The Pittsburgh Pirates started cutting players from Major League camp this week, including their top two prospects. On Monday they cut six players, including Jameson Taillon. On Friday they cut Gregory Polanco and Duke Welker.
Polanco and Taillon will open the season in Triple-A, and both project to be in the majors by the middle of the season. Both were sent down for developmental reasons, although on Monday I talked about the business reasons why both players should remain in Triple-A until at least mid-June. When it comes to Polanco, Neal Huntington talked about how the Pirates had to avoid making emotional decisions in terms of immediate needs versus the long-term success for the player.
This isn’t new territory. It’s the same discussion that was had with Gerrit Cole last year. It’s probably going to be the same discussion next year with guys like Alen Hanson or Tyler Glasnow. The way the system is lined up, we could be having this discussion about why top prospects arrive in mid-June for the next several years. This is a good thing, as it means the Pirates project to add a top prospect each year for the next few years, even if those guys are expected to miss the first two months of the season.
**The Art of Pitching: Mastering the Sinkerball. I wrote almost 5,000 words on the sinkerball, after input from Charlie Morton, Russell Martin, Ray Searage, and several other pitchers. Because of the Pirates’ infield defense and approach with ground balls, I feel the sinker is the most important pitch for a Pirates’ pitcher. I learned a lot about that one pitch, and I’m already working on a sequel article, profiling another pitch.
**James Santelli Wins a SABR Analytics Research Award. James won the award for his article last year on defensive shifts, which you should read if you haven’t already.
**The Path to the Majors For Jameson Taillon and Casey Sadler. I looked at when each pitcher was projected to make the majors, what they were told to work on this year, and what would have to happen for a spot to open for them in Pittsburgh this year.
**On Wednesday I talked about the parallels between Andrew Lambo and Jeff Clement. At this point I’m not concerned whether Lambo can play first base. The main concern is whether he can make the jump to the majors and carry over his hitting. That’s pretty much a concern with every prospect. The Pirates appear to be going with Lambo as their top option.Ike Davis and Justin Smoak no longer seem like possibilities. There is a chance that Grady Sizemore could impact the first base market, which could make Mike Carp available.
This week I got a preview of the minor league rosters for the four full-season teams. I looked at the Position Players and the Pitchers for those projected rosters, giving notes on what I thought the final roster could look like for each team. It’s still early in camp, but there are a lot of exciting players projected to make each roster, especially in the lower levels. That seems to be a trend, as the Pirates have a tendency to load up on highly projectable talent, and over the last two years we’ve seen a few of those guys break out in the lower levels. It looks like that will be the case again in West Virginia and Bradenton in 2014.
**A lot of this points to the Pirates’ abilities in developing talent. There have been questions about those abilities in the past, but those are starting to clear up with more and more success stories in the minor leagues.
**The Pirates Minor League Catcher Roster Crunch Appears to be Solved. This goes along with the projected position players. Reese McGuire and Wyatt Mathisen will open the season in West Virginia, while Jin-De Jhang will get an aggressive push to Bradenton.
**Clay Holmes Scheduled to Visit Dr. James Andrews With Elbow Tightness. He is scheduled for a visit on Wednesday.
**Injury Updates: Stetson Allie Out a Few Days With a Minor Injury. Also some updates on Austin Meadows and JaCoby Jones.
**Polanco Tops MLB Pipeline’s Top 20 Pirates List. MLB.com’s top 20 Pirates Prospects.
**Pirates 2013 International Signing Recap. Baseball America releases their recap of the 2013 international signings, and John Dreker adds some of our own information.
**How Ryan Hafner Became a Pitching Prospect to Watch. Showing the development of Hafner last year, which turned him around from a disastrous season in 2012 to a dominant season in 2013.
**Luis Heredia, in Much Better Shape, Will Pitch a Full Season This Year. The Pirates will start him in West Virginia, and he has a chance to end up in Bradenton.
Now five weeks into the college season, we are starting to get an idea of what this draft class might look like. Almost all of the high school players have started their season and there have been some impressive outings already. Earlier this week, a few mock drafts came out and while they had four different results for the Pirates, two names fell in their range in each of them. High school first baseman Braxton Davidson and college pitcher Sean Newcomb are both interesting players to watch and the Pirates may have a shot at getting one of them in the first round.
**Some Early Mock Drafts For Pirates First Round Pick Three mock drafts from early in the week had the Pirates taking three different players. In the article, we take a first look at Ole Miss pitcher Chris Ellis, including a scouting report and video.
**Draft Prospect Watch: Prep Shortstops Moving In Different Directions Tuesday night was unusually busy for a mid-week day, with almost every top college bat in action. Also, a look at two prep shortstops, Nick Gordon and Jacob Gatewood, who are moving in different directions for scouts.
**Draft Prospect Watch: Fisher Out With Broken Hamate Derek Fisher from Virginia looks like a mid-first round pick, but a broken hamate bone will keep him out 4-6 weeks and keep scouts from getting a good look at him during the season. Also some news and notes on Sean Newcomb and Braxton Davidson.
**Draft Prospect Watch: Two Pairs of Dueling Aces Highlight Friday Night Friday night in college baseball had some great match-ups between top pitchers, as well as Chris Ellis taking on a stacked South Carolina lineup.
**Draft Prospect Watch: Kolek Dominates With Triple Digit Fastball Tyler Kolek could be moving into the top spot as he dominates the high school competition, while flashing a plus plus fastball and a workhorse frame. Also, the fourth mock draft from this week has the Pirates taking outfielder Michael Conforto from Oregon State.