December 2010

Pirates early season preview part 9: Starting Pitching

 I apologize for not being able to post this entry last night, however I was feeling very sick. I am better now and this will be my only post today as it is New Year’s. Just as a reminder, I thank each and every one of you for reading my blog. Whether you are a brand new reader or a loyal tried and true reader, I appreciate your support, and ask for you to continue your support for years to come. I also wish each and every one of you a happy and healthy New Year.

 Here is the projected Pirates rotation as it stands today:

 1. James McDonald

 2. Paul Maholm

 3. Kevin Correia

 4. Ross Ohlendorf

 5. Charlie Morton

 6. Scott Olsen

 Meanwhile MLB Network projects this as the rotation:

 1. James McDonald

 2. Paul Maholm

 3. Kevin Correia

 4. Scott Olsen

 5. Ross Ohlendorf

 James McDonald came along with Andrew Lambo in the trade that sent Octavio Dotel to the Los Angeles Dodgers. I was at McDonald’s Pirates debut, and he looked dominant against the Colorado Rockies striking out a career high eight hitters. For me he compares to Ian Snell minus the attitude. He also is a lot more consistent. “I was just real excited today and ready to be on the mound and to get a chance to start every five days,” said McDonald on the start. “I was having fun today. When you get ahead, pitching can be fun.”

 McDonald showed throughout his tenure that he is closest to ace material for the Pirates. That does not say much, but once he became a Pirates, he got down to business and he has the fastest and most devastating pitches of the starters.

 McDonald also had a 20 inning scoreless streak as he shut out the Atlanta Braves on September 7 and the New York Mets on September 13. The streak ended September 18 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, but he bounced back and still won the game 4-1. That start perhaps impressed me the most, as many pitchers would have had the scoreless streaks in their head and then imploded once a run was allowed. Allowing the run early in the game helped McDonald settle down and concentrate and even give his team the win.

 Perhaps the biggest support McDonald received was from Jack Moore of Fangraphs who called McDonald an “ace” and even called him the biggest steal of the 2010 MLB Trade Deadline.

McDonald finished with an overall record of 4-6 with a 4.02 ERA, however one of those losses occurred when he was with the Dodgers.

 Paul Maholm has perhaps pitched like our ace in recent years, however he has been perhaps the most inconsistent of all of the Pirates starters in recent years. I broke down his stats in a previous post, but last year he gave up 225 hits in 185.1 innings and that is not that great.

 He did start 32 games which shows that he is healthy and not injury prone, and that is reassuring. Still Maholm was right up there for most losses in the Majors and finished with a 9-15 record, sometimes a victim of poor run support. Maholm also had a fielding percentage of .938.

 It is worth noting that Maholm seemed to pitch a bit better with Ray Searage as his pitching coach, and it is important to the Pirates that Maholm succeeds because as the pirates.com projects, he would be the only lefty in the rotation. Maholm, like almost all of the Pirates starters does not have the speed on his fastball, and thus location will be very important to Paul.

 Kevin Correia came to us as a free agent and a pitcher last season for the San Diego Padres for 2 years and $8 million. Correia was not a part of the Padres rotation come season’s end, and that could be a concern, however, you have to remember that the Padres were on the cusp of being a playoff team last season and the Pirates were not even close.

 Correia finished 10-10 last season with a 5.40 ERA. He appeared in 28 games, starting in 26 of them. My concern is his 145 innings pitched, because if you remember a couple of seasons ago, Ross Ohlendorf was having a great season, but because of his low innings count the season before, the Pirates limited and eventually shut down Ohlendorf. I think that Correia will have a nice season, but I worry that come September, Correia will be out of the mix because his innings count will be too high.

 Ross Ohlendorf was a deceptive pitcher as he consistently lost but was the victim of poor run support. His 1-11 season was clearly a fluke. Ohlendorf was consistenly injured throughout the season and a few of the losses were his fault, but often times the team would either score zero or one run in his start putting added pressure against Ohlendorf. Perhaps putting him in the fourth spot will be manageble for Ohlendorf who can put the injuries aside and get some support with a new look line up.

 Charlie Morton had a great 2009 and the team had high hopes for him to be a breakout star for the team. It is easy now to say that they should have known better. His first start was on April 8 against the Arizona Diamondbacks and he started out great striking out his first five batters. But in his 3.1 innings pitched, he allowed 8 runs. Morton lost all five starts in April posting a 12.57 ERA. Morton earned his first win on May 5 against the Chicago Cubs by a 4-2 decision. He couldn’t put anything together losing his next four games and then was placed on the disabled list with shoulder fatigue and a 1-9 record.

 After rehab and a meeting with a sports psychologist, he was sent to AAA Indianapolis.

 Speaking before his first start with the Indians, Morton said “I was pressing. I wasn’t being myself on the mound those last couple times I went out there in Pittsburgh. There was so much going on in my mind. At the end of last year, I finished strong, I got a glimpse of what I could do, truly, in the big leagues, going out there and going deep into games, being competitive, being someone who was pretty good. I wanted to be out there for myself and because I care about this team and organization. At the same time, though, after that last one, that last start, because I care about these guys is why, exactly, I knew I couldn’t go back out there again.”

 He earned his first win in AAA when the team defeated the Durham Bulls on June 24.

 He was re-called by the Pirates when Ohlendorf was injured, and in his first start against the Milwaukee Brewers, he gave up 8 runs in 3 innings.

 Things got more encouraging with Morton as the season drew closer to an end. When Searage took the pitching coach job, Morton seemed more in his element. In a game I attending in mid-September, Morton was the scheduled pitcher and I happened to be close to where he entered and he seemed in control even saying “hi, how are you” to me. He got the win that day and looked like a changed pitcher. His final start was October 2 against the Florida Marlins, and although the team lost 2-0, things were encouraging as Morton struck out a career high 9 strikeouts. Morton finished with a 2-12 record with a 7.57 ERA but after that August call-up he had a 4.26 ERA.

 Morton is the clear wild card, so it will be interesting to see what he has to offer. Will we see the April 2010 version of Charlie Morton where he could not get a break, or will we see the September/October 2010 Charlie Morton where he was the aggressor attacking the strike zone and getting much more positive results? Spring Training will tell the tale, but Morton is a clear front runner for the fifth spot.

 While Morton was projected a starter on the Pirates website, Olsen took his place on the MLB Network projections. He signed for cheap with the Pirates this offseason, but he could get a lot more because of all of the performance bonuses he could earn. Hopefully Clint Hurdle can rid Olsen of his attitude problem, and if he does, I like Olsen in the rotation. My concern with Olsen is that he is essentially, a poor man’s Zach Duke. He can give up a ton of hits (he gave up 226 hits in 176.2 innings for the Marlins in 2007) and really bring up that pitch count. In Colorado pitchers pitched an average of 93 pitches per game under Hurdle, and if Olsen is giving up a ton of hits, then he will not last that long.

 Olsen finished with a 4-8 record and an ERA of 5.56 for the Washington Nationals last season. He appeared in 17 games starting in 15 of them. Despite a small portion size, he had a perfect fielding percentage as well, which could help an infield which constantly made errors. Olsen also has another thing going for him as he is left-handed. Currently Maholm is the only lefty in the rotation and Olsen could perhaps balance out the rotation a little bit more. It looks to be a battle between Olsen and Morton for that fifth spot. Whoever loses will leave an interesting decision for Hurdle and management as they could prove to be valuable as long relievers but perhaps there time could be better utilized as starters in AAA. Still that would be a huge blow to Morton’s new found confidence and Olsen could blow another gasket and get into more confrontations.

 A long shot for the role of fifth starter is Brad Lincoln. Lincoln was selected by the Pirates with the fourth overall pick in the 2006 MLB Draft. By drafting Lincoln, the team passed on other current proven talent in Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Tim Lincecum. It is easy to say that now, as who knows what would have happened if one of these three were in our rotation.

 On Wednesday June 9, Lincoln made his MLB debut against the Nationals after a 6-2 record in AAA before the call-up. In his six innings, and gave up five earned runs and walked two and struck out three.

 He earned his first Major League victory on June 30 against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Pitching seven innings while striking out six and walking one in the Pirates 2-0 win. “I felt like it was going to be my day. With the wind blowing in, I used it to my advantage,” said Lincoln.

 Lincoln was demoted to AAA Indy after his first loss of the season July 25 against the Padres. Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington cited a drop in Lincoln’s velocity since he was promoted and that he had strayed from the mechanics that made him a prolific starter with Indianapolis. “For me, it’s probably the best move,” said Lincoln. 

 Lincoln was a September call-up but was essentially useless as the Pirates did not use him in any critical moments.

 Lincoln finished the season 1-4 with a 6.66 ERA. He appeared in 11 games and started in 9 of them. In his 52.2 innings, he gave up 66 hits, 42 runs (39 of them earned) and 9 homers. He also walked 15 and struck out 25.

 While Lincoln’s pitching may not have been great, he did have a .400 average, making him a good hitting pitcher. He went 6 for 15 at the plate and drove in 3 runs.

 Lincoln may be a long shot because of his pitching, but perhaps his bat will give him some consideration as the season wears on.

 There are other names on the rise as well, and one of them is Rudy Owens. Rudy Owens was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 28th round of the 2006 MLB June Amateur Draft. It is not exactly the place where a name is made, but thus far Owns has made a pretty big impression on the Pirates.

 He is left-handed and with the rotation surprisingly loaded on righties Owens will definitely have the Pirates attention. Things started slowly for Owens in 2007 and 2008, but in 2009, things improved for Owens as he went 10-1 for the West Virginia Power with a 1.70 ERA. He then went 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA for Lynchburg.

 Owens spent all of the 2010 season in Altoona. He appeared and started in 26 games and finished with a record of 12-6 with an ERA of 2.46. He pitched 150 innings allowing only 124 hits and allowed 46 runs (41 earned). He only walked 23 hitters while striking out 132 hitters.

 Lastly, before I make my projections, I will say another farewell to Zach Duke. Duke was a great person, but I believe that Joe Kerrigan screwed up his delivery. In 29 starts, Duke finished 8-15 with an ERA of 5.72. His 15 losses are tied for the second most losses in a season in his career (he had 16 losses in 2009).  In his 159 innings, Duke gave up 212 hits, 115 runs (101 earned). He also allowed 25 home runs and walked 51 while striking out only 96 people. Duke did seem to bring it together with Searage at the helm, but his option was way too much money.

 Finally, here is my projections for the rotation come April 1 as well as the rotation that would make sense:

Projected:

 1. James McDonald

 2. Paul Maholm

 3. Kevin Correia

 4. Ross Ohlendorf

 5. Charlie Morton

 Makes sense rotation:

 1. James McDonald

 2. Paul Maholm

 3. Kevin Correia

 4. Scott Olsen

 5. Ross Ohlendorf 

 The reason why I project that is that the Pirates have a lot of options. Morton had a lot going for him in September. Perhaps that is reason to get rid of him because in 2009 he had things going for him once he got his chance but couldn’t put it together in 2010 until the very end. Olsen is left-handed as said before and that helps his case. If he has a good spring, I think that management gives him the nod. I put the makes sense rotation the way I did because it mixes the righties and lefties and at least gives opposing teams something to prepare for on a more regular basis. I am not suggesting that this has to be the rotation, I mean if Morton has a better Spring, then by all means give him the job, but if they have an even Spring Training or Olsen has a better Spring Training, then give Olsen the nod and put Ohlendorf in the fifth spot.

 Wow, that was a long post! I hope to my next post on the Pirates relievers up very soon. The only apparent locks in that department right now are Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek. I will talk about them and others, as well as my pick for the Pirates closer job.

Pirates early season preview part 8: Right Field

 Just to reiterate from my last entry, I apologize for a mistake that I made in my centerfield entrance. I forgot to mention the strong possibility of Jose Tabata shifting from left field to center as it happened a few times last season. It appears to be the most likely option should Andrew McCutchen get injured.

 Moving back to right field, here is the projected depth chart:

 1. Garrett Jones

 2. Matt Diaz

 3. Ryan Doumit

 Garrett Jones goes by many nicknames, G.I. Jones., The Legend, G(arrett) F(reaking) J(ones) (of Extra Innings With Rocco DeMaro fame) or even his preferred nickname of Bam Bam. He first got his chance with the Pirates when the team traded away Eric Hinske. He made the 2010 Opening Day Roster and on that Opening Day he homered in each of his first two at-bats, and then homered the next game as well. Jones finished the 2010 season hitting a lowly .247 with 34 doubles, a triple, 21 home runs, 86 runs batted in, 53 walks and 123 strikeouts.

 I have talked in previous posts Jones moving to the outfield is beneficial to the team defensively but it helps offensively as well. Jones does not hit lefties well but seems to do a good job against righties.

 Enter Matt Diaz. I have profiled Diaz in previous entries as well, and he is the opposite of Jones, as he does hit lefties well, meaning all signs will point to a platoon situation. Diaz could have signed for much more successful teams including the New York Yankees and had more money in salary and in performance and playoff money (and a World Series ring if he was lucky). Diaz signed with Pittsburgh for three reasons.

 Money was obviously not a factor in his decision but the first was approaching former Pirates and current Atlanta Brave Nate McLouth. McLouth was very well liked by fans, and trading him upset many myself included. Having interviewed McLouth, I can say that he was a down to earth man and a great interview. McLouth gave Pittsburgh a good review which helped Diaz and his thought process.

 Another factor for Diaz had to be the playing time. Sure Diaz would have received much more money playing for New York or a higher market team, but he would have had to fight for a roster spot that would not be guaranteed, and even if he made it be forced to ride the bench the majority of the time. In Pittsburgh, Diaz is in a platoon scenario and he can play both the outfield and first base, making himself extremely valuable to the Pirates organization.

 The final factor for Diaz was Clint Hurdle. Diaz mentioned when he spoke with Pittsburgh Media that he thought very highly of Hurdle, and when he heard that Hurdle would be the Pirates manager, that that would be a big plus for the team.

 I have discussed all kinds of other options in previous blog entries for the right field position so here is a run down.

 Ryan Doumit essentially is the third string outfielder, unless he actually does get traded. As I have written in the earlier catcher and first base previews, the Pirates have seemingly made all of these signings in an attempt to show Doumit the door. He has a huge salary (in Pirates terms) and the Pirates don’t really have any where to put him besides the bench. In a sense this is much like when the Pirates sent Ian Snell to AAA, however unlike Snell, Doumit does not lack accountability. For the past two years on FSN, you have heard the commercial in which Doumit says that “you will be in a dog fight” in reference to playing the Pirates. Doumit is likely on the bench come April as he still can play multiple positions, though not really that well.

 Just so I don’t make the mistake again, it is not insane to think that Jose Tabata could move from left to right field. It is an option and right fielders at PNC Park have had trouble fielding the balls that bounce off the Clemente Wall. Perhaps Tabata bucks that trend.

 Another option is John Bowker. Bowker did see some significant time in right field as a September call-up, and he did a respectable job at the position. Bowker could turn some heads this season.

 As I wrote in yesterday’s entry, Alex Presley is also a possibility.

 Lastly, I will throw out the name Gorkys Hernandez. He was a part of the unpopular Nate McLouth trade and will be a big part of future Pirates teams. He did get injured for a good chunk of last season though. Last season, Hernandez played in 92 games hitting .266 with 11 doubles, 4 triples, 2 homers, 26 runs batted in, 17 stolen bases and 95 strikeouts for AA Altoona. For Hernandez it has been a long road, and that road will continue for at least another season, but he definitely will be one to keep an eye (or two) on.

 With that being said here are my projected Opening Day depth charts with the first being with Ryan Doumit and the second being without Doumit:

 1. Garrett (insert nickname of your choice here) Jones

 2. Matt Diaz

 3. Ryan Doumit

 4. John Bowker

 5. Alex Presley

 

 1. Garrett (insert nickname of your choice here) Jones

 2. Matt Diaz

 3. John Bowker

 4. Alex Presley

 Nothing changes in either of these, although if Doumit gets traded, it will be interesting to see what happens to the team.

 Tomorrow will be my first of two entries on pitching. It will focus on starters. The Pirates have a ton of starters, but what is my projected rotation? You will have to read tomorrow’s entry to find out.

 

Pirates early season preview part 7: Centerfield

 As it stands now, here is the current centerfield depth chart:

 1. Andrew McCutchen

 2. John Bowker

 3. Matt Diaz

 We all know the Andrew McCutchen story and how he took over for Nate McLouth in centerfield. While McLouth did win a Gold Glove award, the criteria for the award is severly flawed and his range was not that great. McCutchen defensively is worth the price of admission, and a reason why I get centerfield seats as much as possible. He entertains the fans as a seemingly neverending human highlight real.

 Another thing that sets McCutchen apart is his offense. The Pirates love speedsters in centerfield, and Chris Duffy, Nyjer Morgan, Nate McLouth and others (obviously McCutchen) fit the bill. McCutchen goes against the grain however, because unlike many of these previous options, he has a bat to go along with the speed.

McCutchen also earned high praise from one of the best names in the game, Bobby Cox. “He’s an All-Star. This year, probably,” said Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox. “Hitting. Running. Defense. Throwing. He’s got it all. He catches the ball like Andruw Jones did when he was 19. You can’t hit a ball [past him] out there. He’s got lightning in that bat too.”

 The year started off slowly for McCutchen, however he slowly recovered and raised his batting average over .300. Both McCutchen and Garrett Jones had career days on May 14 vs the Chicago Cubs. The teammates were the first to both go 5 for 5 since Willie Stargell and Bob Robertson in 1970. “I guess we were just kind of competing against each other,” McCutchen said, laughing. “I don’t know. I’d get a hit, he’d get a hit. He’d hit a homer, I’d hit a homer.”

 The biggest surprise of the year was that “Cutch” was not named to the All-Star game. McCutchen was the most qualified of the Pirates to be named so it came as a little bit of a surprise to some fans that he wasn’t named to the team, but the Pirates usually only get one player on the team each year and Evan Meek made more sense as he was a solid reliever all season with a sub-one ERA for quite a bit of the time before the All-Star Game.

 McCutchen had a rough August hitting .226 but hit .326 after that. On his batting during these times, McCutchen stayed true to himself. “Honestly, I don’t think I’m doing anything any different right now. You swing, and the ball finds a hole. That’s it. That’s the game of baseball.”

 His second season with Pittsburgh was not a sophomore slump, as he hit .286 while hitting 16 home runs, batting in 56 runs and he also stole 33 bases.

 McCutchen is clearly the team’s starter in centerfield for this year, and for seasons to come. McCutchen did get a little banged up last season though so that could be a cause for concern.

 If Cutch does get injured, I have discussed a lot of the previous options in Matt Diaz, John Bowker, Josh Fields and Garrett Atkins. It is worth noting that Steve Pearce played the outfield as well for the Pirates, so there is a chance that he could play the position as well.

 One guy I have not talked about is Alex Presley. Presley was drafted in the 8th round of the 2006 MLB Draft. He was promoted to the Majors on September 7, 2010 and is a current member of the 40 man roster. Presley played in 19 games and got 23 at bats with 6 hits for an average of .273. He struck out five times and stole one base (and was caught stealing once as well). He often pinch hit for the pitcher during his time, and also would play the outfield in games where the outcome was essentially decided. He did start a few games due to injury or to give guys a day off, but he did not homer or drive in any runs. Presley was named a Minor Leaguer of the Year in the Pirates’ system. Presley would be able to play any of the three outfield positions which helps his chances, but it is likely that the Pirates want to see more of Presley in the Minors so that they can see what he has to offer, and plus he will get more at-bats that way as well.

 Here is what I see as the likely depth chart for the outfield:

 1. Andrew McCutchen

 2. John Bowker

 3. Matt Diaz

 4. Alex Presley

 It is likely that neither Fields nor Atkins could play the centerfield position and Diaz is more suitable for corner outfield position and Bowker has much more power than Presley.

 Tomorrow I will blog about the platoon scenario in right field. All signs point to Garrett Jones and Matt Diaz in a platoon but Ryan Doumit is waiting in the wings.

Pirates early season preview part 6: Left Field

 As of this moment, here is the Pirates current depth chart:

 1. Jose Tabata

 2. Matt Diaz

 3. John Bowker

 Tabata came over to the Pirates in the deal that sent Jeff Karstens, Daniel McCutchen and Ross Ohlendorf to Pittsburgh. Tabata brought a lot of excitement to the city. Tabata had some off the field trouble involved with his relationships and his age, but he brought speed and excitement to Pittsburgh. Tabata was called up on June 9, and in his first at-bat singled. He hit .299 in 2010 and led National League left fielders in range factor per game at 2.09. Tabata stole 19 bases, but his power has not shown up yet hitting only 4 home runs. Upon growth and maturation, perhaps the power will come.

 I discussed Matt Diaz in a recent post, but essentially he will be in a platoon scenario in right field. That does not mean that he could not start in left field, but it just means that this is highly unlikely. History has shown Diaz struggling against righties and Tabata bats from the right side, meaning that Diaz has a slim chance of starting.

 John Bowker is the next option down the line, because if Ryan Doumit even stays in a Pirates uniform, he will play right field and has never played PNC Park’s left field, which as you know has some weird bounces. Bowker was brought over to Pittsburgh along with Joe Martinez in the trade that sent Javier Lopez to the San Francisco Giants (it worked out pretty well for them). Many complained of Bowker’s offense, but he was brought up as a September call-up. Bowker had some chances to start and he made the most of them, hitting .319 with 4 home runs and 10 runs batted in. Sure the sample size was small, but I was encouraged by what he was able to do. It will be interesting to see what Bowker has to offer.

 As it stands right now, here are my projections for the left field come April 1:

 1. Jose Tabata

 2. John Bowker

 3. Matt Diaz

 There always is the chance that a Minor Leaguer can take a position on this depth chart, and perhaps the super utility player Corey Wimberly could make a push on the depth chart, or even Josh Fields or Garrett Atkins. I don’t see that happening yet, as I believe that Pirates Mangement already has their minds made up over the position.

 Tomorrow’s entry will be on the centerfield position, which as we know is home to Andrew McCutchen, a friend to all Pirates fans, and always great to myself and all in centerfield. He puts on a show every night, and it makes thing exciting. It looks to be a great entry.

 

Pirates early season preview Part 5: Third Base

 As it stands now, here is the Pirates current depth chart:

 1. Pedro Alvarez.

 2. Josh Rodriguez

 The position was Alvarez’s come season’s end, however Andy LaRoche was given the position at the beginning of last season. Not many were sure what to expect with LaRoche, but many knew that he was just a placeholder and Alvarez would take over the position sooner rather than later. LaRoche had a decent 2009 season, but had a great defensive season under the tutiledge of Perry Hill. Hill left after the 2009 season, and sure enough so did LaRoche’s defense. It made things much easier for Alvarez to take over the position.

 Alvarez was officially called up on June 16, 2010. He hit 13 home runs and batted in 53 runs in 66 games for Triple-A Indianapolis. In his first couple of weeks, fans were calling for his head. Every one was thrilled when he was drafted and because the Pirates have not been winning, the media overhyped Alvarez. People expected him to hit an endless amount of home runs, and last time I checked, he was not god. Alvarez will get his fare share of hits, but he will strikeout a lot as well. Rocco DeMaro even compared him to Adam Dunn once, meaning he will strikeout a lot, but he will get his fair share of hits too.

 Perhaps Alvarez’s biggest Pittsburgh highlight was his three run home run off of Colorado Rockies closer Huston Street in the bottom of the tenth inning, in perhaps the craziest game of the year.

 Alvarez had a couple of multi-homer games last season and was named National League Player of the Week based on his September 20-26 performances, in which Alvarez went 10-24 (a .417 batting average) with 2 home runs and 13 runs batted in. He was the NL Rookie of the Month for the month of September after hitting .311 and batting in 26 runs.

 Alvarez will be starting at third base unless a freak injury happens. Alvarez has shown the power in his bat and he got into baseball shape last season, after people were saying that he would have to start at first base because of his weight. Pedro is working defensively on mastering the position, so that will be something to watch.

 There is not much else to write about, as I have gone over Josh Rodriguez as well as both Josh Fields and Garrett Atkins for every other infield position. The Pirates likely will keep Rodriguez as he is the Rule-5 guy, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they got rid of him because they did not appear to be set on anybody. Fields and Atkins essentially are the same player, but Fields is coming off of an injury and thus is an experiment. Atkins is for that matter too, but Hurdle is likely to favor Atkins, as Atkins played under Hurdle back in both of their Colorado days and is more likely to help this team.

 With that being said, here is my projected list come April 1:

 1. Pedro Alvarez

 2. Josh Rodriguez

 3. Garrett Atkins

 4. Josh Fields 

 I will start blogging tomorrow about the outfield beginning with left field. Jose Tabata is the front runner in the outfield, but who else is in the running. 

Pirates Early Series Preview Part 4: Shortstop

 As of today, here is the depth chart for the shortstop position:

 1. Ronny Cedeno

 2. Josh Rodriguez

 3. Pedro Ciriaco

 Unfortunately for the Pirates, they are very thin at the shortstop position. Essentially by defauly, Cedeno will be the new shortstop. I along with any other sensable Pirates fan know that Cedeno has no reason to be the team’s starting shortstop. Cedeno somehow managed to hit 8 home runs in his 136 games played. Cedeno seemed to get more and more tired as the season went on, and even worse, he played this off-season for a Venezuelan Fall League and thus I am concerned about how he will hold up this season. He also was a liability in the field committing 18 errors last season. His range factor was also down last season. In his 423 career games played at the shortstop position, he has made 56 errors. While that stat may be a little reassuring, his defense slipped a little last season and while he made a few nice plays, they often were overshadowed. Cedeno essentially is a great bench player, but should not be a starter for any team, even if it is for the Pirates.

 I went over the Rodriguez matters yesterday, as he is the team’s Rule-5 Pick. He was signed to provide some “competition” for Cedeno. I still have no idea why the Pirates have not gone after a shortstop as of late, but essentially Rodriguez will be the team’s starter if Cedeno gets injured (he is quite injury prone) or does not perform up to par. While that may be a scary thought, nothing could be as scary as Cedeno being the Pirates starting shortstop.

 Pedro Ciriaco was a part of the deal that sent Chris Snyder to Pittsburgh and Bobby Crosby, Ryan Church and D.J. Carrasco to Arizona. He was cited as the fastest guy in the Diamondbacks Minor League system which made me a little excited. Fan were supposed to see what he had to offer, as he was a September call up. Things got really exciting when he got hits in his first two at-bats. With Cedeno struggling, many wanted Ciriaco to start to see what he had to offer, but Pirates Management refused and even in the same breath said that they weren’t just happy with Cedeno’s play, but that he was a “lock” to start at the position for the 2011 team. The team never allowed Ciriaco to start a game, and thus he was pretty much a waste of a call-up. In his next two at-bats, he struck out before getting a hit in the second to last game of the season against the Florida Marlins. He got an at-bat on the last game of the season, striking out again. Essentially, Ciriaco was 3 for 6 with 3 strikeouts, which although it was an extremely small sample size, was not that impressive.

 The Minor Leagues do not offer much promise at this moment as Chase D’Arnaud is not ready for the Majors quite yet. It is obvious that the shortstop position is our weakest position both offensively and defensively.

 I am very surprised at the team’s approach to this position thus far in the off-season. I understand that the team is short on money, but they were happy to blow their money on two (perhaps even three) minor leaguers that essentially serve the same purpose (Josh Fields, Garrett Atkins and Corey Wimberly) and Lyle Overbay. It seemed like they spent their money on signing guys to seemingly show Ryan Doumit the door and seemingly ignore the shortstop position.

 If the Pirates decide to spend some money, they cannot ignore their shortstop position, as that and a left-handed reliever are their two biggest needs. Here are the shortstops still in the free agency market and my quick thoughts on them all.

Orlando Cabrera (36) – Type B, not offered arb: Cabrera was briefly connected with the Pirates this off-season, but the rumors were quickly denied. Cabrera is a defensive shortstop, which would benefit this team, but I believe that Cedeno has better power numbers. He and Ojeda are the oldest shortstop candidates, and Cabrera likely would command too much money anyways.

Bobby Crosby (31)- I actually would like to see the team bring Crosby back. He had a brief stint here, and never really had a chance with Arizona, and we could probably sign him cheaply. Crosby at least provides some depth for the team, and at 31 still could play an active role with this team.

Cristian Guzman (33)- Would be a great fit, and I believe would start over Cedeno, but likely will ask for too much money. Plus he is an old 33.

Jerry Hairston Jr. (35)- He seems to be older than 35, and I think he would ask for too much money.

Julio Lugo (35)- Not worth it at all. He would likely command too much money anyways.

Augie Ojeda (36)- Not a good fit at all.

Nick Punto (33)- Would be a better signing at least defensively, but would probably ask for too much.

Edgar Renteria (34)- He wouldn’t sign with us anyways. Probably will sign with San Fransisco.

 Here is my predictions for the depth chart come April 1 (no surprises here):

 1. Ronny Cedeno

 2. Josh Rodriguez

 3. Pedro Ciriaco

 Tomorrow I will write about the much more exciting and eventful third base position.

Pirates Early Season Preview Part 3: Second Base

 The Pirates second base position is not one to write home about, but here’s at least a try. Here is the Pirates depth chart as of today:

1. Neil Walker

2. Josh Rodriguez

 It’s not much of a depth chart, but here is more info. There are still a ton of free agents listed at the second base position. According to the website mlbtraderumors.com, here are those players and a few descriptions.

 Willy Aybar (28)- Interesting signing if we can get the right price.
Ronnie Belliard (36)- Has some power, but a risk especially with the age.
Willie Bloomquist (33)- would be nice utlity. After KC stint though he may not want to play for another loser.
Alex Cora (35)- not worth it.

David Eckstein (36) – Type B, not offered arb- Interesting. Age is a concern but at short would be worth it for the right price.
Kevin Frandsen (29)- Young and could be worth it if price is right.
Mark Grudzielanek (41)- too old for position.
Cristian Guzman (33)- I like this fit, but I think he wants too much money.
Jerry Hairston Jr. (35)- Like Eckstein I am intrigued, but I think he would be cheaper.
Joe Inglett (33)- Not enough of a sample size to judge. Could come cheaply though.
Adam Kennedy (35)- Would be worth too much money… projects like Aki to me.
Felipe Lopez (31) – Type B, offered arb
Julio Lugo (35)- probably too old to play position.
Aaron Miles (34)- utility player but too old in terms of playing style.
Augie Ojeda (36)- not worth it.
Nick Punto (33)- would be an interesting option but price would likely be too high.
Delwyn Young (29)- Would sign for right price, but would he sign with the team that quit on him?

 All of these are options, however most of these options will either be old and/or costly and I don’t think the team is keen on signing Delwyn Young again.

 Josh Rodriguez is becoming a more important piece of this team than anyone could have expected. The Pirates are very thin at second base and shortstop, so much so, that Rodriguez is the backup to Walker and Cedeno. Rodriguez was drafted by the Pirates in this year’s Rule-5 Draft. The pick surprised many, as many expected the Pirates expected to draft a pitcher. Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington said that this year’s Rule-5 class did not excite him like it did in seasons past. Previous Rule-5 picks include Donnie Veal and Evan Meek. Rodriguez went to Rice University and was taken in the second round of the 2006 draft by the Cleveland Indians. Rodriguez played for the AA Akron Aeros from 2008- May 2010 when he was promoted to the AAA Columbus Clippers.  Rodriguez could play a big role on this team, and is one injury away from being a starter.

 Every Pirate fan made a huge mistake in Spring Training: they counted out “The Pittsburgh Kid”. Pirates management had said that Neil Walker was a man without a position. Walker missed out on third base as Pedro Alvarez had him beat out in AAA, and Andy LaRoche would be the Pirates starter. In Indianapolis, things did not look great for Walker, as he was essentially being used as a big utility man. Perhaps even he didn’t even know where he was going to play or even which glove he was going to put on. Still, Walker perservered as his average was at an all-time high and he was hitting well, getting the attention of his teammates and the Pirates.

Walker had been in AAA for a little while, so his team was rooting him on every step of the way. Andy LaRoche was doing a decent enough job at the time to keep his third base job, although Pedro Alvarez would eventually take his place as the starter. Walker was in luck, as Aki Iwamura was having his troubles both offensively and defensively. The fans wanted his head and the Pirates were looking for options. Ultimately, the Pirates choose Walker to take over the job and essentially it was on the job training, as Walker, previously a catcher and third baseman was learning his third position and had not made that many appearances (23) at the position.

Walker continued his tear in the Majors, as he hit his first home run on June 1, 2010 against the Chicago Cubs. In his first full week at the position, Walker looked like he had played second base all of his life, leaping, diving and back pedaling like a gold glover. Walker, a switch hitter, also surprised many with his offensive success against lefties. On July 20 against division rival Milwaukee, Walker went 5 for 5 at the plate and was the first Pirate rookie since John Wehner in 1991 to accomplish such a feat. He finished the season hitting .296 with 12 home runs and 66 runs batted in. Walker also was named to the 2010 Topp’s All-Rookie team, equaling the feat teammate Andrew McCutchen experienced just a season before.

 While Walker is clearly the starter at second base barring a freak injury, the options as previously stated are pretty slim. The team addressed the position by trading for Corey Wimberly from the Oakland A’s. Wimberly was a utility man in Triple-A for the team in 2010 and has never played at the Major League level. According to mlbtraderumors.com, “The 27-year-old posted a .284/.373/.354 line with 56 steals while playing at least ten games at short, second, third, left and center.”

 While there may be a few minors that have a slight chance, I have not heard much from the organization acknowledging these candidates. Perhaps someone like a Josh Fields or Garrett Atkins could play second base and conduct an experiment much like Walker’s from last season. Still, the chances of them starting are unlikely, so without further ado here is my projection for the Spring.

 1. Neil Walker

 2. Josh Rodriguez

 3. Corey Wimberly

 Tomorrow’s entry will be on the equally thin position of shortstop.

 

Pirates Early Season Preview Part 2: First Base

 As of today, December 23 here is the Pirates depth chart for the first base position:

1ST BASE:

1. Lyle Overbay

2. Garrett Jones

3. Steve Pearce

 Lyle Overbay comes in as the starter, and his accomplishments have been written about constantly within the past couple of weeks on this blog. Overbay will bring his .996 fielding percentage to Pittsburgh and an infield that will greatly benefit from his consistent and sound defensive play. Overbay is a lefty, and offensively projects very similarly to Adam LaRoche, meaning he will hit his share of home runs but he will get some walks and a boatload of strikeouts to go with it. I am eager to find out what his batting average will be, as last season he hit a disappointing .243 which was well below his career average. If he can hit at PNC Park, perhaps that $5 million deal will look a little better.

 Garrett Jones is not a great first baseman, and defensively he was unable to scoop a lot of throws that the average first baseman could make. I am sure that his frequent stints in right field don’t help his cause, but for a guy who played first base for AAA, I did not come off impressed. Jones seemed to do a good job against right handed pitchers, but other than that Spring Training home run against C.C. Sabathia last season, he did not have any really significant success against left handed pitching. With Overbay the starter at first base, Jones will lose those at-bats against lefties and share right field duties with free agent acquisiton Matt Diaz. While that will make his average look better, a lot of his power numbers could drop off. However in a way, I see Jones much like I saw Doumit in the second half of last season. This means, that if he gets hot with his bat, it may be too hard to sit Jones down and that could result in the benching of Diaz and/or Overbay.

 Steve Pearce had what seemed to be a comeback season for him, as he came up to the team after hitting .345 in Triple-A. Pearce was hitting the ball effectively offensively and then all of a sudden got injured. For Pearce, the problem has been either an injury or just looking overmatched in the Majors. Pearce is best known for starting the 2007 season with Class A Lynchburg and then making it all the way to a September call up with the Pirates. Pearce is a resilient player and perhaps is a dark horse candidate to make the roster.

 John Bowker would be one to mention on here as well. Bowker had a great September and clearly was the most useful of the September call-ups. Bowker appears to be a front runner for a bench position with the team. The thing that stands in his way is his competition. That sentence may sound stupid, but it is true, as Bowker is a lefty just like Jones and Overbay and his chances of getting the first base position are slim if any. There would have to be some significant injuries for him to start but his starting wouldn’t be the end of the world as we know it.

 Jeff Clement seems to be a forgotten man at the moment. Clement came to Pittsburgh in the deal that sent Jack Wilson and Ian Snell deal. Clement was the starter last season but an early season slump changed that. Clement was sent to the Minors to fine tune his game. Clement was always good for batting practice and hitting long home run distance balls into foul territory. First base has actually become a solid position depth wise for the team, so Clement is likely to go to the Minors to fine tune his game.

 Two other dark-horse candidates are the recent signings in Josh Fields and Garrett Atkins. Sure both naturally play third base but both could play first base if they had to. It helps that both guys bat from the right side as it would be more attractive to the team. Atkins may have the edge on Fields, as he hits more more power and a higher average. Still both have an outside shot and certainly a better shot than Clement. I see one of these guys making the team’s bench.

 So what have we learned about the first base position? Pretty much it is Lyle Overbay and the field. Here is how I see things stacking up come April 1st:

1. Overbay

2. Jones

3. Atkins

4. Pearce

5. Bowker

6. Fields

7. Clement

 Honestly Jones is not an attractive backup to me, as he like Overbay is left-handed so perhaps Atkins or Pearce would receive more looks at the first base position. Pearce and Atkins both to me are essentially even although I think that Atkins is the better hitter and Pearce the better fielder. Still, Atkins to me is just a tad better than Pearce.

 The Pirates early season preview will continue tomorrow with part 3, the second base position. Neil Walker surprised many when he grabbed the position from Aki Iwamura, but how will he fare this season, and who is his main competition? I will answer these questions and more tomorrow.

Entry on Pirates Promos, Caravan and Garrett Atkins

Here is some analysis on Garrett Atkins starting with the Wikipedia info:

Atkins was drafted in 2000 out of UCLA by the Colorado Rockies in the fifth round (137th overall). This time, he chose to accept the offer from an MLB club and began the process of reaching the majors.

Colorado Rockies

 2007 season

Garrett Atkins

Hit .301 overall, batting .349 at mile-high Coors Field, but hit only .254 in away games. However, one of the reasons for any substantial differences in home and road splits for Rockies batters is that they have to make adjustments in how they see pitches away from Coors Field – particularly breaking balls, such as sliders and curve balls – since those pitches act differently at Coors Field than on the road.

 2008 season

In 2008, Atkins spent much of the season playing first base in the absence of injured teammate Todd Helton, marking a defensive transition to “a more natural position for him.”

 2009 season

Prior to the start of the 2009 season, Atkins accepted a one-year $7 million dollar contract from the Rockies. He struggled in the 2009 season hitting .226 with nine home runs, and 48 RBIs. With the emergence of Ian Stewart Atkins became less of a priority in the Rockies longterm plans, he was thus non-tendered by the Rockies on December 12, 2009, officially making him a free agent.

Baltimore Orioles

2010 season

Atkins agreed to a 1-year, $4 million deal with the Baltimore Orioles. The deal includes a one-year club option for $8.5 million, with a $500,000 buyout. He is expected to be the starting first baseman.

On June 27, the Orioles designated Atkins for assignment.

On July 6, the Orioles released Atkins.

 Pittsburgh Pirates

 2011 Season

Atkins agreed to a minor league deal with the Pirates on December 23, 2010. It includes an invite to spring training.

 Atkins has a third base background, although he can play first base as well. As it was said earlier, he is on a Minor League deal and he is right handed. As a right-handed batter, Atkins can backup both Pedro Alvarez and Lyle Overbay if he makes the Majors. To me the signing was cheap, however confuses me. Here I was earlier this week singing the praises of the team signing Josh Fields and then the team goes out and wastes the small amount of money they have to sign a guy that could potentially become the next Delwyn Young on this team. I am not quite happy with this signing, although I still rank the Olsen signing as the worst of the off-season.

  Zac’s Grade: C+

Garrett Atkins Career statistics
Batting average     .285
Home runs     99
Runs batted in  

  488

 This came forth earlier in the off-season so here is the actual Pirates promotional schedule:

April
Date Opponent Promotion / Event Presented by For
Thu, Apr 7 Rockies Opening Day
2011 Magnetic Schedule All Fans
Fri, Apr 8 Rockies Free Shirt Friday All Fans
2011 Pirates Schedule Poster All Fans
Sat, Apr 9 Rockies Zambelli Fireworks
2011 Pirates Schedule Poster All Fans
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Apr 10 Rockies Kids Day
Kids Glove Kids 14 & Younger
Fri, Apr 22 Nationals Free Shirt Friday All Fans
Reusable Coffee Sleeve All Fans
Sat, Apr 23 Nationals Andrew McCutchen Action Figurine All Fans
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Apr 24 Nationals Kids Day
Kids Build-a-Bear Pirates Bunny Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Kids 14 & Younger

All giveaways and event dates are subject to change.

May
Date Opponent Promotion / Event Presented by For
Fri, May 6 Astros Free Shirt Friday FSN All Fans
Sat, May 7 Astros Pirates Cap Night All Fans
Zambelli Fireworks
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, May 8 Astros Kids Day
Kids Mini Bat Kids 14 & Younger
Mom’s Earrings All Moms
Fri, May 20 Tigers Free Shirt Friday All Fans
Sat, May 21 Tigers Neil Walker Bobblehead All Fans
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, May 22 Tigers Kids Day
Kids Pierogy Beach Towel Kids 14 & Younger

All giveaways and event dates are subject to change.

June
Date Opponent Promotion / Event Presented by For
Fri, Jun 3 Phillies Free Shirt Friday Consol Energy All Fans
Sat, Jun 4 Phillies Zambelli Fireworks
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Jun 5 Phillies Kids Day
Kids Pedro Alvarez Replica BP Jersey Kids 14 & Younger
Fri, Jun 10 Mets Free Shirt Friday All Fans
Sat, Jun 11 Mets Skyblast featuring Zambelli Fireworks and Live Music TBD
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Jun 12 Mets Kids Day
Kids Pirate Parrot Cruise for the Cure Bobble Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Kids 14 & Younger
Mon, Jun 20 Orioles Blass/Sanguillen 1971 Championship Canvas Wrap All Fans
Tue, Jun 21 Orioles 1971 40th Anniversary Celebration
1971 Commemorative Ceramic Stein All Fans
Fri, Jun 24 Red Sox Free Shirt Friday All Fans
Sat, Jun 25 Red Sox Zambelli Fireworks
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Jun 26 Red Sox Kids Day
Kids Bucco Bands Kids 14 & Younger

All giveaways and event dates are subject to change.

July
Date Opponent Promotion / Event Presented by For
Mon, Jul 4 Astros Pirates Stars’n Stripes Reversible Floppy Cap All Fans
Fri, Jul 8 Cubs Free Shirt Friday All Fans
Sat, Jul 9 Cubs Skyblast featuring Zambelli Fireworks and .38 Special in Concert
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Jul 10 Cubs Kids Day
Kids Pierogy Wind-Up Racers Kids 14 & Younger
Fri, Jul 22 Cardinals Free Shirt Friday All Fans
Sat, Jul 23 Cardinals Zambelli Fireworks
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Jul 24 Cardinals Kids Day
Kids Jose Tabata Replica Alternate Jersey Kids 14 & Younger

All giveaways and event dates are subject to change.

August
Date Opponent Promotion / Event Presented by For
Fri, Aug 5 Padres Free Shirt Friday All Fans
Sat, Aug 6 Padres Skyblast featuring Zambelli Fireworks and Live Music TBD
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Aug 7 Padres Kids Day
Kids Drawstring Bag Kids 14 & Younger
Fri, Aug 19 Reds Free Shirt Friday All Fans
Sat, Aug 20 Reds Zambelli Fireworks
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Aug 21 Reds Kids Day
Kids Book Covers Kids 14 & Younger

All giveaways and event dates are subject to change.

September
Date Opponent Promotion / Event Presented by For
Fri, Sep 9 Marlins Free Shirt Friday All Fans
Sat, Sep 10 Marlins Zambelli Fireworks
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Sep 11 Marlins Kids Day
Kids Pirates Slippers Kids 14 & Younger
Fri, Sep 23 Reds Free Shirt Friday All Fans
2012 Magnetic Schedule All Fans
Sat, Sep 24 Reds Fan Jam featuring Steve Miller Band
2012 Magnetic Schedule All Fans
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Sep 25 Reds Kids Day
Kids Growth Chart Kids 14 & Younger
2012 Magnetic Schedule All Fans

 

Although this came forth a while ago as well, here is the Pittsburgh Pirates Winter Caravan Schedule:

Group 1

Featuring outfielder Andrew McCutchen, relief pitcher Evan Meek, and broadcasters Bob Walk and John Wehner.

Date Location Time Event Details
Mon., Jan 24 Pittsburgh, PA 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. Allegheny General Hospital Visit
(private event)
Mon., Jan 24 Pittsburgh, PA 11:15 a.m. – 12 p.m. Autograph session at
Allegheny General Hospital lobby
Mon., Jan 24 North Hills, PA 1 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. Autograph session at PNC Bank
in McIntyre Square
Mon., Jan 24 Somerset, PA 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. VIP Reception at
Seven Springs Mountain Resort (private event)
Tue., Jan 25 Wheeling, WV 10 – 11 a.m. Triadelphia Middle School Visit
Tue., Jan 25 Wheeling, WV 12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Luncheon Event at Wheeling Island
Tue., Jan 25 Pittsburgh, PA 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. Autograph Session at Dick’s Sporting Goods
at the Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills
Wed., Jan 26 Freeport, PA 9 a.m. – 10 a.m. School Visit (Location TBA)
Wed., Jan 26 Pittsburgh, PA 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Carmalt Academy School Visit
Wed., Jan 26 Shaler Township, PA 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. Autograph Session at Giant Eagle
Thu., Jan 27 Pittsburgh, PA 9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Allegheny Traditional Academy School Visit
Thu., Jan 27 Pittsburgh, PA 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. School Visit (Location TBA)
Thu., Jan 27 Pittsburgh, PA
(Private Event)
6 p.m. – 9 p.m. Roberto Clemente Museum reception
(Private Event)

Group 2

Featuring pitching coach Ray Searage, starting pitcher James McDonald, infielder Neil Walker and broadcaster Tim Neverett.

Date Location Time Event Details
Mon., Jan 24 Washington, PA 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. School Visit (Location TBA)
Mon., Jan 24 Morgantown, WV 12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Luncheon Event at Damon’s Restaurant
Mon., Jan 24 Uniontown, PA 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. Autograph Session at Uniontown Mall
Tue., Jan 25 Smithton, PA 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. Visit to Dick’s Sporting Goods
Distribution Center (private event)
Tue., Jan 25 Latrobe, PA 12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Luncheon Event at Giannilli’s Two Restaurant
Tue., Jan 25 Indiana, PA 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Autograph Session at Indiana Mall
Wed., Jan 26 Rural Valley, PA 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. School Assembly at West Shamokin Jr. High
Wed., Jan 26 Butler, PA 12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Luncheon Event (Location TBA)
Wed., Jan 26 Steubenville, OH 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Autograph Session at Fort Steuben Mall
Thu., Jan 27 Poland, OH 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. School Assembly at Poland North Elementary
Thu., Jan 27 Youngstown, OH 12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Luncheon Event at Butler Art Institute
Thu., Jan 27 Pittsburgh, PA
(Private Event)
6 p.m. – 9 p.m. Roberto Clemente Museum reception
(Private Event)

Group 3

Featuring bench coach Jeff Banister, first baseman Garrett Jones, relief pitcher Joel Hanrahan, outfielder Jose Tabata and broadcaster Greg Brown.

Date Location Time Event Details
Mon., Jan 24 New Castle, PA 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. School Visit at George Washington Intermediate
Mon., Jan 24 Meadville, PA 12:30 p.m. – 2 p.m. Luncheon Event at Allegheny College
Mon., Jan 24 Erie, PA 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. Autograph Session at Dick’s Sporting Goods
Tue., Jan 25 Ridgway, PA 11 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. School Visit at
Ridgway Area Middle School
Tue., Jan 25 DuBois, PA 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. Autograph Session at DuBois Mall
Wed., Jan 26 State College, PA 11:45 a.m. – 1 p.m. Luncheon Event at Damon’s Restaurant
Wed., Jan 26 State College, PA 1:30 P.m. – 2:30 p.m. Hospital Visit to Mt. Nittany Medical Center
Wed., Jan 26 Altoona, PA 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Autograph Session at Dick’s Sporting Goods
Thu., Jan 27 Ebensburg, PA 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. Ebensburg Center Visit (private event)
Thu., Jan 27 Pittsburgh, PA
(Private Event)
6 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Roberto Clemente Museum reception
(Private Event)

 

The Pirates Caravan will also visit Charleston, West Virginia, on Sunday, January 30 and Monday, January 31. The players traveling to Charleston will be announced at a later date.

  • Sunday, January 30: Charleston, WV – Hot Stove Banquet (Time and Location TBA)
  • Monday, January 31: Charleston, WV – Luncheon, Appalachian Power Park (Time TBA)

 

 

 

Pirates Early Season Preview Part 1: Catcher

  At this moment this is what pirates.com lists as the Pirates depth chart for catcher:

 1. Chris Snyder

 2. Ryan Doumit

 3. Jason Jaramillo

 I was intrigued to see that Tony Sanchez was not on this list, however with the injury halting his season, he will need more time and thus Jaramillo is the third person on the depth chart at this moment.

 Obviously today is December 22, 2010 and not April 1, 2011, and a lot can happen between now and then.

 First and foremost is the uniform of Ryan Doumit come April 1. With the signings of Matt Diaz and Lyle Overbay, it looks like Doumit’s options are slim and perhaps none. Doumit in the outfield was shaky at best, however his catching background gave him the strongest arm in the outfield. Still, Doumit is the team’s fifth outfielder behind Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, Garrett Jones and Diaz which results in no much action. It would also make little sense to try the first base experiment either, as Doumit is a lefty like Overbay and he had a lot of trouble defensively at the position in his feeble attempts last season. Doumit will be used sparingly if at all at the position and only if Overbay would need a day off. This would only be because of Doumit’s power bat which many Pirates fans witnessed last season.

 Doumit at catcher is not much better, and Chris Snyder took the starting job away from Doumit and proved to be a great addition at the deadline. The Doumit catching experience reached an all-time low last season, as he failed to throw out 10% of all runners trying to steal a base and once again Doumit got injured. Each of the past few seasons, Doumit has been the team’s starting catcher, but injuries have either reduced or ended his season. It is obvious that Doumit is a defensive liability where ever he is placed on the diamond and thus it has been really hard to trade him and his expensive salary. If the team (almost) miraculously trades Doumit, it would likely be to an American League team, as he seemingly projects more as a Designated Hitter.

 Chris Snyder will at least start the season as the team’s starting catcher, with Doumit, likely an expensive backup. Snyder unlike Doumit has been a good defender for his position and does have some pop in his bat. Although his average is almost never high, Snyder can hit the home run and will be aided by the short left field that PNC Park has to offer. A big part of the defense Snyder has to offer is the way he helps to call the game for the pitcher, and pitchers trusted Snyder very quickly and it showed as with Snyder behind the plate, the pitchers seemed to find more success.

 Jason Jaramillo started last season as the backup catcher however he often found himself riding the bench. This was a change for him, as he shared starting catcher duties with Robinzon Diaz (although he started more games) last season and in 2010 was not playing much. Pirates Management concluded that Jaramillo must receive some playing time, and thus they sent him down to Triple-A to catch and sent Spring Training success story Erik Kratz up to the Major Leagues. Jaramillo got some much needed starts for the Indianapolis Indians, but after another Doumit injury, he and Kratz both had opportunities to catch. After the deadline deal that sent Snyder to the Pirates, Snyder got the bulk of the starts at catcher and eventually Doumit came back, essentially rendering both Kratz and Jaramillo useless. This off-season, Kratz was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies, and thus Jaramillo comes into Spring Training as the third catcher.

 The wild card in this whole thing is Tony Sanchez. Sure he has played in the Fall League, but it will be interesting to see if he performs in Spring Training. If he does, he could be the backup catcher. It truly is that close of a competition, as Doumit if traded would create a battle for the backup catcher position between Jaramillo and Sanchez.

 Listed below are two projected lists, with one being with Doumit and one being without Doumit:

1. Snyder

2. Doumit

3. Sanchez

4. Jaramillo

 

1. Snyder

2. Jaramillo

3. Sanchez

 Here is my thought process on this:

 The top one is displayed the way it is, because if Doumit is the backup, then the order will not matter. I think that regardless, Sanchez is a better overall catcher than Jaramillo, and he will prove that at camp. In the top scenario, Doumit is still on the team, and it does not matter who the third catcher is, as both will play in the Minors. In the second scenario, Doumit obviously is no longer on the team. I have placed Jaramillo second for the same reason that he was placed into the Minors. The Pirates may be slow to place Sanchez in the backup role for a variety of reasons. For one, Sanchez is young, and thus you want him in his prime when he will perform his best. It also brings up the arbitration period as the Pirates are a small market team, and they can slowly bring him up and avoid paying the big bucks earlier than they will need to be paid. Another reason is the injury. The Pirates purely for safety purposes may place Sanchez in the Minors to see how he performs. Finally, much like Jaramillo last season, Sanchez needs starts to help his development and for that reason, it would not make sense for him to be a backup.

 I feel that this is a pretty in-depth look (at least from a December 22nd perspective) at the catcher’s position for the Pittsburgh Pirates. I will be back soon to delve into the next position which will be the first base position.

 

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