Sunday, November 27, 2011

Smoke gets in my eyes (and stomach)

A friend of mine told me about a new taco place in Homestead a couple of months ago called Smoke. We've been meaning to check it out for a while now, but we wanted to wait until we had a reason to go to the Waterfront as well.

Last night, with DB~'s brother in town from Cleveland, the three of us decided to check out a movie at the Waterfront and go to Smoke beforehand. The day before DB~ and I looked at the reviews online at Urbanspoon -- they had an amazing 95% approval rating.

We had heard that there was very limited seating at Smoke, so we were a little worried about getting there at 5:45 pm on a Saturday. Smoke only has 15 seats because of a Health Department regulation based on the fact that they only have 1 small bathroom. When we got to the restaurant (no illuminated sign so you have to keep your eyes peeled at night), all the tables were occupied but after a couple of minutes, the two young people at a 5 seat table invited the 3 of us to join them. We accepted their gracious offer.

Smoke is quirky and deliberatly so. None of the chairs match. There may be different silverware at the same table. There is a staircase that goes up to a dead end in the ceiling. The large incedescant bulbs reminded me of the bulbs that Nikolai Tesla (played by David Bowie) handed Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) upon arriving to his Colorado retreat. The bulb lit up in Angier's hand, due to the natural current running through our bodies and the current in the field they were standing. I didn't grab one of the lights last night to test that.

We spoke with our server and she told us that if things keep going well, the owners have plans to expand into the rear of the store plus renovate the downstairs as well. But first they have to add more bathrooms to accomodate the extra seating. The owners are originally from Texas and they couldn't find good tacos up here, so they opened up their own place. Because they are from Texas, they incorporated some barbecue efforts into their taqueria.

Prior to us going, we had read about how great the mac and cheese was, so we definitely planned to order that. Our dining companions did order it and got it before us, so we eyeballed them and asked them what they thought of the mac and cheese and the tacos they ordered. They loved it all. The guy and girl, both around 22 or 23, were very pleasant to talk to and we were very happy they allowed us to share their table.

DB~'s brother ordered the Brisket taco and an order of mac and cheese ($4 for the taco and $3.75 for the mac and cheese). The taco had sauteed onions, jalapeno pepper slices, and a barbeque mustard sauce. No lettuce, no cheese, no tomato. Each taco is served wrapped up in aluminum foil with a black magic marker scribbled on it to designate what type of taco it is. Each tortilla shell at Smoke is hand made when you order it, so they take a little extra time to arrive. The whole taco experience reminded me of what it must be like to eat at a taco stand in Mexico. From seeing them on TV, there are only a few chairs and you squirt your own sauce on the taco as it is laid in front of you.

DB~ ordered the chicken taco, with the sublime avocado cream sauce and picked onions (no hot sauce for her), and the mac and cheese. Both she and her brother really enjoyed the mac and cheese (so did I from the forkful that I had).

I ordered the pork taco with an apricot habanero sauce and onions. My side that I selected was the Red Potato Salad that had leeks and bacon ($3.00). It was equally awesome.

The tacos are small, so her brother and I each order another one before we left for the movie. He got the chicken taco and I tried the brisket taco. We both enjoyed our second tacos as well. Tacos that are on the menu also include: ribs, chorizo, a chicken apple, and a philly cheesesteak type of taco. They also serve breakfast style tacos all day long with eggs in them.

The drink I had with my meal was called horchata. I asked our server what it was and she told me it was cooked rice milk with the rice strained out. Cinnamon and organic sugar are added to it and served over ice. It was, with no exaggeration, one of the best drinks I have ever had. I wanted to keep ordering it and hang out drinking it all night, but we had a movie to catch.

Much like Blue Dust, there are good places to eat outside of the Waterfront, in case you want to try a local joint instead of a chain restaurant.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Treetops Restaurant at Polymath Park

Last Saturday we spent the day in the Laurel Highlands at Polymath Park. That evening we dined at Treetops Restaurant, located on the grounds at Polymath. When we entered Treetops, there were 3 other tables occupied.

Each of the tables had high-backed chairs in the style of furniture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. We both agreed that the restaurant would be very pretty in the summertime, as the restaurant has a outdoor seating area that overlooks the forest and the mountains in the distance.

We were given an amuse bouche, a tiny complementary appetizer that roughly translates to "happy mouth" but I prefer to think of as "party in my mouth". It was a little piece of crostini with a tomato/basil mix. It was tasty enough.

For dinner, DB~ had the Chicken Roulade. It was a chicken dish stuffed with spinach and ricotta. The side dish was a classical risotto that she loved, although not as much as the risotto she had in Greece. I had a fist-sized and shaped piece of steak filet done perfectly medium-well. It was crusted in espresso and then served in a pool of bourbon cream sauce.

After our dinner, the chef came out to see the patrons in the restaurant. We ended speaking with Chef Miller for about 15 minutes and he was quite pleasant to speak with. He had spent a few years performing various jobs at Nemacolin Resort, from food and beverage coordinator to executive chef at one of the restaurants. He was there at the same time as Dave Racicot, the owner/head chef of Notion in Oakmont.

Chef Miller also shared his vision concept for a restaurant that he would like to start up in Pittsburgh in the near future. I don't want to say what it is, because his concept is a unique one that I would hate to see scooped up by someone else. It's such a great concept that I would love for DB~ and I to be part of it...even if our stake would only involve us getting a free meal now and then.

Treetops is worth going to even if you don't want to stay at Polymath Park. It's that good of a restaurant.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Just a standard weekend in the Laurel Highlands

Last weekend, DB~ and I used a gift card we received as a Christmas gift (cough, back in 2009, cough) to Polymath Park in the Laurel Highlands. What is Polymath? Well, I'm not sure of the "polymath" part, but the place is set in the forest and is composed of 3 separate houses, one of which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (Duncan House). The other two houses (Balter and Blum) were designed by apprentices of FLW. We stayed for one night in the Blum house.

We drove up early on Saturday and got to the general area around 10 a.m. I say "general area" because we couldn't find this place for at least 15 minutes. We were looking for a side road called Dillon, but the problem was that there was no sign marking the road or a directional Polymath Park sign pointing to the right (like there was in the opposite direction pointing to the left once we doubled back).

Then once we got to the place, we followed the sign to the Blum house, but it was locked. There isn't a check-in place, so we drove to the Duncan house just to verify no one was working there, either. DB~ called the number on the website and Heather answered. She was surprised when we told her we were at the Blum house, because apparently the gate into Polymath was supposed to be closed and we drove right through the open gate. Heather blamed it on a group of Chinese people from Hong Kong that had a "language barrier".

We were the only people scheduled to be in the 3 bedroom Blum house that night, but our room wouldn't be ready until 2:30, so DB~ and I decided to see what the area had to offer. She had never been to Seven Springs, which surprised me, but I knew she was more of a Hidden Valley girl.

After we wandered around the ski shop and checked out a bunch of ski and snowboard apparel that we would never buy, we went into the main lodge to see if anything was cracking. As soon as we walked in, there were a large group of people clustered around the entrance to one of the convention halls. Most of them had blue T-shirts on with lanyards, so we knew it was some type of conference. As we continued to walk through the hallway of the lodge, we saw more and more people with their blue shirts that said Start to Live! on them.

"When we sit down, we should Google..." I started to say.
"I'm already on it," DB~ replied as she furiously was thumbing away at her iPhone.

By the time we bought our hot chocolate, we found out that Start to Live is a Narcotics drug rehab group that stresses positive thinking during the recovery phase for users. So for the next 20 minutes, she and I were deciding what type of drug each person was addicted to and what their back story was. We saw a lot of boyfriend-girlfriend types and wondered if they were both ex-users or if one was supporting the other. There were packs of young 20-something guys, older women, older men, people both black and white. We couldn't imagine what it would be like if we were staying the night at Seven Springs, instead of Polymath. Would the bar be packed or empty?

After that experience, we headed down the road to a little bar/restaurant called Black Diamond Pub. It was good, nothing spectacular. Once we left there, we did a couple of multi-caches in Laurel State Park. By the time we did those, we were able to check in at Blum House. The house was unlocked and our key was waiting in the foyer, delivered by Heather. We started to joke that Heather would be our server at Polymath's restaurant (Treetops) later that night...until we needed a chirping battery looked at and our eventual chef (in his chef outfit) came over to replace the battery. I've have a separate post about our excellent dinner at Treetops.

Neither of us had ever heard of Polymath before. Of course we knew about Fallingwater and I have checked out Kentuck Knob in the past, but I wondered how many Pittsburghers know about Polymath.

It's pretty expensive and I'm not sure it's entirely worth it. The house is in Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian style. The Blum house is a low-slung ranch, with a single sloped roof. The center piece of the house is a large dry-stack massive fireplace that really throws out the heat. The bedrooms were nice enough, although we weren't sure how it would have been if all the bedrooms were occupied. There was a nice sitting room that we couldn't fully enjoy because it wasn't heated. The house had a large amount of glass full-length windows, which was great for us to enjoy the views of the forest and mountains in the distance.

However, the decor was very dated and seemed like cheap 1960's stuff. The bathroom was very dark in color scheme and the water from the shower head smelled like rotten eggs, indicating the presence of sulfur dioxide in the system somewhere. The rate for the Blum house was $250/night regularly and for the Duncan House it would be $350/night. We didn't pay full-rate, as we had a gift certificate, but I don't think I would pay that rate normally.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

2012 DBS Top 30 Pirate prospects - #5 to 1

Everyone keep calm and try not to rush the's the finale of the annual DBS Top 30 Prospects.

As always, 130 AB's or 50 IP or 30 relief appearances in the majors disqualifies potential candidates from the list. The age in parentheses is the 2012 season age for the player, using the July 1st cutoff date.

5. Josh Bell (19) OF, A -- Bell received a record-breaking amount of bonus money for a 2nd round draft pick in 2011 ($5 million). That's "we think you're going to be a star" money. He is probably the best power threat in the whole system. So why isn't he higher? Bell has yet to swing a bat in anger and his lack of arm/range will confine him to LF (RF in spacious PNC Park). I've seen his videos on Youtube of his defense and he looks awkward and lanky. All that said, it would not be surprising to me if he is #1 on this list next year...even if Cole and Taillon are still eligible.

4. Luis Heredia (17) RHP, SS -- He's only 17. (Seventeen!!). Yeah...Winger!!! Uh....right...Heredia. For all of the 2012 season, Heredia will be 17 years old, which is the equivalent of a high school junior. He'll be at State College and will hopefully pitch around 60-70 innings. Even though he is an International phenom, his progress will be slow for the next 2 years. I could see him spending all of 2013 in West Virginia, maybe maybe splitting time between Bradenton and Altoona in 2014, and then all year in Indy in 2015. That will have him debuting in 2016 and the ripe old age of...21. Jeebus.

3. Starling Marte (23) OF, AAA -- The future of CF. I could probably end it right there, but I'll infect your brain with his numbers from this year. Marte hit .332/.370/.500 (870 OPS) at a park in Altoona that is not conducive to offense. Marte actually had a road OPS significantly higher than his home OPS. It also helps that his defensive range is spectacular and his arm is a small howitzer. Even though Neal Huntington recently said that Marte needs a full year at AAA, it wouldn't surprise me to see him blitzkreig AAA and be here in July 2012.

2. Jameson Taillon (20) RHP, A+ -- I had to decide which future ace to put 1 and which one to put 2. It's nothing that Taillon did wrong to be here instead of Cole. In his first full year, Taillon pitched 92 innings, gave up 89 hits, walked only 22 and struck out 97. He worked on commanding his pitches and not striking out everyone he faced. All while sitting 93-94 and hitting 97 at times. His curveball is major league ready right now and his changeup is developing as a plus pitch.

1. Gerrit Cole (21) RHP, A+/AA -- Cole is only 1 year older than Taillon, but his fastball is already sitting 96-97 and he routinely touches 99 and 100. His changeup and curve are both plus pitches right now. He was dominant at times in the Arizona Fall League, even in 3 inning stints, so it would not be surprising to see him start the season at Altoona. If Cole does what everyone expects Cole can do, there is an outside, remote, maybe but don't tell anyone chance that he's here in September 2012. More realistically is that he is here in June 2013 and fronting the rotation.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

2012 DBS Top 30 Pirates prospects - #10 to 6

Here we go into the Top 10 of the DBS Top 30 prospects.

Just a reminder that the thresholds for prospectiness are no more than 130 at-bats, 50 innings pitched, or 30 relief appearances at the major league level.

The number in parentheses is the player's 2012-season age, using the standard July 1st cutoff date. The level shown is my assumed level that the player will start at in 2012.

10. Robbie Grossman (22) OF, AA -- Grossman is the belle of the ball as far as Pirate prospects were concerned this year. A lot of people are fawning over the 100 walks and 100 runs he had this year, the first person since Nick Swisher in 2004. Grossman had a fantastic year for Bradenton this year with a line of .294/.418/.451 (869 OPS), but the questions still remain that Grossman may be a tweener. He played most of his games in RF this year, as he is said to not have the range to play CF consistently. If he is confined to a corner, his 13 HR's won't cut it -- unless you think he has 20 HR potential long-term. I'm waiting to see what AA brings for Grossman. I'm thinking the pitchers will challenge him much more and his walks will drop. Keep in mind that Altoona is a very difficult place to homer, for both sides of the plate, which is a problem for the switch-hitter.

9. Colton Cain (21) LHP, A+ -- Cain's velocity wavered at times this year, with on-site reports putting him at 86-88 mph some starts. But Cain has been in the 93-95 mph range in the past, so I'm hoping it was just the effects of being in full-season ball for the first time. Cain's walk total was impressive, just 31 in 106 IP, coupled with 81 K's. He'll be part of a great potential Bradenton rotation if Cole starts there instead of Altoona. At this point, I still have hopes for Cain becoming a #3 starter, but if his velo doesn't improve in 2012 he may get dropped down.

8. Tony Sanchez (24) C, AA/AAA -- Sanchez is this year's version of Chase d'Arnaud for me. In 2010, d'Arnaud had a horrible year at Altoona due to pneumonia, but his K/BB rates were still intact. Move to 2011 and Sanchez had a horrible year, but kept his fundamentals together. Sanchez's defense was also good, as I witnessed him live 3 times. He presents a very quiet target behind the plate and has good reaction times on his throws, which are strong. Sanchez was scheduled to be the starter in Pittsburgh in 2012, so this is a setback for him, but I'm confident he will rebound this year.

7. Jeff Locke (24) LHP, AAA -- Locke was the most successful of the Altoona Four from 2010 (Locke, Owens, Morris, Wilson) and he actually made 4 starts in Pittsburgh at the end of the year. So Locke gets the benefit over some other pitchers below him because of his proximity to the majors and success at upper levels. Locke was pretty well gassed by the time he got to Pittsburgh, but the Pirates were out of healthy arms and needed him. Locke could become a Maholm-lite pitcher, but is probably a #4 long-term. He had 3 average pitches and didn't seem to have a strong out pitch, but I'm accounting for a long year as well.

6. Kyle McPherson (24) RHP, AAA -- This may be one of the higher ranks you'll see for McPherson, but I'm a big fan. McPherson had a dominant stint at Bradenton to start the year (71 IP, 60 K, only 6 BB) and then had a real nice AA run (89 IP, 82 K's, 21 BB) for 170 total innings. McPherson has a 92-94 mph fastball, killer curve when it is on, and a great changeup. McPherson is not afraid to pitch inside and establish the inner part of the plate, as evidenced by the numerous welts from the high number of batters he hit this year. It would not surprise me to see McPherson in Pittsburgh in August.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I'm really porking up

On Saturday night, we had one of my work friends and his wife out for dinner. Originally I wasn't going to do anything crazy, but his wife saw me in the parking lot a few days before the dinner and said "I can't wait to try one of your crazy recipes on Saturday!" can't serve breaded chicken after a comment like that, right? So I racked my noggin for something interesting to serve and came up with Pork Belly.

Pork Belly, in today's high-speed cuisine couture, is already a little passe. Up until about 5 years ago, pork belly was an afterthought in American cuisine...mostly relegated to stews and stocks. It has always been popular in Asian cuisine, especially Korean, as it's fatty flavor and tender meat are quite revered and prepared in a variety of different methods. The American chefs got a hold of the cut of meat, identified by its striated layers of fat and meat, and made it gourmet. This caused the price of pork belly to go from "cheap" to "still affordable".

I went to Market District and paid $3.99/lb for a 2-lb slab. I decided to pay homage to the Asian influences by doing an Asian-esque preparation.

First you have to score the fatty side of the pork belly in a cross-hatch pattern in order for the flavors to soak in to completely.

In my dutch oven, I sauteed 1/2 of a white onion in some oil. I then added 3 sliced garlic cloves and 1 tbsp of ginger once the onions were translucent. To that I added 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar, and 2 teaspoons of white pepper (the key to all Asian recipes, in my opinion).

I added the pork belly slab in to the dutch oven and then rubbed 2 tablespoons of honey on top of the pork belly. Then put enough water into the dutch oven until the water level comes up to the top of the pork. Bring this up to a boil and then reduce it to low heat for 2 hours.

I put the meat in fat side up for the first hour on the stove and then I flipped it fat side down for the last hour. I took the pork belly out after 2 hours, tented it on a platter covered in aluminum foil and let it rest for 30 minutes.

While that was going on, I brought the remaining liquid up to a boil and reduced it down to a glaze to put on top of the pork.

I served a slice of pork belly to each of us on a bed of Udon noodles. These noodles have some weight to them and absorb flavors naturally. They are very versatile to use in Asian cooking. The side dish was a Bok Choy salad that I prepared as well.

We all enjoyed the pork belly, but we all trimmed the fat away for the most part. It's kind of like the prime rib of pork, in that respect I guess. The pork tenderloin is still my favorite cut of pork ($5.99/lb at Market District) and we actually had that for dinner on Monday, but pork belly is interesting enough to try again.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

DBS 2012 Top 30 Pirate prospects - #15 to 11

Before we have a small dinner for friends tonight (post to follow tomorrow), I thought it was time to squeeze in a post about the start of the top half of the system, as determined by me.

Just a reminder that the thresholds for prospectiness are no more than 130 at-bats, 50 innings pitched, or 30 relief appearances at the major league level.

The number in parentheses is the player's 2012-season age, using the standard July 1st cutoff date. The level shown is my assumed level that the player will start at in 2012.

15. Nick Kingham (20) RHP, A -- Kingham is like a good Cuban cigar...once he starts, it's like a slow burn and he never goes out. OK...I've never had a Cuban cigar...I'm watching Die Another Day right now and they talked about a certain type. In real life, Kingham is the best prospect that you never hear about. He was drafted in 2010 and has been completely overshadowed by Taillon and Allie in terms of hype. This year Kingham pitched at State College and was fantastic. He pitched 71 innings, gave up 63 hits, but walked only 15 while striking out 47. From early July to the end of the season in September, Kingham did not give up more than 1 ER in any of his individual starts. At present, Kingham possesses an 89-92 mph fastball, curve, and developing changeup. He'll be at West Virginia in 2012 and is the best candidate to spring into the Top 10 next year.

14. Jarek Cunningham (22) 2B, AA -- Cunningham has incredible raw power, which is a bigger plus considering that he is a 2B. In 2011, Cunningham hit 15 HR, 23 doubles, and 6 triples in an injury-shortened 310 at-bats. Cunningham had a concussion in late July and never felt comfortable enough to come back. He did recover enough to play in the Arizona Fall League (going on right now). The bugaboos for Cunningham are twofold -- the first is his alarming K/BB rates. In 310 at-bats, he only walked 17 times (just under 6%) while striking out 82 times (around 26%). The second problem is his less than fluid defense at 2B. There may be a time when Cunningham has to move to the OF, but his bat should still carry him.

13. Rudy Owens (24) LHP, AAA -- Owens pretty much had a season to forget in 2011. In 112 IP, he gave up 129 hits, walked 32, and only struck out 71. He's this high based on what he showed in 2010 when he was dominant at Altoona. His velocity was down this year and there were rumors that he did not come into the season in shape. He missed some time with various injuries, as well. Owens was supposed to be a mid-sesaon callup in 2011. Now he's almost an afterthought. This is a make or break year for him.671

12. Justin Wilson (24) LHP, AAA -- Wilson has always been a half-step behind pitchers like Owens, Morris, and Locke. This year, though, Wilson started off hot before he fizzled out by the end of the year. He pitched 124 innings, gave up only 121 hits, and struck out 94, but he had an unseemly 67 walks which undercut his effectiveness. Wilson had a short stint as a reliever at the end of the season and was clocked at 97 mph from the left side. His future has always been suspected to be a reliever...there's a chance we'll see him in Pittsburgh in 2012 as one.

11. Matt Curry (23) 1B, AA -- Curry was placed too low at the start of 2011 and responded by abusing Low A pitchers, to the tune of .361/.477/.671 (1148 OPS). He was promoted to Altoona in late May, which was a 2 step jump in level. Curry did struggle at the level as he hit only .242/.320/.374 (694 OPS) with a marked increase in strikeout rate to 30%. I'm giving him a pass because of the 2 level jump, but he needs to prove himself in 2012 with the newly drafted Alex Dickerson presumably one level behind him at Bradenton.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cheddar Chicken

DB~ found a great recipe this week for a simple chicken dish, perfect for a mid-week meal. She found it on a website called Real Simple and it's called Cheddar Chicken.

I used 4 small chicken tenderloins for this recipe. First I crushed up 16 Ritz crackers, which was about 3/4 cup. I then put the crushed Ritz crackers into a bowl with 6 oz of shredded cheddar cheese, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, and 1 clove of garlic diced up. All of these ingredients were mixed and tossed together.

I dipped the tenderloins in an egg bath and then rolled each one in the Ritz cracker/cheese mix. I pressed the remnants of the mix on to each side of each tenderloin.

I baked the chicken at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. The cheese was bonded to the Ritz, so there was a crunch to it on the outside with the cheese not completely melted, yet still nice and smooth when eaten. The garlic, salt and pepper were mixed into each bit of the cracker and cheese when I tossed them together.

I served this with some fresh aspargus and a risotto mix that DB~ got from Trader Joes'. This recipe was definitely a keeper. Next time I might do a few more crackers to get an even better crust.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

2012 DBS Top 30 Pirate Prospects - #20 to 16

This will be the post that covers the first half of the Top 30 prospects in the system, according to...this guy.

Just a reminder that the thresholds for prospectiness are no more than 130 at-bats, 50 innings pitched, or 30 relief appearances at the major league level.

The number in parentheses is the player's 2012-season age, using the standard July 1st cutoff date. The level shown is my assumed level that the player will start at in 2012.

20. Bryan Morris (25) RHP, AAA -- Morris is the lone wolf remaining in the pack from the Jason Bay of 2009. Morris was forecast to be a mid-rotation starter, or even a #2 starter if everything went right, but last year he was injured again and moved into the Altoona bullpen where he experienced success and a velocity bump. At this point his durability must be questioned and the Pirates should try and get value out of him as a power reliever.

19. Zack Dodson (21) LHP, A+ -- Dodson started off well in West Virginia and a case could have been made early on that he was the best starter on a staff that included Jameson Taillon and Colton Cain. Then Dodson got injured and started a long rehab sojourn that saw him spend time in the Gulf Coast League and State College again. His Low A stats were 66 IP, 61 hits, 15 walks, and 46 strikeouts with a 2.57 ERA. Dodson should move up to Bradenton to start 2012 and be part of a stunning rotation that may be Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Dodson, Colton Cain, and...some other guy (maybe Fuesser?).

18. Jordy Mercer (25) SS, AAA -- Mercer has seen fellow 2008 draftees Pedro Alvarez and Chase d'Arnaud experience the good life at the major league level. Mercer's turn may come at some point in 2012. After a down 2010, Mercer rebounded to have an impressive display of power at Altoona in 2011 (13 HR's) and another 6 HR after being promoted to AAA Indianopolis. His overall season line between the two levels was a so-so .255/.317/.440 (757 OPS), but 30 doubles and 19 home runs plus above-average defense at shortstop, will get you a look in just about any system. Interesting note about Mercer -- here's his batting averages by year with the Pirates: 2008 (.250), 2009 (.255), 2010 (.282), 2011 (.255). So let's just pencil him at a .250 batting average in the majors and move on.

17. Clay Holmes (19) RHP, SS -- So a tall, projectable high school righty pitcher walks into a bar...Holmes is a 2011 draftee (6'-5") and has a fastball that sits 91-93 right now. His other pitches are a mixed bag right now, but the Pirates offered him $1.2 million on the promise of better things to come. He will join a bunch of other tall righties at State College in 2012.

16. Stetson Allie (21) RHP, A -- This will probably be one of the lower rankings you'll see for Allie this offseason. I just can't hype up a pitcher that had as bad a 2011 as Allie did. His final line at State College (as a starter and reliever) was 26 IP, 20 hits allowed, 29 walks, 28 strikeouts, 9 hit batters, and a 6.57 ERA. Add in that his age makes him one year older than most HS players in his 2010 draft class and his projection of being a reliever (a sentiment shared by Allie himself) and you see why I have him here.

Monday, November 7, 2011

DBS 2012 Top 30 Pirates Prospects -- #25 to 21

Let's keep on rolling with my personal top 30 prospects in the Pirate system for 2012.

Just a reminder from the last post, the thresholds for prospectiness are no more than 130 at-bats, 50 innings pitched, or 30 relief appearances at the major league level.

The number in parentheses is the player's 2012-season age, using the standard July 1st cutoff date. The level shown is my assumed level that the player will start at in 2012.

25. Ryan Hafner (20) RHP, A -- Like most HS drafted pitchers, Hafner went to short-season State College in his first true season. Hafner played second fiddle to Nick Kingham in the Spikes' rotation (3rd if you consider Stetson Allie's aborted attempt at starting this year) and acquitted himself well. In 65 innings, Hafner allowed 58 hits and only 20 walks. Hafner only had 31 strikeouts, but with the caveat that State College is primarily about establishing fastball command and control. There is not much emphasis on strikeouts. Hafner does not have an overwhelming fastball, even though he is 6'-6", as it sits 86 to 89 mph at present. He'll move up to West Virginia in 2012.

24. Jose Osuna (19) 1B/OF, SS/A -- Osuna was a 2009 international signee that made his stateside debut in 2011. Much of the attention in the GCL, among position players, was on Willy Garcia, Jodaneli Carvajal, and Luis Urena. But it was Osuna that outshined them all with a .331/.400/.511 (911 OPS) line in the GCL. I'm not sure about his 2012 placement, as I'm wondering if Eric Avila and Elias Diaz's complete failures in jumping from the GCL to Low A will make the Pirates reconsider such a jump with the next batch of internationals in 2012.

23. Alex Dickerson (22) 1B, A+ -- Drafted in the 3rd round this year, Dickerson is by some accounts the best 1B in the system right now. So why isn't he higher? Dickerson is a bat-first player, which is OK since his defensive position is 1B, but he does not have a great physique. Plus he has already had some back issues in his college career, so I'm going to ding him for that until I can see him have a complete season in the system. During his time at State College in 2011, Dickerson hit well with a line of .313/.393/.493 (886 OPS).

22. Gift Ngoepe (22) 2B, A+ -- This one in retrospect may be too high for Ngeope at the end of 2012, but I'm putting high on Ngoepe, especially after it seemed he was on his way to a huge breakout season in 2011. Ngoepe started out hitting .306/.359/.459 (818 OPS) with West Virginia, showing power previously untapped. Ngoepe had 5 doubles, 1 triple, and 2 HR's in his 85 at-bats before getting injured. He returned in July for 2 games in the GCL, but that was it. His defensive range is fantastic, so if he can hit at all he will be an asset. Ngoepe has been aggressively moved, so he could start out in Bradenton in 2012.

21. Tyler Glasnow (18) RHP, SS -- Stop me if you've heard this one before. The Pirates like to draft tall, projectable right-handed pitchers. Glasnow is a 6'-7" specimen that has an already nice fastball that sits 93 mph. Right now that's all he has, but has the makings of some good secondary pitches. He'll be at State College and because of his birthdate, he will be considered 18 for the 2012 season -- just one year older than Luis Heredia at the same level.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

DBS 2012 Top 30 Pirate Prospects - #30 to #26

It's that time of year again to start reverse ranking the Top 30 Pirate Prospects for the 2012 season, as determined by a panel of one

The thresholds for prospectiness are no more than 130 at-bats, 50 innings pitched, or 30 relief appearances at the major league level.

The number in parentheses is the player's 2012-season age, using the standard July 1st cutoff date. The level shown is my assumed level that the player will start at in 2012.

30. Yhonathan Barrios (20) SS/2B, SS/A -- In 2011, Barrios debuted in the United States at the Gulf Coast Rookie League and put up an impressive line of .299/.382/.433 (815 OPS) while committing only 5 errors in his short season. Barrios will definitely be promoted in 2012, but time will tell if he plays at State College or West Virginia to start 2012.

29. Jake Burnette (19) RHP, SS -- Burnette is a 2011 draftee that had a 1 inning cameo in the GCL. Burnette is your standard tall, projectable righty that the Pirates love to draft. He will most likely follow their standard path of going to the Fastball Academy known as the State College Spikes in 2012.

28. Matt Hague (26) 1B, AAA/MLB -- Hague did Matt Hague-type of things in 2011. Great strike zone discipline (47 walks, only 68 K's in 534 AB's) at AAA and only average power (12 HR's). He did also have 37 doubles and 3 triples, but his power does not profile as a typical 1B in the majors. He may be a JT Snow or Casey Kotchman type of player if everything goes right. The telling part to me is that during the Lyle Overbay Chronicles of 2011, there was never a hint from the Pirates front office or manager that Hague was a candidate to come up. Hague did not receive a September callup, either, in order to preview what he may provide. For all of these reasons, plus his advanced age for a prospect, are why he is here.

27. Zac Fuesser (21) LHP, A+ -- Fuesser had a great season in Low A in 2011, as he pitched both in the rotation and out of the bullpen and was effective in both roles. In 108 innings, he gave up 111 hits, struck out 95 and only walked 33. There were no major splits between rightie and leftie batters, either. The downside to Fuesser is that he is a little bit of a soft-tosser at this point, with his fastball typically sitting 85-88 mph. Fuesser will get promoted to Bradenton, but with the potential super rotation on tap, he could be back in the bullpen.

26. Elevys Gonzalez (22) 3B/2B, AA -- Gonzalez is just "that guy". He consistently gets overshadowed by other teammates, but continues to produce great numbers. This year in 2011 at Bradenton, he put up a line of .322/.374/.467 (841 OPS) with 48 extra base hits (36 doubles, 6 triples, and 6 homers), but most of the attention was focused on Robbie Grossman all year. Gonzalez does not really have a truly great defensive position, but there is some value in a super-utility player with his hitting potential.