Do not overlook internal options

Pirate fans have mostly supported adding a second-rate free agent to team with Garrett Jones in covering the right field/first base spots. Even Frank Coonelly got in on the fun, with Rick Ankiel’s name coming up specifically. It seems like a harmless idea, seeing as the Pirates do not have many inspiring options for those positions. However, contrary to popular belief, adding a marginal player through free agency would do anywhere from very little to nothing to help the team win.

Here is a list made up mostly of available, middling, corner-type free agents that the Pirates have some realistic shot at signing. I have included their 2010 CHONE projections, available at FanGraphs.

2010 CHONE Projections
Player PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Defense WAR
Rick Ankiel 473 0.242 0.298 0.436 0.318 -3 1.1
Russell Branyan 337 0.243 0.335 0.497 0.359 0 1.2
Carlos Delgado 482 0.247 0.322 0.449 0.337 0 1.1
Jason Giambi 410 0.218 0.354 0.416 0.344 -4 0.7
Vladimir Guerrero 501 0.291 0.337 0.489 0.357 DH 1.6
Adam LaRoche 588 0.259 0.330 0.459 0.343 -3 1.2
Brandon Moss 471 0.267 0.335 0.426 0.332 0 1.1
Xavier Nady 454 0.271 0.326 0.448 0.337 -6 0.7
John Raynor 443 0.259 0.330 0.374 0.316 3 0.7
Jim Thome 487 0.233 0.351 0.442 0.351 DH 1.2

Brandon Moss - Matt Bandi, PLC

As you can see, I included Brandon Moss and John Raynor on the list. Anyone else having a hard time distinguishing their projected numbers from the others?

The Pirates already have an overflowing bench. I cannot see why we should add another player to the mix, particularly one that is projected to perform no better than Moss and only marginally better than Raynor. Both Moss and Raynor are 26 years old, cheap and possess some sort of upside. None of these options can say the same. But if the Pirates sign any of these players, Moss and/or Raynor will be out the door. It just does not make sense to me.



Pirates add OF Raynor in Rule 5 draft

In a somewhat surprising move, the Pirates selected outfielder John Raynor in the Rule 5 draft this morning. Raynor will be 26 next season, and has produced some pretty successful offensive seasons in the Marlins’ minor league system. He mashed in 2007 and 2008, albeit with high strikeout rates. Baseball America rated him as Florida’s 11th best prospect one year ago. He came back to earth this past season, struggling at Triple-A. His walk rate, which hovered above 12% for two seasons, dropped under 9%. He also saw a significant drop in his BABIP, which had been very high in his first two full seasons. Those two factors, along with decreased power, led to a disappointing .255/.326/.357 line in 2009. With other outfield options in the system, the Marlins chose not to add him to their 40-man roster.

Raynor has elite speed, a true 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He uses it to his advantage on the basepaths, stealing bases at an 83% clip in his minor league career. His speed allows him to cover a great deal of ground in the outfield, but erratic routes and a weak arm have limited him to left field for the most part. He should be able to play a capable centerfield, but may need to improve his breaks to become an above average defender in center. His speed allows him to hit for a solid average despite the contact issues, which gives me reason to believe that his BABIP will rebound from its lower 2009 level. Raynor’s isolated power dropped significantly last season, potentially the result of a pitch that broke his left hand during the 2008 fall season.

Raynor will have to beat out a few players in spring training to make the roster, as the bench is becoming very crowded. Three of the five spots are already taken by Bobby Crosby, Ramon Vazquez and Jason Jaramillo. That leaves two available spots for Raynor, Brandon Moss, Delwyn Young and Steve Pearce/Jeff Clement. A Pearce/Clement or Pearce/Garrett Jones platoon would be nice, and both Young and Moss are decent options off the bench. But there isn’t room for everyone, and I would assume Raynor has a leg up on the rest due to his ability to play centerfield. I wish we could just get rid of Crosby or Vazquez.

I like the selection of Raynor. He can take a walk, has solid gap power, and can run like the wind. He should be a solid bench option this year, and has the potential to become a starting outfielder down the road. There is nothing wrong with adding a player like that for $50,000.

The Pirates also selected shortstop Rodolfo Cardona in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft. He appears to be an organizational player, which is usually what this segment of the draft is used for.

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