After taking a big step backwards this year, 26-year-old Felix Pie was designated for assignment by the Orioles on Tuesday. The team has called up fellow outfielder Matt Angle to take his place.
Pie, a former Cubs prospect, seemed ready to start in center field for some team after a 2009 season in which he hit .266/.326/.437 with nine homers in 252 at-bats, but rather than trade him, the Orioles instead kept him around as a part-time left fielder in 2010. He wasn’t really an asset in that role, hitting .274/.305/.413 in 288 at-bats.
Pie’s hopes of an expanded role this year died with the Vladimir Guerrero signing, and he was unable to capitalize after injuries to Derrek Lee, Luke Scott and Guerrero opened the door for him to seize the left-field job. He was hitting just .220/.264/.280 in 164 at-bats. Since the beginning of June, he was hitting .184 with two RBI and six runs scored in 87 at-bats.
While Pie may yet be young enough to turn into a useful player, his hopes of making it as a regular appear dashed. His lack of plate discipline is a huge issue at the plate, and he doesn’t use his speed to the best of his ability. Advertised as a quality defensive center fielder when he arrived in the majors, his fielding numbers have gotten worse every year to the point at which he was actually abysmal in left field this season.
To replace their underachiever, the Orioles are calling up an overachiever with a similar profile. Like Pie, Angle is left-handed-hitting outfielder with limited power and good speed. He was hitting .272/.347/.345 with 27 steals in 30 attempts for Triple-A Norfolk this season. Angle is just seven months younger than Pie, and he’s probably a fifth outfielder at best. Still, the Orioles have nothing to lose by giving him a look.
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 FanGraphs.com 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.
With Game 6 of the NLCS just hours away, the Dodgers will opt for a lefty-heavy lineup against right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Batting leadoff is rookie outfielder Andrew Toles, who made one appearance at the top of the lineup during the 2016 season. The Cubs, meanwhile, will bench Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.. This will be Almora’s first start of the playoffs, and while he has yet to face Kershaw in October, his right-handed bat could play well against the lefty at the bottom of the lineup.
Game time is scheduled for 8 PM EDT; lineups are below.
1. Andrew Toles (L) LF
6. Wilson Contreras (R) C
8. Albert Almora Jr. (R) RF
9. Kyle Hendricks (R) RHP