Tagged: Rumor Mill

Looking back at the farm & rumors

It’s time to take a look around the Pirates farm system as we work towards announcing Bucco Blog’s 2008 top ten prospects.

A few pitching performances that stand out in the system last year:

IP H9 BB9 K9 xERA BAA
Olivo Astacio Hickory 48.3 7.3 5.2 13.2 1.39 .218
Eric Krebs Hickory 37.3 8.2 5.3 11.6 2.26 .241
Charles Benoit Hickory 79.7 8.3 3.3 9.4 2.65 .243
Pat Bresnahan Lynchbg 60.3 8.1 4.8 9.4 2.75 .239
Derek Antelo Lynchbg 63.7 9.6 2.5 7.2 2.81 .274
David Davidson Altoona 59.7 6.6 4.5 8.3 2.44 .206
Matthew Peterson Altoona 63.7 7.1 3.8 7.9 2.73 .216
Chris Hernandez Altoona 56.7 8.4 3.2 8.7 3.09 .247
Brian Rogers Indy 65.0 6.9 4.4 9.0 1.85 .212
Franquelis Osoria Indy 54.7 8.4 3.1 5.4 3.10 .249

Dewon Brazelton and Shane Youman dominated the starters in the Pirates farm system last year but unfortunately, Neil Huntington DFA’d Youman and Brazelton was immediately signed by the Cardinals after the season. John Van Benschoten, Byran Bullington, and then Luis Munoz rounded out the top five.

As for relievers, the Pirates have quite a few. Krebs work in Hickory is no surprise if you follow the ‘Dads. He pitched very well when he found the zone.

I think the shocker of the year has to be Charles Benoit, the 10th rounder in 2006. Not only did he dominate the Sally League, he carried it forward out to Hawaii and dominated there as well. Perhaps he should be given a shot at starting? I don’t know enough about him to say.

I think I expected too much of Arizona State product Pat Bresnahan last year. He was drafted in the 5th round in 2006 and then came into the system that year and tossed another 68 innings. I think he took a step backwards in 2007 because of the extra workload that year despite his wonderful numbers and 2008 could be an exciting year for him, probably in Altoona. That is, if the Pirates find a rover who can keep him in the zone.

And now a few hitting performances that stand out:

AB POS H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 xERA
Danilo Sanchez Hickory 69 C 13.5 1.7 9.0 4.5 7.69
Jonel Pacheco Hickory 463 OF 11.5 2.1 3.2 5.6 6.59
Jason Delaney Lynchbg 250 1B 13.1 1.4 5.9 8.0 6.33
Jared Keel Hickory 326 OF 9.0 1.8 5.9 8.4 5.81
Jamie Romak Lynchbg 294 OF 8.6 1.7 6.4 10.4 5.42
Neil Walker Altoona 431 3B 10.2 1.1 4.4 6.0 5.17
James Boone Hickory 107 OF 12.1 1.4 2.8 6.9 4.89
Shelby Ford Lynchbg 360 2B 10.0 0.5 3.4 6.8 4.68
Francis Poni Hickory 116 C 9.8 1.2 2.1 8.9 4.68
Kent Sakamoto Hickory 457 1B 10.0 1.1 2.4 6.9 4.60
Tripper Johnson Lynchbg 485 3B 9.4 0.7 3.8 5.3 4.59
Kristopher Watts Hickory 307 C 9.0 0.9 3.1 6.1 4.55

Yep – three catchers. Look at Sanchez’s walk rate.. the equivalent of one every 4.3 at bats. Wow. He was very old for the league but he raked none the less. Pacheco was old for Hickory too but he finally figured low-A ball out and had a very good year.

Now compare Ford and Walker. Despite the fact Walker had more power, Ford was only 1/2 a run per nine innings off the 1st rounder’s production. That’s pretty impressive for a middle infielder even though Walker was probably still a bit under the gun from his wrist injury the year before. Ford ended up missing the last part of the season from back problems related to his newly implemented weight lifting regime so he should be back in the saddle in 2008. I can’t wait to see where his power numbers go.

Jared Keel, 31st rounder in 2006, has to be the surprise of the year – he mashed at Hickory in up and down streaks until he finally gave out from fatigue the last month. But what makes Keel’s performance all that more interesting is that he played numerous positions all year while raking. I’m guessing Kyle Stark will settle him into a corner outfield role at Lynchburg and watch and see what he’ll do instead of continuing to push the super utility button Graham had imposed on him.

While there are a few quality pieces around, they are few and far between. Stark has inherited a totally marginal system with holes everywhere, so he has his work cut out for him, especially if Huntington, Coonelly, and Nutting refuse to gut the big league team for prospects.

A friend of mine close to the Rays say they have been talking internally about Jack Wilson. Now, I laid this rumor to rest earlier in the month saying it would never happen but there might be renewed interest. I’m hearing the Pirates made it known Wilson wasn’t available to a different club at winter meeting and that circulated around the hotel. Now some are hearing that rumor might have been planted.

I would be shocked if the Rays take on Wilson’s contract and give up a prospect knowing what I do about the Rays. Plus, I can’t see Huntington playing Castillo 155 games at short, although if he’s serious about rebuilding then it’s a no-brainer. We’ll have to see where this goes.

My Ian Snell piece yesterday spurred one NL person to email me today and say Huntington "doesn’t seem to have an idea where he’s going yet." Evidently Huntington has a couple of folks pe’od because he may have indicated more product would be available earlier than he’s offering up and those teams were counting on it. So they have asked him to get off the pot and deal before the GM meetings in December.

One scout thinks the Pirates are playing this "We dunno what we’re goin’ to do…" game all along hoping to get better values late. A lot of teams have baited the market hoping to steal value but those teams won’t be able to continue that posture anywhere near as long as the Pirates can. The longer the Pirates hold out guys like Marte and Snell, the more they are going to get for them by desperate teams who are in need.

Interesting concept.. if it works.

The market for Jason Bay is diminishing by the hour but there are several teams interested if Huntington will deal him with the assumption they are taking on risk. That’s not the way Huntington wants to deal Bay I’m guessing so don’t be too surprised if the Pirates keep him hoping he mashes early and someone hits the DL on a team going somewhere. If a club offers the 2 – 3 prospect package of players Huntington wants, Bay will be gone.

An email from a Pirate fan today speculated that teams could be playing Huntington early because he doesn’t have a trade record and he’s a newbie GM wanting to look good. That’s reasonable, but I think every GM plays every GM for all they can get so that’s nothing new.

But it is important to watch what Huntington does. So far he’s added some minor league depth like any GM would do and DFA’d a back of the rotation southpaw he’s all but certain to lose. In minimal at bats, Huntington is batting .205.

Readers have been asking me if the Pirates gut the roster, should they be gutting Gorzelanny, Capps, and Sanchez too. My thought is this – if Huntington can improve the club dealing any player in the system, he should do the deal. Nobody should be untouchable.

That being said, Gorzelanny is about as close to ace material as the Pirates have had in years so a 4+ prospect package of players who can step in and play today isn’t outrageous by any means with his service time and our lack of desire to deal him.

Sanchez? His defensive game was off in 2007, he’s a league average defender at third, a singles hitter who hits better than league average in a big park.. I’m not so sure Huntington can get better than he has with Sanchez keeping him at second.

Capps? I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, his numbers don’t suggest he’s going to continue to dominate. He had a nice 2007 ERA.. the question is, was that the best we’ll ever see out of him? If so, does that warrant a thought about dealing the power arm? Or should Huntington keep him no matter what knowing he’d at least become a premiere setup man if he falls out of grace closing?

Tough questions.

I expect Capps, Gorzy, and Sanchez will all be around for 2008 unless Huntington gets blown off the map with an offer, and that’s not likely unless it’s late July and a team is in the hunt.

Forget my thought about Kenny Lofton manning centerfield I had the other day. After finally taking the time to compute play-by-play defensive stats, Lofton is a disaster anymore. Now paying for Mike Cameron..

Some have asked me about Coco Crisp and I’ve been telling them we have a Crisp defender in Duffy. I’d rather go get a BJ Upton or even Josh Hamilton (is he even healthy?) for the extra bat on top of near equivalent defense. We can stand to sign someone on a three year deal with McCutchen taking a corner (left?) in 2009 and 2010.

Spurring the Brewers, the Reds signed Cordello to a 4/46 deal and everyone immediately called it a ridiculous signing. That’s $11.5M per year which is about the same as a +2.5 win player would get playing 162 games.

The money is high but it typically is when a team targets. Cordello will probably put 10 wins in the Reds pocket next year from 2007 and that makes them a .500 team (in theory, of course). Now if they can only get rid of Griffey and his $16.5M contract, they might have something over there.

Offensive evolution last five years

It’s interesting to see how offense in the game has evolved the last five years.

For instance, doubles and strikeouts are up in MLB while home runs are generally down and, perhaps as a result of the power loss, more bases are being successfully swiped and fewer thrown out.

It’s also interesting to see how hitting has pulsed – up one year and down the next since 2003 with 2007 being a down year.

Looking at the graphs below, you can immediately see the impact of an inexperienced hitting instructor in Jeff Manto compared to the veteran Gerald Perry from 2003 – 2005 as Pirate strikeouts shot through the roof. John Russell’s hitting coach is going to be a very important piece of the puzzle.

2003 was the last special year for the Pirates where they legitimately had a chance until Robert and Ogden Nutting refused to infuse any cash when the club couldn’t pay their bills and forcing Dave Littlefield to dismantle the roster. It’s been all downhill since.

Now knowing the game has pulsed on offense every two years, we can assume most teams (like the Cardinals and Astros) are going to add some pop in their tanks this year, the Cubs have already reloaded, the Reds will never have a problem scoring runs, and the Brewers are rock solid. That leaves the Pirates way down at the bottom of the barrel. And I do mean wayyyy down.

We need bats.. guys who can mash the ball over the wall 20+ times per year. Barry Bonds and his circus act, Milton Bradley, Russell Branyan off the bench perhaps if Phelps isn’t resigned, Josh Hamilton if the Reds will deal him in the division, and Geoff Jenkins all might be possible targets. Obviously, Bradley would be the most welcomed since he can play center, but don’t count on the Pirates making a move for him with the centerfielder market sky high this year.

Internally, Ryan Doumit and Steven Pearce are the best options but Pearce is playing with Team USA which is adding at bats to his resume and he’ll probably be toast by June or July next year, and who knows what will ail Doumit next year, much less where can we play him without him killing us defensively.

Jamie Romak would be the next in line but he’s not anywhere near ready, and Neil Walker has shown pop in his career and, with Bautista’s poor numbers, he could be an option to open the year at third. Unfortunately, Walker will get eaten alive on the hot corner for a few years and he’s also playing winter ball in Mexico so he’ll probably be toast after mid-year too.

Anyway, the graphs below show all the basic averages for MLB and Pirate hitters with 100 at bats or more in the respective year so you can get a feel where we are lagging just to be an ‘average’ team offensively.

The xERA stat indicates the average earned runs per nine generated.

           Players with 100 or more at bats
H/9 2B/9 3B/9 HR/9 xERA
MLB ave 2007 9.61 1.98 0.20 1.08 4.63
MLB ave 2006 9.68 1.97 0.21 1.18 4.76
MLB ave 2005 9.46 1.92 0.19 1.11 4.57
MLB ave 2004 9.57 1.93 0.20 1.20 4.75
MLB ave 2003 9.43 1.90 0.20 1.13 4.62
Pirates ave 2007 9.48 2.13 0.19 0.98 4.41
diff from MLB ave -0.13 0.16 -0.01 -0.10 -0.21
Pirates ave 2006 9.60 1.89 0.12 0.96 4.23
diff from MLB ave -0.08 -0.08 -0.09 -0.22 -0.53
Pirates ave 2005 9.38 1.93 0.24 0.93 4.29
diff from MLB ave -0.08 0.02 0.05 -0.18 -0.29
Pirates ave 2004 9.40 1.77 0.26 0.93 4.16
diff from MLB ave -0.17 -0.15 0.06 -0.27 -0.59
Pirates ave 2003 9.76 1.79 0.30 1.09 4.67
diff from MLB ave 0.33 -0.11 0.10 -0.05 0.06
BB/9 HBP/9 SB/9 SO/9 CS/9
MLB ave 2007 3.46 0.37 0.64 6.42 0.21
MLB ave 2006 3.41 0.40 0.60 6.35 0.24
MLB ave 2005 3.27 0.39 0.57 6.16 0.23
MLB ave 2004 3.51 0.40 0.57 6.34 0.24
MLB ave 2003 3.41 0.40 0.56 6.14 0.25
Pirates ave 2007 3.00 0.45 0.44 6.64 0.19
diff from MLB ave -0.46 0.08 -0.20 0.22 -0.02
Pirates ave 2006 3.02 0.60 0.44 6.99 0.14
diff from MLB ave -0.39 0.21 -0.16 0.64 -0.10
Pirates ave 2005 3.05 0.48 0.48 6.39 0.21
diff from MLB ave -0.23 0.09 -0.08 0.23 -0.02
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Rumor Mill Picks Up Steam; Tidbits

Byung-Hyun Kim? Akinori Otsuka? Armando Benitez? Kyle Snyder? Josh Towers? Jacque Jones?

Plenty of speculation out there right now but the only player that makes any sense for the Pirates is Kim, although Otsuka could be on Jim Tracy’s wish list.

Kim’s second-half numbers in 2006 were very impressive and, although he still walks way too many batters, he might be a nice fit in the Pirates pen.

Not only can Kim start, he can also close (just a .201 batting average against him as a reliever) and he also has excellent numbers against National League Central Division teams.

What would it take to get Kim? He is in a contract year and owed $2.5MM. I’m guessing a Ryan Doumit package might get this deal done, since Yorvit Torrealba is an injury risk and Chris Iannetta is a a raw rookie.

If the Rockies wanted pitching instead, I’d propose a Tony Armas or Shawn Chacon package.

Do I think this deal will ever happen? No.

I’m hearing more rumors about other teams being interested in some of the Pirates players than I am about the Pirates being interested in anyone. It could be that Dave Littlefield will clear a little fringe off the roster in the next week with some trivial deals that might land a low level prospect or two.

Other than that, I’ll be watching the release wire because you can bet your bottom dollar that is where Littlefield will make any player acquisition move.

Lonnie Chisenhall, the Pirates 13th round pick in the 2006 first year draft who didn’t sign, was arrested for stealing a TV and was released by the South Carolina Gamecocks.

The interesting part to this story is that it may open the door for the Pirates to pursue signing him since he is no longer playing college baseball. I don’t know the draft rules that well but it is my belief that once a player signs an intent to play college baseball after being drafted, the drafting team holds the rights to that player until the next draft.

Depending on the circumstances surrounding Chisenhall’s current arrest, I have to believe the Pirates will extend an effort to sign him, if for no other reason than to retain his rights. We’ll have to watch and see where this goes.

The Stats Geek’s article over at the Post-Gazette Tuesday [link] was a shocker, but not more of a shock than his piece last week where he thought the Pirates could win as many as 85 games.

This week the Geek clarified his position stating that everything must go right for them to have a winning season. That everything includes:

— Duffy hitting .307 all year with a .362 OBP;

— the starting five pitchers toss 800 innings with no more than a combined 4.62 ERA (800 innings pitched, 411 runs allowed);

— the Pirates convert more than 68% of all balls put in play into outs;

— the backup catcher has to hit more than .161;

— Jose Castillo and Jack Wilson (assuming they are the team’s middle infielders) must put together an average .747 OPS or better;

— Nady must show some power while either learning to hit right-hand pitching or the team finding a platoon partner for him;

— Bay, LaRoche, and Sanchez need a total of 1,600 at bats, although the Geek didn’t mention what they had to hit.

I’m not as confident as the Geek that will generate 82 wins.

My personal to-do list for a winning season would be:

— go get Adrian Beltre;
— go get Carl Crawford;
— go get Roy Oswalt, Pedro Martinez, or anyone like them;
— go get Mike Gonzalez.

Won’t happen you say? Ok.. I agree. I guess we’ll have to settle for the 750 runs allowed the Geek suggests will get us 82 wins and pray our bats can mash 20% more, our defenders can field 10% better, and our rotation can win 20% more. With Lady Luck on our side, maybe we can get 82 wins?

Jose Castillo traded? Naw…

Maybe..

Well, …

With Walker and Bixler getting cut today, you have to start wondering where the pieces are going to fall in place:

Kelly over Hernandez? Matos over McLouth? Bautista or Castillo? Cota or Doumit? Kolb? Youman?

There are still way too many players in camp for two weeks to go. Obviously Littlefield and his staff can’t answer the hard questions yet.

But the fans can.

Matos over McLouth and send Nate down to AAA and have him learn routes and get some at bats until Matos hits the DL in May, the fans want Bautista at 3B but the pitchers and I want Castillo at 2B and Sanchez at 3B, Cota over Doumit and send Doumit packing to AAA or trade him, and absolutely break camp with Youman – the kid has earned a chance.

Kelly over Hernandez.

Kolb? Flip a coin.

Ryan? He’ll crush a fastball and not much else. But he can run a better route than McLouth. I’ll take Ryan and hope he can produce off the bench since I know McLouth can’t.

That would give me:

— 13 position players — Duffy, Wilson, Sanchez, LaRoche, Bay, Nady, Paulino, Castillo, Bautista, Matos, Ryan, Kelly, and Cota;

— 5 starters — Duke, Snell, Maholm, Chacon, and Gorzelanny; and

— 7 relievers — Capps (although he is on a tight rope right now), Grabow (unless sidelined), Torres, Armas (platoon 5th starter based on the team we face), Youman, Marte, and Kolb. Wasdin is interesting as is Sharpless, but Josh just can’t find the plate enough yet for my liking.

Just a guess.

Update on LaRoche Post

My source for the LaRoche talks came from an AL scout and it seems he may have passed me "second-handed" information. I spoke with Will Carroll at BP after I saw the Atlanta Journal-Constitution article today indicating LaRoche was not being offered and he informed me that, while the Braves are active in the trade market, there has not been any "substantive" discussions involving LaRoche at this time. His source was very well placed.

I always confirm a rumor I get from two sources before I post it. I had one source on the LaRoche offering until the AL scout fed me the second one last night, so I ran with it. Both sources I had are very credible.

As I told Will, the closer you get to the game the harder it is to pick apart motivations and, while the information may have been "second-handed" to me, I guess I feel better knowing it happened at one time or another than to think some in the game might be deceptive. LoL

I continue to say I would rather post a rumor from credible sources than to not post them at all so that Pirate fans at least have some clue what is being talked about in the market. This is a blog – not a newspaper so I don’t mind being risky, and when I post a rumor and I find out different information, I’ll continue to pass what I learn to you. The problem is, some sources pass misleading information.

Perhaps that is the case this time. I’m still not sure. Neither the Pirates or Braves are open communication driven organizations, of course. And we all know the two organizations aren’t exactly lovers by any means.

For now I’ll simply say that the rumor is valid – everyone agrees it is being passed around the industry. Where/when the rumor started is another thing.

I’ll keep digging.

No Interest in LaRoche

It seems David Littlefield was handed Adam LaRoche on a platter a few days ago but would only offer up Nate McLouth and John Grabow, according to a couple sources in the industry.

The Braves moved on.

I did not hear, nor was it offered from either source, who the Braves were targeting.

We do know that the Braves are looking for an ‘economical’ leadoff hitter and there has been speculation they might trade Andruw Jones. Perhaps Schuerholz was after Chris Duffy?

We also know the Braves are looking for setup guys for Wickman, so perhaps Mike Gonzalez had his name thrown around?

More when/if I hear it.

Arroyo Comin’ Out

I’m sure by now every Pirate fan has heard Bronson Arroyo’s self-degradation comments:

"I was embarrassed to be beaten by those guys. That’s not to say you can’t be beat on any given day, but I thought it was a horse (****) outing, especially against a team like that. I mean, they are one of the weakest teams in baseball. That’s just the way it is. If I gave up four runs in six innings to the Yankees, I probably wouldn’t be embarrassed, but I was. If I can’t stand on the mound and feel comfortable against that lineup, then something’s wrong with me."

So Bucco Blog decided to dig a bit to see what that ‘something’ was that is ‘wrong with’ Arroyo.

First, we went back to his mirthful days with the Red Sox where he showed the world his stuff:

Barroyo3

We noticed he was a clean shaven boy then who caught some of the fan’s eyes. But he did come out – in style. Afterall, when he was with the Pirates he wasn’t quite as limp in his mechanics.

After Arroyo was traded to the Reds and his daddy GM came out and said:

"I really admire Bronson and have gotten to know him really well," Epstein said, but "if I allowed my personal feelings about a player or recognition that this player would prefer to stay in Boston … affect our judgment in what we thought was best for the organization, then I wouldn’t be doing my job."

Bronson Arroyo (affectionately known as "BA" in some baseball circles), blew another spin on being traded after being told by his agent not to sign the cheap contract over the winter:

"No place is going to attract me," he said. "I don’t personally enjoy pitching in the National League, because of all the things that come along with the National League. I wanted to stay in a Red Sox uniform. Period. That was it, that was the only reason I signed that deal. You can only be a stand-up guy to a certain point. There’s so many factors involved. Hey, I’ll go out and pitch my three years. I’ve got three years and I can go where I want."

So after he blew his wad, we went to catch up with how he was doing with his new team. We noticed the day he pitched against the Pirates he seemed to be warming up for bigger and better things:

He certainly worked hard that day only to lose to "the weakest team in baseball".

Jack Wilson stated in the press the other day:

"What he said was very disrespectful. To come out and say that, especially against your former teammates, guys who’ve played with you, it’s more disrespectful. You take it personally. You can be frustrated with an outing and think you’ve faced better lineups, but don’t come out publicly and rip your old teammates. The fact is, we hit the ball well and the score could have been worse."

Arroyo shot back:

"I’m not disrespecting anybody. I’m just stating the facts."

Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post penned his latest article on the Red Sox org:

"The Idiots are gone… Most of the crazy guys with the goofy hair, like Johnny Damon and Bronson Arroyo, are gone."

John Fay, a reporter with the Enquirer in Cinci had this in his article:

"’Baseball can use a little more honesty. Nothing Arroyo said was earthshaking news to anyone. And he doesn’t regret what he said. "I know you can’t say certain things in the media," he said. "I’ve never been a guy to tick people off in the paper. But the thing is, I’m not going to sugar-coat a bad outing and say: ‘Well, they got some soft line drives. They didn’t hit the ball that good.’ "

Arroyo felt like he needed to shut down the Pirates that night. "I felt like it was bad timing," he said. "Had we been winning, I wouldn’t have felt so bad about being down 4-1. But the way we had been playing, I felt like I took us completely out of the game against a weak lineup. That’s just a fact. It’s a weak lineup, especially with the guys they’ve got sitting on the bench.

"It wasn’t meant to offend anyone." He simply was saying what a lot of other players thought. Again, good for him. Arroyo has raised the standards for the Reds’ starters."’

Raised the standards for Reds starters, huh?

LoL

Raise the Jolly Roger Pirate fans…

Barroyo1

.. Arroyo has a new daddy..

.. the ‘weakest team in baseball’.

Rumor Mill Picking Up Steam

Lots of new rumors floating around. This is the time of year I really enjoy. Here’s the latest:

— McLouth a Marlin? Heard today the Marlins have inquired about Nate. Knowing we need a starter, could an Olsen/McLouth deal be in the works?

— Orioles are all over Craig Wilson and John Grabow. Unless a third team gets involved to get the Pirates a starter, I don’t see us matching up very well for a trade.

— The Yankees evidently have an interest in Craig too but don’t count on Cashman doing a deal with Littlefield anytime soon.

— We know Thomson is available from the Braves.. we know Sosa is available. We know the Braves want Wilson. But, one thing the Braves won’t do is deal with McClatchy’s Pirates so there will have to be a third team involved to make anything happen. Sosa is the better candidate but don’t expect him to compile a lot of innings. This one with Sosa is gaining speed and the team we best fit with as Perrotto mentioned the other day. However, The Braves loathe McClatchy so I’m not so sure this will ever get done.