Monday Morning Links 7/14/14

- CBS Sports gives the Pirates a “B” grade for the first half:

[quote_simple]”They were eight games below .500 on May 20, so heading into the break three games over is definitely a good thing for Pittsburgh. The offense has been good and the addition of Gregory Polanco gives the Pirates an unbelievable outfield that is under team control for years. The pitching, though, has been disappointing.”[/quote_simple]

– The Bucs have set their rotation for after the All-Star break:

Francisco Liriano (Friday vs. Rockies)
Charlie Morton (Saturday vs. Rockies)
Jeff Locke (Sunday vs. Rockies)
Edinson Volquez (Monday vs. Dodgers)
Vance Worley (Tuesday vs. Dodgers)

– Liriano was … shaky in his return on Sunday. Six walks in four innings.

Josh Bell was the Pirates’ lone representative in yesterday’s All-Star Futures Game. He went 0-for-1 and played some right field as the US team won, 3-2.

Clint Hurdle is looking forward to helping coach the National League team on Tuesday.

– An excellent piece from Travis Sawchik on the Bucs’ superstar, Andrew McCutchen, and an interesting quote from GM Neal Huntington:

[quote_simple]”We truly hope Andrew McCutchen retires as a Pirate. That is going to be incredibly challenging to do, but that is our long-term goal. The contracts are always a challenge. If a player gets hurt or under-performs, there is no recourse for the club, but when the player drastically out-performs the contract, there is a lot of heat and attention. ‘Why don’t you extend him longer?’ I’m sure there will come a point in time for us to revisit it as it will with other players we signed to multi-year deals.”[/quote_simple]

– The Home Run Derby takes place on Monday Night at Target Field. AL Lineup: Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, Brian Dozier, Adam Jones, Yoenis Cespedes … NL Lineup: Troy Tulowitzki, Todd Frazier, Justin Morneau, Yasiel Puig, Giancarlo Stanton. All eyes are on Stanton.

– The Orioles’ released Tim Alderson yesterday. Acquired by the Bucs for Freddy Sanchez in ’09, Alderson just hasn’t figured things out in the minor leagues.

– Speaking of former Pirate farmhands — Brock Holt just keeps doing it for the Red Sox. He went 5-for-6 (!) with a home run on Sunday afternoon, leading the Sox to an 11-0 win over Houston.


NL Central Standings at the All-Star Break:

nlcentral


Wild Card Standings:

wildcard


On Tap This Week:

Monday — off (HR Derby)
Tuesday — off (All-Star Game)
Wednesday — off
Thursday — off
Friday — vs. Rockies, 7:05
Saturday — vs. Rockies, 7:05
Sunday — vs. Rockies, 1:35


Go Bucs

Getting to know Jerry Sands

Full Name: Gerald Robert Sands

Age: 25

Born: September 28th, 1987

Positions: OF/1B

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

Height: 6′ 4″

Weight: 225 lb.

Jerry Sands was drafted in the 25th round of the 2008 Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers. He made his major league debut on April 18, 2011 against the Atlanta Braves. Sands went 1 for 3 with an RBI that night, with his first big league hit coming as a double against three-time All-Star Tim Hudson. He was dealt to Boston along with Rubby De La Rosa, James Loney, new Bucco Ivan De Jesus, and Allen Webster as part of the mega-deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto to LA. Now he joins the Pirates as a main piece of the trade that shipped All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan up to Boston. Sands is under team control through the 2018 season.

Scouting report via Sox Prospects:

“Versatile bench player capable of playing corner outfield positions and first base. Can play center field in a pinch. Fringe-average hit tool. Swing is on the long side and can trigger on slowly. Tends to swing and miss too much. Creates leverage with hips. Solid-average power potential. Struggles with advanced off-speed stuff. Leads to being prone to striking out. Below-average speed. Average defender at first base and in left field. Doesn’t have the range to play center field or right field in more than an emergency. Average arm. Projects as bench player at the major league level, capable of filling in during stretches.”

Scouting video via Project Prospect:

Sands extending his hitting streak to 21 games in August of 2012:

This streak, coming as a member of the Class AAA Albuquerque Isotopes, ended at 21 games. He hit .296 with 26 home runs for the Isotopes last season.

YouTube legend Dodgerfilms catching one of Sands’ batting practice homers:

According to the depth chart on pirates.com, Sands fits into the club as the third-string right fielder. His addition further clogged the logjam of corner outfielders and first basemen the Pirates have, which could signal another trade in the works. He still has one option remaining according to Pirates Prospects, so he could see some time at Triple-A Indianapolis. Travis Snider and Jose Tabata, the two players Sands will likely be competing with, do not have any options left, which potentially gives them an edge in terms of making the big league club. A Sands-Snider platoon is definitely a possibility.

Go Bucs

Pirates ship Hanrahan, Holt up to Boston

Over the past few weeks, numerous rumors floated around Major League Baseball regarding a possible Joel Hanrahan trade.

Those rumors slowly became a reality on Saturday afternoon, as the Boston Red Sox closed in on a deal that would bring the two-time All-Star closer to Beantown. Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston was the first to report the rumblings.

Although a Hanrahan trade was inevitable heading into this offseason, this is still a tough pill to swallow for select Bucco fans. While the closer position is overrated, Hammer was a fan-favorite that saved 76 games over the last two seasons.

Neither of us are too upset that Hanrahan is gone. It was nearly guaranteed that he’d be traded this offseason. But we weren’t immediately pleased about what the Pirates got in return. We were pretty bummed to see the deal centered around former Dodgers prospect Jerry Sands. Boston beat writer Pete Abraham summed it up this way:

[tweet https://twitter.com/PeteAbe/status/282608856062889984]

Apparently the Pirates are receiving “spare parts” after demanding a signficant return earlier.

From the opposite side of the debate, Jeff Moore of The Hardball Times claims that the Pirates have made a good baseball move.

Anyway, one name that frequently popped up as a possible return was shortstop Jose Iglesias. Despite a weak bat, Iglesias provides value defensively, as he’s great with the glove. Clint Barmes’ contract expires after 2013, and Iglesias is under team control until 2018. We would’ve liked this addition, as he could’ve stepped into the starting shortstop role after splitting time season. However, he was the first name to be eliminated from discussions:

[tweet https://twitter.com/JonHeymanCBS/status/282560816467816449]

The first member of the BoSox that was confirmed to be part of the package was 1B/OF Jerry Sands. Sands, 25, was sent to Boston from the Dodgers in the deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford, among others, to LA. According to Jim Bowden of ESPN, he has a long, loopy swing. He is a career .289/.376/.562 hitter in the minors, but hasn’t found much success in 70 MLB games.

Sands just adds to the logjam of first basemen and corner outfielders the Pirates have. Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez are penciled in at first, while a bunch of underachievers, including Alex Presley, Jose Tabata, and Travis Snider, hold down the corners. Starling Marte is unproven as well, but will most likely be the starting left fielder. With the addition of Sands, there may be another trade involving one of the players sooner than later.

The second Red Sox prospect named was pitcher Stolmy Pimentel. The 22 year old righty hasn’t had an ERA under 4.00 since 2009 when he was in A-ball. He was 6-7 with a 4.59 ERA in 2012 with the Class AA Portland Sea Dogs.

The third trade chip is 27 year old reliever Mark Melancon. He was dealt to the Red Sox from Houston last offseason for shortstop Jed Lowrie and pitcher Kyle Weiland. Melancon was solid in the closer role for the Astros in 2011, posting a 2.78 ERA and 20 saves. He struggled last season in Boston in 41 appearances. Despite a rocky 2012, he is the most intriguing player in this deal that is coming to Pittsburgh. Switching back to the NL Central should help Melancon, and he’ll likely be a key piece of the bullpen. Some insight from Peter Gammons:

[tweet https://twitter.com/pgammo/status/283994595082256384]

The fourth and final player coming from Boston is 25 year old infielder Ivan De Jesus. He went to the Sox with Sands last year in the mega-deal. De Jesus is a career .298 hitter in the minors; he’s hit just .205 in 48 big league games. He will not be included on the Pirates 40-man roster.

The other player leaving the Pirates in the deal is Brock Holt. Holt, 24, soared through the minors last season and earned a call-up after hitting .432 in 24 games for Triple-A Indianapolis. In 24 MLB games, he hit .292 (19 for 65) and potentially earned the right to battle for a backup infield job in 2013. Catching prospect Tony Sanchez is sad to see Holt go:

[tweet https://twitter.com/Tony26Montana/status/283995083211161600]

With the departure of Hanrahan, the Bucco bullpen is up in the air. As of now, Jason Grilli seems to be the only true veteran in the ‘pen. Mark Melancon has experience in the bigs. Jared Hughes and Tony Watson will be in there as well. After that? Who knows, but we expect a combination of young players, and maybe Vin Mazzaro (who is out of minor league options). The bullpen could either be solid or a total mess next year; it’s really too early to tell.

The Pirates haven’t stood pat this offseason, whether the fans like it or not. First, they gave $17 million to a decent catcher that could be a total flop. Then they gave a 36 year old reliever, who struggled down the stretch, nearly $7 million. They are taking a huge gamble of almost $13 million on inconsistent Francisco Liriano. Now they’ve dealt their closer for salary relief and a few unproven players. As we mentioned earlier, another outfielder or first baseman (maybe Jones?) could be on the way out. All of these moves are pretty risky, and could definitely put some jobs on the line in the front office. If/when Neal Huntington is fired, there could potentially be some moves to point to.

Andrew McCutchen was slightly confused when word got out on Saturday:

[tweet https://twitter.com/TheCUTCH22/status/282621116630048768]

… then tweeted a cover-up:

[tweet https://twitter.com/TheCUTCH22/status/282622763888410626]

… but ultimately wished Hammer well:

[tweet https://twitter.com/TheCUTCH22/status/282625730871963648]

Tony Sanchez:

[tweet https://twitter.com/Tony26Montana/status/282615607013298178]

Neil Walker:

[tweet https://twitter.com/NeilWalker18/status/282888229122895872]

Best of luck to Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt in Boston.

2012 in Review: Infield

Solid play – both offensively and defensively – led to a dependable core of Bucco infielders.

The top seven infielders in 2012:

Games AVG HR RBI OPS
Garrett Jones 145 .274 27 86 .832
Neil Walker 129 .280 14 69 .768
Clint Barmes 144 .229 8 45 .593
Pedro Alvarez 149 .244 30 85 .784
Josh Harrison 104 .233 3 16 .624
Gaby Sanchez 50 .241 4 13 .720
Jordy Mercer 42 .210 1 5 .639

Other players that saw action in the infield: Matt Hague, Brock Holt, Yamaico Navarro, Jeff Clement, Chase d’Arnaud.

GI Jones definitely put up some strong numbers. His power helped keep the Bucs afloat whenever Cutch struggled, and his defense seemed to get better as he became the every-day first baseman. Neil put up some unreal numbers in June and July, and despite his season-ending injury in September, he still was one of the best second basemen in the league. His development over the past three years has really shown. He combined with Barmes to be a very strong tandem up the middle. Clint, despite some disappointing offensive numbers, was solid at shortstop. Many even thought he should have been up for a Gold Glove. His offensive struggles only seemed to be highlighted when the team struggled, which isn’t really fair to a shortstop who is more known for his defense. At the hot corner, Pedro had some major ups and downs. He displayed his cannon of an arm, but it sometimes resulted in the ball landing 15 rows up in the stands. At the plate, his streakiness really showed. There were times you couldn’t get a fastball by him, and there were times where he looked absolutely lost at the plate. Despite that, he still ended up with 30 bombs and 85 RBIs, and could very well be on his way to 35/100 seasons very soon. Gaby Sanchez was acquired at the trade deadline and showed some promise. He came in as the Pirates plummeted, so his numbers are hard to gauge. Harrison, Mercer, and the rest of the bench weren’t too great. Despite J-Hay’s and Jordy’s versatility, they can’t hit at all. The Pirates’ lack of infield depth really showed when Walker missed significant time in August and September.

Heredia, Spikes finish season strong

The State College Spikes, short-season A-ball affiliate of the Pirates, concluded their season on Wednesday night. One of the organization’s top pitching prospects, 18 year old Luis Heredia, pitched exceptional in the season finale. He threw five scoreless innings, allowing just two hits, against the Mahoning Valley Scrappers as the Spikes won, 5-0.

They went 35-41 overall, and won three of their last five games. Heredia finished with a 4-2 record and a 2.71 ERA in 14 starts. Other top performers for State College this season include outfielder Tyler Gaffney (.297 avg, 11 SB in 38 games), shortstop D.J. Crumlich (.292 avg, 29 RBI in 69 games), and pitcher Clay Holmes (2.28 ERA in 59.1 innings).

Brock Holt, who made his MLB debut this week, became the 16th Spike to play in the big leagues. Holt hit .299 with six homers and 33 RBI for the Spikes in 2009. The article states,

“Holt joins 2009 Spikes Pitcher of the Year Kyle McPherson, who made his Pirates debut on August 20, on the list of Spikes to take the “Road to the Show” from State College to the Major Leagues. 2006 Spikes David Carpenter, Allen Craig, Mark Hamilton, Brendan Ryan, Luke Gregerson, Jason Motte, Adam Ottavino, Donovan Solano and P.J. Walters have all seen Major League action since the Spikes’ debut season. The roll call of Spikes to the Majors also includes current and former Pirates Chase d’Arnaud (2008), Matt Hague (2008), Jordy Mercer (2008), Daniel Moskos (2007) and Tony Watson (2007).”

Go Bucs/Go Spikes