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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

MLB 2013 Team Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates

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MLB 2013 Team Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates
By Wild on Sports Baseball Analyst Aaron Dorman
 
Pittsburgh Pirates
Record:
79-83
Another losing season in Pittsburgh; for two years running, they have made lucky/unsustainable deep runs into July/August, only to come back to Earth.

NOTABLE ADDITIONS: Russell Martin, Francisco Liriano
NOTABLE LOSSES: Joel Hanrahan
 
Keys to Success: How long will it take for them to realize Clint Barmes is terrible? What version of AJ Burnett will appear in 2013, the “good” one or the “Yankee” one? Can James McDonald pitch at a mid-rotation level of success for a full season? How will their younger pitchers develop, and which ones will get first crack at the rotation? What roles are envisioned for guys like Travis Snider and Gaby Sanchez, who they acquired last year and seem to fill similar niches? Will they work with platoons at 1B and RF to minimize major splits in stats from guys like Garrett Jones? 2013 would be a good time for Starling Marte to establish himself as a second star behind Andrew McCutchen in the lineup.

Prospect Watch:
Prospect Key 
TBD= Work in Progress
X= Posses the Tool
XX= Excels at Tool
 
GERRIT COLE, RHP (rookie watch):
Velocity
Second Stuff
Command
Control
Strikeouts
Health
xx
x
x
x
x
x
Cole did nothing to reduce his image as a future star one year after being draft first overall in the 2011 draft. The 22-year-old went 9-7 with a 2.80 ERA and 136 K in 132 IP across three levels (one AAA start), without major differences in his stat line at any stop. He is sometimes ranked behind guys like Jose Fernandez and Shelby Miller because he wasn’t truly dominant at any level, mixing in some bad outings, but his solid progress makes him a very low risk to be anything worse than a mid-rotation starter by the end of this year. Pittsburgh might want to be cautious with a player this valuable but he is more than on track to anchor their rotation for a while.
KYLE MCPHERSON, RHP (rookie watch):
Velocity
Second Stuff
Command
Control
Strikeouts
Health
 
x
x
xx
TBD
x
McPherson has some of the best control in the minor leagues, with a career 1.5 BB/9 in almost 600 IP. He has an average fastball, however, and he’s 25 next year. Is he Kevin Slowey or is he Doug Fister? Sometimes control freaks without great stuff are hard to predict, and many don’t pan out despite their superlative numbers. McPherson did look good in a brief major league trial, going 0-2 with a 2.73 in ten games last year with a 7/21 BB/K ratio in 26.1 IP.  In the minors, he went 3-6 with a 3.22 ERA in 12 starts between AA-AAA. He only walked 9 batters in 67 IP, against 63 K. He could open 2013 in Pittsburgh’s rotation, although without major success he’ll probably be bumped to the bullpen by a guy like Cole.
JAMESON TAILLON, RHP:
Velocity
Second Stuff
Command
Control
Strikeouts
Health
xx
TBD
 
x
TBD
x
Taillon’s stuff is ahead of his performance at this point, which could indicate command issues. In particular his K/9 (7.4 last year) is low for someone who throws as hard as he does. A superb AA debut-3 wins in three stars, a 1.59 ERA and shiny 1/18 BB/K in 17 IP-was a nice end to a mostly mediocre season. With High-A Bradenton, he went 9-8 with a 3.55 ERA in 23 starts, which is fine overall, but he only struck out 98 K in 125 IP, which is low for a top prospect in a hitter’s league. His control has been very strong and his overall numbers are decent, but he will need time to time in AA and AAA to improve himself to the point where he can be a no. 2 starter or ace. I have a feeling that he will not immediately become one even on moving to the majors, but there remains a lot to dream on. He’ll be 22 this year.
ALEN HANSON, SS, and GREGORY POLANCO, OF:
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
x
x
x
TBD
x
x
File these guys under “names to know.” They will play in High-A Bradenton this year, so they aren’t close, but this pair offers five-tool, star potential at their respective positions.
 
2012 Top Draft Pick: Barrett Barnes, OF
 
Sleeper MLB Contributor: relievers VICTOR BLACK and BRYAN MORRIS were once injury-prone starters who are now older than most prospects but throw hard and thrived in the high minors. Joel Hanrahan’s departure leaves them an opening to earn saves this year in Pittsburgh. 
 
2013 Outlook and Projection: Is this the year? The one where Pittsburgh finally breaks through and wins at least the wild card? They finally might have the talent to do it, as their top prospects reach the upper minors and those who have already made it to Pittsburgh are ready to succeed. Pittsburgh is in a similar situation to fellow long-time losers in Kansas City, but GM Kevin Huntington has opted for a far more measured approach than the Royals’ impatient glory grab this winter. Since the trading deadline, Huntington has tried to improve his team by trading for young veterans and making upside free-agent plays. Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez is the only older player who has cost significant prospects. Huntington likes buying low on players—Jose Tabata, Gabby Sanchez, etc, with mixed results. AJ Burnett represents the apex of this philosophy, but he’s also struck fool’s gold on former prospects like Tim Alderson (who?) and Andy LaRoche (what?) in the past. He’s shied away from acquiring top talent from other teams, instead banking on the Pirates’ top draft picks to move up and succeed. So far only Andrew McCutchen has established himself as a star, although Pedro Alvarez now looks like at least an everyday player. Their pitching development could make or break 2013; they have no aces on paper but they have depth to throw five solid guys out there and someone like Gerrit Cole or even Jeff Locke could become a top starter immediately. Two things are working against the Pirates this year. First, prospects are inherently unpredictable and while Pittsburgh is on the cusp of long-term success, some re-tooling may need to happen to field a contender. Second, the Reds and Cardinals are both unusually strong teams who the Pirates have to play 35+ times. To be so close, and yet so far!
UNLIKELY CONTENDERS
 

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