Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Picking The Best 25 Men

The Pirates like to play the option game, keeping fringe players they might otherwise lose if they tried to send them down to Indy. But that begs the question: Are the Pirates putting their best team on the field by hanging on to these guys?

-- Was the team better off cutting Alex Presley instead of John Bowker? And why pick up Xavier Paul if he and Presley are basically the same player? Presley is actually a few months younger than Paul, can play all three OF spots, and is in his second season of raking in the top level of the minors.

-- Did keeping Josh Rodriguez and then picking up Brandon Wood make the team stronger than having Pedro Ciriaco as the utility middle man? Ciriaco doesn't have any power, but he's got plus speed and can play the middle infield and third in Gold Glove fashion.

-- Was Jose Ascanio ready to pitch in the show? He was ripped during rehab. They'll have the same decision when Kevin Hart returns (heck, they might cut Ascanio to clear his spot).

The problem is that none of Indy's RHP'ers look ready to move up now. The best RH performers in the organization to date have been Altoona's Aaron Pribanic, along with Phil Irwin & Kyle McPherson, both in High A; all three are starters and only McPherson is on the 40-man roster.

Now whether the FO likes shiny new toys or is trying to stick fingers in the dam until their prep-heavy prospects get into the upper levels is debatable. But the rotating door isn't helping, especially when options seem to play a greater role on the MLB roster than talent.

The situation isn't limited to fringe players; there are some questions regarding the regular guys.

-- Is it time to platoon Lyle Overbay and Steve Pearce? There's no first base prospect knocking on Pittsburgh's door. It's the perfect opportunity to see what Pearce can do with a few at-bats; we already know his glove will play, and Overbay is a stop-gap.

-- Why is Pedro Alvarez sitting so often? He's struggling, but hey, look at the hole in the middle of the order. Give the kid his at-bats.

-- Matt Diaz appears to be locked into his platoon; there's no RH OF'er on the horizon except for Starling Marte, who is rising with a bullet at Altoona and may be here by September. The only alternative is to get Dewey some innings in right field.

Hey, we understand that Pittsburgh's FO is working with a short deck. They're trying to overcome years of organizational neglect, replacing management who let the minors go to pot and built the big team with free agents. That left a huge gap in the upper levels to fill, so it was natural and probably necessary to dumpster dive just to find warm bodies at the beginning.

And a large part of the problem is of their own making, missing projections on guys like Andy LaRoche, Brandon Moss, Tim Alderson, etc., and flooding the farm system with high school players, which may pay off big down the road but is a long process to see through.

We're not going to knock their evaluations; that's a long-term, continuing process. It's notoriously hit-and-miss, and they've had their share of both.

The situation is that the team and system still has holes. But it's time to worry about the major league team. There's a reason the players we pick up were DFA'ed. Start promoting your own guns and quit sorting through other team's discards; give our own a shot. And play your best 25 guys, regardless of options, old Baseball America rankings, or contracts.


WilliamJPellas said...

You've nailed it here, Ron.

Most---not all, but most---of the team's moves designed as "help you right now" have simply not panned out. Thank goodness for the Nady/Marte and Dotel deals, because otherwise the trades that Huntington has made with current major leaguers would be a complete disaster. As you say, this organization was a total mess when the current regime took over, and so obviously they have to be given some slack when it comes to amateurs like us who are trying to evaluate their performance and effectiveness.

However, in my view they more than used up their entire reservoir of mulligans with the inexcusable incompetence of the team last season and really, of the teams they've put on the "major league" field every year since they've been in charge. Enough is enough. The major league team MUST show consistently better results going forward.

Agreed with you about the puzzling tendency of this regime to prefer other organizations' players when it comes to the fringes of the big league roster. I don't agree with you re: Pedro, who I think was rushed to the big leagues last year, fattened his statistics in garbage time in September, and is simply not ready for the majors. I think he needs to go back to Triplie A for about 6 to 8 weeks for remedial work.

Ron Ieraci said...

I actually agree with your point about Pedro, Will: simply play him everyday; if they think he's overwhelmed here, then at Indy. But he's at a point where he needs to play, not sit.

And a big amen to looking out for the big team. Sooner or later the focus has to be on the MLB product, and some of the current holes aren't going to be filled by prospects; somebody that can play this game has to signed or dealt for.

WilliamJPellas said...

Oh, right, gotcha re: Pedro. I agree, he needs to be swinging the bat. Don't forget, while his collegiate experience definitely counts and is probably roughly equivalent to High A-ball, still and all he only has about 1,100 at bats, TOTAL, in his entire pro career to date. I think he's just raw. I also think he'll be a better than average major league power hitter, but I do not think he's Wilver Stargell V 2.0. I think he's a lot more likely to be Carlos Pena Part Deux. Nothing wrong with a guy like that, he's just no superstar and never will be.