Moore:
Samardzija’s teammate Matt Moore seems like a more realistic target. Pirates were reportedly interested in him (and every other Rays starter) last year before he went to the Giants. He has struggled in 2017, but has the stuff needed to get it right and Ray Searage can maybe tap into that. The issue here is that I doubt the Giants would give up a reasonably-priced starter for little return less than a year after getting him at a premium acquisition cost. It would not make sense unless they truly are trying to shed as much money as possible and begin a rebuild.

 Padres starters:
Trevor Cahill was dealt to the Royals, which means he won’t be available and might have been the main one of the three that might have been of interest to the Pirates. The other two, Jhoulys Chacin and Clayton Richard, are signed to a one-year/$1.75M deals would fit perfectly in a team’s payroll and rotation. These guys may not upgrade the rotation enough to make a fuss though.

Wade Miley:
Wade Miley has bounced around a lot and has found success in some places. He hasn’t found it in Baltimore though since being acquired by the Orioles last year. Like some other pitchers, maybe Searage gets a hold of him and figures out something. The problem with Wade Miley is his salary as it relates to his performance. He is grossly overpaid for what he brings, and the Pirates won’t want to take that on. Pirates probably won’t want to pay extra prospect cost to have Orioles take it on either.

In my opinion, the Pirates rotation is good enough. They have a young rotation but a talented one. Maybe Pirates needing to save the young guys’ innings will play a role in the Pirates thinking and cause them to grab another Nova/Happ type, even if their performance doesn’t necessarily upgrade things but their ability to go deep into a season without innings limits would. In my opinion, however, if they are to help this rotation, it should be a more major fix that puts the rotation over the top, not an incremental “fix” that might actually make the rotation worse. So, in short, don’t give up assets to acquire a rotation arm just to do it, especially if it’s a rental.

Shane Baz Listed on MLB Pipeline’s Updated Top 100

By Jason Shetler

On Monday, MLB Pipeline came out with their updated midseason rankings of the Top 100 prospects. A new name is on the list, and that name is Pirates 2017 first rounder Shane Baz, who was ranked #88. 

The Pirates selected Baz with the 12th overall pick out of Concordia Lutheran High School in Texas, the same school that Pirates third base prospect Ke’Bryan Hayes played at. The selection of Baz marked the first time since 2010 that the Bucs chose a prep arm in the first round. 

Just a day after being drafted, Baz and the Pirates agreed to a signing bonus of $4.1 million, which was above slot value. The arsenal for him is a mid-90’s fastball that can touch 98 mph, a plus cutter and a good slider. Baz is currently pitching for the Gulf Coast League Pirates, where he has a 2.08 ERA in four outings.

 

 

 

 

Bleacher Report Ranks Felipe Rivero Among Top 5 Relievers

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Matt Freed – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The other day, Bleacher Report came out with their midseason rankings of the Top 30 relief pitchers for 2017. After not being ranked at all in the preseason, Felipe Rivero was listed in the Top 5 as fourth best, just behind Kenley Jansen, Andrew Miller and Craig Kimbrel.

Rivero entered this season in the seventh inning role for the Pirates. Following the early struggles of Daniel Hudson, he replaced Hudson as the setup man. Rivero eventually took over as the closer, this after Tony Watson had faltered. 

The 2017 numbers for Rivero to this point have been absolutely phenomenal, and he was arguably the biggest All-Star snub this year. He currently has the Majors lowest ERA of 0.70, along with a solid 2.20 Fielding Independent Pitching. Rivero has posted a 10.5 K/9, while holding opposing batters to only a .352 OPS. A huge part of Rivero’s success this season has been cutting down on the walks, posting an excellent 2.1 BB/9, which was at 3.9 combined with the Nationals and Pirates a year ago.

 

 

 

Pirates Recall Steven Brault

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Indianapolis Indians

According to Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish and SB Nation, the Pirates have recalled Steven Brault. Pirates Prospects’ John Dreker was the first to report that Brault had been scratched from his start for AAA Indianapolis. No word yet on the corresponding move, but it’s likely that Gregory Polanco could go on the 10-day disabled list after sustaining a hamstring injury on Friday.

Brault first joined the Pirates in July of last year. The 25-year-old lefty was in competition during Spring Training for the fifth spot in the rotation, but was optioned to Indianapolis instead. Brault’s numbers have been outstanding for the Indians, posting the lowest ERA in the International League at 2.06, while putting up a 1.13 WHIP, which is fourth best.