Hoist the colours.
Andrew McCutchen was named the third best center fielder by MLB Network. Among all center fielders in 2011, McCutchen ranked 6th in homers, 5th in RBI, 3rd in OBP, and 5th in WAR. The list was generated by MLB Network’s “Shredder”. The only players to finish above Cutch were Matt Kemp and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Hopefully we can sign Cutch to an extension soon and keep him in Pittsburgh for many years to come.
On Wednesday, MLB.com released its Top 100 Prospects, and four Pirates farmhands cracked the list. The prospects that appear are Jameson Taillon (8th), Gerrit Cole (11th), Starling Marte (40th), and Josh Bell (69th).
The first Pirate that appears is Jameson Taillon, coming in at #8. Taillon was selected 2nd overall in the 2010 MLB Draft out of high school. He made 23 starts at Low A West Virginia last season. The Pirates limited his pitch count, so he averaged just four innings per start. Still, Taillon struck out 97 batters while walking 22, finishing with a 3.98 ERA. He’s likely to start the year with High A Bradenton. He still has a long way to go until he reaches Pittsburgh, but he’s certainly looking like a future ace for years to come.
Gerrit Cole, the 1st overall pick in last year’s draft, is the next Pirate to appear on the list. The UCLA product comes in at #11. Although he struggled a bit in college ball last season, he is still a power pitcher that’s expected to rapidly move through the Pirates system. Of the Pirates top pitching prospects, Cole is likely to get to Pittsburgh the quickest. He pitched 15 innings for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League, surrendering five earned runs on 10 hits, while striking out 16 and walking four. Since he pitched three seasons at UCLA, Cole is expected to jump over Low A ball and start the year at Bradenton. The Marauders rotation is looking absolutely filthy with both Cole and Taillon, and it could be a preview of the Pirates future.
The next Pirates farmhand that appears is outfielder Starling Marte. Marte had a spectacular 2011 season with Double-A Altoona, leading the league with a .332 batting average. He finished with 178 hits, 91 runs, 38 doubles, and 24 stolen bases. He needs to improve his discipline at the plate, but other than that, he’s looking like a future star. Marte is expected to start at Triple-A Indianapolis. It has also been said that he has a chance to make it to Pittsburgh as a September call-up in 2012.
The fourth and final prospect to appear on the list is outfielder Josh Bell. The Pirates selected Bell in the 2nd round of 2011 Draft and were able to sign him in August. The signing came as a surprise to the baseball world, as Bell told teams that he was going to the University of Texas. He didn’t have time to play in the minors last season, so he’ll likely start the season at Low A West Virginia. Hopefully Bell will develop to his maximum potential in his journey through the minors and can provide an impact in Pittsburgh in a few years.
The Pirates have drastically upgraded their farm system. Not only have they stockpiled these four players, but they’ve also begun to develop guys like Luis Heredia, Robbie Grossman, and Tony Sanchez. Despite criticism of not producing a winning team, Neal Huntington has done a pretty good job. It’s not easy producing a winner in a small market like Pittsburgh, especially after nearly two decades of losing seasons. Many big league free agents aren’t willing to play in Pittsburgh, so the front office has done what they can to turn it around. Although the new CBA will limit spending, the Pirates have effectively used the draft and international signings in recent years. Although criticism will continue to rain down on Neal Huntington and his staff, the future is looking bright in Pittsburgh.
— MLB Trade Rumors (@mlbtraderumors) January 24, 2012
Twitter became buzzing with reports that Prince Fielder had agreed to a deal with the Tigers yesterday afternoon. The news had Pirates fans rejoicing that we wouldn’t have to endure another year of Prince destroying Pirates’ pitching. The signing makes a lot of sense for the Tigers, who just lost Victor Martinez for the 2012 season. With a huge hole in the lineup, Detroit swooped in and made a huge splash (haha huge) by agreeing to sign Fielder to a 9 year $214MM contract. Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski said a week ago that Fielder “doesn’t fit” for the team, so when news broke that they had agreed to the deal, it came as a surprise. Adding Fielder to the Tigers creates a whole new dynamic in Detroit and in the American League. What will happen with Miguel Cabrera, will he move to third base? When V-Mart returns, how will Fielder, Cabrera, and himself all fit into the lineup? And of course, this shakes up the whole playoff picture. The Rays, Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Angels, and Rangers all are legitimate playoff teams, but only 4 can make it. Fielder leaving for the AL also shakes up the NL Central. The Brewers now have to find a way to replace 35+ home runs and 110+ RBIs. With Braun likely out for the first 50 games, this effectively ends the “beast mode” reign of terror in Milwaukee. As Pirate fans, we’re glad that Prince is out of the division, but it’s difficult to see such a hated player go to Detroit. The Tigers were a likable team, who didn’t “buy” their wins and even had a few Pittsburgh connections with Don Kelly and Jim Leyland. But now, some could consider them in the same category as the Red Sox and Yankees for spending so much money. We’ll see how the big man does in the Motor City.
This past week, the Rays signed Carlos Pena to a one year $7.5MM deal. With Pena now off the market, the Pirates list of possible first basemen is dwindling. As it stands now, the Bucs have handful of internal options, and a couple of free agent options.
Derrek Lee – Yeah, its unlikely. VERY, VERY unlikely. Lee has already expressed that he isn’t really interested in returning, and has said that he will retire if he doesn’t get the kind of money offers that he wants. But the Pirates shouldn’t give up on Lee just yet. By no means will DLee put up the type of numbers he did in 2011, but he could still be productive. He’ll be 36 on Opening Day, which is a concern. Still, Lee would probably be the best power hitter in the Bucs’ lineup.
Casey Kotchman – Kotchman has bounced around the league and has been with a few teams. While he is slightly above average defensively, his bat is a huge question mark. He had a great 2011 campaign, hitting .306, but hasn’t been very productive other than that. Kotchman probably wouldn’t cost too much, and would add some decent pop to the lineup.
Internally, the Bucs have 5 options that they could use at first base in some combination.
We won’t get in to the specific numbers that each of these guys has put up, but there are a few possibilities within them. The most likely possibility is that Jones and McGehee start Opening Day in some sort of righty/lefty platoon. A good idea in theory, but we saw how the Jones/Diaz RF platoon worked out last year. Another possibility is that Pedro switches to first base. The odds of this happening are slim to none, as Pedro is much more useful at third base, providing he hits well. Don’t count on El Toro being a first baseman. The other two options are Hague and Evans. Evans has had minimal major league experience, and did relatively well at the plate. Hague has had a pretty successful minor league career, and is intriguing. Whether he starts out in AAA or the majors will be determined in Spring Training.
So with Pena going to Tampa, it looks like the best option for the Pirates’ first base issue will have to be solved from within their system. Personally, it would be nice to see Evans and Hague get a chance. Couldn’t hurt right? As of now though, it looks like Jones and McGehee will be the co-firstbaggers. Can they put up the power numbers that the Pirates need from the corner positions? We’ll have to wait and see.