Even as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, Neal Huntington continues to work, as the Pirates have added two new players to their 40-man roster by signing free agent first baseman and outfielder Jake Goebbert to a major league contract and acquiring pitcher Allen Webster from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for cash considerations.
Goebbert, who will be 28 next season, is a left-handed batter who spent the 2015 season with the San Diego Padres' AAA affiliate at El Paso, where he compiled a .294/.392/.452 batting line. He is a career .282/.386/.465 hitter in AAA across parts of five seasons at that level (totaling 997 PA), and batted .218/.313/.317 in his only major league action with the Padres in 2014 (which, it should be noted, came in the relatively poor offensive environment of Petco Park). He was originally an Astros draftee out of Northwestern University, before being traded twice - first to the A's in a deal for pitcher Travis Blackley, and then to the Padres in a package for first baseman Kyle Blanks.
Goebbert does not have much home run power, but he is a decent contact hitter with some line drive pop. He has experience at first base and all three outfield positions, though he lacks the speed and range of a prototypical center fielder and is probably a better fit for the outfield corners. Goebbert has two options remaining, and it seems likely that he will compete this spring for a role as either a platoon partner with Mike Morse at first base or a backup in the outfield.
Also, his family owns a pumpkin farm, which is kind of neat.
Webster is a former Dodgers and Red Sox prospect who moved from the former to the latter in the mega-deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford to the Dodgers. The right-handed starter was listed among Baseball America's top 100 prospects in 2011 (#95), 2012 (#49) and 2013 (#88), but he has struggled to transition from AAA success to major league production. The Red Sox shipped him to the Diamondbacks last December in the Wade Miley deal and he labored through a season that was pretty awful across the board: a 5.81 ERA and 17/20 K/BB in 31 ML innings, which included 10 HR allowed, and a 8.18 ERA in fifteen starts with AAA Reno.
Webster does have youth and stuff on his side, however, and seems like he might be an attractive reclamation prospect. He will be only 26 next year, and at his best, he has three good pitches: a sinking fastball in the mid-90s, a solid slider, and a change that BA graded as the Internaltional League's best in 2014. A Fangraphs article published just yesterday cited Webster as an example of a pitcher who would be a good bet as a conversion to relief, and I could certainly see him enjoying success in that role in 2016. If so, he'll need to put it together in a hurry (or clear waivers in the spring), as he's out of options.
In case you'd like some additional reading material, here are a few links:
- MLB.com posted its list of the top 20 prospects in the Arizona Fall League, as written by Jim Callis, and two Pirates made the cut. Outfielder Austin Meadows earned the #2 spot, and Callis's remark that "scouts still loved him even though he hit .169/.194/.308 and recorded the league's worst on-base percentage" is an illustration of Meadows's tools and potential. Catcher Reese McGuire, meanwhile, checked in at #13, earning positive remarks for his defense and contact ability, in spite of a lack of present power.
- Baseball America posted a preview by J.J. Cooper listing some of the top players available in this year's Rule 5 draft, and Pirates fans worried about Clay Holmes or Barrett Barnes may be encouraged to note that no Pittsburgh prospects were mentioned in the piece. Cooper believes (and I share his opinion) that the Astros are the team running the biggest risk of losing useful players this year.