Prospect Notebook: Situational Pitching

After two weeks of watching bullpen sessions, live batting practice, fielding drills, and every other activity that wasn’t a game, I was looking forward to the start of the schedule in minor league camp. That schedule started today, with the first three days listed as camp days. Usually that means intrasquad games at the end of practice. That was the case today, with two games taking place side by side.

I sat down in between the two fields ready to watch the games begin. My focus was on Colton Cain, going up against Gift Ngoepe, who was leading off the game. Cain threw a few pitches, and all of a sudden I was surprised to hear…

RUNNER!

Runner? What are they talking about? Sure enough, there was a base runner taking off from first, trying to steal second. Did I miss something? I watched Cain warming up, then I watched Gift step up to the plate. How is there a base runner?

It took me about ten seconds to realize what was happening. The runner, who was safe at second, was sent back to first to try again. This wasn’t a normal game. They were running situation drills with the pitchers, having them work with runners on base.

They played the outing like a game. Batters hit in order. The pitchers tried for three outs. Sometimes they would reach their pitch count, and sometimes they would be held out there for more than three outs. The latter tended to happen when a pitcher got a first pitch ground ball double play for two quick outs. And when you’re starting the inning with a runner on first, it can be easy to get two quick outs without throwing many pitches.

Today didn’t give the opportunity to watch players in a real game, but it did provide a lot of looks at base running, outfield arms, and infield defense. I’d imagine there will be more games like this over the next two days before the Pirates start their minor league schedule on Wednesday.

THE PITCHERS

Stetson Allie pitching today at Pirate City.

Colton Cain was working in the upper 80s with his fastball, and had a good-looking change-up with late arm side movement that was in the lower 80s. He pitched two innings, throwing just under 30 pitches.

Jameson Taillon was sitting in the 94-97 MPH range, and threw just under 30 pitches in his two innings. He flashed an 83-84 MPH curveball, and threw an 87 MPH change up.

I watched Quinton Miller briefly. He was sitting in the lower 90s, and got a few ground ball double plays.

Stetson Allie was sitting 94-96 MPH with his fastball. He also flashed an 87-88 MPH slider. Allie had a ton of movement on his pitches, and his control is much better over where it was this time last year. He still has some command issues, but you can see the improvement.

Something I noticed during instructional leagues last fall, which I’ve also noticed this Spring: Gerrit Cole always takes an interest when Stetson Allie is on the mound.

Orlando Castro was throwing in the mid-80s with his fastball, but flashed a very nice curveball which was sitting in the low-to-mid 70s. Castro isn’t a guy that I trust. He’s a small left hander with great breaking pitches, but not much on his fastball. Those types tend to do well in the lower levels, then just disappear. He does have a nice curveball though.

Matt Benedict was throwing in the upper 80s.

Bryce Weidman was throwing a sinker in the mid-to-upper 80s.

THE POSITION PLAYERS

Josh Bell hit a hard shot off Colton Cain. It was a line drive to center field, which went right to the center fielder. The fielder actually dropped the ball. The key to the at-bat was that Bell put a great swing on the ball, caught it on the barrel, and did it batting right-handed against a lefty. He struck out later against Stetson Allie, looking silly on the third pitch. The video is below.

Elvis Escobar has a cannon for an arm. He made two great throws today. The first was a laser to home to try to get a runner. The throw beat the runner, but was off-line, to the third base side of the plate. It was good enough that it almost gave the catcher enough time to get back and make the tag. The second throw was another laser to second, trying to get Gift Ngoepe going from first to second. Gift was safe on a close play. Any other runner and Escobar would have easily nailed him. A normal throw wouldn’t have been close. Both throws by Escobar were on a line.

Speaking of great arms, I’ve written about Luis Urena’s potential for a plus arm in the past. I think we can remove the “potential” tag. He was playing right field and gunned down Jose Osuna trying to go first to third on a single. Osuna got a late break from first, but he’s athletic and can run, so the throw was impressive. Urena fired the ball from right field to third base, making a perfect throw with no bounce. Osuna would have been safe if it wasn’t for the bad read on the ball and the late jump, and the play was close even with the bad break.

Alen Hanson showed off his speed on the bases, hitting a stand up triple against lefty Orlando Castro. Hanson laced a hit down the first base line on an outside pitch, and used his speed to easily make it to third as the ball hooked and rolled away from the right fielder. Hanson has plus speed, but he wasn’t exactly graceful going around the bases. It almost looked like he was trying to run too fast, and I was half expecting him to fall rounding second.

I heard a lot of great reports on the speed and base running of 2011 12th round pick Candon Myles. I got to see him running the bases for the first time today. He started off at first base and stole second. He then stole third base, getting a great jump and making it without a throw from the catcher. Because of the drills he was sent back to second base. He then took third base again on a ball in the dirt. He’s a great runner on the bases, with good jumps, and reaching top speed very quickly.

VIDEO OF THE DAY

Stetson Allie striking out Josh Bell on three pitches. I have no idea what Allie was throwing on the last pitch. I’m not sure Bell had a clue either.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • http://twitter.com/JohnToperzer John Toperzer

    Wanted to see Taillon and missed him. Thanks for the update. I am surprised that his curve ball is slower than his change.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=72405411 Ian Rothermund

       I think that seems right about in line.  That’s where guys like Verlander are normally at; mid-upper 90’s, low-mid 80’s curve, high 80’s change. 

      Btw, it’s awesome to throw out guys with stuff like Verlander like it’s no big deal.

      How about Allie btw?  Everyone seemed really down on him after last season when they had to actually teach him how to pitch.  He’s still really young, and taking what stuff he has into account, if/when he can consistently find the strike zone he could move fast through the organization.

      Even if he never has masterful command, he may be a closer-type that could be effectively wild.

  • JohnDreker

    Nice video Tim. Did you happen to see any AB’s from Urena?