Bucco Nation Poll Question

By Jason Shetler

Tony Watson Hires Scott Boras

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Alex Caprara – Post Gazette

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports has reported that Tony Watson is switching to a new agent, and that agent is Scott Boras. 

Watson is now the second Pirates player to be represented by Boras, the other being Gerrit Cole. Not too long ago, Watson had been one of the better lefty relievers in the National League. 2016 was a down year for him, as he posted a 3.06 ERA, but had a Fielding Independent Pitching of 4.37 and allowed a career high 10 home runs in 70 appearances. 

In February, Watson took the Pirates to an arbitration hearing, after being unable to come to a salary agreement. The Pirates offered $5.6 million, while Watson wanted $6 million. Watson lost his case, and had to settle for the Pirates figure. 

In his first full season as the Bucs closer, Watson is posting an ERA of 3.06. However, he has a much higher FIP of 5.47 and the velocity has been declining. His sinker velocity is 92.3 mph, which was at 93.2 mph last season, while he has an 83.7 mph slider velocity, lower than the 85.7 mph mark he put up a year ago. For most of his big league career, Watson has thrown a very good changeup, but that pitch has been below average so far this season according to FanGraphs’ Pitch Values. 

Assuming the Pirates are in seller mode at the trade deadline, the value on Watson probably isn’t going to be as high than it was during this past offseason. A team that acquires Watson most likely wouldn’t use him as the closer, so that would certainly affect his free agent status after the season, regardless of having Boras as his agent. 

 

 

Pirates Claim Jhan Marinez from Brewers

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Gene J. Puskar – AP

The Pirates have announced that pitcher Jhan Marinez has been claimed off waivers from the Milwaukee Brewers. He was designated for assignment by Milwaukee on Monday. No corresponding move has been made from the Pirates as of yet.

After a stint with the Chicago White Sox in 2012, Marinez returned to the big leagues last year with the Tampa Bay Rays. In May, he was dealt to the Brewers in a cash deal. Combined with both clubs, his ERA was 3.18, while he posted a 136 ERA+ in 46 appearances. 

Marinez appeared in 15 games this season for the Brewers, as he had a 5.40 ERA, along with an ERA+ of 84. However, there was very unsustainable bad luck involved, with a .396 BABIP. Marinez throws very hard, putting up an average fastball velocity of 95.4 mph this season. He also was inducing groundballs at a 57% clip.

 

 

 

 

Barrett Barnes Joins Indianapolis

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Sean McCool – Pirates Prospects

According to Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects, Barrett Barnes is going to be activated off the disabled list, and will be joining the Indianapolis Indians on Sunday. 

Barnes was the Pirates first round compensation pick in the 2012 MLB Draft out of Texas Tech. The 25-year-old outfielder had his best season last year with the Altoona Curve, where he batted .306 and posted an OPS of .853 in 124 games. 

Injuries have played a significant role for Barnes during his minor league career. He was going to begin this season with Indianapolis, but a hamstring injury midway through Spring Training set him back. Barnes is currently the 30th ranked prospect in the Pirates system according to MLB Pipeline. 

Josh Bell Hasn’t Been a Problem During Pirates Struggles

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Joe Sargent – Getty Images

Anyone who is over the age of 25 is probably familiar with the song title “Ironic” by Alanis Morissette. Arguably her greatest hit, the song reflects different situations that wind up being the opposite of what was to be expected. For Josh Bell so far this season, that has certainly been the case.

After being drafted by the Pirates as an outfielder in 2011, Bell made the transition to first base, which began during the 2014 Arizona Fall League. As expected, Bell had some major struggles at the position in 2015 with the Altoona Curve and the Indianapolis Indians. 

Prior to last season, the Pirates brought in John Jaso and David Freese to serve as a stopgap platoon at first base, with Bell waiting in the wings. In the second half of the year, Bell got most of the playing time as the Bucs first baseman. Offensively, he really held his own, posting an on base percentage of .368, which was seventh best among MLB rookies, along with an outstanding 13.8% walk rate. The defensive side was a different story for him, as he posted a -32.8 UZR/150 and a dWAR of -1.0. 

With Jung-Ho Kang not being able to join the team, David Freese entered 2017 as the third baseman. This meant that Bell would be the everyday first baseman, with no platoon. The power has been on display for Bell in the early part of the season, putting up a .436 slugging percentage against right-handers and an even better .469 slugging versus southpaws. He currently has a team leading six home runs, three from each side of the plate. During Friday’s game in Arizona, Bell hit a mammoth homer off lefty Patrick Corbin that was measured at 432 feet. Statcast has his Exit Velocity this year at 88.7 mph, which is better than the 87.8 MLB average. The defense for Bell has been a pleasant surprise, with a 1.8 UZR/150 and just one error in 226 chances. While the Pirates offense has been anemic, Bell has done well overall. It’s like the questions about his power and defensive play have completely disappeared – And isn’t it ironic…..Don’t ya think?

 

 

 

 

Draft Prospects Who the Pirates Could Select with their First Round Pick

By Jason Shetler

The 2017 MLB Draft will begin on Monday, June 12th. After finishing below .500 last year, the Pirates will be selecting near the Top 10 at #12. Different baseball publications have been giving out their mock drafts, and here are some of the draft prospects who the Pirates could take in the first round. 

Adam Haseley – One of the better college players in this draft is Adam Haseley, an outfielder from the University of Virginia. Despite good numbers as a pitcher, he will be drafted as a position player. Haseley is 6’1, 195 lb, who bats and throws left-handed. He profiles as a high on base guy, with decent power and above average speed. Defensively, Haseley possesses a strong arm and can play all three outfield spots.

Alex Fraedo – In the 2014 MLB Draft, the Detroit Tigers chose Alex Fraedo with their 40th round pick, but he did not sign with them. Fraedo is a 6’5, 225 lb, right-hander out of the University of Florida. His fastball sits 93 mph and can top out at 95. He also throws an excellent slider, which most scouts consider the best in the entire draft. Pirates GM Neal Huntington has a reputation for drafting taller pitchers, and Fraedo would fit that bill.

D.L. Hall – Perhaps one of the top prep pitchers in this year’s draft class is D.L. Hall. The 6’2, 170 lb, lefty from Valdosta High School in Georgia, has a commitment to pitch at Florida State. Hall’s fastball is 92-93 mph, topping out at 95, while his curveball is a plus offering. The Pirates are lacking quality left-handed arms in the system, so Hall is someone they could have their eye on.

Hans Crouse – Like D.L. Hall, Hans Crouse is another outstanding prep pitcher in the upcoming draft. Crouse is a righty, listed at 6’4, 185 lb, out of Dana Hills High School in California, with a commitment to USC. The repertoire for Crouse includes a mid-90’s fastball that can touch 97 mph, a good curveball and a developing changeup.

J.B. Bukauskas – J.B. Bukauskas was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks as a 20th round selection in 2014, but he chose to pitch at the University of North Carolina instead. Bukauskas has racked up a tons of strikeouts for the Tar Heels, despite his 5’11 size, which could make him a Tim Lincecum type. The arsenal for Bukauskas includes a fastball that ranges 92-95 mph, a sharp slider and a changeup. 

Nick Pratto – Nick Pratto is among the best prep position players in this year’s draft. Pratto is a left-handed hitting first baseman from Huntington Beach High School in California, who is listed at 6’2, 195 lb. He has a commitment to play at USC. Pratto is said to have impressive power, as well as good speed for a first baseman. On the defensive side, he is considered above average at the position. Potentially, Pratto could become a lefty version of Paul Goldschmidt. 

Shane Baz – Most projections had Shane Baz going late first round, but he is starting to climb up on most draft boards. Baz is a 6’3, 190 lb, right hander out of Concordia Lutheran High School in Texas, the same school that produced Ke’Bryan Hayes, who the Pirates drafted two years ago as a first round compensation pick. The repertoire for Baz is a five-pitch mix. His fastball sits around 93 mph, while the cutter and slider are his two best secondary pitches, and have the potential of being plus offerings. Baz also throws the curveball and changeup, both of which are average right now.

 

 

 

 

 

Pirates Shouldn’t Begin a Full-Scale Rebuild

By Jared Lankes

The Pirates are off to a pretty horrific start in 2017. This has prompted folks to already begin looking at what the July trade season may look like for the team. Among the ideas being bandied about is the thought of the Pirates going through a rebuild. Well, I’m here to explain why that shouldn’t and won’t be the case.

Firstly, I like to clarify what the meaning of a rebuild is as it relates to this. Often, a rebuild in the MLB signifies when a team feels they need a big organizational cleanse at the MLB level. This includes trading away almost everyone, dispensable or not, to stock up young talent, and even firing some folks from top to bottom. Usually, it results in the organization bringing in fresh faces that don’t have any sort of chance at first but eventually, when the pieces align correctly, the team can compete again; a process that can take anywhere from 3-8 years generally.

Knowing that meaning of a rebuild, I don’t think the Pirates are in any sort of situation to tear it up and restart the organization.

One reason for this is because they’ve been slowly setting themselves up to prevent a full-scale rebuild by transitioning into a young core. Notice how the Pirates have strategically chipped away at the roster in the recent years by losing Melancon, Walker, Alvarez, Martin, Morton, Locke, Liriano, etc, with McCutchen, Watson, and others soon to follow suit. To transition, they went with the younger guys like Marte, Cole, Polanco, Taillon, Glasnow, Bell, Kuhl, Rivero, Frazier etc, with Meadows and others on the doorstep. This plan is looking like it has been in place this whole time, right beneath our noses.

Looking at the Pirates purely by what they have, you see that Marte and Polanco are under great extensions for the next handful of seasons, Cole is around through 2019, Taillon, Glasnow, Bell, Rivero, Frazier, and Kuhl all are not even close to being free agents yet, and the Pirates even have solid veterans such as Nova, Cervelli, Harrison, and Freese under contract for a bit as well to help the young core.

Looking into the prospect side of the equation, the Pirates have many prospects coming through that are ready to make an impact, and none are more notable than Austin Meadows (projects to be in MLB in 2017), Kevin Newman (projects to be in MLB in 2018/2019), and Mitch Keller (projects to be in MLB 2019/2020). These guys are 3 of the MLBs top 50 prospects and all figure to be a major piece to the puzzle as we go along. Adding these three, and some others, into this mixture will make the young core all the more better, especially considering much of the young core will be well-developed and hitting their stride, even before these other guys get there, so the string of talent won’t cease.

Why do I mention all this? Well it’s because the evidence would lean towards the thought that the Pirates have already had this plan in their sights as early as about 2013-2014 and knew just what was coming. They may have known that 2013-2015 was a great time for them to compete, while also knowing that it actually wasn’t the best time for them to compete for a championship. Rather, 2018-2021 are their best years to compete if everything goes right, even at the sacrifice of 2016 and/or 2017.

With a roster with all the talent they have and a roster that will inject even more talent into it in the very near future, it’s easy to see that the Pirates are nowhere near rebuilding time yet. If they blow it up now, they jeopardize wasting years of blossoming young talent and players in prime years because they were underachievers for a year or two. Granted, a slight reload may be necessary to usher in this young talent a bit more, but that’s about the extent of what should be done.

In the end, a rebuild, by basic meaning, is not necessary for the Pirates. The roster is about to have a bunch of young talent blossom all at once, and there will be fireworks when it does. I know it’s hard to see now with a team decimated by injuries, suspensions, and anything else, and just a team that is struggling in general. But I can assure you that this Pirates organization has something great brewing, and a rebuild would put that plan in grave danger.