By Jason Shetler
I recently interviewed John Dreker of Pirates Prospects to get his perspective on the Pirates in terms of the big club as well as within the organization. Here are some of the topics that John and I discussed.
JS: Do you see the Pirates realistically pursuing Byung-Ho Park?
JD: I don’t due to cost and the fact Josh Bell shouldn’t take too long to be ready for the majors. Park will have a lot of teams after him due to the success of Kang, but one player succeeding doesn’t mean every player will. Park strikes out a lot more than Kang did, so there should still be some doubts as to whether he will be an above average MLB player. Ultimately, I think the cost of the posting fee, plus salary demands will put him out of the Pirates’ range.
JS: Should the Pirates try to bring back J.A. Happ or go after another free agent starter for cheaper?
JD: That would depend on his cost. We saw Fangraphs guess it would take three years and $33M to sign him. If the Pirates believe that his turnaround is something that he can maintain over longer than 11 starts, then you sign that deal and don’t think twice. I think they will pursue him and give him a fair offer, but I think they will also explore what else is out there for a shorter deal, knowing that Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon could/should take two rotation spots by June.
JS: Luis Heredia struggled again in 2015. Is is time for the Pirates to turn him into a reliever?
JD: He is having success in winter ball in Mexico as a reliever so far, but the Pirates like for their better pitchers to get in more innings. Usually a starter getting turned into a reliever in their system means one of three things. They don’t see a lot of upside with the player, the player has had a lot of injuries, or he is about to be called up and will be a reliever in the majors. If Heredia switched over now, it would basically be like them giving up on him. They have put too much time into him at this point to make that switch now.
JS: Do you think the Pirates will sign Francisco Cervelli to an extension this offseason?
JD: Because of his injury past, I don’t think they will gamble on him. They really like Elias Diaz and he should be able to handle starting duties in the majors, while providing strong defense, so I don’t see them signing Cervelli to an extension and blocking Diaz in the process. What happens in 2016 with Cervelli’s health, Diaz’s progress and even Reese McGuire’s progress, might lead to them signing Cervelli to a free agent deal after next season, but I think they take it one year at a time.
JS: Is Andrew Lambo beginning to fall out of favor with the Pirates?
JD: That’s a good question. He really hasn’t proved anything in his three Major League trials, but he’s looked great in the minors as a lefty bat with power. I’ve seen that power in person multiple times and it’s legit. He has minor league options left, so I think they will keep him around. He’s really struggling in winter ball this year in the Dominican, but that could be due to rust.
JS: Last question, which Pirates prospect or prospects do you think could breakout in 2016?
JD: I think Jordan Luplow could have a big season if he stays healthy. He struggled a little with learning a new position in 2015 and got off to a slow start. He had a few minor injuries as well, yet ended up with some strong stats for West Virginia. He probably won’t hit for a lot of power in Bradenton because no one does in the Florida State League, so you watch how many doubles/triples players hit and they usually turn into some homers as they move up. Luplow will be used to third base coming into 2016, so he should be more comfortable and that could lead to a big season at the plate. Health has been an issue with him in the past, so he could really do some damage in a full season of at-bats.
You can follow John’s great work on piratesprospects.com or on Twitter @JohnDreker