Neal Huntington Says Charlie Morton Will Be Ready Come Opening Day

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Ron Chenoy - USA Today Sports

p/c: Ron Chenoy – USA Today Sports

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington spoke to 93.7 The Fan’s Dan Zangrilli earlier this morning on “Bucco Talk”. Zangrilli asked about the health of Charlie Morton and if he would be ready on Opening Day. Huntington responded by saying “yes, it’s a scope of reality.” 

Morton has been recovering from hip surgery, in which he had performed back in late September. He’s thrown some side sessions down in Pirate City, so it’ll be interesting to see obviously how his pitches look in live game action. Should Morton begin the season on time, he’ll be the #4 starter in the rotation behind Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole and A.J. Burnett. 

Pirates Scouting a Phenom Prospect from Mexico

By Jason Shetler

According to Pirates Prospects John Dreker, the Pirates scouted a 15-year-old pitching prospect from Mexico named Oscar Arzaga in early February. Scouts who saw him say his fastball was at 93 mph. 

Arzaga is a tall right-hander who stands 6’5. Along with the fastball, he throws a curveball, changeup and slider. His slider is already being considered a good pitch. Given his huge upside, Arzaga will likely be the most sod after Latin amateur player once the International signing period begins July 2nd. The Pirates have been much more aggressive in Latin America under the current management team, and that was certainly true when they signed Luis Heredia for $2.6 million back in 2010. 

Bucco Nation Poll Question

By Jason Shetler

Why Pedro Alvarez Should Benefit from the Platoon

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Jeff Curry - USA Today Sports

p/c: Jeff Curry – USA Today Sports

Following an All-Star campaign in 2013, Pedro Alvarez showed regression last season. In 122 games, Alvarez posted just a .717 OPS. Despite the overall low figure, he had a .770 OPS against right-handed pitching, which isn’t great, but not bad either. For his career, Alvarez has posted a .792 OPS vs RHP compared to a .588 OPS vs LHP. He will get most of the playing time at first base this season, with Corey Hart spelling him out vs LHP. This will mark the fourth consecutive season in which the Pirates will utilize a first base platoon. Other than the drastic splits for Alvarez, here’s another reason why he should benefit from the platoon this year.

Marcus John, Pirates blogger for Hidden Vigorish, recently did an article breaking down several Pirates, in regards to being rested and how it’s affected their OPS over the past two seasons. As it turns out, Alvarez’s numbers are the biggest difference, posting only a .723 OPS when he’s not rested, while putting up an .833 OPS in games following a rest. With the combination of LHP struggles and performing well following rest/off days, there’s no reason why Pedro Alvarez shouldn’t be able to make a bigger impact in a platoon role. 

Pirates Willing to Extend Andrew McCutchen Again

By Jason Shetler 

p/c: Daniel Shirey/USA Today Sports

p/c: Daniel Shirey/USA Today Sports

According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Rob Biertempfel, the Pirates are willing to consider a second extension for Andrew McCutchen. 

McCutchen’s first extension from the Pirates came in Spring Training of 2012, which was six years/$51.5 million, including a 2018 club option worth $14.75 million. The contract was the largest the Pirates had given to a player since Jason Kendall in 2000. Since signing the extension, McCutchen is batting .319 along with a .939 OPS and a 162 OPS+. The four-time All-Star has captured an MVP, three Silver Sluggers and a Gold Glove in that span. If the Pirates let McCutchen’s current extension run through 2018, he would enter that offseason as a 31-year-old, which is when most players exit their prime, so if the Pirates are going to consider another extension, they obviously need to do it sooner rather than later. 

Bucco Nation Poll Question

By Jason Shetler

Pirates Prospects Who Could Be in the Top 10 for 2016

By Jason Shetler

 p/c: Tracy Proffitt/MiLB

Luis Heredia p/c: Tracy Proffitt/MiLB.com

Now that the 2015 preseason prospect rankings have wrapped up, the Pirates could have up to five prospects called up to Pittsburgh at some point this season. With some who are on the list now that are expected to be on there in 2016, here are some other Pirates prospects who may find themselves in the Top 10 next year.

Cody Dickson: The Pirates chose LHP Cody Dickson as a fourth round pick in the 2013 MLB Draft. Last season, Dickson posted a 5.58 ERA in the first half for Low A West Virginia, but pitched much better in the second half, as he put up a 2.45 ERA. He has a 3.43 ERA along with a 7.9 K/9 in his first two seasons of pro ball. If Dickson can perform like the way he did in the second half of 2014 for most of this season, he’s likely to be in the Top 10 next year. 

JaCoby Jones: JaCoby Jones may have had one of the better seasons by a minor league shortstop in 2014. The former LSU product hit .288 with 23 home runs, while posting an .851 OPS in 117 games for the West Virginia Power. Should Jones duplicate those numbers this season, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him as a Top 5 prospect in the system for 2016. 

Luis Heredia: Prior to 2013, Luis Heredia was considered a Top 10 Pirates prospect, as well as a Baseball America Top 100 prospect. Heredia entered camp that year out of shape, and pitched just half a season for West Virginia. He was limited to 18 starts last year with a shoulder injury, posting a 4.15 ERA, a 1.35 WHIP and just a 4.3 K/9. Heredia’s fastball sat in the low-90’s most of the season, but he did induce plenty of groundballs. He must stay healthy so that he can increase his fastball velocity and start missing more bats. Heredia also needs to have a breakout season in 2015, and if he’s able to do that, then he should be able to reclaim his spot as a Top 10 prospect. 

Stephen Tarpley: The Pirates acquired Stephen Tarpley from the Baltimore Orioles in the Travis Snider trade this offseason. Tarpley was considered the O’s 14th best prospect. Last year, he put up a 3.68 ERA with a 1.41 WHIP and a K/9 of 8.2 in 66 innings for Short A Aberdeen. Tarpley’s fastball has sat in the mid-90’s, which has given him a solid strikeout ratio for a lefty. However, his walk ratio is a little on the high side at 3.3. Tarpley will begin his first full season pitching for the West Virginia Power, and a strong year could put him in the Top 10 discussion for next season. 

Steven Brault: Acquired as the player to be named in the Snider deal, Steven Brault entered 2015 as the Orioles 18th best prospect in their system. Brault profiles as a finesse left-hander. He had a very good 2014 season combined with Low A Delmarva and High A Frederick, as he posted a 2.77 ERA, a WHIP of just 0.89, thanks to a solid 1.8 BB/9. He had a 7.6 K/9 in 146.1 innings pitched. Brault also did a terrific job of keeping the ball down, allowing only four home runs. If Brault can put up similar numbers this year for High A Bradenton and possibly AA Altoona, there’s no reason to think why he couldn’t be a Pirates Top 10 prospect. 

Wyatt Mathisen: Drafted as a catcher by the Pirates in 2012, Wyatt Mathisen took the Neil Walker route by switching from catcher to third base last season. In 103 games for West Virginia, Mathisen batted .280 along with a .704 OPS. While his on base percentage was good at .344, he slugged only .360, hitting just three homers. The ability to get on base hasn’t been a problem for Mathisen, but the power definitely leaves a lot to be desired, so if he can start turning his gap power into more consistent home run power, the Pirates would not only have a legitimate third base prospect, but also a prospect who could join the Top 10 next year.