Pirates Trade Rumors : The Impact Bat


The impact bat is worth a whole lot in MLB.

As trade rumors reach fever pitch today, the hardest thing to find in Major League Baseball is an impact bat.  Fortunately, the Pittsburgh Pirates have one of the biggest offensive threats in the game in Andrew McCutchen.   As Cutch goes, so do the Pirates.   But as teams look to deal for young players, the offensive talent in the upper minors is a bit thin.

It’s one of the biggest reasons the Bucs are so reluctant to deal their talented, young offensive players.  No matter what level a talented offensive player has reached, the player gains value as their offensive production increases.  It’s a fact and also will be one of the upcoming trends in prospect hoarding.

A good example is Josh Harrison.  The Pirates super utility player could always hit and it’s easy to notice that as he continues hitting for Clint Hurdle’s Bucs, he will see more playing time.   Harrison never resembled much more than MLB filler to me, but the bat has played.   There is perhaps nothing more exciting than watching a player find his groove at the plate.  Harrison has proved that to us in 2014.  As the trade deadline approaches today, the big bats are markedly absent from the rumor mill..

Just look at the available offensive players at the trade deadline.  Who would you say is the best offensive player available?  Matt Kemp perhaps?

Maybe Marlon Byrd?

The Pirates offense currently leads Major League Baseball in OBP is seventh in wOBA and BB% while charting out at sixth in wRC+    The team is playing well despite a lackluster effort from their pitching staff.  The value being placed on offense can’t be overlooked as the team prepares to make their stretch run.

But the big question is, can the offense keep up this pace and will the ball club continue to develop players that can have a long term impact when they finally get the call to the big leagues?  As one looks around MLB offenses are declining as pitchers become more dominant.

Looking at the Pirates minor league system, the Indianapolis Indians are as a team in the middle of the pack in most offensive categories.  Andrew Lambo is hitting well in limited plate appearances this season due to injury.  The only other player with an OPS over .800 currently is Matt Hague.

In the Eastern League, the Altoona Curve have the second most home runs and are fourth in OPS.  Josh Bell is probably the top prospect in Altoona and his OPS is .594.

The Bradenton Marauders are near the bottom of the FSL in most hitting categories, including being last in home runs.  While Bell played in High-A ball, his OPS was .886.  A promising sign is another outfielder, Justin Maffei was Bucs 25th round pick in 2013 out of San Francisco, has an OPS near 1.000 in 61 at bats.

With the Pirates loading up on pitching talent in recent drafts, the development of some of the best young arms in the game is refreshing.  A crucial element for sustained success will be just how many impact bats the team can develop in the coming years.

In looking at offensive numbers currently, the Pirates don’t have a wealth of players having a big offensive season at their current level.   With a premium on offensive talent staring MLB in the face, in order to trade an impact future bat like Josh Bell currently is trending, the return needs to be significant and include more than just a rental player.  The more the Pirates hoard players that can impact an offense, the happier Pirates fans should be.

[All stats courtesy of FanGraphs.]