Pirates: Junk Arms

Well, I haven’t seen anything particular interesting about the Pirates yet this year worth posting about, but this Pirates Q/A from Wednesday was a little silly. The reader points out that the Pirates have signed a lot of junk arms, hoping to maybe salvage one or two of them. He then says he is not a fan of this approach. Dejan Kovacevic responds appropriately by pointing out that there is no risk involved in these guys. I really wish though that Dejan would relax about the Buccos relief pitching. Their offense, defense, and starting pitching need just as much work. And really if they just used Matt Capps more efficiently, in the Jamesian “Relief Ace” model for example, they would be just as well off as if they had spent millions upgrading the bullpen (or maybe better, see Orioles, Baltimore).

None of these 12 pitchers should be considered as a starter anymore, so I will assume the Pirates are profiling them either as relief pitchers or just minor league fodder. Anyways, these are my thoughts on the pitchers (with age on July 1 listed in parens), who are broken down into 3 categories…

The Bad:

  • Mike Thompson (27) – Mediocre K/9 and high BB/9 in the minors with an ERA over 5 with the Padres (in Petco!). Its quite clear at this point he is not starting material.
  • Phillip Dumatrait (26) – Not a good strikeout pitcher nor an adequate control pitcher. Thats as a starter at least, so its possible he could be an almost serviceable reliever. I like his last name for some reason though. Say it with me… Doooomaaaatraaaait…
  • Adam Bernero (31) – Had Tommy John surgery almost a year ago, so hasn’t played since ’06. He’s had decent control in the past, but hasn’t struck many batters out. At age 31 coming off of surgery, he isn’t very interesting.
  • Jaret Wright (32) – Managed to trick the Yankees into signing him for a $21 million three-year deal. The Yankees then managed to trick the Orioles into trading for him. Too much trickery.
  • Elmer Dessens (36) – Fantastic. Dessens was never very good, though he did manage to put up a good ERA in ’02 and ’05 despite a terrible strikeout rate. Dessens should probably retire though.

The Meh:

  • Ty Taubenheim (25) – Exhibited decent control in the minors (except for his most recent AAA stint) but with a subpar K/9 rate. He’s pitched mostly as a starter, so if converted to a reliever its possible he could be an adequate major leaguer as soon as the coming season. Also, he could still possibly improve as he is only 25.
  • Hector Carrasco (39) – Had a couple decent years as recent as ’05 and ’06. Gets the strikeouts still, but what little control he had is breaking down. At age 39 there is no upside, but due to the small sample size of relievers it would not be mind blowing to see him make the team and put up adequate numbers.
  • Masumi Kuwata (40) – Should not be in the major leagues and I’m sure the front office knows this. The only reason I imagine for them signing him is to keep the Japanese media interested in the Pirates, rather than on the divisional rival Cubs and Kosuke Fukudome.
  • Casey Fossum (30) – So many walks. Fossum worked mostly in relief last year which I think helped lower his walks some, though he still gave up a lot of HRs. Shifting to the NL and becoming a full time reliever and spot starter could work out somewhat.

The Good:

  • T.J. Beam (27) – Really good last year on the Yanks’ AAA team. 8+ K/9 and less than 2 BB/9. He progressed very slowly through various levels of A ball early in his minor league career (injuries maybe?), but always put up very good numbers. I hope he makes the team out of spring training as I think he could be a decent reliever for very cheap.
  • Jimmy Barthmaier (24) – Walks many, many guys, but is still only 24 years old and has mainly worked as a starter. He also gave up a lot of hits last in AA, but some of that is probably due to some bad bounces, as he had a very good strikeout rate and was decent with home run prevention. He could be converted to a reliever, but he already manages to strike out a lot of guys and I don’t think being a reliever would help his control. I would like to see him start in AA or AAA and work on his control some more, as its still possible he could be a major league starter or at the very least a reliever when he hits his prime.
  • Evan Meek (25) – The Pirates’ Rule 5 pick from this last year. Meek is a really good strikeout pitcher, striking out about a batter per inning. His control still needs more work in order for him to a decent major leaguer, but I think he has the potential still. Meek was traded from the Padres organization to the Devil Rays in 2006, who switched him to a full-time relief pitcher, despite his great K-rate he managed to post as a starter. I don’t see why they expected this to fix Meek’s main problem of control. If his problem was striking guys out, then perhaps this change would have been warranted, but I would like to see him get work as a starter in spring training. As a Rule 5 draftee, however, he doesn’t have the luxury of working out his problems in the minors as a starter. Meek still has a good shot to be an average to slightly above average major league pitcher (either as a reliever, or even more valuably, as a starter), but I don’t see how he can work these problems out in a major league bullpen. He could possibly be a serviceable, below-average reliever in the majors this year.

I really wouldn’t mind seeing the Pirates ’08 bullpen with Meek, Barthmeier, and Beam, or even Taubenheim or Fossum in it. Out of those, I think Beam has the greatest chance for immediate (relative) success followed by Fossum, due to their very good AAA numbers and major league experience respectively. Compiling cheap-as-free arms with some upside is a great way to get a decent reliever or two with almost no risk.

Anyways, I still hope to do a couple more things on 2007’s music, so hopefully that will be my next post.

Arbitrary song of the day: Penguin Cafe Orchestra – Music for a Sound Harmonium (Pandaharmonium Orb Mix)

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One thought on “Pirates: Junk Arms

  1. The Yankees had a lot of hope for T.J. and worked with him a good bit his first couple of years. They re-worked his throwing motion, etc…

    He shot through the minors in 2006 and got called up prematurely because of injuries (was thrown the night he was called-up from a Minor League road trip). He had some injuries last year, but has looked pretty good in the Dominican.

    He has the potential to be a set-up or closer.

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