SweetSpot: Stolmy Pimentel

Pirates' nice pick-4 in Joel Hanrahan trade

December, 26, 2012

The Pirates’ side of the Joel Hanrahan trade is a fairly classic pump-and-dump gambit when it comes to talent management: Acquired with Lastings Milledge from the Nationals in 2009 for Sean Burnett and Nyjer Morgan, Hanrahan became the top commodity exchanged in the deal via his two seasons of success as a closer.

From the Pirates’ perspective, did Pirates GM Neal Huntington capitalize on that value and get good swag? A quick review of the quartet received from the Red Sox suggests that he did:
  • First baseman/left fielder Jerry Sands: Sands would initially appear to be the headline-worthy prospect, because he was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 6 prospect in the Dodgers’ system heading into the 2011 season before later coming to Boston in the Adrian Gonzalez/Carl Crawford monster swap.However, I’d take that ranking with a few grains of salt. He’s already heading into his age-25 season, and the big numbers he racked up (.296/.375/.524 last year) owe plenty to Albuquerque’s Isotopes Park, where he mashed for a .952 OPS. In the rest of the still hitter-friendly PCL, his OPS was .860. Both Bill James and Baseball Prospectus forecast a hitter with an OBP in the .320s and a slugging around .470-.480 in the future -- which is fine, but it’s barely above MLB-average performance for first basemen and right fielders. He’s more Garrett Jones Lite than the next Jeff Bagwell -- playable, but replaceable.
  • Reliever Mark Melancon: He has the talent to potentially make the exchange a push. His FIP in a bad season in Boston (4.54) was almost the same as Hanrahan’s in Pittsburgh (4.49), and he’s the pitcher heading out the AL East into the easier NL Central, as well as the guy whose unusual spike in homers per fly ball should come back down. With a fastball that sits around 93 mph, he won’t wow the scoreboard speed gun as much as Hanrahan does, but setting up or closing for the Pirates, he wouldn’t need to. And he’s under Pirates’ club control for four more years.
  • Middle infielder Ivan De Jesus Jr. was once billed as a solid prospect, but time and more than 400 games at shortstop have shown he’s a step short there without showing the bat to really stick at second base. He’s shown better patience at the plate in the lower minors than recently, but he’s already drifted well towards a utilityman’s career track, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
  • Right-hander Stolmy Pimentel’s a nice arm, but he’s far from a sure thing. The 22-year-old Dominican has a relatively clean bill of health, and his fastball has been clocked as high as 97. He’s yet to really thrive above A-ball after two spins through Double-A and has had trouble finding consistency with his off-speed offerings, but there’s always the bullpen if he doesn’t find it.

Considering that Hanrahan also came with just a single season of club control before he becomes eligible for free agency, it wasn’t like Huntington had a lot to work with beyond Hanrahan’s quickly compiled stack of saves and the expense of arbitration-boosted 2013 paydays. A bad month or two at the start of 2013 could have seriously undermined Hanrahan’s value at the deadline. Add in Hanrahan’s problems leaving pitches over the plate last season, only to see an increasing number of them sent into the stands -- contributing to a FIP almost two runs higher than his ERA -- that risk was only too real.

So you could understand why the Bucs exec was willing to strike a deal sooner rather than later. Tossing in organizational player Brock Holt doesn't hurt the Pirates any. While cashing in Hanrahan while he could, Huntington struck a nice deal -- not a great one, but given what he was working with, a solid exchange.

Christina Kahrl covers baseball for ESPN.com. You can follow her on Twitter.
Fellow ESPN baseball writers Eric Karabell, Tristan Cockcroft and Jason Grey were all in Connecticut on Wednesday, so the four us spent a night at the ballpark in New Britain, watching Double-A baseball, discussing Kevin Gregg's alligator blood and trying to remember the two other players on Cal Ripken's rookie card. (We all correctly guessed Bob Bonner and I was sure Lenn Sakata was the third guy, but turns out it was actually Jeff Schneider.)

Jason was giving us scouting tips as he took notes on the game's starting pitchers -- Stolmy Pimentel for the Portland Sea Dogs (Boston's affiliate) and Deolis Guerra for the Rock Cats (Minnesota's affiliate). Both are young right-handers, both top prospects at one time or another. You may remember Guerra as one of the key guys the Twins acquired from the Mets in the Johan Santana trade. Unfortunately, ever since the trade he's had a distinct inability to get batters out. His career minor league ERA is 5.14, but he's still just 22 and still has a live arm. Pimental is a thin, 21-year-old Dominican with a nice fastball and upside. Unfortunately, he entered the game with an 0-7 record and an ERA over 8.00.

Neither pitched well on this night. Pimentel lost his focus and concentration in the second inning, giving up eight runs, including long blasts by Jair Fernandez and former first-round pick Chris Parmalee. Guerra tired, couldn't get his curveball over consistently and get knocked out in the fifth after surrendering 10 hits and seven runs. It was not a good night for prospect hounds.

It was a good night, however, to see one of my new favorite minor leaguers, New Britain shortstop Chris Cates. He's not really a prospect: While he can really pick it in the field, he's a career .231 hitter in the minors and he's been in the Twins system since 2007 and has never homered. Chris Cates is also 5-foot-3. That's two inches shorter than Fred Patek's listed height but may or may not have been the actual height of a White Sox shortstop from the late '70s named Harry Chappas.

Cates went 2-for-4 and had a hustle double after the Portland left fielder lollygagged a bit after a base hit. Portland led 12-9 after eight innings, it was getting late, so we called it a game to grab some dinner and trade stories about the best games we've ever seen in person. (Jason was in attendance for Roger Clemens' first 20-strikeout game and Kerry Wood's 20-strikeout game and both of us were at Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. Eric mentioned being at the infamous Fog Bowl NFL playoff game between the Eagles and Bears, where he couldn't see the guy sitting next to him, let alone the action on the field. Tristan said Game 6 of the 2000 ALCS, when the Yankees beat the Mariners, but I think he said that just to rub my face in it.)

Anyway, we asked Eric if he had been at the Wilson Valdez Game last week in Philly, but he hadn't. None of us could remember being at a major league game where a position player pitched.

So we left after eight innings. In the top of the ninth, Portland starts scoring a bunch more runs and guess what ... Chris Cates comes in to pitch to get the final two outs.

And that's why you never leave a baseball game early.