TIOPS DAILY FIVE
*Rumblings, Musings, Opinions*
1. Jung Ho Kang played a big role in the Pirates taking two of three games from the St. Louis Cardinals and he’s suddenly becoming the story of the Pirates season so far after just a few weeks ago many were wondering whether Triple-A was the best option for him. Similar to Josh Harrison last season, Kang is forcing his way into the everyday lineup as the calendar nears mid-May and it’s a good problem to have.
Kang with a home run, 2 RBIs in Sunday’s win over the Cardinals, now has a batting line of .333/.377/.521 on the season. Pirate officials believed there was a good chance this would be a learning experience type development year for Kang with his real impact coming in years two, three and beyond. Kang’s ability to adjust to Major League velocity so quickly has him arriving as an impact player a bit earlier than the Pirates anticipated.
He turned on a Tyler Lyons 93 mph fastball yesterday and earlier in the week against the Reds, Kang was not over-matched against Aroldis Chapman, walking against Chapman one night and hitting a double the next night off the hard throwing lefty.
Kang’s presence at the plate vs the Reds was a turning point for the Pirates staff in seeing that real progression has happened with how Kang’s quickly adapting to Major League pitching.
“He’s never seen 102 before, so I know that was a new experience, and he managed the at-bat very professionally,” Hurdle said of how Kang managed seeing 100 mph+ pitches from Chapman.
2. The Pirates made a big commitment to Josh Harrison with a four year, $27 million guaranteed contract so it’s understandable that they don’t want to make it seem like a third base controversy is developing. They need him in the long-run and the great thing with Kang and Harrison is the versatility they provide. It’s not going to be difficult to get each player at-bats even if the Pirates have three players (Kang, Harrison, Jordy Mercer) in the mix for two regular spots.
Harrison’s ability to play to third, second and both outfield corner spots will help keep Harrison in the lineup as a regular as he battles through his struggles.
The Pirates believe his issues are more mental now than anything.
“Josh is a guy trying to do too much to justify his contract,” GM Neal Huntington said Sunday during his media get together. “You generally see guys go in three directions when they get a contract. One, they relax and you see the true player because they have nothing to worry about as they are financially set for life. Two, we see a player that relaxes and maybe doesn’t care enough because he is financially set for life and so he takes a deep breath and doesn’t give you same energy and effort which is certainly not the case with Josh.
“The third case, which is what we believe is the case with Josh, — he is trying to justify the contract, he is trying to show those who doubted him and show those of us that had faith in him that he is deserving but we just need him to take a deep breath and go be the player that he is capable of, — bring the energy, be the leader, be the dangerous guy in the box.”
Huntington made it clear yesterday that even with Harrison’s struggles, he’s not going back to being a utility player.
“There is a very significant difference between a guy having versatility defensively and being a utility player,” Huntington said. “Josh versatility allows us to put the best defensive team on the field that we can and he is still going to play. So he’s not a utility player he is a regular.”
3. Buzz coming out of the World Championships is that Edmonton’s Taylor Hall, who by the way has seen some playing time with Sidney Crosby the past couple games, has been at the top of the Penguins wishlist since last December when the Oilers brass flirted with trading Hall but unfourtantely for the Penguins and others this summer, there’s a new Oilers management group now in place that knows what it’s doing and isn’t vulnerable like the previous one that almost traded Hall just for the sake of shaking things up.
4. Mike Babcock met with the Buffalo Sabres Sunday but things are viewed in league circles as being too quiet surrounding the Philadelphia Flyers right now who are all in on Babcock. It won’t be a surprise to many NHL executives if the Babcock sweepstakes come down to the Flyers or a return to Detroit with Edmonton not prepared to wait.
5. The offensive line is the one position where the Steelers find value with undrafted free agents under Mike Tomlin and are open to fill spots with them. Ramon Foster in the last year of his contract was a UDFA, Darnell Stapleton who started in Super Bowl XLIII was also undrafted. It has many believing Kansas State’s B.J. Finney could end becoming one of the top impact undrafted free agents in the NFL (from the 2015 group) over the next couple years.