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Jose Osuna Jersey

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As he continues to hit at a high rate the Pittsburgh Pirates need to find at bats for utility man Jose Osuna
One of the stars of Spring Training 2017 and 2018 for the Pittsburgh Pirates was utility man Jose Osuna. Despite a strong Grapefruit League performance each of those seasons, Osuna struggled during the regular season.

This season the roles have been reversed. After struggling in Spring Training, he started the season at Triple-A Indianapolis. Since having been promoted to the Major League level, however, Osuna has raked.

After going 2-for-3 in Friday night’s victory, Osuna is now slashing .304/.347/.609. His ISO is a healthy .304, to go with a .392 wOBA and a 146 wRC+.

With Osuna raking at the plate, the Pirates need to find him every day at bats.

Following the team trading Corey Dickerson to Philadelphia on Wednesday, there is an opening for him to play every day. Osuna can play in right field when there is a right-handed starting pitcher on the mound. When a lefty toes the rubber and Colin Moran is on the bench, Osuna can play third base.

While Osuna’s athleticism in right field leaves a good bit to be desired, he has a cannon of an arm in the outfield. At third base, however, Osuna has flashed as a plus defender. This includes multiple strong plays on Friday night.

The Pirates need to find out what role Osuna can play in the team’s future. Is it as an every day player? Or, is it as a bench bat?

If it is as a bench bat, he has seemingly mastered the art of pinch hitting. In the offseason I dove into his need to improve as pinch hitter this season, and improve he has. Osuna is slashing .370/.370/1.037 as pinch hitter this season, including a MLB leading 5 pinch hit home runs.

Osuna has also been hitting the ball with authority this season. His 36.6% hard contact rate is above league average. So is his average exit velocity of 89.9 MPH. There is certainly reason to believe Osuna has turned the corner as a hitter and is starting to figure it out.

NEXT: A Double-A Pitcher That Should Be In Triple-A
It is time for the Pirates to find out what they have in Osuna. Is he a bench bat or an every day player? Now is the time to play Osuna on an every day basis to find out.

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Checking in at number 9 on the Pittsburgh Pirates top prospects list from the 2019 season is utility man Kevin Kramer
As part of the Seinfeld Pittsburgh Pirates connection, the selected UCLA infielder Kevin Kramer in the 2nd round of the 2015 MLB Draft. This came after selection University of Arizona infielder Kevin Newman in the 1st round of the draft that summer.

Like Newman, Kramer primarily played shortstop in college. This led to Kramer moving to second base early in his professional career. However, he has also played third base and the corner outfield spots, in addition to the two middle infield positions during his professional career.

Kramer made his MLB debut during the 2018 season but struggled mightily. This led to the left-handed hitting utility man starting the 2019 season with the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians. Kramer, however, did reach the MLB level once again in 2019.

With Indy, Kramer experienced some struggles in 2019. The 26-year-old slashed .260/.335/.417 with a .328 wOBA and a wRC+ of just 92. Kramer had a 10.4% extra base hit rate, .158 ISO, 9.6% walk rate, and a concerning 25.9% strikeout rate with Indy.

As he did in 2018, Kramer struggled with the Pirates in 2019 as well. In 50 MLB plate appearances Kramer slashed .167/.260/.190. While his 12.0% walk rate was healthy, his 34.0% strikeout rate was not. Additionally, he collected just one extra base hit. This is concerning as his power potential is what Kramer is best known for.

NEXT: The Pirates Pick Up Starling Marte’s Option
Through his first 90 career MLB plate appearances Kramer has struggled mightily. In these 90 PAs Kramer has slashed .152/.222/.165 with a 41.4% strikeout rate. He also had a bad season at Triple-A in 2019. He is now 26-years-old and not getting any younger. To be honest, it would not be a shocker if Kramer was removed from the 40-man roster at some point this offseason. If he is not, he is all but ticketed for Triple-A Indianapolis to start the 2020 season.

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Misfortune has followed the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Erik Gonzalez to the Dominican Republic.

The utility infielder fractured his left foot this past weekend while playing winter ball. It is his second bone break in the past seven months after he fractured his clavicle April 19 in a collision with Pirates center fielder Starling Marte in a game at PNC Park against the San Francisco Giants.

A surgical procedure was performed Wednesday by Dr. James Sferra at Allegheny General Hospital to fixate and stabilize the fracture. Gonzalez is projected to resume full baseball activities in 10-12 weeks, the Pirates announced.

The first injury cost Gonzalez 3½ months of the 2019 season. He rejoined the team Aug. 3. He was limited to 53 games and 142 at-bats while hitting .254 with one home run and six RBIs.

With Santo Domingo of the Dominican Winter League, he was hitting .250 in 11 games.

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PITTSBURGH – Ben Cherington made his first official roster moves as Pirates general manager on Wednesday, adding five prospects to Pittsburgh’s 40-man roster to protect them from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft.

Facing Wednesday night’s deadline to set their roster, the Pirates selected the contracts of third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes, shortstop Oneil Cruz, first baseman Will Craig and right-handers Blake Cederlind and Cody Ponce.

• Pirates Top 30 Prospects

To make room for those additions, the Bucs designated four pitchers for assignment: Dario Agrazal, Montana DuRapau, Luis Escobar and Williams Jerez. Pittsburgh ended the day with a full 40-man roster as Cherington’s real work begins.

The annual Rule 5 Draft will take place at the Winter Meetings in San Diego on Dec. 12.

What makes a prospect eligible for the Rule 5 Draft? Players signed at age 18 must be added to the 40-man roster within five seasons or they become eligible if left unprotected. Players signed at 19 or older must be protected within four seasons. This year, that generally meant international signings or high school Draft picks in 2015 had to be protected along with college players taken in the ’16 MLB Draft.

There was no doubt the Pirates would add Hayes and Cruz, two of their top three prospects. Craig, Cederlind and Ponce were also at risk of being selected if left unprotected.

Hayes, the 32nd overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, is the Pirates’ No. 2 prospect and the No. 36 overall prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. The slick-fielding third baseman is coming off an uninspiring offensive season for Triple-A Indianapolis. After a solid showing in Double-A Altoona, Hayes hit .265/.336/.415 with 10 homers and 53 RBIs in 110 games for Indianapolis this year. The 22-year-old could be ready for the Majors soon, but Pittsburgh might prefer to have him prove himself offensively back in Triple-A to start the year.

Pirates’ Top 5 prospects
Nov 21st, 2019 · 1:00
Pirates’ Top 5 prospects
Cruz, acquired from the Dodgers as part of the Tony Watson trade in 2017, is the Bucs’ No. 3 prospect and ranked 57th overall, according to MLB Pipeline. The 21-year-old is a fascinating prospect, from his size (6-foot-7) to his defensive future (currently a shortstop, though most evaluators expect that to change in time) and the tantalizing tools that allowed him to hit .298/.356/.475 with eight homers and 11 steals in 73 games this past season. Cruz began the year in Class A Advanced Bradenton and finished with Altoona, where he’ll likely return to start next year.

Craig, the Pirates’ first-round pick in 2016, is now only a call away from the Majors. The Pirates’ No. 10 prospect has shown more home run power while playing improved defense over the last two years, but he still has questions to answer about his overall offensive profile. This year, the 25-year-old slugged 23 homers and drove in 78 runs in Triple-A but hit just .249 with a .326 on-base percentage and 146 strikeouts in 556 plate appearances.

Cederlind, a fifth-round pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, climbed from Class A Advanced Bradenton to Triple-A Indianapolis this year. The hard-throwing reliever was particularly dominant in Double-A, posting a 1.77 ERA and 1.03 WHIP with 42 strikeouts in 45 2/3 innings over 31 appearances. The 23-year-old could make his Major League debut at some point next season.

The Pirates acquired Ponce, 25, from the Brewers in exchange for starter Jordan Lyles before this year’s Trade Deadline. The right-hander moved to the bullpen in 2018 but spent some time as a starter after joining Pittsburgh. Ponce finished the year in Triple-A, then put together an encouraging stint in the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League, posting a 2.35 ERA with 27 strikeouts and only three walks in 23 innings over five starts.

Only one eligible prospect on the Pirates’ Top 30 list was left unprotected: outfielder Lolo Sanchez. Despite his upside, Pittsburgh’s No. 15 prospect is unlikely to be selected in the Rule 5 Draft after finishing this past season in Bradenton.

Escobar, who was designated for assignment, was the Pirates’ 14th-ranked prospect, but his stock fell with a move to the bullpen and consistently high walk rates. Agrazal made 14 starts for the Pirates this year but struggled after an encouraging start, ending the season with a 4.91 ERA and only 41 strikeouts in 73 1/3 innings. DuRapau, a 32nd-round Draft pick in 2014, reached the Majors in May but wasn’t recalled when rosters expanded in September.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

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The Pirates have narrowed their search to replace Clint Hurdle as manager.

As first reported by MLB.com, their final two candidates are Minnesota Twins bench coach Derek Shelton and Tampa Bay Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro, team sources confirmed to the Post-Gazette.

Shelton, 49, was hitting coach with the Cleveland Indians from 2005 to 2009, then had the same position with the Rays from 2010 to 2016 before the Twins brought him on as bench coach in 2017.

Quatraro, 46, played in the Rays’ minor league system and became a coach in 2004. He worked at various positions with Tampa from 2004 to 2013 before he joining Terry Francona’s staff with the Indians from 2014 to 2017 as an assistant hitting coach. Quatraro returned to the Rays for the 2018 season as third base coach and became bench coach for 2019.

Pirates pitcher Dario Agrazal pitches against the Cubs in the first inning Wednesday, Sept. 25 2019, at PNC Park.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pirates trade Dario Agrazal to Tigers for cash
Both men are highly respected in baseball circles and have experience winning in small markets.

The decision to focus on Quatraro and Shelton eliminates internal candidates such as third base coach Joey Cora and special assistant Jeff Banister.

According to sources, the Pirates are hoping to finalize a decision by the end of the week. Whomever the manager is will have to work quickly to build his staff.

The Pirates still need to hire a bench coach and a pitching coach. The manager, along with general manager Ben Cherington, will also have to decide the fates of the remaining staff members like Cora, hitting coach Rick Eckstein, and first base coach Kimera Bartee.

Rock the vote

Major League Baseball is rolling out a new kind of award — the 2019 All-MLB Team — and Pirates fans can vote for Josh Bell until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 3.

Unlike the All-Star Game, this particular honor is designed to incorporate the entire season. It will include two separate teams, regardless of league. Winners will be announced on Tuesday, Dec. 10, at the Winter Meetings in San Diego.

Tampa Bay Rays third base coach Matt Quatraro stands on the field during a game against the Baltimore Orioles, Friday, May 11, 2018, in Baltimore.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Breaking down the Pirates’ next manager: Derek Shelton vs. Matt Quatraro
Fans can vote once every 24 hours at MLB.com. Winners will be determined by fan vote and a panel of media members, broadcasters, former players and other officials throughout the game.

There will be three outfielders selected — regardless of position — along with a normal infield, a designated hitter, five starting pitchers and two relief pitchers.

Bell ranks third among eligible first baseman with 37 home runs. He’s fourth in RBIs (116) and third in OPS (.936).

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On Wednesday, the Pittsburgh Pirates found out that they will be without one of their best relief pitchers in 2019
This season, the Pittsburgh Pirates have had one of the best bullpens in the National League. A big reason for the bullpen’s success has been rookie right hander Edgar Santana.

In 69 games this season Santana posted a 3.26 ERA and a 3.58 FIP in 66 1/3 innings pitched. He owned a 4.4% walk rate, 19.9% strikeout rate, and became one of Clint Hurdle‘s most trusted high leverage relievers.

Looking ahead to the 2019 season the Pirates appear ready to have one of the best bullpens in the league once again. A big reason for this was Santana. However, it turns out the Pirates will be without Santana in 2019.

After undergoing an MRI on his right elbow on Monday, a tear in the ulnar collateral ligament has been found. For Santana, this means going under the knife for Tommy John Surgery. Like Chad Kuhl, who had this same procedure done last week, Santana will now miss the entire 2019 season.

In Santana’s final outing of the season it was clear something was wrong. Friday night against the Brewers Santana faced three batters, allowed two home runs, and was then lifted from the game. Prior to this outing, Santana had allowed just five home runs all season.

NEXT: Looking At The Success Of Trevor Williams
Despite the loss of Santana, the Pirates still figure to have a strong bullpen in 2019. Anchored by Felipe Vazquez, Keone Kela, Kyle Crick, and Richard Rodriguez, the Bucs have four reliable high leverage relievers. Nick Burdi is a promising young relief arm as well.

However, with the loss of Santana, adding relief help may become more of a priority for the team this offseason. Adding left-handed bullpen help was already going to be toward the top of Neal Huntington’s offseason plans, but adding another right-handed reliever may be now, too.

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Please remember that all of these Atlanta Braves deals, and these mentioned concerning other teams, are simulations, not actual trades or signings.

In Thursday’s post, I noted that the simulated deal sending Johan Camargo to the Orioles left Charlie Culberson as the Atlanta Braves only utility player. On Friday, I filled that void by signing Brock Holt to a two-year, $5M deal.

The multi-talented Holt started his professional career as a Pirate but spent his whole Major League career as the Swiss Army Knife on the Boston Red Sox. Over the last two seasons in Boston, Holt batted .286/.366/.407/.772, with a .336 wOBA and 106 wRC+ while playing everywhere except pitcher and catcher.

I spent a good deal of the remainder of the day unsuccessfully trying to negotiate with the Mariners for Mitch Haniger.

Their GM never said what he wanted other than good prospects; after several offers said they were out. I think he was waiting for me to offer a whole lot more than I feel Haniger is worth so he could get a win. I had more success in landing a starter.

Atlanta Braves make a simulated pitch for Joe
After contacting the Rockies about German Marquez and Jon Gray, and being told they were not available, I entered a long discussion with the Pirates about simulated deals for Gregory Polanco and Joe Musgrove.

RELATED STORY:In the beginning
I had a deal pending to move Ender Inciarte and saw Polanco as a replacement, but the Inciarte deal disappeared when the other team moved on. After a protected negotiation – really long – I completed the simulated acquisition of Musgrove in exchange for Kyle Wright, Touki Toussaint, Greyson Jenista, and Alex Jackson.

Some asked on Twitter what players I saw as being worth an apparent over-pay: Musgrove was on that list.

Last season the Atlanta Braves unsuccessfully attempted to land Matthew Boyd. Musgrove was as good or better than Boyd (depending on your favorite stat) while pitching on a team stumbling from one major problem to another and pitching to a talented but inexperienced catcher.

name Age WARP fWAR DRA FIP ERA HR BB SO BABIP LOB% GB% HR/FB
Mike Soroka 21 4.8 4.0 3.24 3.4 2.68 14 41 142 .280 79.9% 51.2% 11.1%
Joe Musgrove 26 4.0 3.3 3.59 3.77 4.44 21 39 157 .299 63.2% 44.5% 11.7%
Matt Boyd 28 3.7 3.3 3.93 4.35 4.56 39 50 238 .307 74.4% 35.6% 18.2%
(Statistics from Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus)
The price for Musgrove hurt. No one loves Kyle Wright more than I, but Musgrove’s under team control for two years and relatively inexpensive at $3.4M. Most importantly, he proved he can pitch at the highest level, take the ball every five days, and give his team a chance to win.

Having sent a series or relief pitchers and starters away, I began filling the void by acquiring RHRP Justin Shafer from Toronto in a simulated deal for cash considerations. Shafer threw 39-1/3 inning for Toronto this year, striking out 39 and pitching to a 3.86 ERA. He’ll begin the season at Gwinnett.

That’s a wrap
The simulated acquisitions over the last two days make the roster stronger and the rotation better. Holt has a history of providing sound defense wherever he plays, and Musgrove fits nicely in the rotation.

Musgrove should enjoy greater success with Roberto Perez behind the plate and our defense behind him, not to mention a clubhouse atmosphere that plays together instead of fighting each other.

I’ve arranged for Josh Donaldson and Musgrove to have a pillow fight and settle any remaining issues between them.

The simulation continues until 10:00 eastern time tonight; I have two deals in the works that will change the look of the roster if I’m able to complete them.

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The Pittsburgh Pirates made a flurry of roster moves on Monday afternoon
Last week, it was reported by Jon Heyman of the MLB Network that the Pittsburgh Pirates planned to pick up the $11.5 million option the team had for center fielder Starling Marte for the 2020 season. On Monday, the Pirates made this move official.

In addition to picking up Marte’s option, the team officially picked up pitcher Chris Archer‘s option for 2020 as well. Archer, who is coming off the worst season of his career, is set to earn $9 million next season. However, this may still prove to be a contract of great value for the Pirates as there is a lot of reason to believe that with a new pitching coach Archer could regain his old form in 2020.

Along with picking up these two options, the Pirates also made multiple moves pertaining to the 40-man roster.

First off, the team activated all of their players that were on the 60-man disabled list. These players were Chad Kuhl, Edgar Santana, Gregory Polanco, Jameson Taillon, Jason Martin, Kyle Crick, and Nick Burdi. This re-added each of these players to the 40-man roster, creating the need to make room on the 40-man roster.

To make room on the 40-man, the team outrighted four players. All four of these players were pitchers. They were Alex McRae, James Marvel, Wei-Chung Wang, and Yefry Ramirez. Each of these pitchers saw MLB action with the Pirates in 2019.

After these moves the Pirates’ 40-man roster currently sits at 39. With players such as Ke’Bryan Hayes and Will Craig needing to be added to the 40-man roster in order to protect them for the Rule 5 Draft, more players will have to come off the roster. Also, space will, obviously, have to be made for any players added this offseason.

NEXT: The Pirates Should Pursue Yan Gomes
There are plenty of candidates on the Pirates’ 40-man roster to be designated for assignment at some point this offseason. Chris Stratton, Kevin Kramer, Montana DuRapau, Luis Escobar, Sam Howard, and Williams Jerez all come to mind as players who could be DFA’d this offseason.

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Yesterday, Nick wrote an article talking about how the Twins deserve credit for acquiring Jake Odorizzi and working with him to find his best self in 2019. Today, I wanted to continue the “Finding the Next Gerrit Cole” theme by literally trying to find someone who could possibly provide the type of impact that Cole had on the Astros. Maybe there is one potential trade candidate out there who fits that mold.

Twins fans (at least those who read Twins Daily) have known about Jon Gray and his pitching talents since before the Colorado Rockies made him the third overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft. The Twins Geek wrote up a Draft Profile on the flame-thrower from Oklahoma. That year, Gray was taken after the Astros took Mark Appel and the Cubs selected Kris Bryant. One pick after the Rockies drafted Gray, the Twins used the fourth overall pick on Kohl Stewart. Gerrit Cole, of course, was the first overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates out of UCLA.

Cole is listed at 6-foot-4.
Gray is listed at 6-foot-4.

Cole is listed at 225 pounds.
Gray is listed at 227 pounds.

Of course, height and weight are important in scouting, but in this analysis, it means nothing. There are dozens of MLB (and minor league) pitchers that are 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds or so. I thought it would be interesting to compare more to see how similar the two might be.

To do so, I looked at Gerrit Cole in 2017. He was 26 years old and had two more years of arbitration remaining. In 2019, Jon Gray was 27 years old, and as we look forward, he has two more years before he can become a free agent.

So let’s take a look at how Gerrit Cole performed for the Pirates in 2017 and compare it to how Jon Gray pitched for the Rockies in 2019. And hey, just for fun, let’s throw Cole’s 2019 numbers in there too.

Screen Shot 2019-11-22 at 8.44.21 AM
What does it show us? Obviously we know that Win-Loss record doesn’t tell us anything. Gray’s ERA was better, but Cole held a slight advantage in xFIP (Fielding Independent Pitching). Cole had the better WHIP. It might surprise people to see that Gray actually struck out more batters, though it’s statistically close enough, especially when strikeouts continue to increase across the league. Cole had better control.

The biggest difference is that Cole topped 200 innings in 2017 while Gray pitched just 150 innings in 2019. Gray went on the injured list in mid-August with a fractured left foot. He had surgery and should be ready in advance of spring training. He had a similar foot/ankle injury in 2017 that cost him two-and-a-half months.

Gray gets more ground balls, though I can’t help but wonder if that’s due to how he chooses to pitch in Colorado. The two had very similar strikeout rates.

Again, comparing those numbers to what Cole became in 2019 is more just fun than anything else, something to dream on.

Some will say that Gray isn’t as good as Cole was in 2017. I think that the numbers above show that they are more similar statistically than we may have even thought.

But I think it’s more important to look at how they pitch to see whether or not they are similar. Is their stuff comparable? Here are some numbers, again comparing Gray in 2019 with Cole in 2017. And, of course, I needed to add Cole in 2019 to the chart for fun, but also for a point.

Screen Shot 2019-11-22 at 8.43.06 AM
(SETH CORRECTION: Jon Gray threw 33.5% sliders, not 13.5%. Sorry if that created confusion.)

I happen to think this chart is really interesting. Again, comparing Gray in 2019 with Cole in 2017, there are a lot of similarities.

They both had an average fastball of 96 mph. They both throw 88 mph sliders. Gray’s curveball came in just a little slower, and so did his changeup. Cole threw more fastballs. Gray threw a lot of sliders and didn’t throw many changeups. Cole gave up less contact and got a higher percentage of swing-and-misses on strikes. It all speaks to his stuff being right on par with Garrit Cole’s in 2017.

The big question
In my mind, the big question is – and should be with any pitcher the Twins consider with trades or free agency: Do the Twins pitching coaches, coordinators and evaluators think that Jon Gray can take it a step up from his 2019 numbers the same way that Cole’s performance jumped from 2017 to 2019?

Cole added 1 mph on his fastball and on his slider. He did so while throwing a fewer fastballs and changeups and a few more sliders and curveballs.

Can Jon Gray add a tick or two to his velocity? Can his pitch mix be altered in such a way to reduce his contact rate and improve his swing-and-miss stuff?

Ultimately that’s what the Twins brass needs to consider.

What might it take?
If they do consider Gray to be a guy that could take a step forward in performance and possibly be an elite starting pitcher, well, then they need to figure out what they are willing to give up to acquire him from the Rockies.

So again, let’s look at Gerrit Cole for a comparison.

The Houston Astros acquired Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for four players:

RHP Michael Feliz – He was 24 years old and spent two-plus seasons with the Astros before the trade. He had a 5.13 ERA over that time period before the deal.
OF Jason Martin – He was a 22-year-old at the time of the deal. He split 2017 between High-A and AA and hit 35 doubles and 18 home runs that season.
1B/3B Colin Moran – He was 25 and had been a high draft pick. He was a Top 100 prospect in previous years but no longer at the time of the deal.
RHP Joe Musgrave – He was a 24-year-old, a first-round pick in 2011. He spent time as a part-time starter with the Astros in 2016 and 2017.
So what might a similar deal look like for the Twins? Obviously this is a hypothetical, but I think it would take something similar to below. I think that the package should be similar, but still a little less than what was required to acquire Cole.

RHP Fernando Romero – Romero is currently 24 years old and has spent parts of 2018 and 2019 in the big leagues. While his numbers in 2019, his first year as a bullpen arm, weren’t great, his potential is still high.
IF Travis Blankenhorn – He was just added to the 40-man roster, but like Martin, he split 2019 between High-A and AA and hit 19 home runs despite missing a bit more than a month with a broken finger.
OF/1B – Brent Rooker – Can you imagine what Brent Rooker could do to baseballs in the Mile High City? Rooker had been in the top 100 prospects last year but injuries cost him time in 2019. But his power is legit.
RHP Griffin Jax – Now, when I put this together, I wasn’t sure if Jax would be added to the 40-man roster. The Denver-area native wasn’t added to the 40-man roster, so he’s less likely to be tradable until after the Rule 5 draft. But there are any number of similar pitchers in the organization that the Rockies might have an interest in as well. If I were to keep the theme of Denver-area people, Bailey Ober might be a candidate. Or, might it take a pitcher with some big-league service time like a Devin Smeltzer or even Lewis Thorpe to be a sufficient final piece?
Let’s be honest. There’s no way to know what the Rockies would ask for. Maybe instead of four similar prospects, they may ask for one big prospect with one lesser prospect, or maybe the fourth player in this deal could be two other players.

Summary
The Twins – and every team in baseball – want to find the next Gerrit Cole.
Rockies ace Jon Gray has a lot of similarities to Gerrit Cole pre-trade, both statistically and in terms of stuff.
The Twins – and every team in baseball – will need to attempt to evaluate if they have ways that could make Gray take the next step toward becoming an elite starter.
Determine how much your team is willing to trade in exchange for Jon Gray (and then go-ahead and try to convince the Rockies that it is enough).
Hope! Hey, just because there are similarities between pitchers (age, size, stats and stuff) does not necessarily mean that they will have the same success. There is a lot of luck involved. But Derek Falvey has a reputation for developing pitchers. Wes Johnson got a lot of credit for some of the Twins’ pitching successes and improvements in 2019.
If nothing else, it’s fun to think about. Finding the next Gerrit Cole is half the battle. Helping him develop into that pitcher is another thing. Maybe there are red flags, concerns about Jon Gray specifically. Maybe there are other issues that the Twins need to factor and consider. We can’t know it all, but as fans, we’ve been waiting for a true ace since Johan Santana.

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Minnesota Twins bench coach Derek Shelton is seen in the dugout during a baseball game against the … [+]ASSOCIATED PRESS
Derek Shelton is walking into a mess.

Hired as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ manager on Wednesday, Shelton takes over a team that went 69-93 this year. That was good for their first last-place finish in the National League Central since 2010.

Just as troubling as the bad play on the field was the awful atmosphere in the clubhouse during the second half of the season when the Pirates went 28-48 after the All-Star break.

Reliever Keone Kela was suspended two games for a verbal altercation with a staffer. Bullpen coach Euky Rojas was also suspended two games for a physical altercation with reliever Kyle Crick.

Crick and closer Felipe Vazquez got into a clubhouse fistfight in mid-September. Crick wound up needing finger surgery and, just a few days, Vazquez was arrested on child sex charges and remains in jail.

You know the old cliché about cutting the tension with a knife? Well, the tension in the Pirates’ clubhouse could only be cut with a chainsaw.

Today In: Business
So, it seems Shelton might need to wear a hazmat suit in his attempt to clean up the clubhouse culture. The discord cost Clint Hurdle his job after nine seasons and played a role in general manager Neal Huntington being fired following 12 years on the job.

Thus, in a statement released by the Pirates, it was not surprising to read that Shelton fully understands what his first order of business should be as he transitions from Minnesota Twins’ bench coach to first-time major league manager.

PROMOTED

“I very much look forward to developing a strong partnership with Ben and the baseball operations staff,” Shelton said in the statement. “It is going to be an exciting change of culture in our clubhouse. It is going to be a fun environment in which we will all be held accountable to each other. It will be a player-centric culture built on strong communication and relationships with our players, our staff and the entire organization.”

The Pirates could certainly use a dose of fun. So, too, could their fans who haven’t had a World Series victory or appearance to celebrate since 1979.

Nothing in sports is more fun than winning, of course. The problem, though, is the Pirates don’t look like a team with any hopes of contending in 2020, especially in a division where the other four teams are in win-now mode.

Whether new GM Ben Cherington decides to go into rebuild mode remains to be seen. He was coy when asked about the matter during his introductory press conference Nov. 18.

Regardless of what direction the Pirates go, Cherington believes he has found his man in Shelton.

Oddly enough, Huntington reportedly thought Shelton was the right choice after interviewing him, too. However, the manager search was put on hold once Huntington was fired Oct. 28.

‘We are confident Derek will help lead an elite playing and coaching environment at the major league level and be a true partner to all of baseball operations as we challenge each other to get better every day,” Cherington said in a statement. “We are thrilled to get to work with Derek and continue building toward a winning team in Pittsburgh.”

That could take awhile but Shelton does come to the Pirates with a sterling reputation.

Shelton spent the past two seasons as the Twins’ bench coach. They won the American League Central title this past season and Rocco Baldelli was voted the AL Manager of the Year award.

The 49-year-old Shelton has been a coach in the major leagues for 15 years. He served as the hitting coach with the Cleveland Indians (2005-09) and Tampa Bay Rays (2010-16) then was the Toronto Blue Jays’ quality control coach in 2017.

“I have known Derek for more than 15 years and have great admiration for his passion for the game and players, work ethic, curiosity, and desire to learn,” Cherington said.

He will need to draw on all those characteristics to get things straightened out with the Pirates.