First Pitch: Thoughts on Wandy, Cumpton, Josh Wall, Tyler Glasnow, 2014 Draft

The big news today was that the Pittsburgh Pirates designated Wandy Rodriguez for assignment. That was a move I called for last night, along with several times over the last few weeks as Rodriguez was coming back from his injury. Rodriguez just didn’t look like he had it this year. The results were poor, the velocity was down, and there was nothing suggesting he would bounce back to anything that would make him worth holding on to.

As I mentioned, I think Brandon Cumpton should take over in the rotation for Rodriguez. Neal Huntington said that they weren’t decided between Jeff Locke or Cumpton, although it seems like they made that decision tonight. The next start for Wandy’s spot will be on Monday. Locke pitched tonight, while Cumpton is the scheduled starter for Indianapolis on Monday. If Locke pitches on Monday, he’s going on short rest, after throwing six innings tonight. All signs currently point to Cumpton getting that start.

I wouldn’t expect Cumpton to arrive this weekend. Russell Martin served his suspension tonight, which means he’ll be active starting tomorrow. That means Tony Sanchez should be going back down to Triple-A, which will be just in time for Jason Grilli to return from the disabled list. The Pirates can carry an extra reliever over the weekend, which will be good after the start from Rodriguez on Wednesday. Then they can send someone like Jared Hughes down on Monday to make room for Cumpton.

**The Pirates claimed Josh Wall today, designating Phil Irwin for assignment. That pair of moves was interesting, especially the DFA of Irwin. It came shortly before Rodriguez was designated for assignment. The Pirates could have DFA’d Rodriguez for Wall, and saved Irwin for the short-term. Irwin is 27, and has had some issues in his return from injuries this year. Ryan Palencer has written about him a few times, most recently looking at how he is getting the feel back for his pitches. There’s a chance another team could pick up Irwin, although the loss wouldn’t be huge for a team like the Pirates, who have a lot of pitching depth. At this point, Irwin’s future is a reliever. That’s the same future for Wall, who is also 27, but who throws harder than Irwin. Both Irwin and Wall have stuff to work on before realizing their upside as MLB relievers. They both look like relief pitching depth at this point. You can read all about Wall on his Pirates Prospects Player Page.

**In tonight’s Prospect Watch, Willy Garcia hit two home runs, and Tyler Glasnow struggled with his control early, which has been a trend for him this year, early in the season. Glasnow has been working mostly off his fastball, and mixing in several changeups, but not using his curveball as often. It’s a similar approach to what Jameson Taillon saw when he was in High-A. The results weren’t good on paper, but Taillon went from someone who didn’t have a changeup, to someone who had a good changeup only two years later, in large part because of this approach. You could also credit the same approach for the success that Adrian Sampson is having this year in Altoona, after struggling with his numbers in Bradenton while working on his fastball/changeup combo last year.

**The 2014 draft is less than two weeks away now. Baseball America released their Top 200 Draft Prospects List today, which is always a huge reference for following the draft, especially in the middle rounds. For the last few weeks, we’ve been releasing draft profiles of players who could be in the Pirates’ range for their first round pick. Today, John Dreker looked at Derek Fisher, Tyler Beede, Monte Harrison, and Sean Reid-Foley.

**Minor League Schedule: Vance Worley Has Shown Excellent Command With Indianapolis

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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  • mam995

    The Pirates performance so far, has cast a sullen pall over the team. Getting rid of Wandy, unfortunately had to be done. But if you take a clinical view of the team (without the passion of over-reaction..a fan’s prerogative) the Pirates aren’t that bad overall. Looking at their circumstances through the lens of rationale, yes, Wandy was toast, but they had to at least TRY to salvage him…it didn’t work out. It happens. Just look at a similiar situation with the Yankees (like what has happened with the C.C. Sabathia…he’s still owed contractually $90 million and he’s become as bad as Wandy, topping out with his fastball at just 88 miles per hour!). I realize that the Yankees can absorb the loss, but still, it’s just horrible, horrible contract management.. I saw quite a few fans on Yahoo lamenting the fact that the Pirates dd not offer a QO to AJ Burnett. But AJ. was becoming a cancer in the club house. Plus he was getting too expensive for his age. He’s pitching hurt right now with a sports hernia. He could go out at anytime. The Phillies just signed a 2.5 billion dollar TV contract. They can afford to take risks on 37 yr old pitchers. In baseball, money has become a substitute for shrewd management. Look at the Angels with all of their money. Their farm system is the WORST in all of baseball according to Baseball America. That’s good management of your resources? Most of the big market teams would never pass a Variance Analysis test that tests if you are maximizing your resources. The Pirates had one performed 2 years ago. This was after they had that first time EVER, historical fall of being 16 games over 500 late in the season. Paraphrasing what Tim said the other day, BIG market teams can afford to be slothful in monetary management. They just buy out of their mistakes. The Pirates cannot. Baseball is so poorly run and screwed up…it’s pathetic. Before the Phillies signed that mega contract with Comcast, they were projected to have a $35 million dollar loss this year. After all of those sellouts.That’s good management? Big Market Bostons’ GM Ben Cherrington was voted GM of the year over Neal Huntington. But Look at the resources that he had at his disposal and compare them to what NH had to work with. This year, Bostons record is 20-26, with all of their financial resources…what’s their excuse? The way I see it, the Pirates biggest problem given all that has happened to them is that, they have is a record 10 BLOWN saves this early in the season. Hasn’t been done in 10 years. Last done by the 2004 Colorado Rockies, also managed by Hurdle. He says that he is “unfazed”. You turn that around and nobody would be complaining as much. With all of their problems and every team HAS problems…THAT one will sink ANY team. If they fix their bullpen they’ll at least be competitive. Grilli will be the next to go. If he blows anymore saves when he gets back. He can do all the charity work (which is good) that he wants, but he’ll outa here like grain through a goose’s arse if he continues to fail.

    • indybucfan

      You are 100% on the money. The Wandy move had to be done. For all the moans and groans for Polanco to be called up, the biggest issue facing this team is holding leads and closing out games. I keep saying the bullpen is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Watching Grilli and Melancon close games out has been gut wrenching. Hopefully, they’ll start addressing this issue as well.

      • Ian Rothermund

        …yes, in the form of Tony Watson.

  • emjayinTN

    Tim: Hope you are feeling better; Wandy is a loss I had hoped would at least come with someone picking up a part of the cash, or at least donate a lower level prospect, but it looks like that ship has sailed. Regardless who comes up, the other will be here shortly anyway. If a deal could be made with the Yankees to exchange Francisco Liriano for a few young prospects – Bird, Jagielo, Clarkin – add whatever is needed to get 2 of that 3, I would be thrilled if it happened tomorrow. The slow start gives NH the opportunity to take full advantage and maximize a return, and the Yankees are the natural progression for a long term contract for Liriano.

    The draft is coming and I am drafting for needs today which everyone thinks is not the way to go. But at No. 1 at Pick #24 if we have the opportunity to get Casey Gillaspie, we need to make that pick. If he is not there, then Nick Burdi, Closer for L’ville with the triple digit fastball and + Slider. Both of these college kids just turned 21. What we do with the next 3 picks at 65, 74, and 101 will be the key to this draft.

    • emjayinTN

      Sorry, meant to add a few names I hope the Pirates get at 65 and 74 and both are rated lower by BA – Keaton McKinney, HS RHP, with velocity and a Plus Changeup, is rated #78, and David Peterson, a big HS LHP who missed most of his Senior year due to a broken bone in his leg, is rated #95. IMO, both are being underrated, and I doubt that Peterson will be available at 101.

  • wkkortas

    Josh Wall, eh? Indy needed a power forward?

  • Lee Young

    Tim…most important….how are you feeling today?

  • piraddict

    So, can the Pirates still make the Playoffs? The required wildcard winning percentage presently equates out to 90 wins. To reach 90 wins the Pirates need to go 70 and 46 (.603) for the rest of the year. But how are they going to do that given that their pitchers are performing as:
    Morton #3
    Cole #4
    Liriano #4
    Volquez #4
    Cumpton (project as #4) ?

    I think the answer has to be match ups. Morton and Liriano’s winless records are due in a large part to that fact that they have been matched up against other teams #1 and #2, and the Pirates don’t hit great pitching. They don’t start to score runs until late in the game when the bullpen is on the mound. So Morton’s potential is being wasted when he is matched against a #1 or #2.. You have to realize that there is more than one way to earn #4 overall status. You can consistently put up a 4.00 ERA or you can be erratic, pitching like a #2 one night and a #5 the next. Both Liriano and Volquez have been examples of the later, pitching like a #5 for two nights, then like a #2 for one night as Volquez did last night. I think Hurdle has to take advantage of that inconsistency by matching Volquez and Liriano up against the other teams #1 and #2, saving Morton for the other teams #3. So the rotation should look like this:
    Other team’s pitcher Pirates Pitcher Expected win rate
    #1 Volquez 0.35
    #2 Liriano 0.35
    #3 Morton 0.7
    #4 Cole 0.8
    #5 Cumpton 0.8

    Total Expected Wins : 3.0 of a total of 5 games for the required 60% win rate.

    So in essence Volquez and Liriano become the “sacrificial lambs” so that Morton, Cole and Cumpton have better opposing pitcher matchups. Does anybody see any other way to do it?

    • smurph

      I don’t think you’ll need 90 wins for the 2nd wildcard in the NL. 88 sounds more realistic. Sure the Pirates chances are slim, because of the hole they have dug. Really, I see it as being on Ray Searage. The hitting is better than it was in 2013 at this point in the season. So Searage has to figure a way to get both the starters and BP pitching close to where they were last year. Volquez’ performance last night was a step in the right direction. Having Polanco will help. I think they can expect results from Cumpton and either Locke or the Vanimal. Too early to give up.

    • leadoff

      No one hits great pitching, that is why it is great. If the Pirates were in the position they are in right now at the beginning of Sept. they would still be in the race, 7 games out is not much for a team that has not even played near their capabilities.

    • emjayinTN

      piraddict: Do you keep changing the days they pitch to match the other team they are playing? Maybe in the playoffs a team can adjust the pitching matchups, but with so few days off during the regular season, there are very few opportunities to pick and choose the starter and adjust the Rotation.

      smurph: I can agree with Cumpton, Locke, and Worley, but who is this Polanco character and will he be as good as our present RF, JHAY? Just kidding, but hopefully we can allow Gregory Polanco to adjust to MLB pitching without a whole lot of added pressure about him providing more than what could be normally expected. I think the poor start has caused some “future planning” to take place now rather than in July, August, September, or after the season ended. IMO, the only players/pitchers that may remain are Russell Martin and Jason Grilli, but all of the rest better start lining up at the door right now – Rodriguez, Liriano, Volquez, Stewart, Tabata, Snider, and Barmes. And if someone in the BP is requested by another team to complete a trade, that may happen also. I think the Pirates are going to be aggressive in their preparations for 2015 – obviously all will not leave at the same time, but this team can win with or without this group I have listed. And in September, do not be surprised to see some new faces like Nick Kingham, Mel Rojas, and Alen Hanson. And for the sake of the Pirate future, maybe we can get ‘Cutch extended – right now we have a team option in 2018 for $14.5 mil. How about a $5 mil bonus, lock in 2018 for $16 mil; 2019 – $18 mil; 2020 – $20 mil; 2021 – $18; 2022 – $16 mil; 2023 – $14 mil; 2024 an Option for $14 mil/buyout $2 mil. 6 years $109 mil and that is a very fair settlement – keeps him through his age 36 season.

      • piraddict

        Great question EMJAY! Each new series presents the possibility of an opponent whose positions in the 1 thru 5 ranking will likely be out of sequence with the Pirates sequence. So you can’t set the schedule once and forget it. But days off give a chance to recalibrate and provide some flexibility in juggling the schedule. I’d favor frequent resets looking ahead to expected starters two or three series in advance. The normal baseball wisdom is to forget all that because it is just too complicated and just let the pitcher’s get comfortable with their every fifth start schedule. But I think the Pirates need to mine every advantage they can find. They couldn’t execute this perfectly but even a little bit will help.

        • piraddict

          A way to simplify this and get most of the good effect is to avoid pitching Morton against a #1 or #2, save him for a #3 or lower. Even though Cole is a cut above the rest you could probably treat the four of them as interchangeable.

          • emjayinTN

            You like Morton, but your point seems to underestimate his ability. I think he made great strides forward in 2013, and I think he has 2/3 talent, not 3/4. In fact, I think I mentioned once that I thought he could very comfortably fill in for AJ Burnett, after it was clear that Burnett had signed elsewhere. IMO, their talents are nearly equal, but Burnett’s attitude makes the difference. I am not real comfortable with Charlie this year because he tends to break mechanics too often, and I think he is overaccelerating his 2 seamer and throwing it through the break. It has minimal movement at 93 (some run), but was near unhittable when he was regularly throwing it at 91 allowing for much better run and better sink. Just an opinion.

  • buccostimeisnow

    Tim – great piece as always. You were certainly out in front of the pack as normal in calling for Wandy’s removal and Cumpton’s insertion. I’m still shocked at the state of the rotation. I thought it would be a strength in 2014 and I don’t think anyone foretold the struggles they are going through. Also, as was noted by Lee – I too hope you are feeling better.

    • piratemike

      If Tim was ahead of the pack I was ahead of Tim.
      I was against the trade that brought Wandy here in the first place.
      I should add that I was also against the Ike trade too, I hope that I was wrong with that one. If he keeps hitting and adds a little more power it won’t hurt as much when we lose that top prospect.

      • freddylang

        Wandy had a 9.5 WAR in 3 seasons prior to the Bucs obtaining him. He was a very good “Crafty Lefty” and the Bucs have proven to not have really given up anyone they’d miss for him. He got the injury bug and faltered but it was worth the risk in my opinion. Still, I can understand the argument as he was not a winning pitcher with the Astros. He was 11-8 with the Bucs though before this year so without the injuries you have to believe he could have put up a 14-11 season or two and posted a few 2.5 or so WAR seasons.

        • piratemike

          I don’t claim to be an expert, I just felt that Wandy was on the downside of his career. I wish I was wrong. He cost the Bucs millions.
          I also thought the Davis trade was bad. It looks like I may have been wrong, I hope so.
          I don’t want any Pirate to fail just so I can say “I told you so”.

          • freddylang

            I just wish they could have pulled the ripcord on Wandy for Cumpton a little earlier. Everyone could see it coming but when you have a big contract guy I understand you have to do your due diligence. Now if they can just get Liriano’s mechanics re-re-re-straightened out I think they will be ready to make a run at the wild card again. THis is a big if though.