Taylor Hearn Assigned to West Virginia Power

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Glenn Gaston
p/c: Glenn Gaston

According to MLB.com Pirates beat reporter Adam Berry, Taylor Hearn has been assigned to the West Virginia Power. 

The Pirates acquired Hearn from the Washington Nationals along with Felipe Rivero in the Mark Melancon deal on Saturday. Hearn had been drafted by the Pirates in 2012 as a 22nd round pick, but chose not to sign. He was was selected by the Nats last year as a fifth round choice. JJ Cooper of Baseball America provided me a scouting report on Hearn.

“Big arm. LHP 93-99 with improved changeup. Slider still needs work. Could be a future relief pitcher though Pirates will start him for now.”

Hearn sustained a foot injury in April, which has limited him to 22.2 innings of work this season. Despite the missed time, he posted a 3.18 ERA along with a very impressive strikeout ratio of 12.3 for the Hagerstown Suns. Hearn will continue to pitch this year at the Low A level in West Virginia. 






Assessing the Mark Melancon Trade

By Jason Shetler 

The Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals struck a deal on Saturday involving Mark Melancon. In return, the Pirates receive pitchers Felipe Rivero and Taylor Hearn. Now it’s time to assess the big trade. 

Over the last few seasons, Mark Melancon has established himself as one of the best relievers in baseball. That success continued again this year, posting a 1.51 ERA with a WHIP of 0.96 in 45 appearances, while being named an All-Star for the third time in his career. It’ll be interesting to see if the Nationals use him as their closer or in the setup role to Jonathan Papelbon. 

Felipe Rivero is a 25-year-old left-hander who was pitching in the Nationals bullpen this season. In 47 appearances, he posted a 4.53 ERA, but his other stats are impressive with a 3.26 Fielding Independent Pitching, a 1.17 WHIP and strikeout ratio of 9.6. Rivero can really bring it with the fastball, averaging 95.3 mph, which has the ability to touch 100 on the gun. 

The Pirates originally chose Hearn as a 22nd round pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, but did not sign. The 21-year-old southpaw was drafted by the Nats as a fifth round selection last year. This season, he was putting up an ERA of 3.18 with a solid 12.3 K/9 in 22.2 innings pitched for Low A Hagerstown. Just like Rivero, Hearn can register his fastball in the upper-90’s. 

The Nationals obviously bolster their bullpen with Melancon on the short term. From the Pirates perspective, Rivero will be the main seventh inning reliever with Neftali Feliz as the setup man and Tony Watson assuming the duties as closer. In regards to Hearn, the Pirates have announced that he will be used primarily as a starter. By obtaining a pair of hard-throwing lefties for Melancon, who very likely wasn’t going to be brought back this offseason, it’s a good move by the Pirates not just for the present, but future as well. 





Pirates Trade Mark Melancon to Nationals

By Jared Lankes 

The Pirates drop their first trade of the 2016 trade deadline by dealing away closer Mark Melancon. In return, they receive two hard-throwing pitchers. One being MLB reliever Felipe Rivero. The other being A-ball lefty Taylor Hearn.

Firstly, let’s look at Rivero. He is a young lefty that can throw upwards to 100 mph with a devastating changeup that is great against righties. If he can get lefties out more, he’ll be great. In any case, there’s a lot to like there, not to mention he’ll be around through 2021. A nice value addition there.

As for Hearns, he is a lefty as well. He’s recovering from injury and has been working less innings because of it, but he can also hit 97-98 if not more. Pirates plan to use him as a starter, but he is a long way off still.

I’m going to miss Melancon. However, this is a good business move by the Pirates. You would’ve of course wanted more, but Rivero has a chance to be a can’t miss guy. Pirates could’ve probably gotten better prospects, but they took the reliever instead, which isn’t necessarily bad in this case.

Pirates are in No Position to Stand Pat at the Trade Deadline

By Jared Lankes 

The Pirates sit at 52-49 but are still in the mix for a playoff spot. However, their playoff chances are low according to whatever percentages you read, even though they mean little. In any case, this puts the team in a tight jam as we approach the non-waiver trade deadline on Monday at 4 pm ET. Between now and then, all the front offices around the league will rattle their heads thinking of the best route to success. One front office that figures to work exceptionally hard is the Pirates. GM Neal Huntington has a ton of evaluations to do about this team and future Pirates’ teams that should make this a very interesting deadline for him and the organization.

The feel around is that the Pirates will be buyers. However, there is also a feel that they may trade off short-term assets if they get the right return. Players like David Freese, Matt Joyce, Sean Rodriguez, Jon Niese, John Jaso, and even Mark Melancon would be considered. Guys like Jeff Locke and Jared Hughes maybe too based on ineffectiveness alone. So, all in all, Neal Huntington has a lot on his plate, and it will all play out within the next couple of days.

One thing the Pirates can’t afford to do is stand pat at the deadline. The reason for this is because they are in such a weird situation that standing pat would be dumb. Standing pat will lead to the same results for the most part. The results the team is getting now isn’t good enough to mean much. If they keep going like this, they will more than likely miss the playoffs and be barely above .500. That just ends up being a waste of many resources.

I don’t think teams should really stand pat in nearly any scenario. Not many teams are ever in a position to do nothing at the deadline, and that’s what makes it fun. The Pirates are a team that is certainly in no position to stand pat either. They are stuck in a situation where they have enough but too much at the same time. It’s a really strange situation for a team to be in. I don’t have the answers as to how to fix that because I’m not a GM, but I do know it won’t be fixed by sitting around while the deadline passes by.

That being said, I fully expect a flurry of deals made, not just involving the Pirates, but throughout the MLB over the next couple of days. It’s certainly shaping out to be an exciting deadline, and I’m intrigued to watch it all unfold.

Pirates at Brewers Series Preview

By Jared Lankes 

The Pirates take a trip they haven’t made this year yet but one they will make a lot over the latter part of the season. This trip is to Milwaukee. We all are aware of the Pirates’ seemingly endless horrors in Miller Park. The Pirates have been slightly better there over the last couple of years, but it still haunts them. The Pirates have overcome that in previous seasons to still be really good, but they have to start playing better in Milwaukee. Hopefully it starts in 2016, particularly starting this series.

Friday: Junior Guerra (6-2 2.85 ERA) vs Steven Brault (0-0 2.25 ERA) 8:10 ET

The Pirates faced Junior Guerra last time and got to him early but not again. He’s had a shockingly good season. Pirates bats are going to have their hands full. For the Pirates, it’s Steven Brault, who is making his 2nd major league start. He looked good despite only going 4 innings. Hopefully he is able to keep up what he did in that start except go deeper in the game. He has looked great his last few starts in AAA, so he’s riding a good stretch right now. He will have to continue that.

Saturday: Chase Anderson (5-10 5.40 ERA) vs Jameson Taillon (2-1 3.83 ERA) 7:10 ET

The Pirates also faced Chase Anderson last time and actually pounded him. The problem was that Jeff Locke was worse. If the Pirates bats can do that again, they have a shot. For the Pirates, it’s Jameson Taillon, who was hit in the head by a liner the last time he saw the Brewers. He still dominated despite it. He also had a decent start against the Phillies after that. He just looks to keep steady as a starter for the Pirates because that is just what the team needs the most right now.

Sunday: Matt Garza (1-4 5.74 ERA) vs Francisco Liriano (6-10 5.36 ERA) 2:10 ET

This is a battle of two struggling veterans. Firstly, we’ll look at Matt Garza. He’s been nothing but bad, and the Pirates took advantage of it just a week ago. The Bucco bats will look to build on that, and Garza will look to rebound. It’s a battle of who makes the proper adjustments. For the Pirates, it’s the guy that beat Garza in that start, Francisco Liriano. He dazzled in a start to beat the Brewers that night. However, his last start was the exact opposite. He has yet to get in a groove this season, and that really needs to change. The Pirates trot Liriano out there with the belief that he will do just that. If we see the Liriano of the last few years, it’d be an enormous boost. It has to start sooner rather than later.

The Pirates have to start winning in Milwaukee. It is quite literally that simple. If they don’t, it’s going to be a rough rest of the way for the team. If so, they’ll get a massive boost. It all starts with this series. It’s time to end this Milwaukee curse and start anew in Miller Park.

The Pirates are Buyers and that’s that

By Jared Lankes 

The Pirates are in contention and look to get into the postseason for a 4th straight year, something they’ve never done. They don’t sit too far back of the wildcard and have been among the best teams in baseball over the last month as well. Neal Huntington has also overstated his intent to add at the trade deadline. Despite all this, there is still a notion that they will sell, and I don’t get why.

True that they might get rid of unfavorables such as Jon Niese, Jeff Locke, or Jared Hughes, but that doesn’t make them sellers. That’s just putting the roster in a better position to win more games and have greater success. Instead, it looks like they are going to look to add for the 6th straight year going back to 2011. The idea of selling hasn’t been an idea that has popped in my head. When they were 34-39, yes, but now they are above .500 and in the thick of wildcard race. It makes no sense to do that now.

In my opinion, this roster that Neal Huntington built and what was and is in AAA has been the best the Huntington has built by far. He built an offense amongst the best in the NL, a bullpen that is improving, and a club that looks so much better defensively. That’s 3/4 of the core things a team needs to be successful. They also have some core starting pitchers that are capable of doing the work every 5th day. In my opinion, they are one starting pitcher, one pitcher coming from Indy and being effective enough, to be a serious threat in the NL. Of course, another bullpen arm helps this time of year too. There’s no reason not to think that they can’t make the playoffs.

So, overall, it seems much easier to me to fix the one or two issues at hand then to just blow it up and start over. This team looks closer to a complete team than a complete waste. Whether 2017 will be good or not remains to be seen, but it looks good already. There’s no need to trade assets that can help you right now for assets that’ll help you next season. No players the Pirates would realistically trade now would net them a guy that will make a massive impact anyways (not even in a Mark Melancon trade). Sometimes, teams have to take a gamble on a year like this. I’m not saying mortgage the future for rentals, but it seems more productive to add than to subtract. And if you do subtract, only subtract the guys that aren’t helping.

I know a team like the Pirates has to be weary of the future, but they are already built so well for the future that they can afford to gamble at least a bit with this current team. There’s no need to trade assets that can help this year’s team for fringe players that may never help or will not help immensely later on. The Pirates have it all in front of them right now with a foundation built for later. There’s no need for the Pirates to sell right now and retool. That just seems like a waste of a very talented roster and a team with all the potential you could ask for. Just realize that this roster isn’t having a massive overhaul and the idea of selling shouldn’t come up. This team is a buyer once again, and that is the reality here.

Steven Brault to Start Friday vs Brewers

By Jason Shetler 

p/c: Dilip Vishwanat - Getty Images
p/c: Dilip Vishwanat – Getty Images

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has announced that Steven Brault will pitch the series opener on Friday against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. 

Brault made his Major League debut for the Pirates versus the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on July 5th. The 24-year-old southpaw has put up outstanding numbers this season with AAA Indianapolis, posting a 2.15 ERA along with a K/9 of 11.8 in 50.1 innings of work. Brault was a strong candidate to start Friday’s game. He was originally scheduled to pitch for Indianapolis on Thursday, but will now receive an extra day of rest while in Milwaukee. 




Pirates Need for Another Starting Pitcher is Clearer than Ever

By Jared Lankes 

The Pirates have had a revolving door with starting pitching all year. Between injuries and ineffectiveness, we’ve seen 11 different starting pitchers this season. 3/5 of the rotation out of spring training is now in the bullpen (Juan Nicasio, Jon Niese, and Jeff Locke). Francisco Liriano has been massively inconsistent as well. Gerrit Cole was hurt for a month, but he’s back and there’ll be no issues with him. Jameson Taillon has been good in his MLB career so far, which certainly has helped. However, the rest of the rotation has been a mess.

Also, the recent DL trip for Tyler Glasnow and a potential injury for Chad Kuhl as well has put this team in a bad situation where their already massive need for another starting pitcher has become even greater.

It’s already difficult to roll with three rookies in the rotation, even if those rookies are Taillon, Glasnow, and Kuhl. It gets even tougher when the job goes to Steven Brault, Trevor Williams, or Wilfredo Boscan. I’m not knocking those guys, but to trust them when a team is approaching a stretch run is a really tough spot to be in. This is especially so when the other options are Niese, Locke, or Nicasio, who were bumped for a reason, Justin Masterson, who has no business touching an MLB roster right now, and Ryan Vogelsong, who shouldn’t start regularly in the MLB. All this combined leads to the Pirates not being in a position where they “could use” another starter, but rather more to the point where they “need” another starting pitcher.

Between now and August 1, Neal Huntington needs to get a deal done for another reliable (reliable is the key word) starting pitcher. There are no excuses this time. This team cannot get by with what they have now. I’m sure Huntington is trying his hardest, but it’s time to get the deal done.

Mariners at Pirates Series Preview

By Jared Lankes 

The Pirates clawed and scratched their way to a series win over the Phillies, making it a 4-2 week against lowly teams. You can’t ask for much more than that. The dream of seeing Gerrit Cole, Tyler Glasnow, and Jameson Taillon all back to back was realized this weekend. However, it became more of a nightmare when Glasnow left with shoulder discomfort and Taillon had a shaky start at best. Despite all of this, they won the series, which is all you can ask for. Now, they set their sights on the Mariners, a team that has been up and down and average most of the year. It’s a brief two game series, so get ready for that.

Tuesday: Francisco Liriano (6-9 4.96 ERA) vs Felix Hernandez (4-4 3.23 ERA) 7:05 ET

Francisco Liriano turned in his best start of the year on Thursday against Milwaukee. He’s been on a roll of looking more and more like vintage Liriano over his last few starts. He looks to continue that against the Mariners, and the Pirates could certainly use it. For the Mariners, it’s King Felix. Still one of the best pitchers in the league, Felix Hernandez is still very capable of dominance. Nobody really ever wants to face Hernandez, but that’s the task the Pirates bats were given. This will be a test for both teams’ lineups. I expect a little amount of runs in this game.

Wednesday: Gerrit Cole (5-6 2.99 ERA) vs James Paxton (3-4 4.18 ERA) 7:05 ET

Gerrit Cole seems to have started to shape back into form after giving up just 1 run over 6 innings against the Phillies. It wasn’t the sharpest of outings, but it’s a start for sure. He will try to continue getting back to the Gerrit Cole of old against the Mariners. For the Mariners, it’s southpaw James Paxton. Paxton hasn’t been able to quite find his footing in the MLB yet. He’s not a bad pitcher, but he was certainly supposed to be better than what he’s been to this point. The Pirates will look to take advantage of Paxton while he’s not at his best. The Pirates could certainly stand to give Cole some run support this time around.

This series will be telling for both teams. They share similar records and both will send their aces to the hill for one of the games. A series split seems like the most reasonable conclusion, but two-game series’ can be a little tricky.