By John Franco
In Part 1 of this series, I looked at some of the current Pirates and offered up some tidbits that you might not have known about them. Today, I’ll take a look at more players and help you get to know the rest of the Bucs. Even if you’ve been a Pirate fan since the Maz home run, you might still learn a thing or two …
Ross Ohlendorf: If you’ve heard off-the-field stories about anyone on the Pirates, it’s probably Ohlendorf. He has a degree from Princeton University and wrote his senior thesis on the financial implications of the MLB amateur draft. He also worked as an intern in the Department of Agriculture following the 2009 season. Ohlendorf took some flack for beating the Pirates in arbitration before the 2011 season despite winning just 1 game in 2010, posting a 4.07 ERA and looking even less impressive with advanced metrics (4.75 xFIP). Ohlendorf might just be the most interesting man in the world.
Pedro Alvarez: Along with Andrew McCutchen, Alvarez is expected to be one of the building blocks for the next great Pirates team. He grew up in Washington Heights in the Bronx, the same neighborhood that produced Manny Ramirez, and was drafted out of college powerhouse Vanderbilt University. He is rehabbing from a quad injury by tearing up AAA and should be called up soon – Alvarez could be one of the best acquisitions made at the trade deadline, and he won’t cost the Pirates a thing.
Mike McKenry: McKenry has one of the best nicknames on the team, the Bermanesque moniker of “Fort” McKenry. He was acquired from the Red Sox for a bag of balls after the Pirates lost half the catchers in their organization to the disabled list. He was originally drafted by the Rockies when Clint Hurdle was their manager.
Jose Tabata: Tabata was part of the trade that keeps on giving (he is 1 of 4 current Pirates acquired from the Yankees in exchange for Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady). His listed age is 22, but the Pirates acknowledged last year that he might be older than they thought.
Alex Presley: Call him the lightning rod for the 2011 season. Presley was drafted in 2005 and struggled in the minors until 2010, when he hit .320 between AA and AAA. He continued to rake this year, hitting .336 at Indianapolis before his call-up. He had an amazing first week to explode onto the casual fans’ radar, and he’s still hitting .351 for the season. Some fans view him as a future all-star after just 80 at-bats. While Presley never had a huge walk rate, he makes good contact and has enough range to handle centerfield. He looks to me like a good 4th outfielder who has more than a little Nate McLouth about him, and I would advocate trading him to any team who thinks he could be an above average starter, even though the move might be unpopular.
Jason Grilli: Paul already introduced us to Grilli, who has an awesome Twitter handle (GrillCheese49) and joined the Pirates after the Phillies didn’t have room for him on their major league roster. Grilli is another Big East alum (hello Seton Hall!) and his father, Steve Grilli, pitched in the major leagues. Dear old dad Grilli was also the losing pitcher in the longest professional baseball game in history.
Matt Diaz: Diaz signed a 2-year deal with the Pirates prior to the 2011 season, so the Pirates will need to eat his contract or keep him around for another year. He has always mashed lefty pitching while being hopeless at everything else (fielding, hitting righties, baserunning) but was a very popular player with the Braves. Diaz had several offers on the table when he signed with the Pirates, and could be seen as one of the first players to recognize the changing atmosphere in Pittsburgh.
Jeff Karstens: Karstens is another player received in the Nady deal. He was the opposing pitcher for Stephen Strasburg‘s debut with the Nationals. He has allowed 17 home runs this year, and 16 of them have been solo shots. (Come on down, Brooks Conrad - who hit a 2-run shot on May 25.)
Lyle Overbay: Overbay signed with the Pirates after a 4-year, $24 million deal with the Blue Jays expired (that’s a lot of poutine!). He might be the least interesting man in the world, but he did once hit 53 doubles in a season for the Brewers.
Daniel McCutchen: Yup, more bounty from the Nady trade. He doesn’t throw particularly hard (average fastball velocity under 9, strikeout rate under 5) but he’s been relying more on his slider this year and produced better results. His sparkling 2.19 ERA makes him look a bit less fungible than he really is – if the Pirates did acquire Koji Uehara, McCutchen wouldn’t be a bad candidate to make room for him in the bullpen.
Jose Veras: A classic fireballing reliever with a questionable grasp on the strike zone – fastball over 94, high strikeout rate and a similarly high walk rate. The Yankees once used him to replace Kyle Farnsworth back when Farnsy was still bad.
Brandon Wood: Wood was claimed on waivers after the Angels finally gave up on him. He piled up 464 at-bats for the Halos, hitting .168 with 11 home runs. Wood was once the 3rd rated prospect in the major leagues (according to Baseball America) and hit a record 14 home runs in the Arizona Fall League the year that I attended a few games there. He’s been around replacement level for the Pirates, but that’s better than he did for Anaheim, and a player with his pedigree was certainly worth a flier.
Chris Resop: Resop played in Japan in 2008-2009 before coming back to the states and signing with the Braves. He has a strikeout rate of almost 11 batters per 9 innings this season and has beexn the Pirates’ 2nd best reliever this year.
Joe Beimel: Beimel attended Duquesne University, a local college here in Pittsburgh. He is the only Duquesne alum to ever make the major leagues and he held He Who Must Not Be Named to 1 hit in 16 at-bats for his career.
Now that you know a bit more about the Pirates players, you can think of them like family. It’s hard to boo your family or advocate that they be traded to the Astros, but sometimes baseball can be a rough game.