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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

… then tweeted a cover-up:

… but ultimately wished Hammer well:

Tony Sanchez:

Neil Walker:

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

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#FTFTrivia Answer 12/6/12

Tonight we asked…

and the answer to tonight’s #FTFTrivia is…

Alex Presley (Keith Allison)

Alex Presley

On April 20th of this year against the Cardinals, Alex Presley led off the bottom of the first with a drive off the CF wall, and ended up circling the bases for an inside-the-park home run.  Despite the quick offensive start, the Bucs couldn’t get anything else going and ended up losing to the Cardinals 4-1.  Presley’s four-bagger was the first of its kind by a Pirate since Freddy Sanchez did it in 2008.

Congratulations to tonight’s winners: @mc0483, @MattWeaver_21, @Zach_Morrison1, @_FinalFrontier, @sobr73, @adamcrowley2, @SportsnWhatnot, @LSTurdFurguson, @ZacharyMWeiss, @_DrewBrown, @steelers048, @freezoid400, @cjl226, @matty1521, @acpregler, @baseballfan4746, @MAE5377, @ScottPMulvihill, @WhatIsAGreg, @18nalax, @mark_quis, @Two_Wise_Fans, @johnlucas18, @chcarey, and @Bucn_All_Day.

Thanks to all who participated, and tune in next time for another edition of #FTFTrivia.

Go Bucs

Photo: Keith Allison/Creative Commons

Bill James 2013 Projections: Pirates Hitters

Bill James’ first batch of projections for the 2013 season were recently released and can be found on the player pages at FanGraphs. Here’s a look at some of the Pirates hitters are projected to perform next year:

G PA HR R RBI SB AVG OBP SLG
Alex Presley
96
326 8 43 32 11 .288 .343 .447
Andrew McCutchen
159
675 24 101 81 22 .286 .372 .483
Clint Barmes
133
441 9 42 43 2 .233 .286 .353
Gaby Sanchez
115
394 11 44 49 3 .263 .343 .418
Garrett Jones
140
484 20 57 69 4 .254 .315 .454
Jose Tabata
102
353 3 47 26 12 .278 .345 .377
Michael McKenry
108
363 11 35 41 1 .239 .316 .404
Neil Walker
154
647 17 77 88 9 .275 .337 .435
Pedro Alvarez
147
597 29 70 91 2 .257 .336 .481
Starling Marte
148
551 15 82 64 31 .297 .336 .479
Travis Snider
89
312 11 43 45 5 .278 .345 .468

A few quick notes:

- James has Alex Presley bouncing back with a .288 average after a sophomore slump campaign in which he hit just .237 and traveled to Triple-A Indianapolis a couple of times.

- Andrew McCutchen is projected to regress a bit after his MVP-caliber year. A .286 average with 24 homers would be nice, but not as stellar as his .327 avg/31 homers in 2012.

- Clint Barmes is expected to do pretty much the same thing at the plate as he did last season.

- Gaby Sanchez is pretty “meh” at .263 batting average with 11 home runs and 44 runs batted in. Another player the Bucs picked up at July’s deadline, Travis Snider, is in the same boat – .278 average with 11 HR and 43 RBI.

- James still projects Garrett Jones to put up decent power, but expects a 20 point drop off in batting average (.274 to .254).

- Jose Tabata will look to continue his disappointing career. Another 3 homer year with just 12 stolen bases; at least his average is projected to jump up to .278.

- Michael McKenry is expected to have a pretty similar season. It’ll be interesting to see how he adjusts to a larger role in 2013.

- Neil Walker is projected to have a nice season. We’ll take a .275 average and 17 homers any day from a starting second baseman.

- James projects Pedro Alvarez to keep improving upon his solid season in 2012. Another season with about 30 homers and somewhere around 90 RBI would be great from Pedro.

- Last but not least, Starling Marte is expected to have a big time season. A .297 average with 15 home runs and 31 stolen bases would be tremendous for Starling. It’s hard to predict his performance since he’s unproven and appeared in just 47 games, but it still gets us excited to think about the potential he has.

Sometime within the next week or so, we’ll take a look Bill James’ predictions for the Pirates pitchers.

Go Bucs

Locke promoted, Presley optioned

Late last night/early this morning, Kristy Robinson of Pirates Prospects broke the news that Jeff Locke would be joining the big league club. It was made official today, with Alex Presley heading back to Triple-A.

Locke, who is 9-5 with a 2.66 ERA in 21 starts this season and leads Indianapolis with 125 innings pitched, was slated to start for the Indians on this afternoon. Kyle McPherson made his Indy debut in place of Locke.

The 24 year old Locke was a September call-up last season, but was rocked in four starts. He went 0-3 with a 6.48 ERA. He allowed 12 runs on 21 hits, and averaged just over four innings per start.

In the corresponding move, Alex Presley was optioned. He spent some time in Indianapolis earlier this season, hitting .301 in 20 games.

This seems to be a temporary move. The Pirates are being cautious with their pitchers during this long stretch of games without an off day. Presley should be back soon.

Parallels between Alex Presley and Chris Duffy

Alex Presley has been a disappointment so far in 2012, as he’s hit for just a .230 batting average and .270 on-base percentage. It’s been a “sophomore slump” for Presley, as he provided a spark in his rookie year of 2011. His struggles have been reminiscent of a former Pirate, Chris Duffy.

On the surface, there are quite a few similarities between the two players. They were both eighth round draft picks. They’re both outfielders whose games revolve around speed. Their rookie seasons came at age 25. They both stand 5 foot, 10 inches tall, and weigh 185 lbs. Their stature is the same, their game is the same, and their rookie/sophomore season production seems the same, too. Here’s a look:

First, they’re similar players at the minor league level. In Duffy’s MiLB days, he was a .292 hitter with a .773 OPS. On the other hand, Presley hit .291 with a .778 OPS.

Next, here’s how Duffy produced in his first and second MLB seasons:

Games AVG OBP OPS
2005 39 .341 .385 .814
2006 84 .255 .317 .654

And here’s how Presley has fared in his first two years:

Games AVG OBP OPS
2011 52 .298 .339 .804
2012 67 .230 .270 .636

Duffy performed at a higher rate in his rookie season than Presley, but played in 13 fewer games. Their batting averages both drastically fell, and their on-base percentages dipped almost identically. Duffy’s OBP fell 68 points; Presley’s OBP has fallen 69 points. Their decline in OPS is similar as well (Duffy -160, Presley -168).

The biggest concern, especially for a leadoff hitter, is the decreased on-base percentage. Getting the leadoff man on-base changes the entire dynamic of an inning. Despite the huge drop in Duffy’s OBP from ’05 to ’06, he still has Presley beat by 47 points (.317 vs. .270).

Among all NL outfielders, Presley is ranked 93rd in OBP. If he was a qualifier, he’d be dead last by 19 points. One of the Pirates trade targets, Shane Victorino, hasn’t been much better, and has the fifth-lowest on-base percentage among qualifiers. His .316 OBP is nearly identical to Chris Duffy’s .317 in 2006. To Duffy’s credit, he used his speed to his advantage and was an impressive 26 for 27 on stolen bases attempts in 2006. Victorino, also known as the “Flyin’ Hawaiian”, can use his speed as well. In 96 games, he’s stolen 24 bases and has been thrown out three times. Presley is 9 for 13 this year in steal attempts.

As Rum Bunter pointed out this morning, Presley’s numbers have been awfully similar to those of Jose Tabata, who is currently in the minors. Tabata has played five more games at the MLB level, but they have identical .230 batting averages and .636 OPS. It’s also noted how they’ve performed in the minor leagues this season. Presley, who made a trip to Indianapolis in May, played well at the Triple-A level. However, Tabata has really struggled since his demotion.

It’s tough seeing Presley struggle after he showed a lot of promise last season. The Pirates gave him the opportunity but he hasn’t performed up to par. While the numbers are most likely a pure coincidence, there are definitely some parallels between Chris Duffy and Alex Presley. Duffy didn’t last long with the Bucs, but that doesn’t mean Presley can’t stick around. However, his playing time could take a hit if the Pirates decide to upgrade at the trade deadline, which is now just a week away. He’s running out of time to show that he can be a legit leadoff hitter in the majors.