Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Argenis or Pedro: September Back Up Battles

Aregnis Diaz and Pedro Circiaco were brought in expressly to challenge for Ronny Cedeno's job. We doubt either will do it; it's Cedeno's position to lose, not theirs to win.

But both are on the forty-man roster, both are now on the active roster, and both are looking for the kind of September that could give them the edge when camp breaks in April.

Argenis Diaz came to Pittsburgh with Hunter Strickland in July of 2009, when the Bucs sent soon-to-be-free-agent Adam LaRoche to Boston. The 5'11" 165 pound shortstop comes with a rep as a good glove, bad stick guy.

The 23 year old Guatire, Venezuela native was signed as a free agent by the Sox in 2003, then spent two years in the VSL and another in the GCL. He made his A debut in 2007 at Greenville of the Sally League. In A ball, he hit .279 and .281, good enough to bump him to AA in mid-2008.

For the duration of 2008 and all of 2009, he plied his trade at Portland in the Eastern League where it was easy for Bucco scouts to eyeball him (same league as Altoona, different dvision.) He hit .288 and .253 in his AA seasons.

Bad trend with his lumber; it became even more pronounced in 2009, when he spent his first full Pirate year at Indy and hit at a sickly .233 rate. Diaz was hitting .248 this year when he got the call to the 'Burgh to tale the place of Bobby Crosby as the jack-of-all-trades infielder.

Then again, Pittsburgh didn't get him especially for his maple. Diaz was considered the best defensive player in the Red Sox' farm system. He has great range, good hands and a strong arm, if someone slow afoot, akin to Jack Wilson.

The Sox Prospects scouting report said "Diaz is an elite defensive shortstop, and if he improves his concentration on routine plays, he could compete for a gold glove in the bigs. He has plus range, excellent footing, an impressive glove, and an outstanding arm. Makes impossible plays in the field."

It noted two sources of concern with his fielding - he would take the edge off a great play by making a poor throw when he wouldn't set, and he sometimes seems to blank out on routine plays. But every report we've seen claims his glove is gold, so neither flaw seems to be major.

The right handed batter is purely a slap hitter with virtually no power and somewhat streaky at the plate. His discipline isn't the greatest, and good off speed stuff baffles him.

Diaz's walk rate is 6% (58 walks in 922 plate appearances) in AA/AAA ball, with a .281 OBP in AAA. He is an accomplished bunter, for whatever good that does an eight hole hitter.

And he's pretty much stuck to that script with his Pittsburgh cup of coffee, hitting .250.

The Pirates acquired shortstop Pedro Ciriaco and Chris Snyder from Arizona for Bobby Crosby, Ryan Church, and D.J. Carrasco. Ciriaco is a 24 year old (he'll turn 25 on September 27th) Dominican from San Pedro de Macoris with a little lesser pedigree with the mitt than Diaz but a little bit better results with the bat.

The 5'11" 160 pound Reno Aces' shortstop was selected to represent the World Team in the 2010 XM All-Star Futures Game.

His arm and defensive ability are above average and his speed rates a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Unfortunately, he is a free-swinger with little plate patience (28 walks in 999 plate appearances in AA/AAA, a 3% rate) who sometimes struggles to get on base.

That negates his base-running & swiping skills: as noted by many, you can't steal first. But he is exciting when he gets aboard; he had 38 steals in AA and 19 this season in AAA.

Ciriaco does show a little gap power; he's hit two dozen doubles or more two out of his last three seasons. He's interesting because of his potential upside. He batted .281 at Indy and .265 overall in AAA this year, and hit 24 doubles, eight triples, and six homers. But his AAA/AA OBP is .283, just a hair better than Diaz.

He does have upside, meaning he has some tools to work with. But both guys would really bolster their cause by improving their eye at the plate; they already have the prerequisite gloves.

The Pirates have a handful of upper level prospects to push Diaz and Ciriaco. Brian Friday (Indy), Jordy Mercer (Altoona), Chase d'Arnaud (Altoona), and Brock Holt (Bradenton) are all trying to make a name for themselves as middle infielders, too.

All are recent top-ten picks of the Pirates, and except for Friday, they're all still a minimum of a couple of seasons away from the show.

Hey, the Pirates knew that short was a spot they had to batten down after moving Wilson and watching the pained efforts of Brian Bixler. So they went outside the system and brought in a pair of superior glove guys in Diaz and Ciriaco who went right on the 40-man roster as insurance policies and potential successors to Ronny Cedeno.

We don't think either will challenge RC, unless he melts down this month (and he has the potential, though he's been fairly steady since the break). But this September may be the opportunity for Argenis Diaz or Pedro Circiaco to step ahead of the oncoming rush of middle infield talent and break camp with the team in 2011.


WilliamJPellas said...

I like Ciriaco and think he has enough tools to be a useful guy and potentially better than that. He does have gap power and he can steal bases; with his glove, he wouldn't have to hit much more than .250 to start for us, provided he continues to crank some doubles, add the occasional home run, and force the action on the basepaths.

Ron Ieraci said...

I'd probably give Ciriaco the edge, too, Wil. He has the better chance of pushing Cedeno, although I think RC is still the 2011 SS barring a September sleepwalk.