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Some Pirates are Playing Baseball

The Arizona Fall League is underway. Shelby Ford and Steven Lerud are off to great starts; Jamie Romak is 0-for-9 with four strikeouts. Jeff Sues, Michael Crotta, Jared Hughes and Derek Hankins have all pitched a couple innings apiece.

In the Hawaii Winter League, Miles Durham has an .884 OPS in 50 at bats; Jim Negrych is at .764, but he's mostly there to work on playing second base after playing third in the minors this year. (The Pirates think--with good reason--that he doesn't have the power to play third. He'll probably hit enough to stick as a second baseman or a utility guy if his defense can play in the middle infield, but from what I've read about his defense this year, I have my doubts.) Brian Friday is off to a slow start. Kyle Bloom has twelve strikeouts and a 1.50 ERA in twelve innings for West Oahu. Eric Krebs and Harrison Bishop are pitching there too.

For the Bucs, this year's winter leagues are relatively quiet, and they will probably stay that way unless Pedro Alvarez is added to a roster somewhere. But they could still end up affecting the big-league team. WTM's article from a few weeks back lists the players who risk being exposed to the Rule 5 draft this winter if they aren't added to the roster. Romak and Sues have probably earned spots regardless of how they perform in the AZL, but the performances of Krebs and Bloom, in particular, could factor into the Pirates' choices about whether to expose them. 

At Lynchburg in 2008, Krebs had a decent season in his first full year as a reliever, but it would have looked considerably better if he hadn't had a poor July while recovering from being hit in the face by a line drive. He has good stuff and generates a fair number of strikeouts and grounders. Given some of the dubious pitchers currently on the 40-man roster (Ronald Belisario, Yoslan Herrera, Dave Davidson, John Van Benschoten, and so on), Krebs should receive real consideration for a roster spot, particularly if he pitches well in Hawaii.

The same is true for Bloom, who will be 26 by the time next season starts but is a lefty starter who was very strong down the stretch for Altoona in 2008. GIven the Pirates' general lack of starting pitching prospects, he probably should win a spot, particularly if he continues pitching well this winter.

Lerud, a catcher, is also eligible for the Rule 5 draft, but he's not a great bet to be selected despite being a former third round pick and showing flashes of power potential as an amateur and as a pro. He battled a hand injury early in his minor league career and has struggled to make contact for the past several years, so he's made his way through the minors very slowly. As a catcher with a bit of power and patience, he's still a minor prospect--he might be a bit like a lefty Mark Parent if he develops a bit more. He's worth watching, but at this point, he's not worth protecting, and even a very strong showing in Hawaii probably shouldn't change that.