West Virginia Black Bears 2017

By S. Samek

Tonight, the West Virginia Black Bears begin season number three. The Black Bears had a .500 campaign in 2016 with a 38-38 record. This was after taking the championship in 2015, their first year in the league as the Black Bears.

Taking a look at tonight’s opening roster. The team looks rather pedestrian.  One of the top 30 Pirates prospects have been assigned to the roster.

Mitch Keller is listed, but it is as a rehab assignment. He belongs with Bradenton.  Michael Suchy is also on a rehab assignment.

The rest seem to be call ups from the Gulf Coast league and Bristol.http://www.milb.com/roster/index.jsp?sid=t5020. No one stands out to even have done anything really worth noting. The closest thing to doing something is Jonathan Schwind. Schwind has seen time at the Double and triple a level. He just hasn’t done much with the bat and isn’t really considered a prospect. This just has to be lineup filler.

Sandy Santos returns to the black and gold after spending last season with them. Santos was with the West Virginia Power, but struggles this season have led to a demotion back to Morgantown. Santos tied for second on the team with 34 rbi, while hitting .281, also second best on the team.

A fast start with the Bears and it won’t surprise me if he gets returned to Charleston. Last season he showed a bit of dominance, but nothing top 30 worthy, yet.

Though aside from the yawn fest of a line up, the Black Bears have an interesting addition to the coaching staff. Joel Hanrahan is an assistant pitching coach for the team. Hanrahan was a former all-star closer in Pittsburgh with 100 career saves. This gives that big league feel and experience to the young pitchers and should serve them well.

I will say though even with a lack of pedigree in the lineup I can see moves being made to improve this roster. Shane Baz, the first-round pick that recently signed with the Bucs could perhaps make an appreance here. Though the most likely spot for him would be the GCL. Recent draftees from the college ranks maybe sent here as well after signing.

 

Though it won’t surprise me either if top 30 ranked pitchers in Braeden Ogle, Travis MacGregor and Max Kranick see time in West Virginia after short, or successful stints in the GCL.

Plus, with no expectations comes the high possibility of a sleeper prospect emerging.  First pitch for the season is at 7:05 p.m.  against Mahoning Valley.

Advertisements

Ties in Baseball

By S. Samek

Sunday night I turned on the TV to watch. I turned on the usual late night fair ESPN. To my surprise the Yankees and Cubs were still going at it locked in a draw. Deep into extras the game lasted 18 innings. It took six hours and five minutes to complete.

Now Buster Onlney of ESPN is writing that the end of play till you win games are coming. That extra innings depletes lineups and can cause injury. That players hate playing marathon games at the expense of travel and sleep.

Conversely Onlney and the fans like extra-inning games. A twitter poll conducted by Onlney produced a 75 percent in favor rating for keeping current rules based on about 34,500 responses. Who wouldn’t like the extra play though. It gives fans more bang for your buck on super expensive tickets. It gives the opportunity to experience the dramatic walk off win. It can create memories. Memories like the Braves and Pirates 19 inning affair that was the longest in Pirates history and dubious for the Jerry Meals call. Though it was very memorable. It also lasted longer than the Cubs and Yankees game in question.

Yes, many fans do leave the stadium after it gets too late for obligations, and yes it may be tough to play for a dwindling crowd. Though it is a requirement to play the game to conclusion no matter what the number of fans is. Plus, with replay and television people will see what happened even hours later. I would also say teams should love extra innings as it gives them more time to sell food and merchandise to fans. The longer the game goes the more likely fans will get hungry and need to visit the concession stand. Get too cold for an evening game, grab a sweatshirt or blanket from the team store.

Efforts are being made to shorten games. Pitch clocks namely being used to shorten games. Though the not timed game is part of what makes baseball unique.

Looking at a graph from the Onley article I would say the marathon game isn’t the norm. In 2016 34 percent of 185 extra-inning games went 12 or more innings. Only 185 games out of 4,900 or so contests even made extra innings. That’s only 38 percent. In 2015 only 30 percent of extra-inning games went beyond 12 innings. 2014 and 2013 season numbers also average about 35 percent of games entering extras. So even if extras are being played most are ending after 12 and not extending into marathon territory.

The World Baseball Classic, as well as soft ball have a rule placing a runner in scoring position to begin extra innings. This would create more opportunities to conclude the game by driving home that runner. It is an option to be used if things get too bad, but sometimes one swing and its over in the bottom of inning 13. No guarantees that runner scores and the game ends earlier.

As for depleting lineups and injuries that is a concern. The longer you play the more people you have to use and the more stress on player’s bodies. However, players can get injured at any time during any contest. It’s not just an extra innings thing. Having players play longer can also tire them out. However, there is a bench. How the bench is used is a strategy that can make, or break the game. Though both teams are playing equally long and have the same issues to deal with. If tired players are a concern call players up from the minors and give the starters a rest, or use reserves for a day. Breaks are allowed you don’t have to play all 162 games. Maybe schedule a couple minute break in between innings if games get too late.

Though I would say one of the worst things is the idea that a relief corps of specialists can only pitch in certain points isn’t helping. Go your one inning and your toast. Then possibly have to waste a starter in a situation that counts the same as the next day’s game. The idea of having pitchers and firemen may help with this. View my arguments for it here.

Though I would say the biggest supporting issue with ties is close sure. Fans want to know who won and lost. Wins and losses are the front of the standings. Things need to have an ending to satisfy viewers. Wins excite the viewer, losses sadden and ties are ho hum. If baseball doesn’t want to move even more toward ho hum normal rules for extra innings should apply.

 

 

 

 

Crashing The Party

Outfielder’s departure hurts teams chances for the postseason.

By S. Samek

The Pirates lost a huge player as Starling Marte was suspended for 80 games for violating MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

 As a result, Marte is gone for at least the next half of the season and will sit out the playoffs. This also prompted an interesting set of moves. Andrew McCutchen was moved back to centerfield after being moved to right. Then Jose Osuna was called up from Indianapolis to serve as outfield depth. Osuna is a definite call up worthy candidate after being one of the last cuts during the spring. Hit .404 with 5 homers.

Adam Frazier also should add depth in the outfield as a utility man as will Josh Harrison. Though it will be interesting to see if Josh Bell gets any time in the big-league outfield. Bell was a primary outfielder before being moved to first base. Bell primarily played right field during his times in the minors.

Though if the hole is in center field why not call up Austin Meadows. Meadows being the second-best prospect in the Pirates system should have the fast track to Pittsburgh. Simple answer is he isn’t quite ready yet. Meadows is only facing his first full season at Triple A. Meadows also isn’t dominating like a Tyler Glasnow was. Meadows started the season hitless in 11 at bat before a recent streak as improved his average to .162. Granted it is only a very small 10 games sample. Look for Meadows to improve and maybe knock on the door of Pittsburgh in June like Bell did last year should the need arise. Though the more likely case would be to see Meadows in Pittsburgh in September.

The transition will be tough for the Pirates. It will take McCutchen playing back to form, and consistent production from the rest of the starting lineup to keep this club in contention. Breakout seasons for Frazier and Bell would go a long way to minimize the damage of Marte’s departure.

Glasnow’s Fine

By S. Samek

Tyler Glasnow struggled in his first start of the year against the Reds. He then followed it up with a better start against the Cubs. Though while improvement was seen a lot of fans are calling for his demotion to the minors. According to this article The Pirates are giving Glasnow a chance and you should too here why.

First off is his top prospect status. Glasnow earned this with is dominating play in the minors. Try a 2.03 overall era, including a 1.87 era at Triple A Indianapolis last year. This domination has led him being graded as a 60 on the 20-80 scale. Glasnow’s fast ball is rated at a 70 and his Curveball a 60 giving him two pitches grating above average. http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2017?list=pit Glasnow as the stuff he just needs to show it.

Though in his second start against the Cubs he did show glimpses. He racked up seven strikeouts. He touched 95-96 on the radar gun. He got out of a couple jams. This is against a stacked Cubs lineup. Glasnow is capable of getting out major league hitters.

Now If you were going to replace Glasnow who would you do it with. If you’re thinking Drew Hutchinson try again. In two starts Hutchinson is sporting a 7.84 era against Toledo and Colorado Springs. Glasnow just faced the World Series champs.

Steve Brault could make a case to replace Glasnow. In three starts Brault has a 3.66 era and a 2.77 era overall in the minors. Brault is the ninth ranked pitcher in the Pirates system. Brault also has a sub 5.00 era in the majors. Though Brualt’s potential isn’t Glasnow’s. Brault grades out to 50s overall and with his fastball.

My other question to all the Glasnow detractors would be what else does he have to prove in the minors. His every level dominance shows he can pitch to beat the competition. It’s too easy. He’s never going to get any better if he doesn’t face major league caliber hitters. While his two starts weren’t, good there is lots of room for improvement. Plus, its only that two starts. Glasnow should have many more this season. These could very well be outliers statistically. Now I will agree that Glasnow needs work and time. Working with the Major-league staff should help a lot and see if his potential is true. I would say it is. He just needs to stay in the majors and build confidence.

 

Top 30 part 1 MILB Systems by Nicknames

By S/ Samek

No doubting the some of the best team names come from Minor League baseball. Team names reflect everything from the ridiculous to the historical to the affiliation agreement. The results can be mixed and not all minor-league systems rank the same. This post shows one such ranking

I love the idea of ranking the whole systems and not just the names individually, though that may come later.  Sit back relax and enjoy the rankings for major league team with the best affiliate names. Note part one is 30-15 and 14-1 will come in part two.

30. Atlanta Braves. While the newest team in the organization has a sick name in the Florida Fire Frogs, the rest just aren’t creative. Try the tune of Braves times six. It’s just too boring and needs to change Obvious pick for the worst system for creative names.

29. Boston Redsox. While a bit better than Atlanta not by much. The triple a and high-a team sport Redsox monikers as to three lower level teams. Despite the triple-a team going by the other nickname Paw socks it’s just too close to the original. Two clubs in the Lowell Spinners and Greenville Drive add some spice, but aren’t great.

28. St. Louis Cardinals.  St. Louis is very similar to Boston. Five teams rock Cardinals names while a sixth rocks a Redbirds name. Spikes and Chiefs prevent a total bird theme, but it’s still a boring system of names.

27. Baltimore Orioles. Birds galore make up the system for Baltimore. Throw in a sox name and the combo of the unoriginal is complete. The Norfolk Tides and their unique sea horse is the best of the bunch, but it’s still lackluster.

26. Anaheim Angels.

Multiple Angels and Bees team say boring. Though the unique 66ers name helps out just a boring set of logos.

25. Chicago Cubs. Bears are a theme there. Pelicans and Emeralds complement them, but the defending series winners didn’t win here.

24. New York Yankees

Two team twin with the big club here. Then next come the Thunder, River dogs and Railriders Not too good, but not too bad a bit underwhelming is why they rank so low.

23. Chicago White Socks. While only two lower level teams rock the same name as their parent, this is a list loaded with ho-hum names. Knights, Barons and Dash are nothing special. Voyagers and Intimidators are the best of the bunch, but may rank near the middle as far as unique individual names.

22. Cleveland Indians

The highlight of this group is the Akron rubber ducks. The Scrappers and Captains are better than an Indians name, but the Clippers and Hillcats leave much to be desired.

21. Washington Nationals.

This name set is filled with patriotic luster with another Nationals, Senators and Chiefs. The Suns is a ho-hum name and seems odd for Hagerstown. The Auburn Doubleday’s gives a tip of the cap to the invention of the game of baseball and the myth behind it. Making it the best in a middle of the road set.

20. Arizona Diamondbacks.

Arizona is a solid, but unspectacular set of names. Aces is classic, but boring, as is Generals and Cougars. Hops and Rawhide are in a league of their own, but again nothing so funny, or memorable.

19. Houston Astros.

It didn’t help the Astros ranking to add a new team called the Astros. This gives them five squads with that name. Grizzles is another ho-hum name not helping much. Hooks and River Bandits try and redeem the organization it’s not a super strong try.

18. Detroit Tigers

Flying Tigers and four more Tiger cub teams make up the organization. Though positive points for the Western Michigan Whitecaps and Toledo Mud Hens.

17. Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Altoona Curve are the stand out name in a series with Indians, Blackbears, Power and Marauders. Though the organization is a bit lower than average on exciting names.

16. Toronto Blue Jays.

Fisher Cats are funny and the Vancouver Canadians is a local flare team name. Though A Jays clone and Bison add an underwhelming element to the puzzle.

15. Minnesota Twins

The Twins are another middle of the pack set of names. The Fort Myers Miracle and Chattanooga Lookouts are the standouts here. Red Wings and Kernels are a bit of a step down, but not enough to move the Twins too far up, or down on the list.

View Part two here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

West Virginia Power 2017 Opening Day

By S. Samek

The forth team and last to begin play on April 6,2017 from the Pittsburgh Pirates organization is the West Virginia Power. The announced their opening roster recently in this article. Time to break down the roster.

Upon first glance none of the pitchers stand out. Though after a second look the Power will be with the services of 14th ranked prospect in the Pirates system Luis Escobar. Escobar is making the jump to full season ball after playing in the New York Penn League last year with good results.

He could be this year’s Mitch Keller as far as breakout potential.

Behind the plate also brings system newcomers and unknowns.

The infield is led by 18th ranked Pirates prospect Stephen Alemais. Alemais is returning to the Power after a short stint with them last year. While he struggled a bit in his first looks with the Power Alemais is another talented infielder in a deep Pirates system. Listed as a shortstop it should be interesting to see if he stays at the position.

 

The rest of the infield and outfield are very limited in the talent pool. The only other name I recognize on the roster is Trae Arbet. Arbet is a second basemen that hit well for Bristol in 2015, but saw no time last year.  This could be a shape up or ship out kind of deal.

This roster does seem to be the forgotten child of the organization. With just two top 20 Pirates prospects to start the season, the initial look is skewed to the negative.  Though on the positive side it won’t surprise me if one of these unknowns has a break out year. Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte and Mitch Keller are some of the names in the recent trend of turning unknowns into potential studs starting in West Virginia. Another potential thing would be to see this squad boosted with promotions and draft picks later on in the year. For right now though hold off on watching the Power too closely if you’re looking for big time prospect updates.

Bradenton Marauders 2017

By S. Samek

Today the 2016 Florida State League champions the Bradenton Marauders begin their title defense. They do so with a loaded roster of prospects.

Starting with third ranked prospect and breakout hit of 2016 Mitch Keller. Keller started last year with West Virginia before a promotion. Keller then went on to pitch in three late season contests for the Marauders, including two in the playoffs. The most memorable of those games being an eight-shutout inning performance in game two of the finals series. Keller was then sent to the AFL to continue his development. I don’t think Keller will be here very long, especially if he dominates. Keller can be read about further in this post.

 

Gage Hinsz and Taylor Hern are the other big name arms to watch. Hinsz is the 11th ranked prospect in the system, while Hern is the 12th. Hern looks to show why he was traded for in the Mark Melancon deal.

The infield also carries some solid prospects. Ke’Bryan Hayes plays at third and is the fifth best in the Pirates top 30. Hayes was playing well at West Virginia before an injury last year.

Number six prospect Cole Tucker comes back to Bradenton after playing in 65 games there last year.

Will Craig last year’s first round draft pick also gets a look at high A. Craig is skipping over low a West Virginia Power after a season with the short-season West Virginia Black Bears. This to be a bit of an aggressive call up to me.

The catching position doesn’t feature much to watch, not does the outfield. Though it may be worth noting Kevin Krause behind the dish and Casey Hughston in the outfield. Hughston struggled last season with both West Virginia clubs after being a third-round pick in 2015. I didn’t like this pick when it happened and in less he breaks out this season it may be shipping out time for him. 

The Marauders have a full lot of players ready to defend the title. Though a lot of it will depend on the pitching. Having a strong defense in the infield will help this staff out a lot. This is the team to watch if you want to get a glimpse of the future Pittsburgh infield. Mitch Keller should also jet up prospect boards and into double a if he looks sharp during the first half of play. Making this squad one to watch for sure.