PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – A full three weeks have passed since the last edition of the Pirates Power Rankings, and in that time the club has gone 13-4, posting the 2nd best record in the game since the 4th of July. Picking up 7 games in the standings in 7 days has them firmly in the N.L. Central race, waiting to see who may be added or subtracted from the mix by General Manager Neal Huntington before 4pmEDT on Monday July 31st.
Since last we spoke:
OUT: Edgar Santana (optioned to Indianapolis), Elias Diaz (optioned to Indy), & Antonio Bastardo (designated for assignment/released)
IN: Starling Marte (reinstated), Francisco Cervelli (activated from 10-day disabled list), A.J. Schugel (recalled from Indy)
25) Max Moroff (no change) – His first career home run in the Cardinals’ series and a walk-off against Milwaukee were good to see, but he’s still Max Moroff, and Max Moroff is still hitting .123 in 60+ Plate Appearances.
24) A.J. Schugel (called-up from Indianapolis) – Schugel’s work since being called up is seemingly symbolic of his struggling beard: Not quite as bad as last year, but still there.
23) Tony Watson (no change) – We keep wanting to see an improvement in Watson, we really do. But his work in lower-leverage and/or earlier situations has truthfully been no better than when he was blowing games as the team’s “closer.”
22) Chris Stewart (no change) – Stewart’s appearances in the lineup have been few and far between given the All Star Break and Francisco Cervelli’s recent tear, but his 3-for-3 day in the 4th game of the series sweep over Milwaukee was fun to watch.
21) Jhan Marinez (no change)– Marinez continues to do what asked in his role as mop-up man in the bullpen.
20) Wade LeBlanc (no change) – LeBlanc’s consistently been there when the Bucs have needed middle relief innings, but his numbers for July look appropriately awful after getting rocked in a mop-up appearance Sunday afternoon in Colorado.
19) Jose Osuna (-3) – Continuing to plug away as a reliable bench bat and one of the 3-headed 4th OF monster, Osuna’s growth has stagnated a bit without playing time.
18) John Jaso (-6) – Jaso’s roller coaster season – in the tank when he was asked to be an everyday player early on, way way up when he was fulfilling the 2-3 starts/week left-handed bench bat role – is back at the Phantom’s Revenge-when-it-goes-under-the-Thunderbolt stage: 3 hits in the month of July, good for an .083 average.
17) Daniel Hudson (+2) – It’s been over a month since Huddy gave up an earned run and six weeks since he gave up more than a single hit in an outing.
16) Adam Frazier (-1) – Frazier was the unexpected feel good story of the first third of the season after slashing .361/.446/.515/.961 through May 25th. Coincidentally, in the time when Andrew McCutchen has come back to life, Frazier has gone in the tank, hitting .204/.274/.265/.539 since Cutch’s resurgence began.
15) David Freese (-1) – Despite being one of the team’s Top 3 in OBP all season, Freese is still sloowwwly trying to turn around his contact numbers that haven’t entirely recovered from his DL stint in early May. Imagine Freese as a part-time starter/primary bench piece rather than an everyday presence in the middle of the order, and you understand why Neal Huntington is so intrigued in getting another position player at the deadline.
14) Chad Kuhl (+3) – Kuhl’s electric stuff is what has everyone speculating about a move to the bullpen, but it’s hard to unplug a guy from the rotation when he’s steadily improving… unless a veteran from the trade market should show up.
13) Trevor Williams (-3) – Williams continues to dance through raindrops at times, getting through jams of his own creation, yielding a BAA around .270 over the last month as his ERA continues to creep back up over 4.75.
12) Jordy Mercer (-4) – Mercer has career-long of habit of hitting his peak in July after heating up in June, but this season saw him get hot at the end of May and stay that way through June. It hadn’t into July though until he got out west.
11) Francisco Cervelli (reinstated from DL on July 4) – Since returning from the DL on July 3rd, Cervelli is slashing .354/.436/.542/.978. Despite what some around baseball view as a ‘drama queen’ mentality, his leadership of both the pitching staff and the ball club as a whole is evident on a daily basis. Now if he could just stay healthy.
10) Juan Nicasio (-1) – Nicasio’s numbers in July aren’t bad at all: A 1.80 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. There’s still something though that provides a more uneasy feeling these days when he comes in then when he was dominant in May & early June.
9) Starling Marte (activated from restricted list) – 9-for his first-27 coming off of his PED suspension, Marte’s still clearly focused on getting his timing back, eschewing any focus on power or driving the ball in favor of simply getting on base.
8) Gregory Polanco (+5) – Polanco’s hamstring injury couldn’t have come at a worse time, as his .387 AVG, .629 SLG, & 1.035 OPS were all leading the team for the month of July before he came up lame. If he’s truly “week-to-week,” as General Manager Neal Huntington said on Sunday afternoon, then trade deadline philosophy should be affected..
7) Ivan Nova (-3) – Nova’s start at Wrigley Field the weekend before the All Star Break qualifies as his only quality start of his last half-dozen. His 6.08 ERA and .305 BAA in the month of July are both the highest in the rotation. It’s starting to look like some of the luster is wearing off as Nova’s on pace to surpass his single season career-high in Innings Pitched right around Labor Day.
6) Josh Harrison (-3) – The only position player who’s struggled more mightily in the month of July than the Buccos’ lone All-Star is Max Moroff. Sunday’s loss in Colorado was just his 3rd multi-hit game of the month, and has gone hitless in 8 of his last 17 starts. The rumors of his impending departure at the trade deadline may have cooled not as much because of Neal Huntington’s lack of interest in moving him, but because other teams decided not to pursue him as ardently.
5) Jameson Taillon (no change) – Taillon’s dependable, but inconsistency I starting to creep in to his game, as he still has yet to string together more than 3 quality starts in a row and hasn’t gone at least 7 innings since way back in mid-April, before his absence for testicular cancer surgery. All that said, he’s still a bright spot in the rotation every five days.
4) Josh Bell (+2) – Bell’s lifted his average a solid 15 points in July, and done so without losing any power, hitting 3 HRs and slugging .582, with 17 RBIs on the month. Keep in mind he’s continued to produce despite playing more than any other rookie in MLB not named Aa.
3) Gerrit Cole (+4) – When he’s not on, he’s a petulant child, yelling at teammates for his mistakes and his manager for infield shifts. When he is on, he’s still the Pirates’ best starter and one of the 10 best in the National League. He’s collected himself again in the month of July, culminating in a dominant start in the 3rd game of the Brewers’ series.
2) Felipe Rivero (no change) – Rivero continues to shine as the most dominant left-handed relief arm in the National League, if not all of baseball. While internet rumor mongers have latched on to his name as a possible addition for their respective bullpens of choice, there is as much chance of Rivero being dealt as there is of Jung-ho Kang showing up at Bob Nutting’s Thanksgiving dinner.
1) Andrew McCutchen (no change) – While his otherworldly .410/.500/.690/1.200ish June numbers have given way to something just slightly more human – .350/.460/.590/1.050ish – in the month of July, Cutch still measures out as an MVP candidate if the season had started on May 26th. As it stands, he’s still raised his average nearly a full .100 points and led the team’s resurgence into the N.L. Central race.