Corey Dickerson Named Gold Glove Finalist For NL Left Fielders

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Matt Freed – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

On Thursday, Major League Baseball announced the finalists for the 2018 Gold Glove awards. Pirates outfielder Corey Dickerson is a finalist among National League left fielders. The other finalists are Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers and Adam Duvall of the Atlanta Braves. 

Dickerson has come a long way with his defensive work in the outfield. From 2013-2015 with the Colorado Rockies, Dickerson was a replacement level defender. He then spent two seasons playing for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2016 and 2017, where he made himself a more adequate fielder. 

The Pirates acquired Dickerson from Tampa Bay in February in a deal that involved reliever Daniel Hudson. Dickerson played 124 games in left field for the Bucs this season, and had outstanding metrics. He recorded 16 Defensive Runs Saved, along with seven outfield assists, both of which are career highs. His range was exceptional, leading to an 11.9 UZR/150, while having a dWAR of 1.1. Dickerson looks to become the first Pirates left fielder to win Gold Glove honors since Starling Marte did it back-to-back in 2015 and 2016.






Elvis Escobar to Pitch Winter Ball In Venezuela

By Jason Shetler


Per John Dreker of Pirates Prospects, Elvis Escobar is set to pitch in the Venezuelan Winter League for Cardenales de Lara. Dreker notes that the Pirates will put a limitation on Escobar by not having him pitch on consecutive days.

Escobar signed with the Pirates originally as an outfielder in 2011. He struggled to get anything going offensively, as his career minor league OPS is at .666. 

In late May, Escobar made an appearance on the mound for AA Altoona in a blowout game. His fastball had reached 94 mph. Given his struggles at the plate, he decided to make the conversion to pitcher full-time. 

The Pirates sent Escobar to Low A West Virginia in late June to begin his new gig. He then  rejoined Altoona in late August. Combined with the Power and Curve, Escobar posted a 3.56 ERA, along with a 1.35 WHIP and a K/9 of 10.7 in 18 games pitched. While on the mound, he displayed a mid-90’s fastball and a curveball with big break. If Escobar can show the ability to throw enough strikes, he could wind up being a quality southpaw reliever.







Pirates to Interview Andy Barkett For Hitting Coach Job

By Jason Shetler


According to Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes, the Pirates will interview Boston Red Sox assistant hitting coach Andy Barkett for their hitting coach vacancy.

Just a day after the regular season finale, the Pirates decided to relieve Jeff Branson of his duties as hitting coach. Branson had been in that role since 2014. 

Barkett played for the Pirates, appearing in only 17 games during the 2001 season. Following his playing career in 2005, he managed in both the Tigers and Marlins minor league systems. 

In 2016, Barkett returned to the Pirates organization to serve as an assistant minor league hitting coordinator. He then became the manager for AAA Indianapolis in 2017, leading the Indians to an International League West Division title. Prior to this season, Barkett was hired by the Red Sox as the assistant hitting coach under first-year skipper Alex Cora.




Why Pirates Need to Protect Tyler Eppler this Offseason

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Adam Pintar

The Pirates finished this year with a record of 82-79, giving them their first winning season since 2015. Aside from the bullpen, the rotation as a whole was consistently solid. Jameson Taillon was able to take that next step as a frontline starter, Trevor Williams pitched at an All-Star level, Joe Musgrove exceeded expectations in his first year in Pittsburgh and Ivan Nova was good enough. Chris Archer had his moments of pitching subpar, but to his credit, performed much better down the stretch.

Despite the good pitching from their regular starters, they didn’t get much help from their depth options. Nick Kingham had a disappointing rookie showing with the Pirates, while Clay Holmes struggled with his command. One starter who surprisingly wasn’t given an opportunity to pitch for the big club this season was Tyler Eppler. 

After spending the entire 2017 season with AAA Indianapolis, Eppler returned there to begin 2018. He was a workhorse for the Indians this year, compiling 153 innings, third most in the International League. Eppler put up a 3.59 ERA and a FIP of 3.78. Since being drafted by the Bucs in 2014, he’s been one of the best control pitchers in the system, and that was no different this season, posting a 2.3 BB/9.

Eppler was not added to the Pirates 40-man roster last offseason, therefore, exposing him to the Rule 5 Draft. However, he was not selected. He will again be Rule 5 eligible, so he’ll have to be placed on the 40-man or go through the draft process. 

This offseason, Eppler will be pitching in the Dominican Winter League for Toros del Este. If nothing else, it’ll be a showcase for other teams to scout him, although, the Pirates can easily prevent that by just adding him to their roster. Protecting him this offseason needs to be a priority. Other than Mitch Keller arriving at some point in 2019, the Pirates don’t have much else to lean on with their depth, unless Kingham and/or Holmes pitch significantly better. Also keep in mind that they won’t have the services of Chad Kuhl next year, as he’ll be recovering from Tommy John surgery. With his excellent control of a mid-90’s fastball, along with a 6’5, 230 lb frame, Eppler has the potential of at least being a quality backend starter. 




Reds Reportedly Interviewed Tom Prince For Managerial Position

By Jason Shetler 

p/c: Christopher Horner – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

 The Cincinnati Reds are in search of a new manager this offseason. Pirates Bench Coach Tom Prince was interviewed by them, this according to Reds beat writer Mark Sheldon.

The Reds had been managed by interim skipper Jim Riggleman, following the dismissal of Bryan Price in late April. 2018 marks Cincinnati’s fifth straight losing season, as well as their fourth consecutive year of 90-plus losses. 

Prince has spent the past two seasons as Bench Coach for the Pirates under Clint Hurdle. The 54-year-old Prince has yet to manage full-time at the big league level, but does have an extensive track record of managing in the Pirates system, with Williamsport (2005-2006), GCL Pirates (2007), Bradenton (2014) and Altoona (2015).




A.J. Schugel, Buddy Boshers and Casey Sadler Elect Free Agency

By Jason Shetler

According to MLB Trade Rumors, pitchers A.J. Schugel, Buddy Boshers and Casey Sadler have all elected to become free agents. 

Schugel was looking to make the Pirates bullpen out of Spring Training this year, but a shoulder injury prevented that from happening. He likely would’ve made the club, since he was out of options. The shoulder problems persisted for him throughout the season. During the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Schugel pitched well with the Pirates, as he posted a 3.00 ERA and a 3.50 FIP in 68 appearances. 

Boshers joined the Pirates as a waiver claim from the Houston Astros in August. Despite being with the big club on August 11th, the 30-year-old lefty never appeared in a game, and was designated for assignment on September 4th. It was somewhat surprising not to see the Pirates give Boshers an opportunity as a southpaw out of the bullpen, especially with the inconsistency of Steven Brault for much of 2018.

Sadler had been with the Pirates organization since 2010. The native of Stillwater, Oklahoma returned to the Bucs this year, this after last pitching for them in April of 2015. Sadler was able to work his way back from Tommy John surgery, which had wiped away his 2016 season. Most of Sadler’s 2018 campaign was spent with AAA Indianapolis. He split his time pitching as both a starter and reliever for the Indians, posting an ERA of 3.39, along with a 1.36 WHIP in 77 innings of work.