Pirates Prospects » First Pitch http://www.piratesprospects.com Your best source for news on the Pittsburgh Pirates and their minor league system. Thu, 13 Nov 2014 05:14:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 First Pitch: Bye, Bye, Russell Martin? And Other Analysis on the Francisco Cervelli Trade http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/11/first-pitch-bye-bye-russell-martin-and-other-analysis-on-the-francisco-cervelli-trade.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/11/first-pitch-bye-bye-russell-martin-and-other-analysis-on-the-francisco-cervelli-trade.html#comments Thu, 13 Nov 2014 05:13:34 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=90521 When the Yankees lost Russell Martin in 2013 to free agency, they replaced him with Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli. After acquiring Cervelli tonight, it looks like the Pirates are doing the same thing, although I’m not sure which one will start, or if they’ll split the job. This pretty much signals the end for Russell Martin with the Pirates, which isn’t a surprise considering his rumored demands. The Pirates have been linked to Cervelli many times in the past, so you had to figure it was only a matter of time before they got him. So which one of their catchers should be the starter, if there is an actual starter?

Chris Stewart has great defense, and is outstanding in terms of pitch framing. However, Cervelli is better. Here are the Baseball Prospectus numbers for the pitch framing runs per 7000 chances over the last two years.

Francisco Cervelli – 23.8

Chris Stewart – 16.4

Russell Martin – 14.6

Last night I wrote an article detailing how the Pirates could make up for the loss of Russell Martin by re-creating him in the aggregate. Defensively, the comparison of Cervelli to Martin is the same as Stewart to Martin. Cervelli has the edge in pitch framing, although his advantage is much more significant, as he has been worth about a full win more than Martin. However, Martin has the advantage in stolen bases, blocking (although Cervelli rates better than Stewart), and Defensive Runs Saved.

The big difference between Stewart and Cervelli is offense. Cervelli has a career .729 OPS, and is coming off back-to-back seasons with an OPS over .800. The 2013 season is a small sample size, and the 2014 season is due to an unsustainable BABIP (which also fueled career years on offense for Martin and Stewart). But those career numbers are what you’d expect from Martin if his 2014 campaign was in fact a career year that will fall back to earth in 2015. I’d still take Martin as the better player, but the gap in value between Cervelli and where Martin usually is at in his career isn’t insurmountable. The Pirates still need to upgrade at another position like I wrote last night, but this time if they get someone like Adam LaRoche for first base (or his 2014 production from somewhere else), they will end up ahead, rather than just replacing Martin.

I think I would split the work between the two catchers, but Cervelli looks like the better option to get the majority of the workload due to his advantage in the pitch framing department, along with his offense being much better than Stewart’s.

Cervelli is projected to make $1.1 M in arbitration this off-season, which is about what I expected their second catcher to receive if Martin didn’t re-sign. After removing Justin Wilson from the 40-man payroll projections, they’re currently sitting just under $67 M. That would also go down if Ike Davis or Pedro Alvarez get traded away. With the catching position appearing to be set, the Pirates have plenty of money remaining to focus on other areas of the team, such as the rotation and first base.

Of course, this trade also creates another need, and that is for a lefty reliever. With Justin Wilson being traded away in this deal, the Pirates are now down to Tony Watson and Bobby LaFromboise as their only lefty relievers on the 40-man roster. Andy Oliver isn’t on the 40-man roster, and could factor into the mix. He has great stuff, and put up fantastic numbers with Indianapolis this year as their closer. However, he’s had some horrible control problems in his career. That’s a similar case to Wilson, and I’ve felt that Oliver’s upside would be Wilson.

It’s also possible that the Pirates could go the same route that led to success with Watson and Wilson, and that is converting a struggling starter into a quality reliever. Jeff Locke and Joely Rodriguez are two options on the 40-man roster who could go that route. Locke is the better candidate, since he has pitched above Double-A and in the majors. Rodriguez struggled as a starter this year in Altoona, and would probably need more time in the upper minors before he’s an option.

I’d expect the Pirates to pursue some left-handed relief options this off-season, although they traditionally don’t spend money in the bullpen, and I wouldn’t expect them to spend a lot on a second lefty.

As for the trade, I think the Pirates got fair value by dealing Wilson. A week ago, the Angels dealt Hank Conger to the Houston Astros, receiving 24-year-old starter Nick Tropeano and 24-year-old catcher Carlos Perez. Those two grade as a potential back of the rotation starter and a future backup catcher with strong defense. Cervelli is basically the same as Conger, and maybe slightly better, but with one fewer year of control. To give up just one reliever for him seems fair when you see what Houston gave up for Conger. Of course, if you’ve read my analysis over the years, you know that I don’t have a problem dealing relievers, especially for someone who could potentially play 50% or more of the games on the schedule.

Quick Thoughts

**Dan Szymborski says that ZiPS likes the trade for the Pirates.

**Cervelli is under team control through the 2016 season. Stewart is also under team control through the 2016 season. That should be enough to bridge the gap until Elias Diaz is ready to take over. Diaz might be ready by the summer of 2015, but I think Cervelli and Stewart should be good enough defensively to give Diaz some time in the minors.

**This trade comes on the same day that Tony Sanchez departed to catch in the Dominican Republic. I don’t see him factoring into the mix in Pittsburgh in 2015 on Opening Day. I think Sanchez will be the number three catcher on the depth chart, taking over if (or when, based on history) Cervelli or Stewart go down with injuries. Based on how things went at the end of the season in Indianapolis, I could see Elias Diaz getting most of the playing time behind the plate, with Sanchez splitting his time between catching, first base, and DH.

**Free agent starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy seems to love Cervelli.

Links and Notes

**Pre-Order the 2015 Prospect Guide

**Pirates Acquire Francisco Cervelli From Yankees In Exchange For Justin Wilson

**Francisco Cervelli Player Page

**The updated 2015 40-man payroll, and the updated Future Payroll Page.

**AFL: Tyler Glasnow’s Final Start Doesn’t Go Well

**Vance Worley and Jared Hughes Are Super Two Eligible

**Ike Davis Getting Work in the Outfield

**Tyler Glasnow and Gregory Polanco Highlight MiLB’s Organization All-Star List

**Winter Leagues: Tony Sanchez Headed to the Dominican

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First Pitch: Re-Creating Russell Martin in the Aggregate http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/11/first-pitch-re-creating-russell-martin-in-the-aggregate.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/11/first-pitch-re-creating-russell-martin-in-the-aggregate.html#comments Wed, 12 Nov 2014 05:00:38 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=90470 A few weeks ago I wrote an article about how Chris Stewart would be the best option for the Pittsburgh Pirates at catcher if Russell Martin leaves as a free agent. The idea that Martin will leave seems likely. He’s reportedly looking for a five-year deal at $75-80 M, which is close to Brian McCann money (5 years, $85 M). I’m not even sure if Brian McCann deserved Brian McCann money.

If that is the price (and it might be with the Cubs and Dodgers in the mix), then that would put Martin in a price range that the Pirates shouldn’t be paying. A big reason for that is the fact that Martin should be expected to go on the decline at some point during his deal. Under a four-year deal, you could probably expect one of those years to lead to poor production or even a missed year. I think you could expect two poor years under a five-year deal, since Martin would be in his age 35/36 seasons at the end of such a deal. I’d pay for age 35 if it means you’d be getting ages 32-34, but age 36 at a high rate is too much.

But what happens to the Pirates in the short-term, where they’d be seeing a big decline overall at the catcher position. Stewart looks like the best of a bad bunch, but he’s a clear downgrade from Martin. But what if the Pirates didn’t try to replace Martin? What if they tried to re-create Martin in the aggregate (much like the Oakland Athletics and Jason Giambi in Moneyball)? I decided to take that approach, and while it probably isn’t perfect, here is what I came up with.

The Defense

I’m going to start here, because that’s where the Pirates are probably going to be starting if they end up searching for another catcher. I’m not sure if they’ll find a better starting option out there than Chris Stewart. That seems like a crazy thing to say, but it just reflects the lack of available options on the open market. The trade market provides hope that there could be a better option out there, but the reality is that teams just don’t trade two-way catching options. The Pirates are going to have to choose between offense only (someone like Evan Gattis) or defense only, and they’ve already got that option internally with Stewart. They’ve shown the preference for defense, so if you are hoping that they’ll pursue Gattis, it doesn’t fit their approach.

I’m going to go with the idea of Chris Stewart as a starter, with the Pirates adding a defensive backup who is good at pitch framing (David Ross would be a cheap option, although he hasn’t been connected to them, and isn’t even a guarantee to return next year). Here is how Stewart compares to Martin.

Pitch Framing

I’m starting with this because this started the idea of re-creating Martin. I looked at the numbers a few weeks ago when I realized how good Stewart was at pitch framing. According to the Baseball Prospectus figures, Stewart has been worth 16.4 runs per 7000 framing chances over the last two years. Martin has been worth 14.6 runs per 7000 chances in that same timeframe. Stewart has the edge here, with about a two run advantage over Martin.

Caught Stealing

This is an area where Martin is clearly better than Stewart. According to FanGraphs, Martin has been worth 15 stolen base runs (rSB) over the last two years as a starter. When Stewart was a starter in 2013, he was worth 2 rSB. You could estimate that Martin has an advantage of six runs per season over Stewart.

Blocking

I don’t know why, but both catchers struggled in 2014 with blocking. Maybe this was due to their injuries, but the numbers for each player ended up below their 2013 totals, and below their career numbers. So let’s backtrack to 2013, when they were both starters. Baseball Prospectus had Stewart worth 2.2 runs per 7000 chances, and Martin was worth 5.7 runs. FanGraphs had a closer comparison, with Stewart at 2.7 RPP (catcher blocked pitches in runs) versus 4.5 for Martin. One figure has Martin worth 3.5 more runs than Stewart. The other figure has the number at 1.8 runs. We’ll split it and put the figure at three runs in Martin’s favor.

Total Defensive Value

Looking at the above three factors, Martin has an advantage of seven runs per season over Stewart. That’s a little bit more than half a win. I don’t want to say that catcher defense is just framing, caught stealing, and blocking. So here are some other factors to consider.

FanGraphs lists Martin as being worth an average of about 19 defensive runs above average over the last two years. Meanwhile, Stewart was worth 4.9 defensive runs above average in 2014 as a backup, and 11.9 as a starter. Martin was worth an average of 14 DRS over the last two years. Stewart has been inconsistent, but has been worth an average of 4 DRS over the last four seasons, spending three of those in a backup role. These two metrics already include things like caught stealing, and the FanGraphs figure includes blocking runs. So we can’t just add those figures in with the above categories, since we’d be counting some stats twice. The overall numbers have Martin at 7-10 runs better than Stewart defensively.

One theory here is that they rate very similar in any other categories (fielding plays, bunt runs saved, etc). The caught stealing/blocking numbers above had Martin with a nine run advantage over Stewart. The pitch framing gives Stewart two runs back. I don’t think we’re going to get an exact figure here, but I’d estimate Martin’s defense is worth 0.5 to 1 full win over Stewart’s defense, with both getting regular starting time.

The Offense

Here is where things get a little more tricky. Martin is coming off a career year offensively, and I don’t think anyone expects him to repeat those numbers. The same thing can be said for Stewart. Both catchers saw their numbers inflated due to high BABIP figures that probably won’t be sustained going forward. If we’re considering Martin the catcher for the Pirates in 2015, I don’t think anyone will be expecting his 2014 offensive numbers. The same goes for Stewart. So with each player, I looked at their 2011-2013 numbers, which were a lot closer to their career numbers than the 2014 totals.

There is one issue here, and that’s the expected decline in Martin’s offense. He’s most likely going to drop from an .830 OPS in 2014 to an OPS that is closer to his previous three years (.715). As a result, the Pirates as a whole will be looking to replace that offense. But for the purposes of this article, I’m not considering the drop off for Martin, because:

1. They’d have that drop off even if Martin returned. Therefore, it has no impact on the comparison between the two catching options.

2. I don’t think the impact really hurts them. The Pirates had a .734 OPS in 2014 with Martin, making them a top 10 offense. They would have still been a top 10 offense with the 2011-13 version of Martin, posting a team .723 OPS. So it’s not like they need Martin to have a career year to have a good offense.

This also assumes everyone else performs to their 2014 totals. I’ll get to that in a bit, but for now I’m just keeping this as close to a direct comparison as possible.

Russell Martin vs Chris Stewart

As you can expect, the difference between Martin and Stewart is massively in Martin’s favor. I took their 2011-13 figures, then gave them both 460 plate appearances with those numbers. The OPS figures for Martin from 2011-13 were .715, while Stewart was at .583. Clearly there needed to be an upgrade at another position to make up for the lost offense from Martin to Stewart.

First Base

The easiest position to upgrade would be first base. I wrote a few weeks ago about how the Pirates’ first base position in 2014 was a very expensive replacement-level player. Their first basemen combined for a .700 OPS in 725 plate appearances.

Meanwhile, Adam LaRoche posted an .817 OPS in 586 plate appearances last year, and those figures were close to his three-year average and career numbers, so I just went with his 2014 totals to make it simple. He’s the best free agent on the market that I think the Pirates could realistically sign (not to mention the best hitting first base options profile more as American League first base/DH options).

Since the Pirates had 725 plate appearances from the first base position last year, I ran LaRoche’s 2014 numbers, along with 139 plate appearances of a .700 OPS, figuring that when LaRoche wasn’t playing, he would be replaced by a league-minimum player. That set up the following comparison:

2011-13 Russell Martin at 460 PA

2014 Pirates First Basemen at 725 PA

VS

2011-13 Chris Stewart at 460 PA

2014 Adam LaRoche at 586 PA

2014 Pirates First Basemen at 139 PA

The result was that the Stewart/LaRoche side won with a combined .711 OPS versus a .706 OPS for Martin and the 2014 Pirates first basemen. In terms of runs created, the Stewart/LaRoche side had an advantage of 3.6 runs.

The Total Comparison

Going back to the defensive comparisons, I had Martin with an advantage of anywhere from five to ten runs over Stewart. This would help even that out, giving Martin an overall advantage of around 2-6 runs, or anywhere from 0.2 WAR to 0.6 WAR. You can make up that difference by upgrading a bench or bullpen spot. Therefore, I’d say that the Pirates could go with Chris Stewart as a starting catcher, with a Stewart-like catcher backing him up. However, they’d need a really good first baseman in order to make up for the offensive drop-off from Martin to Stewart, and then maybe a small upgrade on the bench or in the bullpen to add some extra value.

Going forward, Chris Stewart can’t replace Russell Martin. But Chris Stewart plus Adam LaRoche’s 2014 production could replace Martin plus the 2014 Pirates first basemen.

Thoughts and Disclaimers

**I went with a three-year average for Martin and Stewart, but didn’t do the same for LaRoche. Part of this is due to what I mentioned, that his career numbers (.811 OPS) and three-year average (.804) were close to the 2014 numbers (.817). A bigger reason is that I was more interested in the numbers. LaRoche isn’t necessarily the only option for the Pirates to get those figures. They could go with a platoon of Pedro Alvarez and Gaby Sanchez, and hope both players bounce back from their 2014 slumps (and 51% of you voted that option for the 2015 first base position last week). I was more focused on the target (.817 OPS) than which specific player got those numbers.

**I didn’t focus much on who would be replacing Stewart as the backup catcher, because I’m assuming it would be someone exactly like Stewart. Thus, a wash.

**From a financial standpoint, the Pirates would probably be paying $15 M in 2015 to Martin, and about $8 M to Alvarez/Sanchez. Stewart would be a wash, since he’s in both scenarios. That means the alternative scenario would have $1 M for a defensive backup catcher, plus $10 M for LaRoche, or $8 M for Alvarez/Sanchez. This leads to about $12-14 M remaining that could go towards the rotation, which would really upgrade the rest of the team. Assuming Ike Davis is traded in this scenario, the Martin payroll would be just under $77 M, and the Stewart/LaRoche payroll (assuming Alvarez and Sanchez are also gone) would be just under $65 M. Either way, there would be plenty of room for the Pirates to load up on pitching. They could also afford to keep Alvarez around as an expensive bench option/backup plan at first and third base in the LaRoche scenario.

**There are factors here which are impossible to measure at this point, especially with catchers. You’ve got the way a catcher calls a game, and the way he interacts with his pitching staff and influences them during the games with mound visits and pacing. It’s possible that these could tip the defensive scales even more in Martin’s favor, leading to the need for more offense to make up for that. It’s possible that Stewart is just as good as Martin in these areas. Right now we just don’t have the information to quantify these factors. The Pirates would be in a better position to quantify this, but any outside analysis would have to leave this out.

**The big issue would be the rest of the team. There are always questions about who will improve and who will regress. In this case, will Josh Harrison repeat his breakout season? Will Gregory Polanco adjust to the majors and provide an upgrade in right field versus the production in 2014? Will Jordy Mercer play like the second half version or the first half version? Will the first base options step up if the Pirates keep them around?

This was the most difficult part to consider for the offensive side of things. I used the 2014 first base figures, basically taking an approach that all else would be equal on the team, and that the Pirates would have to upgrade their worst position to make up for the loss of Martin. In reality, they could be better, with other positions seeing upgrades (Polanco). Or they could be worse, with the first base upgrade being negated by a decline at another position (third base with Harrison). I’m using Polanco and Harrison as examples, rather than making predictions.

The best way to do this would be to look at the expectations for everyone on the team, then compare that with Martin and without Martin. But in reality, there are way too many variables involved with that sort of approach. And since I don’t think anyone would argue with my conclusion of “You need to upgrade the offense at first base to make up for the loss of Martin”, then I’m going to avoid that extreme approach in a free article, and get back to working on the 2015 Prospect Guide, so that I might continue being able to provide free content on the site.

**I have no regrets for that shameless plug I just threw out. Also, I’m keeping the nightly link below to pre-order the Prospect Guide, despite said shameless plug. You should definitely buy it if you enjoy reading about the Pirates’ prospects, anything involving baseball in general, or books that help make it possible for this site to cover the farm system each year.

TL;DR

Russell Martin is better than Chris Stewart, but Chris Stewart and Adam LaRoche are slightly better than Russell Martin and Ike Davis/Gaby Sanchez. Although that’s based on the things we know about catcher defense, and there is still plenty we don’t know that could change this analysis.

Links and Notes

**Pre-Order the 2015 Prospect Guide

**Pirates Acquire Right-Handed Pitcher Rob Scahill From the Rockies

**Pirates Will Acquire a Catcher if Russell Martin Signs Elsewhere

**AFL: Two Hits For Josh Bell In Scottsdale Loss

**Winter League: Willy Garcia Homers, Continues Hot Streak

**Cardinals Sign Dean Anna to a Major League Deal

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First Pitch: Pirates Could Have 3 of the Top 32 Picks, Plus $9 M to Spend in 2015 Draft http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/11/first-pitch-pirates-could-have-3-of-the-top-32-picks-plus-9-m-to-spend-in-2015-draft.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/11/first-pitch-pirates-could-have-3-of-the-top-32-picks-plus-9-m-to-spend-in-2015-draft.html#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 05:00:03 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=90422 The Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t had much experience with free agent compensation picks in the last 20+ years. They got a pick for Ryan Doumit leaving in 2012. Prior to that, their last supplemental picks were in the 1993 draft, which they received for the departures of Barry Bonds and Doug Drabek.

That was all under an old system. The new CBA, which went into effect three years ago, changed the process of receiving comp picks for free agents. Teams can only receive a compensation pick by issuing a qualifying offer to a player, which is worth $15.3 M. If the player turns it down and signs with another team, the former team gets a draft pick.

Under the old system, the former team would get two picks for a “Type A” free agent — a compensation pick given by the league after the first round, and the first round pick from the signing team (unless the signing team picked in the top 15 picks, in which case the former team would receive the signing team’s second round pick).

The new system only awards one pick, which is the compensation pick after the first round, awarded by the league. The signing team still loses their first round pick, although this doesn’t go to anyone. Instead, it just disappears, and everyone moves up a spot in the draft. I’m not sure why a signing team still gets punished for signing a player who has compensation coming their way. Well, I do know why. It suppresses the market for those players, and keeps prices down. And it’s effective too, but raises questions about why players who were traded during season don’t have to be subject to the same restrictions. This is probably an entirely different discussion for a different article.

Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano both rejected their qualifying offers today, which means if they sign elsewhere, the Pirates will get two compensation picks after the first round, giving them their first compensation picks under the new system. Last year the compensation picks were in the 28-34 range. In 2013 they were in the 27-33 range. The picks are awarded in reverse order of the standings, which means that the Pirates could end up high on that list. Here are the current teams who could receive comp picks, and the order in which they’d pick after the first round.

1. Colorado Rockies (Michael Cuddyer)*

2. Atlanta Braves (Ervin Santana)

3. Toronto Blue Jays (Melky Cabrera)

4. New York Yankees (David Robertson)

5. San Francisco Giants (Pablo Sandoval)

6. Pittsburgh Pirates (Russell Martin)

7. Pittsburgh Pirates (Francisco Liriano)

8. Kansas City Royals (James Shields)

9. Detroit Tigers (Victor Martinez)

10. Detroit Tigers (Max Scherzer)

11. Los Angeles Dodgers (Hanley Ramirez)

12. Baltimore Orioles (Nelson Cruz)

If any of these players sign with their former team, no compensation pick would be awarded. So far, the only player to sign elsewhere is Cuddyer, and I’ll get to him in a second. As for the Pirates, they would have to hope that the other four players ahead of them sign with their former teams in order to move up. I think that’s likely for the Yankees and Robertson. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of Santana, Cabrera, and Sandoval re-signs with their former team. That could put the Pirates picking 31st and 32nd. If the 28-34 range still holds up, then the Pirates will almost certainly get their two comp picks in the top 35 picks, giving them three picks in this range.

As for the first round pick, the Pirates had the number 23 pick entering the day. They moved up one spot when the Mets signed Michael Cuddyer, forfeiting the number 15 overall pick. They could continue to move up if teams ahead of them sign one of the players above (unless it’s a team re-signing one of the above players). Here is the updated list of teams that could lose their pick (the top 11 picks are protected).

12. Marlins
13. Padres
14. Rays
15. Braves
16. Brewers
17. Blue Jays
18. Yankees
19. Indians
20. Mariners
21. Giants

Of that list, I’d say the Yankees are always a threat to sign a qualifying free agent. The Mariners made a big splash last year with Robinson Cano. The Braves gave up their pick to sign Ervin Santana. The Pirates are currently picking at number 22 right now, which means they could easily end up inside of the top 20 by the end of it. My guess is that they’ll likely pick three times in the 19-32 range, assuming Liriano and Martin sign elsewhere. John Dreker looked at who could be available in that range a few weeks ago.

From a money standpoint in the draft, those three picks would probably amount to around $5.5 M to spend. The rest of the pool would be at least $3 M, based on what the Pirates had available last year (when picking lower in the draft). I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pirates ended up with around $9 M to spend in the 2015 draft. That would be about what they had to spend in 2013, when they landed Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire in the first round, plus JaCoby Jones, Cody Dickson, Buddy Borden, and Billy Roth in the middle rounds. It would also give them one of the top bonus pools in the draft, with a figure that would have been in the top five in the last two drafts. The Pirates are picking much lower in the 2015 draft than they were in 2013, but with the same amount of money potentially available, they could get very creative with how they spent it.

Once again, all of that assumes Martin and Liriano sign elsewhere. If that happens, the Pirates will have to first get creative with their approach to the 2014-15 off-season before thinking about the draft approach.

Links and Notes

**Pre-Order the 2015 Prospect Guide

**Francisco Liriano and Russell Martin Reject Qualifying Offers

**The 2015 Predicted Free Agent Prices For Martin, Liriano, and Volquez

**2015 Pittsburgh Pirates Spring Training Schedule Released

**Report: Russell Martin Looking For $75-80 M Over Five Years

**AFL: Josh Bell Continues to Struggle on Offense and Defense in 8-4 Loss

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First Pitch: Decision Day For Francisco Liriano http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/11/first-pitch-decision-day-for-francisco-liriano.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/11/first-pitch-decision-day-for-francisco-liriano.html#comments Mon, 10 Nov 2014 05:00:07 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=90374 Francisco Liriano has a decision to make. He can reject his qualifying offer, enter the open market and try to get a three or four-year deal with a lot more guaranteed money, but risk his draft pick compensation hurting his market. Or, he can accept his qualifying offer, receive $15.3 M for one year, hope that his 2015 season goes just as well as the 2013 and 2014 seasons, and try again next year for a big contract.

I’ve said that I think he would be wise to reject the offer and go for a multi-year deal. The risk against this is that he could be seen as inconsistent, and even more expensive than he should be due to the draft pick compensation. However, that didn’t stop Ubaldo Jimenez from receiving a four-year, $50 M deal last year, despite the fact that he has also been inconsistent, was coming off his first good year in five seasons, and also had the qualifying offer attached. Matt Garza and Ricky Nolasco didn’t have draft pick compensation to worry about, but Nolasco has been inconsistent, and Garza has been injury prone. Both receive four-year deals in the $48-50 M range.

I don’t know if Liriano would receive four years, due to his injury history. But I think he could receive three years. FanGraphs has him at three years and $36 M in their crowdsourcing project, which is about what I’d expect him to receive as an average annual value on a multi-year deal.

Here’s where the situation gets complicated. The market has some good pitchers, with Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, and James Shields all available. That doesn’t mean there won’t be money or a team for Liriano. But it might mean that Liriano has to wait until those guys have set the market before he can sign. That’s what Brandon McCarthy appears to be doing, according to Jon Heyman.

There are benefits to waiting. If a team misses out on one of those three pitchers, then that could raise the price for the second tier guys, and Liriano would be a prime member of that group. But there are also a lot of second tier guys, with McCarthy being one of them. So there’s no guarantee that a big payday would be there for Liriano.

I think the payday should be there. Over the last two seasons, Liriano has ranked 22nd in xFIP out of 136 pitchers with 200+ innings. He ranked ahead of Jon Lester and James Shields, and slightly behind Brandon McCarthy and Max Scherzer. The difference is that the big three each pitched over 430 innings in those two years. Liriano pitched 323 innings, and McCarthy was at 335. Liriano is great when he’s healthy, but health hasn’t been guaranteed.

The decision for Liriano is a choice between a guaranteed amount and potentially leaving money on the table, or taking on the unknown in an attempt to get the most guaranteed money, with the risk that the market doesn’t work out in his favor. I think he’d be better off with the multi-year deal, although I could see either path working for him. If he takes the one-year deal, and has another good season in 2015, then he’s sure to get a big offer next year, when he would be coming off three good years in a row. In that scenario, he’d be getting a lot more guaranteed money taking that risk than he could make this year.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the pitching market plays out this off-season, especially with Liriano. The first step is today’s decision over the qualifying offer.

Links and Notes

**Pre-Order the 2015 Prospect Guide

**Russell Martin Will Reject His Qualifying Offer

**Francisco Liriano Still Deciding Whether to Accept Pirates Qualifying Offer

**Winter Leagues: Stolmy Pimentel Gets Hit Around in the Dominican

**AFL: Joely Rodriguez Continues Impressive Fall Campaign

**Pirates Claim Infielder Jake Elmore

**Russell Martin Meets With the Cubs, Talking to Four Teams

**Gomez, Axford, and d’Arnaud Headline the List of Pirates 2014 Minor League Free Agents

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First Pitch: No Clear Answers For the Pirates at First Base http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/11/first-pitch-no-clear-answers-for-the-pirates-at-first-base.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/11/first-pitch-no-clear-answers-for-the-pirates-at-first-base.html#comments Fri, 07 Nov 2014 05:11:19 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=90304 A few weeks ago I wrote about the first base platoon, asking which players should stick around for the platoon in 2015. The Pittsburgh Pirates saw all of their internal options have down years in 2014, with Ike Davis, Gaby Sanchez, and Pedro Alvarez all struggling at the plate. Based on the career numbers, a platoon of Davis and Sanchez would be the best internal option. However, this would also cost around $7 M, which is getting close to the price you’d pay for a regular first baseman.

At the time of the article, Adam LaRoche wasn’t a free agent, and I wasn’t sure if he would have his option picked up. Since that article, LaRoche had his option declined, and is now on the open market. The FanGraphs crowd sourcing has him receiving a two year, $20 M deal. Having Davis and Sanchez would cost at least $15 M over those two years, and possibly more. So would the Pirates be better off with LaRoche, or their internal options?

LaRoche is coming off a year where he had an .817 OPS and a 1.6 WAR. By comparison, the Pirates combined for replacement level production at first base. The easy call based on those numbers would be to go with LaRoche, who would cost $3 M more than Davis/Sanchez, or $2.5 M less than those two and Alvarez.

The downside is that you don’t know what you’re going to get with LaRoche. I liked him when he was in Pittsburgh before, but the last few years he has been wildly inconsistent. He posted a 3.3 WAR in 2012, then an 0.5 WAR in 2013, followed by the 1.6 WAR in 2014. You might have a good shot at getting the 2012 or 2014 LaRoche for one year, but what are the odds that he will show that production for two years?

On the flip side, what are the odds that every current Pirates’ first baseman will follow up a down year with another down year? If Pedro Alvarez bounces back offensively, then that’s a 2-3 WAR player. If Gaby Sanchez hits lefties like it’s 2013 and not 2014, then that’s another win. Ike Davis would be worth a win as a platoon player if he bounces back to his career numbers.

Ultimately the decision comes down to whether the Pirates trust their current guys to bounce back, or if they trust LaRoche to remain at his current levels and want to pay a few million more to play it safe with him (although they haven’t been linked to him, so this is just theoretically speaking).

It’s not an easy decision to make. The finances are about $2-3 M on either side, depending on whether you’re comparing LaRoche to two or three of the first base options. Therefore, the main focus is on the production from either option. No matter what happens, I think the Pirates will part with at least one of their left-handed platoon options (Alvarez or Davis). Even that is a decision that is without a consensus pick, which pretty much sums up all of the decisions on first base.

So which one would you take? Vote in the poll below, and respond in the comments.

Links and Notes

**Pre-Order the 2015 Prospect Guide

**Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker Win Silver Slugger Awards

**AFL: Tyler Glasnow Has Another Mixed Outing

**Winter Leagues: Stetson Allie Moved to Reserve List

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First Pitch: The Process of Ranking Every Pirates Prospect http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/11/first-pitch-the-process-of-ranking-every-pirates-prospect.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/11/first-pitch-the-process-of-ranking-every-pirates-prospect.html#comments Thu, 06 Nov 2014 05:15:01 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=90274 Today I finished putting together the first draft of the 2015 Pirates top 50 prospect list. The top 50 list is exclusive to the 2015 Prospect Guide, which you can currently pre-order on the products page of the site. As a result of this, plus getting the formatting of the book completed, I don’t really have an article topic tonight. So I thought I’d go into detail on the process of ranking prospects for the books, where we are returning a new ratings system for the second year in a row.

It starts with me putting a list together of every single prospect eligible player in the system (fewer than 130 at-bats, 50 innings pitched, or 30 appearances for relievers). From there, I give every prospect a 2-8 rating in three categories:

1. Likely Upside

2. Floor

3. Ceiling

The likely upside is exactly what it says, what the player will most likely become. The floor is where I see the player ending up if he doesn’t reach his upside, and the ceiling is the highest level I see the player reaching. Pretty basic stuff there. Here are the classifications for each number.

8 Elite Talent
7 All Star
6 Above-Average Starter / Strong #3 Innings Eater / Impact Closer
5 Average Major Leaguer / #3-5 SP / Closer Candidate
4 Impactful Bench Player / Spot Starter / Strong Middle Reliever
3 Up & Down Player
2 Minor Leaguer

Most players will have a floor of 2, and we rarely give a ceiling of 8. We don’t publish the floor and ceiling rankings for each player. Last year there were only two players who had a ceiling of 8: Gregory Polanco and Jameson Taillon. We’ve yet to have a player with a likely upside of 8, since that would be a once in a generation prospect. Polanco and Taillon were both rated 7’s last year.

After I’m done with my rankings, I send a list out for other people to complete the same process. I get mine finished first, because I like to avoid anyone else influencing the rankings, and I’ve found from past experience that when someone sends me their list, I want to check it out right away, even if I don’t have my list completed. John Dreker and Wilbur Miller both spend a lot of time during the season following the entire minor league system, so they both submit rankings on every player in the system. Then, we get rankings from local writers on their specific teams. For example, Ryan Palencer covers the Indianapolis Indians for us, so he only ranks prospects he saw with Indianapolis. I usually lean more on the local writers if there is a wide range in opinions for a specific player.

Every writer on the site, whether it’s John, Wilbur, myself, or the local guys, have been in contact with scouts throughout the year, and we incorporate that into the rankings, with a section for notes. It might not seem necessary for notes, since we publish so much content on the site. However, there is a lot of information we have on players that never reaches the site. Some of that is specifically for the book, and some of it is just content that didn’t make an article. Either way, it ends up in the book.

Once I have all of the rankings together, I average out each player’s upside, floor, and ceiling. The upside is the number we use in the book, although we don’t take the average as gospel. We’ll adjust each player individually. The floor and ceiling, along with the level the player was at in 2014, all make up the risk factor. A guy with a floor of “2” in A-ball is going to have “Extreme” risk most of the time. A guy with a floor of 5 in Triple-A is going to have “Low” risk.

After I get the averages together, I throw together a top 50 list, which is pretty simple with the upside and risk factors. I then send that list out, along with the ratings, to John and Wilbur, and get their comments on who should move up, who should move down, and why. The “why” is important, as our rankings differ, and I want to know that there is a good reason to move a guy, other than just a general disagreement. Most of the time, they’ll make good arguments, and the rankings will be adjusted. I’ll also adjust the rankings during the write-up process, where I do more research on a player, and might find that he should be rated higher/lower and graded differently. In short, today was the first ranking, and there will be about 1,000 adjustments over the next month before the book is complete, with the final adjustment being minutes before sending it to the publisher (based on experience).

Of course, those of you who have bought the book in the past know that I care much more about tiered rankings than I do a top 50 list, and that ranking system is much easier to put together. But a top 50 list sells.

As for the progress of the book, by the end of the week I will have everyone’s bio and contract info updated, along with the 2014 stats added to the book. This process is about as boring as it sounds, especially after the rankings, and will result in me watching a lot of Scandal and House of Cards (the two shows on Netflix that I’m planning to watch this off-season). After that, I’ll have about a month to finish the profiles before the book goes to publishing.

Maybe you found this interesting. Maybe you also took a night off from this article. I’ve had the book on my brain all day, and while I’ve got some article ideas, I couldn’t give them the proper attention tonight. I’ll be back to the regular schedule with one of those ideas tomorrow. Until then, if you haven’t pre-ordered your copy of the Prospect Guide, you should do so here.

Links and Notes

**Pre-Order the 2015 Prospect Guide

**AFL: Josh Bell Collects Two Hits As Scottsdale Gets Eliminated From Playoffs

**Pirates Announce Major League Coaching Staff Changes

**Is Catcher Pitch Framing Fully Appreciated Yet?

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First Pitch: Once Again, Clint Hurdle Should Be the Manager of the Year http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/11/first-pitch-once-again-clint-hurdle-should-be-the-manager-of-the-year.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/11/first-pitch-once-again-clint-hurdle-should-be-the-manager-of-the-year.html#comments Wed, 05 Nov 2014 05:00:49 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=90235 For the second year in a row, Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has been named a finalist for the NL Manager of the Year award. Hurdle won the award last year. After he was named as a finalist, I wrote about how he deserved the award, due to the way he embraced advanced metrics such as defensive shifts, and how he controlled the clubhouse and never let the Pirates get into a prolonged funk.

This time around I think Hurdle deserves the award for those same reasons, but even more this year due to some of the personnel decisions he made. Hurdle still embraced advanced metrics. He still had an impact on the clubhouse, which might have been more difficult this year, since the Pirates had a lot more low points in 2014 than 2013. But the personnel moves were why the Pirates made the playoffs for the second year in a row.

The first move was the decision to give Josh Harrison more playing time. Heading into the season, Harrison was an after-thought. If he would have been cut out of Spring Training, not many Pirates fans would have been upset. He didn’t get off to a great start in April. But with the right fielders struggling, Hurdle gave Harrison a shot. The regular playing time continued at second base when Neil Walker went down with an injury in June. Harrison eventually found a home at third base, taking over as the regular starter in August after Pedro Alvarez struggled defensively all year. Throughout this process, Harrison put up numbers you’d expect from a star player.

There wasn’t much to indicate that Harrison was capable of being a starter, and to be fair, we still don’t know if he is a starter for the long-term. He did post numbers similar to this in the minors when he received regular playing time. His OPS in Triple-A was .856, and .826 in his first run through the level. He had an .837 OPS this year as a starter. Hurdle cited the minor league numbers as proof of what he could do when he got regular playing time. But you’ll have a hard time finding many other people looking at minor league numbers when a player comes into the year with a .648 OPS in 575 major league plate appearances. Harrison put up a 4.9 WAR, which ranked third on the team behind Andrew McCutchen and Russell Martin.

A big reason Harrison got his opportunity was due to the struggles in right field from Travis Snider and Jose Tabata. Heading into the season, everyone was waiting for top prospect Gregory Polanco to arrive. He did arrive in early June, and started off hot. But Polanco quickly cooled, leaving the Pirates without production from their right fielder once again. Fortunately, Travis Snider’s bat started picking up right around the time Polanco arrived in the majors.

Snider posted an .862 OPS from June 9th to the end of the season, spanning 224 plate appearances. He started getting regular playing time at the end of July. That continued in early August when Andrew McCutchen went down with a rib injury. But the bold move by Hurdle was what happened when McCutchen returned. Rather than going with Polanco, who projects to be a future star, Hurdle went with the hot hand. Snider remained the starter and Polanco was sent to Triple-A. This was all despite the fact that Snider had failed twice as the starting right fielder, and only had a small sample of success that supported him remaining in the role. The move paid off, as he finished the season with a .770 OPS after McCutchen returned. He ended up posting a 1.7 WAR, which ranked seventh among Pirates position players this year.

There were other moves that worked out for the Pirates this year, and helped them make the playoffs. For a lot of the transactions, it’s hard to tell how much of that was Hurdle and how much was Neal Huntington. The decision to give Josh Harrison regular playing time or give Travis Snider another chance probably had influence from Huntington, but those are closer to manager moves than anything else. The moves that worked for the Pirates were the call-ups of guys like Vance Worley, Jeff Locke, and John Holdzkom, which helped stabilize the rotation and the bullpen in the second half.

Of course, the main argument against Hurdle would be his handling of the rotation during the final weekend. He went with Francisco Liriano on Saturday and Gerrit Cole on Sunday in an attempt to try and win the division. That left Edinson Volquez for the Wild Card game, which didn’t work out at all. In hindsight, the moves look bad, although at the time there was a serious debate as to whether the Pirates should go for a slim chance at the division, or boot the division and save up for the Wild Card game. It might not have mattered either way in the Wild Card game with the way Madison Bumgarner pitched. Lost in all of that is the fact that the Pirates wouldn’t have even been in the playoff race if it wasn’t for Josh Harrison or Travis Snider stepping up, along with those key additions like Worley, Locke, and Holdzkom. Hurdle should get a lot of credit for these decisions, especially Harrison and Snider. These decisions are why he should win the NL Manager of the Year award for the second straight year.

Links and Notes

**Pre-Order the 2015 Prospect Guide

**McCutchen and Hurdle Named as Award Finalists

**AFL: Josh Bell and Elias Diaz Each Reach Base Three Times In Loss

**Cubs Will Target Russell Martin

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First Pitch: How Do the Pirates Look if Francisco Liriano Accepts the Qualifying Offer? http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/11/first-pitch-how-do-the-pirates-look-if-francisco-liriano-accepts-the-qualifying-offer.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/11/first-pitch-how-do-the-pirates-look-if-francisco-liriano-accepts-the-qualifying-offer.html#comments Tue, 04 Nov 2014 05:05:06 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=90204 The Pittsburgh Pirates made the right moves today. They not only extended a qualifying offer to Russell Martin, but also made the same offer to Francisco Liriano. Both players will have a week to accept or decline their offers. If they decline and sign elsewhere, then the Pirates would get two draft picks as compensation. If they both accept, the Pirates would see their current payroll expand by $30.6 M.

I think there’s zero chance that Martin accepts. He’s looking at a multi-year deal that will probably end up around $15 M per season. There would be no reason for him to accept a one year deal at the same rate. As for Liriano, I think he will decline the offer as well. But that doesn’t seem to be the consensus opinion. The narrative today was that Liriano was one of three players who could accept an offer, with the other two being David Robertson of the Yankees and Michael Cuddyer of the Rockies.

In Liriano’s case, the argument is that he would make more per year with the qualifying offer, and that his inconsistent play might prevent him from getting a multi-year deal on the open market, especially when a draft pick is attached. I disagree with both angles. Liriano might get more per year with a qualifying offer, but it’s all about guaranteed money. If he can get $35-40 M guaranteed over three years, then I think he’ll take that. This is where the inconsistent play enters the equation. There is no guarantee that Liriano gets another big offer next year. This might be his one shot at a long-term payday. And based on what pitchers received last year, I don’t think the qualifying offer will prevent Liriano from getting paid.

But let’s play along with this and think about what would happen to the Pirates if Liriano accepts the offer. Martin isn’t going to be accepting his offer, which means the Pirates are left with two scenarios.

What Happens If the Pirates Bring Back Martin?

I don’t think Liriano accepting a qualifying offer would prevent the Pirates from pursuing Martin. If they actually could sign him, I think it would cost around $15 M per year. This means that Liriano and Martin would take the current payroll projection to around $95 M, although I’d expect $4-5 M to come off that figure if the team trades one of Pedro Alvarez or Ike Davis. I don’t know what the overall budget would be, but the Pirates would almost certainly need one more pitcher. They might have to be limited to a cheap reclamation project with a high upside in this case.

What Happens if Martin Signs Elsewhere?

Travis Sawchik had an interesting idea if Martin signs elsewhere: go with all defense behind the plate and use the extra money to upgrade the offense at first base. If Liriano accepted the qualifying offer, that would put the projected payroll around $80 M. A second defensive catcher to pair with Chris Stewart (Travis suggests David Ross) would probably cost $1 M. If the Pirates upgraded at first base, they could probably part with Pedro Alvarez, Ike Davis, and Gaby Sanchez. That would reduce the payroll by a projected $12.6 M, taking it down to about $68.5 M.

This gives plenty of room to not only add a free agent first baseman like Adam LaRoche, but also to add a quality starting pitcher or a top reclamation project to pair with Liriano and fill the final opening in the rotation.

My Preferred Scenario

I think the Pirates would be better off if Liriano declined the offer and signed elsewhere. They’ve shown a good ability to find quality starting pitching for well below market rate, and Liriano is just one example of that. If Liriano declines, then they’ve got a lot of money to go after Martin, plus money to add a few reclamation starters and a first baseman.

I’m assuming Martin still costs $15 M here, which puts the payroll at $80 M. Then you’d subtract the $12.6 M for the current first base options, and add $10 M for someone like LaRoche. That puts the payroll at around $77.5 M. This would give them plenty of room to add two quality reclamation projects, such as Justin Masterson and Brandon Morrow.

In other words, for the price of Liriano, they could potentially have the next two Liriano’s.

We’re a week away from finding out what will happen with Liriano and Martin. MLB free agency began at midnight, but things won’t really kick off until the qualifying offer situations are determined.

Links and Notes

**Pre-Order the 2015 Prospect Guide

**AFL: News and Notes For Glasnow, Bell and Others

**Pirates Extend Qualifying Offers to Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano

**Pirates Outright Chase d’Arnaud, John Axford and Jeanmar Gomez

**Winter League: Big Hits From Jose Osuna and Willy Garcia

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First Pitch: Pirates Need to Make Two Qualifying Offers Today http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/11/first-pitch-pirates-need-to-make-two-qualifying-offers-today.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/11/first-pitch-pirates-need-to-make-two-qualifying-offers-today.html#comments Mon, 03 Nov 2014 05:00:34 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=90153 Today is the final day for teams to re-sign their departing free agents, as well as the deadline for teams to extend a qualifying offer. I don’t expect the Pittsburgh Pirates to re-sign anyone today, although the qualifying offers will be significant news. There are two players who easily deserve qualifying offers, if only to get the Pirates some sort of compensation when/if they sign elsewhere.

The easiest decision lies with Russell Martin. The Pirates have already made it clear that they will extend a qualifying offer to their catcher. This makes perfect sense. Getting Martin back at one year and $15.3 M (if he accepts the offer) isn’t going to happen, and it would be a total gift if it did. The Pirates will pursue Martin, and it will probably cost at least four years at that qualifying offer price to get him to sign. The offer will at least give them a draft pick if he doesn’t return.

Francisco Liriano is believed to be the more difficult decision, although I don’t think the decision is that difficult at all. Liriano is coming off two of the best years of his career. He was one of the better starters in baseball over the last two years, ranking 19th in xFIP out of 86 pitchers with 300+ innings. I wrote about a month ago that Liriano should expect to receive a $48-50 M guaranteed deal this off-season, just like Matt Garza, Ricky Nolasco, and Ubaldo Jimenez did last off-season. All three were about the same age as Liriano, and Jimenez had a qualifying offer attached. You could argue that Liriano is the best of the four pitchers.

This is Liriano’s chance for a big payday. Earlier today I posted a link to MLBTR’s prediction that he would be looking for a three or four-year deal. I think he’ll be looking long-term, and trying for more dollars, rather than a short-term payday. If it works out, he will be getting about $30-35 M extra in guaranteed money. If it backfires, he’ll be getting a few million less on a one year deal, if he even loses anything at all. The multi-year option didn’t work for Ervin Santana last year, although he ended up receiving the same rate on a one-year deal late in Spring Training. Liriano has made just over $20 M in his career. At that point, he’s in a good position to gamble a few million in hopes of seeing his career earnings more than triple.

Last year the Pirates didn’t tend a qualifying offer to A.J. Burnett, citing payroll as the reason they didn’t want to make that offer. That made sense, considering the situation at the time. Burnett was saying he would either retire or return for another year to the Pirates. As we later learned, the Pirates weren’t interested in giving him more than $12 M on a one-year deal. By giving him the qualifying offer, they would have been paying him several million more than what they wanted to give him. It turned out that this was a wise move, as Burnett struggled this year, and now the Phillies are in a position where they might be stuck with him for $12.75 M next year.

Burnett’s situation and Liriano’s situation are totally different. If the Pirates wanted to bring Liriano back, they’d have to offer up much more than $15.3 M guaranteed. So a qualifying offer wouldn’t be bidding against themselves in this situation. Payroll actually wouldn’t even be a factor. On paper, there would be a risk of Liriano and Martin both accepting, and eating up $30 M in payroll. But due to this low probability of both players accepting, that’s not a real concern.

The Pirates will extend a qualifying offer to Martin. They absolutely should do the same with Liriano.

Links and Notes

**Pre-Order the 2015 Prospect Guide

**Good News on Alen Hanson’s Injured Hand

**MLBTR Releases 2014-15 Free Agent Predictions

**Two More Reclamation Projects Hit the Free Agent Market

**Winter Leagues: Gregory Polanco Will Play Winter Ball This Year

**AFL: Josh Bell Reaches Base Four Times in Fall-Stars Game

**What Does the Future Hold For Joely Rodriguez?

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First Pitch: The One Thing Standing Between Tyler Glasnow and the Top of a Rotation http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/first-pitch-the-one-thing-standing-between-tyler-glasnow-and-the-top-of-a-rotation.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/10/first-pitch-the-one-thing-standing-between-tyler-glasnow-and-the-top-of-a-rotation.html#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 04:41:45 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=90089 Free agency began today, with four Pittsburgh Pirates — Russell Martin, Francisco Liriano, Edinson Volquez, and Clint Barmes — officially filing as free agents. Martin is going to be a huge focus, although the other big focus will be on starting pitching. The Pirates will most likely need to add two starting pitchers from the outside, adding to their internal options of Gerrit Cole, Vance Worley, Charlie Morton, Jeff Locke, and Brandon Cumpton. They also have several top prospects in the upper levels of the minors who could arrive by mid-season — Jameson Taillon, Nick Kingham, and Adrian Sampson.

The one upper level pitching prospect who isn’t on that list is Tyler Glasnow. The right-hander is projected to start the year in Altoona, and I project him to stay there for almost the entire 2015 season. Glasnow has put up video game numbers in each of the last two seasons, making him look like one of the best pitchers in minor league baseball. Glasnow has the abilities to be one of the best pitchers in minor league baseball, and eventually, one of the best in the majors. But he will need to spend a lot more time in the minors than you’d expect by just looking at the video game numbers alone.

Tonight was a perfect example of that. Glasnow was coming off three straight shutout appearances in the AFL, only to deal with control issues. After the outing, Jeff Moore of Baseball Prospectus had this to say on his command.

I saw a lot of Glasnow in Bradenton this year, including dominant starts, or one of the rare starts where he struggled. The common trend in all of those starts was that he had an inning where everything fell apart from the command side. On the best days, he would fix the command issues mid-inning. Most days the command would lead to one bad inning. On the worst days, the command issues would continue for a second or third inning, leading to a bad outing and shortening his day. Glasnow has amazing stuff, which is why he was able to get away with this while still putting up strong numbers in the lower levels.

He has been improving on this, but it’s still a concern. It’s a big reason why he stayed in Bradenton all season, despite the results. It’s probably why he will spend all of next season in Altoona.

Jeff’s tweet is correct. Right now, Glasnow would be one of those starters like Ian Snell, who had great stuff, but always had a blowup inning that led to Quad-A results from top of the rotation stuff. And so he’ll work to improve on those results, and make it so that outings like tonight won’t be a common issue going forward. From the looks of the early results in the AFL, Glasnow is going to see the same results in Double-A that he saw in both levels of A-ball. He will have some unstoppable outings, followed by a blow-up outing where his lack of command kills him.

In short, Glasnow could have another season where the only way he can be beat is if he is off his game. He’ll have another year and a half in the minors to get more consistent in that regard before he is expected to arrive in the majors. And it’s important to remember during this time that he’s going to look great most of the time, but there are some developmental issues he still needs a lot of work on before he can go on to have success in the majors.

Links and Notes

**Pre-Order the 2015 Prospect Guide

**AFL: Tyler Glasnow Struggles With Command, Loses Shutout Streak

**2014-2015 Off Season Primer

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