Category Archives: Pittsburgh Pirates Shirts

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I was flipping around the dial Friday night in between periods of the Penguins game and landed upon a broadcast of the WPIAL 6-A championship football game between Pine-Richland and Central Catholic, when I heard a familiar voice.

No, not Bob Pompeani.

I’m talking about Neil Walker. The former Pirates second baseman, who starred in football and baseball at Pine-Richland before he was selected with the 11th overall pick by his hometown team in the 2004 draft, was doing some color commentating in the booth. Walker, who at 34 is no longer a kid, noted that he was coming up on his 10-year anniversary as a major leaguer, and also mentioned that he wouldn’t mind playing one more year in the big leagues.

So, should the Pirates take a flyer on the ol’ Pittsburgh Kid?

Walker spent parts of seven years with the Pirates, appearing in 17 games in 2009 before taking over as the regular second baseman the following year. He was part of a core of young players that included Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez, all of whom combined to help turn the Pirates fortunes around earlier this decade.

During his time as a Pirate, Walker compiled a batting average of .272 and a .769 OPS, and failed to drive in more than 65 runs only once during his time as a regular in Pittsburgh. Although Walker was a No. 1 draft pick, I did not have extraordinarily high expectations of him when he joined the Pirates. At 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, he seemed a bit bulky for second base, and coming through the Bucs’ minor league system, he never once reached the .800 OPS mark.

I’m not sure what the advanced analytics would tell you about Walker’s time in Pittsburgh, but I always considered him an average player, or just slightly above that. His range certainly was limited, but I never considered him a major liability in the field. And while his offensive numbers were not eye-popping, he seemed to deliver more than his fair share of clutch hits.

In short, he struck me as a positive piece on a winning team, but not one I would seek to acquire if my team figured to scuffle.

Walker’s final year in Pittsburgh was 2015, when he hit .269 with an OPS of .756 – a drop of more than 50 points from the previous year, when he batted .271, hit 23 home runs and drove in 76. That December, the Pirates – wary of his salary and his history of back problems – peddled him to the New York Mets in exchange for left-hander Jon Niese in what became a lightning rod of a deal. It was one of several moves that offseason that raised the ire of Pirates fans, who screamed that the front office went back on its word to add to the club – rather than subtract – when it finally got competitive.

Walker hit .282 with 23 home runs – but just 55 RBIs – with the Mets in 2016 and then hit the jackpot by accepting a $17.2 million contract from New York for 2017. He only lasted until mid-August that year with the Mets, who shipped him to Milwaukee. Overall that year he put together an .801 OPS, driving in 49 runs in 385 at-bats.

Walker returned to New York in 2018, but this time with the Yankees, where he scuffled to a .219 batting average after signing a $4 million free agent contract. For 2019, Walker headed south to Miami and saw action in 115 games, batting .261 with 8 home runs and 38 RBIs. He missed time with several injuries, including a jammed right index finger that kept him out of the lineup for two weeks and a pulled right quad, which landed him on the injured list for nearly a month.

So, does Walker have anything left in the tank, and would he add anything to a Pirates team that is either in major transition or an outright rebuild? Given that he was willing to play last year for $2 million, it’s not likely that Walker would demand – or command – much in the way of salary. He certainly doesn’t need the money; according to Baseball Reference he has earned nearly $52 million during the course of his career, and the website Spotrac has it at $54 million. I’m not sure he would provide anything more than one of the Pirates’ existing bench players would provide and in the case of guys like Pablo Reyes or Jose Osuna, it would be even less, given their ability to at least wear an outfielder’s glove.

Walker’s relationship with the Pirates had soured during his final season; the club had taken him to arbitration prior to the 2015 season and won. Walker told the Tribune-Review that the arbitration hearing “was probably the point when I lost all faith in the organization.” According to the Trib, the Pirates offered Walker a three-year, $27 deal, but Walker asked for $19 million over two years. Walker said the Pirates never countered, though, and that put the two sides in an arbitration hearing, with Walker seeking $9 million and the Pirates wanting to pay a million less.

The owner writing the Pirates’ checks certainly hasn’t changed, but all of the key front office players have moved on. So, would that open the door to Walker coming back in a far reduced role? When healthy, he’s still capable of providing a little pop off the bench. He would also be steady presence for some of the club’s younger players. And from a PR standpoint, the Pirates could do a lot worse. I’m not lobbying for it, but I wouldn’t be opposed to a spring training invite to see if there’s any kind of a fit, particularly given the new 26-man rosters for 2020.

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The Pittsburgh Pirates had a very strong draft in 2019 with many of those prospects emerging on their Top 30 prospect lists. Checking in at number seven is their second pick from last season.
Although the Pittsburgh Pirates have let go of now former General Manager Neal Huntington, he will have somewhat of a lasting impact on the organization well down the road. This past season’s draft will mark the last one of the Huntington era. Whether it is a good thing or not remains to be seen. However, many experts are high on what Huntington brought in during the 2019 draft.

Ranking as the Pittsburgh Pirates number seven overall prospect on MLB Pipeline is outfielder Sammy Siani. The Pittsburgh Pirates used their second pick, and 37th overall, last year to take the upside prep outfielder from Philadelphia and signed him to an over-slot deal to pass on his commitment to Duke University.

Catching market starting to thin out for the Brewers

Siani is one of the most projectable players they took in last year’s draft class. He stands at 6’1” and only weighs around 190 pounds, giving him plenty of opportunity to add more muscle to his frame. Also, he will not turn 19 until the beginning of December making him one of the younger top picks in last year’s draft. As Siani continues to mature and fill into his frame he likely will turn into a solid power hitter.

After signing last year, the Pittsburgh Pirates placed Siani with their Gulf Coast affiliate. In the GCL, Siani was thrown right into the thick of things being placed at the top of the lineup for the Bucs affiliate. He saw mixed results in his début with a bit of an up and down couple months. He hit below .220 in June (only three games) and in August. However, in July he hit a solid .276 and saw his on-base percentage well over .400.

Overall, Siani finished the season with a slash line of .243/.372/.308 with no home runs. As mentioned earlier, Siani is young and still growing into his frame. Combine his attributes with the transition from high school bats to wooden bats, it makes sense why his slugging percentage was so low. As he adjusts to a wooden bat and he matures, his left-handed swing should develop some nice pop.

The part that stood out was Siani’s ability to get on base. While he only batted .243 he saw his on-base percentage be almost 130 points higher. This is mainly because of his plate discipline. Siani only struck out 41 times in 39 games, which is not outstanding, but it is still pretty solid. Meanwhile, he was able to show a great eye at the plate drawing 26 walks in those games. Hopefully, this ratio continues to stay close as he moves up in the farm system.

Siani also grades out as a plus runner. According to MLB Pipeline, Siani has a grade of 55, which for comparison is the same grade outfielder Jason Martin received. He swiped five bags in five attempts this season and showed he was capable of playing centerfield. His arm is probably his worst tool, which grades out to be average so he likely projects as a future left-fielder.

NEXT: Prospect Rewind: Ji-Hwan Bae
Sammy Siani could get an aggressive push to full-season ball in 2020. The team has typically operated this way with their high upside offensive prep picks. Obviously, things could be different once the new regime is in place. It will be interesting to see if he is able to build on his experiences from last year and continue to show his all-around skills.

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This is the first of many weekly looks into moments that great impacted the Pittsburgh Pirates.

It was an ordinary game in the middle of April that pitted the Pittsburgh Pirates against the San Francisco Giants at PNC Park. The Pirates had started the season with much promise, as the pitching staff that was expected to be the anchor of the club was performing above those very expectations. Jordan Lyles was pitching like a complete steal as the number five starter and the offense was ice cold. Nobody had really gained traction as of yet, but Josh Bell was just starting to find it. None of us had a clue just what he found, but Bell was about to catch fire.

Then it happened. Erik Gonzalez sprinting out toward centerfield tracking a pop fly off the bat of Yangervis Solarte, Starling Marte sprinted in for the ball. If you were watching, you saw it coming. People in the left field bleachers yelled ‘look out!’ Gonzalez and Marte collided and the impact was severe. Two players with speed came to a sudden stop and lie on the grass one writhing the other nearly motionless. You could hear the hit from the stands, and not the way you do at a football game where plastic and fiberglass create an echo as they collide. This was the thud and crack of actual flesh and bone.

Josh Kurelac
@JoshKurelac
Pirates made some roster moves.

Erik Gonzalez is on the 60-day injured list with a left clavicle fracture. Starling Marte is on the 10-day IL with an ab contusion.

Here’s last night’s collision that caused the injuries:

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2:55 AM – Apr 21, 2019
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The park fell silent, I mean as soon as the 18,000 strong gasps ended there wasn’t another sound until Erik Gonzalez was helped up. He walked off under his own power but visibly favoring his shoulder. Marte was carted off as a precaution, riding off to roars.

The situation looked bleak. Starling Marte had been one of the players having success at the plate to open the season and anchored the defense. Kevin Newman whom Gonzalez had beaten out for starting short stop duties was himself on the IL with a finger he banged up messing with a pitching machine of all things.

This moment would lead the Pirates to make moves that would transform the lineup for the rest of 2019 and beyond. Cole Tucker an exciting first round draft pick with an electric smile and energetic playing style and, newly acquired outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds, picked up in the Andrew McCutchen trade, were called up to fill the void. Tucker carried with him expectation and excitement, everyone expected he would cement himself and grab hold of the position. We had all prematurely written off Newman after one month of baseball. He delivered quickly too, with speed and burst, a splash of power and a smooth glove capable of dynamic range that was more than welcome playing next to Colin Moran. Less was known or expected from Mr. Reynolds, in fact he didn’t even seem all that excited about being in the Big Leagues. We’d soon come to see that quiet confidence wasn’t an act, it was just Bryan Reynolds.

Eventually Kevin Newman and Cole Tucker started splitting time as Tucker’s bat went stone cold. Kevin Newman then proceeded to tear into a five-month effort to show all of us just how wrong we were and, in the process, take a firm grasp of short stop and the leadoff position. Bryan Reynolds wasn’t supposed to play much, but he started hitting right away and never stopped. Right handed, left handed, day games, night games, cold weather….well, you get it. Reynolds finished fourth in rookie of the year voting in 2019.

Without that collision, its possible Newman never gets a chance to take hold of his position. The team showed about the same confidence level in Newman as the fans when they traded for Gonzalez to be an insurance policy. Reynolds most likely would have continued to dominate AAA pitching for the better part of 2019, and we never would have seen Cole Tucker flash the future and charisma he brings to the table.

Injury is never a positive thing, but this one instance forced the club to bring the future into the now and because of that one moment, we have two fewer questions as we enter 2020.

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CLEVELAND — One fascinating dynamic that emerged in the Pirates’ clubhouse late in the 2019 season: Players were pushing Bryan Reynolds and Kevin Newman, their two terrific rookies, to feel more comfortable in leadership roles.

And that push apparently won’t abate, no matter how much change occurs over the players’ heads.

“I think we’ve got to change the culture a little bit, and that’s always on the players, first and foremost,” Joe Musgrove, the team’s unquestioned leader, was telling me. “Sometimes, having as many young guys as we do, it’s hard to go out there and play with the confidence of a team with a ton of experience. With all the setbacks, all the injuries, all the issues we had, it allowed an opportunity for our young guys to go out and get major-league reps. The next step is taking control of the situation all around them.”

Reynolds and Newman, he meant. And in the most respectful way, I might add.

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Neal Huntington’s mistakes have been talked about at length over the last couple weeks. Let’s spend some time to review some of his best trades as Pirates’ GM.

Neal Huntington’s tenure as General Manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates is over. In the weeks leading up to his firing, Huntington’s many head-scratching moves were thoroughly discussed. Now that he is gone, I thought it would be fun to do something different – to highlight the ten best (not worst) trades of Neal Huntington’s time in Pittsburgh.

Believe it or not, he had some pretty big wins. The losses outweighed the wins, but he had some.

I must say, researching this brought up some old wounds. Remember Jose Bautista for a PTBNL (Robinzon Diaz)? Yeesh.

These are in descending order and span almost the entirety of Huntington’s twelve-year tenure. Enjoy.

#10 – Buddy Borden to the Rays for Sean Rodriguez

At the time he was traded in 2014, Buddy Borden was a 22-year old pitcher with some promise. He never was as good as he was in 2014 – only making it as far as AA. He spent his last season, 2017, back with the Pirates organization in Altoona.

Sean Rodriguez was mister utility for the Pirates during their last playoff run in 2015. He played six different positions on the field – all except pitcher, catcher, and center field.

He also added something at the plate. His best season for the Pirates was 2016 when he hit .270 with 18 home runs and 56 RBIs.

Aside from his contributions on the field, Rodriguez was a well-liked and respected member of the clubhouse.

#9 – Travis Snider to the Orioles for Stephen Tarpley and Steven Brault

At one point, Travis Snider was thought of as a high potential outfielder with some pop in his bat. That potential never materialized for Snider and the Pirates were able to unload him while there was still a feeling that it would.

Stephen Tarpley never made an impact for Pittsburgh, but he was a key piece of the trade that brought Ivan Nova to the Pirates. So, they were able to salvage some value from him.

Brault has stuck around with the Pirates and has had some ups and downs. There’s some potential in him. It will be interesting to see if his development accelerates with a new pitching coach.

Even if Brault doesn’t become anything more than a middle reliever, they essentially got him and Tarpley (and Nova) for nothing.

#8 – Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt to the Red Sox for Ivan DeJesus, Mark Melancon, Stolmy Pimentel, and Jerry Sands

Joel Hanrahan was the key piece of this trade, but he never was the closer for Boston that he was for the Pirates.

This trade ended up being Brock Holt for Mark Melancon. Melancon, as you know, was a stopper in the bullpen for four years. During his time with the Pirates, Melancon had a WHIP under one (0.926), and an ERA under two (1.80). So giving up Hanrahan for Melancon was a net positive to the bullpen.

This trade would be higher on the list if it were not for the fact that Brock Holt has carved out a pretty good career for himself in Boston as utility player.

#7 – Richard Mitchell to the Marlins for Trevor Williams

Trevor Williams, like much of the rest of the team, regressed quite a bit in 2019. At the end of 2018, the Pirates were feeling pretty good about Williams after he posted a 3.11 ERA and a 1.178 WHIP.

Those numbers looked much worse in 2019 (5.38 ERA, 1.414 WHIP), but Williams’ 2018 gives me hope that he can be a middle of the rotation type guy.

The fact that they essentially got Williams for free helps. Richard Mitchell never made it out of the rookie league.

#6 – Exicardo Cayones and Diego Moreno to the Yankees for A.J. Burnett

At the time, this looked like a trade for a washed-up former star, but A.J. Burnett became a Pittsburgh hero in just three years with the team.

He won 16 games with the Pirates in 2012, but perhaps his biggest contribution was as a player/coach for the young Pittsburgh pitching staff.

Like Trevor Williams, Burnett was received for free as neither of the two players sent to the Yankees contributed at the major league level.

#5 – Nate McClouth to the Braves for Gorkys Hernandez, Jeff Locke, and Charlie Morton

This trade would probably be higher if you take into account contributions made by received players for other teams. Charlie Morton is the headliner on this trade, but he didn’t become the player the Pirates hoped he would be in Pittsburgh (rather in Tampa).

Nate Mclouth looked like a star in 2008 with the Pirates – earning an all-star appearance and a Gold Glove. He quickly tailed off and was traded away to the Braves who hoped he just needed a change of scenery. That wasn’t the case as he never returned to anything close to that 2008 form.

While Morton never reached the heights that he has in Tampa while a Pirate, he had some successful years in Pittsburgh. The same goes for Jeff Locke.

#4 – Justin Wilson to the Yankees for Francisco Cervelli

Justin Wilson was up and down with the Pirates during his three years in Pittsburgh. He was lights out in 2013, but struggled in 2014 before getting traded. That up-and-down pattern has followed him the rest of his career – with the downs becoming more and more frequent.

Francisco Cervelli was the Pirate backstop and fan favorite for five years. He was a key component and an energizing force of the Pirates’ 2015 playoff team.

Cervelli struggled in his final year in Pittsburgh before being granted a release.

#3 – Tom Gorzelanny and John Grabow to the Cubs for Josh Harrison, Jose Ascanio, and Kevin Hart.

Josh Harrison began his career as a utility player – often coming off the bench to make a rather large impact on games. The energy and production he brought to the Pirates required that he become an everyday player and he did in 2014. That year he earned his first all-star nod. Harrison was a fixture in the Pirate lineup for years and was obtained from the Cubs for almost nothing.

Tom Gorzelanny was the only other player involved in this transaction to have much of an impact after the trade, and that impact was underwhelming. Gorzelanny’s career numbers (4.40 ERA, 1.445 WHIP) made him rosterable, but that’s about it.

#2 – Andrew McCutchen to the Giants for Bryan Reynolds and Kyle Crick

I went back and forth on whether or not this was number one, but settled on number two because I couldn’t stomach a move to send Andrew McCutchen out of Pittsburgh as the “best” of anything – no matter how well it turned out.

McCutchen’s last year in Pittsburgh showed a sharp decline over the MVP-caliber player Pittsburgh knew and loved. When the idea of him being traded was floated, many wondered which version of McCutchen a trade suitor would get. The answer has been a lesser version of the ‘Cutch we saw even in his last season as a Pirate.

McCutchen is yet to hit better than .256 outside of Pittsburgh and has seen his numbers free-fall across the board.

On the flip side, Bryan Reynolds looks like a star. He hit .314 in his rookie year with 16 home runs and 68 RBIs.

Kyle Crick should prove to be a solid member of the bullpen as well- though he’s provided mixed results since becoming a Pirate.

#1 – Mark Melancon to the Nationals for Felipe Vazquez and Taylor Hearn

It was tough naming this the top trade of Huntington’s tenure in Pittsburgh after the arrest of Felipe Vazquez this season, but we can’t possibly fault Neal Huntington for that.

We all know what Melancon did for the Pirates, but Vazquez was even better. So, simply flipping a 31-year old closer for a better and younger one gets this trade high on the list. When you factor in Melancon’s mediocrity since leaving Pittsburgh, it makes an even bigger steal.

But the part that puts it over the top for me is the other guy in this trade – Taylor Hearn. Hearn never made an impact in the Pirates’ organization, but he was used by Neal Huntington as the key asset used to acquire Keone Kela.

So, the arrest of Vazquez notwithstanding, the Pirates traded a declining Mark Melancon for star-level eighth and ninth inning pitchers who could have anchored a bullpen for years.

So, yes, Neal Huntington did have some wins in Pittsburgh. We remember the losses because, well…they were BIG losses, but we can still acknowledge that he did some good things while we rejoice about the possibilities of how the team will be run without him.

Feel free to comment on what I got wrong. I’m sure I missed something.

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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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The Pirates picked up left-handed relief pitcher Sam Howard off waivers from the Colorado Rockies as the first move of the post-Neal Huntington era. Howard will be a possible lefty option out of the bullpen for the 2020 season.

Howard has very limited MLB experience and has yet to prove he has the ability to stick with a big league team long-term.

The 26-year-old Howard, a 2014 third-round pick (82nd overall) by the Rockies, appeared in 20 games for Colorado, pitching 19 innings and posting a 6.63 ERA (6.27 FIP), 1.63 WHIP, a 2.30 K/BB-rate, and a 2.37 HR/9.

We are working with small samples on Howard, but even the prospect projections aren’t very high on his abilities.

Howard has a so-so low-90s fastball, slightly above average slider, and a mediocre changeup that showed signs of improving as he increased its usage in the minors. However, not throwing a single change in 2019, he has resigned himself to a fastball/slider reliever more suited for mop up duty and the occasional lefty specialist situations.

Depending on whom the Pirates hire for their new pitching coach, its possible Howard could become a steady middle reliever. Howard held a 3.61 ERA with a nearly 3-1 K-BB ratio through 50 and two-thirds innings for the Albuquerque Isotopes this past season.

So long as lefty Steven Brault remains in the rotation (he deserves another shot), the Pirates don’t have many other alternatives in terms of left-handed relievers. Williams Jerez, picked up off waivers from the Anaheim Angles back on September 13th, and another late-season waiver claim, Wei-Chung Wang (from the Oakland Athletics), are the only other lefties that present themselves as options out of the bullpen.

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Pirates have exercised the options on the contracts of Starling Marte and Chris Archer for the 2020 season.

“Starling is an all-star caliber center fielder who impacts the game in all phases,” said interim General Manager Kevan Graves. “We are pleased to have the opportunity to bring him back in 2020 following his excellent 2019 season. We are encouraged about the progression Chris [Archer] made in the second half of last season and look forward to him being a part of our rotation in 2020.”

The Pirates also reinstated Archer, Nick Burdi, Kyle Crick, Chad Kuhl, Jason Martin, Gregory Polanco, Edgar Santana, and Jameson Taillon from the 60-day injured list.

James Marvel, Alex McRae, Yefry Ramirez, and Wei-Chung Wang have been released off of the roster.

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The Pittsburgh Pirates are reliant upon their farm system, and their 15th-ranked prospect pipeline can’t fill the demand in Pittsburgh.

You don’t have to look too far into the past, the off-season between 2016 and 2017 to be exact, to find a time when the Pittsburgh Pirates had a minor league system ranked among baseball’s elite. At the time the Pirates were ranked fifth in Major League Baseball.

Number one prospect Tyler Glasnow had spent the previous season breezing through AA/AAA with a 1.93 ERA, 144/68 K/BB in 117 inning and allowing just 69 hits. He did struggle in his 23 MLB innings – posting a 4.63 ERA, but his 97 MPH fast ball, along with a plus curveball could easily make you look past that small sample size.

Austin Meadows was battling his way through AA/AAA, struggling with injuries and posting a 266/.333/.536 slash line with 12 homers.

Mitch Keller had performed very well in low and high A. In 130 innings the young Keller struck out 138 batters with a 2.35 ERA.

Josh Bell had shown glimpses of his potential in his first taste of the majors during the previous season, especially with a Grand Slam against the Cubs in only his second game. He had 121 at bats, just under the threshold of 122, so this could skew the numbers a little bit, but not enough to really matter.

Over the past three years the Pirates have quickly fallen from the elite ranking of 2016-2017 to the completely average ranking of #15 this offseason. Several promotions (Josh Bell, Kevin Newman, Steven Brault, Elias Diaz and Trevor William), a glaring swing and miss (Nick Kingham) and an ill-advised trade (Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows and Shane Baz) have led the Pirates to this point. Regressions for Will Craig, Ke’Bryan Hayes and Kevin Kramer also have not helped the Pirate’s cause. For some teams this would not have been as detrimental as it has been to the Pirates, but with a limited/restricted MLB salary and less players that have fit the top prospect mold (only 3 currently in the MILB top 100); it has been absolutely devastating. How are the Pirates supposed to compete with this level of lost talent, along with the restrictions (real and imagined) that have been placed on them? Well, their 69-93 record of 2019 should tell you that as the roster, both in the majors and minors, is currently constructed it is a long shot to say the least.

The question now is, how do the Pirates get back to the place they were in prior to the 2017 season? My advice is to look toward some of the successful organizations that both new Pirates’ President Travis Williams and recently hired GM Ben Cherington have mentioned during their press conferences/meet and greets over the past couple of weeks; specifically the Tampa Rays and the Oakland A’s.

The Tampa Bay Rays have long been the gold standard as to how to put a competitive product on the field, while maintaining an extremely low payroll. And, what about the Rays? For one, they always have an elite-level farm system. Currently they are ranked #2 with such highly touted prospects as SS Wander Franco (#1 overall in MILB), LHP/DH Brendan McKay (#15), 2B/SS Vidal Braun (#44), RHP Brett Honeywell (#75) and of course RHP Shane Baz (#96). Over the past five years the lowest the Rays have been ranked is #11 and this only lasted for one off-season before they climbed their way back up to #2. They have also been able to identify, acquire and develop players that other major league teams have set aside, given up on or just haven’t been able to get the best out of.

The A’s on the other hand have steadily moved up and down through the farm system rankings based on promotions/graduations. However, they regularly returned to the top 10; settling in at #7 currently. They have done this through diligent player development, as well as through trades. Currently 10 of their top 30 prospects have been acquired via trade.

So what’s the next step? For now it will be up to Cherington and Williams to assemble an organizational team that recognizes the strengths and weakness that exist under the current structure and is able to move forward in the framework that teams such as the A’s and Rays have created. Or, if they really want to make a difference, one that is on the forefront of player development and acquisition that would make even these teams jealous.

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Cincinnati Reds Hall of Famer Dave Parker’s remarkable Major League Baseball career and battle with Parkinson’s disease will be the subjects of a 90-minute “MLB Network Presents” documentary titled “The Cobra at Twilight,” set to debut on Dec. 12 at 8 p.m. on MLB Network.

Former Cincinnati Reds player Dave Parker greets fans at Redsfest at the Duke Energy Convention Center in downtown Cincinnati Friday, December 1, 2017.

Former Cincinnati Reds player Dave Parker greets fans at Redsfest at the Duke Energy Convention Center in downtown Cincinnati Friday, December 1, 2017. (Photo: The Enquirer/Meg Vogel)

It will be narrated by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and long-time Parker fan Chuck D.

Parker graduated from Courter Tech High School in 1970 and still lives in Cincinnati. He has worked often with young players at the Reds Urban Youth Academy in Roselawn.

More from a press release from MLB Network:

MLB Network Presents: The Cobra at Twilight features new interviews with Parker and his wife Kellye, several of Parker’s former teammates and managers, including Hall of Famers Dennis Eckersley, Tony La Russa and Barry Larkin, plus Eric Davis, Phil Garner, Pete Rose, Gary Sheffield and Kent Tekulve, as well as former Pittsburgh Steelers and Pro Football Hall of Famers Tony Dungy and “Mean” Joe Greene. Each speaks to Parker’s on-field dominance and brash, outsized personality that had teammates calling him “the Muhammad Ali of baseball,” and how Parker’s landmark contract in 1979 that averaged $1 million per season earned him intense scrutiny from both media and fans.

Parker is among nine former Major League Baseball players and one executive on the 10-name Modern Baseball Era ballot – to be reviewed and voted on Dec. 8 – for 2020, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum announced earlier this month.

Parker hit .281 with 107 home runs and 432 RBIs in four seasons for the Reds from 1984 through 1987. He was a two-time All-Star for the Reds and finished second in National League MVP voting in 1985 and fifth in 1986.

Parker hit .290 with 339 home runs and 526 doubles in 19 MLB seasons. He won the National League MVP award for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1978.

Parker revealed in 2013 that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and his Cobra Classic Golf Outing raises funds for Parkinson’s research. He was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame in 2014.