Pirates Will Have a Ship Load of Prospect Call Ups Next Season

By Jason Shetler

Tyler Glasnow - p/c: Bill Gentry

Tyler Glasnow – p/c: Bill Gentry

A lot has been made of the Pirates improved farm system over the last few years. The 2016 season is certainly shaping up to be a huge year for the Bucs in terms of their prospects. Furthermore, most of them are Top 10 prospects in the organization. Here are the prospects the Pirates should see at some point next season.

Alen Hanson: The Pirates top infield prospect is having a decent season for AAA Indianapolis. With the Pirates logjam of infielders this year, Hanson should see his time in Pittsburgh next season. Even if Hanson isn’t called up as a starter, he can still serve the Bucs as an offensive minded utility infielder.

Jameson Taillon: It’s been a difficult road for Jameson Taillon recently. First having to overcome Tommy John surgery, and now trying to recover from surgery to his hernia. Taillon is likely to be ready by the beginning of next season, and hopefully can avoid the injury bug to finally help out the Pirates rotation.

Josh Bell: The most looked at Pirates position player prospect call up next season will be Josh Bell. The switch-hitting Bell is regarded as the Pirates first baseman of the future. With the uncertainty of Pedro Alvarez beyond this season, and Michael Morse under contract through next year, the plan could be to have Morse at first base as a stopgap until Bell arrives in the summer.

Nick Kingham: It was a tough break this year for Nick Kingham, as he underwent Tommy John surgery in May. Had it not been for the injury, he would probably be in the Pirates rotation right now. Kingham should be pitching again midseason next year, and at the very least would be a September call up.

Steven Brault: Acquired as the player to be named in the Travis Snider deal last offseason from the Baltimore Orioles, Steven Brault began the year pitching for the Bradenton Marauders. He was promoted midseason to the Altoona Curve where he’s pitched even better. Brault is likely to begin 2016 with the Indianapolis Indians. The Pirates could then decide whether to call him up for the rotation or as a lefty arm in the bullpen.

Tyler Glasnow: As exciting as the Pirates call up of Gerrit Cole was in 2013, the promotion of Tyler Glasnow in 2016 could be just as highly anticipated. The Pirates #1 prospect has completely dominated every level he’s passed through since being drafted by the Bucs in 2011. Glasnow’s call up to Pittsburgh next season alone will carry a ton of excitement.



Elias Diaz Will be a September Call Up

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Bill Gentry

p/c: Bill Gentry

A source tells Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects that Elias Diaz will join the Pirates as a September call up to be the third catcher.

Diaz signed with the Pirates out of Venezuela back in 2008. Since joining the organization, he’s been an above average catcher defensively, and has really made strides with the bat the last couple of years. In 93 games played this season with AAA Indianapolis, Diaz is hitting .271 with a .711 OPS while throwing out baserunners at a 30% clip. He is the Pirates 14th best prospect according to MLB.com.

Pirates September Call Up Options

By Jason Shetler

Vance Worley - p/c: Matt Slocum- AP

Vance Worley – p/c: Matt Slocum- AP

With rosters expanding this week, here are the Pirates likely September call up options.

Bobby LaFromboise: The Pirates will almost certainly add another left-handed arm in their bullpen, and it’ll likely be Bobby LaFromboise since he’s already on the 40-man roster. 

Corey Hart: Recovering from a left shoulder issue, Corey Hart should finish his rehab assignment with AAA Indianapolis, and be activated from the disabled list to rejoin the Pirates. Unlike earlier in the season when he was put in a first base platoon with Pedro Alvarez, Hart will likely receive mostly pinch-hit at-bats. 

Jaff Decker: The Pirates called up Jaff Decker in July to serve as a fourth outfielder. Decker’s playing time came mostly as a pinch-hitter, showing a terrific ability to draw walks, which would make him a viable option for that role.

Pedro Florimon: Before getting designated for assignment by the Pirates a couple weeks back, Pedro Florimon had a memorable game-winning hit against the Arizona Diamondbacks in a 15 inning thriller. With Florimon’s good speed, he’ll probably be used just as a pinch-runner, which would be the same way the Pirates did with Chase d’Arnaud last September. 

Radhames Liz: Radhames Liz began the season in the Pirates bullpen, but was designated for assignment in May. The hard-throwing right-hander cleared waivers, and has done solid work in the Indianapolis rotation. Liz can provide the Pirates with another long relief option. 

Rob Scahill: Probably the most surprising decision for the Pirates was putting Rob Scahill on the Opening Day roster. He was pitching really well before going on the DL in late June with forearm tightness. Scahill is currently rehabbing with Indianapolis, and should be activated once call ups are made.

Travis Snider: After being released by the Baltimore Orioles a couple weeks ago, the Pirates brought back Travis Snider on a minor league deal. Last season, Snider hit well against both righties and lefties, so if he’s able to do the same in a pinch-hitting role, he could become a nice option off the bench regardless of matchups.

Vance Worley: Vance Worley began the season in the rotation. When Charlie Morton returned off the disabled list, the Pirates sent Worley to the bullpen. He was designated for assignment after Joe Blanton was acquired from the Kansas City Royals. Worley will be called back up where the Pirates could place him in the rotation or in the bullpen as a multiple inning arm.

Trade Deadline Deals Looking Good for the Pirates

By Jason Shetler

Neal Huntington - p/c: Matt Freed - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Neal Huntington – p/c: Matt Freed – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Upgrades needed to be made at the trade deadline for the Pirates. Those needs consisted of a starting pitcher to fill in for the injured A.J. Burnett, the bullpen and the bench. General Manager Neal Huntington made four trades around or at the trade deadline, and here is how each deal has looked so far. 

J.A. Happ was acquired from the Seattle Mariners for pitcher Adrian Sampson. After a shaky Pirates debut, Happ has pitched really well, allowing just one run in his last three starts, and has given the rotation a much needed shot in the arm during Burnett’s absence. 

Joakim Soria began the season with the Detroit Tigers as their closer. Perhaps the most unlikely team to sell this year was the Tigers, and one of their moves was trading Soria to the Pirates in exchange for shortstop prospect JaCoby Jones. Soria has done well for the Pirates in the seventh inning role, as he’s posted a 2.38 ERA with a 1.24 WHIP in 13 appearances. 

Joe Blanton had called it a career last season, but decided to make a comeback, and signed on with the Kansas City Royals. When the Royals obtained Johnny Cueto from the Cincinnati Reds, Blanton was designated for assignment. The Pirates acquired Blanton from the Royals for cash considerations. Since joining the Bucs bullpen, Blanton has been outstanding, posting an ERA of 0.52 along with a 0.92 WHIP and a K/9 of 11.9 in 17.1 innings of work. 

Michael Morse started off this season as the Miami Marlins regular first baseman. He was then dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers as part of a three team trade that was headlined by Mat Latos. In an effort to improve the bench and find an upgrade over Corey Hart, the Pirates acquired Morse from the Dodgers while trading away Jose Tabata in the process. Morse has been decent off the bench, as he’s put up a .773 OPS and a 115 OPS+ in 17 games since the trade. 

The Pirates just needed to upgrade certain areas of the team without giving up too much in return, and so far the trades have made them an even better club. 

Cole Tucker Has Shoulder Surgery

By Jason Shetler

The Pirates have announced that Cole Tucker underwent shoulder surgery on Wednesday to repair a torn labrum, and is expected to be out 10-12 months. 

Tucker spent all of 2015 with the West Virginia Power. The Pirates first round pick from last year played in 73 games this season where he batted .293 along with a .699 OPS and 25 stolen bases. Tucker was placed on the disabled list a couple weeks back, which at the time was just shoulder discomfort. The recovery time as mentioned will have him missing most if not all of the 2016 season. Even with the setback, Tucker would begin 2017 as a 20-year-old, so it still shouldn’t affect his development too much.

Looking Ahead to Pirates Arbitration Eligibles this Offseason

By Jason Shetler

Neil Walker - p/c: Charles LeClare -USA Today Sports

Neil Walker – p/c: Charles LeClare -USA Today Sports

Here is an early look at the Pirates who will be arbitration eligible this offseason. 

Chris Stewart: The Pirates avoided arbitration with Chris Stewart last offseason, as he signed for $1.225 million. The veteran backup catcher has put together a nice season, hitting .288 while doing a good job behind the plate for Gerrit Cole. Stewart will be entering his final year of arbitration, and will likely return as Francisco Cervelli’s backup.

Francisco Cervelli: Looking to replace Russell Martin, the Pirates acquired Francisco Cervelli from the New York Yankees. In his first season with the Bucs, Cervelli is batting .305 with a .795 OPS in 99 games. He also has a 3.0 WAR, which is third best among all big league catchers. Cervelli will be in his last year of arbitration this offseason. The Pirates giving him an extension could be a possibility. 

Jared Hughes: It’s been another good season for Jared Hughes, as he continues to be one of the better middle relievers in the game. He’s been a workhorse this year making 62 appearances while posting a 2.40 ERA and a 61% groundball rate. Hughes is set to be eligible for arbitration a second time, and will return next season.

Jeff Locke: 2015 has been another up and down year for Jeff Locke. The 27-year-old southpaw has posted a 4.56 ERA along with a 1.44 WHIP in 24 starts. Command continues to plague Locke, especially when it comes to the second half of the season. He’ll be arbitration eligible for the first time in the offseason. Wouldn’t come as a surprise to see the Pirates go the non-tender route with Locke. 

Jordy Mercer: For the second straight season, Jordy Mercer has struggled offensively in the first half. He was recently activated from the DL after missing nearly a month with a leg injury. Mercer will be back with the Pirates next season, as he becomes arbitration eligible for the first time. The question becomes whether or not he’ll be the Bucs everyday shortstop in 2016. 

Mark Melancon: After starting off erratic in April, Mark Melancon has been one of the best closers this year. In 61 appearances, he’s posted a 1.50 ERA while recording 40 saves, which is currently tops in the National League. This past offseason, the Pirates signed Melancon for $5.4 million to avoid arbitration. He’ll be in his last year of arbitration this offseason. With the season Melancon is having, he should be given a huge salary boost, which could result in the Pirates moving him. 

Neil Walker: Coming off a career year in 2014, Neil Walker earned $8 million in arbitration. The veteran switch-hitter isn’t having as strong a season as last year, but his 13 home runs does lead all NL second baseman. Defensively however, Walker continues to steadily decline, as his dWAR and UZR/150 are -0.3 and -11.2 respectively. Because of the money Walker made last offseason, the Pirates could wind up trading him, especially given the fact that there’s more options for them to replace Walker. 

Pedro Alvarez: 2015 has been a very interesting year for Pedro Alvarez to say the least. His defense at first base has been horrendous, committing a Major League most 18 errors while posting a -2.0 dWAR. For as bad as Alvarez has looked with the glove, his offense has been good, as he’s put up a 109 OPS+ while his 20 home runs currently leads the club. Alvarez took the Pirates to arbitration last offseason, and earned $5.75 million. Given the defensive struggles, the Pirates could look to deal Alvarez to an American League team this offseason since all his trade value is with his offense. 

Tony Watson: In his fourth full season in the Pirates bullpen, Tony Watson continues to establish himself as one of the best lefty relievers in baseball. This past offseason, he avoided arbitration with the Pirates, signing for $1.75 million. Watson will be second time arbitration eligible once the season is over, and should receive a nice salary raise. If the Pirates decide to trade Melancon in the offseason, Watson should be the closer next year. 

Travis Ishikawa: The San Francisco Giants avoided arbitration with Travis Ishikawa last offseason for $1.1 million. He didn’t get much playing time for the Giants, and was designated for assignment. The Pirates claimed Ishikawa off waivers in early July. The overall numbers for him have been mediocre, but he has done well as a pinch-hitter. Since Ishikawa won’t get many at-bats in September, the Pirates will likely non-tender him in the offseason. 

Travis Snider: After being dealt by the Pirates this past offseason, Travis Snider returned to the organization on a minor league contract after being released by the Baltimore Orioles last week. Snider is currently with AAA Indianapolis, and will join the Pirates in September as an extra bat off the bench. Just like Ishikawa, Snider probably won’t see much playing time, and could be given a non-tender. 

Vance Worley: Coming off a very good 2014 campaign, Vance Worley entered last offseason as a first time arbitration eligible. He was the only pitcher to take the Pirates to arbitration, and was given $2.45 million. Worley started off the year in the rotation, but was moved to the bullpen after Charlie Morton returned from the DL. When the Pirates acquired Joe Blanton a week before the trade deadline, Worley was designated for assignment, but cleared waivers. He should return to the Pirates as a September call up. Worley will be arbitration eligible for a second time this offseason. It’ll be interesting to see if the Pirates bring him back and give him a fair opportunity as a back end starter in the rotation.

Carlos Munoz Named Appalachian League Player of the Year

By Jason Shetler

Carlos Munoz has been named the 2015 Appalachian League Player of the Year.

Munoz signed with the Pirates out of Mexico in 2010 as a 16-year-old. The left-handed hitting first baseman has played in 52 games for the Bristol Pirates where he’s batting .330 with a 1.036 OPS, which is tops in the Appy League. Munoz should begin next season playing for the West Virginia Power.