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Category Archives: Pittsburgh Pirates

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Pittsburgh Pirates Prospect Review: Nick Kingham

The Pittsburgh Pirates season is over and the championship series is still going on.  No moves to bolster the 2019 Pirates can be made, so it’s time to review some prospects for the next few weeks.
There’s many ways to build a baseball team – through the draft, free agency, trades – but having a strong farm system is always a nice added bonus as it allows for more depth and trade options.  Unfortunately for the Pittsburgh Pirates, their farm system isn’t strong.  It’s a rather average system using the Fangraphs rankings(the ranking that will be used in this post and further posts related to reviewing the Pirates prospects this past year.
Rankings change overtime, and because of that this series will be encompassed of two main time frames: start of season and end of season.  No mid-season changes will be mentioned.
The start of the series focused on guys who were off the list at the end of season with some reason, likely a trade or graduating.  The next two parts will take a look at Nick Kingham and Jordan Luplow, two players who weren’t on the list to start and would have graduated by the end of the year.  Both players were listed as “other prospects of note” before the year began.
Overall, Nick Kingham made 13 starts for the Indianapolis Indians and 15 starts (18 games) with the Pittsburgh Pirates as he fluttered up and down the system throughout the year.  He has no options left so the Pirates will have to make a decision on the soon to be 27-year-old.
The former fourth round pick started off his career as best as he could hope, with seven shutout, one hit innings.  After that start, Kingham produced a 5.75 ERA, 6.16 FIP, struck out just 18.8 percent of batters, and opponents hit .276/.345/.548.
Part of that could be the up and down between Triple-A and the Major League level, but Kingham still struggled regardless of the reasoning.  Alex Stumpf at The Point of Pittsburgh suggested in July that Kingham could use an opener, but Kingham still had a 4.43 ERA and a 5.41 FIP.  An opener wouldn’t have helped him much.
Kingham pitched poorly, but given his pedigree he’s still likely a Major League arm in some capacity, despite the struggles in 2018.  However, where does he fit on the Pirates with no option remaining, with Clay Holmes being the most likely player to fill the 2019 Nick Kingham role?
The rotation is set with Taillon and Archer at the top, followed by Musgrove, Williams, and Nova.  Unless the Pirates look to dump Nova and his $9 million (a reasonable amount for a veteran reliever whose been around a 1.5 WARP pitcher in Pittsburgh if given 32 starts a year), there’s no spot readily available.
The natural second option would be the bullpen, but Vazquez, Kela, and Crick have the backend.  Rodriguez will look to move up a spot/get the Pirates out of trouble and the club will look to fill Santana’s spot.  That leaves two spots in the bullpen, one which will likely go to a left-handed pitcher and then perhaps a long man.
The Pirates don’t believe in LOOGY’s, so if Brault is the left-handed pitcher, that also takes care of a pitcher who can give length if the starter struggles or the game goes long.
The roster crunch will be fascinating this offseason for Kingham’s future.  He has no spot in the rotation, especially with top pitching prospect Mitch Keller being on the verge of a callup.  The bullpen has a solid core of four with a likely free agent replacing Santana with two spots.  Given the struggles that Kingham showed in 2018, maybe it’s best to part ways in either trade or try and bring him back on a minor league deal.  Regardless of what the future holds, it was a rough year for the righty.
*Numbers from baseball-reference

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Pittsburgh Pirates 2018 Report Card- Adam Frazier

Today we continue with our Pittsburgh Pirates 2018 report cards, by looking at Adam Frazier.
The 2018 campaign was an interesting one to say the least for Frazier.
He entered spring training competing for the starting left field job and suddenly the team acquired Corey Dickerson which left Frazier without a regular job.
Not getting regular at bats early in the season, Frazier was terrible and ultimately found himself demoted to Triple-A.
He eventually got the call back to the majors and suddenly Frazier was the best hitter in the Pirates lineup.
That roller coaster of a season likely leads Frazier into becoming the Pirates full-time second baseman next season.
So how did the 2018 season go for Frazier?
Frazier’s average of .277 and OBP of .342 were very similar to the .276 and .344 numbers he put up a year ago but the focus on hitting more balls in the air jumped his slugging from .399 last season to .456 this year.
He made an adjustment to start hitting the ball in the air more and it paid off as his fly ball rate jumped to 31.3 percent from 26.8 percent as Frazier clubbed 10 homers on the season.
Frazier had a productive August and September when he hit .299/.356/.524 with seven homers.
During that span, his fly ball rate was at 35.0 percent, his soft contact rate down to 14.6 percent and his hard contact rate all the way up to 46.0 percent.
But we can’t forget about the beginning of the season either when Frazier wasn’t very good.
He hit .231 in April, following that up with a .212 month of May. June and July saw him shuffling back between Indianapolis and Pittsburgh, before he started to settle in in August where he .338, followed by a .269 September.
But the early season struggles showed what type adjustments Frazier made.
The fly ball rate prior to August was at 27.3 percent. The soft contact up to 16.2 percent and the hard contact was only at 23.1 percent.
The adjustments paid off and will be interesting to see if Frazier can carry them onto next season.
Overall he was a 2.7 WAR player on the year, which was a full win improvement over 2017.
Frazier gets knocked for his defensive ability, but he put in some work with his glove and it showed.
While he will never be confused for a Gold Glove second baseman, he made strides and had a +4 DRS at second base this season to go along with a +3 DRS as an outfielder.
By comparison, the guys who he will be replacing in Josh Harrison had a -2 DRS in 2018.
Frazier will still botch the occasional play as he made seven errors on the season, five at second base.
But he’s starting to look the part of a regular second baseman and should make a majority of the plays that he’s expected to make.
Frazier took strides in that department this season
Frazier was really good late in the year and really bad early in the season so it averages out to an average year.
I like the strides he made to hit a few balls over the fence and become a better fielder.
I’m excited to see what he can do next season when he should get regular at bats all year. Not getting regular plate appearances early in the year could have contributed to his struggles.
Frazier will be the Pirates Opening Day second baseman in 2019 and deserving so.

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Pittsburgh Pirates 2018 Report Card- Josh Harrison

Today we continue with our Pittsburgh Pirates 2018 report cards, by looking at second baseman Josh Harrison.
Harrison made some noise in the offseason requesting a trade and it would have made sense for the Pirates to trade him then as throughout a miserable 2018 season, Harrison’s value plummeted to next to nothing.
After a decent two week stretch to start the season, Harrison missed a little over five weeks after he was plunked in the hand by a Jose Urena fastball resulting in a fractured fifth metacarpal in his left hand, the same injury that ended his 2017 season a month early.
Once Harrison returned, he wasn’t very good with the bat or the glove for the rest of the season.
Just how bad was Harrison in 2018?
Harrison never was much of a get on base kind of guy, but he was terrible in that department in 2018, posting a woeful .293 OBP.
That’s not a typo. In 374 plate appearances, Harrison managed an on base percentage of under .300.
His overall line of .250/.293/.363 was just as disappointing. All of which were the worst numbers of Harrison’s career, once he started getting regular at bats.
One thing that always endured Harrison to many Pirates fans was his hustle, but he wasn’t able to use that much as he had only 13 doubles and one triple on the season, also career-worst numbers.
The fact that he was never able to develop a sense for the strike zone was a killer as his K-rate jumped to 18.6 percent, after posting 16.6 and 14.6 numbers the past two seasons.
Coincidentally, the walk rate, which was never good to begin with, dropped to 4.8 percent, from 5.2 last year.
Once he started struggling Harrison started pulling the ball a lot more, 45.9 percent of the time, which was the highest number he posted in his MLB career.
Harrison posted a wRC+ of just 78 as the entire season didn’t go his way.
Typically a solid defender at any position across the diamond, the 2018 season wasn’t good for Harrison with the glove either.
After posting a DRS of +6 in 2017, Harrison was a -2 in that department this season. That’s an eight run swing from one season to the next.
He was credited with just six errors on the season, which was a little generous, but either way Harrison had is issues getting to and fielding the baseball.
In our preseason predictions article, I said Harrison would be the Pirates biggest disappointment in 2018.
If he wasn’t that then he should be in the conversation.
He’s never put back-to-back solid seasons together and that was the case this season as he was just a 0.3 WAR player, the least valuable season of his career. That’s a three win decrease from 2017, something this Pirates team really couldn’t afford.
It got to the point that Harrison ended up losing the second base job to Adam Frazier down the stretch as J-Hay received just 23 at bats in September.
I’m a Harrison fan as he’s one of the more genuine players I’ve ever talked to, but he’s just not doing much for me as a player right now.
There’s no way in the world the Pirates should pick up his option for next season, which means Harrison will be looking for a new home.
Hopefully in his case, he will have a better go of things in 2019 because the 2018 season should be one to forget for Harrison.

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