While other teams are interested, it looks like the Pirates have turned into the favorites to land A.J. Burnett from the Yankees. He still have two more years on a big contract and while he struggled at times last year, it’s hard to deny Burnett doesn’t still have the stuff. Still, this is a guy who it seems like year in and year out, he under performs so you wonder if he really has that one more great season left in him.
The Yankees will pick up part of his contract so that’s a good thing because he’s still owed $33 million over the next two years. It’ll also be interesting to see what the Pirates give up. They asked for Garrett Jones but the Pirates turned him down. Even a mediocre Burnett could help the pitching staff though.
MLB.com put out their list of top prospects and the ninth best was Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon. He pitched in the SALLY League as a 19 year old all season and while they really watched his work, he held his own. He struck out 97 in 92 2/3 innings in 23 starts. He finished only 2-3 because he rarely pitched the five innings to get a decision.
He’s hard thrower but he still needs some work. He also has a really good curveball so the pitches are there, they just have to get the arm strength there to make sure he doesn’t hurt himself. They have his upside as a Josh Beckett with better command and it would be nice to see the Pirates finally have a true ace on the mound.
The Pirates locked up a couple of arbitration eligible players and that’ll limit the number of times they’ll have to go to the table. Jeff Karstens was given a $3.1 million deal and Evan Meek was given an $875,000 deal. Karstens was solid in 162 2/3 innings and he’ll most likely be in the rotation again in 2012. Evan Meek was solid in limited time with the Pirates in 2011 but he had a nice season for them in 2010.
That leaves two arbitration eligible players left to sign. Garret Jones and Casey McGehee could both end up at the arbitration table but hopefully it won’t come to that. Since Neal Huntington took over as the GM, they’ve only had to go to the arbitration table once.
The Pirates avoided arbitration with Chris Resop and they agreed on a one year deal with the reliever. We don’t have the numbers but my guess is, it was a little less than, but right around a million. Resop was scooped up by the Pirates off of waivers in 2010 and had his moments with 79 strikeouts in 69 2/3 innings.
Walks have been a concern with Resop in the past but in 2011, he had one of his best walk rates ever. If he can get that under control, then this guy is a keeper. He also had an unusually high .344 batting average on balls in play in 2011 but his career mark is .330 so that’s not too out of whack.
John Sickels put out his top twenty Pirates prospects list and like the Kevin Goldstein list, Sickels gives some nice ratings to some Pirates farmhands. Topping the list is RHP Gerrit Cole again. This kid is a stud and it’ll be fun to see him move up the chain. Number two is Jameson Taillon. Given an A-, Taillon is working on his other pitches as he moves up the ladder but he should also be fun to watch.
Rounding out the top five are Josh Bell (OF), Starling Marte (OF) and Robbie Grossman (OF). Grossman showed a lot next year but Bell is the best overall talent of the position players.
Kevin Goldstein recently penned his list of the top eleven Pirates prospects and this team definitely has some talent in the pipeline. He does a star rating and the Pirates have four five star prospects. Topping the list is right handed pitcher Gerrit Cole. The team’s first round pick this past year, Cole signed to late to play but he’s described as a typical college power pitcher. Goldstein projects him to start in the Florida State League but with his college experience, he’ll most likely be on the fast track.
Number two is another picher, Jameson Taillon. The team’s first round pick in 2010 he had a solid debut at the Single A level. Next stop is High A but this kid should move up the chain pretty quickly. Luis Heredia is number three but he’s several years away but he had a nice showing as a 17 year old in the Rookie League. Josh Bell (OF) and Starling Marte (OF) round out the top with Marte being the closest to making his major league debut.
The Pirates pulled the trigger on a trade as they traded setup man Jose Veras to the Milwaukee Brewers for third baseman Casey McGehee. After the Brewers picked up Aramis Ramirez, McGehee was expendable and he could be an interesting haul. He had a career year in 2010 but in 2010 he hit just .223.
Where McGehee plays will depend on how Pedro Alvarez is doing. He’s been named the starter at third and if he shines, then McGehee will probably play first base or at one of the corner outfield spots. At one time, he also played second base for the Brewers so he could fill in there as well.
The Pirates got some solid production from Jason Grilli last year after he joined the team mid-stream in 2011 and they resigned him to a one year deal. He’ll be paid $1.1 million and by the end of the year, he was being used as the team’s set up man. He struck out 37 in 32 2/3 innings with a 2.48 ERA.
I like the move because it’s low cost and you can’t go wrong with these little one year deals. There’s a pretty good chance that Grilli reprises his role as the set-up in 2012 with Jose Veras being gone. Evan Meek is another option but he had a tough time last year.
The Pirates signed Nick Evans to a minor league deal and he’ll get a chance to compete for the first base job come spring training. Evans was a fifth round pick by the Mets way back in 2004 and he’s been with the Met’s organization ever since until they cut him loose. He’s pretty much split time between MLB and the minors the past four seasons and in 2011, he got into a career best 59 games. His numbers aren’t anything to write home about, but then again, he hasn’t gotten much of a chance to play consistently for a big league club.
He did put up solid numbers at Triple A last year so that’s probably why the Pirates are taking a chance on him. He hit .313 with eight home runs in 64 games. It looks the Pirates are still going to try to fill the hole at first, but if they don’t then Evans is going to be given the chance to be the backup plan.
Here’s the list of the Top Ten Pirates prospects as determined by Baseball America.
1) Gerrit Cole RHP
2) Jameson Taillon RHP
3) Josh Bell OF
4) Starling Marte OF
5) Luis Heredia RHP
6) Kyle McPherson RHP
7) Tony Sanchez C
8) Robbie Grossman
9) Stetson Allie RHP
10) Jeff Locke LHP
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