Pittsburgh Pirates Looking to Avoid 20 in ’12


The Pittsburgh Pirates can’t possibly finish under .500 for  20 consecutive years could they?

It’s almost unthinkable.  But until the team can develop the young talent in the system, the underfunded Bucs continue to spend the hot stove season filling up both their roster and their non-roster invite list with potential bounce back players.

It seems to be a common thread among the players being added to the Bucs roster.  A team that played so poorly down the stretch last season must have some monster seasons from players that struggled mightily last season.

It’s difficult to fathom each of the players the Pirates need to have a bounce back season actually delivering it in 2012.  And that is a topic that might be more fun to address in the next few weeks when the various projections are released and the teams roster is closer to being finalized.

Let’s face it, the Pirates are the perpetual sports underdog.  It was quite evident this year.  The whole thing has made an impact on us.

Each year we root for a non-roster guy when we head to Bradenton for Spring Training.  The past few days, we have gazed at the stats of each non-roster player.  We were high on Jose Veras last season, but we can’t say we see such a candidate in the current non-roster list.

Well at least until we see them in Spring Training that is.

With such long odds on the bounce back season of rostered players, it’s difficult to even imagine a non-rostered player having an impact on the Pirates 2012 campaign. In fact, it’s going to be an extreme long shot that any of the below players will actually break camp with the Bucs as they head to Philadelphia to start the season next Spring.

(As of 21December)

The 2012 Non-Roster Invites:

Brandon Boggs is a corner outfielder that has seen some big league time with the Texas Rangers and most recently the Milwaukee Brewers. Strikeouts have been a challenge, but his time in the Texas organization got him another shot with the Bucs.

Nick Evans has some position flexibility, a strong first basemans glove, and mashed coming up through the New York Mets farm system.  But Evans could never stick.  He didn’t get much of a look until late in the 2011 season,  and was the Mets version of Pedro Ciriaco the past couple years.  But as recently as three years ago, Evans was ranked ahead of Ike Davis by a man we respect a great deal,  John Sickels at Minor League Ball.

Jeff Clement has been rebuilt more than the Six Million Dollar Man.  The former Johnny Bench winner has flashed raw power teasing hitting coaches from the Fish Market in Washington State to Federal Street on the North Side of Pittsburgh.  After an awful 2009 Spring Training, Clement was handed the Pirates first base job.  He couldn’t keep it and will return in 2012 to attempt what might be a last gasp to live up to the hype associated with being the third player picked in the 2005 Amateur Draft.

Jake Fox has been known as a hitter.  A hitter without a position which is a challenge in the National League.  He crushed a pile of homeruns last year for the Orioles.  Unfortunately for the O’s all ten of them were in Spring Training.  Currently, Fox is sucking in the Dominican with just five hits and an ugly 14 strikeouts in his past 33 at bats.

Fox turns a ten pitch at-bat into a two-run blast:

Jose Morales is a catcher with some major league experience.  God knows the Pirates go through catchers as quickly as we slam rare IPAs on a Friday night in our favorite bottle shop.  Morales is also working the popular ex-Rockie/old buddy Clint Hurdle connection.

Tim Wood has returned to Pittsburgh.   Wood has a strong fastball which falls consistently in the 92-96 mph range which obviously is appealing to the Bucs brass.  He worked eight innings with the Bucs in 2011 before he was traded to Texas.  He gave up a memorable 11th inning walk off to Cord Phelps of the Indians and a walk off single to Matt Stairs during his brief time with the Bucs.  Wood had a rough time in the Dominican this winter.

Shairon Martis is the most interesting non-roster pickup.  He has a plus changeup and threw a no-hitter this season in the minors.  Martis is pitching rather well in Venezuela this winter despite giving up six long balls in his 43 innings pitched.  An interesting look at Martis from Hardball Times from March 2009 which shows some interesting pitch f/x.

A nice start for Martis from 2009:

Ryota Igarashi can make the bad guys swing and miss.  It just sucks his control is a major weakness causing his earned runs to skyrocket in his time with the Mets the past couple years.  He has thrown well in the minors which warrants another look.  He seems like a project that has potential to figure it out at some point.

Igarashi strikes out three of the five batters he faces.

If you had to pick just one player from the list that we could see at PNC Park, leave it in the comments for us.