Top Ten Pirates of the PNC Park Era: #9 Paul Maholm

Wins Losses ERA IP SO BB
7 years 53 73 4.36 1143.2 705 382

Although he’s not the flashiest pitcher with the greatest stats, Paul Maholm was a steady southpaw that always took the ball every fifth day. Maholm was never an over-powering strikeout pitcher, but rather a ground ball guy that relied on his defense. He anchored the Pirates rotation for several seasons, while being surrounded by many mediocre pitchers. He also rarely received much run support from the offense, and thus ended his Bucco career with a .421 winning percentage. The Mississippi State product suffered a serious injury in 2004 with the Altoona Curve when he was hit in the face with a line drive. The injury resulted in a few surgeries, but Maholm bounced back and made it to the big leagues in 2005. He then pitched for the Bucs through 2011; unfortunately, he and the team had a bit of a falling out when they declined his $9.75 million option. It was nice to see Paul find success last season with the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves. As a guy who was stuck on some abysmal teams yet was still reliable year after year, we respect Maholm. He was also helpful in all the community work the Bucs do; he even pledged $25,000 to Pirates Charities when he inked a new contract in 2009.

Photo: pmreddick/Creative Commons

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From Bullington to Cole: A Decade of Pittsburgh Pirates Draft Picks

The MLB Draft is just around the corner and the Pirates enter with the 8th overall pick. Hopefully Neal Huntington and staff with address some holes, as well as add organizational depth. Many mock drafts have Arizona State shortstop Deven Marrero as a possible target, but Dejan Kovacevic says that he won’t be picked at number eight because he doesn’t possess the offense the Bucs are looking for. The Pirates have picked a plethora of pitching in reason years, namely Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, and Stetson Allie. However, the past decade has featured some missed opportunities at the draft for the Bucs. Here’s a look at the previous 10 drafts for the Pittsburgh Pirates, from 2002-2011.

2002
1. Bryan Bullington, Pirates
2. B.J. Upton, Devil Rays
3. Chris Gruler, Reds
4. Adam Loewen, Orioles
5. Clint Everts, Expos
Other notable first round picks: Zack Greinke (6th), Prince Fielder (7th), Nick Swisher (16th), Cole Hamels (17th), Matt Cain (25th)

Instead of taking prized high school shortstop (turned pro outfielder) B.J. Upton from Virginia, the Pirates opted to select Bryan Bullington, a right-handed pitcher from Ball State, with the first overall pick. As a college arm, Bullington was expected to be a safe bet to make it to the big leagues. However, he lost velocity and was often injured. In 2006, David Schoenfield from ESPN.com Page 2 listed this as the 49th worst draft pick of all-time. Dave Littlefield and his staff were heavily criticized for botching this pick.

2003
1. Delmon Young, Devil Rays
2. Rickie Weeks, Brewers
3. Kyle Sleeth, Tigers
4. Tim Stauffer, Padres

8. Paul Maholm, Pirates
Other notable first round picks: Aaron Hill (13th), Chad Cordero (20th), Chad Billingsley (24th), Carlos Quentin (29th)

At number eight, the Pirates took left-handed pitcher Paul Maholm from Mississippi State. Not a terrible pick for the Bucs, as Maholm conributed seven solid seasons before moving on with the Cubs this season. Paul was stuck with some terrible teams in Pittsburgh and never received much run support. Most high-profile players went in the late rounds, such as Jonathon Papelbon (4th round, 114 overall), Michael Bourn (4th round, 115 overall), and Matt Kemp (6th round, 181 overall).

2004
1. Matt Bush, Padres
2. Justin Verlander, Tigers
3. Philip Humber, Mets
4. Jeff Niemann, Devil Rays

11. Neil Walker, Pirates
Other notable first round picks: Jered Weaver (12th), Billy Butler (14th), Phil Hughes (23rd)

In 2004, the Bucs took local catching prospect Neil Walker from Pine-Richland High School. After a shift to third base in the minors, Walker came up as a second baseman for struggling Aki Iwamura in May of 2009 and has called it home ever since. Not a bad pick for the Pirates at 11, taking “The Pittsburgh Kid.” Although he moved from behind the plate, he’s made strong adjustments to the infield and seems to be an above-average second baseman. His hitting is also average for a middle infielder. Angels ace Jered Weaver was selected immediately after Neil.

2005
1. Justin Upton, Diamondbacks
2. Alex Gordon, Royals
3. Jeff Clement, Mariners
4. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals

11. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
Other notable first round picks: Ryan Braun (5th), Ricky Romero (6th), Troy Tulowitzki (7th), Cameron Maybin (10th), Jay Bruce (12th), Jacoby Ellsbury (23rd)

For the second straight season picking 11th, the Pirates chose young high school outfielder Andrew McCutchen from Fort Meade, Florida. In an absolutely stacked draft class, McCutchen looks like a solid pick. No complaints here; McCutchen has lived up to the hype and is the Pirates star. Despite initially signing with the University of Florida, McCutchen thankfully went pro with the Bucs. The Mariners took former Pirate/current Indianapolis Indian/future Pirate(?) Jeff Clement with the third overall pick. The 2005 draft class is considered one of the best ever.

2006
1. Luke Hochevar, Royals
2. Greg Reynolds, Rockies
3. Evan Longoria, Rays
4. Brad Lincoln, Pirates
5. Brandon Morrow, Mariners
Other notable first round picks: Clayton Kershaw (7th), Drew Stubbs (8th), Tim Lincecum (9th)

Picking inside the top five for the first time since 2002, the Bucs selected University of Houston product Brad Lincoln at fourth overall. Lincoln, who is now spending time in the bullpen, has looked sharp as of late. If he continues to progress, we could see him in the rotation if there are more injuries or if roster moves are made. If he is successful for the next few years, this seems to be a decent pick. Clayton Kershaw or Tim Lincecum obviously would’ve been better selections, but you can’t complain if Lincoln makes some decent contributions down the road.

2007
1. David Price, Rays
2. Mike Moustakas, Royals
3. Josh Vitters, Cubs
4. Daniel Moskos, Pirates
5. Matt Wieters, Orioles
Other notable first round picks: Madison Bumgarner (10th), Jason Heyward (14th)

In a relatively thin draft class, the Pirates once again picked fourth. Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters was still on the board, but the Bucs took lefty pitcher Danny Moskos from Clemson. One of the most head-scratching moves of all-time and the last straw for Dave Littlefield. Littlefield and staff said that it was “a baseball move” and Moskos was the guy they really wanted. Many think that it was because of the money that Wieters and his agent, Scott Boras, demanded. Moskos has had a few brief stays in Pittsburgh but is still stuck in Indy. Wieters, on the other hand, is already in his fourth MLB season and has collected 50 HR/188 RBI in 411 games with Baltimore.

2008
1. Tim Beckham, Rays
2. Pedro Alvarez, Pirates
3. Eric Hosmer, Royals
4. Brian Matusz, Orioles
5. Buster Posey, Giants
Other notable first round picks: Gordon Beckham (8th), Jemile Weeks (12th), Brett Lawrie (16th)

With the highest pick since 2002, the Pirates picked Pedro Alvarez out of Vanderbilt with the second overall pick. Unlike with Wieters, the Bucs front office decided to deal with super agent Scott Boras. Although it took awhile, the deal luckily got done. Pedro, who looked good in the second half of 2010 after his recall, had an abysmal 2011 season and was looking like a bust. However, “El Toro” has shown good signs so far this year and is improving on defense as well. Gerrit Cole was selected 28th overall by the New York Yankees, but thankfully he opted to go to UCLA.

2009
1. Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
2. Dustin Ackley, Mariners
3. Donavan Tate, Padres
4. Tony Sanchez, Pirates
5. Matt Hobgood, Orioles
Other notable first round picks: Mike Leake (8th), Drew Storen (10th), Mike Trout (25th)

In a head-scratching move, the Pirates selected catcher Tony Sanchez with the fourth overall pick. The Boston College product was not very high on many draft boards, but the Bucs were eager to take him. Sanchez hasn’t fared well in the minors, both on and off the field. He’s still stuck in Double-A Altoona and isn’t looking too promising. Not the best pick for Neal Huntington and the front office.

2010
1. Bryce Harper, Nationals
2. Jameson Taillon, Pirates
3. Manny Machado, Orioles
4. Christian Colon, Royals
5. Drew Pomeranz, Indians

After just missing out on the Bryce Harper sweepstakes, the Pirates took high school pitcher Jameson Taillon at number two. Taillon is looking good in the minors and the organization is being careful with his progression. Hopefully he continues to succeed and develop as one of the organization’s top prospects.

2011
1. Gerrit Cole, Pirates
2. Danny Hultzen, Mariners
3. Trevor Bauer, Diamondbacks
4. Dylan Bundy, Orioles
5. Bubba Starling, Royals

The Bucs were rewarded with the top pick in the 2011 draft after a terrible 2010 season. With last year’s number one overall pick, the Pirates decided to select right-handed pitcher Gerrit Cole out of UCLA. There were a few options to choose from, as there was no sure top pick, such as Harper or Strasburg. Infielder Anthony Rendon was a strong candidate, but was plagued by injury and fell to 6th overall. UVA product Danny Hultzen was also an option. Trevor Bauer, Cole’s teammate at UCLA, was more successful than him in college. However, Cole looks good so far in the minors. He’s been so strong that he could be receiving a promotion soon. For Bradenton, he and Taillon are providing a glimpse of what the future could hold in Pittsburgh.

Over the past decade, the Pirates have made some questionable picks. There have been some solid ones, but they are overshadowed by certain selections. There has definitely been a solid groundwork laid – McCutchen/Walker now, Taillon/Cole in the future – but the picks of guys like Bullington and Moskos are tough to bear. Sure, Moskos could really help the ‘pen down the road, but it’s hard to take the fact that he was selected just because they needed to save some cash. If the organization had the money, they could have Matt Wieters behind the plate right now and hitting in the middle of the lineup. No matter who the Pirates select at eighth overall on Monday night, hopefully it helps the organization a lot more than it hurts them.

Go Bucs

Should the Pirates Be Looking for a Starting Pitcher?

With Paul Maholm leaving for the Cubs, a possible Pirates rotation for 2012 could look like this:
Erik Bedard
James McDonald
Charlie Morton (assuming he’s healthy)
Kevin Correia
Jeff Karstens

Of course, it is still very early, and really none of the 5 spots are locked in yet. A lot will depend on how guys do in Spring Training, but this is a decent rotation at best. There are concerns about all 5 of the pitchers listed, and there isn’t much help from the minors. Brad Lincoln and Jeff Locke look like they’ll be fighting for the 6th spot, and neither have had a ton of success. With that said, it would be nice if the Bucs picked up one of the starters that’s still on the free agent market. There are 3 guys that the Pirates should take a look at.

Edwin Jackson-In his 8 year career, Jackson has been an All-Star, thrown a no-hitter, and played for 6 different teams. He’s compiled a record of 60-60 with a career ERA of 4.46. This is the first time that he has been a free agent, as he’s been traded from every team he’s played for. He’s got a lot of big league experience for a guy who is only 28, but he’s been pretty inconsistent. In early January, Jon Heyman reported that Jackson was looking for $15-$17MM. It’s since been reported that his asking price has dropped significantly, which has intrigued some Bucco fans. Assuming that he’s now wanting about $10MM a year, it makes sense for the Pirates to at least consider Jackson. $10MM is a pretty big investment, and Neal Huntington would be taking a risk, but Edwin Jackson should be an option for the Bucs’ rotation.

Roy Oswalt-The 34 year old is obviously on the tail end of his time in the big leagues. He has a career ERA of 3.21 and record of 157-91. Oswalt was a part of the Astros rotation that went to the 2005 World Series along with Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens, and was of course a member of the Phillies’ “Big 4” in 2011. We saw a lot of Oswalt when he was in the NL Central, and we saw how effective he could be. It was recently reported that the asking price for Roy was only 1 year for $8MM. Such a low cost has attracted multiple teams, which means that the Pirates would have some competition if they decided to pursue Oswalt. He’s certainly a pitcher who could help the Bucs win some games, and be a good example for the young guys.

Joe Saunders-There hasn’t been a whole lot of talk about Saunders this offseason, and the Pirates haven’t shown any interest in him so far. But, Saunders could be the best fit for the Bucs out of anyone. He’s a 30 year old southpaw that you could think of as a replacement for Maholm. He’ll eat up a ton of innings, and if you give him some run support, he’ll win some games. He has a career record of 69-52 with a 4.16 ERA. He made $5.5MM with the D’backs in 2011, so it can be expected that he’s looking for a little bit more than that. He’s been offered 1 and 3 year deals so far this offseason, so it looks like the Pirates could have some competition if they go after Saunders. Still, it would be nice to add another lefty to the rotation for 2012.

Is it likely that the Pirates sign any of these 3 guys? Probably not. But Neal is definitely out there searching for someone that he thinks could contribute to the staff next year. It’s obvious that the Pirates lack major-league-ready depth at the starting position, with no help on the way until Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon are ready to debut. We’ll just have to wait and see if the Bucs decide to add to the rotation.

Go Bucs

Bucs Bits: Pirates News and Notes

 

– It has been said that the Pirates are still looking to bring in a utility infielder. A few experienced infielders still on the market include Orlando Cabrera, Adam Everett, Craig Counsell, Ryan Theriot, Miguel Tejada, and former Bucco Jack Wilson. None of these names excite us, especially since there are plenty of younger internal options (Harrison, d’Arnaud, Navarro, etc.), and it will cost a decent amount to bring in one of these utility guys.

– The Pirates have decided not to scout RHP Vicente Padilla. The 34 year old has been hitting an impressive 95 to 96 mph on the gun in winter ball.

Paul Maholm has signed a 1yr/4.75mil deal with the Chicago Cubs. Although the Cubs are one of our least favorite teams, we hope Paul does well in 2012 and we look forward to seeing him at PNC Park in 2012.

– The Pirates have signed LHP Doug Slaten to a minor league contract. Slaten pitched just 16 1/3 innings for Washington in 2011 due to elbow problems. He was non-tendered by the Nationals last month and also had minor league offers from the Brewers and Rangers.

Go Bucs

Bucs Bits: Pirates News and Notes

– The Buccos have brought in left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes, signing him to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Although he had success in the minors, Reyes has never posted an ERA under 5.57 in the big leagues. Despite his poor numbers, he still has some upside since he is just 27 years of age and can hit 90 MPH on the gun. He could intrigue the Pirates as a reliever since Tony Watson and Daniel Moskos are the only current southpaws in the bullpen.

 

– According to Dejan Kovacevic, the Pirates have had discussions with Paul Maholm, but it is still highly unlikely that he returns to Pittsburgh. I would not mind bringing in another starting pitcher in case someone goes down in spring training, or if Charlie Morton is not ready to start the season. At one point, the Pirates were prioritizing a starter, but it is unclear if they are still pursuing pitching depth.

– Neal Huntington also said that the Bucs have been tracking Cuban prospect Yoenis Cespedes for years, although they aren’t considered to be frontrunners to sign him. I can’t see a small market team acquiring a prized prospect like Cespedes, since I think a big team like the Yankees will offer him a substantial amount of cash that is out of the Pirates price range.

– In addition to Reyes, the Pirates have also signed RHP Logan Kensing to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training. Kensing will most likely start the year at Indianapolis and provide organizational depth, although he could appear in Pittsburgh if a few relievers get injured.

– Ken Rosenthal reported that the Pirates have expressed interest in A.J. Burnett. However, he is guaranteed a huge contract for the next two seasons which could be a problem.

– We are now exactly 3 months from Opening Day 2012, which is just 90 days away.

The View from Section 134

Thanks to Joe Klimchak, one of the best in-game hosts in the MLB, for tweeting us this great picture of the view from section 134. Check out @BucsJoe on Twitter, and be sure to give him a follow!

Go Bucs