KEVIN HART
RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
Born: December 29, 1982
Height: 6′ 4″
Weight: 215
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Drafted: 11th Round, 319th overall, 2004
How Acquired: Trade (for John Grabow/Tom Gorzelanny)
College:  University of Maryland
Agent: N/A

WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES

The Pirates obtained Hart, RHP Jose Ascanio and IF Josh Harrison from the Cubs for LHPs John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny.  Hart throws in the low-90s, or harder as a reliever, and also has a curve, slider and change.  The Pirates seemed to like Hart’s secondary offerings but Baseball America described them, at the time of the trade as fringy; LH batters have hit about sixty points higher against him in the minors, so his changeup probably needs to improve.  GM Neal Huntington’s description of the trade was puzzling: he made it sound like it was originally just Grabow for Ascanio, but the Pirates wanted Hart and had to give up Gorzelanny to get him.  The Pirates’ big complaint with Gorzelanny, while he was dominating in AAA, was that he didn’t throw strikes consistently or pitch efficiently.  Hart, however, has always had the same problems, only worse, and he’s the same age as Gorzelanny, so it’s not like the Pirates got a younger pitcher whose command figured to improve more over time.  And Gorzelanny had previously had significant success in the majors, while Hart had not.  Although the Pirates supposedly were impressed with Hart’s sinker, his groundball to flyball ratio of 1.37 in 2009 was nothing special.

2004
A-:  3-0-1, 3.77 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 14.1 IP, 4.4 BB/9, 10.0 K/9
A:  2-0-0, 3.77 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 14.1 IP, 3.1 BB/9, 10.0 K/9

Hart had a good debut in the Orioles’ system, divided between short season ball and low A.  Oddly, his ERA was exactly 3.77 at both stops and he fanned exactly ten batters per nine innings at both stops.  His WHIP overall was 1.22.

2005
A:  9-8-0, 4.55 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 152.1 IP, 3.2 BB/9, 9.7 K/9

Pitched all year as a starter in low A and had less success, despite a very good K rate.  Batters hit .278 against him.

2006
A+:  6-11-0, 4.61 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 148.1 IP, 3.9 BB/9, 7.4 K/9

Went to high A and didn’t get hit quite as hard (.258 opponents’ BA), but his walk and K rates got worse and he had some gopher ball problems, allowing 18.  The Orioles sent him to the Cubs in a minor off-season trade.

2007
AA:  8-5-0, 4.24 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 102 IP, 2.4 BB/9, 8.1 K/9
AAA:  4-1-0, 3.54 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 56 IP, 3.7 BB/9, 6.3 K/9
MLB:  0-0-0, 0.82 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 11 IP, 3.3 BB/9, 10.6 K/9

Made sudden improvement after learning a cut fastball.  He spent two-thirds of the season in AA, with peripheral numbers that were better than his ERA, then the last third in AAA.  His walk and K numbers were good in AA, not so much in AAA.  Hart did well in a brief callup.

2008
AA:  0-0-0, 3.00 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 3 IP, 6.0 BB/9, 9.0 K/9
AAA:  4-2-5, 2.81 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 57.2 IP, 3.1 BB/9, 9.8 K/9
MLB:  2-2-0, 6.51 ERA, 2.06 WHIP, 27.2 IP, 5.9 BB/9, 7.5 K/9

Hart went back to AAA and put up excellent numbers, pitching both as a starter and reliever.  Opponents hit only .187 against him, and he fanned nearly ten per nine innings.  He struggled badly in a trial with Cubs, though, as hitters batted .325 against him in 21 relief outings.

2009
A (ChiC):  0-0-0, 4.50 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 4 IP, 2.2 BB/9, 6.8 K/9
AAA (ChiC):  3-3-3, 3.10 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 52.1 IP, 3.4 BB/9, 9.8 K/9
MLB (ChiC):  3-1-0, 2.60 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 27.2 IP, 5.9 BB/9, 4.2 K/9
MLB (Pgh):  1-8-0, 6.92 ERA, 1.88 WHIP, 53.1 IP, 4.4 BB/9, 6.6 K/9

BA rated Hart as the Cubs’ 6th best prospect going into 2009, albeit in a weak system.  He continued to pitch well back in AAA again, pitching both as a starter and reliever.  He saw time with the Cubs due to injuries and posted a good ERA in four starts and four relief appearances, but the ERA is misleading as he had a high WHIP and walked more than he struck out.  After the trade, Hart replaced Virgil Vasquez in the Pirates’ rotation and pitched badly, mainly because he simply couldn’t throw strikes.  He didn’t just miss a little with a lot of pitches, either; he was far off the plate on a frequent basis.  He routinely got into three-ball counts and threw only 59% of his pitches for strikes.  Both RH and LH batters hammered him, with OPS figures of .983 and .898, respectively.

2010
AAA:  1-0-0, 6.75 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, 17.1 IP, 5.7 BB/9, 9.9 K/9

Hart figured to compete with Dan McCutchen for the last spot in the rotation.  The Pirates made it very clear that Hart was the frontrunner, but he had a terrible spring, walking 13 in just 4.2 IP.  After repeatedly claiming he was making progress, the team finally optioned him to AAA.  He seemed to be coming around gradually there, but got shelled in his last start and, afterward, it was discovered that he had a torn labrum.  The Pirates announced that the surgery was successful and that no other damage was found aside from the labral tear.  That should mean there was no rotator cuff damage, which is a key element in determining whether a pitcher will be able to recover his ability.

2011
Did not play

Hart’s recovery did not go well and, by season’s end, he still wasn’t close to pitching in game situations.  He spent the year on the 60-day disabled list.

The high minor league K rates make it clear that Hart has an outstanding arm, but there’s no telling whether he’ll be able to pitch again, and he certainly won’t be able to pitch in the majors without spending a long time, probably more than a season, in the minors.  The Pirates outrighted Hart to AAA after the season, but he can choose free agency.  They could try to sign him to a minor league deal for 2012.

STATS
Baseball Reference–Majors
Baseball Reference–Minors
Fangraphs
MLB.com
MiLB.com
CONTRACT INFORMATION
2011: League Minimum
2009: $407,500
2008: $392,500
PLAYER INFORMATION
Signing Bonus: N/A
MiLB Debut: 2004
MLB Debut: 9/4/2007
MLB FA Eligible: 2014
Rule 5 Draft: Protected
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 9/4/2007
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2008, 2009, 2010)
MLB Service Time: 1.033
TRANSACTIONS
June 7, 2004: Drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 11th round, 319th overall; signed on June 29.
December 7, 2006: Acquired by the Chicago Cubs from the Baltimore Orioles as the player to be named later from an earlier deal when Baltimore sent a PTBNL to Chicago in exchange for Freddie Bynum.
September 4, 2007: Contract purchased by the Chicago Cubs.
July 30, 2009: Acquired by the Pittsburgh Pirates from the Chicago Cubs along with Jose Ascanio and Josh Harrison in exchange for Tim Gorzelanny and John Grabow.
October 31, 2011: Outrighted to AAA by the Pittsburgh Pirates.