Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Pirates Rookie Cup Lineup Analysis: Every blogger should try to do this....

2005 Topps Rookie Cup Yellow 195/299
It struck me while I was putting away my latest Jason Bay card seen above that the Pirates haven't had too many Topps Rookie Cup winners over the years despite having a top 10 draft pick for nearly two decades.  Off the top of my head, in recent memory Cutch and Walker stood out to me.  So with that being said, I went through my binders from 1987 (my first year collecting baseball cards) and decided I would show off every Pittsburgh Pirate to have the Topps Rookie Cup.  As I was going through the 12 players selected to Topps Rookie teams, I noticed that essentially every position was filled.

Here's the lineup I came up with for the position players
Jason Kendall - C (R)
Andrew McCutchen - CF (R)
Neil Walker - 3B (S)
Jason Bay - LF (R)
Craig Wilson - 1B (R)
Warren Morris - 2B (L)
Jose Guillen - RF (R)
Al Pedrique - SS (R)
Bench Bat- Carlos Garcia (R)

First, some minor details...I put Walker at 3B because he played 6 games at the position in 2010 (which qualifies in fantasy baseball) and the Pirates don't have any Rookie Cup 3B winners, but have 3 that qualified as 2B (Morris, Walker, Garcia).  I think that Walker had the best statistical season as a rookie second baseman, BUT after putting him at 3rd, it came down to the side of the plate Garcia and Morris hit.  My lineup is already loaded with right handed bats so I went with Morris over Garcia.

Jason Kendall leading off and catcher was kind of a no brainer to me.  It was a place in the lineup that he was often used and he posted a ridiculous 35 walks to 30 strikeouts during his 1996 rookie season.  He would almost certainly put the ball in play and get on base for the guys behind him.

Cutch finished his rookie season with 22 stolen bases, 54 RBI, 74 Runs, and a .286/.365/.471 line.  He often hit in the leadoff spot during his rookie season so that the Pirates could utilize his speed at the top of the lineup.  Personally I think Kendall is a better leadoff guy though.

This is where I started to experiment with the lineup a bit.  Neil Walker might not seem like a typical #3 hitter on most clubs, but during his rookie season he batted .296/.349/.462 with 66 RBI.  After the 2010 All-Star Break, Neil was one of the top 5 NL players in RBI during that span.  He hit really well with runners in scoring position during the 2010 season.  I put Walker in the 3 hole also because of his ability to switch hit.

Jason Bay is the only Pirate to ever be a unanimous decision when it came to Topps Rookie Cup players.  He is also the only rookie to ever win the Rookie of the Year (hopefully Gregory Polanco wins it this year).  He posted a 2.2 WAR during his rookie season while playing in 120 games batting a .282/.358/.550 line with 26 Home Runs, 82 RBI and  61 Runs.  Having him in the cleanup spot makes the most sense.

Craig Wilson's 2001 rookie campaign got him acknowledged as the best rookie first basemen ahead of Albert Pujols (who was listed as a 3B).  Wilson was a slugger who played multiple positions for the Bucs including Catcher, 1B, and both corner outfield positions.  In 88 games he posted an obsurd .589 slugging percentage to couple his .390 OBP.

Because of the pop that both Bay and Wilson brought, I didn't want a high strikeout guy batting behind them so I went with the left handed hitting second baseman Warren Morris instead.  Morris had a great line for a secondbaseman while batting .288 and having only 88 strikeouts in 147 games.

Jose Guillen had a cannon for an arm in right field, but could also handle the stick during his rookie season.  He hit at a below average with a high strikeout rate, but did collect 14 HR and 70 RBI enroute to his rookei season.

Al Pedrique looked like he could be a future All-Star shortstop in his rookie season in 1987, but wound up being a below average player for the rest of this career and will often be remembered as the manager that intentionally walked Barry Bonds 12 times during 3 days when Barry was sitting at 699 career HomeRuns.  His 1987 season saw him have a 1.4 WAR season which included a .301/.354/.362 line.  He did collect his only career homerun during that 1987 season.

My bench bat is Carlos Garcia, a current manager for the Pirates AA affiliation Altoona Curve.  Garcia posted a 1.4 WAR with 12 HR and 18 SB during his rookie campaign.  As a former infield coach, he is my utility player and bench bat.

For the pitching side, I was fortunate in the 27 years of collecting baseball cards that the Pirates have had a right handed and left handed starting pitcher along with a relief pitcher.

I'll start with the most recent of the bunch, Mike Gonzalez.  Gonzo's rookie season in 2004 had him as one of the best relief pitchers in baseball that season.  In 47 games and 41 innings, Gonzo posted a 9:1 strikout per walk rate.  Reread that if you need to cause that is just crazy numbers.  He struck out 55 batters while walking 6 and posted a 0.877 WHIP and 1.25 ERA.  With Oliver Perez looking like a Cy Young candidate, Jason Bay winning the Rookie of the Year, and Gonzo shutting everyone down in middle relief, it's amazing the Pirates finished so poorly with a 72-89 record.  I guess it's a good thing though because they were able to use that poor record in the 2005 draft and selected Andrew McCutchen.

Steve Cooke, the 1993 rookie LHP winner went 10-10 for the start of the Pirates two decade long losing streak.  Nothing really stands out for Cooke as his ERA, strikeouts, and walks were all average or below average, but the competion that year was very limited.

Mike Dunne, was a pitch to contact pitcher who in his 1987 rookie campaign went 13-6 to lead all qualifying pitchers with a .684 winning percentage.  He completed 5 games and pitched 163 innings despite making only 23 starts.  That means that he pitched on average almost 7 1/3 innings per start during his rookie season.


1 comment:

  1. It'll come as a surprise to no one that the Padres do NOT have enough to field a team, either going back to '87 or back to '69 (inaugural year). Since '87, there have only been 4 players on the All-Rookie Team: Joey Hamilton - RHP ('94), Ben Davis - C ('99), Khalil Greene - SS ('04), and Jedd Gyorko - 2B ('13). Before '87, there were 7 players, Randy Jones - RHP ('73) and Ozzie Smith - SS ('78) the only notables.