Restoring the rosters: No. 23 – Pittsburgh

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This is part of a series of articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
No. 29 – Kansas City
No. 28 – San Diego
No. 27 – Milwaukee
No. 26 – Baltimore
No. 25 – Chicago (AL)
No. 24 – Chicago (NL)
The shame of the steel city has been better at developing talent than some of the other usual cellar dwellers, not that it’s done the franchise a lot of good. As a result of the latest rebuilding effort, just six of the following 25 players remain in the organization.
Zach Duke
Chris Young
Tim Wakefield
Paul Maholm
Bronson Arroyo
Mike Gonzalez
Matt Capps
Leo Nunez
John Grabow
Ian Snell
Joe Beimel
Tom Gorzelanny
It’s ace-less pitching staff, but one that would likely be very solid. When Young or Wakefield goes down, Gorzelanny can move into the rotation and perhaps even improve it. Snell is another fallback starter, but he might be more valuable helping out in a bullpen that’s rather lefty heavy.
Left-handed relievers are what the Pirates have excelled at developing through the years. Besides Gonzalez, Grabow and Beimel, there’s also Sean Burnett and Brian Shouse who failed to make the cut. The top right-handed alternatives for the pen were Jonathan Albaladejo and Jeff Bennett.
LF Nyjer Morgan
CF Andrew McCutchen
RF Nate McLouth
3B Aramis Ramirez
C Ryan Doumit
1B Steve Pearce
2B Jeff Keppinger
SS Brent Lillibridge
OF Barry Bonds
OF Jose Bautista
OF Rajai Davis
C Ronny Paulino
INF Brian Bixler
I debated whether or not to include Bonds. He’s eligible, since he hasn’t technically retired, but I have doubts that he’d be of much use as an outfielder right now. In the end, I decided to include him as the team’s top pinch-hitter. He wasn’t seriously factored into the team’s 23rd-place ranking.
If Bonds were excluded, then Jose Guillen would have claimed the final spot. As is, I see no reason to bump anyone for Guillen.
Jason Kendall also fails to make the cut.
The young outfield is nice and there are a couple of quality power hitters in the middle of the order, but the real problem here is that the Pirates simply can’t develop middle infielders. They deserve partial credit for Jack Wilson, but he did spend two years in the St. Louis farm system. It looks like the last above average middle infielder they developed themselves was Rennie Stennett, who debuted in 1971. Keppinger gets the nod over Jose Castillo at second base here. He’s a liability against righties, but he won’t embarrass himself. Shortstop was a tossup between a pair of disappointments in Lillibridge and Bixler.
Tim Lincecum, Matt Wieters, B.J. Upton and Stephen Drew. All of them could have been Pirates. Sure, we can play that game with every team, but that the Pirates were making bad choices while picking early in so many recent drafts was obvious at the time and only became more frustrating when money the team refused to spend on a potential superstar went instead to veterans with no chance of making the team a contender.
The Pirates are well on their way to finishing below .500 for a 17th straight season, and it’s practically assured that they’ll make it an 18th in 2010. Still, they’ve utilized better strategies since bringing in Neal Huntington as their new GM. I’ve disagreed with some of the execution, but at least the team is no longer aiming for that elusive 81-win season. Better to lose 100 games now if it will help the chances of putting a real contender on the field a couple of years down the road.

Video: Willson Contreras blasts first postseason home run off of Kershaw

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  Willson Contreras #40 of the Chicago Cubs celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during game six of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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So much for Clayton Kershaw posing a threat tonight. The Cubs got their knocks in early and often against the Dodgers’ ace during Game 6 of the NLCS, racking up three runs in the first three innings before rookie catcher Willson Contreras unleashed his first postseason home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.

According to’s Phil Rogers, Contreras became the 10th Cub to homer in the 2016 playoffs, following big hits by Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Travis Wood, and Javier Baez. Of the ten home run hitters, Contreras joins catchers David Ross and Miguel Montero as yet another backstop capable of driving the long ball (and, less importantly, as another player capable of a sweet, sweet bat flip).

Rizzo, whose last homer was a deep drive to right field off of Los Angeles right-hander Pedro Baez in Game 4 of the NLCS, piled on Kershaw’s five-run outing with another home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kershaw called it a night after five frames, and the Cubs currently lead the Dodgers 5-0 in the sixth inning.

Pirates’ Nick Leyva selected as senior advisor of baseball ops

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 17:  Coach Nick Leyva #16 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photo during photo day at Pirate City on February 17, 2013 in Bradenton, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
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Former first base and infield coach Nick Leyva was promoted to senior advisor of baseball operations on Saturday, per a report by Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Pirates also fired third base coach Rick Sofield, with no named successor as of yet.

Leyva joined the Pirates’ organization in the 2011 offseason as a third base coach under manager Clint Hurdle. He shifted to his role as the first base coach and infield coach in 2014, when first base coach Rick Sofield was reassigned to third base prior to the 2015 season. According to Biertempfel, the swap was made in order to optimize the team’s baserunning strategies, all of which appeared to fall flat during the 2015 and 2016 seasons:

The results this season were awful. The Pirates ranked 13th in the National League with a minus-7.0 BsR — a metric that measures how many runs above or below league average a team gets via its baserunning.

In 2013 and 2014, the Pirates had one of the top five BsR ratings in the NL. In 2015, they were seventh with a 2.8 BsR.

This season, the Pirates made the second-most outs at third base in the league and were last in taking extra bases on singles and doubles. Their baserunners went from first to third base on hits a league-low 63 times.

Sofield, in particular, highlighted the Pirates’ poor baserunning choices in games like this one, when he sent Sean Rodriguez home too early during the last vestige of a ninth inning rally against the Phillies.

Following the announcement, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington issued a statement elaborating on Leyva’s role within the organization:

We have great respect and appreciation for both men. We thank them for their time and effort as part of our Major League team and the Pirates organization. It was a difficult decision, but we felt it was the right time to make this change on our Major League staff. We look forward to Nick’s continued impact in his future role with the Pirates. Nick has held nearly every coaching position at the major league level and at the minor league level, including Major League manager, in his extensive career and will be a quality mentor for our minor league managers, coaches and players.