Bob Smizik: Selected short subjects / Davis’ value; Fleury’s resurgence; Walker’s role

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Although the addition of first baseman Ike Davis looked to be nothing but a positive to the Pirates' 25-man roster, for a certain segment of the fan base the trade with the New York Mets was not greeted warmly. That group is sometimes described here -- kiddingly, of course -- as suffering from Prospect Separation Syndrome. This is a disease that's known to cause serious heart palpitations at the mere mention of trading a prospect -- regardless of the return.

While the PSS crowd could easily deal with the first half of the package the Pirates sent to the Mets -- reliever Zack Thornton -- it was the second half -- a player to be named -- that activated symptoms. Those symptoms became acute less than a day after the trade when Jon Heyman of wrote that the player would be a member of the 2013 draft class.

That possibly could mean outfielder Austin Meadows or catcher Reese McGuire, ranked as the 49th- and 81st-best prospects by Baseball America and both first-rounders last year. When Greg Brown pressed general manager Neal Huntington on the name of the PTBN or whether he was a member of the Class of 2013, Huntington, never a man to be pinned down, acknowledged all things were possible.

It’s actually kind of exciting that Huntington might have thrown the name of Meadows or McGuire or another top prospect into this trade. If he did, it shows he's all in on 2014, something many, myself included, did not believe him to be. It’s true the Pirates must live by their farm system, but that doesn’t preclude them using their farm system to better the parent club in a trade.

To review the qualifications of Davis, who is under team control through 2016: He had a career OPS versus RHP of .833 and a home run every 19.6 at-bats. As was posted Saturday, his numbers against RHP are better than those of Pedro Alvarez and just a tick behind those of Andrew McCutchen.

Those are impressive credentials and they were known to Mets GM Sandy Alderson, who also was aware of the Pirates' need for a left-handed hitting first baseman. Which is to say, Alderson wasn’t about to give Davis away. Thornton represents next to nothing. Which means the PTBN must represent something significant and that would be more than Vin Mazzaro, a name that was mentioned, seriously, in the comment section.

The Pirates are going to end up giving a quality prospect to the Mets. My questions to the PSS crowd and to anyone else who wishes to comment. How do you regard the trade if the PTBN is:

• Meadows?

• McGuire?

• Harold Ramirez, the team’s ninth-rated prospect?

• One of these three: Picks 2-4 in 2013: LHP Blake Taylor; OF JaCoby Jones; LHP Cody Dickson?


There will be no conclusive proof that Marc-Andre Fleury has put his infamous history of playoff meltdowns behind him until the current postseason is concluded and he has escaped without a string of embarrassing performances.

But if ever there was an indication Fleury has put his championship-killing propensities in the past, it was the game Monday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets. He allowed two bad goals before the game was four minutes old. You could just visualize a repeat of, say, that April weekend in 2012 when Fleury allowed the Philadelphia Flyers 13 goals in less than two full games (7.9 goals-against average, .776 save percentage).

Instead, he stood tall, allowed one goal in the final 56 minutes and continued to distance himself from his postseason infamy.

Fleury has played well, not great. Winning the Cup does not necessarily require greatness from a goalie. Chris Osgood had a better goals-against average and save percentage than Fleury in the 2009 Cup final. Fleury’s team won the Cup.


These numbers have not been verified by the Elias Sports Bureau, but according to the Smizik Sports Bureau, the National League leader in home runs over the past two months (September 2013, April 2014) is Neil Walker with 13. Walker hit seven last September and has six this April for a total of 13. That would tie him with Ryan Zimmerman, who hit 11 last September and two this month before going on the DL.

No one thought much about Walker’s seven September home runs, particularly when they were accompanied by a .207 batting average and followed by a 2-for-24 postseason. But now that he has six in April, it’s something to think about.

Walker’s role has never been truly defined while with the Pirates because his skill set never was truly defined. One month he looked like a power guy, the next like an on-base guy, the next neither.

But is he the missing middle-of-the-lineup bat the Pirates need? Does Walker play as a viable No. 5 hitter, particularly since there are indications he has improved against left-handed pitching?

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