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.

First roster moves of the offseason

The Pirates made their first moves of the offseason today. Not exactly Earth-shattering transactions, but not much Bucco news has surfaced (other than more Hoka Hey).

First, they claimed RHP Chad Beck and C Ali Solis off waivers. Beck, 27, had a 6.32 ERA in 15.2 innings for Toronto in 2012. Solis, 25, had no hits in four at-bats for San Diego this year.

In order to make room for the two players, they designated C Eric Fryer and INF Jeff Clement for assignment. Both players were up and down over the past few years; not great talent, but filled in when necessary.

More to come. Go Bucs.

Farm Report: Indianapolis Indians

Indianapolis Indians, Triple-A Affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates

The Indianapolis Indians are enjoying a hot start to the 2012 season, as they possess the best record in the International League at 47-30 (.610 winning percentage). They are 8-2 in their last ten games, and lead the IL West division by 9.5 games. The Columbus Clippers, who are the Cleveland Indians’ AAA team, are in second place with a record of 38-40. The Indians are just 20-20 on the road this season, but have been phenomenal at home in 2012; they are 27-10 at Victory Field.

Batting Leaders
Jordy Mercer: .303 average, 3 HR, 22 RBI in 47 games
Jose Morales: .295 average, 0 HR, 19 RBI in 35 games
Jeff Clement: .292 average, 8 HR, 32 RBI in 62 games
Yamaico Navarro: .268 average, 2 HR, 12 RBI in 20 games
Starling Marte: .264 average, 6 HR, 36 RBI, 70 games

Pitching Leaders
Jo-Jo Reyes: 5-1, 2.05 ERA
Daniel McCutchen: 3-2, 2.10 ERA
Tim Wood: 3-3, 2.11 ERA
Evan Meek: 2-2, 2.13 ERA
Rick VandenHurk: 6-0, 2.27 ERA

Prospect Watch
Jordy Mercer – After a few weeks in Pittsburgh that featured limited playing time, Mercer returned to Indy on Sunday. In his first game back with the Indians on Monday night, he went 1 for 3 with a walk and a run scored. Mercer will get the chance to play everyday in Indianapolis instead of sitting the bench for the Pirates. Hopefully he will continue to improve in triple-A ball, and we could see him later this season in Pittsburgh, especially when the roster expands in September. Mercer turns 26 on August 27th.

Starling Marte – After a great season for double-A Altoona in which he won the Eastern League batting title, Marte hasn’t produced quite as much in Indy. He’s hitting .264/.326/.439 so far in 2012. On Monday night, he went 2 for 4 with a double, triple, and 3 RBI. At the earliest, we could see Marte make his debut a month or two down the road, but he still needs some more time at triple-A. Like Mercer, there’s a strong possibility that he’s in Pittsburgh when the roster expands. Marte turns 24 on October 9th.

Rudy Owens – Along with Jeff Locke and Justin Wilson, Owens is part of the trio of southpaw prospects in Indianapolis. Rudy is 6-2 with a 2.38 ERA in 90.2 innings pitched. In 14 games, he’s struck out 62 while walking 14. Owens was named the Pirates’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2009 and 2010. He was selected by the Pirates in the 28th round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft out of Chandler-Gilbert Community College.He turns 25 on December 18th.

Jeff Locke – Locke appeared in four September games for Pittsburgh last season, but went 0-3 with a 6.48 ERA. He finished second among all Pittsburgh Pirates farmhands with 139 strikeouts in 2011. Locke was called up on May 20th but didn’t appear in any games. The 6’1″, 180 lbs. left-hander is 5-4 with a 3.27 ERA this year for Indianapolis. He has struck out 72 while walking 18 in his 14 starts thus far. Locke was acquired by the Pirates along with pitcher Charlie Morton and outfielder Gorkys Hernandez from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for outfielder Nate McLouth on June 3, 2009. He will turn 25 on November 20th.

Justin Wilson – Wilson threw 7.1 scoreless innings on April 29th and led Indy to a combined no-hitter with the help of Jose Diaz and Doug Slaten. Wilson is 5-4 with a 3.46 ERA in 2012. In 15 games, he has struck out 81 while walking 39 walks. His 39 walks are the most of any Indy pitcher; Locke’s 18 are the second-most. Wilson was selected by the Pirates in the fifth round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft out of Fresno State, where he won the College World Series. He was named the International League Pitcher of the Week on June 18th. Wilson will turn 25 on August 18th.

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Clement Raking at AAA, Return to Pittsburgh on the Horizon?

First baseman Jeff Clement is on fire at Triple-A Indianapolis, hitting .472 with 5 home runs and 13 RBI in his last 10 games. For the season, Clement is batting .321 (52 for 162) in 47 games. We could see Clement in a Pirates uniform next Tuesday, when the Bucs are in Baltimore for Interleague Play. Bringing up Clement to be the designated hitter certainly makes sense.

Clement was traded to the Bucs in 2009 as part of the Pirates-Mariners deal that included Jack Wilson being shipped to Seattle. He was given an opportunity in 2010, but hit just .201 in 54 games. The former third overall pick was labeled as a bust and it never worked out for him. However, he’s back in the Pirates system and Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor said, “”He looks as good as I’ve seen him.”

If the Pirates choose to Clement back to the majors, it would force them to send someone back to the minor leagues. Although there is still ample time to make a decision, it seems that Jordy Mercer could go back to Indy to get regular playing time. When he called up on May 29th, manager Clint Hurdle said, “Mercer was not brought up to replace [Clint] Barmes. Nothing has changed; Barmes is our shortstop.” This has proven to be true, as Jordy as appeared in just 3 games (May 29 – 0 for 1, pinch-hit; May 30 – 1 for 4, start SS; June 1 – 0 for 4, start SS). After a few days rest, Barmes came back looking like a new man. He went 2 for 4 with 2 RBI on Sunday, and was 3 for 4 with 3 RBI on Tuesday; it seems like Barmes will receive more regular time.

Although he’d probably be up solely as the designated hitter, it could make sense to give him some reps at first base. Jose Tabata is still nursing a sore leg, so Garrett Jones is getting playing time in right field. That leaves Matt Hague at first, so the Bucs could choose to start a platoon between Clement and Hague. If Tabata reaggravates his injury and a DL trip is necessary, the Pirates should definitely consider it. Clement is on a hot streak right now and it makes sense to give him some at-bats vs. major league pitching.

Whether or not he is recalled is still up in the air, but Clement deserves a shot. He gives them a solid power option and left-handed bat. If he is recalled, hopefully Clement can provide some offense from the middle of the lineup. The Interleague games in Baltimore and Cleveland are important for both the Bucs and their opponents, and Clement could make the difference with just one swing of the bat.

Quick Thoughts on Clement, Beltran

Two days ago, the Pirates resigned first baseman Jeff Clement to a minor league contract, adding to the list of possible first basmen canidates.  Clement, who played in 54 games with the Bucs in 2010, was the 3rd overall pick in the 2005 draft.  He hit .201 with only 7 home runs in 2010.  Not the typical power numbers that the Pirates need from their first baseman.  I do however, think that he should be given a fair chance to make the team out of spring training.  Garrett Jones, Nick Evans, Matt Hague, and now Clement will all be competing for the starting, or possibly platoon role.

In other NL Central news, the World Series champs Cardinals signed Carlos Beltran to a 2 year deal.  The switch hitting Beltran will help replace some of the offense that the Cards lost when Pujols went to the Angels.  Beltran is a career .283 hitter, and hit an even .300 last season with the Mets/Giants.  The Cardinal lineup is now looking pretty powerful, with Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday, David Freese, and Beltran.  Their pitching staff will also get Adam Wainwright back from Tommy John surgery, which will give them one of the best 1-2 pitching combinations in the league with Carpenter.  I wouldn’t expect the Cardinals to suffer very much without Pujols in 2012.

Go Bucs