Results tagged ‘ Starling Marte ’

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.

Mystery Player

I’m going to cover a mystery player here today. A Pirates player who has receive a lot of grief this season, a lot of it deservingly so, but who has been overlooked and is thought to be performing far worse than he actually is. For the past couple of months this has been my argument about Clint Barmes but I have a new player to discuss today. This player since June 1st has hit for a line of .273/.364/.373/.737. Admittedly the slugging percentage leaves a lot to be desired and the sample size we are talking about here along with being fairly arbitrary is a small 189 PA. However that .364 number sticks out to me. The Pirates have very few players who are capable of psoting an OBP like that over a sustained amount of time. In fact I would argue it is only two. One of them is the face of the franchise and MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen and the other is the much maligned, despised, criticized and basically hated Jose Tabata.

Look I’m a Tabata advocate and I’ll freely admit there is a whole lot wrong with Tabata’s game. He appears to have lost a step even though I beleive how much he has lost has been greatly over exaggerated. He is not the best base runner, specifically base stealer but really this can be said about essentially every Pirate and hios defense this year at times was poor to say the least. I believe the base running/stealing is a coaching issue which will hopefully be addressed this offseason (but that is another discussion) and I beleive the defensive problmes he showed early in the season were a result of playing hurt or gingerly (ie his head had him convinced the injury was still there and going to act back up). Tabata has problems that require a lot of work to fix but one thing he can do and do rather well is get on base. Prior to this year Tabata had two seasons with an OBP over .340. This may not sound like much but the one thing the Pirates offense is really lacking are table setters, guys to get on in front of McCutchen, Jones, Alvarez and even Walker. Starling Marte and Travis Snider don’t fit this description and quite obviously neither does Clint Barmes.

For the last couple weeks (months really) I’ve been considering ways to improve this team and I cam up with a few (I’ll discuss later) but one of the first things that came into my head was that this team needed to be deeper. It needed an outfield with on base skills who could do a good job off the bench and who was good enough to hold down a starting position should an injury arise. My search led me to a few names but the one I liked the best was Reed Johnson. Upon digging a little deeper and realizing Johnson has been rather lucky the past 2 seasons with a high BABIP and after sitting down and giving it some critical thought I’ve determined that Tabata is more suited to the 2013 Pirates than Reed Johnson or an outfielder of that ilk.

Now should the Pirates decide to not move forward with an outfield of Marte-McCutchen-Snider with a little bit of Jones sprinkled in and pursue a higher level outfielder (a possible move I will discuss later on) the issue of cutting ties with Tabata (through a trade of course) becomes much less but as of now I expect the Pirates to keep that outfiled alignment and in the likely event they do I think the perfect 4th outfielder for that group is already with the team in Jose Tabata. He can spell Snider against lefties and help ease in Marte, meaning he should play about 3 days a week and in those days will be able to solidly fill the leadoff spot.

Wands and Stars

What a set of days for the Pirates in the matter of 24 hours we have received the news that the Pirates made an aggressive move and acquired Wandy Rodriguez and called up hot shot prospect Starling Marte. Rodriguez should go a long way in stabilizing the rotation not only this year but next year as well. The Pirates paid a big price in Grossman (the other two were minor pieces) but I think it was worth it. This shows the Pirates are serious about competing this year now go get us two one bat.

You may ask why I dropped it to one well that’s because we have found a bat from our own system. Starling Marte is going to join the team and all I can say is it is great timing. The Pirates need help in the corner outfield positions both offensively and defensively and Marte should go a long way in providing that.
Two great moves for the Pirates in the past 24 hours but a few more are still needed. For instance I would like to see Clement called up to help the bench and a bat acquired who can hit leadoff for the Pirates. These days have been rare the past few years but they are becoming more frequent, yes siree it is a great day to be a Pirate fan.

Random Thoughts

One Loss, Nothing More

A lot of new Pirate fans get well lets say a little to worried about one loss. I’m thinking this is an effect of them being football fans where 1 loss is really quite significant but in a baseball sense one loss matters very little. I’ve seen this expression said a lot and it rings true every team wins 54 games, every team loses 54 games its the other 54 that matter. All the worrying about last night’s loss is overblown.

Need To Go For It

There is a sense that the Pirates should go for it now because you never know when another chance will come. This is too short term of thinking I don’t want the Pirates to hinder their chances for the next 5 years just to improve their odds for this season. I want the Pirates to compete not only this year but for years to come and the foundation for it is there in the minor leagues. The Pirates need to keep their top prospects this season and look for smaller cheaper options not make the big splash.

Starling Marte

I’ve been on the fence about calling up Marte for a while now but that time is over the time is now. Marte should be up here and starting in one of the corner outfield spots. He should not be hitting lead off however as his high strike out rate would make him a liability there. Starling should be better than Presley and whatever RF combination the Pirates choose to trot out there. The time has come, #FreeMarte.

Jeff Clement

Yesterday when it came time to turn to a pinch hitter in the 9th inning with the tying run coming up to bat the Pirates turned to Drew Sutton. There is no instant offense producer on the bench and there definitely needs to be. The Pirates are in desperate need of a bench bat and down in AAA they have a guy who may just be able to fill that role. Clement has been raking all season and deserves a spot on the bench. Its time to call him up over one of our many shortstops.

Trade Deadline

The Pirates have been linked to basically every bat available and any talk about what the Pirates may get is just pure speculation. I enjoy reading all the rumors but lets not get carried away. Personally I think what the Pirates need is a leadoff man someone to get on base in front of Walker and McCutchen. A guy like Victorino or Span would be a great add.

Free Starling Marte?

What can you say about Marte? He just put up a great month of June and looks to be on his way to becoming a great major league but the question is when? Do the Pirates call him up now even if he might not be completely ready (as his K and BB numbers still suggest) or do they let him refine his game in the minors. Most Pirate fans are clamoring for him because of the poor play from Tabata and Presley but struggles of major leaguers is a terrible reason to promote prospects. Marte shouldn’t come to Pittsburgh because anyone is struggling he should come to Pittsburgh because he is ready.

There is little doubt that Marte in the long run is the Pirates best internal optional for a corner OF spot and it could even be argued that right now he is the best option but the Pirates need Marte to be at his best not just better than what they have. When Starling is ready he should come to Pittsburgh but I am of the opinion that he is not ready yet. Something needs done to upgrade the corner OF spots and I have given my opinion on the subject earlier but I will digress for now this is about Marte.

Starling Marte has the potential to be great, to be a long term fixture in the OF beside Andrew McCutchen heck he even has the ability to make Cutch move to a corner. Marte has the potential to be everything the Pirates desperately need right now but yet he has everything they need for the future and that Marte needs time to grow. He is almost there another few weeks to a month of consistent play and I’ll be beating the drum right alongside the rest of the fan base but for now let him stay in AAA where he can work on his faults and become everything this team needs not only now but in the future as well.

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: Center Field

STARTER

Andrew McCutchen: The face of the franchise. As anyone who is reading this probably knows McCutchen is hands down the best player on the Pittsburgh Pirates. There is absolutely no reason not to expect another great season from him. In fact with a hopefully slightly improved offense around him his numbers should even be better. The sky is really the limit for McCutchen; it should surprise no one if he was to put up an OPS over .850 this season all while playing stellar defense in center field.

ORGANIZATIONAL DEPTH

Brandon Boggs: The Pirates signed Boggs to a minor league contract this offseason and while I do believe it contains a clause that he can go to Japan if he doesn’t make the major league roster I expect him to spend at least some time in AAA. Boggs will be given a chance to make the major league roster but that seems like a remote possibility at this point. He can play any outfield position and will likely either serve as the starting RF or 4th outfielder (depending on where Lambo is placed). Essentially he will serve the role as the veteran OF in AAA who will only be called up in an emergency situation to cover a rash of injuries. So really not much is going to be expected of him this season.

TOP PROSPECTS

Starling Marte: With all due respect to Josh Bell and Tony Sanchez, Starling Marte is the best position player prospect in the Pirates system. After putting up a strong season in AA in which he started to show a little power Marte will start this season in AAA and will face high expectations. He is still a little raw with some strike zone discipline problems that need to be corrected but Marte has the potential to be a McCutchen like outfielder. With the exception of plate discipline Marte does everything well and if he can fix that one last issue he could be in the majors as early as June but due to the Pirates rather strong outfield situation he will probably be given more seasoning in AAA. I am expecting a big season from Marte including a very solid major league debut in August or September.

Gorkys Hernandez: Hernandez is often overlooked in the Pirates system but he still as a lot of potential. He is the best defensive outfielder the Pirates have in the majors or minors and he has terrific speed; his problem is that he is a weak bat. Hernandez will probably be given a chance to win a bench role in Spring Training but the signing of McLouth greatly diminishes his chances. So he is likely to start off in AAA and with Marte there as well he will probably split time with Marte between LF and CF. At this point unless his bat greatly improves Hernandez looks like nothing more than a 4th outfielder but with his good speed and defense he can be successful in such a role. I am expecting Hernandez to have a solid season in AAA and get a chance in the majors at some point. He won’t have a great showing because of his bat but the rest of his tools will make the favorite for the 4th outfielder job in 2013.

Mel Rojas Jr: Rojas is another one of the Pirates fine outfielder prospects who has 5 tool potential. He was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2010 draft and while he hasn’t put up eye-popping numbers he has shown progress during his pro career. Rojas is very raw and is just a project at this point but he has a high ceiling and could become a very good major league outfielder one day. As far as 2012 is concerned Rojas will likely be the starting CF in A+ and since he will be playing in a good hitting environment this would seem like the logical year for him to take a big step forward and I expecting just that. Rojas should have a big year this season in A+ but I expect the Pirates to be conservative with him and leave him at that level basically all season.

POSITION OVERVIEW

Summary: The Pirates have no position that looks more set for the present and future than center field. Andrew McCutchen is a legitimate All Star in center field and will hopefully be in Pittsburgh for a long time to come. Should for some reason McCutchen not be in Pittsburgh long term the future still looks fairly bright with Starling Marte waiting in the wings. Having both of these guys in the same outfield would be amazing and hopefully we will see this some time this season. Outside of the strong duo of McCutchen and Marte the Pirates have great depth with Hernandez, Rojas and even some others I did not list. The immediate and long term future of the Pirates as a whole is uncertain but at center field it looks nearly as bright as it could possibly look.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 321 other followers