Wednesday, February 29, 2012

1 down, 2 to go

My main Topps collecting goal this year besides getting base team sets was to get the 2012 Topps Pirates team set in black parallels.  I've been adding them as I've seen them pop up on ebay and was recently able to add this Jose Tabata 2/61 to my collection.
Only Jeff Karstens and Neil Walker remain for me to collect from Series 1.  Then it's a couple months waiting before I have to worry about Series 2.  This is going to be an expensive parallel set to complete.

Can anyone help me out?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Pirates Top Pitching Prospects

Here's a listing of the Pirates Top 10 Prospects heading into the 2012 season by

1. Jameson Taillon
2. Gerrit Cole
3. Starling Marte
4. Josh Bell
5. Stetson Allie
6. Luis Heredia
7. Tony Sanchez8. Robbie Grossman
9. Jeff Locke
10. Justin Wilson

I covered Marte, Bell, and Grossman in my previous posts on outfielders of the future and have talked extensively about Tony Sanchez in the past.  Since everyone else on this list is a pitcher, I plan on talking about the Pirates top pitching prospects and some that didn't make the Top 10 overall list.  I'm not going to focus too much on Gerrit Cole or Jameson Taillon.  Their exposure over the past two seasons should speak for themselves.  Both are ranked in the top 15 of all prospects in baseball.  To the best of my knowledge, the Pirates have never had 2 pitchers rank that high. So instead of getting scouting reports on both of them, you just get to see these cards below. I am so excited to see these guys come up together and see them both become top of the rotation starters for the Pirates.
Taillon 2010 Bowman Chrome AUTO
 Taillon 2011 OBak
 Taillon 2011 Obak Oversized Box Topper (Mike Trout on back) 
numbered 9/80
Taillon 2009 UD USA Future Watch
AUTO/Jersey 555/899
Taillon 2009 UD USA By the Letter "S" AUTO 9/100

As if you couldn't tell I like to collect Jameson Taillon.  The guy has filthy pitches.

Gerrit Cole 2009 UD USA By the Letter "A" AUTO 41/100

Cole/Hosmer/Beckham 2008 OMR Draft Future Stars

Stetson Allie 2011 Heritage Minors Red Tint 355/620
Drafted in the 2nd round the same year the Pirates selected Jameson Taillon is Stetson Allie.  Allie was viewed as a 1st round talent for his radar busting heat he throws.  Despite not having much pitching experience in his career, he's still viewed as the Pirates 3rd best pitching prospect due to his upside. Allie throws hard, really really hard (clocked at up to 100MPH) but he lacks control.  In 2011 while a member of the State College Spikes (short season A ball) Allie had a monsterously high 10BB/9.  This lead to an inflated WHIP (1.88) and ERA (6.58).  Despite the lack of control, he still managed over a strikeout per inning which is a good sign.  Allie must continue to focus on his fastball control if he wishes to become a MLB starter or future closer for the Pirates. 
2011 Leaf Metal Black Valiant 4/5 AUTO

What's not to love about a 16 year old that can throw in the mid90s?  That's what many teams asked when top Latin American pitching prospect Luis Heredia became age eligible to sign.  It's far too early to project Heredia as he's barely old enough to drive in some states.  However in 30 IP in the Gulf Coast leage, Heredia racked up 23 punchouts while only surrendering 3 homeruns.  He will most likely begin the season in short season State College to continue his advance. 

Jeff Locke and Justin Wilson were part of the "Altoona 4" pitching staff that won the Eastern League Championship for the Altoona Curve in 2010.  Justin Wilson was named MVP of that series by averaging a K per inning and surrendering shoutout innings. 

Locke was aquired along with Charlie Morton and Gorkys Hernandez from the Braves farm system as part of the 2009 trade that sent beloved fan favorite Nate McLouth to Atlanta.  Locke began the 2011 season repeating in AA before a midseason promotion to AAA.  In September, Locke was called up to began his MLB career when he faced the Florida Marlins on September 10th.  Locke struggled with his command in his first 4 professional outings, but looks to be able to contend for a rotation spot when the season start should the Pirates need a spot start or injuries to the staff occur. 

Justin Wilson has been moving up the minor league 1 level per season since being drafted out of college.  He struggled in AAA Indy last year and was moved to the bullpen to finish out the year.  His fastball velocity increased once the move happened and was clocked at up to 99MPH which is incredibly hard for a lefty.  If he can work on his command, his hard throwing fastball and off speed breaking balls should enable him to see time in Pittsburgh before the year is over.

Outside of the Pirates Top 10 prospects exist guys like Kyle McPherson, Zach Von Rosenberg, Colton Cain, Trent Stevenson, and Clay Holmes.  All were selected out of high school and could project to be solid pitchers in the Pirates future.  While they don't have the pure heat of guys like Cole, Taillon, Heredia, or Allie they all show good signs.

When discussing Pirates pitching prospects who have shown success in 2011, Kyle McPherson comes to mind.  Voted the Pirates minor league pitcher of the year, McPherson started in Bradenton (A) before being promoted to Altoona (AA) to finish out the year.  During his breakout campaign in 2011, McPherson controlled the strike zone very well, averaging just a hair under 8K/9 while maintaining a 1.02 WHIP.  He will continue to develop in AAA and may see time in Pittsburgh by the end of the 2012 season.

 ZVR 2010 Tristar Opak AUTO 27/50
ZVR 2010 Tristar Pursuit Green AUTO 24/25
 ZVR 2009 Donruss Elite Extra Edition AUTO 384/770

Zach Von Rosenberg or ZVR as I will refer to him from now is the kind of pitcher that the Pirates like to draft in recent years.  He's tall, throws hard, and is very projectable out of high school.  Despite giving up a freakishly amount of homeruns to start the 2011 season, ZVR showed great improvements during the 2nd half finishing with a 8.2 K/9.  He will most likely begin the season in playing A ball in Bradenton.

Trent Stevenson threw a very impressive 11 strikeouts per 9 innings as a junior at Brophy Jesuit Prep.  The 6-foot-6 righty struggled in West Virginia (low A) last season and was demoted to short season State College.  His command over his minor league career has been pretty good (1.92 BB/9), but he hasn't missed many bats either as hitters get an average of 1.22 HIP.  I think that if he can just retool his mechanics to better hide the ball, he will become a better pitcher and start to increase his K/9 which currently sits at only 4.4.

I've mentioned Colton Cain on this blog before and think that he is the best LHP prospect the Pirates have.  He throws in the mid90s and is a very polished pitcher despite being in only short season A ball.  If he can continue to improve and pound the strike zone, he should start moving up the system quicker.

 2011 Donruss Elite Extra Edition Aspirations AUTO 40/100
Clay Holmes was the top pitching prep arm in Alabama entering the 2011 draft.  The Pirates had to go well over slot to sign him away from his Auburn commitment and has not yet made his minor league debut.  As a senior, he struck out 89 while pitching only 60 innings.  He has the projection to be a front of the rotation power arm due to his raw tools.  It may take a few more years for him to develop than all the other pitching prospects the Pirates have in the system, but when he hits the majors WATCH OUT!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

I got a Matt Purke AUTO

Going into the 2011 draft, I wanted the Pirates to select Matt Purke number 1 overall.  That was before his injuries and arm concerns.  When Purke was still available in the 3rd round, I was thinking that he could be a steal in that round.  The Pirates passed on him and he eventually was drafted and signed by the Washington Nationals.  

Instead of Purke, the Pirates selected 1B/OF Alex Dickerson in the 3rd round out of Indiana.  Dickerson can hit for legitimate power and is a hitting machine.  In his first taste of professional ball at State College last year, he hit .313 with an OPS of .886.  He will need to cut down on his strikeouts, but could be fast tracked through the system due to a lack of depth at 1B.

Friday, February 24, 2012

How often do you see this?

It's not often that relief pitchers grab a bat, but 2010 All-Star Matt Capps actually has an on base percentage of .333.  He's 1 for 5 with a walk (2/6) in his career.  That's pretty damn good for a guy that is normally used to close out games for strictly an inning.  Here's an autograph rookie of Capps I recently picked up off ebay for $2.50 shipped.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Trade with Trey's Astros

Yesterday I received a package in the mail from Trey's Astros.  He saw the Lance Berkman I pulled last week and called dibs on it.  I feel terrible because I didn't get a chance to get it out to him until today.  Thanks for the trade Trey.  I hope you enjoyed the extra Astros I sent your way.

Here's what I got from Trey.
A nice 2007 Topps Chrome Blue Parallel Jason Bay and a 2012 Golden Greats Roberto Clemente.  I still need the GG-38 of Clemente.

This is the card that we agreed upon for the trade.  The Bay Chrome and Clemente Golden Greats were bonuses.  I don't know how I feel about these retired number cards.  I'm not a huge fan of manupatches, but this is unique enough that I kind of like it.  However, it doesn't resemble the way the numbers are retired at PNC Park which is kind of a let down.  Below is a picture of Clemente's number on the Clemente wall in PNC Park.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pirates Future Outfield pt3

Concluding my posts on the future of the Pirates outfield where I have already looked at Robbie Grossman and Starling Marte, I will now take a look at 2011 2nd round draft pick Josh Bell.  Josh Bell was seen as a top 10 talent in the 2011 draft, but sent out a letter to teams stating he intended to go to college and did not want to be drafted.  With the 1st pick of the 2nd day, Pirates GM Neal Huntington selected Josh Bell with the intent to get him signed.  Recognizing that the new CBA rules would limit the amount of money the Pirates could spend in the amateur draft, the Pirates figured that worst case scenario they would have a protected pick for the 2012 class.

In the final seconds of the signing deadline the Pirates announced that they had agreed to a $5 million signing bonus with Bell.  It was the largest signing bonus ever given to a 2nd round draft pick.  This has lead to many of the large market teams saying it was unfair what the Pirates did.  I say thanks for paying 2/3 of AJ Burnett's salary to those large market teams. 
 Josh Bell 2011 Elite Extra Edition Elite Series AUTO 48/50

I think that the new CBA rules lack any sense of reasonability though.  The Pirates in 2011 had the 8th worse record in all baseball, but get the 16th most draft pool money.  How is that fair?  Every team in their division gets more money to allocate towards the draft including the World Series Champions St. Louis Cardinals.  Personally, I think Bud Selig just has it out for the Pirates.  That's the end of my rant.
Josh Bell 2011 Donruss Elite Extra Edition AUTO 136/692

We now return to our regularly scheduled program.  Pirates Future Outfielders Part 3
Josh Bell profiles as a power switch hitting right fielder.  In his senior season at Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas, Bell hit .548 with 54 RBI and 54 Runs scored while only striking out 5 times in 147 plate appearances.  He also hit 14 HRs his senior season.  His bat should enable him to move up the ladder quickly through the minors and could be major league ready by the end of 2014 (one year before Andrew McCutchen becomes  a free agent).

Both of the above pictured autographed cards were the most expensive cards I have ever bought of a Pirates prospect before they took one professional swing or pitch.  However, I feel so strongly that Josh Bell is going to be ridiculously good and may be an All-Star for many years to come. 

I'm looking forward to seeing all of the Pirates athletic outfielders in the future.  Now if they could only improve the pitching....

Join me this weekend as I look at some of the Pirates top arms in the farm system.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pirates Future Outfield pt2

Continuing where I left off yesterday, I'm going to take a look at another young outfielder that could join Starling Marte in the future outfield for the Pirates.  That individual is none other than Robbie Grossman.  While many suspect that his upside isn't that high, Grossman's continued progress throughout his minor league career suggests that he has huge upside when developed properly.  Keith Law ranked Grossman 86th overall while MLB.COM didn't have him ranked in the top 100.

Robbie Grossman was selected in the 6th round of the 2008 draft out of high school.  He began his career in A- ball and showed that he was outmatched striking out 164 times with only 28 extra base hits and 75 walks.  The following year, he began in A ball for the Bradenton Marauders.  While not great numbers he showed improvement in all areas especially plate discipline.  In 2011 he repeated in Bradenton as a 21 year old which as an age appropriate level.  He thrived and became the first player to have 100 runs scored and 100 walks in a season since Nick Swisher.  We all know that Swisher is one of the better OF in the game now so that's a great sign for Grossman.

Here's a look at his development over the past three seasons
2009- 164 K/ 75 BB/ 28 XBH
2010- 118 K/ 66 BB/ 36 XBH
2011- 111 K/ 104 BB/ 49 XBH

He also shows signs of a smart baserunner swiping nearly 20 bags each season in the minors.  20/20 potential is certainly within his limit at this pace. 

2012 will be a huge year in terms of understanding what Grossman's ceiling is.  He will receive a non roster invitation to Spring Training this year so the Pirates front office heads were obviously turned by last year's numbers.  In addition to dominating in Bradenton, he continued to mash in the Arizona Fall League.  I suspect Robbie will begin in AA and earn a promotion to AAA if his numbers are strong enough.  He may become a useful bench player for the Pirates come September as Grossman is also a switch hitter.

Only time will tell what Grossman is truly capable of on the field.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Pirates Future Outfield pt1

Looking into the crystal ball can be a little scary to think about fan favorite free agents leaving after only 6 years with a team especially if you're a "small market" team like the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Part of the Pirates biggest issue in the past two decades was not having a core in place with a development plan for succession after free agency hits.  Starting pitching has also been a HUGE problem, but more on that in a later post.

The Pirates currently have one of the fastest and youngest outfields in all of baseball, but it's also one of the most drained for power too.  Only Andrew McCutchen looks like he could become a 20 HR guy.  However, the havoc that Jose Tabata, Alex Presley, and McCutchen can cause on the base paths could mean lots of fastballs to guys like Pedro Alvarez and Garrett Jones.  This could result in lots of stolen bases for the 3 mentioned outfielders and 450 foot blasts coming from Jones and Alvarez. 

But...what happens in 2015 when Andrew McCutchen becomes a free agent after the final game of the World Series?  Will he still be in Pittsburgh through that time?  I suspect not, and that saddens me greatly since he's my favorite active player on any team in any sport. 

Fret not though, cause there's lots of hope coming up from the minors and at least one of them should be ready for a big league callup by midseason 2012. 

The first to appear in Pittsburgh will most likely be Starling Marte, who is currently ranked 40th on MLB's top 100.  Marte won the Eastern League batting title in 2011 when he batted .332 for the (AA) Altoona Curve as a 22 year old.  Marte was on a great path in 2010 also, but was injured with a broken hammate bone. 

In 2011 he was elected to participate in the 2011 Futures Game to represent the World Team. He batted 1 for 3 in the game.  In case you're wondering, yes that's a 1/1 Logoman patch from 2011 Bowman pictured above.  

Marte has 5 tool potential and could eventually be the guy that pushes Andrew McCutchen to a corner outfield position.  He takes good routes in the outfield and has incredible arm strenth.  Last year he threw a ball in from the outfield to the catcher and the radar gun was left on.  It clocked his throw at over 100MPH.  That shit is crazy.  He won't hit for a ton of power but could be a 15HR guy which is nice at an elite position like CF.  He's a smart baserunner and could swipe up to 30 bags a year.  On top of that his slugging percentage hovers around .500 each season.  I suspect that he will stretch a lot of singles into doubles throughout his career.  His only drawback is that he doesn't walk a lot.  He has only 73 walks in over 1,400 at bats in his minor league career.  

I'm going to try and pick up as many Marte cards as possible now before he becomes the next Roberto Clemente and prices on his cards sky rocket.  Ok, maybe he won't be the next Roberto Clemente, but his tools show that he may have upside of Clemente.  Also, Clemente didn't take many free passes throughout his career.  By Clemente's age 22 season he had accumulated only a bit over 70 walks in his minor and major league career over 1,800 at bats.  Marte had 73 in a bit over 1,400. 

I don't know what the future may bring Starling Marte and the Pittsburgh Pirates, but I do know it's going to be fun to watch him play in PNC Park in the future especially when you combine him and the two guys I will feature tomorrow.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Eric Hosmer 2012 SP For trade/sale

I just pulled a 2012 Topps Eric Hosmer photo variant SP.  Let me know if anyone wants to trade for it.

Pirates Prospect Profile: Gorkys Hernandez

Today, I will highlight one of the Pirates lesser known prospects.

Gorkys Hernandez (Altoona Curve)
2010 Topps Pro Debut series 2
All-Star Futures Game Jersey gold border numbered 11/25

Gorkys Hernandez came to the Bucs as part of the 2009 Atlanta trade that sent fan favorite Nate McLouth away.  I still laugh at that trade because it was basically a 2 1/2 year free rental for players like Jeff Locke, Charlie Morton, and Gorkys Hernandez.  Nate is back with the Pirates for less than a quarter what he was making in Atlanta.  Oh sweet irony.

Getting back to the scouting report on Gorkys.  The guy can flat out field.  He is currently the Pirates best defensive outfielder in the system and has been since the day he got traded from Atlanta.  The one time Tigers prospect will be turning 24 this year so he will need to improve his plate discipline more (4:1 k/bb rate).  He also will never hit for power.  He only has 6 homeruns in over 1,200 at bats since joining the Pirates minor league system.  He could however prove a useful role similiar to what Xavier Paul did for the Pirates last year.  Possibly being a defensive replacement or pinch runner late in games.  The Pirates have so much talent coming in the next couple years in regards to athletic outfielders that I wouldn't be surprised to see Gorkys get traded as part of a package to land a pitcher. 

Prior to the 2011 season Gorkys was ranked 15th on the Pirates prospects list.  That number has since dropped with the acquisitions of Gerrit Cole, Josh Bell, Clay Holmes, and Alex Dickerson.  Not to mention breakout performances by Kyle McPherson and Matt Curry.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

trade with Drews Cards

A couple days ago I received a package from Drews Cards.  This is my first time trading with Drew and he knocked this trade out of the park.

The two main cards that I wanted were this Freddy Sanchez 2008 UD Game Jersey and Jason Bay 2007 UD Masterpieces Stroke of Genius AUTO.  I'm up to 32 Jason Bay hits now. 

Drew didn't stop there though.  He threw in a plethora of Pirates for my collection, many of which I didn't already have.  Amongst the two team bags he sent the below cards.

To start off is this 1974 Dave Parker rookie card.  The Cobra is one of my favorite players of yesteryear that I never got to see play in person.  Watching highlight films of him and having the 1979 WS DVD though I can see why he was such an electrifying player in the 70s and 80s.  I don't have many cards from the 1974 set and am happy to be able to cross this one off my needs.  Thanks for this card Drew.  I flipped the heck out when I saw it in the pile.

For comedy reasons I will show the lack of quality control at our favorite sports cards manufacturers.  It frustrates me when card companies can't get the product right.  Who is Pat Maholm?  Why is Ronny Cedeno pictured on Jose Tabata's card?  C'mon Topps and Upper Deck. Get your shit together.  Fans notice this crap.  I've been wanting to add the "Tabata" card to my collection since I saw it on the sell list, but when I saw it on ebay and COMC with that bum Cedeno pictured I refused to ever buy that card for my "Tabata" collection.  Thanks to Drew I didn't have to buy it.  Now the question is do I organize it with my Tabata collection in a binder or file it with all the other bums that have played in Pittsburgh.  Yes Ronny Cedeno, I'm talking about you.

He also included 5 Ryan Doumit cards that I previously didn't have as part of my PC.  I love that mini.

I also got a handful of Jason Bay cards that I previously didn't own.  I'm hoping Bay has a bounceback year this year.  He was always such a great ball player and I would hate to see his career continue to regress in NY like so many other ex greats have had their careers die for the Mets. 

And finally here's some of my other favorites.  Even though Aki Iwamura was absolutely terrible for the Bucs in 2010, he did have a cool looking T206 card.  I've been wanting to add that Paul Maholm Gypsy Queen since GQ came out.  I never bought a single pack of Gypsy Queen because I didn't like the overall player selection.  The design is sweet though. 

He included many more cards, but do you guys really want to see the likes of Shawn Chacon, Tom Gorzelanny, Jack Wilson, and Jeff Karstens? Probably not, but you're going to have to deal with it.   
I'm sorry for the busted face grouping of these guys, but it just worked out that way.

Thanks again Drew for the great trade.  I'm looking forward to trading with you again.  I have a bunch more Jets if you want them including two more jersey cards (Braylon Edwards and Leon Washington).  I'll get them scanned for you sometime this week.