Keith Law’s Top 10 Pirates Prospects List

By Jason Shetler

Earlier today, ESPN.com’s Keith Law came out with his Top 10 prospects list for each National League team. Here is how he listed the Pirates.

The seven Pirates prospects who were listed in Law’s Top 100 were in the exact order as that list. Gregory Polanco was first, followed by Tyler Glasnow, Jameson Taillon, Austin Meadows, Nick Kingham, Alen Hanson and Josh Bell.

Coming in at #8 is Reese McGuire. Law says that McGuire could be a premium defender behind the plate, with a tremendous arm and improved receiving skills.

Harold Ramirez came in at #9. According to Law, Ramirez is a sleeper prospect to watch. He mentions him as someone who can hit for a high average with a ton of extra base hits.

Rounding out the list at #10 is Luis Heredia. Law mentions that it’s hard to grade Heredia right now due to his age. He did give Heredia some pretty good praise though on his potential, saying that if he was coming out of high school to enter this year’s draft, he would be a late first round pick.

Law also listed four more prospects as honorable mentions. The prospects he mentioned were Clay Holmes, JaCoby Jones, Jaff Decker and Wyatt Mathisen. Law was said to have been high on Jones ever since he came out the draft last year. Although Decker is no longer a top prospect, Law likes the fact that Decker gets on base a ton.

 

 

 

 

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Top 10 Pirates Teams of All-Time

By Jason Shetler

The Pirates have had some great teams during their storied 127 years as a Major League franchise. Just for fun, I’m going to list the Top 10 teams in Pirates history by looking at not just the records, but measuring players OPS+ and ERA+ during that season.

10. 1990 Pirates – After struggling throughout most of the 80’s, the Pirates were a force to be reckon with in 1990, as they won 95 games that year to win the NL East division, but lost in the NLCS to the Cincinnati Reds in six games. Barry Bonds led the Bucs with a 170 OPS+ and became the first Pirate to win the NL MVP award since Willie Stargell in 1979. They also got productive seasons from Andy Van Slyke and Bobby Bonilla who each posted a 132 OPS+. Doug Drabek led the rotation with a 131 ERA+ and also won the Cy Young award, joining Vern Law as the only other Pirate to do so.

9. 1925 Pirates – Led by Hall of Fame manager Bill McKechnie, the 1925 Pirates won 95 games and captured their second World Series title by defeating the Washington Senators in seven games. Three players had an OPS+ of 120 or better (Kiki Cuyler 152, Max Carey 126 and George Grantham 125) while all five of their starters had an ERA+ above 100 including Vic Aldridge who posted a team best 123 ERA+.

8. 1960 Pirates – After winning just 78 games in 1959, the Pirates of 1960 put together an improbable World Series club that won 95 games and defeated the heavily favored New York Yankees in seven games, which is arguably the greatest World Series upset in baseball history. Four players that year posted an OPS+ of 120 or better including Hal Smith (131), Rocky Nelson (131), Roberto Clemente (121) and Don Hoak (120). Bob Friend put up a 125 ERA+ while Cy Young award winner Vern Law and Vinegar Bend Mizell had an ERA+ of 122 and 121 respectively.

7. 1992 Pirates – The Pirates were able to win their third straight NL East division title in 1992, but it wasn’t a sure bet when the season began. After losing Bobby Bonilla to free agency and trading John Smiley during Spring Training, the Pirates were 10 games over .500 in the first half, which was seven games less than the first half of 1991, but finished 20 games over in the second half to win 96 games and capture the division. However, the Pirates would fall short of the World Series yet again losing in seven games to the Atlanta Braves. Barry Bonds had a phenomenal season in his last year with the Bucs, winning his second NL MVP award and posting a 204 OPS+. Andy Van Slyke had an MVP type season, putting up a 150 OPS+. Doug Drabek anchored the staff in his final year in Pittsburgh with a 126 ERA+ while rookie Tim Wakefield gave the Pirates a huge shot in the arm, as pitched to a 162 ERA+.

6. 1972 Pirates – Looking to defend their World Series crown in 1972, the Pirates recorded 96 wins that season and won the NL East title under first year manager Bill Virdon. They would fall to the Cincinnati Reds in the NLCS in five games. Three Pirates that year had an OPS+ of 130 or better, which were Willie Stargell (164), Richie Hebner (153) and Roberto Clemente (138). All five starters posted an ERA+ over 100 including Steve Blass (135) and Dock Ellis (125).

5. 1979 Pirates – The Pirates had some of their best seasons during the 70’s, and they were able to end the decade by winning 98 games and capturing their fifth World Series championship, as they defeated the Baltimore Orioles in seven games. The offense of course was led by a couple of MVP winners in Dave Parker (140 OPS+) and Willie Stargell (139 OPS+). They also got production from midseason acquisition Bill Madlock, who posted a 130 OPS+. The pitching was steady, as all five starters had an ERA+ above 100, which included Bruce Kison (122) and John Candelaria (121).

4. 1991 Pirates – As great as the 1990 and 1992 Pirate teams were, the 1991 club may have been the best out of the three. They won 98 games that year, but just like the other two teams, they fell short in the NLCS. Barry Bonds led the way with a 160 OPS+, while Bobby Bonilla posted a 149 OPS+ and Andy Van Slyke had a 126 OPS+. As good as the offense was, their pitching staff was even more solid having four of the starters post an ERA+ of 115 or better with Randy Tomlin (120), Doug Drabek (117), John Smiley (116) and Zane Smith (112).

3. 1971 Pirates – Out of all the teams the Pirates put together in the 70’s, the 1971 Bucs had to be considered the best of the decade. They won 97 games, took hold of the NL East division crown and defeated the Orioles in seven games to capture their fourth World Series title. The offense was loaded with production, as five players had an OPS+ of 125 or better with Willie Stargell (185), Roberto Clemente (143), Bob Robertson (135), Rennie Stennett (134) and Richie Hebner (126). They also good pitching that year from Steve Blass (121 ERA+), Dock Ellis (113 ERA+) and Bruce Kison (102 ERA+).

2. 1902 Pirates – The Pirates of 1902 had a very talented team, as they won 103 games and were the National League champions. They never got to play in the World Series since it wasn’t introduced until a year later in 1903. The Pirates had four players with an OPS+ above 130 including Hall of Famers Honus Wagner (162) and Fred Clarke (159), as well as outfielder Ginger Beaumont (151) and Tommy Leach (134). All five starters had an ERA+ over 100, and were led by staff ace Jesse Tannehill who posted a 140 ERA+.

1. 1909 Pirates – The greatest Pirates team of all-time belongs to the 1909 Pirates. The offense was led by Honus Wagner, who had an OPS+ of 177. Three other players had an OPS+ of 115 or better, which included Fred Clarke (131), Dots Miller (121) and Tommy Leach (115). The Pirates that year had six pitchers post an ERA+ above 100, including Babe Adams who put up an incredible 232 ERA+. They won 110 games and captured their first ever World Series championship by defeating the Detroit Tigers in seven games. The 110 victories still remains the franchise record.

Breaking Down the Bucs: Jeanmar Gomez

By Jason Shetler

Jeanmar Gomez

In an effort to add more pitching depth to the organization, the Pirates acquired Jeanmar Gomez from the Cleveland Indians last offseason in exchange for current Washington Wild Things outfielder Quincy Latimore. Gomez seemed like a bit of a long shot to make the club out of Spring Training, as he struggled during his time with the Indians. Not only did Gomez make the team, but he pitched surprisingly well. Gomez was very reliable in the bullpen, and even made spot starts when Jonathan Sanchez struggled mightily in the rotation. Here is the breakdown on Gomez from 2012 and last season, and how FanGraphs projects him for this year.

2012 (CLE): 5.96 ERA, 65 ERA+, 1.42 WHIP, 3.4 BB/9, 4.7 K/9, 48% GB rate, 7% Swing-strikes, 90.1 FB velocity

2013 (PIT): 3.35 ERA, 106 ERA+, 1.15 WHIP, 3.1 BB/9, 5.9 K/9, 55% GB rate, 9% Swing-strikes, 90.7 FB velocity

2014 (FanGraphs): 4.08 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 3.2 BB/9, 5.8 K/9

The numbers for Gomez in 2013 were not only better than his previous season, but they were much better across the board. His walk rate went down while his strikeout rate significantly went up, and he also increased his groundball rate by 7%. Gomez did have a .243 BABIP in 2013, meaning that he was pitching with some very good luck and may not be able to sustain that success. It’s very likely the reason why FanGraphs sees his numbers not being as good in 2014.

Breaking Down the Bucs: Jason Grilli

By Jason Shetler

Grilli

After signing with the Pirates midseason in 2011, Jason Grilli pitched well for the Bucs the rest of that year. His good work earned him a spot as the setup man to Joel Hanrahan the following season. Grilli had a career year in 2012, and began to establish himself as one of the better relievers in baseball. He became a free agent last offseason, but the Pirates were able to re-sign Grilli to a two-year deal. The signing allowed them to trade Hanrahan, who was due a huge salary raise in his final year of arbitration. Grilli assumed the closers role last season and did not disappoint.  Let’s check out the numbers for Grilli from the past couple seasons, and how he projects heading into 2014.

2012: 2.91 ERA, 130 ERA+, 1.14 WHIP, 3.4 BB/9, 13.8 K/9, 31% GB rate, 14% Swing-Strikes, 93.6 FB velocity

2013: 2.70 ERA, 131 ERA+, 1.06 WHIP, 2.3 BB/9, 13.3 K/9, 33% GB rate, 15% Swing-strikes, 93.3 FB velocity

2014 (FanGraphs): 2.81 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 2.9 BB/9, 12.5 K/9

Grilli has certainly discovered the fountain of youth during his time in Pittsburgh. His strikeout rates the last two years have just been phenomenal. Despite being a closer for the first time in his career, Grilli’s 2013 campaign was even better than 2012, as he posted a lower ERA, WHIP and walk rate, and also got more hitters to swing at pitches outside the strikezone (35% in 2012 to 38% in 2013). Although FanGraphs thinks that some of Grilli’s figures will regress, he’s still projected to have another solid season anchoring the Bucs bullpen.

ROOT Sports Airing Five Pirates Spring Training Games

By Jason Shetler

For the third year in a row, ROOT Sports will air five Pirates Spring Training games. Here is a list of the games that ROOT will televise.

Sunday, March 9 – Split-squad game against the Boston Red Sox in Bradenton at 1:05.

Monday, March 17 – Against the New York Yankees in Bradenton at 1:05.

Wednesday, March 19 – Against the Red Sox in Fort Myers at 7:05.

Friday, March 21 – Against the Yankees in Tampa at 7:05.

Saturday, March 29 – 1:05 game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park (exhibition).

In addition to the five games on ROOT, 93.7 The Fan will air 16 games while the Pirates.com Webcast will have 13 games.

Seven Pirates Prospects on Keith Law’s Top 100

By Jason Shetler

After releasing his Top 30 farm system rankings yesterday, ESPN.com’s Keith Law has come out with his Top 100 prospects list. The Pirates have seven prospects that made the cut, which is one more than MLB.com had on theirs.

Gregory Polanco was first for the Pirates, coming in at #13, which was the exact ranking that MLB.com had him.

Tyler Glasnow was second and came in at #20. This was seven spots higher than MLB.com.

Next was Jameson Taillon who was #27. MLB.com had him ranked higher at #16.

Austin Meadows was ranked #35, which was ten spots better than where MLB.com put him.

Nick Kingham made an appearance at #73, after surprisingly not being ranked on MLB.com’s list.

Alen Hanson followed Kingham at #74. He was ranked higher by MLB.com at #67.

Josh Bell just the made the list coming in at #97. Bell was ranked much higher at #74 by MLB.com

The biggest surprise on Law’s list was ranking Glasnow over Taillon. The strikeout numbers for Glasnow last season must have won him over with Law, because Taillon has better stuff right now from a developmental standpoint than Glasnow. Having Kingham on Law’s Top 100 was the right call, as he not only has good stuff, but had a strong 2013. I can understand Law having Bell ranked lower than what MLB.com had him. It could just be that Law is waiting to see if Bell can have an even better season this year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking Down the Bucs: Gerrit Cole

By Jason Shetler

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Los Angeles Angels

After losing 105 games in 2010, the Pirates had the first overall selection in the 2011 MLB Draft, and chose UCLA flamethrower Gerrit Cole. As expected, Cole didn’t sign with the Pirates until the final day of the signing deadline. He put up solid numbers in his first professional season, pitching across three levels. Cole began 2013 with Indianapolis, and made his Major League debut in mid-June against the San Francisco Giants. Here are Cole’s numbers from his rookie season, and where he projects for 2014 according to FanGraphs.

2013: 3.22 ERA, 109 ERA+, 1.17 WHIP, 2.1 BB/9, 7.7 K/9, 49% GB rate, 9% Swing-strikes, 95.5 FB velocity, 2.3 WAR

2014 (FanGraphs): 3.12 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9, 8.7 K/9, 3.8 WAR

Cole was impressive all told in his first year with the Bucs, as he displayed very good control and became less hittable in the second half of the season. His fastball velocity of 95.5 was the second highest among Major League rookies with at least 100 innings pitched in 2013. The combination of his fastball and sharp slider got a good number of swings and misses out of the strikezone, 31% to be exact. The projected stats from FanGraphs are promising, as they expect Cole to have a lower ERA and a significantly better strikeout ratio, as well as being around a four-win pitcher in 2014.