First Pitch: More Thoughts On Draft Signings, Promotions and Jamestown
There was a lot of news on the site today. At certain points of the day we were posting an article and immediately starting on the next update. That didn’t leave for a lot of time to process any of the individual moves. Some of them might have even been lost in the mix. So I wanted to recap the day, with some overall thoughts on some of the moves.
The signing of McGuire isn’t unexpected. We reported a few weeks ago that he had already decided to turn pro. He just couldn’t until his graduation, which came this past weekend. McGuire will sign with just enough time to report to Bradenton for the start of the GCL Pirates season on Friday.
We didn’t get to experience the benefit of the new, earlier signing deadline last year, due to obvious Mark Appel related reasons. The new system and the earlier deadline will mean that McGuire, and eventually Austin Meadows (before you ask, no updates on that front, otherwise it would be linked above), will get at least a month in the GCL this year. In McGuire’s case, that will be a full season at the level. What that means for the future is unknown. We saw Adrian Sampson sign early last year and get an aggressive push to Bradenton this year (normally college starters go to West Virginia first). But we haven’t seen how prep players could be impacted by half a season in the GCL. Normally the Pirates aggressively push them to West Virginia anyway, so I’m not sure it will make much of a difference for the two first rounders this year.
The Pirates have also agreed to a deal with Neil Kozikowski. They signed the eighth rounder to an over-slot deal. Some of the reactions I got were interesting, if only because of how much weight the national rankings carry. Kozikowski wasn’t rated on any of Baseball America’s top prospect lists. He’s a prep pitcher who is 6′ 4″, 180 pounds, throws upper 80s and touches 92, has a projectable frame, and good off-speed stuff, with a commitment to VCU. It reminded me of another over-slot signing from a few years ago.
Player A has a projectable frame at 6′ 7″, 200 pounds. Baseball America did not have him rated among the top 105 prospects in southern California. He grew rapidly in high school, eight inches after his freshman year. His velocity also increased rapidly, eventually to the upper 80s to low 90s, reaching as high as 93. He also throws a slider, curve and change.
Player A was Tyler Glasnow. He had no hype surrounding him, no national rankings, and definitely wasn’t the mid-90s, touching 99 MPH with a plus curveball and striking out 85 batters in 57 innings pitcher he is this year. I’m not saying this to suggest Kozikowski will be the next Glasnow. I’m just saying that with prep pitchers, you never know.
One thing I found interesting is that you never hear questions if the Pirates go over-slot on a middle round pick. All throughout the draft, and even after the Blake Taylor under-slot deal, I heard comments about how the Pirates might be able to save money for a middle round guy. It’s almost like the new system has created this idea that guys in the top ten rounds are only worth up to their slot prices, but guys after round ten are worth whatever it takes to get them to sign. Sign a guy for under-slot in the top ten rounds, and you’re creating money for all of those valuable guys in the middle rounds. Sign a guy for over-slot in the top ten rounds and you’re wasting money that you could spend on all of those players who were so much better that they remained on the board for several rounds.
That’s just an interesting observation I’ve had over the last few days. I’m not arguing anything in favor of Kozikowski, since I’ve only heard reports and have never seen him pitch. But he’s got all of the attributes that you’d want from a projectable prep pitcher, and the thing about those guys is that the more projectable arms you get, the better chance you have of landing prospects like Tyler Glasnow and Nick Kingham.
It seems like everyone is getting promoted. Luis Heredia is finally heading to West Virginia, which means I no longer have to answer the “Why are there no updates on Luis Heredia?” question by telling people to search the site for “Luis Heredia” and find all of my updates from the last month. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do at the level, while also keeping in mind that for the next two months he’s still an 18-year-old pitching in full season ball.
Bradenton will be getting a bunch of prospects. Joely Rodriguez has been a sleeper prospect of mine for a few years now, and Orlando Castro was putting up phenomenal numbers. The guy I’m looking forward to seeing is Stetson Allie. The Allie supporters might be surprised to hear this, since I’ve been made out to be this guy who doesn’t like Stetson Allie. The truth is that I discriminate against all college-aged (22+) hitters in the lower levels until they’ve had success in Double-A or higher. That’s especially true if they don’t bring any defensive value, like first basemen.
That’s not saying Allie doesn’t have skills. He’s got the best power in the system by far. I noticed the power two years ago when he was a pitcher, and won a pitcher’s home run derby by crushing a few to deep center field at Pirate City. I’ve also been extremely impressed by how far he’s come in such a short time. He went from hitting nothing at the start of Spring Training, to hitting but not hitting for power at the end of Spring Training, to hitting everything and hitting for power at the start of the season.
There are still concerns. The strikeouts are a huge red flag, and he’s also been streaky at times, which has been covered up by his amazing hot streaks. Basically my approach with Allie is to be extremely cautiously optimistic. I’m not going to project him as some future power hitter in the majors, and hope he realizes that potential. He might have that potential, but I’ll work my projections up to that as he continues to show improvements. High-A pitching, and hitting in a pitcher friendly league should be a good test for him. The strikeouts are going to be a big thing I’ll be watching.
Overall, Allie might be one of the best “bonus prospects” in the system. I say “bonus prospects” as in guys who, if they realize their potential, would be a huge boost to the team at the major league level, while not being a guy the Pirates are depending on any time soon. Similar players would be Stolmy Pimentel, Clay Holmes, Barrett Barnes, Wyatt Mathisen, and other guys who have a lot of talent and upside, but aren’t considered the top guys in the system. I think everyone wants Allie to work out and become that power hitting everyday first baseman that the Pirates always seem to lack. I just don’t think we’re to the point where we can project that.
Jamestown Jammers Begin Their Season
Jamestown doesn’t have any huge names like Luis Heredia, Josh Bell, Dilson Herrera, or even big draft picks like McGuire or Meadows. They do have a lot of talented guys with upside. It’s a lot of sleepers and more of the “bonus prospects” from above. The three that top my list are Elvis Escobar, Harold Ramirez, and Jin-De Jhang. I also think there are a lot of sleepers on the pitching staff. Isaac Sanchez got off to a great start tonight. Dovydas Neverauskas and Colten Brewer have both hit 95 consistently with their fastballs. Cody Dickson is one of my favorite middle round picks from the 2013 draft. A lot of the college players taken are also interesting, and the hope would be that at least one of them eventually emerges as a real prospect in the upper levels.
There’s something about the short-season levels that’s different than any other level. In the upper levels, you’re watching guys and envisioning how they could become future major leaguers. In the short-season leagues, you’re watching guys and envisioning how they could become the next prospects who could become future major leaguers. With Alen Hanson and Gregory Polanco you look at when they could arrive in the majors and what type of players they could become. With Escobar and Ramirez, you’re looking at whether they could become the next Hanson/Polanco level prospects.
Basically this is where you’re taking the raw tools and abilities and turning them into prospects. They might not look like huge names now. However, neither did Hanson, Polanco, Herrera, Glasnow, or most of the other guys when they started out in the short-season leagues. By the end of the year we’ll get a better idea of who is breaking out and turning into the next big prospect.
Other Links and Notes
**Check out the latest episode of the Pirates Prospects Podcast: P3 Episode 9: What To Do With the Rotation When The Starters Return? It almost seems like the Pirates will never have all of their starters healthy.
**Bradenton Marauders to Host the 2014 FSL All-Star Game. I’m kind of looking forward to this, and looking forward to the possibility of Tyler Glasnow, Luis Heredia, Josh Bell, Dilson Herrera, and/or Barrett Barnes appearing in the game (assuming all will be in Bradenton at that time next year).
**Prospect Watch: Pimentel Dominant in Triple-A Debut; Sanchez Hits 9th Homer. It’s good to see Pimentel off to a good start in Triple-A. While Sanchez continues to hit, keep in mind that he has some throwing problems (including an error on a pickoff tonight).
**Pirates Sign Jose Contreras to a Minor League Deal. A lot of people will ask “Why bring back Contreras?” Even if he doesn’t play in the majors, the Indianapolis pitching staff has been severely depleted due to all of the injuries at the major league level. If all he does is pitch for Indianapolis and give them some innings out of the bullpen, that would be huge.