Posted by FlyAtTheThigh | 4/05/2009 09:28:00 AM | 2009 MLB Season, Pittsburgh Pirates, Where they stand
Since we're all huge baseball fans here at the Thigh, we've decided to examine each MLB team and where they currently stand. We'll look at how the team did last year, changes that happened or could happen with the team this offseason, and how it looks like the team will do in 2009 as of now. We'll even toss in the hottest thigh associated with each team. In this edition, we look at the Pittsburgh Pirates.
2008 Outcome: 67-95, 6th place in the NL Central, 30.5 GB of Chicago Cubs
What They've Lost: Nothing really. Though that may not be saying much.
What They've Gained: Ramon Vazquez (2 year, $4M), Eric Hinske (1 year, $1.5M), Craig Monroe (1 year, $.75M)
Needs: Where do you begin here? I guess we should go to where the Pirates figure to be set. The corner infield positions are going to be manned by the LaRoche brothers, and while Adam will probably suck for the first half (again), one cannot consider those positions a need. The middle infield is pretty mediocre with Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson, but they will get a lot of pop from Ryan Doumit at catcher, even if he doesn't blow you away with his glove. Let's just say they could use upgrades at most every position, and definitely at the middle and back end of their rotation.
The Talk: One has to feel for the Pittsburgh Pirates fan base. It is very likely that they suffer through their 17th straight losing season in 2009. Couple that on field futility with the drama surrounded in the signing of first round pick Pedro Alvarez last year, the fact that the Pirates have brought in two Indian (from India) kids who won a Million Dollar Arm contest, and the borderline retarded moves made by past GMs (Matt Morris anyone?), you have a recipe for a franchise that is only known now for their futility.
Let's start with what has to be considered the good: the new front office has gone away from the drafting mistakes of years past and made a move to draft the talented and expensive Pedro Alvarez, forgetting about the Bryan Bullington types. There is no doubt that changing the current Pirates culture starts at the top with a solid plan and drafting.
The Bay and Nady trades last year were indicative of a franchise essentially starting over. While the hauls aren't going to blow anyone away, bringing in young players the likes of Craig Hansen (26 this year), Brandon Moss (26), Andy LaRoche (26), Jeff Karstens (27), Ross Ohlendorf (27), and Jose Tabata (21) should be a boon to the team and provide players that will remain inexpensive during the lean years that are coming and remain under team control the next time the Pirates have a winner. Andy LaRoche has long been considered a stud prospect and he should be starting to enter into his prime, which means that the Pirates could parlay two good years of him into a mega-trade to clear the way for Alvarez and shore up multiple other positions. Scouts love Jose Tabata as much as Jose Tabata's wife loves other people's kids.
2009 will be the last year that the Pirates suffer under the ridiculous deal granted Jack Wilson, which will clear a little more than 7 million off their payroll. Best case scenario, Wilson has a great first half and the Pirates can go ahead and flip him into someone else.
Nate McLouth (.276/.356/.497) gave the Pirates excellent production from centerfield and is going into his age-27 season, so there's no reason not to expect more of the same. The Pirates rewarded him with a sensible 3 year, $15.75M extension with a club option on the fourth year. Adam LaRoche (.270/.341/.500) provided the Buccos with production at first base, but was completely non-existent in the first half for the second straight year (.251/.330/.434). Ryan Doumit really came into his own in 2008 once handed the job (.318/.357/.501), giving the Pirates a trio of excellent bats in their lineup. Bringing in Ramon Vazquez may provide the Pirates flexibility, but to expect a repeat of his 2008 line (.290/.365/.430) seems folly.
There's less good to say about the pitching staff in Pittsburgh this year. Paul Maholm was beyond a pleasant surprise last year, sporting a 3.71 ERA. However, a low K to IP rate might undo him (206 IP, 139 Ks). Nonetheless, he is the Ace of the staff. Ian Snell was considered to be a top-of-rotation guy, but had an absolute meltdown in 2008 (5.42 ERA, 1.76 WHIP). Zach Duke hasn't been the same since the Pirates staff tinkered with his mechanics, though he was able to make over 30 starts last year.
The pen is better than the rotation, for whatever that's worth. Matt Capps is a solid closer who should be healthy again this year. John Grabow is an excellent bullpen arm, but will turn 31 this year and will probably be more valuable to the Pirates as a trade piece. It remains to be seen how the Pirates use their young pitchers this year and how they elect to fill out the pen. Craig Hansen has long been considered a bullpen prospect, but the other pieces of the two big trades made by the Pirates last year (Karstens, Ohlendorf) could be used in either role. Maybe the pen isn't better than the rotation. Who knows. I don't think it's going to matter.
Free Agent Signing/Trade Prediction: My best guess is that they move John Grabow at the break.
Young Player To Make 2009 Impact: Andrew McCutchen
McCutchen is considered the top prospect in the Pirates' system and one of the better outfield prospects in baseball. Baseball Prospectus lists McCutchen as the 25th best prospect in baseball (they rank Pedro Alvarez 4th, but it's hard to say that he'll make a 2009 impact). McCutchen made strides in his plate discipline at AAA, but has lost some of his power. If he gets some of it back, watch out.
Hottest Thigh Association: Anna Benson
I searched long and hard for another, more current Pittsburgh Pirates woman, but no matter where I searched, it came back to Mrs. Benson. Yes, she's no longer part of the organization, and, yes she's a bit crazy. But I couldn't find an attractive picture of Jose Tabata's wife, so here we are.
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