Results tagged ‘ Jordy Mercer ’

Pirates Offseason Needs

Heading into this offseason the Pirates seem to have a lot of positions set on the 25 man roster but that obviously doesn’t mean that there are not spots that could and should be upgraded. Trying to upgrade these positions the same ways as in year’s past (signing middling free agents) is probably not the best way to solve these problems as is evident by the failures of the last several years. So a new direction is needed and that could possibly include trades, NRI signings, Rule V draft, internal solutions, international signing, etc. My preferred strategy for the Pirates this offseason is to be minimally active in traditional free agency and instead focus on finding players through other means. Still free agency can not be entirely ignored and the idea of going for just one upper level free agent should also be considered. With all that being said I have found six positions that the Pittsburgh Pirates would be well served to upgrade. So in no particular order the positions are:

1. Starting Pitcher

2. Bullpen

3. Catcher

4. Shortstop

5. Corner Outfield

6. Bench

Now I will go over the type of player I believe the Pirates should be looking for at each position and I’ll give the best fit of the available free agents and where necessary I’ll give an example of the type of player the Pirates should look to acquire via a trade. Again I’ll reiterate I’m not necessarily advocating acquiring these players just giving an example of the type the Pirates should be looking for.

Starting Pitcher: The way I see it the Pirates have only AJ Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez locked into the rotation to begin next season. James McDonald should also probably be in there some where but his end of the season struggles make him a question mark. Karstens is the other obvious candidate but he has durability/injury issues. The rest of the candidates, Locke, McPherson, Leroux, VandenHurk, Wilson, etc seem best suited for 5th starter or depth duty for now. So with three question marks of some variety in the rotation starting pitcher is an obvious need. In fact if the Pirates decide to go the route of one decent sized free agent signing I hope it is in the rotation as a Gavin Floyd or Edwin Jackson type could do a lot to help stabilize the rotation. However I am advocating different strategies this season so a trade for a good starter would be a good thing to consider as would a signing of a high upside risky pitcher. For example the pitchers I see fitting into this category are Francisco Liriano, Ervin Santana and Scott Baker. All 3 of those pitchers have a ton of upside and could get a reasonably large sum in free agency but conversely all 3 have significant faults which could drop their respective prices making them prime targets for the Pirates.

Bullpen: The only two players who should be considered near locks for the Pirates bullpen are Jared Hughes and Tony Watson. I also expect Bryan Morris and Chris Leroux to be part of the pen but they aren’t guarantees but we will say the Pirates are looking for 3 players to fill out the pen. Hanrahan of course is someone who could take one spot but I think the Pirates will and should trade him, hopefully doing so fills one of the other holes. Resigning Grilli should be another move the Pirates consider but I wouldn’t go with a big salary for him, I think my max would be 2 years at 4 million per season. To fill the other spots I think the Pirates should do what they have done the past few seasons which is scour for players like Jose Veras or Juan Cruz or even select someone in the Rule V draft. Waiver claims and low-level trades could also work. It is always difficult to predict which relievers will be available for low salary contracts or NRI but some names I like are Kyle Farnsworth, Randy Choate and Jon Rauch. Internally guys like Justin Wilson, Duke Welker and even Chris Resop are candidates to fill out the bullpen.

Catcher: Let me start by saying unequivocally that Rod Barajas should not be brought back at any price. Now as for McKenry he is a decent part of a catching tandem but give him anymore than 90 starts and I have a feeling things won’t be looking so good. So obviously some help is needed for him. Eric Fryer and Tony Sanchez are the internal options but Sanchez could use more time in AAA and Fryer well just isn’t that good. There are bound to be some available catchers that can be acquired via a trade such as Hank Conger and the Pirates should seriously consider that route but if they want to go the free agent route there is a pretty decent free agent market for catchers. Napoli is obviously the best available but is not someone the Pirates should ideally locate a lot of money to. Other catchers such as Russell Martin, Kelly Shoppach and David Ross make sense as well. I wouldn’t rule out a trade here but I think I would prefer going after a catcher like Shoppach and using the trade resources to go after some of the other needs.

Shortstop: Clint Barmes wasn’t as bad this season as most Pirates fans would lead you to believe. He had an awful April and May but was exactly what the Pirates should have expected to get the remainder of the season. With all that being said Barmes production shouldn’t have locked down the shortstop job for next season. The Pirates could look at free agency for an answer but the pickings are slim. Stephen Drew and Jhonny Peralta headline the class but Peralta may not even reach free agency and Drew is coming off a season argubly worse than Barmes. Still something needs to be done to address the shortstop problem because at the very least another solution is going to be needed in 2014. If the Pirates choose to go the trade route I hope they look for someone who has good on base skills and could hit near the top of the lineup. Players like that are rare from the shortstop position and are usually pretty expensive in terms of salary and what it would cost to acquire them via trade. One name that sticks out to me who by all accounts isn’t available but I imagine could be for a good offer is Jed Lowrie. Lowrie can play good defense and has consistently put up a good OBP. If the Pirates can acquire a shortstop in that mold that is the way to go otherwise when considering the options available through free agency sticking with Barmes and adding in more Jordy Mercer to prepare him for 2013 is probably the way to go.

Corner Outfield: The toughest need to really explain. Let me start by saying I am assuming Garrett Jones will split time with Gaby Sanchez at 1B meaning he will only play in the outfield sparingly if at all. If the Pirates decide to make him a OF the need for a corner outfielder greatly diminishes but the need for a 1B to compliment Gaby Sanchez increases, however I’ll ignore that possibility for now. The Pirates production from the corner outfield this season sans Jones was awful. The Pirates received the 2nd worst offensive production from LF this season and were only marginally decent in RF thanks to Jones playing there about half the time. This would seem an obvious spot to upgrade but yet it isn’t. The Pirates have 4 players vying to man these two positions with 3 of them being 24 years old (1 of the 3 will be 25 for all of next season). The Pirates have a ton of youth and potential to fill these 2 positions in Marte, Snider, Tabata and Presley but not much actual success to go on. I would assume Marte has got to be given a chance in one corner due to the fact he has the highest upside of the bunch and had the best season of the four last year. The other spot is where the need comes into play Snider will be playing next season at 25 years old and Tabata will be playing most of it at 24 years old. The two of them look like they could make a decent platoon in RF but with the uncertainty in LF this is not something the Pirates should count on. If the Pirates wanted to make a big splash for an offensive player this is where they should do it. A player like Angel Pagan makes a lot of sense as he could come in play a OF corner and hit atop the order. However due to the youth and potential the Pirates have here I’d rather see a big splash investment go to the pitching side and this be solved with a less splashy option. I envision the type of addition that makes the most sense is a veteran outfield who has good on base skills and who wouldn’t mind being a 4th outfielder but is capable of being a borderline starting option. The two players in free agency that best matches this description are Juan Pierre and Reed Johnson, however I am not too enthused about either of them. Just to give an example of the type of player I’m talking about I’ll mention David DeJesus. Now I doubt the Cubs will actively be looking to move DeJesus but a player like him capable of playing all 3 positions in the OF and maintaining a .340+ OBP is exactly what the Pirates should be looking for. If they can’t find one and they don’t choose to make a big splash I think the best option is to play Marte in LF, have Snider and Tabata platoon in RF, have Presley available in AAA and be open to using Jones in the outfield once again. That may not seem like a great option but neither is bringing in a middling free agent.

Bench: If there is one theme to what the Pirates need to do this offseason it is they have to get deeper. Deeper in the rotation, the bullpen, the lineup, the minor leagues and the bench. This past season the two Pirates who received the most pinch hit appearances were Josh Harrison and Jeff Clement. Both of them struggled and Clement for one shouldn’t be back. Going into next season the Pirates bench figures to include a backup catcher say McKenry, T Sanchez or an outside addition, Gaby Sanchez, a young middle infielder say Mercer, Holt or Harrison and a 4th outfielder say Snider, Tabata or an outside acquisition. That leaves one final spot which this past season belonged to Harrison. Harrison should absolutely be given a chance to win a spot on the bench but only the reserve middle infielder job. The Pirates should allocate some resources to improving this spot with offense being a key focus. Just looking at free agency the Pirates could choose to go for a pure pinch hitter and sign a 1B like Jason Giambi or Carlos Lee. Or since they seem to have a desire to carry at least 4 middle infielders at all times a guys like Maicer Izturis or Adam Kennedy could be pursued. Or they could carry 5 outfielders on the roster (which with Jones on the team seems like overkill) and get a player like Austin Kearns, Raul Ibanez or Reed Johnson. The other option is of course to go with a Mike Fontenot or Jeff Baker type who can play all over the field but that would likely sacrifice offensive production. It is very difficult to speculate on who else the Pirates may be able to acquire here so I’ll just leave it at that but something needs to be done to improve the Pirates bench.

The Pirates Bench

Something has been bothering me about the Pirates for the last few weeks but I figured in time it would play itself out but so far it has not. The make up of the Pirates bench really confuses me. Currently it has the backup catchers McKenry, one of Presley, Jones or McGehee depending on the SP and 3 middle infielders. Now call me crazy but I really don’t see the need or rationale for carrying 3 middle infielders on the bench. Ideally you would like to really have only one but I can understand keeping two. The Pirates bench is no doubt a weak spot right now and there are three ways to fix it.

1.) A direct trade aimed to help the bench. Pretty straight forward target a bench player in a trade

2.) Acquire a starting player which in turn will push current players (McGehee and Presley) to the bench.

3.) Call up help from AAA. There isn’t much down there but Clement looks ready to help and if an outfielder is needed Hernandez and Tabata await in the wings.

My preference is to acquire a corner outfielder which would push Presley to the bench and push Jones and McGehee back to their platoon with Jones getting the majority of the playing time and McGehee being a bench bat. To make room for this extra player I would send Harrison or Mercer to AAA. In addition I would also like to see Jeff Clement called up to add a little pop to the bench. He could start an occasional game at 1st when we wanted to go lefty heavy but would primarily just be a PH. He would replace Sutton. This would leave a bench of:
C: Barajas/McKenry (I’m in favor of making this a 50/50 split)

CI: McGehee

MI: Mercer (or Harrison)

OF: Presley

PH: Clement

Alex Presley

I’m not sure what has happened to Alex Presley he went from being the everyday left fielder and lead off hitter to riding the bench more often than not. I think his future is as a very good 4th outfielder but it is amazing how quickly the Pirates have changed attitudes on him. Personally I think he should be in the lineup receiving more playing time as I see Navarro as a good alternative to Barmes but not Presley. However if the Pirates are going to keep using Presley in a 4th outfield role they really have no need for McLouth. At this point McLouth is worthless off the bench and replacing him on the roster with a bat like Jake Fox makes a lot of sense if Presley is going to be viewed as solely a 4th outfielder going forward. My suggestion is that McGehee although he hasn’t looked great would be better with consistent playing time so in my suggestion he takes over as the regular 1B and a Jones/Fox platoon moves out to RF.

Again I am not advocating this move but rather saying that it makes a whole lot of sense under the assumption that Presley remains as the 4th outfielder. Under my suggestion the lineup could look like”

Tabata, LF

Walker, 2B

McCutchen, CF

Alvarez, 3B

McGehee, 1B

Jones/Fox, RF

Barmes (Navarro), SS

Barajas, C

Personally I want to see Navarro at SS but realistically it will be Barnes so that is why I put the SS position as such. The bench would look like:

McKenry, C

Fox/Jones, 1B/OF

Harrison, MI

Presley, OF

Navarro, Ut

If McGehee fails at 1B one of Hague, Clement or Evans could be called up and given a chance or Presley could be reinserted in the OF moving Jones back to 1B. As for everyone’s favorite B duo, Barmes and Barajas, Jordy Mercer is looking strong in AAA and could be a Major League option some time in June and July and Jose Morales, who has a decent Major League track record, is playing well and could be a good catching option in a matter of a few weeks.

Top 20 Position Player Prospects

Just my opinion but …

1 Starling Marte, OF
2 Josh Bell, OF
3 Robbie Grossman, OF
4 Tony Sanchez, C
5 Jordy Mercer, SS
6 Jarek Cunningham, 2B
7 Alex Dickerson, 1B
8 Matt Curry, 1B
9 Yamaico Navarro, 3B
10 Matt Hague, 1B
11 Mel Rojas Jr, OF
12 Jose Ozuna, 1B
13 Willy Garcia, OF
14 Drew Maggi, SS
15 Gorkys Hernandez, OF
16 Alen Hanson, SS
17 Ramon Cabrera, C
18 Brock Holt, 2B
19 Elevys Gonzalez, 3B
20 Gift Ngoepe, 2B

2nd Attempt: Predicting Minor League Assignments Part I (Hitters)

AAA AA
C Eric Fryer C Tony Sanchez
1B Matt Hague 1B Matt Curry
2B Chase d’Arnaud 2B Jarek Cunningham
3B Josh Harrison 3B Elevys Gonzalez
SS Jordy Mercer SS Brock Holt
LF Gorkys Hernandez LF Quincy Latmore
CF Starling Marte CF Robbie Grossman
RF Nick Evans RF Andrew Lambo
C Jose Morales C Ramon Cabrera
IF Anderson Hernandez IF Gregory Picart
OF Brandon Boggs OF Adalberto Santos
DH Jeff Clement DH Jeremy Farrell
A+ A
C Carlos Paulino C Samuel Gonzalez
1B Alex Dickerson 1B Jose Osuna
2B Gift Ngoepe 2B Dan Gamache
3B Andy Vasquez 3B Eric Avila
SS Drew Maggi SS Alen Hanson
LF Evan Chambers LF Rodarick Jones
CF Mel Rojas Jr CF Wes Freeman
RF Dan Grovatt RF Josh Bell
C Elias Diaz C Kawika Emsley-Pai
IF Kelson Brown IF Kirk Snger
OF David Rubinstein OF Taylor Lewis
DH Justin Howard DH Chris Lashmet

2012 Expectations: Shortstop

STARTER

Clint Barmes: The Pirates biggest (at least monetary wise) free agent signing this offseason has been Barmes. Given a 2 year, 10.5 million dollar contract there is no question the Pirates overpaid to get him to come to Pittsburgh. However a lot of Pirates fans have taken this to mean that Barmes is a bad player and not an upgrade over Cedeno, this is simply not true. On the defensive side it is a close call with Cedeno probably having the better talent but Barmes not having the mental lapses. However on the offensive side it is not even close, Barmes brings far more to the table than Cedeno. My prediction is that Pirate fans will be slightly disappointed with his performance but it will be what should be expected. His OBP will be right around .300 and his slugging percentage will be in the .370-.390 range. His defense should be excellent and greatly assist the pitching staff.

BACK UP

Gustavo Nunez: Taking by the Pirates in the Rule V draft Nunez will likely get the first crack at the backup middle infield job. If he makes the team he will likely play a similar role to what Ciriaco did last season, meaning he will be barely noticed and only make the occasional appearance. His bat is poor and will make a non-viable option on the bench for this reason alone he will hopefully not stick too long. Nunez does have good defense and has had success in A+ ball but it is rather obvious he isn’t major league ready. Since the Pirates have no real option at SS in AA it would be nice if they could work out a trade with the Tigers but short of that I don’t see him having much of a future with the Pirates.

ORGANIZATIONAL DEPTH

Chase d’Arnaud: Coming off a disappointing major league debut last season d’Arnaud will likely start off in AAA. With Barmes, Nunez, Navarro and Harrison all likely in front of him on the infield depth chart (to start the season at least) d’Arnaud will likely not see time in the majors until later on in the season. He has the talent to assume the starting SS job by the end of the year but will have to improve on a few areas before receiving that chance. I don’t know what it is about d’Arnaud he appears to have all the tools to become a solid MLB starting SS but for some reason I just don’t see him developing into that. He will likely get another chance in the majors some time season but I once again foresee a disappointing campaign.

TOP PROSPECTS

Jordy Mercer: On the flip side of my pessimistic view of d’Arnaud is my optimistic view of Mercer. Having led the entire Pirate minor league system in home runs last season Mercer would be quite a nice power bat to have at the usually offensively challenged shortstop position. Mercer’s defense at short is definitely good enough to allow him to stick there and with the potential of his bat he could become and above average starter at shortstop. I see a nice season in AAA from Mercer this season. I see him putting up similar numbers in AAA this year to what he did in AA last year, meaning a .268/.329/.487 line.

Drew Maggi: This is a big year in Maggi’s development. He has yet to put up a great season although he does a few solid ones. He has played mainly shortstop but he is actually more of an athlete than a shortstop and could ultimately end up as a center fielder. Maggi has good speed, gap power and is fairly sound defensively (though his game does need some work). He profiles as a Chase d’Arnaud type player and his value will be greatly impacted by this season’s performance. Being in a hitter friendly park Maggi has the potential for a great season. I expect Maggi will have a good season but not quite good enough to be viewed as a legitimate shortstop prospect.

Alen Hanson: Hanson made his US debut last season and put up strong numbers in the GCL. It was a little surprising to see him get so much playing time at SS considering Barrios and Carvajal were at the level and were more highly regarded. However his performance justified the Pirate’s decision and in fact he performed so well there is a though he could skip short season ball and go straight to A ball. I don’t see Hanson as quite polished enough for that level and since I have Ngoepe repeating the level there really isn’t an open spot for him. Hanson should start the season in extended spring training and could be sent to A ball later on but I see him going to short season ball and I actually think he will do quite well there. The low level performance won’t be enough to vault him up the rankings but it will allow him to become a little more known.

POSITION OVERVIEW

Summary: Shortstop is a weak position for the Pirates and although they have a few intriguing options down in the minors no one player stands out. Barmes will hopefully prove to be solid enough for the Pirates this season and hopefully one of d’Arnaud, Mercer, Navarro or even one of Nunez or Holt steps up and takes the future shortstop position. The Pirates really need to find a shortstop of the future and if it doesn’t come from this group of players it could be a long time before any other candidate emerges. The 2012 season is going to be an important year for the Pirates in terms of the sho

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