Tag Archives: Pittsburgh Pirates

MLB New Year’s resolutions: One 2019 Opening Day goal for every big league team

(From MLB Daily Dish, see the full article HERE.)

A new year brings new dreams for each of the 30 teams in Major League Baseball. Let’s take a look at one resolution each team should stick to for a healthy and happy new year.

Arizona DiamondbacksTrade Zach Greinke. May have to swallow some pride and eat that contract, but the Padres are on the up and the Rockies and Dodgers are not going anywhere. The Diamondbacks have to get back on track quickly, and if the cost is lower, plenty of teams would love Greinke.

Atlanta BravesGet a veteran starter. An ace would make this team frightening, but a solid presence like Sonny Gray — who has certainly had his share of ups and downs — would be grand for these young studs.

Baltimore OriolesScout some international players. They finally hired a leader in Koby Perez. The Orioles farm system is vastly improved, now it’s time to take the next step.

Boston Red SoxBattle back. The 2014 follow up to the Red Sox last title wasn’t so strong, but they did reach the ALDS in both 2008 and 2005. This team is loaded, but the window is small with a not-so-sexy farm system.

Chicago CubsFly the W. After what seemed an eternity of mediocracy, the Cubs have been one of the more consistent teams in the MLB with four-straight 90+ win seasons and that elusive World Series title. See the Red Sox: that window may be closing so may as well make one more run in a suddenly stacked division.

Chicago White SoxDon’t waste this farm system. And you can start by plugging Eloy Jimenezand his super human power into the Opening Day lineup.

Cleveland IndiansTrade Corey Kluber. His value is arguably higher than any other pitcher in baseball on the market, and let’s face it. The Indians can still win the AL Central without him while starting to get better for the future.

Colorado RockiesWin the NL West. The Rockies had one pitcher in Kyle Freeland with a sub-3.00 ERA, and another young gun in German Marquez post a 3.77 ERA. If Jon Gray can finally throw together a full season of greatness instead of small spurts, the Rockies may have their best pitching staff yet.

Detroit TigersLike you’ll see with the Royals below, it’s all about patience. The Tigers have an exciting top 15 for prospects, but they aren’t ready. With the demand for Nick Castellanos seemingly high, move him and make it an exciting top 20 prospect list.

Houston AstrosStop getting better. Come on, guys. You didn’t need Michael Brantley. Let the Athletics at least have a fighting chance.

Kansas City RoyalsBe patient. The Royals are arguably the most improved farm system in baseball and, much like the Braves, it is built on a lot of exciting young arms. It’s not going to be a fun 2019, and 2020 may not be much better, but it’s coming.

Los Angeles AngelsGet Mike Trout to the playoffs. Fifteen career plate appearances in the postseason isn’t fair to him or us. At the very least get him on some billboards on the East Coast.

Los Angeles DodgersWin a World Series (no, that is not a prediction). The only thing stopping the Dodgers from having the most dominant run over the past five years is the American League.

Miami MarlinsTrade J.T. Realmuto already. We’re all getting tired of the rumors and false leads, am I right?

Milwaukee BrewersClone Christian Yelich. Eight times. And if he can pitch, do it a ninth.

Minnesota TwinsSolve the Byron Buxton enigma. Either get it going or move on, we’re tired of waiting.

New York MetsShock the world. Well, they kind of did that with the hire of Brodie Van Wagenen, but the former agent has made some nice moves and has stood firm on holding on to his Big Three. If this team pulls off the turnaround they feel they can, plenty will be surprised.

New York YankeesSpend money. I mean really. Who are these guys?

Oakland A’s: Keep grinding. This was a fun team to root for last season. If that pitching staff comes back healthy, the Athletics could be better.

Philadelphia PhilliesAt least earn a Wild Card spot. This team has spent some money this offseason, and the likes of Andrew McCutchenJean Segura, and now David Robertson surely brought in some veteran moxie for this young squad. With the money they had to spend, the Phillies faithful are expecting some October baseball.

Pittsburgh PiratesIf the Mets don’t step up and shock the world, perhaps the young Pirates can. The outfield is exciting, the infield is fun, and the pitching is solid and likely only getting better if Mitch Keller can become the star most envision.

San Diego PadresCompete. The Padres have plenty of young, shiny pieces in place to be the 2018 Atlanta Braves. Let’s see it.

San Francisco GiantsWell, it’s an odd year, so we know there will be no magic by the bay. Maybe it is time to dangle Madison Bumgarner out there at the All Star break when the Giants are out of contention.

Seattle MarinersMake the playoffs. With all the facelifts this roster has had over the past few seasons in a “win-now” mode, wouldn’t it be great to see them make the Wild Card when they aren’t trying.

St. Louis CardinalsTake back the NL Central. This was Cardinals Country not long ago, and they’ve made some nice moves this offseason. I seem to remember them being pretty good when they had one of the best players at first base some time ago.

Tampa Bay RaysGet a new stadium. And this isn’t on these guys. What the Rays did last year was a fun story, now get them somewhere people will come actually watch.

Texas RangersDon’t be terrible. That’s quite the pitching staff, huh? When you bring in Globe Life Park’s park factors, there could be a lot of homers hit in Arlington in 2019.

Toronto Blue JaysMake Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. the Opening Day third baseman. Or DH. Or first baseman. Just get the guy on the field ASAP.

Washington NationalsWhat every Nationals fan wants. Bryce Harper or not, this team needs to win a playoff series, especially in an ever-improving NL East.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Jung Ho Kang staying put, inks one year

(From MLB Daily Dish, please read the full article HERE)

The long and windy road that Jung Ho Kang has called a Major League Baseball career will continue with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Adam Berry

@adamdberry

The Pirates re-signed Jung Ho Kang. One-year deal.

Per Berry, Pirates GM Neal Huntington also hinted that Kang may be competing for a starting job: “If Kang plays the way Kang is capable, he has everyday opportunity here.”

Kang came to the states in 2015 and the then-28-year-old infielder delivered. He split time at shortstop and third to put up a .287/.355/.461 slash line with 24 doubles and 15 home runs in 467 plate appearances. He appeared in just 103 games the following season, but his over-the-fence power developed, smashing 21 home runs and seeing his slugging percentage rise 52 points to an impressive .513.

And then came the legal issues. While they are well-documented, the biggest takeaway was the corresponding visa suspensions that kept him out of Major League Baseball for essentially two full years. Kang played 16 games in Bradenton and Indianapolis before returning to the Pirates in September for three games, now 32 years of age. Reports were that he was released from the Dominican Winter League for his struggles, so the comment from Huntington is questionable.

At the very least, the Pirates have a player they know can hit that has position versatility at what should be a very affordable price tag.

2016 Prospect Breakout Series: Pittsburgh Pirates Kevin Newman

Kevin Newman entered 2016 with several question marks surrounding him. Would one of the best collegiate bats in the 2015 MLB Draft translate to professional pitching after an up-and-down debut? Would he be able to stick at shortstop? Just how high on the Pirates’ prospect — and overall prospect — lists was he?

This season answered many of those questions, as Newman skyrocketed to top-five status in the Pirates’ system, while sitting on the cusp of the top-50 overall.

So, who is Kevin Newman?

Keep reading for more on the Pirates breakout prospect.

The Pittsburgh Pirates Ke’Bryan Hayes looking to follow in father’s footsteps

The Pittsburgh Pirates have a lot of excitement brewing on the pipeline. Some of those players have helped lately at the big league level, like Jameson Taillon and Chad Kuhl, while other like Tyler Glasnow, Josh Bell and Austin Meadows seem like they are knocking on the door as they await a spot to open for their arrival.

The depths of the Pirates system have even more to offer on the horizon. The first-place Altoona Curve in Double-A is stacked with talented, top prospects like Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez. In a system lacking in a big-time power bat, Ke’Bryan Hayes is maturing in the South Atlantic League.

Hayes was drafted by the Pirates in last June’s MLB Draft, selected 32nd overall out of Concordia Lutheran High School in Tomball, Texas. Baseball DNA is, of course, in Hayes’ blood; his family lineage made him seemingly destined for the big leagues at a young age. His father Charlie hit .266 with 144 home runs over a solid, 14-year MLB career, etching his name in New York Yankees lore with the famous last catch of the 1996 World Series. His brother Tyree pitched for six seasons in the Tampa Bay Rays minor league system.

Ke’Bryan may be better than both.

The 6-foot-1, 210 pound right-handed hitting third baseman had a promising debut as an 18-year old in the Gulf Coast League. He slashed .333/.434/.375 over 175 plate appearances. He didn’t show much power, logging only five extra-base hits of his 48 total, but he showed an advanced plate discipline — striking out 24 times, while walking 22 — and sound base-path awareness — stealing seven bases in eight opportunities — despite lackluster speed.

His play at the Rookie-ball level earned him a late-season promotion to the New York-Penn League. He struggled a bit, going 9-for-41 at the plate, but he again showed it wasn’t from not making contact as he struck out just seven times and walked six. Again, Hayes, whose athletic frame seems to scream power-hitter, posted a goose egg in the home run column, ending his rookie campaign with none.

Hayes seemingly found his home run stroke in 2016, ironically with the West Virginia… Power.

Hayes had already shown that he had line drive ability, with gap-to-gap power behind a solid approach at the plate. This season, he has taken it to the next level en route to a starting spot on the South Atlantic All-Star team.

Though he has been slumping a bit in June, Hayes has been hitting all season. He is currently batting .267 but was hovering around the .300 mark for most of the season up until late May. He has 62 hits, 18 of which have gone for extra bases as he has 11 doubles and six home runs. He has an uncharacteristic 46-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio, but with 17 of those strikeouts coming during his recent June struggles, it isn’t alarming just yet. Everyone goes through slumps, especially a 19-year old playing against reasonably older, advanced competition.

He stands tall at the plate, and with good bat speed and a level approach, Hayes’ biggest asset is that he can spray the ball around to all fields, and is quite the successful opposite-field hitter. He is in outstanding shape, as expected when his childhood coach was both his father and a World Series champion. The adjustment to the minor leagues has been a seemingly-easy transition for the teenager as he already had a familiarity from his brother and father, an advantage that can’t be overlooked.

For more on the rise of Hayes and to watch some video of him in action, head on over to Today’s Knuckleball for my full article.

Ke’Bryan Hayes powering up in second season

The Pittsburgh Pirates Austin Meadows is rising fast in the minors

It seems as if the Andrew McCutchen “will he, won’t he be traded,” saga has been going on for a few weeks now. Pirates general manager Neal Huntington has said that his team has no intentions of trading away the face of their franchise despite the team’s recent struggles and the superstar’s season-long uncharacteristic play. There is no denying, however, that a contingent of Pirates’ writers seem to feel that the time is right to move on from the McCutchen Era.

Is the next McCutchen waiting in the wings? Keep reading to find out!

The Pittsburgh Pirates Jameson Taillon has been all that was advertised

The Pittsburgh Pirates were handed a bit of  blow late last week when Gerrit Cole left a game early with tricep soreness, and took a hit when Cole was placed on the DL yesterday. It’s seemingly all ok, however, because Jameson Taillon is here to save the day.

Keep reading for more on Taillon’s impressive MLB start.

Mitch Keller on fire on the Pittsburgh Pirates farm

Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon are getting a lot of hype for the Pittsburgh Pirates and rightfully so. They are seemingly both on the brink of their much awaited big league debuts. The Pirates are deep, however, and they have another enticing prospect pitching the lights out in the South Atlantic League.

Keep reading for more on Mitch Keller.

The Pittsburgh Pirates Jameson Taillon is back and stronger than before

April 13th. It was a start two years in the making. The Pittsburgh Pirates’ Jameson Taillon hurled six innings of one-run ball, and when he left the mound healthy and feeling strong, all of Pirates’ Nation breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Taillon is quite possibly the most intriguing Top 100 prospect in baseball because no one knows what to expect. Almost all prospect junkies know what he is — or at least was — capable of, but it has been two years and two major injuries since he has pitched in an actual game against live batters. That is quite the layoff.

If you are unaware of Taillon’s storied past, he was the Pirates’ 2010 first-round draft pick, selected second overall and sandwiched between Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Much like Harper and Machado, Taillon was expected to be a superstar in the very near future. While Machado and Harper have reached those expectations, Taillon’s career has been derailed — albeit temporarily — by injuries.

Standing at 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, the now 24-year-old right-hander was a menacing presence on the mound from his first day in the minor leagues. His 2011 debut season would be a precursor of what to expect: high strikeout totals and low walk totals, the perfect combination of a budding ace. Where he struggled — if you wanted to call it that — was in the perfection of a third out pitch (as his changeup and slider were a work in progress), and his command.

Taillon reached Double-A in just his second season and he was nothing short of sensational. He made three starts to close out the 2012 season for Altoona. The righty went 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA, striking out 18 batters while walking one over 17 innings. Heading into 2013, Taillon was a consensus top-20 prospect in baseball.

2013 was an up and down season for Taillon. He reached Triple-A, but once there, he posted the worst walk rate of his career. Prior to his promotion, his 19 starts in Double-A would see Taillon at his most hittable, allowing more than a hit per inning while posting the highest batting average against (.257) of his young career.

He would head to spring training in Bradenton with the Pirates and be shut down with the dreaded elbow discomfort. It would be determined that his UCL had not ruptured or torn, yet Taillon would opt for Tommy John surgery. He would be shelved for at least a year, likely longer. As if to literally add insult to injury, Taillon returned in 2015 only to be shut down without throwing a live pitch as he needed hernia surgery.

Two full seasons. His age-22 and 23 seasons — highly important in any elite pitching prospect’s development — lost to injury. Would he still have that 90 to 94 mile per hour fastball? More importantly, could he still land it? Would his patented overhead curve with the big break still drop like it used to? Would all the progress he made on his Major-League-ready changeup be lost after not having thrown a pitch in a live game in more than 30 months?

The answers to those questions are extremely positive. So far… so good.

For video highlights, more prospect breakdown and projections for Taillon, head on over to Today’s Knuckleball for the full article by clicking the link below.

Jameson Taillon lighting up the strike zone once again

Pirates, Astros and Mets have big days, while Yankees confuse in Nashville

These Winter Meetings have been fun, haven’t they? There have been a lot of big names swapping jerseys, but that isn’t so unusual compared to years past. What is exciting is that many of the big moves aren’t merely trading names, they are making already strong teams stronger… and scarier.

Some moves that caught my eye at the MLB Winter Meetings Wednesday!

YARGH MATEY: Brews, Big Reds, and Birds – The NL Central Breakdown

Spring is in the air. We have a few official Grapefruit and Cactus League games in the books. If you have been following along you are also aware that I have the NL East predictions in the books (or in the Internet as the case may be). Today we move onto the NL Central.

THE NL CENTRAL

The NL Central is a well-rounded division. There are four solid teams competing for the title and at least one will most likely lock up the other Wild Card spot. This could be quite an interesting battle from the first pitch in April right down to the last strike in September.

5. THE CHICAGO CUBS.
(Covers.com has the Over/Under at 66.5 while FanGraphs has them finishing 73-89.)

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One hit?

They are famous for their legendary field. They are famous for their legendary announcer. Unfortunately, they are most famous for losing and it doesn’t seem that 2014 will change that. The longest championship drought in professional sports will continue for the 106th season.

When I look at the Cubs roster, I feel like I’m watching the beginning of Major League as I’m left asking who the hell are these guys? Starlin Castro, the lone star on the squad, took a giant step backwards last season. Their 2013 offense was second to last in the NL in both runs scored and RBI… and they made no moves to better the situation.

The pitching is an even bigger project. Last year’s ace, Matt Garza, is gone and Jeff Samardzija was on the trading block for much of the offseason but couldn’t bring in anything worth… well, anything. The ace of this staff, and that term is used very loosely, is Travis Wood. Wood is coming off a 9-12 season posting a 3.11 ERA with 144 Ks over 200 innings. That’s the third or fourth pitcher on most other rotations. They have a great back of the bullpen in Pedro Strop and Jose Veras but getting to them in meaningful situations may be a challenge.

Theo Epstein is in charge and this is clearly a team dedicated to rebuilding. He was the man in charge when the curse was reversed in Boston and Chicago faithful are still holding out hope that this team isn’t far away from contending. Until then they have the continued growth of Junior Lake, Anthony Rizzo, and Nate Schierholtz to root for — Hoo rah.

Projected 2014 Finish: 69-93.  For ticket information, check out Ticket Monster.

4. THE CINCINNATI REDS.
(Covers has the O/U at 87.5 while FanGraphs has them at 80-82.)

This could be my biggest blunder in all of my predictions. The Reds could easily win this division. They have a solid rotation as Johnny Cueto and Matt Latos are as formidable a 1-2 punch as any in the bigs. Homer Bailey is the newest $100 million-dollar man (yes, you read that correctly) so he better perform. Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, and Ryan Ludwick are as good of a heart of the line-up as there is. And Cincinnati finally gets to see rookie speedster Billy Hamilton in the line-up. Then why I do have this team slated to finish fourth?

The Reds have no depth–zip, zero, nada. Where other teams made big signings to deepen their rosters, the Reds lost two huge pieces while adding none. Losing Bronson Arroyo forces Tony Cingrani into the starting rotation. He showed future ace talent in his rookie season last year but that was over a mere 18 starts. He was able to be the swingman last season being used as the 6th starter when Cueto was on the DL and others needed rest. If he has a sophomore slump the Reds are thin at starting pitching and will struggle to fill the void. Cueto, the undisputed ace of the rotation, has Cy Young stuff. He also has big-time injury history. If the Reds intend to go far Cueto needs 30-plus starts.

On the offensive side of the ball they lost the on-base machine Shin-Soo Choo. Choo was huge as he hit homers, hit for average, got on base, stole bases, and scored tons of runs for the Reds big bats. He is now in Texas and Billy Hamilton is his replacement. No one has questioned what Hamilton can do when he gets on base, but many questions surround if he can get on base. Ryan Ludwick, who has never had 500 ABs in his career and is coming of a 2013 season lost to injury, will now be needed as an everyday outfielder.

This team has tons of talent. Their stars are also getting older and are injury prone. Baseball, as we know, is a long season. Their lack of depth will come back and haunt them.

Projected 2014 Finish: 85-77.  For ticket information click here.

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3. THE MILWAUKEE BREWERS.
(Covers has the O/U at 78.5 while FanGraphs has them at 78-84.)
The Brew Crew is back and Milwaukee once again has something to look forward to other than a sausage race. This offense is stacked with power so even if their questionable pitching staff struggles they should win a few games just by out-bombing the other team.

Ryan Braun is the big question mark. All eyes will be on him as he returns from suspension for his PED soap opera that he didn’t take, but took, but didn’t mean to take, yet still did. Will he be the player he once was, a perennial NL MVP candidate, or was he a PED nightmare? I stand firm to my belief that PEDs don’t make someone a good player. Ryan Braun can play ball and the PEDs simply enhanced the gifts he already had. Braun will be back with a huge chip on his shoulder. He will have a lot of young guns like Scooter Gennett, Khris Davis, and Jean Segura to drive in as well as solid bats like Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucoy, and the shell of Aramis Ramirez to protect him.

The starting pitching is a bit iffy. That’s why they brought in Matt Garza. I have never thought this guy was ace-of-the-staff material being more suited as a number two pitcher, however the Brewers are banking on his power pitching to come through in a big way. Yovani Gallardo was absolutely dreadful last season. The one time ace of the staff will now throw every third day. He has shown some flawed mechanics over the past few seasons watching his strikeouts fall and walks rise yearly. He is the Brewers X-factor: only 28-years-old, if he can find his old form, Garza, Kyle Lohse, and Gallardo are one heck of a 1-2-3 front end of the rotation.

Projected 2014 Finish: 87-75.  For ticket information click here.

2. THE PITTSBURGH PIRATES.
(Covers has the O/U at 86.5 while FanGraphs has them finishing 84-78).

Finally! Pittsburgh fans got to cheer for a winning season for the first time in over two decades. Clint Hurdle has this team poised and ready to make sure they continue their winning ways and don’t return to the perennial sub-.500 joke of the NL Central they had been.

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McCLUTCHen

Reigning NL MVP Andrew McCutchen is my favorite player that doesn’t wear pinstripes. There isn’t one thing this guy does poorly as he is a lights out center fielder, a terror on the base paths, a nice contact hitter, and has the power to be a run producing threat. McCutchen is a special player and a team with his sort of talent won’t just go away. It’s a scary thought for the rest of the NL Central that Cutch seems to be now hitting his stride at 27 years of age.

The Pirates have one glaring problem on offense and it is why I don’t have them catching the Cardinals quite yet. They are a boom or bust team. They don’t play an inkling of small ball or get on base frequently. The have bashers like Pedro Alvarez. Starling Marte came into his own last season and coming off a 12 HR, 41 SB campaign he can help change that mindset. Pirate fans are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Gregory Polanco who has already had a big debut in Spring Training.

The pitching staff takes a hit losing veteran ace AJ Burnett but let’s face reality. Losing a 37-year old pitcher who was set on retiring is not the biggest loss. They need Francisco Liriano to continue his rebirth and mature into what everyone thought he could be as he enters his 30s and becomes the ace of this young staff. They also need Gerrit Cole to avoid a sophomore slump and not tease us with the goods he showed as a rookie. This staff has 6 quality starters which is never a problem for any team. The Pirates also have the luxury of knowing that if their starters can getting them six quality innings then they are in good shape. Set-up man Mark Melancon and closer Jason Grilli were nearly untouchable last season as anchors to one of the best bullpens in baseball.

Projected 2014 Finish: 90-72. NL Wild Card. For ticket information click here.

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These guys love to win

1. THE ST. LOUIS CARDINALS.
(Covers has the O/U at 90.5 wins while FanGraphs has them finishing 88-74.)

There is no reason to bet against the reigning NL Champs. They once again seem to get better by subtraction as the loses of Carlos Beltran, David Freese, and Edward Mujica shouldn’t hurt them at all. This team is solid up and down the line-up and has one of the best young pitching staffs in the game.

The Cardinals line-up shouldn’t miss Freese as his departure will get Matt Adams full time at bats. They also made themselves strong up the middle bringing in veteran infielders Mark Ellis at second base and Jhonny Peralta at short. The outfield takes a little hit with the loss of Beltran but everyone in baseball knows he was just keeping the spot warm for all-world prospect Oscar Taveras. The Cards are in no rush to get him to the bigs, but I think it happens sooner than later. That is why I see Taveras as the NL Rookie of the Year.

The pitching staff they have assembled is one of the top five in baseball. It has some homegrown youngsters that will be fun to watch develop as a unit. Veteran ace Adam Wainwright anchors the young staff. Watching what playoff hero Michael Wacha and rookie phenom Shelby Miller do for an encore will be exciting as they both possess top of the rotation stuff. If they come of age this season and Jaime Garcia returns to full health, along with Lance Lynn the Cardinals will have the best rotation in baseball. Once they get to the bullpen, Trevor Rosenthal will take over at closer for the departed Mujica. I don’t know what they feed their closers on the farm, but Rosenthal is yet another hard throwing pitcher that will have no problem shutting down games for the Cards.

Projected 2014 Finish: 93-69. For ticket information click here.