Return of Kang

S.Samek

Surprise. Looks like Pittsburgh Pirate fans have something to cheer about after a gloomy off season.

 
Former starting third baseman Jung Ho Kang is coming back to the team. Kang faced visa issues from DUI charges, as well as injuries. He didn’t see action with the Pirates last year.

 
At the time of his departure Kang was hitting .273 with 36 homers and 120 rbi in 229 games over two seasons.

 

 

This is definitely a boost for the Pirates lineup. Anytime you get a starter back it’s a positive addition.

 
The only problem is where does Kang go? Third base is taken by David Freese and Collin Moran. Shortstop has Jordy Mercer and second base is all Josh Harrison’s. Those are Kang’s main three positions.

 
Yet I don’t really think you need three people at third base. Yes, Kang is good and proved himself in the past, while Moran is not really tested, but does that just mean you give up on Moran?

 
I don’t think that would be fair to him, especially after trading away your ace pitcher in an unpopular move to get him. Kang is an improvement over Freese, but Freese is still a solid bench guy. I don’t really think Kang is a bench guy at the moment.

 
What also happens to the likes of Jose Osuna who has been getting looks at third base, or Max Moroff. Guys that have done well in the minor leagues and are starting to show skills at the big-league level. Yet again prospect getting shafted for a player that many never expected to come back.

 
So why not trade Kang? Though what would he be worth if traded? I don’t see this happening though with the way off-season trades went and how furious the fan base would be if yet another star gets traded away.

 
I’m surprised to see Kang back. I do acknowledge this could be a boost for the Pirates lineup. I just don’t know where you play him at. Hoping he gets back to form and surprise people. That and he behaves himself and just worries about the game.

 

 

 

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Tebow Update

S.Samek

Last year we talked about Tim Tebow trying to become a professional baseball player.

Tebow’s quest is still going on. This season he is with the double-a Binghamton Rumble Ponies.

 

This is even after a season in which he did not fare well statistically. He hit .26 overall at two levels of a ball last year. He hit .220 at the low a level. He did hit eight home runs and drove in 52 runs during the year though, but still the numbers don’t really stand out.

 

Tebow isn’t listed in the Mets top 30 prospect list. Now while this may not mean much, it does mean that he isn’t someone to watch for preforming well. He isn’t even among the top 30 in a system with a couple hundred prospects. Making Tebow at best number 31. That wouldn’t get him a roster spot on the standard 25 man roster.

 

He maybe at best a slot on the extended 40-man roster. Yet he remains absent on the current edition of that.

 

Age isn’t on Tebow’s side either. He’s 30, which is old for double –a. It’s old to be still considered a prospect. Maybe not if he was being stored at triple-a for depth as a veteran player, but Tebow’s never even reached the majors. Making it just another waste of roster space the Mets are using with Tebow.

 
It is about attendance numbers though. Tebow had teams marking their calendars for his appearances. Fans flocked to the gates to see him. This trend should continue this season.

 

 
I still think Tebow needs to quit. Go be an analyst or something. Give another hard working young kid a chance to make it to the majors.

 

 

Chief Wahoo Two

S.Samek

During the Cleveland Indians run to the world series the chief wahoo controversy came up.

 

I was on the side of the coin that wanted to see the logo removed.

 
The time has finally come. Recently it was announced that after 2018 Chief Wahoo will no longer see time on uniforms.

 

 

I fully agree with this. Though sources say this may only come because of intense pressure from MLB, or the fact that the Indians will host the 2019 all-star game.
Either way its good to see the logo go. Put the uniform drama away and focus on the on the field product.

 
Would be interesting to see what replaces it, if anything. I think the red C should be sufficient though if not a bit boring.

 
Should be interesting to see if this triggers another wave of logo changes. I don’t see that being the case ,but it may happen.

 

 

Pittsburgh Pirates Organization All-Stars 2017.

S.Samek

The best minor league players in the Pittsburg Pirates system were honored with milb.com organization all-star status.

 

Infield

Today I take a look at the selection to see what’s good and who deserves their status.
At the Catcher Position you have Jacob Stallings. Stallings saw time at triple a and a very short stint in the majors. He hit .301 with 16 doubles, four home runs and 38 rbi.

 
Being as catcher is one of the weaker positions in the Pirates system and that Elias Diaz has graduated from being a prospect make this an easy choice.

 
At first base Edwin Espinal was honored. Espinal hit .294 with 15 home runs and 86 rbi. Both of these totals ranked near the top of the organization leaderboard. Sadly, they let him walk in free agency. Well-deserved all-star spot.

 
At second base it was Pablo Reyes. Reyes was an on base machine for the Altoona Curve with 115 hits and 51 walks during the season. Reyes may not be well known and plays at a position with more depth, but isn’t entirely out of the mix after a season like that.

 
At shortstop it’s Cole Tucker. Tucker saw time at high a and double a in 2017. Tucker hit .275 with six home runs and 50 rbi. Tucker also swiped 47 bases this season, up from just six last year.

 
Shortstop is a position of depth for the Pirates, but Tucker could still be that future shortstop for the big-league Pirates.

 

At Third base the all-star is Ke’Byran Hayes. Hayes is the fourth ranked Pirates prospect. While Hayes has been injury prone in the past this year was better. He played in 108 and hi .278 with two homers and 43 rbi. Good to see him get on the field healthy and showing his stuff.

 

 

Outfield

In the Outfield its Jordan Luplow, Chris Bostick and Edison Lantiqua.

 
Luplow was the Pirates minor league player of the year and saw time in the majors this year. He hit .302 with 23 homers, best in the system. Luplow could be in Pittsburgh to start next year and absolutely earned every accolade he gets.

 
Bostick had a good season despite no real expectations. He hit .294 with seven homers and 57 rbi with 33 doubles at Triple A Indianapolis.

 
Lantiqua played for Bristol this season, so he is unknown to most Pirate fans. Though he showed he maybe a future top 30 prospect by hitting .307 with four homers and eight steals during 48 games this season. He routinely topped offensive categories for Bristol this year and could be a breakout candidate in 2018.

 
At the utility position Albert Baur was selected. Baur played at West Virginia in the South Atlantic League and hit .298 during the season after spending two seasons in short season a ball. His campaign included 117 hits, 31 doubles and 65 rbi, all near the top of the Pirate system leader boards. Baur could be another unranked, yet sleeper player to watch.

 

 

Pitchers

The right-handed pitcher for the Pirates comes as no surprise, despite a talented system with plenty of depth at the position. Hammer Down favorite and number two Pirates prospect Mitch Keller earned the spot.
Keller made 23 starts, including six at double a. This included clutch starts in the double a playoff, where he went 2-0 with a 1.10 era. Keller is most likely going back to Altoona to start 2018, but after a stint in the AFL is primed to make a run toward starting in Pittsburgh real soon.

 
The best left hander in the system is Steven Brault. Brault is often time thrown in the mix as a fifth starter in Pittsburgh after making four starts and pitching in 11 games for the big club. He went 10-5 with a 1.94 era at triple this season. This earned him the Pirates minor league pitcher of the year award. Great pick for an all -star honor.

 
Tate Scioneaux was the all-star reliever for this team. He was Altoona’s closer after the promotion of Montana Durapau. He went 14 of 17 in save opportunities while pitching 83 innings with a 2.44 era. Scioneaux is another unranked prospect, but could surprise a lot of people if he keeps putting up good numbers.

 
Overall the list is pretty good. It’s just a little alarming that more ranked prospect don’t appear on this list. Though it adds some variety to the players to watch list.

To compare with the 2016 list check here.

2017 ALDS Preview

S. Samek

Moving past the wild card game to set up each division series. Here would be my pick for team s advancing to the Championship series. Starting with the American League.
Our first match up is the Indians and Yankees. The Yankees are fresh off an 8-4 win in Tuesdays wild card game. While Luis Severino did not look good in that game it shouldn’t matter as the Yankees bullpen looked good. Severino should be able to rebound and pitch closer to the dominance he saw during the regular season if he is needed in this series.

Aaron Judge, homered in the wild card game and had 52, tops in the American League during the regular season.  Gary Sanchez hit 33 homers as well. The power is there for New York.

Cleveland wins plan and simple. The won last year’s American League championship and lost in the World series final game. They won 102 games this season, most in the American League and second most in all of MLB.

They own the record for wins in a row all time as they strung together 22 wins during the season. They have a 42-8 record in the past 50 games.
They pitch well. Indians bull pen has the best era, while their starters have the second best. Cory Kluber leds this staff with a 1.62 era in his last 23 starts.

The Indians can hit too. Edwin Encarnacion had the big stick with 38 homers this year. Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez also combine for 62 long balls this season. If the Yankees have power, so do the Indians.

Cleveland has a 58.3 percent chance to win according to ESPN and I agree. Indians win.

Next matchup is Houston and Boston.

Houston won 101 games, third best overall record. The have four great pitchers in the rotation, led by Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander. They have strong hitters like Jose Altuve, Josh Reddick and George Springer. They are a complete team built to compete.

The Red Sox won the East division and 93 games. The have a rotation with Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello. Offensively they have Mookie Betts and his 24 home runs. Betts does well against ground ball pitchers, like Keuchel and should be able to give Boston a nice boost on offense.

think Houston’s depth in the rotation should be able to send them on, when combined with a strong hitting core. Astros take this series.

 

 

 

 

Striking Distance

Pirates have chance to gain ground in division.

By S. Samek

 The Pittsburgh Pirates have started out strong in the first two games of a four-game set in Milwaukee. The Pirates have outscored the Brewer’s 15-four in what I think could be a pivotal point toward the rest of the season. The Pirates it just four games out of first place and a half game back from second in the NL Central. Even taking just one of the next two keeps them at four games back from first place in the division. Plus depending on what the Cubs do against San Diego, a move up to second place is possible.

 

This would then lead them into a series against St. Louis, a team they are currently tied with in the standings. Having momentum from a big series in Milwaukee, should help the Pirates do well against the Cardinals and add separation between the two for at least third place in the division.

 

Then the Pirates end June and enter July with series against the Rays and Giants. The Rays being similar to the Brewers in record can be hung with, more so being at home where the Bucs have a winning mark at 19-18. The Giants then come into town with one of the worst records in baseball and provide another chance to gain ground by beating them.

The schedule keeps staying easy with the Phillies and Cubs rounding out the pre-all-star game slate. The Pirates realistically could go 11-6, or 12-5 during this stretch. This puts them at 44-44, or 45 – 43. This would then give them strong momentum going into the All-Star game, before seeing the Cardinals and Brewers immediately after the break.

Having the separation from before the all-star break would help a lot. Then With more games scheduled against the Giants and Padres, now could be the start of the big month that plays into a playoff spot.

The Pirates are currently on a 7-3 run in the last 10 games. This includes a pair of wins against the Marlins after losing two games to the them. A two-one series win against NL West leading Colorado, a win over the Cubs and the two in Milwaukee. Showing a sample of how teams better than the Pirates can be beaten.

The offense is picking up for Pittsburgh. Jordy Mercer has a 10-game hitting streak going. He is hitting .389 with a homer and five extra base hits during the streak. He hit his third triple of the year last night as part of a 2-4 effort.

Andrew McCutchen is also hitting better in the sixth spot in the order. McCutchen went 3-3 last night with a home run, walk and three rbi. This is part of a resurgence in which McCutchen is hitting .406 with six homers and 19 rbi in June.

Jose Osuna, Josh Bell and Elias Diaz are developing well in the bigs, and break out second halves could be just what this team needs. Josh Harrison is also contributing with regularity.

The Pitching is still a work in progress, but with Jamison Taillon back and Ivan Nova and Gerrit Cole pitching consistently this team has a chance.

Starling Marte is also due back in Mid -July. Having his glove and bat in the lineup is a major plus. This addition would put some confidence back into the outfield and combined with McCutchen and crew could keep the Pirates around in a weaker NL Central.

 

 

 

LA Lights Up

Rookie displays big power.

By S. Samek

The American League and National League always seem to go head to head over which league is superior. This season is no exception. Taking the American League by storm is Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge.

To counter punch for the national league it’s the LA Dodgers Cody Bellinger. Bellinger is bringing the power knocking 21 homers after a two-homer night on Monday.

 This continues a string of nine home runs in nine games.  Hes played in just 51 games this season after his April 25 call up. Bellinger is the fourth player to mash 20 home runs pre-all-star break being younger than 21. The last person to do so was Miguel Cabrera in 2004.

Bellinger is hitting .269 with 10 doubles and 47 rbi this season. The 21 home runs are tied for second in the majors behind only Judge and his 23 dingers. Though while Judge is doing well in the all-star balloting, Bellinger is not. He hasn’t ever cracked the top 15 in outfielders.  In fact, in the ESPN article it looks like it would take quite a bit of work to get the man into the all-star game.

While this would be a shame, I think it is going to happen and Mr. Bellinger will be staying home. Though I feel like the snub will only motivate the kid to do bigger and better things. Like win a rookie of the year award. He has a very early edge if nothing else.

Bellinger is another home-grown product. In 2016, he hit 26 homers in the upper two level of the minors while hitting .271. When he was called up this season he was hitting .343 with five homers and 15 rbi in 18 games for the Oklahoma City Dodgers.  He was a Double-A all-star for Tulsa and played in the AFL, where he was all-prospect team and an AFL rising star. He also owns two Dodger’s organization all-star nods.

Bellinger won last month’s rookie of the month award on the National League side. He also won the player of the week honor for the week of May 7th,2017.

While Bellinger has caught a lot of national attention like Judge has. Bellinger may serve as a symbol of the new culture of baseball.

 The idea of drilling the ball hard, his average exit velocity is almost 93 mph, or failing he has 65 strikeouts proves this.

This is very true with all the advanced metrics of the game and obsession with pitchers that hit triple digits on the gun. Not a bad thing, as who doesn’t love seeing the ball go sailing 500 feet out for easy runs. Who doesn’t love to see dominant pitchers rack up strikeout numbers in the teens. It’s an evolution of the game. If seeing players like Judge and Bellinger come around by the hundreds over the years that would be great. It gets media attention and fans in the stands. I embrace Bellinger and wish him the best of luck this year, Judge too.

As for which is better, time will tell. It’s only been a small sample for Bellinger, and Judge is still less than a full season into his pro career. Open the debate back up in five years for a more fair comparison.