Jhan Marinez has Been a Nice Addition to Pirates Bullpen

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Charles LeClaire – USA Today Sports

Way back in 2006, the then Florida Marlins signed Jhan Marinez as an amateur out of the Dominican Republic. He made his MLB debut with the Marlins in 2010 as a 21-year-old. 

In 2011, Marinez was one of two players traded to the Chicago White Sox as part of a deal to have Ozzie Guillen become manager of the Marlins in 2012. For the next few years, he pitched exclusively in the minors, with the Tigers AAA team Toledo and the Dodgers former AA affiliate Chattanooga. After pitching for Durham, the Rays AAA club in 2015, Marinez re-signed with Tampa Bay on a minor league contract prior to last season. He appeared in three games with the Rays, before getting dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers for cash. Marinez performed well for Milwaukee, posting a 3.68 ERA and a 122 ERA+ in 30 appearances. 

Entering this season, Marinez was looking to build off the success he had with Milwaukee a year ago. The Brewers however decided to cut ties, as they designated him for assignment on May 14th. While he did have an ERA of 5.40, his BABIP indicated extreme bad luck at .396. 

A week after being DFA’d, the Pirates claimed Marinez off waivers from the Brewers. The 28-year-old righty has been terrific to this point for the Bucs, with a 2.25 ERA, a Fielding Independent Pitching of 3.04 and a 1.15 WHIP in 15 games. Marinez is putting up a 56% groundball rate this year, thanks in part to a steady diet of two-seam fastballs that he is throwing about 61% of the time. According to FanGraphs’ Pitch Values, his slider has been a very effective secondary pitch. Since joining the Pirates, Marinez has kept the walks down, with a 2.7 BB/9, while his K/9 is at 8.1, which is a solid mark, especially for a groundball pitcher. Outside of Felipe Rivero and Juan Nicasio, the Pirates bullpen has had inconsistencies, with the struggles of Daniel Hudson and Tony Watson, as well as the recent regression of Wade LeBlanc, so Marinez has given them a much needed shot in the arm thus far. During the Pirates three year playoff stretch from 2013-2015, manager Clint Hurdle used Jared Hughes in tight spots to strand inherited baserunners, because of his ability to induce groundballs with regularity. Perhaps Hurdle could begin using Marinez in more high leverage situations, and utilize him in that same role.




Why David Freese is Vastly Underrated

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Charles LeClaire – USA Today Sports

Growing up as kids, all of us at some point stood in the backyard, dreaming about hitting a game-winning home run in a World Series game. For David Freese, that dream became reality, as the St. Louis native delivered a walkoff homer in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series to force a Game 7, helping the Cardinals capture their 11th championship in franchise history. 

With the departure of Albert Pujols, Freese took over as the Cardinals team leader in 2012, and was productive in his first and only All-Star season. 2013 however was a down year for him, as he was a replacement level player. 

Prior to the 2014 season, Freese and reliever Fernando Salas were both dealt to the Los Angeles Angels for outfielders Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk. During his two seasons with the Halos, Freese was a two-win player in terms of WAR.

The Pirates weren’t going to have Jung-Ho Kang ready before the start of last season, as he was recovering from a torn meniscus and fractured tibia. Midway through Spring Training, Freese signed a one-year deal with the Pirates to be a veteran stopgap at third base until Kang returned. Because the Angels chose not to make Freese a qualifying offer, the Bucs were able to sign him without giving up a draft pick. 

Freese performed well in 2016, posting a .764 OPS. Once Kang became the third baseman again, he saw time as a first base platoon, alongside John Jaso and eventually Josh Bell. Freese mashed lefty pitching, as he posted an OPS of .963 against them. On the defensive side, he was steady, with a 2.7 UZR and five Defensive Runs Saved. In late August, Freese and the Pirates agreed to terms on a two-year extension. 

This past offseason, Kang was arrested in South Korea for his third drunk driving incident. Because of that, he has not been able to come to the States with a working visa. That meant that Freese would take over at third base entering 2017. He got off to a very hot start in April until a hamstring injury put him on the disabled list April 29th. His return from the DL came on May 12th. Freese is doing things that seem to go quietly unnoticed. As of right now, his .374 on base percentage actually leads the club, while he has been productive again versus lefty pitching, putting up an .854 OPS. Freese this year is due to make $6.25 million, which is a bargain, and will be even more so next season, as he’ll be owed less at $4.25 million. In terms of all-around third basemen, Freese certainly falls under the category of underrated.






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.