Pirates Prospects » First Pitch http://www.piratesprospects.com Your best source for news on the Pittsburgh Pirates and their minor league system. Sun, 11 Jan 2015 14:59:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1 First Pitch: Mid-Season Promotions to Altoona For Pitchers Could Be a Thing of the Past http://www.piratesprospects.com/2015/01/first-pitch-mid-season-promotions-to-altoona-for-pitchers-could-be-a-thing-of-the-past.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2015/01/first-pitch-mid-season-promotions-to-altoona-for-pitchers-could-be-a-thing-of-the-past.html#comments Fri, 09 Jan 2015 05:00:05 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=91734 Today we continued the top 20 prospects countdown with our number 17 prospect, Clay Holmes. When Holmes returns from Tommy John surgery in 2015, he should go to Bradenton. That was where he was projected to start the year in 2014, prior to his injury in Spring Training. Heading into the off-season, it looked like the Pirates might have a shortage of rotation spots in High-A. Holmes is a guy who would have been guaranteed a spot, but the shortage of spots could have led to someone like Tyler Eppler going to West Virginia, rather than getting an aggressive push to Bradenton at the start of the 2015 season, which is where I’ve got him projected now.

The Pirates traded Shane Carle and Buddy Borden this off-season, reducing the amount of starting options they’ll have in Bradenton. I currently have Holmes, Luis Heredia, Eppler, and Cody Dickson as strong bets for the rotation. Other candidates could include Alex McRae, Austin Coley, Dovydas Neverauskas, Frank Duncan, Montana DuRapau, or John Sever. The guys from that list who won’t make the jump to Bradenton will likely fill out the West Virginia rotation.

In the last few years, it has been possible for players in Bradenton to get a push to Altoona by the end of the season. Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon did it in 2012. Nick Kingham did it in 2013. But that didn’t happen as much last year. The two guys who got a push to Altoona were Tom Harlan and Orlando Castro, with both projected to be lefty middle relievers at best in the majors. Meanwhile, Tyler Glasnow, Chad Kuhl, Jason Creasy, and John Kuchno all remained in Bradenton for the entire 2014 season, despite strong results from each pitcher.

It might be the same case for Holmes and the rest of the Bradenton rotation in 2015. I don’t know if the Pirates would want to push Holmes late in the year by sending him to Altoona following his Tommy John surgery. But it might not be an option. The candidates for the Altoona rotation are as follows:

Tyler Glasnow

Chad Kuhl

Jason Creasy

John Kuchno

Angel Sanchez

Zack Dodson

Tom Harlan

Orlando Castro

Some of those guys profile as relief options, and will probably get pushed to the bullpen in 2015, due to the lack of starting spots in the upper levels. I think Glasnow, Kuhl, and Creasy are safe for rotation spots. I’d favor Kuchno and Sanchez for the final two spots, just to get innings, although the final five players are guys who I see as having the upside of relievers.

It might even be difficult for some of the Altoona starters to move up to Indianapolis, allowing some of the bullpen options to get back in the rotation. The Triple-A rotation projects to have the following:

Jameson Taillon

Nick Kingham

Adrian Sampson

Clayton Richard

Brandon Cumpton

Casey Sadler

That doesn’t include current or future minor league free agents, such as Deolis Guerra. My guess is that Sadler moves to the bullpen, with the chance to start later in the season if/when someone gets called up from the rotation.

For the guys in Bradenton, in order to receive a promotion to Altoona mid-season, they need a mass domino effect. They need enough spots to clear in Triple-A to open a spot in Double-A. Then, they need to jump past the relief options in Double-A in order to crack that rotation mid-season. It’s not impossible, but it seems unlikely.

This isn’t a situation that looks to change going forward. The Pirates have loaded up on pitching talent through the draft, and a lot of that talent is reaching the upper levels. They’ve traded some away over the last few years, and will probably continue to deal from that depth going forward. But they’re getting to the point where they have too many prospects for rotation spots, which will result in two things — the lesser prospects being shifted to the bullpen and a lack of mid-season promotions in the upper levels due to a lack of space above them.

Links and Notes

**The 2015 Prospect Guide is now available on the products page. The book features our full top 50 prospects, plus profiles for every player in the system. I’m on vacation this week, which means all book orders placed will ship out on Monday morning, January 12th. All eBooks will be available for download immediately.

**Winter Leagues: Walk-Off Hit For Gustavo Nunez, Julio Vivass Shutdown…Possibly

**Update on Jung-Ho Kang’s Negotiations, Gaby Sanchez Headed to Japan

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 Top Prospect: #17 – Clay Holmes

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First Pitch: Willy Garcia’s Strengths and Weaknesses Fit a Growing MLB Trend http://www.piratesprospects.com/2015/01/first-pitch-willy-garcias-strengths-and-weaknesses-fit-a-growing-mlb-trend.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2015/01/first-pitch-willy-garcias-strengths-and-weaknesses-fit-a-growing-mlb-trend.html#comments Thu, 08 Jan 2015 05:00:05 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=91742 One of the players the Pittsburgh Pirates protected from the Rule 5 draft this off-season was Willy Garcia, who was profiled today as the number 18 prospect in our countdown. Garcia is an interesting case. He has two plus tools, with plus power and a plus arm. However, he doesn’t draw walks, and strikes out way too much. As John Dreker wrote during the season, there haven’t been many players who have gone on to play in the majors while having the strikeout and walk issues Garcia has. On the other hand, not many players have two plus tools.

So why would the Pirates use a 40-man roster spot on Garcia when the strikeouts and walks suggest the odds are slim that he’ll be effective in the majors? My guess is that they were focused on the tools he has, with the hope that he can correct the strikeout and walk issues as he gets older.

That’s part of why we ranked him in the top 20. Another reason was a trend that is taking place in baseball. Here is a look at a few key stats from the last five seasons.

Year

PA/HR

K%

BB%

2010

40.2

18.5

8.5

2011

40.7

18.6

8.1

2012

37.3

19.8

8.0

2013

39.7

19.9

7.9

2014

43.9

20.4

7.6

I don’t know if you can call the 2014 home run rates a trend. It’s only one year, and clearly stands out from the other years. On that same note, the 2012 season was clearly different from the 2010-11 years. The very next season, the home run totals went back to the 40 PA/HR range. It’s very likely that the home runs could bounce back in 2015, increasing to the rate they were at in 2010, 2011, and 2013.

There are two trends that seem apparent here: the increase in strikeouts and the decrease in walks. On the surface, it seems that the league is sacrificing walks and accepting strikeouts more often. Maybe that’s due to the quality of pitching that is coming through the game lately. Or maybe it’s the approach by the hitters to focus on power, which leads to more three-outcome approaches, or in some cases, two-outcome approaches.

As for a guy like Garcia, if he can carry his power over to the majors eventually, and maintains his strikeout and walk rates to the point where he wouldn’t be completely overmatched, then he would definitely fit in. It’s not out of the question that he maintains the same rates as he moves up. His rates at Double-A were bad in 2014, but were actually slightly better than his 2013 numbers in High-A. A hitter like Garcia, with power and a lot of strikeouts, seems to be more accepted in 2015 than 2010, especially if the drop in power is an actual trend.

There’s another trend that has been taking place across baseball over the last few years, and that is a focus on defense. Garcia also fits this trend, as he has a plus arm in right field, and enough speed and range to be a good fielder at either corner spot. The fact that he can provide strong defense in the outfield, plus hit for power, makes him a MLB bench option at the least in today’s game, even with the plate patience issues.

I don’t know if the Pirates added Garcia to the 40-man roster with MLB’s recent trends in mind. I still think they added him because of the tools he has, and with hope that he could develop further (and probably because they felt another team would select him in the Rule 5 draft due to the same reasons). But it seems like Garcia fits in with a lot of new trends in baseball, with his flaws not being as big of an issue, as long as he brings his strengths, which are power and defense.

Links and Notes

**The 2015 Prospect Guide is now available on the products page. The book features our full top 50 prospects, plus profiles for every player in the system. I’m on vacation this week, which means all book orders placed will ship out on Monday morning, January 12th. All eBooks will be available for download immediately.

**Jordy Mercer’s Impressive Defensive Feat in 2014

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 Top Prospects: #18 – Willy Garcia

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First Pitch: Three Reasons Why the Pirates Don’t Need to Extend Neil Walker Right Now http://www.piratesprospects.com/2015/01/first-pitch-three-reasons-why-the-pirates-dont-need-to-extend-neil-walker-right-now.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2015/01/first-pitch-three-reasons-why-the-pirates-dont-need-to-extend-neil-walker-right-now.html#comments Wed, 07 Jan 2015 05:00:14 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=91740 A Pittsburgh Pirates off-season wouldn’t be complete without rumors that the Pirates were interested in extending Neil Walker. The rumors have already come up this off-season, but I’d b surprised if they actually took place at this point. I also feel there’s little need to extend Walker now.

I write about this every time the Walker extension talk comes up. He’s got two years of control remaining, the Pirates are getting no discounts by extending him now, he’s been injury prone, and they’ve got internal options that could take over after the 2016 season. With no cost benefit to extend him now, they can wait until the 2016 season is up and see if they actually need to keep him around.

I’m writing about this again today as a quick review for one of those points — the potential replacements. I believe that Jordy Mercer can handle the shortstop position in the majors, and the Pirates have him under control through the 2018 season. As a side note, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to extend Mercer, since I think the Pirates could get some value here, I think Mercer can still improve, and shortstop is much harder to fill than second base. With that said, they’ve got Mercer for the next four years, meaning that all of the current middle infield options in the farm system are competing for the future second base job.

I’ve written a lot about Jung-Ho Kang and how I think the Pirates should handle his approach. They’ve got the benefit of being able to use him in a bench role in 2015, seeing how he could adjust to the majors. If he’s successful, he could be the replacement at second base for Walker, assuming he’s not needed elsewhere.

Prior to adding Kang, the top future option at second base looked to be Alen Hanson. I don’t know if Kang moves ahead of Hanson right now. Based on where we would have ranked Kang in the prospect rankings, Hanson would still be ahead. There’s just more upper level competition right now. I think Hanson will arrive in the majors at some point during the 2015 season. The Pirates moved him to second base last year in part for that reason, to speed his bat up to the majors. When he does arrive, that will be the start of his attempt to unseat Walker.

Beyond those two, the only other option in the top three levels of the minors that could take over for Walker would be JaCoby Jones. He was our number 19 prospect this year, as profiled today. He’s coming off a big season at the plate in West Virginia, although that did come with some alarming strikeout numbers. He was also learning the shortstop position, and he should remain at shortstop in the short-term. He will spend the 2015 season in Bradenton, and his chances of moving up to Altoona depend on whether the Pirates want to move Adam Frazier off the shortstop position in Altoona, or whether they want to move Jones to second base.

The only way it would make sense to rush Jones or move him to second base would be if Mercer struggles, or if Kang and Hanson both struggle. Otherwise, the Pirates can take their time with Jones, keeping him as either a backup plan if Kang and Hanson eventually don’t work out, or a potential replacement for Mercer down the line.

As for Walker, with the three potential replacements in the top three levels of the minors (or the majors, in Kang’s case) give the Pirates time to decide on an extension. If none of those replacements establish themselves as starting options by the end of the 2016 season, then it would make sense to extend Walker. And the Pirates will probably end up paying the same rate for his free agent years that they would pay right now.

Links and Notes

**The 2015 Prospect Guide is now available on the products page. The book features our full top 50 prospects, plus profiles for every player in the system. I’m on vacation this week, which means all book orders placed will ship out on Monday morning, January 12th. All eBooks will be available for download immediately.

**In the only Pirates related news from the last few days, Clint Hurdle will have left hip replacement surgery on Wednesday. Despite the surgery, he plans on attending winter mini-camp on Monday.

**Winter Leagues: Gustavo Nunez Reaches Base Four Times, Back-to-Back Multi-Hit Games For Edgar Munoz  Update in this link on Alen Hanson and his performance in the Dominican playoffs.

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 Top Prospects: #19 – JaCoby Jones

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First Pitch: The Importance of Having Plenty of Pitching Prospects http://www.piratesprospects.com/2015/01/first-pitch-the-importance-of-having-plenty-of-pitching-prospects.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2015/01/first-pitch-the-importance-of-having-plenty-of-pitching-prospects.html#comments Tue, 06 Jan 2015 05:00:30 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=91704 I’ve never really believed in the “TINSTAAPP” line of thinking. That’s an acronym for “There is no such thing as a pitching prospect,” and maybe I don’t believe in it because some people take it too literally to avoid pitchers entirely. I also don’t like it, because I feel that pitchers are unfairly classified here. The idea behind this is that pitchers are no sure thing, in large part due to the injury risk that they come with. But no prospect is a sure thing, and hitters can be just as injury prone as pitchers at times. You win with pitching, which means you need to invest in pitching prospects, and since they are risky, you need to invest in a lot of pitching prospects.

Today we kicked off the top 20 prospect countdown with Luis Heredia. When he was signed in 2010, Heredia was seen as a guy who could be a future ace. He has been in the top ten in our rankings every year until now. At this point he looks more like a projectable starter out of high school, rather than a future top of the rotation guy. That drop in value got me thinking about an article I wrote in the 2012 Prospect Guide. Well, the fact that I found a stack of 2012 books while cleaning out my office last week also helped (you can buy them for $1 each here). The cover of the book featured Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Luis Heredia, and Stetson Allie all featured on each suit of aces. The article in the book was called “The Four Aces.” I’ve included the article below, if anyone wants a jump back to pre-2012, when Cole hadn’t thrown a professional pitch, and Taillon, Allie, and Heredia were all coming off their first seasons. If you want to skip it, join me below the article.

The last time the Pittsburgh Pirates had an ace in the majors was 1992. Doug Drabek, in his final year with the team, put up a 2.77 ERA in 256.2 innings. He finished fifth in the Cy Young award voting just two years after winning the award. Since that point the Pirates haven’t had a pitcher put up strong back to back seasons. They’ve had a few one year wonders, but those have usually been followed up by a regression.

The Pirates added Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Luis Heredia, and Stetson Allie to the organization in the span of one year between August 2010 and August 2011. All four players have top of the rotation stuff, with Pirates fans hoping that at least one of them emerges as an ace in the majors. If that happened, it would give the Pirates their first ace since Cole, Taillon, and Allie were toddlers, or – in another way to put it – their first ace of Heredia’s lifetime.

The top prospect of the bunch was taken with the first overall pick of the 2011 draft. Gerrit Cole has an arsenal of pitches that could potentially make him one of the best in the game. He throws his fastball in the upper 90s, constantly hitting triple digits, and sitting 98 MPH even after 100 pitches. One of the special things about Cole is that he tends to add velocity as the game goes on, rather than seeing a drop in velocity. There’s no explanation for it, and he insists that he’s not holding anything back early in the game. The same thing happens to Justin Verlander, who Cole often gets compared to.

Aside from Cole’s plus fastball he has a plus slider and a plus changeup, both of which sit in the mid-to-upper 80s. The changeup drew a lot of attention in 2011, and is part of what put him in position to be taken with the first overall pick.

“I never really thought it made such a drastic change as a lot of other people thought,” Cole said of the pitch. “I think I used it in different counts. And I just threw it with more conviction.”

Cole has the build to be a work horse starter, capable of 200 innings a year. The whole package suggests that the right hander from UCLA could be a candidate to move quickly through the minor league system. However, the Pirates don’t like to label anyone as a fast track candidate.

“I think the biggest separator for him is going to be how his fastball plays,” said Kyle Stark, the Pirates’ Assistant General Manager and 2011 Director of Minor League Operations. “Obviously it’s got the velocity, with the ability to have angles and deception. And then the command that comes with it I think is going to dictate what type of starter. We obviously think he has the potential to be that front end guy.”

Cole has a great mix of pitches, and doesn’t have much to work on, as he was good enough to be taken first overall. The adjustments the Pirates are making are minor, meant to give Cole better extension so that he can drive the ball down through the zone, rather than leaving it up to get hit, which has been a concern in the past.

If there’s any indication on how highly regarded Cole is by the Pirates, it comes during the video sessions. The team has been known for grabbing film of other pitchers and using the film to teach their own guys. For Cole, the Pirates have been putting on films of Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling. It says a lot about a young pitcher when the organization has them learning off of video featuring some of the best pitchers in recent history.

Cole might end up in Bradenton to start the 2012 season. That would put him on the same team as Jameson Taillon, who is very similar to where Cole was three years ago. Taillon has a great fastball, sitting in the mid-90s, even getting it as high as 99 MPH. He’s also got a plus curveball that one American League scout called the best in all of baseball.

Those two pitches from Taillon made it so that he didn’t have to use his changeup much prior to being drafted. For that reason, the changeup is a work in progress. Taillon was comfortable throwing it in hitter’s counts in 2011, but the pitch has a ways to go. That could be an area where Cole and Taillon on the same team could provide a huge benefit.

“Personally I’m excited,” Taillon said of the chance to pitch on the same team as Cole. “He’s a good guy to learn from. I know he’s got a good changeup, so I can see how he throws that.”

Just like Cole, Taillon also suffers from leaving the ball up in the zone. That takes his excellent stuff and makes it hittable. The Pirates have been working with similar minor adjustments with Taillon, trying to remove an unnecessary hop in his delivery, and they seem to be paying off based on the 2011 results.

“I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better at (keeping the ball down), and I see the importance of pitching for effect, pitching not to throw strikes all the time, pitching in for balls, brush them off, as well as being down in the zone,” Taillon said. “I’m still getting better on it. There’s always room for improvement, but I feel I’ve gotten a lot better.”

Taillon pitched 92.2 innings in his first professional season. That innings total drew some concerns that the Pirates were being too conservative, and not setting Taillon up for long term success. The Pirates realize that pitchers are vulnerable, especially in the 18-22 ages. Their approach is that they’d rather be more aggressive on the back end of that scale, rather than pushing someone at the age of 19.

No prospect is a guarantee to live up to his potential. Cole and Taillon are not exceptions to this rule. Yet of the four top pitchers, Cole and Taillon are more polished and have less risk of failing to achieve their upside. By comparison, Stetson Allie and Luis Heredia are both very raw. Both pitchers have a lack of experience pitching, which leads to control issues.

Heredia might eventually become better than Cole or Taillon. While Cole gets Justin Verlander comparisons, and Taillon gets Josh Beckett comparisons, Heredia is talked about in the same sentence as Felix Hernandez. Part of that is because they were both top prospects out of Mexico. It is also due to Heredia’s build and his potential mix of pitches.

At 17 years of age, Heredia stands 6’ 6”, and already has a frame that makes you think he could one day pitch over 200 innings a year without filling out any further. He throws his fastball as high as 96 MPH, and could eventually sit at 96 as he gets older. The Pirates put him in the Gulf Coast League in 2011 for his pro debut, which was a very aggressive placement for a 16 year old.

“He fit in, and that’s what’s encouraging,” Stark said about Heredia’s season. “I think sometimes you forget that he’s that young.”

The interesting thing about Heredia is his potential for several plus pitches. He has a good feel for a changeup, and knows how to spin a curveball. Both pitches currently show promise, with the possibility of each becoming a plus offering one day. But Heredia is young, and with his youth comes inexperience. He needs work to develop those pitches, but perhaps more importantly, he needs work to fix the control issues that bothered him in 2011.

“Our focus is on solidifying a repeatable delivery, which will lead to fastball command, but it’s going to lead to better secondary stuff as well,” Stark said. “We’re excited about the foundation we’ve been able to establish here. It’s going to be exciting to see how this young man matures.”

Heredia being a raw product with a lot of upside is understandable to most people considering his age and background. People don’t think of Stetson Allie in the same way. Allie isn’t 16. He came out of the draft. The expectation is that Allie should be further along in his development. What gets forgotten is that Allie’s first professional season was only his second season as a pitcher. He’s a few years older, but like Heredia, Allie is very raw.

“I think people have to remember that just because somebody gets a significant investment in the draft, it doesn’t mean we think they’re good today. It means we think they’re going to be good at some point,” Stark said of Allie’s $2.25 M bonus in the 2010 draft.

The focus in 2011 was on fastball command, specifically on learning to repeat his delivery. In Spring Training, Allie’s control was horrible. His control improved some by the time his pro debut came around in June. He still needed work, and was eventually moved to the bullpen so that he could focus more on his mechanics over one inning, rather than focusing on spreading his stuff out over four or five innings. By the end of the season, there were some clear changes, especially if you saw Allie from start to finish.

The highlight at the end of the season came with his final batter of the year. Allie started off with a pitch way inside, hitting 95 MPH, and brushing back the right handed batter. His next pitch was a 93 MPH fastball to the outer half of the plate, which was out of reach for the swing attempt. Allie returned inside with a 94 MPH fastball, again pushing the batter off the plate. His next pitch was a 92 MPH fastball over the outer half for a called strike. He finished off the at-bat with a nice 94 MPH fastball on a downward plane, sitting on the outer half of the plate, and getting a swinging strikeout.

“That’s something we couldn’t do early on in the season. We were just worried about throwing strikes,” said State College pitching coach Justin Meccage.

At the start of the year, Allie had trouble just throwing the ball across the plate. By the end of the year he was able to control his pitches enough to push batters off the plate, only to follow up with a fastball away. He still had control issues, but the change from the start of the year to the end of the year was very encouraging, and could be a good sign of things to come.

“Given how hard Stetson throws, if he can establish (pitching inside) to right handed hitters, he’ll start moving up the ladder really quick,” Kimera Bartee, the Spikes’ manager in 2011, said.

There was such a focus on Allie’s fastball this year that people forgot about his plus slider, which he throws in the mid-to-upper 80s, rivaling Cole for the best slider in the system. The fastball/slider combo has some taking the easy way out and projecting Allie as a future star closer, writing off any possibility that he can become a starter.

The Pirates still believe he can be a starter. He might continue pitching in the bullpen for the next year or two, but his role during this time won’t have any indication of his future role. The main focus is fastball command and repeating his delivery, and that goal is the same regardless of whether he is in a minor league rotation or bullpen. Allie is almost hurt by the presence of Taillon, Cole, and Heredia. Without those three, Allie might be counted on more as a future ace, and probably wouldn’t be written off as easily. Because there’s less of a need for Allie to become that ace, people are more comfortable mentioning him as a bullpen arm.

What the Pirates have is very rare. Very few teams have more than one pitching prospect who could be considered one of the best in the game. Some teams don’t have any potential aces. The Pirates have Cole and Taillon, who will easily end up in a lot of top 20 rankings next year. They also have Heredia and Allie, who are both raw, but both have plus pitches at their disposal if they can successfully fix their mechanics.

The depth is great, because pitching is a game of attrition. Odds are that only one of these four pitchers will live up to their expectations of becoming a top of the rotation starter. If the Pirates see two of these guys eventually become top of the rotation starters, it would be a huge success. It’s impossible to say which pitchers will make it at this point. You don’t have to explain to Pirates fans all of the things that could possibly go wrong with pitching prospects. That just makes it more important to have multiple guys with top of the rotation stuff. In the Pirates’ case, it puts them in a great position to get their first ace since 1992.

As I pointed out a few times throughout the article, the hope was that one of these guys would have ended up a top of the rotation guy. That won’t be Allie, who is now a hitting prospect. The odds of that being Heredia are much smaller today than they were in 2011-12. Jameson Taillon still has that potential, but will probably settle as a number two starter. Gerrit Cole has made the successful jump to the majors, but hasn’t quite reached that top rung yet. He’s still just 24.

Heading into the 2015 season, the Pirates have another future rotation to dream about: Cole, Taillon, Tyler Glasnow, and Nick Kingham. It’s a bit different than the 2012 group. For one, these are all upper level guys, so they’re a bit safer, and a bit easier to project. They’re not all “aces”, as Kingham projects to be a middle of the rotation starter. Cole is in the majors, and just needs that last step to becoming an ace.

That rotation is something to dream about in the future, possibly as soon as the middle of the 2016 season. But as we learned from the 2012 group, we don’t know which ones will reach their upsides and which ones will struggle. As an interesting note, Kingham was the number 10 prospect in the 2012 book, and that was due to us giving him an aggressive ranking. Glasnow was number 38 in the top 50. It makes you wonder which pitchers currently outside of the top 10 we will be talking about as future rotation studs in 2018?

The important thing here is having plenty of pitching depth. The Pirates definitely have that. They’re entering a season where they have 12 legitimate starting pitching options throughout the year. If you give Cole, Liriano, and Charlie Morton spots, then they don’t need all three of Taillon, Glasnow, and Kingham to work out in the next few years. That’s not even counting on upper level guys like Adrian Sampson, or lower level sleepers like Cody Dickson. The Pirates have plenty of pitching prospects, which should eventually allow them to put together a nice rotation with a lot of home-grown talent.

Links and Notes

**The 2015 Prospect Guide is now available on the products page. The book features our full top 50 prospects, plus profiles for every player in the system. I’m on vacation this week, which means all book orders placed will ship out on Monday morning, January 12th. All eBooks will be available for download immediately.

**Rob Biertempfel mentioned today on Twitter that the Pirates have until January 20th to negotiate with Korean shortstop Jung-Ho Kang. There hasn’t been any news to report on the negotiations.

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 Prospects: #20 – Luis Heredia

**Winter Leagues: Alen Hanson Gets Permission to Continue Playing, Sebastian Valle Homers

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First Pitch: Where Would Jung-Ho Kang Have Ranked in the 2015 Prospect Guide? http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/first-pitch-where-would-jung-ho-kang-have-ranked-in-the-2015-prospect-guide.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/first-pitch-where-would-jung-ho-kang-have-ranked-in-the-2015-prospect-guide.html#comments Wed, 24 Dec 2014 05:57:50 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=91602 After the news yesterday that the Pittsburgh Pirates won the bidding for the exclusive negotiation rights for Jung-Ho Kang, a thought went through my mind: I’m glad I don’t have to figure out where he fits in the 2015 Prospect Guide. The book went to publishing a week before the news was announced, and was released on Friday.

Technically, Kang is prospect eligible. He doesn’t have 130 at-bats in the majors, which is the eligibility cutoff we use for hitters. And technically, he isn’t even a member of the Pirates. He still needs to sign with them, and they have 30 days from yesterday to reach a deal. I think he will end up signing. As for where he would have ended up in the book, that’s much less clear.

On the surface, Kang’s circumstance is no different than any other prospect. He has stats in another league, and the question is how those stats could translate over to the majors. The difference is that if Gregory Polanco dominates Triple-A, we have a good idea of how that could translate to the majors. We have no clue how KBO stats will translate. We know that players who have struggled in the majors have gone to the KBO to put up All-Star numbers. But that’s not to say that anyone putting up strong numbers in the KBO is the next Felix Pie in the majors.

Like I said, I’m glad I didn’t have to figure out where Kang fit into the rankings. It was hard enough figuring out where John Holdzkom would fit, and he was a guy who actually had a limited amount of success in the majors, along with dominant numbers in Triple-A.

And almost immediately after thinking that it was great not having to wonder where Kang fit in the rankings, I had another thought: Where would Kang fit in the rankings?

The rankings in the book aren’t my own. They’re made up of grades and adjustments by myself, John Dreker, and Wilber Miller, with help from Ryan Palencer and Pete Ellis. John and Wilbur are the only two, aside from myself, who grade everyone in the system, since they both follow and write about the minor league system on a daily basis throughout the season. Any estimation of where Kang would end up would require at least their input. So I asked each of them where they would rank him in the current rankings.

I’m not going to give much away about the book here. I’d still like you to buy it, if you haven’t, so I’m not going to give a ton of details on the book or the order of the rankings (especially since the top 20 is basically the bulk of the site content in January, allowing me to take some time off before the season starts back up). If you have the book, then you know the order.

Both John and Wilbur had him just outside of the top ten prospects in the system, right around spot 11. I would have to agree with that range. Keep in mind that the Pirates have a top farm system, so having Kang at 11 could equate to the middle of the top ten in some systems, and the top half of the top ten in the weakest systems.

Almost every prospect ranking this year is going to have a top seven list that includes Josh Bell, Tyler Glasnow, Alen Hanson, Nick Kingham, Reese McGuire, Austin Meadows, and Jameson Taillon in some order or another. The next tier of players beyond those guys is where I’d put Kang. He’s a guy who could be an impact starter, but the odds seem small on that one. If he had a good chance of being an impact player in the majors, he’d be with that group listed above.

I do think Kang has a good chance to provide value in the majors as a bench player, and while the chances of being an impact starter seem small, he could have enough to be an average starter in the majors. That seems like the conservative projection to make. And then there’s the additional potential, which could take Kang beyond “average starter” status.

Let’s put it this way. I’d have Kang in the same talent tier as Elias Diaz. And I think a very broad comparison between the two players works. I’ve always had Diaz as a potential backup option, who could become a starter candidate if he learns how to hit. That happened last year, but in a small sample size, and it’s unknown how the bat will translate to the majors. So you’ve got a guy who has a good chance to be a backup, a decent chance to be an average starter, and a small chance to be above-average or better, if he can find a way to carry his 2014 success from the minors to the majors. It’s similar with Kang, with the main difference being that he needs to carry his numbers from the KBO, rather than Double-A and Triple-A.

Unfortunately, we don’t know how those numbers translate, since Kang will be the first position player to make that jump from the KBO to MLB. Because of that, I would take a slightly more conservative view with Kang than I would with someone like Diaz who has similar questions about the range of his upside.

Links and Notes

**Unless there is any news tomorrow, I probably won’t have an article until after Christmas. I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas!

**You can order the 2015 Prospect Guide here, in both paperback and eBook form. Today I posted a preview of the Guide, with a look at Josh Bell’s future.

**Blue Jays Claim Preston Guilmet

**Pirates Sign Pitcher Adam Miller

**Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post Dispatch writes that the Pirates out-bid the Cardinals for Jung-Ho Kang.

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First Pitch: The Pirates Could Have Up to Four Starters on Their Bench http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/first-pitch-the-pirates-could-have-up-to-four-starters-on-their-bench.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/first-pitch-the-pirates-could-have-up-to-four-starters-on-their-bench.html#comments Tue, 23 Dec 2014 06:42:48 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=91561 Back in 2011, the Pittsburgh Pirates ran into a horrible situation with their catchers. They used eight catchers in the majors that year, with Michael McKenry getting the most playing time, despite the fact that he was acquired for cash considerations, and was about the fifth or sixth option they went with. Other options included Matt Pagnozzi, Wyatt Toregas, and Dusty Brown, with the latter catching 78 innings.

After that season, it seemed like the Pirates went out of their way to avoid any similar situation in the future. Even if they had players at a position, they added more, trying to increase their depth. As an example, they had Russell Martin and Michael McKenry as their catching combo in 2013. Tony Sanchez was projected to be in Triple-A to start the year. That didn’t stop them from also signing Ali Solis, Lucas May, and adding Brian Jeroloman and Kelly Shoppach during the year, before eventually landing John Buck as a backup catcher late in the season.

I don’t know if that was a direct response to the 2011 issue, or if it’s an issue where you can never have too much depth. The Pirates learned this the hard way once again in 2014, this time with their middle infield. The month of August saw the team ravaged by injuries. Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Jordy Mercer, and Clint Barmes all suffered injuries and were on the disabled list around the same time. When you combined that with Pedro Alvarez struggling, the team ran into a disaster situation where they had Michael Martinez, Jayson Nix, and Brent Morel on the active roster, with some of those guys starting each night for about a week.

It’s hard to avoid that type of situation, especially when you lose your MVP, your two starting middle infielders, and your top backup middle infielder. The blow would have been softened by the exceptional play from Travis Snider and Josh Harrison, except Harrison was needed to replace the struggling Pedro Alvarez, and Snider was needed to replace Gregory Polanco as he struggled to make the jump to the majors.

Just like the moves after the 2011 catching situation, it seems the Pirates are trying to avoid another doomsday situation. They started the off-season with about a million waiver claims and small transactions to add potential utility and middle infield options. Then they added Sean Rodriguez from the Rays, giving them a middle infielder who could lock down the utility job. Rodriguez was coming off a down year, but in his best years he was good enough to be a starting option, and in a normal year, he’s a good utility player who you don’t mind starting in place of an injured player.

Then there was the addition of Corey Hart last week, which opened up a lot of possibilities. Hart looks like a guy who will be limited to the right-handed side of the first base platoon, with the possibility of playing some outfield. He’s coming off a lot of injuries and a down year at the plate, but like Rodriguez, he’s a starting option if he can somehow return to his best form. John Dreker pointed out something interesting with Hart’s contract situation today, noting that his performance bonuses start at 350 plate appearances. Gaby Sanchez had 290 and 320 plate appearances the last two years, and probably played more than he should have against right-handers. It will be difficult for Hart to reach those bonuses if he’s just a platoon player. And as I pointed out on Sunday, it doesn’t seem like the Pirates want just a platoon player.

Finally, there’s today’s news that the Pirates won the bidding for exclusive negotiation rights with Jung-Ho Kang. The Korean shortstop hit for a ton of power in the KBO, although there are questions about how much of that offense will translate over to the majors, and whether he can even play shortstop. Jeff Sullivan wrote a preview last week on Kang, which said his upside could be an Ian Desmond type, while also noting several options who are well below Desmond in talent. He followed up the player comps with this.

We know that’s not a lock, but it’s not inconceivable, so, how much do you pay for the right to find out? I hesitate to draw this comparison, but Yasmany Tomas signed for six years and $68.5 million, with an opt-out clause. A lot of talent has come out of Cuba lately, which boosted Tomas’ price, but if you just look at the player, he’s almost pure power, with questions on whether he can even play anywhere in the outfield. Kang doesn’t have Tomas’ power, but he does have real power, and he seems to have greater defensive value and versatility. Tomas got that much money as an unknown, supported by predecessors. Kang doesn’t have predecessors, which is why he could turn out to be a steal. Teams will be cautious until there’s proof that players can come from Korea and hit.

Kang will probably end up costing half the amount that Tomas will cost per year, and that’s including the posting fee. Just like Rodriguez and Hart, the Pirates seem to be banking on the unknown here (assuming they sign Kang). In the cases of Rodriguez and Hart, it’s a question of whether they can bounce back to their former success. In the case of Kang, it’s a question of how good he will be in the majors.

In all three cases, there is a chance that the Pirates could end up with a starter on their bench. You could add Travis Snider to this mix, with his question marks surrounding whether the second half last year was the start of a breakout, or something unsustainable as a starter. Those chances for these players becoming starters are obviously small, otherwise these players wouldn’t have come at relatively low prices. I think the chances that they could all be solid bench players, and guys who you wouldn’t mind starting if an injury occurs, is much better. This also moves guys like Justin Sellers and Pedro Florimon to Triple-A as the top depth options, making it less likely for guys like Martinez, Nix, and Morel to play in Pittsburgh in 2015.

On paper, this looks like the strongest Pirates bench I can remember in recent years. There is risk involved with each player, but a lot of upside. If you’re dreaming big, there’s four potential starters on the bench once they add Kang. The Pirates had an incredibly strong offense last year, and they project to have a strong group this year, even without Russell Martin. This bench will only give them a better chance to maintain a strong offense through injuries and struggles that take place throughout the year.

Links and Notes

**The 2015 Prospect Guide is now available! The book started shipping out on Friday. A lot of the pre-orders were on track to arrive today or tomorrow. If you ordered over the weekend, the books shipped out today. I went through another case of books today, and will be shipping more out tomorrow. Your book will be in that shipment if you order by 4 PM. Or you can get it immediately by purchasing the eBook. You can place your order on the products page. For those of you who have ordered and got your books already, I hope you enjoy!

**Pirates Win the Bidding For Korean Infielder Jung-Ho Kang

**Video Highlights For Jung-Ho Kang

**Contract Details For Corey Hart

**Pirates Sign Three International Players

**Winter Leagues: Playoff Teams Are Set in the Dominican

**Comparing Corey Hart and Gaby Sanchez

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First Pitch: The 2015 Prospect Guide is Now Available http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/first-pitch-the-2015-prospect-guide-is-now-available.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/first-pitch-the-2015-prospect-guide-is-now-available.html#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 05:13:15 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=91446 I was expecting the 2015 Prospect Guide to arrive tomorrow. I had plans to drive up to Tampa and pick up the book from my publisher around 3 PM, get back to Bradenton around 4, and spend the rest of the night packaging the books up to ship out Saturday morning. I woke up this morning to an e-mail from my publisher, saying the books would be ready today at 3 PM. As a result, the 2015 Prospect Guide is here a day early. If you haven’t placed your order yet, you can do so here. Here is the first shipment:

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Details on the Prospect Guide

For those of you unfamiliar with the Prospect Guide, it profiles every prospect in the farm system, and includes our top 50 prospects for the 2015 season. The book is the only place where you can find the top 50. It is also the only place where you can find our future potential and risk grades for each prospect in the system. Beyond that, the book has details on players that you can’t find anywhere else.

Before I write each profile, I search for every bit of information I can find on the player. That includes anything written on our site, other outlets, and also includes unpublished information, such as notes from our writers that didn’t make it into articles, and conversations with scouts, coaches, and players. Not only does the book provide all of this information that can’t be found elsewhere, but it also provides a quick reference to every prospect in the system. I originally designed the book as a reference for me, for when I’m watching games or writing articles. I use the book as a reference every day throughout the season, and have already used the 2015 book in the last week.

If you want information on the Pirates’ farm system, there’s no better reference than the 2015 Prospect Guide. It’s 155 pages all about the players in the system (including DSL players). That’s the perfect way to bridge this slow news gap between now and Spring Training. And it’s a great resource to have when baseball finally comes back.

Order your copy of the 2015 Prospect Guide today.

Shipping Information

Everyone who orders a book before 2:00 PM EST on Friday will have their books shipped out on Friday. After that, everyone who orders by 8:00 AM EST on Saturday will have their books shipped out Saturday morning. USPS states on their website that any packages shipped out on 12/20 (Saturday) or earlier will arrive in time for Christmas.

If you’ve already ordered, you will receive a shipping confirmation in the e-mail that you provided at checkout, along with a tracking number.

E-Book

I still have a few things to finish up with the eBook, and was planning on releasing that tomorrow when the book officially was going to be released. I’m still on pace to have the eBook released tomorrow. One of the things I’m working on is setting up the shopping cart plugin to allow people who have already purchased the hard copy of the book to also purchase the eBook at a discounted price. There will be a combo pack where you can buy both, when the eBook is released.

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First Pitch: A Different and Easier Approach to the Pitching Staff This Year http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/first-pitch-a-different-and-easier-approach-to-the-pitching-staff-this-year.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/first-pitch-a-different-and-easier-approach-to-the-pitching-staff-this-year.html#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 06:15:32 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=91427 In 2012, the Pirates needed A.J. Burnett to bounce back in order to have a shot at a top of the rotation starter.

They had Burnett in 2013, but needed Francisco Liriano to bounce back in order to join Burnett at the top of the rotation and make the pitching staff stronger.

Last year they parted with Burnett, and brought in Edinson Volquez to replace him. They also brought in Vance Worley in a smaller deal, and he played a big role.

Three years in a row the Pirates have heavily relied on reclamation projects to make up their rotation. From the looks of things, it won’t continue for a fourth year. Sure, Burnett is back, and looks like a bit of a reclamation project again. However, I think getting healthy will help him bounce back, as you could argue that a lot of his issues last year were due to his sports hernia. There’s also the fact that no one really expects him to be a top of the rotation guy again. Instead, he’s expected to provide middle of the rotation production this time around. Top of the rotation stuff would be a huge bonus.

The Pirates are still getting deals in the rotation. You could argue that Francisco Liriano’s deal is more favorable than Brandon McCarthy’s and Ervin Santana’s deals, despite the fact that Liriano has been the same value or better the last two years. And then today the Pirates watched Volquez agree to a two-year, $20 M deal with the Royals, while they’re paying Burnett for one season. It’s almost the exact opposite of last year’s situation. The Pirates have the less-expensive pitcher, and due to their focus on defense, pitch framing, and the work of their pitching coaches, they will probably get the better results once again.

So where are the reclamation projects? Why abandon an approach that has gone so well? The past week we’ve seen Justin Masterson and Brett Anderson sign deals for around $10 M. Brandon Morrow signed a deal for $2.5 M guaranteed, paying him up to $5 M in bonuses as a starter, or $1 M in relief. I don’t think the Pirates needed to pay $10 M for a guy like Masterson or Anderson, but it’s hard to look past Morrow for such a low guarantee, and such a low maximum price.

The Pirates do have reclamation projects, although they’re only counting on them as depth this year. Clayton Richard is one of those projects, and fills the “Vance Worley” type role of emergency depth out of Triple-A, with the chance to be more. At his best, he has put up numbers close to a number four starter or the back-end of league average results. And the Pirates have shown a tendency to get the best out of the majority of their reclamation projects.

There’s also less of a need for reclamation projects this year. The Pirates will start the season with six guys — Liriano, Gerrit Cole, Burnett, Charlie Morton, Worley, and Jeff Locke — fighting for five spots, and they won’t really need a fifth starter until the third week in April. They’ve got Richard, Brandon Cumpton, and Casey Sadler as early season options. And some of their best pitching prospects could be arriving by mid-season, with Jameson Taillon, Nick Kingham, and Adrian Sampson expected to begin the year in Triple-A. Not only do they have six guys fighting for five rotation spots in Pittsburgh, but they have six guys fighting for five rotation spots with Indianapolis.

With all of the reclamation projects that were on the open market, I would have liked to see the Pirates sign someone like Morrow, or maybe even Kris Medlen. However, I tend to trust their judgement on pitchers, and I feel they’ve earned that trust over the last few years.

So what does this mean for Ray Searage and Jim Benedict? It means their jobs get a little easier. Rather than reviving guys like Volquez, Liriano, and Burnett, they can focus on getting Gerrit Cole to his upside as a top of the rotation guy, seeing if Jeff Locke can have success in the second half, and working on the adjustment to the MLB level for any rookie that makes the jump from Indianapolis this year.

Links and Notes

**The 2015 Prospect Guide will be shipping on Saturday. Everyone who places an order by Friday night will have their shipment sent out on Saturday morning. According to the USPS, all orders sent out by Saturday should arrive in time for Christmas. If you haven’t ordered your copy yet, you can do so on the products page of the site. The eBook will be released on Friday.

**Edinson Volquez Agrees to Deal With Royals

**Winter Leagues: Two Doubles From Pedro Florimon, Nunez Homers

**The Rumors About the Marlins Being Interested in Pedro Alvarez Can Be Put to Rest

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First Pitch: Looking at the Pirates Starting Pitching Depth in 2015 and Beyond http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/first-pitch-looking-at-the-pirates-starting-pitching-depth-in-2015-and-beyond.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/first-pitch-looking-at-the-pirates-starting-pitching-depth-in-2015-and-beyond.html#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 05:00:11 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=91156 The Pittsburgh Pirates entered the off-season with a need for two starting pitchers. They filled those needs with A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano, who both join Gerrit Cole to give the Pirates a good trio at the top of the rotation. Charlie Morton is right behind those three, and could be healthy by Opening Day. Finally, they’ll have Jeff Locke and Vance Worley fighting it out for the final spot.

Beyond those six pitchers, the Pirates have Clayton Richard, Brandon Cumpton, and Casey Sadler as early season depth. The top prospects who could join the team by mid-season include Jameson Taillon, Nick Kingham, and Adrian Sampson. That gives the Pirates 12 starting options throughout the year, without even considering the potential for future additions this off-season.

But what about beyond the 2015 season? Not only did the Pirates need two starters in 2015, they also needed starters for the future. A lot of those starters were projected to come from within. The addition of Liriano means that they only have to focus on two rotation spots for the 2016-17 seasons, with Cole and Morton also under control during those years. Technically they have Locke and Worley under control through the 2018 seasons, although the focus here would be upgrading on those spots eventually.

Taillon, Kingham, and Sampson could arrive in 2015. As with any prospect, there’s no guarantee that those guys work out. The Pirates do benefit here by having several quality pitching prospects, increasing the chance that they’ll get a quality MLB starter. Tyler Glasnow is expected to join that group in 2016. A best case scenario has the mid-2016 rotation including Cole, Liriano, Taillon, Glasnow, and Kingham, with Sampson and Morton as backup plans.

Then you get to the 2017 season, and the Pirates could have a strong group all year. And the prospects could keep coming. The Bradenton rotation in 2015 should include Cody Dickson, Clay Holmes, and Luis Heredia. One or more could be options in 2017. All three have breakout potential, and the Pirates could end up getting at least one middle of the rotation guy from that group, which would only strengthen their future depth.

The good thing is that the Pirates will only need two of their prospects to work out for the 2016-17 seasons. A third prospect reaching his potential would mean they could trade Morton early. If they’re very fortunate, and have a rotation of Cole, Glasnow, Taillon, Kingham, and Sampson all reaching their potential (or some other pitching prospect or starting pitching option we’re not talking about now), then they could end up dealing Liriano before his final year.

In short, the Pirates have spent a lot of money in the draft on pitching. They’ve done a great job finding value on the free agent market. All of that is starting to come together, to the point where the Pirates are starting to get into an enviable position with their pitching depth. That opens up a lot of favorable possibilities, with number one being the potential for a great rotation that could have more strong candidates than spots.

Links and Notes

**The 2015 Prospect Guide is complete, and has been sent to the publisher. I’ll be checking the proof copy tomorrow, and will have an update on the shipping and release times at some point during the day. If you haven’t placed your order yet, you can do so here.

**Francisco Liriano’s Contract Details

**Notes: Ray Searage on Cole and Morton; Holdzkom’s Focus, Polanco in Right Field

**Winter Leagues: Alen Hanson Makes a Brief Return to the Lineup, Valle Leaves With Hand Injury

**Contract Details For Radhames Liz and Updated 2015 Payroll Numbers

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First Pitch: You Can’t Say the Pirates Aren’t Focused on Winning in 2015 http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/first-pitch-you-cant-say-the-pirates-arent-focused-on-winning-in-2015.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/12/first-pitch-you-cant-say-the-pirates-arent-focused-on-winning-in-2015.html#comments Sat, 13 Dec 2014 05:00:40 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=91322 In the past few years, there have been questions about the Pittsburgh Pirates’ commitment to winning. There have been complaints that the Pirates aren’t acting like a winning team, and aren’t making moves a winning team should make. Complaints that the Pirates are focused too much on the future, and not enough on the now. Complaints that they’re wasting Andrew McCutchen’s prime years, or that they’re just wasting the rare chance they’ve got to contend.

With this off-season, I think we can put to rest the idea that the Pirates aren’t focused on winning now.

In the past few years, they’ve gone with reclamation projects when they needed a starting pitcher. It wasn’t a bad plan at all, and led to some great results. But that type of approach does have risks (even though the Pirates didn’t really deal with many consequences of those risks). This off-season they needed two starting pitchers. They got A.J. Burnett (who is a bit of a reclamation project, although I think just getting healthy will be a huge thing) and Francisco Liriano. The latter signed a three-year, $39 M deal. That’s not ground breaking. It’s the market rate for a pitcher like Liriano (possibly a bit of a discount, based on what Brandon McCarthy and Ervin Santana received), and the Pirates paid it.

A lot of complaints have been about the payroll, which has quietly been showing a steady incline over the last few years. The Pirates have said they will probably be spending over $90 M this year. I don’t know the details of Liriano’s deal, but right now I have them at $88 M, and that doesn’t include Radhames Liz’s deal. That deal was originally rumored as a two-year, $3 M deal, but was announced for one year today. I think it’s safe to say that it will end up around seven figures or more, considering the offers he had on the table from other leagues. That would put them at a projected $89 M. They’ve added about $8 M in-season the last few years, which would put their projected end-of-the-year number at $97 M. Again, it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before. It’s just something Pirates fans have wanted, and it’s happening.

Then there were the two trades recently. I detailed the Antonio Bastardo/Joely Rodriguez trade the other night, pointing out how the Pirates are trading a guy who could be a good lefty reliever for them for six years, and getting one year of a guy who has been a good lefty reliever.

Today the Pirates completed another trade in which they acquired Sean Rodriguez to fill their utility role. They sent out Buddy Borden on the other side of that deal. I think that’s a high price to pay for one year of Rodriguez, especially since Rodriguez was designated for assignment, only has one year remaining, and is coming off a down year. We had Borden ranked high, and probably higher than most. Since he won’t be in the Prospect Guide, I put up his scouting report in today’s article.

I also decided to do a trade value on Rodriguez, just to see what he was actually worth. I went with a 1.1 WAR, which was his 2013 total, and the average of his last five seasons. His projected salary is $2 M, and I went with $6 M per win. The result was $4.6 M in surplus value.

The disclaimer with that value is that I don’t know how being designated for assignment would impact his value. He’s also coming off a bad year where he posted a -0.2 WAR. So by putting him at 1.1 WAR, a team is paying for a bounce back season, and only gets fair value if that bounce back season occurs. If Rodriguez has another replacement level year, the Pirates have lost this deal.

So how does Borden stack up? It really depends on how you view him. A Grade C pitcher of Borden’s age is worth $2.1 M. A Grade B pitcher is worth $7.3 M. We have Borden at Grade B status, but I wouldn’t be surprised if others have him between B and C. If you do have him between those grades, then Borden for Rodriguez is total fair, assuming there is no lost value in being designated for assignment, and assuming you’re paying for the bounce back year.

I also decided to run a Trade Value on Bastardo. I put him at 0.7 WAR, and he’s projected to make $2.8 M. That gave him a trade value of $1.4 M. We graded Rodriguez as a Grade C pitcher, and a Grade C pitcher at his age is worth $1.5 M. So that trade seems fair, although I could see a scenario where the Phillies are better off in the long-term, and possibly the short-term, with Andy Oliver and/or Rodriguez in their bullpen.

In each of these deals, the Pirates traded from their minor league pitching depth to get one year of a player who can provide a small upgrade. If Bastardo keeps pitching like he has been pitching the last few years, and if Rodriguez bounces back to his 2013 numbers, then the Pirates just added about two wins. In exchange for those two wins, they traded away two pitchers who project to reach the majors, and in one of those deals I think they paid too much. But the Pirates now have their utility player and their second lefty. The roster is stronger for it. They’re clearly only focused on 2015 with these moves. That’s something people have been wanting to see from them. And once again, they’re doing it.

The Pirates are paying for established free agents. They will have a payroll that rivals other small-to-mid market teams. They are trading from their depth of prospects just to upgrade for one season. With the exception of Russell Martin, they’ve done everything you could have asked for this off-season to fill the needs for the 2015 season. And then there’s this…

Cervelli has posted good offensive numbers, although in small sample sizes. He’s also had issues staying healthy. There are some big “ifs” here, but if he can stay healthy and if he can hit like he has been over a full season, then the Pirates won’t miss Martin that much.

Last night I wrote about how it looks like the Pirates might be done filling needs this off-season. I don’t know if they’ll continue making moves this off-season. What I do know is that you can’t really say they’re not focused on winning in 2015 with all of the moves they have made so far.

Links and Notes

**Pirates Officially Sign Radhames Liz, DFA Josh Lindblom

**Pirates Send Buddy Borden to the Rays to Complete the Sean Rodriguez Deal

**Charlie Morton Expects to be Ready on Opening Day

**Pirates Make Francisco Liriano Deal Official

**Winter Leagues: Sam Kennelly Makes Debut in Australia, Julio Vivas Impressing in Venezuela

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