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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Pittsburgh Pirates Trades Cole/McCutchen

S.Samek

After not doing too much, so far in the off-season, the Pittsburgh Pirates have made two deals in the past couple of days. These are headline level deals.

The first involves Gerrit Cole, heading to Houston for four players.

 
The first player and you could say headliner of this deal is Colin Moran. Moran plays both third and first base, but is looked to be inserted in the former. He ranks as the fourth best prospect in the Pirates system at the moment. He split this season at triple a and the majors. During his 11 games in the majors he hit .364 with a homer and three rbi. Moran was also named a midseason triple a all-star after hitting .308 with 18 home runs this season.

 

Moran should get the nod to start at third base, especially with the uncertainty of Jung Ho Kang. Granted he is unproven, but looks to have a strong upside as a former first round pick.

 

Two arms came to the Pirates in Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz.

 

Musgrove is a potential starter for the Buccos. In the major leagues he sports an 11-12 record and 4.52 era and was used primarily in the bullpen. However, he is another first round pick and a former top 100 prospect.

 

He won’t replace Cole, at least not this year, but could be a future arm to watch.

 

Feliz is a bullpen arm with numbers that don’t look good. He has a 5.13 era for 98 games in the majors. Yet he strikes out a lot of hitters. Feliz punched out 70 in 48 innings this year and 95 in 65 innings in 2016. The Pirates like him as a potential late-inning arm.

 
I could see this kid being a potential steal, maybe the next setup man, or closer for the Pirates. I like the upside if he can turn it around. His fast ball averaged 96 mph, so he could be a power arm for the Bucs in the future.

 

The final piece in the trade is outfielder Jason Martin. Martin becomes the Pirates 18th ranked prospect. He saw time at advanced a and double a last season, where he hit .278 with 18 home runs and stole 16 bases.

 
This is a good additional piece to the trade. He has some upside, but if it doesn’t pan out he wasn’t the center piece of it anyway.

 

Now Houston gets the Pirates number one starter in Cole. Cole is a good pitcher and at time dominant. He just isn’t an ace. This Season he went 12-12 with a 4.26 era. Cole allowed a career-high 31 home runs in 2017.

 
However, he was 59-42 with a 3.50 era while making 127 starts in five seasons in Pittsburgh. Houston gets an established veteran starter at the cost of a few talented, yet unproven youngsters.

 
This is a good deal for both teams at least on paper and should be interesting to watch.

 

Andrew McCutchen was the second big name sent packing as he was traded to San Francisco. The package the Giants are sending includes bonus money, outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds and pitcher Kyle Crick.

 

Reynolds was the Giants number four prospect at the time of the deal. He played at three levels of a ball this year with a .312 with 16 homers and 43 rbi stat line. He plays a bit of every outfield position. He also participated in the futures game this year.

 
I think this is a decent pick up. He is still a couple years away, but should make for an interesting prospect to watch.

 

Crick is another pitcher that saw time at triple a and in the majors this season. He was used in the bullpen where he put up a 2.76 era prior to his promotion. In the majors he had a 3.06 era with 28 strikeouts in 32 and one-third innings.

 
He is a former top prospect, but sits as number 16 in the current rankings. He could be another quality arm ready sooner rather than later for Pittsburgh.

 

McCutchen departs after hitting .279 with 28 homers and 11 steels last season. He was an anchor in the Pirates lineup and an MVP contender. He was the face of the franchise and a big part in getting the Pirates back to the playoffs.

 
He will be missed. However, I think if you want to respect McCutchen you let him play where he is wanted. He just isn’t at the level he once was and his fan support seemed to dwindle. This move lets him play for a contending team and Pittsburgh gets a couple players for the future.
Disappointing move yes, needed a second yes.
Overall, I think the moves look ok on paper and give me hope for the future, they just have to pan out.

 
Thank you, Cole, and McCutchen though for some great memories and good luck with your new teams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Top 10 Pirate Logos

By S. Samek

September 19 is Talk like a pirate day. In honor of it we take a look at some of the best Pirate themed logos in sports. The ten are ranked on how fierce and cool they look. As those would be the best way to describe Pirates.

10. Louisiana Swashbucklers.

9. Portland Pirates.

8. East Carolina Pirates.

7.Florida Marine Raiders.

6. Erie Seawolves.

5. Norwich Navigators.

4.Okland Raiders.

3. Pittsburgh Pirates.

2.Milwakee Admirals.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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.

 

 

 

2017 MLB Draft round 1

By S. Samek

2017 MLB draft day one is in the books. The Pittsburgh Pirates had four selections from the initial 72. Starting with pick number 12. With the selection, the Pirates took right handed pitcher Shane Baz.

 Baz a high school pitcher from Texas. He came into the draft ranked as the fifth best right hander and 11th best overall prospect.  Putting him at about where he was projected to be drafted.

Baz is a pretty hard thrower. His fastball hits 92-96 and has touched 98. Complementing that is a curveball, changeup and cutter.

Though it may be difficult to sign Baz and take him from his commitment at TCU. Though should Baz sign it will boost a strong, yet depleting pool of arms at the minor league level. This can help the system with the loss of Glasnow as a prospect, despite his struggles and Jameson Taillon.  Taillon was the last high school pitcher taken by the Pirates in the first round when he went number two overall in 2010.  Though a recent trend isn’t helping the chances to sign Baz. Last year Nick Lodolo picked TCU over the Pirates. Should be an interesting follow to see if Baz will sign. The Slot value for the pick is over four million dollars and would take up a large amount of the Pirates over 10 million in bonus money. .

Reports are coming in that Baz may officially sign on Thursday.

 

With the 42 pick Steve Jennings, another right hander joins in. Jennings can throw 95 mph heat and was a two-sport athlete.  Though not as hard of a thrower as Baz, with a fastball siting in the 89-92 range. Jennings is a Mississippi commit if he doesn’t sigh.

 

To me this is a nice arm to add to the lineup. The speed can be upped in the minors, or is serviceable as is. A curveball, slider and changeup compliment the fastball. Jennings should be sigh able.  Though he may have been a slight reach of a pick, as he was projected as the 49th best prospect in the draft.

Eight picks later and Calvin Mitchell was next to hear his name called by Pittsburgh. Mitchell was prospect number 79 by MLBpipeline.com and 74 by Baseball America. Making this selection at number 50 a bit of a reach. The high school outfielder hit .369 with 11 home runs and 34 rbi this season. Mitchell has an offer in place from the University of San Diego. For about a million and a half in bonus money from the slot pool Mitchell can join the Pirates. Potential yes, at this price, no. Though it would add to a system lacking a good, as in top 30 organization true outfield prospect and knock some weaker top 30 guys off the list.

With their final selection of day one, number 72 overall the pick was another high school outfielder. This one in the form of Connor Uselton from Southmoore high school in Oklahoma. Interesting discrepancy in draft positions for this kid. MLBpipeline.com had him ranked 46th, Baseball America had him 89th. /

Though the kid adds another multisport athlete to the Pirates system. Though he is also 19 years old and a bit older than most high school players. A maturity that may help with the day to day grind of the minors and professional life. For just around 800,00 he can be placed in the Pirates system. I like this pick. If he can play like the mid second round projection of MLBpipline.com the Pirates have a steal. Though the upside is there even if it’s closer to the 89th ranked pick, which would come as a small loss.

I like the stocking up on younger players. With a strong core in place and many fast-moving prospects in the minors, a lot of draftees don’t have to be MB ready now. Giving the high school player time to develop without the pressure of now or never is a plus. Though I’m still waiting on a stud lefty to complement the big-league rotation. Its’s one of the systems lacking pieces, even with three left handers in the top 20 organization prospects. None of them have the real dominance top of the rotation wow factor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Play the Game

By S. Samek

Recently I picked up the book Just Watch the Game by John Steigerwald as well as its companion Just watch the game (Again). Both tell of the Pittsburgh sports reporters experiences as a reporter and in his youth. Steigerwald primary joy in most of his experiences come from the fact that he was able to be at the stadium and just watch the game without the bells and whistles we enjoy today.

I enjoyed both books being a Pittsburgh Sports fan and an aspiring sports broadcaster and reporter. So, the experiences and stories really hit home for me.

In the first chapter of book one I learned about how Roberto Clemente hit a walk-off grand slam, which I now know is called an ultimate grand slam. Though this was the second one hit that season by the Pirates. Unique story I’d never heard before.  I also enjoyed reading about other Pittsburgh sports icons Chuck Noll, Dave Parker, Terry Bradshaw and a host more. Though I must say that the best story came from Steigerwald’s treatment of Mr. Rodgers. I laughed a good bit during both books where Mr. Rodgers was mentioned. If you’re a fan of Yinzer culture of any variety the book will have you covered.

Another thing I really enjoyed was the opinion sharing. Steigerwald does a good job of stating his opinion and backing it up enthusiasm. He really believes in his thoughts even if they are unpopular. It makes for some funny banter when combined with some of the stories he tells.

The final thing I really enjoyed from the book was the experiences in the broadcast field stories. Being a future broadcaster I learned a lot about what it takes to get to a high level in the field. From taking jobs in the minor leagues, or middle of nowhere markets to get to Pittsburgh. It gave me a perspective as to what to expect to get to where I want to get to. The most important lesson that I learned from the experiences is to just keep improving and getting better even if the money isn’t the biggest. It’s about enjoying the ride and the experiences.

I would recommend reading both of these books. Each one is equally filled with great stories and experiences unique to each one. The other cool thing is you can read the chapters or even the books out of order. Though I recommend reading the books in order so you understand some of the mentions in the second book. Plus, it’s an easy read you won’t want to put down. Pittsburgh sports fans be sure to check out the set. Overall 10/10 and highly recommend.