On Wednesday night, MLB Network began their top 100 countdown of current Major League players. The countdown consisted of five shows, each an hour long, shown over the last three days. Andrew McCutchen was obviously the highest rated player from the Pittsburgh Pirates, but his spot could surprise people a little based on previous rankings on MLB Network.
McCutchen ranked sixth overall, falling behind Clayton Kershaw, Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, Felix Hernandez and Chris Sale. At the end of the show, McCutchen was named one of the players who could move to the top spot next year. During their position-by-position rankings, McCutchen was ranked ahead of Mike Trout for center fielders, though they did say the top ten position rankings and the top 100 were compiled by different sources.
As for the four other Pirates players in the top 100, they all ranked in the second half of the list. Josh Harrison made his debut on the list in the 64th spot. Neil Walker was next at 73rd and Starling Marte ranked 81st. Gerrit Cole was the last Pirate to make the list, ending up 92nd, which was two spots behind Russell Martin. You can view the entire list here.
It should be noted that the top of the listed is loaded with Washington Nationals, with five players from the team in the top 35 spots. That doesn’t include Stephen Strasburg or Doug Fister, who were rated 68th and 69th on the list and Jayson Werth, who was 76th overall. Most consider the Nationals to be the top team in the NL(and in baseball), so they seem to have the star power to back up that spot.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.
Team comparison – I was reading Halos Heaven (the Angels’ equivalent to Bucs’ Dugout) last night trying to see if there was any insight into who’s going to play 2B (for fantasy BB purposes) and I was surprised to see how the Bucs stack up with them. And don’t forget, the Angels won 98 games last year.
Position by Position
DH Cron vs. Kang – I’m putting Kang here just for the heck of it, Bucs could also use Lambo or Hart here. Cron is much the same as Lambo – good AAA hitter still trying to figure it out at the ML level. I suspect Kang is a better hitter than either.
C – Ianetta vs. Cervelli – very small edge to Angels based on Ianetta’s power. Bucs probably get some of that back based on Stewart vs. Conger as the backups.
1B – Pujols vs. Pedro – no contest, easily the Angels’ biggest edge
2B – Curly, Larry, and Moe vs. Walker – Bucs have a bigger edge here than the Angels do at 1B. Seriously, the Angels are likely to give a lot of playing time here to a Rule 5 pick (Featherton).
SS – Aybar vs. Mercer – I think both fan bases would call this a moderate edge to their guy, I call it pretty much even.
3B – Freese vs. Harrison – Freese had his time in the 2011 WS, J-Hey is in the middle of his. Big edge to the Bucs.
LF – Josh Hamilton or Matt Joyce/Colin Cowgill depending on the MLB drug policy vs. Marte – another big win to the Bucs
CF – Trout vs. Cutch – edge to Angels, but not by much.
RF – Calhoun vs. Polanco – wild card here, depending on Polanco’s development. Calhoun is a nice player, but el Coffee could be something very special. If he attains that plateau this year, Bucs win the position player comparison decisively, with big wins at 2B, 3B, and LF vs. Angels’ big win at 1B. If Coffee is just solid, this is a wash, if he flops it could be a big win for the Angels and the position player battle is basically even.
SP1 – Weaver vs. Liriano – big win for the Angels, Jered is good.
SP2 – Richards vs. Cole – this could be the SP1 slot, actually, both teams have two top starters. Another win for the Angels, but possibly a wash of Cole puts together a season like his last two months. Really, Richards is probably the best starter on either team.
SP3 – Wilson vs. Burnett – two guys in the decline phase of their career. Burnett had a higher peak, and is declining slower, so this is a small win for the Bucs.
SP4 – Shoemaker vs. Morton – two wild cards here, both guys have been good at times, Shoemaker probably has the higher floor and Morton the higher ceiling. I call it a wash, since I don’t think Shoemaker is as good as he was in his 20 starts last year and his minor league numbers back me up.
SP5 – Angels have 4 guys battling for this spot, but none of them is as good as either Locke or Worley.. Definite edge to the Bucs,
Closer – Street vs. Melancon – Street is good. Melancon is very good. Edge to Bucs.
Setup – Joe Smith vs. Tony Watson – slam dunk for the Bucs.
Bullpen – Angels probably have better long guys – Cory Rasmus and Nick Tropeano vs. Liz and ????. But the Bucs’ pen of Bastardo, Hughes, and Holdzkom is miles better than the Angels’ collection of Salas, Pestano, and Rucinski. And that’s assuming that Holdzkom is not lights-out, which he very well could be.
Summary – Bucs likely have 2-3 decisive edges among position players, Angels only one unless Polanco shows no improvement. Angels’ top 2 starters are very good, Bucs top 2 don’t match up. But the rest of the Bucs’ staff looks to be decisively better. It’s hard for me to believe that the Bucs aren’t a much better team than the Angels are today.
Interesting, so what was the secret to the Angels winning 98 games last year? Pitching wise, the Pirates gave up 631 runs and the Angels 630. Hitting the Angels scored 773 runs, the Pirates scored 682 runs.
Team hitting slash lines:
Pirates – .259 AVE, .734 OPS, 156 HR
Angels – .259 AVE, .728 OPS, 155 HR
So how did the Angels score almost 100 more runs than the Pirates?
The Pirates averaged 7.35 runners stranded per game (31st of 32 teams) last year. The Angels stranded 6.87 runners per game (15th of 32 teams). That extra half runner per game (assuming no additional double plays) over 162 games translates to 81 additional runs.
What is missing from the analysis is:
The Angels last year got 27 HR, 97 RBIs, and a .753 OPS from their DH (a mix of Hamilton, Pujouls, and others). The Pirates obviously don’t get that kind of offense from their pitchers.
I don’t under stand how they could put Stanton ahead of Cutch. Trout.. maybe Stanton is pretty good but move down the line to 10 or so. few less strike outs few more hits top 5 for sure. Marte will be top 25 next year. I think he has it figured out.
Assuming the same contract, would anyone trade McCutchen for Chris Sale or Felix? I most definitely would not. Trout is the only one I would consider, and I don’t think it’s a given that he has a better year than Cutch in 2015.
Having 5 guys named to this list, very impressive—-Congrats
Stanton ahead of Cutch?!!! I guess chicks aren’t the only one’s who dig the long ball.
Mate will be top 40 next year
Thankfully the time for lists will soon be over and it will be time for lineups and rotations, you know…baseball time so let the games begin!
Jayson Werth at 76th ahead of Marte and just behind Walker. Maybe 4 years ago.
As ugly as that contract looks going forward for Werth, he has been as good or better than Marte the last 2 years. Putting up solid WAR numbers thanks to a good average and an enviable ability to get on base a ton. 151 and 149 wRC+ the last two years, Werth is very much still a high quality OFer. Im somewhat surprised Werth was behind Walker honestly.