Jason Martin Promoted To Indianapolis

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Altoona Curve

On the same day that Pirates top prospect Mitch Keller gets promoted to Indianapolis, outfielder Jason Martin will also be headed to the AAA level, this according to Cory Giger of the Altoona Mirror.

In the 2013 MLB Draft, the Houston Astros selected Martin in the eighth round. During his five seasons in the Astros system, he batted .270 and posted an OPS of .805 in a total of 327 games played.

This past offseason, the Pirates dealt Gerrit Cole to Houston in exchange for four players, one of which was Martin. Following the trade, MLB Pipeline ranked him the 21st best prospect in the Pirates system. 

Martin was not only the best player on the Altoona Curve this season, but one of the top offensive performers in the Eastern League. He made 284 plate appearances with the Curve, hitting .325, which was fifth highest in the EL, while posting a .912 OPS, eighth best in the league.

 

 

 

 

 

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Pirates Promote Mitch Keller To Indianapolis

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Martin Griff

John Dreker of Pirates Prospects has reported that the Pirates have promoted Mitch Keller from the Altoona Curve to the Indianapolis Indians. 

Since being selected by the Pirates in the second round of the 2014 MLB Draft, Keller has emerged as one of the premiere pitching prospects in the minors. Last year, he was able to dominate for Bradenton and Altoona, as well as against some of the game’s best prospects in the Arizona Fall League.

Keller entered 2018 as the top prospect in the Pirates organization by every baseball publication. The 22-year-old right-hander returned to Altoona to begin this season, and was terrific again for the Curve. In April and May combined, Keller put up an ERA of 3.44, along with a .229 batting average against. For as good as those numbers were the first two months, he was even more dominant in June, posting a 0.69 ERA, while holding the opposition to just a .131 average. Overall, Keller had a 2.72 ERA for Altoona, which was fifth lowest in the Eastern League.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Johnny Hellweg Released By Pirates

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Adam Pintar

According to Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects, pitcher Johnny Hellweg has been released by the Pirates so that can pitch in Japan.

The Pirates signed Hellweg in August of last year on a minor league deal, this after pitching Independent ball in the Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball for the New Jersey Jackals. Outside of playing Indy ball, he had spent a lot of time in the minors, and his last appearance in the bigs was with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2013.

Hellweg returned to the Pirates organization this year and began the season with AAA Indianapolis. The 6’7 right-hander had put up outstanding numbers for the Indians, as he posted a 1.33 ERA, with a 3.12 FIP, an 8.3 K/9 and a strong groundball rate of 68% in 24 relief appearances. 

Given the tremendous work Hellweg had with Indianapolis, combined with the inconsistency of the Pirates bullpen this season, it’s surprising that he didn’t receive a chance to be called up to Pittsburgh, especially after George Kontos had been designated for assignment in late May, and there was an open spot on the 40-man roster at that time. For Hellweg personally, pitching in Japan would present a better opportunity financially.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pirates Place Michael Feliz on DL; Clay Holmes Recalled

By Jason Shetler

According to Pirates GM Neal Huntington, pitcher Michael Feliz has been placed on the 10-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. Meanwhile, pitcher Clay Holmes is recalled from AAA Indianapolis to take his spot for the time being. 

Feliz came over to the Pirates from the Houston Astros as one of the pieces from the Gerrit Cole deal. The hard-throwing righty reliever had pitched extremely well in April, posting a 0.75 ERA, along with a 0.92 WHIP. Following the struggles of George Kontos, Feliz was inserted as the setup man, but has struggled in his own right since then, as he’s posted a 6.42 ERA and a WHIP of 1.60. He’s allowed at least one run in 9 of his last 11 appearances.

Holmes entered this year as MLB Pipeline’s 18th rated Pirates prospect. The 25-year-old right-hander was on the Pirates roster as the 26th man for their doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers on Easter. Holmes made his MLB debut versus the Cincinnati Reds on April 6th, pitching two innings. His numbers have been terrific this season for Indianapolis, putting up an ERA of 3.39, a 2.92 FIP, a 9.6 K/9 and a 59% groundball rate in 13 games (12 starts). Holmes will provide the Pirates with a multiple inning arm out of the bullpen.

 

 

 

 

 

Examining the Pirates Trade Block

By Jason Shetler

After being a season high nine games above .500 in May, the Pittsburgh Pirates have fallen on hard times since then, as they are currently three games under at 36-39. At one point, they had lost seven consecutive series. Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington however has continued to suggest that the club will look to add. Unless they begin to go on a hot stretch from now until the July 31st trade deadline, then I don’t see that happening. Here are the players that the Pirates could look to move.

Corey Dickerson: The Pirates made a fantastic trade in February when they acquired Corey Dickerson from the Tampa Bay Rays for pitcher Daniel Hudson and minor league infielder Tristan Gray. The 29-year-old outfielder has been solid for the most part, hitting .302 and posting a .789 OPS, however, he has struggled in June, with an OPS of just .628. Should Dickerson start to catch fire again, there’s a good chance the Pirates could sell high, although he is under team control for next season, so there isn’t a rush to move him either.

David Freese: Last season, David Freese was the primary third baseman for the Pirates, this after the legal troubles of Jung-Ho Kang. Following the acquisition of Colin Moran from the Houston Astros in the Gerrit Cole deal, Freese entered this year as a utility man. He currently has a .735 OPS and his OPS+ is right at league average (100). Freese provides steady defense at third base, so that certainly helps his trade value. It’s likely that Freese could draw interest from several contending clubs looking to upgrade their bench.

Francisco Cervelli: Coming off two injury plagued seasons, Francisco Cervelli is having his best year offensively so far in 2018, putting up an OPS of .876 and a 2.0 oWAR. In addition to improved offensive figures, he continues to be a reliable pitch framer behind the plate. Elias Diaz is having a breakout year as well, so that could allow the Pirates to trade Cervelli for a great return and plug in Diaz as the regular catcher moving forward.

Ivan Nova: Following the 2016 season, Ivan Nova entered free agency. The Pirates were able to bring back the veteran right-hander on a three-year deal worth $26 million, which was viewed by most as a real bargain. Nova was outstanding in the first half of 2017, but really scuffled in the second half. His struggles had carried over into the early part of this year and he wound up being placed on the disabled list with a finger issue. Since returning from the DL, Nova has made three starts, allowing just two earned runs total. It’s unlikely that Nova will continue to pitch this lights out, but if he can raise his trade value up from now until the deadline, then the Pirates have to pull the trigger. In turn, it would allow Nick Kingham to rejoin the rotation.

Jordy Mercer: 2018 marks the fifth season for Jordy Mercer as the Pirates shortstop. He got off to a slow start in April, with just a .662 OPS. Since the beginning of May, however, he’s posted an OPS of .785. The narrative continues to be that Mercer is still a very reliable defensive shortstop, but that’s not the case, as his combined Defensive Runs Saved since 2015 is -19. For the Pirates to get a good trade return for Mercer, they’ll need his bat to keep heating up until the deadline.

Josh Harrison: With the trade of Andrew McCutchen this past offseason, Josh Harrison came into this season as the longest tenured Pirate, being with the club since 2011. After suffering a fractured metacarpal on his left hand by a pitch last year, the same injury occurred again in April. So far this year, Harrison is batting .272 and has a .700 OPS. While he does provide solid defensive work at second base, he’s also displayed above average defense at third base and the outfield in the past, so that’ll give him value for any contender looking to acquire a versatile player that can handle multiple positions well. Harrison though will need his offense to pick back up, if the Pirates are going to get an even better return.

Fabricio Macias Added to West Virginia; Blake Cederlind Promoted to Bradenton

By Jason Shetler

Outfielder Fabricio Macias has been added to the West Virginia Power roster, while pitcher Blake Cederlind is being promoted to the Bradenton Marauders, this according to John Dreker of Pirates Prospects.

Macias signed with the Pirates out of Mexico in February. He had drawn interest from several clubs, including the Pirates. As a 19-year-old last year, Macias played in the Mexican League, which is the equivalent of AAA ball, and really held his own by hitting .318. He was supposed to begin this season with the West Virginia Power, but there detail issues in his contract. Macias was in Extended Spring Training, and had to wait for final approval.

Cederlind was taken by the Pirates out of Mercer College in the fifth round of the 2016 MLB Draft. He throws a mid-to-upper-90’s fastball and a curveball. Cederlind began his first full season of pro ball last season with West Virginia (Power), and really struggled, as he posted a 7.76 ERA and a 5.71 FIP. He returned to West Virginia this year as a full-time reliever. In 19 games, he put up a 2.86 ERA, along with a FIP of 2.79. Cederlind’s K/9 was 11.4, while he induced groundballs at a 51% clip.