First Pitch: Thoughts on Decker, Wandy, Worley, Glasnow, 2014 Draft

The Brent Morel promotion was a strange one. The Pirates probably only needed an extra hitter for the three game series against the Cardinals this weekend, assuming Andrew Lambo could return early next week. None of the available hitters on the 40-man roster have had a good season, with the exception of Gregory Polanco, who won’t be called up until the Super 2 deadline passes.

I don’t know what the Pirates knew regarding their outfield situation at the time Morel was recalled. Since the move, Travis Snider’s suspension was upheld, and Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte both dealt with minor injuries. The combination meant that Gaby Sanchez was playing in right field tonight. It’s possible that all of this came after the decision to bring up Morel. But Morel shouldn’t have come up to begin with. Like the rest of the options, he didn’t have strong season numbers. The only player who has been hitting well recently has been Jaff Decker. He should have been called up on Friday, and not Morel.

As it stands, the Pirates weren’t impacted by the move at all. They won both games that Snider missed, and even won tonight without McCutchen and Marte. And now, Jaff Decker will be promoted to Pittsburgh, presumably to take Morel’s spot on the active roster. So no harm was done by the decision to bring up Morel in the first place, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a strange move.

Our Prospect Highlights this morning had video of Decker during his recent hot streak.

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Wandy Rodriguez will start for the Pirates on Thursday. As I wrote in the article, this is a mistake. Rodriguez has looked bad in his rehab outings so far. He’s had success the first few innings, then fell apart each time. He has also struggled during his time in the majors this year. There is no reason why he should be starting, especially when Brandon Cumpton has looked so good. Cumpton should be the fifth starter, and Rodriguez should be moved to the bullpen as a long reliever.

I’m guessing the decision to keep Rodriguez in the rotation and Cumpton in Triple-A has to do with preserving depth. If they moved Rodriguez to the bullpen, they’d have one less starter, and would have to DFA someone like Jeanmar Gomez, who has been struggling recently. The problem here is that preserving depth only makes sense if the guys who you are keeping around are doing well. Rodriguez and Gomez are not.  I’d give Gomez more of a pass, since he’s not doing horrible, and since he’s coming off a great year. But starting Rodriguez, for whatever reason, doesn’t bode well for the team’s chances of success in those starts.

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As far as depth goes, Vance Worley could be an option to add to the mix. Ryan Palencer wrote today that Worley feels like he is back on track as a starter, after working with Jim Benedict in extended Spring Training. Worley was basically added for free from the Minnesota Twins, but is an interesting pitcher, since he is only a year removed from a strong run in the Philadelphia rotation in 2011-2012. The Pirates have revived the career of pitchers who have done a lot less than Worley.

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I saw Tyler Glasnow on the mound tonight, and will have video and an article on Glasnow this week. I wrote up a brief recap of his start in the Prospect Watch tonight. Also, check out tomorrow’s Minor League Schedule, which includes a preview of Jeff Locke returning to the Indianapolis rotation.

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The draft is getting closer, but don’t expect any clear picture of who the Pirates will take until draft day. It’s going to be impossible to know who will be available to them with the 24th pick. However, we will get an idea of what type of talent could be available in that range.

Lately, a few top college pitchers have required Tommy John surgery, with Erick Fedde being the second guy announced in the last week. John Dreker wrote about how one of these guys could fall to the Pirates. It will be interesting to see what happens here. For a team at the top, the draft is so rich with pitching that you don’t really need to take a guy who is guaranteed to miss the next year and who is currently injured. But for a team at the bottom of the first round, you could take that risk, and miss having a guy for a year, if it means that you get better talent in the long run. Kyle Gibson was an example of this a few years ago with the Twins.

The Pirates certainly haven’t shied away from taking guys who have had Tommy John surgery in the past. Adrian Sampson and Hayden Hurst were two examples in recent drafts. But taking a guy who is currently injured is another issue. Tommy John is more of a setback these days, and hardly alters a pitcher’s upside, so I’m not even sure if these two would fall to the Pirates. If they did, it would leave the Pirates with an interesting decision.

Speaking of players in their range, Kyle Schwarber went to the Pirates in Baseball America’s first mock draft. As John Dreker writes in the Draft Prospect Watch, Schwarber homered tonight against Penn State.

Tim Williams

Author: 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 AccuScore.com, 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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  • http://@gwbicster gwbicster

    My guess is that they intended to recall Russ Martin from the DL Sunday, send Morel down to free up the spot, since Martin has to serve a one game suspension and they don’t want to roll with one catcher for that game. Then Monday they would send Tony Sanchez down and call up Decker. They didn’t want to call up Dickerson since that would require a spot on the 40 man, and they’d lose him if they wanted to send him down again. I’m assuming in all of this that they didn’t expect Lambo to be ready Monday.

    They got caught with their pants down. Fortunately, it didn’t hurt them.

    • Sec.143RowMSeat24

      I haven’t heard anything about Martin being activated anytime soon. Seems like it will be a straight Morel/Decker swap.

  • Joe Sweetnich

    Tim,
    I may be mistaken, but Gibson had Tommy John a couple of years after he was drafted and not before. In any event, the 24th pick is such a crap shoot, at this point it’s so tough to speculate.
    My opinion is that it is a good straegy to draft a TJ’d pitcher such as Fedde. Essentially they do not have the leverage that Appel had because they more than will miss next years college season as well. But other teams drafting before the Pirates may be thinking the same thing.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com/ Tim Williams

      I should have been more clear on Gibson. It wasn’t his Tommy John that caused him to drop. He fell from a top ten pick to 22nd overall after a stress fracture in his forearm. The Twins took him in the first round, and he eventually got back on track as a top prospect.

  • emjayinTN

    Wandy Rodriguez is somebody we have to keep trotting out to the mound and hoping he will find something. He is definitely not going to be with the Pirates in 2015 and he has no trade value at this time. Tony Sanchez blocks well, but his arm seems less than adequate, and his W/K Ratio is atrocious. Vance Worley has that 90-92 mph two seamer, and is averaging about 47% GB. I think the Pirates will help him get that above 50%. To get a guy who had years of 2.3 and 1.8 WAR for “cash considerations” and he is still only 26? As far as who is coming from AAA, JHAY and Ike Davis have made that a non-issue. JHAY is 6 for 18, 5 runs scored, a double, 2 triples, a .333 BA/.980 OPS in May. Davis is 10 for 29, 4 runs scored, 3 doubles, 3 RBI, a .345 BA/.873 OPS in May. Snider and Tabata have not done as well, but combined they are 8 for 32, 4 runs scored, 2 doubles, 2 triples, 3 RBI’s in May. These 4 guys are sending a “Thanks, but no thanks” message about whether we need any hitters promoted – relief pitchers yes, position players no. When the team wins, no need to try to tinker.

  • Scott Kliesen

    NH & CH clearly trust veterans more than younger players, even if recent results dictate otherwise. It should come as no surprise to anyone Wandy is slated to return to the rotation.

    • CalipariFan506

      This to me is infinitely times more frustrating than seeing Polanco held down for super 2 purposes. We are paying Wandy no matter what. Why sacrifice potential wins by using Wandy over Cumpton when there is absolutely no financial gain to be made? If they truly think Rodriguez gives them a better chance than Cumpton I’m not sure what to think. As Tim said above, depth is great, but it’s also irrelevant when your depth is a guy who is clearly washed up. And I won’t question Wandy’s motivation more than this, but does anybody think this guy would even be pitching if he did not have that option? With his frustrations over his elbow last season I think it’s fair to say he would be retired now if $13 Million wasn’t waiting for him.

    • emjayinTN

      SK: It is no surprise because Wandy is still making $13 mil in 2014 – $7.5 mil from the Pirates and $5.5 from the Astro’s. He used to be a solid LHSP, possibly in the Top 5 of LHSP’s in the NL, and we hope he will get some of that back so that he can make himself look better to possible trade partners. If he leaves on waivers, the Pirates and Astro’s continue to pay his salary and the team that picks him up pays only $50,000. And that could very well be a team in the NL and we could find ourselves opposing a guy we are still paying. His command is the issue – he was pinpoint in his years with the Astro’s, and also with the Pirates until his shoulder issue. If he gets it back he is a solid veteran who can get us 5 or 6 solid innings a start. If not, it will be something we will have to put up with until at least July. Toss the money out, and he would have been gone already. We are struggling with our Rotation so far in 2014, but if they ever get it together, the lineup is starting to get over their early season slump, and the BP is doing band-aid surgery every day.

      • https://profiles.google.com/101510909979106143098 David Lewis

        Actually, no – if a player is claimed from waivers, the claiming team assumes his contract.

      • Scott Kliesen

        It’s easy to say the Pirates are going back to him because of the money, but I don’t believe it’s the case. I truly believe CH & NH are biased towards vets due to past performance. A vet has to prove over time they are no longer capable of being what they once were to be shelved for a prospect. Especially one who’s unheralded like Cumpton. Hopefully this move doesn’t cost the Pirates games they can ill afford to lose.

  • CalipariFan506

    I’m intrigued with Worley as well which makes the idea of bringing Rodriguez back even more puzzling. Wandy still has I think 2 weeks on his rehab assignment, why not give Worley what would amount to 4 starts at AAA and re-evaluate then. You could DFA Wandy and put Worley on the 40 man if Worley appears to be back.

    • emjayinTN

      I think I read in the original thread about Worley that he was just getting out of extended ST and would be 3 or possibly 4 weeks away? They want to stretch him out to SP numbers. I liked the effort of Jeff Locke the other night, and thought they allowed him in too long – I especially liked the increased velocity and his ability to paint that inside corner “at times”. His command was come and go, but pitchers who are cooked do not want to mess with throwing inside, and he challenged Morse big time to strike him out in the 6th. Cumpton is somebody that cannot be overlooked. They drafted him late, and he pitched a little at short-season, and then went to Lo A the next Spring. In his first 3 starts he gave up 20 or 21 earned runs. From that point, he has been lights out, so it did not come easy for him and I think he has the head to be a mid-Rotation SP. I also think that AA is the toughest level at which to pitch so Nick Kingham, IMO, is doing well, and should get the bump to Indy in June.

      • piraddict

        Emjay, why do you think AA is the hardest level to pitch at? Small Parks?

        • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.brooks.581 Stephen Brooks

          More likely because the competition is better. On average in AA, you’ll have 6 hitters on any given team that will at some point make it to the majors. In High A it’s about 3.5, and in A it’s 3. That’s 2 or 3 more guys in a lineup that you can’t get out with less than your best stuff, and it really starts to resemble the grind of facing a major league lineup, where most of the hitters will make you pay for your mistakes.

          AA pitchers are also expected to work deeper into games and pitch more innings, which not everyone can do (this is where middle relievers are born).

          • emjayinTN

            SB: Thank you for the factual support. I also think it is tougher than AAA because of the number of placeholders, playing out the string, AAAA guys that are still at AAA because a lot of young, very talented kids have passed them by, and stay at AAA for little more than final touchups.

            • piraddict

              Emjay, AAAA players often have better performance than the non stars (who will never advance past AA) in AA. IF AA were the toughest why promote to AAA at all, ahy not promote directly to the majors?

          • piraddict

            Steve, appreciate your reply, but by that logic shouldn’t AAA be tougher than AA?

  • Monkshot

    They have to be seeing something we are not seeing when it comes to Wandy. Because yes, 100% Cumpton looks like he deserves to be in the rotation and Wandy allowed no where near a mound, anywhere.

  • Sec.143RowMSeat24

    Tim,

    With the Pirates activating Wandy for the game in Milwaukee, won’t that negate their ability to carry the extra position player? The reason they were able to do that was because they could go with a 4 man rotation until May 24th. Once Wandy is activated they lose the ability to carry Decker/Lambo and keep a full rotation and bullpen, right?

  • https://profiles.google.com/101510909979106143098 David Lewis

    I do think the Pirates’ FO places too much emphasis on preserving depth at the expense of having better players on the edges of the 25-man. I can think of a couple of reasons for this. One, they could still be suffering the aftereffects of The Year Of The Thousand Injured Catchers, and have an unreasonable fear of not having replacement-level depth to fill in for a string of injuries. Two (and a broader instance of One), I think that they are used to the bad old days when the minor-league depth was not even replacement-level, so there were not any options to call up from AA/AAA for even a few games if needed. Related to this, I think they may be overly wedded to their development path for minor-leaguers, and even if there’s a guy in AA/AAA who could be an emergency fill-in in the majors without being horribly exposed (think a Hanson-type), they won’t disrupt his path for even a week to do so.

    • pilbobuggins

      I agree david. Having a plan is a great thing,they can however be changed when the need arises,you just have to be flexible. Unfortunatley I have not seen much flexibility from the pirates front office.

  • pilbobuggins

    I echo tim’s sentiment about morel,in fact I said the same thing the other day. Why bring up a third basemen as an extra bat when what you need is an outfielder, which the pirates have in droves,third base,not so much.

  • Big Mike

    Don’t know about Adrian Sampson but Jon Sandfort has never had Tommy John surgery ever.