Results tagged ‘ Rod Barajas ’

Roster Decisions

In addition to trying to figure out the best way to supplement their roster externally the Pirates will have some internal decisions to make about their roster coming up. Basically the status of every internal player who may be on the 40 man roster can be broken down into 5 categories: 1) Rule V draft eligible 2) 0-3 Years Experience 3) Arbitration Eligible 4) Under Contract 5) Free Agents

Rule V Draft Eligible

As always there are a lot of players eligible for the Rule V draft but in reality I think only 5 have a chance at being added to the 40 man roster and of the rest few have any chance of being selected. The five players in this group are:

Tony Sanchez, C

Ramon Cabrera, C

Gift Ngoepe, SS

Phillip Irwin, SP

Victor Black, RP

Analysis: It is essentially a guarantee that both Sanchez and Black will be added to the roster and I feel almost as confident in saying that Phillip Irwin will be added as well. Cabrera and Ngoepe are the two interesting ones for me. Normally teams do not select a catcher in the Rule V draft and if they do I would think most would look for a strong defensive one so that he could at least provide that value as a backup, Cabrera is shaky defensively making it seem unlikely to me that he would be selected. Due to this I think the Pirates leave him off the roster. Ngoepe is very raw and may not be ready for a spot in AA let alone the majors but good fielding, light hitting middle infielders are fairly common selections in the Rule V draft meaning there is at least some chance Ngoepe would be selected. Due to this and the fact the Pirates seem to view Ngoepe as a legit prospect I wouldn’t be surprised to see him added, however since he is so raw right now I’m going to lean towards the side that the Pirates will not add him to the 40 man roster, though this one is a tough call.

0-3 Years Experience

This is the group that the Pirates can elect to retain for any salary that wish above the league minimum. Typically first year players earn the league minimum and players who have been on the roster a little longer earn a touch more. These players have no salary concern so the only real question is are they good enough to stay on the roster. The Pirates of course have a lot of players in this category:

Chris Leroux, Michael McKenry, Tony Watson, Josh Harrison, Alex Presley, Jared Hughes, Rick VandenHurk, Gustavo Nunez, Travis Snider, Jordy Mercer, Starling Marte, Kyle McPherson, Brock Holt, Eric Fryer, Jeff Clement, Jeff Locke, Justin Wilson, Bryan Morris, Chase d’Arnaud, Yamaico Navarro, Daniel McCutchen, Matt Hague, Duke Welker

Some of the above will obviously be retained while others their future with the club is murky at best.

Will Be Retained: Michael McKenry, Tony Watson, Josh Harrison, Alex Presley, Jared Hughes, Travis Snider, Jordy Mercer, Starling Marte, Kyle McPherson, Brock Holt, Jeff Locke, Justin Wilson, Bryan Morris, Duke Welker

Uncertain Future: Chris Leroux, Rick VandenHurk, Gustavo Nunez, Eric Fryer, Jeff Clement, Chase d’Arnaud, Yamaico Navarro, Daniel McCutchen, Matt Hague

Analysis: The first group that is consists of players I believe will definitely be retained is pretty self-explanatory. Some of the players are going to be expected to be key contributors (McKenry, Watson, Hughes, Snider, Marte, McPherson, Locke, Morris) while others will be brought back as depth (Harrison, Presley, Mercer, Holt, Wilson, Welker). The second group is the more interesting one when it comes to roster decisions. Not all of them will be let go but I believe a large number of them will be. Of the second group I believe Chris Leroux’s spot is the most secure as I seem him being in line to be the long relief man out of the bullpen next season. The removal of anyone else would not come as a surprise to me but I’m leaning toward d’Arnaud and McCutchen being retained and the rest being left go. Navarro and Hague were not brought up in September which says the Pirates aren’t too high on them. VandenHurk and Clement looked pretty bad during their short stints in September. I think it is nearly certain Clement will be gone but VandenHurk has a chance at staying. I can’t imagine the Pirates attempting to carry Nunez next year under his Rule V restrictions so I expect him to be gone. Finally Fryer seems rather exppendable with Sanchez and possibly Cabrera being added to the roster. As for McCutchen I think he stays since he has another option left and can be a fungible 9th or 10th bullpen option who can be stashed in AAA and d’Arnaud stays because he started to show some signs of getting back on track near the end of the season.

Arbitration Eligible

These are the players who go into next year not under contract but still under Pirates control but they can not just be assigned a salary. Typically this group makes up a rather large chunk of the Pirates payroll for a season and this season will be the same thing. This year’s arbitration class is:

Joel Hanrahan

Jeff Karstens

Charlie Morton

Garrett Jones

Chris Resop

James McDonald

Neil Walker

Gaby Sanchez

The Pirates will have to decide who of the above will be worth the salary they are likely to command through the arbitration process. I believe 5 of the above 8 players will definitely be tendered while the other 3 all have at least a chance to be. For the first time in a while I see no blatantly obvious non-tenders.

Will Be Tendered: Joel Hanrahan, Garrett Jones, James McDonald, Neil Walker, Gaby Sanchez

Might Not Be Tendered: Jeff Karstens, Charlie Morton, Chris Resop

Analysis: Each player in the first group will be tendered a contract by the Pirates that is all but guaranteed but there are questions about all of them such as will they play with the Pirates in 2013 and if so what will their role be? Walker seems to be the most stable but his back issues throw even his status into question. Of the other I can’t see the Pirates not tendering Karstens but there has been a lot of talk that suggests that such a thing is possible. I could see them tendering and then trading him or trading him before he needs to be tendered (ala Jose Veras) but not just non-tendering him. Morton is the one who I believe has the strongest chance of being non-tendered. His injury is going to keep him out until at least the middle of the year and paying a pitcher of Morton’s quality probably just a little under 3 million for a few months of work is something the Pirates shouldn’t do. I suspect that the Pirates and Morton will try to work out a minor league contract though so he remains in the organization. Resop is the ultimate 50/50 propositions. He is likely going to cost somewhere between 1-1.5 million this season which isn’t bad but he is a middle reliever who struggled to miss bats this season so the Pirates could choose to move on and go with a younger/cheaper option. Of this group I expect Hanrahan and Karstens to be traded, Morton to be non-tendered but signed back on a minor league deal, Resop to be non-tendered and probably sign elsewhere and the other 4 to return and play a significant role with the 2013 Pirates.

Under Contract

The Pirates have what I believe is for them an abnormally high number of players under contract for next season. Granted that is only 5 players plus 2 options but still that seems a touch higher than past year’s but then again I could be wrong on that front. Anyway those players are:

Under Contract: AJ Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, Clint Barmes

Has An Option: Pedro Alvarez, Rod Barajas

Analysis: First lets deal with the option year players because they are rather simple to evaluate. Alvarez’s option will of course be picked up and Barajas’s will of course be declined. Unfortunately I am not ready to rule out the possibility of the Pirates resigning Barajas at a lower rate. As for the players under contract Burnett and Rodriguez will be back and headlining the front of the rotation and McCutchen will continue to be the face of the franchise and the key player in the lineup. Tabata and Barmes are two players the Pirates may look to move but I’ll expect both will be back Barmes as the starting shortstop (hopefully sharing playing time with someone else) and Tabata as the 4th outfielder possibly splitting time in right field with Travis Snider.

Free Agents

The Pirates have 4 players on their roster who are going to be free agents and while it is not the Pirates way to resign players they deserve mention here as well. The 4 players are:

Free Agents: Kevin Correia, Jason Grilli, Hisanori Takahashi, Chad Qualls

Analysis: I don’t see any way Correia will return; I can see the Pirates possibly wanting him back but I don’t think that feeling will be mutual. Takahashi and Qualls are two fungible relievers whom the Pirates could possibly consider resigning when it comes time to cobble a bullpen together but I expect that they will go another direction. The last player, Jason Grilli, is one I expect the Pirates to make a serious effort to try and resign. It would not be wise for the Pirates to sign Grilli to a big contract but something in the neighborhood of 2 years and 8 million dollars could make a whole lot of sense. However I believe we have seen our last of Grill and that the back of the bullpen will have a very different look next season.

Recap

So there you have it. Below I’m going to post a summary of whom I predict will be affected by these internal roster decisions.

Rule V Players Added: Tony Sanchez, Phillip Irwin, Victor Black

League Min Players Let Go: Rick VandenHurk, Gustavo Nunez, Eric Fryer, Jeff Clement, Yamaico Navarro, Matt Hague

Arbitration Eligible Players Not Tendered: Charlie Morton, Chris Resop

Options Not Picked Up: Rod Barajas

Players Traded: Joel Hanrahan, Jeff Karstens

Players Leaving Via Free Agency: Jason Grilli, Kevin Correia, Chad Qualls, Hisanori Takahashi

Position Recap: Catchers

Rod Barajas – Barajas came to the Pirates as a free agent this past offseason and at the time was widely considered one of the better options available. To put it bluntly his 2012 season with the Pittsburgh Pirates was just plain awful. Outside of a strong month of May Barajas struggled to hit and was horrible at throwing runners out all year long. I will give him credit for working with the pitching staff well and appearing to be a good game caller overall. When he was signed I thought it was a good move and I still think it was the Pirates needed someone to fill the catcher role and Barajas was amongst the best available. The problem I have was the continuation of giving him 60% of the starts when it became apparent he had lost it he should have gotten the smaller portion of the share meaning about 40%. Barajas has a 3,5 million dollar option for next season and while I see no way the Pirates pick it up I am dismissing the possibility of him resigning at a lower amount for next season. Overall Grade: D

Michael McKenry – Pittsburgh’s favorite catcher. The one a large percentage of the Pirates fan base, at one point this season, would have lead you to believe was amongst the best in the game. Sadly McKenry isn’t that good and all the talk about him needing to start 4 out of every 5 games was overblown (I believe only Yadier Molina, AJ Ellis, Miguel Montero and Matt Weiters approached that ratio). Still McKenry was without a doubt the Pirates best catcher this past season and has shown himself perfectly capable of being the smaller part in a catcher time share (he may be even able to handle the larger share but I’m not fully convinced of that yet). His offense outburst was surprising and probably unsustainable for following seasons but still a very positive sign. It was kind of funny this season to hear people saying he should be the “starter” this season because of his offense when the same people said last year he should be the “starter” because of his defense. Like Barajas, McKenry struggled mightily at throwing out runners. I expect McKenry will be back next season possibly even as the “starting” catcher. Overall Grade: B

Eric Fryer – Fryer did not play one single game at catcher for the Pirates which considering he is by far better than Barajas and McKenry at throwing out runners is a bit of a shame. Fryer simply doesn’t have the skill set to stick around the majors for a long period of time, he appears to be a very good depth option in the minors because he is a solid defensive catcher and can also play multiple positions but that is pretty much all. My expectations are that he will be removed early on from the 40 man roster. Overall Grade: C

Top Prospects

Tony Sanchez – Sanchez did not have the greatest year in AA and AAA but did have a better showing than last season. He was steady but not spectacular in AA which earned him a promotion to AAA where he flashed a bit of power but overall struggled. Sanchez has a great arm and is an all around solid defensive catcher. His bat leaves some question marks and without a little bit of power he will probably struggle to hit well enough to remain a starting MLB catcher. Sanchez is eligible for the Rule V draft this season and I fully expect him to be added to the roster. There is an outside chance Sanchez starts the year with the Pirates in a time share with McKenry behind the plate but I fully expect him to get more seasoning at AAA. Sanchez will probably get a chance to claim the starting catcher job at some point next season though.

Wyatt Mathisen – Mathisen was the Pirates 2nd round draft pick this past season. He signed relatively quickly and started to play in the GCL. In high school Mathisen was the most athletic player on the team so he usually played shortstop but he did have some experience catcher and most scouts believed that is where his future was the brightest. Mathisen split time in the GCL between catcher and DH this season and put some very strong numbers. He has the look of a strong two way catching option and is one to watch for the next few seasons. There is a chance Mathisen could start next season in full season ball but I expect with catching being a relatively new full time thing for him we will see him in A- next year.

Jin-De Jhang – Jhang was the catcher splitting time with Mathisen this season and he too is relatively new to the catcher position. Jhang coincidently put up numbers very similar to Mathisen this season and profiles as a similar less athletic catcher. This was Jhang’s first season out of Taiwan and he handled himself well. Chances are either Jhang or Mathisen will make the jump to full season A ball next year and for some reason I get the sense that it will be Jhang but we will just have to wait and see.

Other Prospects – Charles Cutler (AAA*), Ramon Cabrera (AA*), Carlos Paulino (AA*), Jacob Stallings (A+*)

The * denotes my projected level for the player next season

2013 Catcher Market

For those of us not to0 sold on the Pirates catching options for next season here is an early look at the free agent catchers this offseason. I’ve excluded McCann and Ruiz (options that will be picked up) and Napoli (not a full time catcher and very unlikely Pirates acquisition). The players marked with an * have options for next season and thus may not reach the free agent market. Stats are covering the last three seasons: 2010-now(9/2/2012).

Russell Martin: 30.7% CS, 91 wRC+, 6.3 WAR (2678.1 Inn, 1250 PA)
AJ Pierzynski: 23.3% CS, 97 wRC+, 6.0 WAR (2978.1 Inn, 1427 PA)
David Ross: 33.7% CS, 123 wRC+, 4.5 WAR (1015.1 Inn, 463 PA)
Yorvit Torrealba: 31.7% CS, 90 wRC+, 4.2 WAR (2055.2 Inn, 981 PA)
*Chris Iannetta: 27.4% CS, 102 wRC+, 4.2 WAR (1794.1 Inn, 819 PA)
Kelly Shoppach: 31.3% CS, 91 wRC+, 3.2 WAR (1465.1 Inn, 628 PA)
*Miguel Olivo: 33.6% CS, 74 wRC+, 2.8 WAR (2511.1 Inn, 1193 PA)
*Rod Barajas: 16.3% CS, 84 wRC+, 2.1 WAR (2209.1 Inn, 985 PA)
*Jose Molina: 36.0% CS, 84 wRC+, 2.0 WAR (1438.2 Inn, 605 PA)
Humberto Quintero: 30.3% CS, 54 wRC+, 1.6 WAR (1650.2 Inn, 692 PA)
*Chris Snyder: 22.4% CS, 86 wRC+, 1.6 WAR (1625 Inn, 723 PA)
*Henry Blanco: 48.1% CS, 74 wRC+, 1.5 WAR (795.2 Inn, 323 PA)
Ronny Paulino: 26.1% CS, 75 wRC+, 1.3 WAR (1336.2 Inn, 656 PA)
Gerald Laird: 28.3% CS, 68 wRC+, 0.4 WAR (1214 Inn, 555 PA)
Matt Treanor: 26.6% CS, 64 wRC+, 0.4 WAR (1435 Inn, 622 PA)
Brian Schneider: 22.1% CS, 69 wRC+, 0.0 WAR (870.2 Inn, 384 PA)
Wil Nieves: 22.5% CS, 44 wRC+, -0.3 WAR, (669 Inn, 299 PA)

Neal Huntington’s Position Player Free Agents

This is something of a continuation of my previous post about Barmes and Barajas. Its been well documented that Huntington has been rather unsuccessful when it comes to free agent hitters but the question is why? I am going to take a look at Huntington’s main non-pitcher free agent signings over the last 5 years. For simplicity sake I am only going to focus on players who made the opening day roster and since with the exception of this year that number has always been two I am going to exclude Nate McLouth for this season and focus on Barmes and Barajas. Now remember these are only free agents, not trades or Rule V pickups.

2008

Doug Mientkiewicz: .277/.374/.379 (103 OPS+), 1.0 WAR

Luis Rivas: .218/.267/.311 (54 OPS+), -0.8 WAR

2009

Eric Hinske: .253/.373/.368 (99 OPS+), 0.4 WAR

Ramon Vazquez: .230/.335/.279 (66 OPS+), -0.5 WAR

2010

Bobby Crosby: .224/.301/.295 (63 OPS+), -1.1 WAR

Ryan Church: .180/.240/.312 (49 OPS+), -0.6 WAR

2011

Lyle Overbay: .227/.300/.349 (81 OPS+), -0.7 WAR

Matt Diaz: .259/.303/.324 (75 OPS+), -0.7 WAR

2012

Rod Barajas: .148/.220/.204 (20 OPS+), -0.6 WAR

Clint Barmes: .173/.215/.333 (51 OPS+), -0.2 WAR

As you can see by those few numbers the results aren’t good. Doug Mientkiewicz wasn’t terrible and neither was Hinske (although he did see a power outage) but the rest were just plain awful. However you probably knew that. The real point here is to see what if anything these guys have in common, so lets start by looking at how each player performed in the three seasons before coming to Pittsburgh.

Doug Mientkiewicz: .266/.343/.416 (98 OPS+), 3.3 WAR

Luis Rivas: .257/.291/.406 (79 OPS+), -0.2 WAR

Eric Hinske: .245/.336/.457 (105 OPS+), 1.7 WAR

Ramon Vazquez: .255/.327/.390 (88 OPS+), -0.2 WAR

Bobby Crosby: .231/.290/.348 (72 OPS+), -0.9 WAR

Ryan Church: .274/.345/.432 (105 OPS+), 6.2 WAR

Lyle Overbay: .259/.352/.437 (110 OPS+), 7.2 WAR

Matt Diaz: .281/.342/.438 (107 OPS+), 1.0 WAR

Rod Barajas: .231/.275/.424 (86 OPS+), 2.5 WAR

Clint Barmes: .242/.303/.398 (81 OPS+), 5.8 WAR

As you can see there were a few players who performed poorly before the Pirates signed them but for the most part the players played well the 3 seasons before the Pirates signed them. So the problem isn’t the talent the of the players Huntington’s is signing so maybe the problem is these players are declining. So now lets look at the OPS+ the players had in their career before signing with Pittsburgh, the 3 years before, the year before and their season with Pittsburgh.

Doug Mientkiewicz: 100, 98, 106, 103

Luis Rivas: 80, 79, 151*, 54 (the 151 was only over 4 games)

Eric Hinske: 100, 105, 109, 99

Ramon Vazquez: 85, 88, 110, 66

Bobby Crosby: 81, 72, 72, 63

Ryan Church: 107, 105, 93, 49

Lyle Overbay: 111, 110, 105, 81

Matt Diaz: 111, 107, 99, 75

Rod Barajas: 80, 86, 97, 20

Clint Barmes: 78, 81, 93, 51

As you can see no one really stands out as a steep decliner. There are a few whose numbers go down for each group but none are significant. What is also plain to see is that the Mientkiewicz and Hinske are the only two players to give the Pirates anywhere near what they probably expected when signing them. Of course the problem with Hinske was a drop in power and that is evident by his slugging percentage, just take a look at it from 2008-2010 remember he was with the Pirates in 2009: .465, .368 (PIT), .512 (NYY), .456. The .368 really stands out as poor. I will also add that it would be unfair to expect anything from Rivas as he had only played 4 games in the two previous seasons combined and Crosby was a proven bench player whose numbers weren’t too far from his career norms. It is also a little early to pass judgement on Barajas and Barmes so from this point forward I will be looking at Vazquez, Church, Overbay and Diaz to see why they all underperformed.

First Theory: Batted Balls

Here are the players career rates:

Lyle Overbay: .314 BABIP, 21.7 LD%, 45.7 GB%, 32.5 FB%, 11.8% HR/FB

Matt Diaz: .345, 22.4%, 48.1%, 29.5%, 10.5%

Ryan Church: .319, 21.5%, 43.3%, 35.3%, 11.1%

Ramon Vazquez: .311, 23.8%, 47.3%, 28.9%, 5.1%

Now look at their Pirate career rates:

Lyle Overbay: .269 BABIP, 18.2 LD%, 46.5 GB%, 35.3 FB%, 8.2% HR/FB

Matt Diaz: .324, 19.7%, 55.5%, 24.9%, 0.0%

Ryan Church: .231, 18.5%, 39.5%, 41.9%, 5.8%

Ramon Vazquez: .291, 19.5%, 46.5%, 34.0%, 1.9%

The BABIPs of these players are all low but not extremely so in the case of Diaz and Vazquez. Each player also saw a drop in their LD% but again there isn’t a significant drop. Church and Vazquez actually had a lower ground ball percentage with the Pirates than they did in their career so its not that either. Overbay, Church and Vazquez actually saw an increase in their fly ball rate which would usually indicate improvement but not here. Obviously each player’s home run rate is down but I guess that could have something to do with PNC Park.

Second Theory: Non-BIP Balls

Career Rates:

Lyle Overbay: 11.3 BB%, 18.5 K%

Matt Diaz: 5.2%, 18.4%

Ryan Church: 8.8%, 21.6%

Ramon Vazquez: 9.7%, 18.6%

Pirates Career Rates:

Lyle Overbay: 9.2 BB%, 19.7 K%

Matt Diaz: 4.8%, 19.0%

Ryan Church: 6.6%, 25.1%

Ramon Vazquez: 13.0%, 19.7%

Again nothing conclusive. Diaz stayed about the same and Vazquez actually saw an increase in BB%.

When I started this experiment I was hoping to see some type of patter but at this point I can’t really find any theme. Overbay’s troubles seem to be due to a low BABIP and squaring up on fewer balls (low LD%). Diaz’s seem to be from a complete blackout of power and an increase in ground balls.Church’s seem to be almost all tied to his BABIP falling 88 points. As for Vazquez he seemed to have had a career year in 2008 which led to higher expectations for 2009 than what should have been expected.

So as you can see the Huntington has had some bad luck with a few players, reached on a few others and even over valued one after he had one strong season. He did manage to get at least adequate production out of 2 but that is not a good track record. Barmes and Barajas are off to slow starts this season, although Barmes is showing some signs of improvement, so if the trend continues this season some reevaluating of his plan will need to be done before any more players are brought in. There is not one area that he is overlooking it appears to be more likely just an error in judgement on the part of Huntington and his scouts. Bottom line is though, whatever the problem is it needs to be addressed and fixed as soon as possible.

Doug Mientkiewicz: .266/.343/.416 (98 OPS+), 3.3 WAR

Luis Rivas: .257/.291/.406 (79 OPS+), -0.2 WAR

Eric Hinske: .245/.336/.457 (105 OPS+), 1.7 WAR

Ramon Vazquez: .255/.327/.390 (88 OPS+), -0.2 WAR

Bobby Crosby:

2012 Expectations – Catcher

STARTER

Rod Barajas: Signed in the offseason Barajas will assume the role as the regular starting catcher in 2012. He has some durability issues so I expect him to start between 90 and 100 games. He will do his job of helping out the pitchers and giving some power to the bottom of the lineup (I’ll predict 14 HR). However is poor on base skills will prove to be frustrating as the season goes along and he will begin to lose playing time to other alternatives. It is possible that if a contending team develops a need for a catcher he could be moved at the deadline but I expect him to remain with the team for the duration of the season (except for the occasionally DL stint). His 2013 option will not be exercised at the end of the season.

BACK UP

Michael McKenry: McKenry will manage to edge out Jose Morales for the backup catching position but his playing time at first will be minimal. There will be sentiment amongst the fan base for him to receive the regular starts but his bat will simply not play. The power he displayed in the minors will not be seen this season but he will continue with the solid defense. I expect we will see his bat stay at about the same level it is currently meaning his OBP will be around .300 and his SLG will be around .350. The lack of bat will keep him out of the Pirates plans for the starting catcher job but his defense and handling of the pitching staff will allow him to hold down the backup job.

MINOR LEAGUE DEPTH

Jose Morales: Morales will compete with McKenry for the backup catcher job in Spring Training and this will be a real competition but in the end he will lose out and head to AAA to serve as the backup catcher. He does have an opt out clause but since he has another one later in the season I believe he will opt not to exercise the first and go to AAA. Morales’s bat plays better than McKenry but his defense is behind and McKenry’s familiarity with the staff puts him at a disadvantage. I expect Morales to receive a call up some point before his second opt out date and he will have a decent showing but will not remain on the roster.

Eric Fryer: I have rather high expectations of Fryer but I do not think the Pirates share my thought process. I am assuming Tony Sanchez will start the season in AA leaving the AAA catching job to Morales and Fryer. Hopefully if that is the case, Fryer will receive the majority of the playing time. Fryer’s defense behind the plate is good enough to be a starting catcher, in fact he is probably the best of all the upper level catchers at throwing out potential base stealers. His bat has always shown potential and I think this season will be no different as he should post solid AAA numbers. The Pirates will overlook his production and keep him down in AAA longer than he should be and sometime in June Sanchez will be promoted pushing Fryer to a reserve role. Somehow some way I expect Fryer to get a chance and have a good enough showing where the Pirates will consider going into 2013 with him as the starting catcher.

TOP PROSPECTS

Tony Sanchez: Sanchez will begin the season in AA as the starting catcher. Last season was only a minor setback and he will rebound this season eventually earning a promotion to AAA. Having rebuilt his strength his power will return and his offensive game will develop. His defense is already strong and it will continue to improve. He probably will not show the type of bat the Pirates first hoped when drafting him but he will do enough this season to reestablish himself as the Pirates catcher of the future.

Ramon Cabrera: Cabrera should start the season in AA but due to the presence of Sanchez his time at catcher will be limited meaning he should see a decent number of at bats as a DH. Cabrera’s bat has never been his problem and he should do fairly well in AA. His stature and defense is what hurts his overall prospect value and obviously he cannot do anything about his stature but he will also have difficulties working on his defense until Sanchez is promoted. Cabrera’s hitting will almost surely take a downturn this year but that should be expected going from a hitter friendly home park to a pitcher one. Overall he should have a solid season and give the Pirates a solid catching prospect to start in AA or AAA next year (depending on how much time he has the starting catcher in AA this season).

Carlos Paulino: Paulino who was acquire last offseason for Jim Negrych had a surprising season in A+ last year and should be moving up to AA, however due to Sanchez being held back he will likely repeat the level. I believe his bat was greatly helped by being in A+ last year so not much can be determined until he gets his chance in AA. My prediction is that he will struggle. Even if his offense dose struggle Carlos Paulino has the defensive tools to make a decent backup in the majors. He will be a work in progress but is a good catcher to have in the system for depth purposes.

POSITION OVERVIEW

Summary: The Pirates will struggle to get good production in the major leagues from their catcher. Barajas is no longer an average major league catcher but will hopefully prove to be at least adequate but I have my doubts. McKenry has the making of being nothing more than a backup and while there is value in that it is lessened by the lack of a strong starter. Although this season’s combination may not prove too successful I foresee brighter days ahead. Eric Fryer should establish himself as a good major league backup and could even prove to be a decent fill in at starter. In reality though the future of the catching position is dependent upon Tony Sanchez and I see him having a good bounce back season. The 2012 season will not be a pretty one for the Pirates catchers but I see brighter days ahead with Fryer and Sanchez waiting in the wings.

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