Gregory Polanco is the top prospect in the system, and should be up by mid-season.

Pirates Leaning Toward Staying In-House For Right Field

Last week I wrote that it looked like the Pirates were going to stay internal for right field in 2014. Neal Huntington all but confirmed that in his meeting with the media today, as reported by Rob Biertempfel.

The Pirates traded for Jaff Decker a few weeks ago, adding one corner outfield option to the mix. They also tendered a contract to Travis Snider a week ago, giving them several options to work with. Currently the Pirates have Snider and Jose Tabata as the favorites to start the season in Pittsburgh, since both players are out of options. Andrew Lambo and Decker are alternatives, although both players have options remaining and could start the season in Triple-A.

By the end of July the Pirates could turn to Gregory Polanco to take over full time in right field. If one of the other right fielders really steps up before then, the Pirates could take their time with Polanco and give him a full year in Triple-A.

This decision makes sense, as the presence of Polanco means the Pirates would only be adding a right fielder for about 3-4 months. The quality of player they could get on a one year deal probably wouldn’t be better than the internal options. The benefit to going with the internal options is that the Pirates would have an interesting trade option next off-season if one of those players works out and Polanco is ready for the majors.

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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, 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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  • Buccoguy1979

    How short is the drive from Bradenton to Orlando? I’m assuming you are at the meetings, right? Maybe not. Anyway, nice call on staying internal for RF. You hit it on the head.

    • Tim Williams

      It’s anywhere from 2 hours to three days, depending on the traffic around Disney and the 47 other theme parks in the area.

      I’m not at the meetings. Finishing up the Prospect Guide and posting news from my office at home.

      • Buccoguy1979

        Makes sense – gotta get the guide finished up or you’ll let all of us down.

      • Jared

        Haha, yeah the traffic is terrible around Disney. I come down golfing to golf every year with my dad and stay with my parents about an hour south of Orlando…sometimes it takes 3 hours to get to an Orlando course if you go at the wrong time of the day.

  • Henduck

    Would Ichiro make any sense?

    • Stephen Brooks

      Pretty much every way you could say no.

    • mblthd

      Almost as much sense as giving Loney $7MM

      • Stephen Brooks

        Much less. Ichiro coming off a .639 OPS – his 3rd sub-.700 in a row – and entering his Age-40 season with $6.5M owed.

        Loney is ten years younger, OPS is .140 higher, worth 1-2 wins more, and for just 1-2 million more. And he plays a position where the Bucs aren’t crawling with options.

        • mblthd

          Ichiro career OPS = 775, Loney career OPS = 761, which is 014 lower, not 140 higher.

          There are some similarities – Ichiro is not likely to repeat his 2012 OPS of 794, and Loney is not likely to repeat his 2013 OPS of 778, based on performance over several years leading up to said aberrational years of adequate production. Neither player is worth >1 win, and neither player is worth the salary he is demanding (Loney) or already being paid (Ichiro).

          As to position, the Pirates could use a LH hitting 1B, and if Loney would sign for 1yr/$3MM or 2yr/$5MM or something like that, then maybe he’s worth a look. TB got him off the trash heap last year for 1yr/$2MM, so maybe his barely adequate 2013 performance suggests he might be worth slightly more. But $7MM per year? Not even close.

  • IC Bob

    I think this might be the right move especially if the team feels really good about Polonco and think Decker is a ML player. Still would like to see some help at First.

  • emjayinTN

    Why can it not work for the Pirates in 2014? Gregory Polanco, Gregory Polanco, Gregory Polanco, etc., etc., etc., . . . . . . . Gregory Polanco. On June 26, 2014 the Pirates will start a 10 game homestand. I hope to see Jameson Taillon pitching at least 2 games during that homestand, and for Gregory Polanco to get his baptism of fire in RF at PNC. Both will only accumulate less than .115 years of MLB Service so they will not earn a full year, nor should they qualify for a Super Two after the 2016 season.

    • csnumber23

      Absolutely agree a thousand percent with this post!!!! That is exactly the same thing I am thinking and expecting to see.

      If the Bucs had any thought about adding a veteran RF, it went out the window with the performance of Polonco in winter ball.

  • Roberrto21

    The wise course is to look to the internal options for RF. Are there really any FA’s out there who would be substantially better? Polanco is likely going to be ready by mid-June, or end of July at latest so they only need to cover the position until then. As Tim has noted it would be smart to use the opportunity to see what they have in Tabata/Snider/Lambo. Maybe Tabata will replicate his performance over last 2 months of 2013, maybe Snider will play as he did in April 2013 now that he has had surgery on his foot, and maybe Lambo can prove that he has real ML potential and the 30 + homers he hit in the minors last year were not an illusion. They don’t want to block Polanco who will be a fixture in RF for them for years to come with an expensive short term fix. Marlon on a 1 year deal was the only FA who made any sense at all and given his performance last year he was sure to get 2 years. The Pirates managed to contend with pretty much of a black hole in RF for most of 2013, and there’s a pretty good chance that the tabata/Snider/Lambo trio will at least match that production in 2014.

  • Bruce Humbert

    Just saying for all you Polanco fan boys

    Upton Brothers :-)

    Prospects are just that – prospects…

    • bucyeah90

      The upton brothers didn’t, and dont , have the plate patience that Polanco has, therefore, he’s a way better bet than either of the uptons to be an impact ml player.

      • swampirate

        Do you guys remember 2 seasons ago when some were screaming for the Pirates to make a huge trade in an attempt to land Justin Upton? It was THE hot topic for some time.

        • Jared

          Justin Upton in our outfield would look pretty darn amazing right now. BJ Upton, on the other hand, is quite crazy.

    • csnumber23

      What a stupid post as usual by this guy! The Upton brothers have had some pretty big years in the majors and both were up by 20 years old. Yeah BJ just had a terrible year but somehow managed to paid big bucks last off season. Justin is still a very good ML player. However I think Polonco will be better than both.

      • Jared

        cs, you and I normally agree it seems, but I have a very hard time, right now, thinking that Polanco will be better than Justin Upton. It, certainly, is an idiotic thing to say that the Upton brothers suck…Justin is still one of the best OF in baseball. I don’t get how Justin sucks when he hit .263/.354/.464 with an .818 OPS and 27 HRs last season. That we completely agree with.

        However, Justin Upton was IN the majors at age 19, starting full time at 20, never put up less than .861 OPS in the minors other than his first season at age 18. Furthermore, Upton’s career minor league OBP is .373. Polanco only has had an OPS over .861 once, at A-ball when he was 20 years old…at that age Justin Upton was putting up a .816 OPS in the MAJORS! Again, Polanco is good, but he’s simply not put up numbers to show that he’s the level of prospect that Upton was or to give faith that he will be as good as Upton has been. There are players who completely dominate in the minors to the point where there is no doubt…Polanco has not done that yet…and I sorta wish the fervor would die down a little because he’s being compared to players he should not be compared to right now.

        • csnumber23

          Jared you’re correct, I shouldn’t have said I expect Polonco to be better than Justin Upton. However I do think he has the talent to be a better all around player. That doesn’t guarantee he will but I think he could. That being said, I do not think he will ever be a better power hitter than Justin.

      • Bruce Humbert

        Justin Upton
        2012 2.3 WAR $6,75M
        2013 2.6 WAR $9.75M

        Jose Tabata
        2013 1.2 WAR in 300 fewer at bats – $1.0M

        And I am the stupid poster.

        But I really do hope Polanco turns out to be all the Tim and others hope he can become – and an outfield of Marte, Cutch and Polanco COULD be great – but my only point is that part of what you have to consider is the possibility that potential does not translate fully at the major league level. Tampa has done a great job getting max value out of it’s prospects and avoiding the contract disasters that have trapped other teams. You only need to go to a few Brave fan sites to get the sense that the Upton contracts have closed the World Series opportunity for now for that team.

        And YES Jason Upton is a GOOD major leaguer – and going into his Age 26 season just might get back to that 6+ WAR he showed in 2011 – then again he might not…

    • Tim Williams

      Is this an argument for or against prospects?

      • Jared

        Tim, if this is in response to me, then I would definitely say I am very much in favor of prospects…I am just a little concerned about what is being attributed to Polanco so far without all the results backing it up…and am especially concerned about who is is compared to/said to have a higher-upside than even though the numbers are not there to maintain that comparison.

        • Tim Williams

          No, it was in response to the original comment.

      • Bruce Humbert

        Think it as an argument for perspective. Prospects are valuable assets – and the great news is the Pirates seem to finally have a lot of them. But they are like all assets – they can be risky at times. “Can’t miss” is not often seen. I lived in Florida when BJ Upton first came up to Tampa Bay and it was pretty universally agreed he was destined for great things – a fixture in Center Field for years to come – a potential HOF player. But things did not work out that way. Carl Crawford – remember him was even better – $20M last year bought you fewer than 500 ABs and a 1.7 WAR. All I am saying is let’s see how this year goes with Polanco – a couple of hundred at bats at AAA will tell us a lot. Byrd or Aoki would have allowed the team a full year IF NEEDED/warranted.

  • swampirate

    I too would love to see Polanco. However, the BEST case scenario is that Tabata (or Decker or snider or Lambo or Sands) explode and have a big coming out party in 2014. That would block Polanco in the short term but what a huge boost for the MLB squad. Both in terms of on field production and in organizational depth. At that point I would thoroughly enjoy watching to see what the FO would do in that situation and with those types of chips. Any weaknesses that the organization perceived to have could be wiped out quickly.

    • csnumber23

      First, none of the players you just mentioned will ever block Polonco! I understand you hoping 1 or 2 of those guys become good trade pieces but the best thing for the team is to see Gregory Polonco starting in RF no later than June 2014

  • Hank

    Snider has absolutely horrendous mechanics, so he will never be able to hit at the major league level. I recognized that the first time I saw him, and have no idea why the Pirates braintrust has yet to do the same. Every at bat he might get is simply a wasted at bat. Polanco right now is our best internal option, but I realize the rules will keep him down for a while. Expect to see him early though……

  • piraddict

    The Pirates are trying to rescue the value they exchanged with Toronto by sending a #1 pick in Brad Lincoln for Snyder. It would be unfortunate to cut him now with no return on the trade. Just as the Jays traded Lincoln to the Phillies, Snyder will be traded to obtain infield depth no later than the mid season trade deadline. Tabata may be gone by then as well.

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