The Pirates started Spring Training this week, with workouts beginning on Thursday. For all of the Spring Training coverage, both now and throughout the pre-season, check out our Spring Training page.
One of the big question marks has been first base. The Pirates don’t have a guarantee with Andrew Lambo, but his breakout season last year would warrant a starting role. They could still add someone from the outside, but that’s not urgent, since none of the external options look that strong. On Monday I looked at how the Pirates were in a great bargaining position for first base. They’re the only team in need of a first baseman, and none of the available first basemen really stand out above everyone else. I could see one of the trade options (Ike Davis, Mitch Moreland, Justin Smoak) becoming available for a cheap price late in Spring Training.
The focus when Spring Training starts is always on the 25-man roster on Opening Day, but I pointed out how important depth can be throughout the year. That’s a big reason why the Pirates were competitive in 2013.
If you’re looking for minor league Spring Training news, here is the Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Minor League Spring Training Schedule. I’ll have the rosters uploaded when they are released.
**The big transaction of the week was that A.J. Burnett signed a one year deal with the Phillies.
**Pirates signed Yao-Hsun Yang out of Taiwan. It was a minor league deal for the lefty, with an invite to Spring Training.
Pitching and Defense
After A.J. Burnett signed with the Phillies, I looked at some of the park factors and the defensive ratings. Burnett leaves one of the most pitcher friendly parks with one of the best defenses, and joins one of the worst defenses and one of the most hitter friendly parks. I looked at whether we should change the way we value pitchers, noting that the Pirates have had a lot of guys who had success after joining the team and benefitting from the defense and the park. When it comes to pitchers, the belief is that you need the most talented pitchers. It’s possible that what you really need is the right type of pitcher to fit in your system.
I talked with Clint Hurdle this week about these park factors and the defense, and asked whether it helped to add more confidence with the incoming pitchers. He talked about some of the non-negotiables the Pirates have for their Major League pitchers. Two of the things he pointed out were the ability to keep the ball down and pitch to both sides of the plate, as well as the expectation to focus on getting outs with three pitches or less. Both of these are approaches that have been stressed in the minors since this group took over in 2008.
One of the things that helped the Pirates in 2013 was the extreme use of defensive shifts in the infield. With a speedy outfield, and with Gregory Polanco coming up soon, Hurdle said that the team might be using more outfield defensive shifts in 2014. I looked at the potential impact those could provide.
In the past, I haven’t had as many videos on the site, mostly due to the editing time. I just got a new phone, which almost completely eliminated the editing time. As a result, we will have more videos on the site this year. There is also a “Recent Videos” section on the main page. That will launch the video on the homepage, without having to go to another page. A tip for each video: click the settings wheel and select the highest quality possible. The Gerrit Cole video below was my first attempt at recording a video in 4K format.
We kicked off our 2014 draft coverage this week, with the college baseball season starting on Friday.
This will be an interesting year to follow the draft. In previous years, it was easy to focus on 3-4 guys who had a strong chance of going to the Pirates. Last year we could focus on guys like Reese McGuire, and hope that someone like Austin Meadows dropped to the Pirates. This year there are tons of options, and it’s going to be impossible to tell who the Pirates could pick until it’s actually time for their pick. For that reason, we’re going to be covering everyone who could be a possibility, which could result in a different player being profiled every night from now until the draft.
**Clint Hurdle: “We’re always going to rely heavily upon developing our own talent”.