Sunday, December 30, 2012

Artifacts in West End

We were both off on Friday, so DB~ and I wanted to do something a little different.  Periodically, I pass by this store in the West End on Stueben Street called Artifacts.  It advertises 20,000 items under one roof, so I figured "there has to be one thing in there that we would like".

After checking out the Toynbee tile downtown, we headed over to the West End to scope Artifacts out.  When we walked in, we were greeted by a cheerful saleswoman and saw a very cool 7 foot diameter dining table that DB~ liked.  A few minutes later an older gentleman, who we presumed was the owner, came over to extol the virtues of this table and chairs (and run down cheap furniture you get at every other store).  And this table could be yours (or ours) for the low, low price of $11,000 --- cost of chairs not included.

DB~ then turned around and saw a great chest of drawers.  Great detail, solid wood, all for the low, low price of $59,000.  At this point we realized we were way out of our element.  It slowly dawned on me that instead of finding one of 20,000 items that we would like, it would be more like finding one of 20,000 items that we could afford.  The whole first floor, as is usually the case, was the high-end stuff.  About 1/3 of the first floor was dedicated just to Persian and Oriental Rugs.

Oh, and there was a stuffed giraffe head and neck for $11,500.  DB~ petted it.

We headed up to the 2nd floor for the sheer amusement of seeing what other crazy-priced items we could find.  As soon as we got up to the 2nd floor, we passed by this giant mirror (probably 6-8 feet high) with ornate details in the hand carved wood, complete with multiple baroque-style cherubs.  Price?  A mere $125,000.  There are millionaires who would balk at that price tag.

After seeing some African tribal masks, nautical style tables and painting, and Asian themed furniture, we saw this great lamp:

It's a pitted silver lamp with burlap around it stenciled with "Paris" ,a Fleur de Lis, and some other French stuff.  It would go perfectly in one of our rooms with our existing French burlap pillows with stenciling.  Surprisingly, the lamp was "affordable".  I went downstairs to negotiate with the owner and see if he was flexible on the price.  We ended up getting 1/3 off of it and got it for $130.  As we were checking out, DB~ found a similar style lamp on Pottery Barn's website for $220.  We took it home and it fits in perfectly in our one room.

Artifacts may not be practical for the everyday person, but they do have some really interesting stuff in there. It's worth checking out.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Toynbee Tiles in Pittsburgh

A few weeks ago at Piratefest, a fellow baseball blogger told me about something called Toynbee Tiles.  Apparently these tiles are a great urban mystery across the United States, but primarily in the East Coast, and have been around for at least 30 years.

The "classic" Toynbee Tile is a piece of linoleum-like substance that is affixed to asphalt in a major downtown city street.  It has tiny pieces of the author's philosophy, albeit one that brings to mind that the creator may brush his hair once a week, have an array of facial tics, and complain about the birds flying overhead acting as spies.

Since DB~ and I are off this week, we went downtown to try and find one located at Sixth Avenue and Smithfield Street.  I was expecting it to be large and adjacent to the sidewalk, but DB~ spotted the tiny 12" x 6" (approximate) tile a few feet into the lane adjacent to the sidewalk on the Mellon Park side of the intersection.

The legend of the Toynbee Tiles is that no one truly knows who is creating and installing them.  They just sort of appear.  And considering the high traffic areas and amount of work that need to be done to affix them, it's safe to say it is done in the dead of night.  A Philadelphia recluse named Severino Verna, using the alias of James Morasco, is the most likely candidate according to those in the know about these items.

Some cities treat these tiles as graffiti, such as Chicago which actively removes them.  They are more likely the garbled ramblings of a crazy person, but they are unique pieces of urban art all throughout major cities that should be seen at least once in person.  There is also a documentary called Resurrect Dead (a popular phrase on the tiles) that I will try and track down through Netflix, as well.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Luke Wholey's Wild Alaskan Grille

A couple of Thursdays ago, DB~ and I met for dinner after work down in the Strip District.  We decided to try Luke Wholey's Wild Alaskan Grille on Penn Avenue.  We had passed by this place a couple of times on recent trips to the Strip and it seemed interesting enough.

It was a cold, dreary Thursday night in December and when I got there at 6 pm, I was the only person in the restaurant.  By the time DB~ got there, maybe 3 other tables were filled.  The interior of the restaurant is exposed brick and murals, with the one that I was staring at being a large orange-yellow fish.

While I was waiting for DB~, I was reflecting on one of the restaurant's previous incarnations, that being a nightclub known as Area 51.  It was also known as another name as a nightclub and I think it was during that name that I was there one night when Alexei Morozov and Alexei Kovalev were there.  Morozov was without a doubt my least favorite Penguin of all time.  I thought he was such a Mary that had no grit to him and not enough offensive ability to offset it.  Needless to say, those two were surrounded by a bevy of young women anxious to be Mrs. Morozov or Kovalev -- at least for one night.

Back in present day, when DB~ got there we checked out the dinner menu at Luke Wholey's.  For the scion of Pittsburgh's most famous fish family, I found the menu to be a little lacking in terms of interesting selections.  There were multiple shrimp dishes, cod, scallops, and yellowtail, but with an array of seafood available a short walk away it was puzzling that the menu was so ordinary.  The preparations were pretty standard as well, nothing gourmet or anything to separate the menu from others serving seafood.

On Christmas Eve at a family party, one of DB~'s uncles told me that he thought Luke and his uncle, who took over Wholey's after Luke's father passed, had a little bit of a falling out which led to Luke striking out on his own.  Perhaps that accounts for some of the standard fare menu selections, but it's not like Wholey's has a monopoly on fish in the city of Pittsburgh.

Our food was good, not great, although it seems as if the family secret for the recipe of lobster bisque was smuggled out during the split from the Penn Avenue fishmonger house.  It was as good as ever.  I hope that the restaurant can get a more daring chef and a more diverse array of seafood.  Otherwise it may go the way of Alexei Morozov's career with the Penguins -- underwhelming and wanting more.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

DBS Top 30 Prospects 2013 - #5 to #1

Holy cow, can you stand the excitement?  All 7 of you?  The Interwebs' most influential list of Top 30 prospects is ready to conclude.  Ages are in parentheses, as of July 1, 2013, with their presumed starting levels.

#5.  Gregory Polanco, OF (21), A+ -- I could have easily switched Polanco into the 4 spot with Alen Hanson at 5.  Polanco is a pure CF, while Hanson is questionable to stay at SS.  But Polanco is a year older than Hanson and Hanson is still at SS right now.  Polanco's .325/.388/.522 (910 OPS) year was fantastic and came out of nowhere (left field, if you will).  His tantalizing 16 HR's and 40 SB's make you daydream about him manning the OF with Marte and McCutchen at the same time.  If Polanco can have a season 90% as good in 2013 at High A, there's a chance he could jump up to the top spot next year.

#4.  Alen Hanson, SS (20), A+ -- Hanson teamed up with Polanco in 2012 to form one of the most exciting breakout duos in all of Minor League Baseball.  Hanson has a touch more pedigree, plays a premium position, and is a year younger than Polanco.  But questions remain about his ability to remain at SS, due to his footwork being sub-par.  Hanson's slash line of .309/.381/.528 (909 OPS) was virtually identical to Polanco's this year, with his 16 HR/35 SB's even more drool-worthy potentially from the SS position.  The Pirates are starved for a SS prospect so Hanson in 2013 will be closely scrutinized.

#3.  Luis Heredia, RHP (18), A -- Welcome to the "Potential Future Ace" portion of the list!  Luis Heredia is a gigantor Mexican import that is slowly but steadily making his way through the system.  In 2012, Heredia  pitched at short-season State College and threw 66 innings, allowing only 53 hits while walking 23 and striking out 40.  The walks are a touch concerning, but his 92-95 mph fastball is not.  Coupled with a nice changeup already and a coming-along curveball, Heredia may have the most overall potential of the top 3 pitchers.  Especially since 2013 will be the equivalent of his freshman year in college due to his August birthday.

#2.  Jameson Taillon, RHP (21), AA -- It must be a real drag to be 20 years old and people think that you're a disappointment because instead of being "man, this guy is doing really well" they think you should be "MAN, THIS GUY IS AWESOME!!%!^^&!".  That's the predicament that Taillon finds himself in after being the 2nd overall pick in 2010 -- behind Bryce Harper and in front of Manny Machado.  Taillon had a great 2012 with 142 innings, 120 hits, 38 walks, and 116 strikeouts.  Taillon's 6'-6" frame generates easy 96-98 mph fastballs and a curveball that is the best in the Pirates' system -- including the majors.  His changeup is average at best at this point.  Taillon also needs to keep the ball down in the zone and stay within himself while pitching.  Ultimately, I think Taillon will be more of a high-end #2 starter than a true #1 ace.

#1.  Gerrit Cole, RHP (22), AAA -- Ta da!  Not much suspense in this one.  Cole is on track to be a bonafide ace, #1, top of the rotation stalwart, staff leader.  His 6'-4" frame powered his 98-100 mph fastball, 90 mph slider (a speed most ML pitchers use as their fastball), and plus changeup to 132 innings, 113 hits allowed, 45 walks, and 136 strikeouts.  Cole just has to not try to throw the ball through the backstop every pitch and control his emotions more to avoid big innings.  He'll get a tuneup at Indy until probably July 1st.  But after that, look out....the Pirates will have their first true ace since...ever?

Can't wait for the minors to start up in April so I can see how right/foolish I've been with these picks.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

DBS Top 30 Prospects 2013 -- #10 to #6

If you're a Pirate farmhand and you want a piece of this action, you can't have more than 50 innings pitched in the majors, 30 relief appearances in the majors, or 130 at-bats in the majors.

#10.  Matt Curry, 1B (24), AAA -- I'm too high on Matt Curry for some non-explained reason.  My only rationalization is that there are no other good candidates for the 10 spot.  Curry had a .285/.352/.480 (832 OPS)  Dickerson and Osuna have similar batting profiles and position, but Curry is further up the chain.  Herrera is too young for me to really justify putting him at 10, so here we are with Curry.  He may not have enough bat for a full-time 1B -- a full season in AAA in 2013 will determine that -- but right now he is the placemarker at 10.

#9.  Kyle McPherson, RHP (25), AAA/MLB -- Kyle McPherson sports a 92-93 mph fastball and good changeup.  His slider is workable and he has the upside of a #3-4 starter.  The downside is that he missed time at the start of the season with shoulder issues and then recently had more shoulder issues in winter ball.  There currently exists a wide open chance at the rotation and both McPherson and Locke (ineligible for the list) are the top 2 candidates.  If the shoulder problems persist, McPherson could be converted to a late-inning reliever.

#8.  Clay Holmes, RHP (20), A -- Holmes, like Nick Kingham in 2011, had a great 2012 campaign at short-season State College.  Holmes pitched 59 innings and only gave up 35 hits while walking 29 and striking out 34.  The walks are too high and that will need to be monitored, but so far the 2011 overslot pick is very promising.  Holmes will move up with Luis Heredia to form a formidable 1-2 punch in the West Virginia rotation.  Holmes is the kind of guy you'll need to be patient with as he gets refined over the next 3 years, but his upside is a #3 starter or #2 if things break right.

#7.  Nick Kingham, RHP (21), A+ -- ...and speak of the devil here's Nick Kingham.  Going into the season, I felt that Kingham had the chance to break into the ML-wide Top 100 of some publications.  Then he got off to a horrendous start in West Virginia in April (8.59 ERA).  He proceeded to right the ship over the remainder of the year, with a poor June sprinkled in, and finished with a very respectable line over 127 innings.  He allowed only 115 hits, struck out 117 and walked only 36.  Kingham's 6'-5" frame portends a workhorse #2 starter.  Kingham has a heavy mid-90's fastball and good curve and changeup.

#6.  Josh Bell, OF (20), A -- Early in the 2012 season, Bell tore his meniscus.  His normal recovery path would have put him back in August.  His knee would not drain properly, however, and remained inflamed. After a period of rest, it was hoped he could participate in Fall Instructionals, but that did not happen either.  Bell recently underwent a Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injection in hopes to reduce the inflammation.  Bell's lost season will be forgotten if he comes back strong in 2013.  His power potential is too great to ignore.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Super 2 Status Is Not Scary

The Pirates have been shopping Joel Hanrahan around for a while now, especially since they re-signed Jason Grilli to a 2 year deal for $6.75M last week.  With Hanrahan projected to make around $7.5M via his final year of the arbitration process, it just makes "Pirates sense" that committing nearly $10.5M in 2013 (out of a $70M payroll) to 2 relievers does not make sense.

In a bit of dot-connecting, one of the teams connected to Hanrahan are the Detroit Tigers after they re-signed Anibal Sanchez to a 5 year/$80M deal.  That leaves them with a theoretical excess of starting pitchers (even though a team usually needs 7-8 options).  The Tigers also lack a "proven closer", even though they have publically declared they will go with Bruce Rondon, so they could be a possible trade partner.

One of the trade candidates from the Tigers is Rick Porcello.  Porcello was a highly touted prospect after getting drafted 27th overall in 2007 (he dropped due to bonus demands).  He skyrocketed through the minors, thanks to the Tigers' typically aggressive promotion procedure, and made his debut in early April 2009.  Porcello has pitched nearly 4 full seasons and won't even be 24 until two days after this Christmas.  Porcello has had a good, not great, career to this point.  He is a sinkerball pitcher that pitches in front of perhaps the worst infield defense in the Majors, plus he does rack up a huge amount of strikeouts (typical of sinkerball pitchers).  Knowing Neal Huntington's love of sinkerballers, Porcello would seem like a natural fit.

Here's the interesting part about Porcello -- even though he has nearly 4 full seasons, Porcello still has 3 years of control left for either the Tigers or whatever team trades for him.  How is that possible?  It's possible because Porcello officially has 3 years and 170 days of service time.  In baseball terms, a year is considered 172 days.  Because the Tigers brought Porcello up a week into the 2009 season, they were able to buy a nearly full year of service from Porcello (he made 31 starts) and still reap the benefits of him to the maximum -- he pitched 170 innings a pitched to a 3.96 ERA/4.77 FIP/4.27 xFIP and produced 2 WAR as a 20 year old.

Because of those 2 days saved, Porcello became a Super 2 player in 2012 and was arbitration-eligible for the first time this year.  For Porcello's 2nd year of 4 in his Super 2 progression, he is projected to earn $4.7M.  Porcello has consistently produced 2 to 2.9 WAR in each of his 4 years, so he is a steal for his projected salaries going forward.  Imagine if he actually had a halfway decent defense behind him to catch some of his 52.3% ground ball ratio.

The moral of this story is that Super 2 is not something to be scared of or be concerned about as a fan.  The Tigers maximized their use of Porcello and could essentially have him for 7 full seasons.  The Pirates' Super 2 candidate, Neil Walker, has 2 years 166 days of service time, but approximately 30 days of that time is from his cameo appearance in September 2009.  The Pirates brought him up in late May 2010 for good, so they didn't reap the full amount of the season like the Tigers did with Porcello.

Teams have a financial interest to keep their players out of Super 2 status.  Instead of 3 full years at minimum scale and 3 years of arbitration, a Super 2 player has 2 full years of minimum scale (plus whatever time accrued during the call-up year) and 4 years of arbitration.  It's pricier for the team, of course, but for a team like the Tigers the benefits of a quality full year definitely outweigh the cost down the road.  If a player is good enough to help a team, he should be brought up just after the start of a season to gain the extra year of control -- Super 2 be damned.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

DBS Top 30 Prospects 2013 -- #15 to #11

We're now moving in to the top half of the Top 30.  Candidates can not exceed the eligibility requirements of 130 at-bats, 50 innings pitched, or 30 relief appearances.  The number in parentheses is the player's age as of July 1, 2013.

#15. Justin Wilson, LHP (25), AAA/MLB -- Wilson has been groomed as a starter ever since his selection as a 5th round pick in 2008.  His control issues have followed him at every stop, with his BB/9 routinely greater than 4.50.  This year, Wilson pitched 135 innings and only allowed 91 hits, complete with 138 K's but also 66 walks (just under 4.50 walks/9 innings).  Wilson made his debut this year as a reliever with the Pirates.  His future is most likely as a power lefty out of the bullpen to highlight his mid-90's fastball and excellent slider.

#14. Jose Osuna, 1B (20), A+ -- While most of the attention was on Alen Hanson and Gregory Polanco this year at West Virginia, Jose Osuna quietly had a nice season for a 19-year old.  His final line was .280/.342/.454 (779 OPS).  His strikeout rate was less than 20% of his at-bats, which is great for a young power hitter that hit 16 home runs.  His defense at first leaves a lot to be desired, so Osuna will have to continue to become a masher.  He'll move up to Bradenton in 2013 along with Polanco and Hanson to form a great core of the lineup.

#13. Dilson Herrera, 2B/SS (19), SS/A -- Herrera has all the earmarks of being the "Alen Hanson of 2013" for the Pirates.  Like Hanson, he's a smallish middle infielder that had a great short-season debut, as Herrera hit .281/.341/.482 (823 OPS) with 7 HR's and 11 SB's.  And like Hanson, Herrera's K rate of 20% is a touch too high for a player of his size and batting profile.  Herrera has excellent arm strength, but he played primarily at 2B due to range concerns.  It seems as if Hanson will make the jump to West Virginia, like Hanson, but there is the possibility that he will go to Jamestown in short-season.  Either way, he's one to watch as a huge breakout candidate in 2013.

#12. Tony Sanchez, C (25), AAA/MLB -- There is no more maligned/star-crossed pick in the Pirates' system than Sanchez.  The player accused of being a signability pick in 2009 started off quite well in his career.  He then broke his jaw twice, once by a pitch and once in a fight, which has in turn coincided with a downturn in his offensive performance.  A player once cited as a potential Yadier Molina is now seen by some as a backup at the Major League level.  The Russell Martin signing may be the strongest indicator of that.  Sanchez hit a combined .251/.338/.401 (739 OPS) between AA/AAA in 2012, with all 8 of his home runs at the AAA level.  His defensive skills are without reproach, as many scouts feel he is defensively ready right now.  2013 is a defining year for Sanchez on many different levels.

#11. Alex Dickerson, 1B (23), AA -- Coming out of college, Dickerson was seen as a bat-first 1B.  However, to this point his bat has not developed as strongly as expected.  His line in 2012 was .295/.353/.451 (804 OPS) at Bradenton with only 13 home runs.  Neither his OPS or home run count is where it needs to be in order for Dickerson to considered a full-time 1B at the Major League level.  Dickerson is here as much on pedigree and the lack of other appropriate options.  Dickerson is a prime candidate to drop far on this list if his offensive profile doesn't pick up in 2013.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

DBS Top 30 Prospects 2013 -- #20 to #16

We'll keep on chugging along with 5 more prospects that hope to don the buccaneer togs one day.  Age in parentheses is as of July 1, 2013 and the class designation is the player's potential level in 2013.

#20 Robbie Rowland, RHP (21), A+ -- The Pirates obtained Brett Lorin in the Ian Snell/Jack Wilson trade back in 2009.  Lorin made his way through the Pirates system, but was never interesting enough for them to warrant protecting on the 40 man roster.  The Diamondbacks selected Lorin in the Rule 5 draft last offseason.  As the regular season approached, though, they felt they couldn't keep Lorin on the major league roster, so a trade was worked out with the Pirates.  Rowland was the piece that came back.  In his first 2 years, Rowland couldn't get out of short-season with the Diamondbacks and had some control problems.  With the Pirates, Rowland had him arm slot lowered and he went to a sinkerballer delivery with great success.  In 106 innings, he allowed 110 hits, walked only 23 and struck out 62.  Rowland's youth and low 90's fastball makes him an interesting prospect to follow in 2013.

#19 Andy Oliver, LHP (25), AAA/MLB -- Hot off the presses!  Oliver was obtained last week for midgety catching prospect Ramon Cabrera from the Tigers.  Oliver has some MLB experience, but not enough innings to disqualify himself from the list.  Oliver has been rushed through the Tigers' farm system and his control has suffered greatly.  In 118 innings at AAA this year, Oliver allowed 103 hits and struck out 112, but he walked a mind-numbing 88.  In 31 total innings in the majors, Oliver has walked 21.  He has a power arm with mid-90's heat, but it won't help if he can't harness it.  His best future seems to be as a power lefty out of the bullpen, so think of him as an even more control-challenged Justin Wilson.

#18 Bryan Morris, RHP (26), AAA/MLB -- Morris will be out of options in 2013, so he will need to be on the roster or risk being lost to another team.  Morris is the only remaining piece from the Jason Bay trade.  With his conversion from starter to reliever full time in 2012, Morris profiles as a closer or setup man due to high-90's heat and excellent slider.  If Hanrahan is traded as expected, Jason Grilli will be the closer and Morris should apprentice as his setup man.  Morris is ranked here due to his ceiling only being a bullpen guy and his advanced age.

#17 Barrett Barnes, OF (21), A -- Barnes was a supplemental 1st round draft pick by the Pirates in 2012 and is said to be a 4-tool potential player (his range may push him to a corner).  Barnes had a nice debut for the Pirates, albeit one truncated by injury, with a .288/.401/.456 (857 OPS) line for State College with 5 HR's and 10 SB's.  Barnes is getting a lot of burn, with some national services putting him in the top 10 for the Pirates, but I think it's just a touch too early for that.  Barnes is expected to have a nice full season for West Virginia in 2013.

#16 Jordy Mercer, SS (26), AAA/MLB -- Mercer is a difficult player to rank, as his age is pushing him down the list even with his premium position of shortstop.  Mercer spent a lot of calendar time with the Pirates, but he only received 62 at-bats in Pittsburgh and put up a 636 OPS.  Mercer, like Morris at #18, are not going to be on this list next year regardless due to being 27 in 2014.  Both will probably also exceed the eligibility limits, as well.  Hopefully Mercer can demonstrate he will be more than a utility infielder in 2013.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pizza Party!

So Stevie Numbers invited DB~ and I to his Christmas party last Saturday night.  He didn't really give us a heads up, so we just figured, "Show up, drink some eggnog, have a green/red sprinkled cookie, call it a night."

When we walked in, there were probably about 20 of Steve and his wife's friends (most were his fraternity brothers from college, it seemed) and half of them were jammed into the kitchen.  There was Steve, flour covering his face, working like a dervish rolling out pizza dough.  Apparently, his "Christmas party" is his annual Pizza Party.  He planned on making 9, count 'em, 9 different pizzas from scratch.

His oven was cranked up to 465 and his first pizza dough was tossed on to the pizza stone.  It was a pretty interesting concept -- each dough was the same....flour, yeast, water, and some 4th ingredient.  Then each pizza is topped with different toppings and finished with the same mozzarella cheese.  Each pizza was baked for only 8 minutes or so.

First up was Buffalo Chicken.  This pizza was a good opener -- it kind of had an appetizer feel.

Next up was a Garlic Shrimp in Wine Sauce pizza.  It was a simple design but full of flavor.

The third pizza was perhaps our mutual favorite pizza -- a Pear Bacon pizza.  Steve rendered some bacon and reserved the fat.  He carmelized some pears in brown sugar and then drizzled the bacon fat over the pears and bacon placed on the dough.  What is it about Pears and Bacon that make them match up so well?

The pizzas kept rolling out every 10 minutes or so.  Next up was a Barbecue Ranch Chicken pizza that had just enough BBQ sauce, but not too much to overwhelm the seasonings.

The fifth pizza was a real artisinal treat -- a Wonton pizza with wontons that Steve made from scratch and topped on to the pizza.  The Asian flavors on the wonton, coupled with the mozzarella, were very tasty and just not the type of pizza you typically taste.

Steve's 6th pizza was a Veggie pizza (he called it a Sellout pizza, I think) with red peppers, mushrooms, and other veggies.  With all the chicken and BBQ and meat-ish flavors, it was good for DB~ to have a veggie choice.

Just as we were leaving, Steve unveiled a 7th pizza called Chicken Fried Steak with Sausage Gravy.  I just had a tiny square, but the Sausage Gravy was an inspired choice to put on a pizza.

It was a tremendous amount of work for Steve, but this was something that he obviously loves doing and everyone in attendance was a huge fan of the pizzas.  It's hard to eat a pizza on a Boboli crust now, that's for sure.  It kind of inspired me to try and make my own pizza dough in the future.

Friday, December 7, 2012

DBS Top 30 Prospects 2013 - #25 to #21

Let's keep rolling along after the first edition of this series was met with wide regard.

#25 Tyler Glasnow, RHP (19), SS/A -- Glasnow is a gigantor, standing 6'-7" and possessing a high-90's fastball already.  Chronologically, Glasnow is only a few months older than Luis Heredia, but he ranks lower than Heredia due to Glasnow being a little less refined and playing all of 2012 in the GCL.  His stats were fantastic in the GCL, as he pitched 34 innings and allowed only 19 hits while striking out 40 and walking 16. The walks are a touch troublesome, but it really is a small sample.  In short, if Glasnow joins Heredia at West Virginia next year and continues to refine his arsenal, he could be a hard charger next year.

#24 Willy Garcia, OF (20), A+ -- Garcia had the misfortune of playing on the same team in 2012 as two of minor league baseball's breakout stars, in Gregory Polanco and Alen Hansen.  Garcia showed a great deal of home run power (18), but his swing-and-miss (131 K's versus only 32 walks in 459 at-bats) and low average of .240 takes some of the shine off.  His overall line of .240/.286/.403 (689 OPS) reminds me a touch of Rogelios Noris from a few years back, but Garcia's tools are much louder than Noris's tools ever were.  Garcia still has youth on his side and plenty of time to prove himself.

#23 Adalberto Santos, OF (25), AAA -- Santos had a breakout year at the plate, albeit one interrupted by some injures, posting a .340/.425/.433 line at AA.  However, like Brock Holt in the previous set, Santos isn't really much of a factor defensively and does not have much power.  He did have a fair steal rate in 2012, so perhaps the 22nd round pick can make it in 2013 to The Show as a bench OF bat at some point.

#22 Vic Black, RHP (25), AAA -- Black was a 2009 supplemental pick for the Pirates being unable to sign Tanner Scheppers the previous year.  Black's progress has been slowed by injuries and a somewhat silly attempt to use him as a starter instead of fast-tracking him as a reliever.  Black has high 90's heat and a plus slider, but his control is lacking at times.  His 2012 was fantastic with 60 IP, 40 hits allowed, 29 walks, and 85 strikeouts.  Black's upside is most likely that of a setup man and if all goes well, he could see Pittsburgh at the end of 2013.

#21 Wyatt Mathisen, C (19), SS/A -- Mathisen is a rare bird in the Pirates' system -- a high school catcher drafted out of the U.S.  Joey Schoenfeld was the only other catcher so taken under Huntington, but he never amounted to anything.  Mathisen is a very athletic player and represents the Pirates best chance to develop a two-way catcher in the mold of Buster Posey.  Mathisen ranks at this point due his long road ahead of him, plus the odds of a high school catcher making the Majors is slim due to attrition.  Mathisen's placement and performance in 2013 will be interesting to follow.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

DBS Top 30 Prospects 2013 -- #30 to #26

It's that time of year again -- prospect ranking time!  Most of my follower(s) are here for my thoughts on food or the City, but this is my self-indulgent time to order grown men into numerical alignments and wax poetic on their futures.

Ground rules -- 130 at-bats, 50 innings pitched, or 30 relief appearances in the majors exhausts your eligibility.  So bid adieu to Starling Marte and Jeff Locke.  Guys that were traded such as Robbie Grossman, Rudy Owens, Colton Cain, and Gorkys Hernandez (not that he would have made it) are off as well.

As I get more gray in my hair, I'm becoming a bigger proponent of "proximity to the majors".  The way I evaluate prospects is two-fold:
1) What is the player's ultimate ceiling?
2) What is the likelihood that he will reach it?

2 has to do with injury history, location on the rungs on the minor league ladder, and other non-performance factors (drugs with Zack Dodson, for instance).  So with that said, let's tackle the first five.  The number in parentheses is the player's age for the 2013 season, using the standard July 1st cutoff date.  I'm forecasting the level they may start at, as well.

#30 Gift Ngeope, 2B/SS (23), AA -- Without a doubt, Ngoepe is the top middle infielder prospect from South Africa in the minors.  The minor disclaimer is that he is the only player, regardless of position, from South Africa in all of the minors.  Ngeope has a heartwarming story that makes you root for him (cliff notes -- he was so dirt poor that he slept in the locker room of a field, because his mom was the janitor).  Ngeope's 2012 triple slash line was weak at .232/.330/.338 (668 OPS), but his hands are smooth and his range is fantastic.  He had 22 steals, albeit in 36 attempts and hit 9 homers, so there are enough things here to keep him on the radar.

#29 Brock Holt, 2B (25), AAA/MLB -- Holt had one of those years with the bat that makes everyone take notice.  He started in AA and proceeded to hit .332/.389/.432 (821 OPS) while faking it at shortstop over 102 games.  He got bumped up to AAA and went bananas in 24 games with a .432/.476/.537 (1013 OPS).  When Neil Walker started to battle thumb and back injuries, Holt was called up to the majors and hit .292/.329/.354 (683 OPS).  The problem is that he does not have the arm for SS at the major league level and he has little to no power.  If everything breaks right, Holt could be a slightly better version of Josh Harrison.

#28 Jake Burnette, RHP (20), A -- Burnette was an over slot signing back in 2011 during the halycon days when MLB allowed small market teams to better themselves through the draft.  So far, Burnette's progress has been slow and marked with some minor injuries.  Burnette only pitched 21 innings at State College in 2012 with a shockingly low 8 K's in those innings, set against 6 walks.  Small sample size and all, but let's hope Burnette was fine-tuning his fastball command and not lacking a go-to strikeout pitch.

#27 Phil Irwin, RHP (26), AAA -- Pound for pound, Irwin may have had the best season for a pitcher in the Pirates' system.  Irwin pitched primarily at AA, but he got 4 starts at Indy at the end of the year, too.  Overall, he pitched 130 innings with 119 hits, 24 walks, and 117 strikeouts.  This was a marked uptick from his previous years.  So why so low?  It's that number in the parentheses above -- his age of 26.  Irwin projects as a #4 or #5 starter due to his average fastball and lack of a plus pitch.  He's jammed up on the pecking order, too, behind the Major League rotation, Jeff Locke, Kyle McPherson, and Gerrit Cole poised to jump to the majors in June.

#26 Joely Rodriguez, LHP (21), A -- If you've read these before, you know I have a weakness for lefties with any modicum of speed on their fastball.  It's just such an asset to not give up on.  Rodriguez has battled minor injuries here and there, so his 64 innings at State College represents a career high.  His low 90's fastball (touches 92-93) keeps him here for now.  His lack of K's (32) may be troubling.  Hopefully he jumps up to West Virginia in 2013 and we see what the Pirates really have.