The Pittsburgh Pirates have added three players so far to the 40-man roster, protecting them from the Rule 5 draft. So far they’ve added Gregory Polanco, Alen Hanson, and Joely Rodriguez. I heard about Polanco and Hanson this morning, although those two were obviously going to be added. Rodriguez was questionable, but his agent reported that he has been added. There could be more players joining this list. Normally the Pirates notify the players, then release an official announcement. The list won’t be final until the official announcement comes. Until then, I’ll keep a running list below of the players who are added, starting with the first three.
UPDATE 3:41 PM: I’ve received word through a source that Casey Sadler has been added to the 40-man roster. That makes four. His information is below. The addition of Sadler means the 40-man roster is full. Any additional moves will require someone to be designated for assignment off the 40-man.
UPDATE 5:38 PM: The Pirates have officially announced the four additions to the 40-man roster. That means the moves are official and the roster is set. The 40-man roster is full, and no further additions are expected to be made.
Gregory Polanco, OF - He’s the top hitting prospect in the system, and should be up in the majors at some point in 2014. Polanco has been tearing up the Dominican Winter Leagues, which is the talent level equivalent of Triple-A. He played briefly in Triple-A in 2013, and will start the 2014 season at the level. Polanco has the potential to be a star. He hits for average, has great plate patience, and already hits for power while having the potential to be a 30 home run hitter in the future. He also has a ton of speed due to his long legs, making him a threat on the bases and a great fielder in the outfield. He’s probably a better defensive center fielder than Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte, due to his excellent range and his arm strength. He covers a ton of ground left and right. He’s had some issues with straight away hits, but worked to improve on those routes in 2013 and showed some improvements. There’s not much that Polanco needs to work on, and it won’t be long before he’s the third outfielder in Pittsburgh, next to McCutchen and Marte.
Alen Hanson, SS - The big knock on Hanson is going to be his defense, but a lot of people are mis-informed about his true defensive skills. There has been a question of whether he can stay at shortstop, and that question leads people to believe that Hanson doesn’t possess the defensive skills to stick at the premium position. That’s not true. Hanson has some great defensive skills, with a lot of range and a strong enough arm to make the throw from deep in the hole. It’s true that Hanson had 32 errors in 2013. That number only adds to the misconception that Hanson is a poor fielder. The strange thing about the errors is that Hanson made a lot of them on routine plays. I saw a lot of him in 2013, and there were many times where he would make an extremely difficult play, then follow it up with an error on a routine grounder. The problem is that Hanson would relax on the routine plays, leading to poor mechanics and leading to off-target throws or bad glove placement. The thing to remember is that he just turned 21 a month ago. You could chalk those issues up to maturity. If Hanson matures and learns to be aggressive on every play, then he could be a great shortstop option. He’s got a ton of speed, and a good ability to hit for average and get on base. His upside offensively would be a strong leadoff hitter, and he could get to the point defensively where he’s actually adding value on that side of the game.
Joely Rodriguez, LHP - I’m usually skeptical about left-handed pitchers until they’ve had some sort of success above A-ball. With Rodriguez I make an exception, and it’s entirely due to his stuff. He throws his two-seam fastball consistently in the 91-94 MPH range, and touched as high as 96 this year. In previous years he had trouble commanding the pitch at a higher velocity, but this year he did an outstanding job in that area. He pairs the fastball with a slider and a changeup. The slider was previously seen as his best pitch, before the improvement with his fastball. It’s a low-to-mid 80s pitch with cutting action that is a great weapon against left-handers. Rodriguez made big strides with his changeup this year, which is another low 80s pitch that has late cutting action. He’s got the potential to be a mid-rotation starter at best, which isn’t a lofty expectation for a lefty with his stuff and the movement on his pitches. If he doesn’t reach his upside as a starter, he could fit in the majors as a dominant left-handed reliever, similar to the transition Justin Wilson made in the last year. Rodriguez should start the 2014 season in Altoona, and could be an option for the majors as early as mid-season 2015 if he continues to develop well.
Casey Sadler, RHP - The Pirates love sinkerball pitchers, so it’s no surprise they protected Sadler. He’s an extreme sinkerball pitcher, with a 56.4% ground ball ratio in 2013. He didn’t have dominant strikeout numbers, with a 4.8 K/9 on the season, although that’s because he works off his sinker and pitches to contact. He throws the pitch 89-93 MPH and pairs it with a slider that has a late break and profiles as an above-average pitch. A big question for Sadler is whether his changeup will allow him to remain a starter. He moved to the rotation in the middle of the 2012 season, and 2013 was his first full year as a starter for the Pirates. He worked on developing the changeup this year, but had some issues at times with the pitch being too flat or thrown too hard, with not a lot of separation from his sinker. His upside is a back of the rotation starter or a strong middle reliever. He could provide the Pirates with rotation depth in late 2014, or he could be an option out of the bullpen. Long-term he profiles more as a reliever, since the Pirates have some great young starting pitchers with higher upsides. The key to his game is the sinker, which is an effective pitch. That pitch will only become more effective in the majors with the defensive shifts the Pirates employ.