Pirates Prospects » Analysis http://www.piratesprospects.com Your best source for news on the Pittsburgh Pirates and their minor league system. Sat, 12 Apr 2014 21:44:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.2 Prospect Highlights: Gregory Polanco’s Two RBI Infield Single to First Base http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/prospect-highlights-gregory-polancos-two-rbi-infield-single-to-first-base.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/prospect-highlights-gregory-polancos-two-rbi-infield-single-to-first-base.html#comments Sat, 12 Apr 2014 16:30:57 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=76306 Only one highlight this morning, but it’s a good one. Last night Gregory Polanco had a two RBI infield single to first base, giving the Indians a 6-4 lead in the sixth inning. That ended up being the deciding factor in this game. There are a lot of notable things about this play. First of all, it was a chopper to first base, with Polanco beating the pitcher to the bag. I shouldn’t be impressed at this point by Polanco beating out grounders to the right side of the infield, since he does it on a routine basis. But every time he does it, I’m amazed at the speed. Furthermore, the timing of the hit was great, as the Indians had two outs. If Polanco doesn’t reach, the score is still tied 4-4. On the back end of the play, great hustle by Michael Martinez, who scored from second base easily on the infield single, giving the Indians an extra run. Here is a look at the play.

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The Adjustments Andrew Lambo is Making After His Slow Start http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/the-adjustments-andrew-lambo-is-making-after-his-slow-start.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/the-adjustments-andrew-lambo-is-making-after-his-slow-start.html#comments Sat, 12 Apr 2014 13:00:27 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=76250 Tough beginnings

After a rough spring training that caused him to lose the first base battle handily to Travis Ishikawa, and an 0-for-8 start to the Triple-A season at the plate, Andrew Lambo set off some warning alarms within the organization. However, Lambo has rebounded well from the slump, by going 8-for-16 in his five previous games through Friday.

As for the cold onset to the campaign, Lambo blamed some of it on the success that he had last year — where he smacked 33 home runs between Altoona, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh. The power numbers that he was able to produce last year created the mindset that he should hit home runs on every trip to the plate.

“As a hitter, if you have a good year, as far as my standpoint, you kind of expect that it will always be there,” Lambo said. “You forget the work that you need to put in to create that year. I went out to Venezuela and didn’t really do a whole lot and created some bad habits that carried over into the Spring, unfortunately.”

Though Lambo knows that he is expected to drive in runs and produce extra-base hits, he also now realizes that the power numbers will come naturally with the pitches that he is thrown and the various situations.

“You can’t control if you hit home runs or not,” Lambo said. “All you can control is what your plan is and what your approach is. Am I a home run hitter? In my head, I don’t think so. Throughout my career, I have been a guy who puts the barrel on the ball.”

With this approach, Lambo sets goals to hit over .300, have over 40 doubles, and drive in over 100 runs each season. He said that home runs come and go and he lets the fans worry about them more than he does.

Adjustments

Not wanting to dwell on the slump, Lambo referred to himself as a “big fix it guy.” The main adjustment that Lambo has been working on with hitting coach Mike Pagliarulo is to let the ball get a little deeper in the zone before attacking.

“We kind of simplified it for him and focused on some of the things that he does well,” Pagliarulo said. “We are working on staying on the ball a little longer. It is really a commitment to that. He’s the kind of guys that is not afraid and is willing to commit to things, as long as they are connected to the right stuff. That’s what we are trying to get him focused on, so that it is just one thing at the plate.”

In addition, Lambo has put a focus on using all fields and driving the ball from foul pole to foul pole, which is a skill that Pagliarulo thinks will contribute heavily to Lambo’s future success.

“I did not really know him until last year when he came up here,” Pagliarulo said. “The way that he was able to hit the ball to all fields, was really effective. It was really difficult for pitchers to face him because he is dangerous to all fields. We are just getting disciplined on his contact point and using all fields.”

Another goal that Lambo is taking to the plate is quite simple – don’t beat yourself. Rather than trying to replicate his swing from last year, Lambo is looking to get back to the basics and start from square one. Lambo said that not having a plan or an approach at the plate was also to blame with his struggles.

Though Lambo admitted that he is not where he wants to be offensively just yet, he stated that getting back to the basics has him a lot closer to where he wants to be, and ultimately, Pittsburgh.

Success against lefties

Though a bugaboo for some left-handed hitters is facing situational left-handed pitchers late in the game, Lambo has thrived against lefties early in the season. Through Friday, Lambo was 5-for-8 against left-handed pitching with two doubles.

Lambo’s initial expectations at the Major League level is to be facing right-handed pitching as a platoon player. In 2013, his splits were .288/.353/.591 against righties. In addition, in 2013, Lambo handled lefties fairly well. He had an .810 OPS against left-handed pitching, compared to the .944 he posted against right-handed pitching.

If Lambo can continue this success against southpaws, his value in Pittsburgh is even stronger than it would otherwise be. Hitting lefties gives Lambo the opportunity to also beat out Gaby Sanchez and take over the everyday position, regardless of the match-up, rather than platooning.

Defensive adjustments

Lambo is also looking to adjust to his defensive role with the organization from outfield to first base, as the road is blocked to years to come in the outfield.

While this is a change that Lambo is embracing, the first thing that he learned was the heavier workload that comes with playing the infield, as opposed to the outfield. This alone provided an adjustment for Lambo physically. However, he did not blame the position change on his early offensive struggles.

“I’m not going to blame me moving into the infield on why I didn’t hit,” he said. “Why I didn’t hit was for me and the reasons in the box. Me in the box had to iron some things out. Playing a new position is not why you don’t hit. I don’t believe in that.”

The agility with side to side movement and the focus within the game in the infield are two more aspects that Lambo acknowledged as adjustments. Though Lambo downplays the effect of the position change, Pagliarulo think that it may have had an impact on Lambo this spring.

“This spring, he was asked to play a new position and to do a lot of things,” Pagliarulo said. “I think that some people underestimate the difficulty of playing a new position, especially outfield to infield. We have a lot of things going on. I think that he is going to be fine and he is going to help later in the year in Pittsburgh.”

It is well-known and foreseen that Lambo’s chance to contribute for the Pirates is at first base, as Gregory Polanco has the route to the final outfield position locked down. With Ishikawa as the only obstacle in the way, Lambo will take the role if his offensive efficiency continues for another month or so, regardless of his defensive prowess in the infield. However, he is gaining necessary experience at Indianapolis that will prove valuable in the long run at the next level.

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Super Two and the Impact on Gerrit Cole and Gregory Polanco http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/super-two-and-the-impact-on-gerrit-cole-and-gregory-polanco.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/super-two-and-the-impact-on-gerrit-cole-and-gregory-polanco.html#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 17:40:59 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=76224 MLBTR released the projected Super Two cutoff following the 2014 season. Super Two status is awarded to players with more than two, but less than three years of service time. Only the players with the top 22% of service time in that group are Super Two eligible. Any player who is Super Two eligible gets their third league minimum year replaced with an extra year of arbitration. This gives a Super Two player two years of league minimum pay, and four years of arbitration, rather than the usual three and three. The extra year of arbitration can be costly, especially to impact players, which is why teams try to avoid Super Two status.

According to MLBTR, the projected Super Two cutoff is two years and 128 days, which reads as 2.128. This means that anyone with 2.128 years of service time at the end of the 2014 season, but less than three years of service time, would be eligible for arbitration.

Currently the Pirates have no players projected for Super Two status following the 2014 season. But the big focus for Super Two and the Pirates comes with their top prospects.

First, there’s Gerrit Cole, who was called up in the middle of last June, and projects to remain in the majors for good. Cole finished last season with 111 days of service time. If he remains in the majors all year this year, and all year in 2015, he would end the 2015 season with 2.111 years of service time.

We don’t know what the Super Two cutoff will be after the 2015 season. However, the lowest that the cutoff has been in recent years was 2.122 years, which happened in 2013 and 2010. It seems that Cole is safe with his projected 2.111 years of service after the 2015 season.

There’s also the issue of when to call up Gregory Polanco. If we use the 2.122 date as a cutoff for future Super Two years, then teams would be able to start calling their top prospects up on May 31st. That would give those prospects 121 days of service time at the end of the 2014 season, and a projected 2.121 at the end of the 2016 season.

But teams like to play it safe, and call players up a few weeks after the normal Super Two “deadlines” pass. If a team was aiming to call up a player and give them similar service time to what Cole received last year (111 days), then the call up date would be June 10th.

I’m guessing that the Pirates will want to avoid Super Two status with Polanco. That means he probably won’t be in the majors until it’s safe to call him up and avoid Super Two status. As today is April 11th, we’re probably almost exactly two months away from Polanco’s debut in the majors, assuming the Pirates avoid Super Two time with their top prospect.

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Prospect Highlights: Gregory Polanco’s Speed, Andrew Lambo, Chris Dickerson http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/prospect-highlights-gregory-polancos-speed-andrew-lambo-chris-dickerson.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/prospect-highlights-gregory-polancos-speed-andrew-lambo-chris-dickerson.html#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 15:44:32 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=76212 Here are some highlights from the last few days in the Pittsburgh Pirates system, including two videos of top prospect Gregory Polanco.

There’s always time for Gregory Polanco highlights, especially a highlight of him showing off his speed by stealing second base, and taking third on a wild throw by the catcher.

Here’s another video of Polanco picking up a single up the middle.

The Indians won in walk off fashion last night, as outlined in the Prospect Watch. Andrew Lambo started the comeback earlier in the game with this RBI single.

Indianapolis eventually won it on this walk off single by Chris Dickerson.

Down in Double-A, Andy Vasquez had a two run homer on Wednesday night. Vasquez is more of an upper level organizational guy, due to his ability to play almost any position on the field.

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What Should You Expect From Each Rotation Spot? http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/what-should-you-expect-from-each-rotation-spot-2.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/what-should-you-expect-from-each-rotation-spot-2.html#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 17:48:04 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=76090 Back in 2006, Jeff Sackmann wrote an article in the Hardball Times taking a look at what should be expected from each rotation spot. His research was done because people tend to overestimate how good a pitcher should be. Sackmann studied the 2006 season to find the results for each spot in the rotation, using the following method:

For the purposes of this article, it’s necessary to define exactly what a #1 starter (or #2, or #3) is. To keep things as simple as possible, I used ERA as a measure of pitching ability. I also figured that each rotation spot accounts for 32 starts. On many teams, the #1 guy isn’t the same for the whole season. For example, let’s look at the 2006 Twins. Here are all of the pitchers who made more than one start for Minnesota last year:

Starter GS      ERA
Liriano 16      2.16
Santana 34      2.77
Bonser  18      4.22
Radke   28      4.32
Garza   9       5.76
Silva   31      5.94
Baker   16      6.37
Lohse   8       7.07

By ERA, Francisco Liriano was the best of these guys, but he only made 16 starts. So, he made half of the “#1 starter” starts. Since Johan Santana is next in line, I assigned 16 of his starts to round out a composite #1 starter. Thus, the Twins #1 starter was half Santana, half Liriano. Santana’s remaining 18 starts were assigned to the composite #2 starter.

Intuitively speaking, that distribution is a reflection of the fact that, while Liriano was in the rotation, Santana was #2. When Liriano was in the bullpen or on the disabled list, Santana was #1.

Sackmann discovered that the rotation spots broke down as follows:

Lg      #1      #2      #3      #4      #5
MLB     3.60    4.14    4.58    5.10    6.24
AL      3.70    4.24    4.58    5.09    6.22
NL      3.51    4.04    4.57    5.11    6.26

Prior to the 2011 season I updated Sackmann’s research, using the exact same method he used, and looking at the 2010 results. Here were the results four years after Sackmann’s first update.

2010 update:

Lg      #1      #2      #3      #4      #5
MLB     3.10    3.61    4.15    4.62    5.69
AL      3.24    3.71    4.28    4.76    5.68
NL      2.99    3.53    4.03    4.49    5.70

As you can see, the league saw drastic improvements across the board. There was almost a half run improvement at each starting spot from 2006 to 2010. That said, there was still some disconnect between an actual number four and number five starter, and what people think of as a number four and a number five starter. The opinions that people have of a back of the rotation starter are much more optimistic than the reality of what the average back of the rotation starter produces.

I have been wanting to update these numbers this year, since it has been three years since the last research. In that time, the pitching numbers have gone down once again, and I don’t need a big study to show that. Last year the average ERA in baseball was 3.87. The year before it was 4.01. The 2013 average is the lowest in baseball since the 1992 season.

I don’t know if the 2013 numbers represent a new trend, of if they represent an outlier. It might not be a good idea to base this research entirely on the 2013 season. But that’s what I’m going with for this update, to show how the numbers compare to the 2010 results, and to give an updated look at what should be expected from each rotation spot. Here are the results, by rotation spot. The 2010 results are in parenthesis.

#1 Starter

MLB Average: 2.82 (3.10)

MLB Median: 3.07 (3.09)

AL Average: 3.07 (3.24)

NL Average: 2.80 (2.99)

MLB Best/Worst: 1.83 / 4.11 (2.08 / 4.17)

Average of the Top 15 Rotations: 2.70 (2.84)

Average of the Bottom 15 Rotations: 3.17 (3.37)

MLB Range of the 11-20 Ranked Rotations: 2.55 – 2.91 (2.88 – 3.35)

The median didn’t change here, although the average dropped about 30 points. The average of the top rotations improved by 14 points, while the average of the bottom rotations improved by 20 points. The mid-range rankings went from 2.88-3.35 in 2010, to 2.55-2.91 this year. That means the top 20 teams all had a 2.91 ERA or better in their best 33 starts of the season.

#2 Starter

MLB Average: 3.39 (3.61)

MLB Median: 3.60 (3.58)

AL Average: 3.58 (3.71)

NL Average: 3.38 (3.53)

MLB Best/Worst: 2.69 / 4.41 (2.71 / 4.69)

Average of the Top 15 Rotations: 3.27 (3.31)

Average of the Bottom 15 Rotations: 3.69 (3.91)

MLB Range of the 11-20 Ranked Rotations: 3.64 – 3.80 (3.42 – 3.72)

Once again there was a change here, with the average improving by 22 points. The median once again stayed the same, and actually went up two points. Looking at the differences in the numbers, it seems that the biggest change came from the bottom 15 teams. The top teams stayed about the same, while the bottom teams saw improvements. The worst team in baseball was 28 points better than 2010, while the bottom 15 average was 22 points better.

#3 Starter

MLB Average: 3.77 (4.15)

MLB Median: 4.04 (4.12)

AL Average: 4.05 (4.28)

NL Average: 3.75 (4.03)

MLB Best/Worst: 3.01 / 5.27 (3.22 / 5.19)

Average of the Top 15 Rotations: 3.53 (3.73)

Average of the Bottom 15 Rotations: 4.26 (4.56)

MLB Range of the 11-20 Ranked Rotations: 3.81 – 4.18 (3.86 – 4.42)

Once again we see improvements, although this time the improvements are across the board, rather than just from the bottom 15 teams. The surprising thing here is that back in 2006, the average number one starter had a 3.60 ERA. Now, just a few points worse than that will only get you a number three starter.

#4 Starter

MLB Average: 4.32 (4.62)

MLB Median: 4.68 (4.57)

AL Average: 4.69 (4.76)

NL Average: 4.28 (4.49)

MLB Best/Worst: 3.44 / 5.89 (3.51 / 6.05)

Average of the Top 15 Rotations: 4.00 (4.20)

Average of the Bottom 15 Rotations: 4.98 (5.03)

MLB Range of the 11-20 Ranked Rotations: 4.14 – 4.36 (4.38 – 4.78)

In this case, we saw a bigger jump from the top 15 rotations. You could also expand that to the top 20 rotations, if you consider that the number 20 ranked team in 2013 had better production from the number four spot than the 20th best team in 2010.

#5 Starter

MLB Average: 5.54 (5.69)

MLB Median: 5.88 (5.69)

AL Average: 5.83 (5.68)

NL Average: 5.56 (5.70)

MLB Best/Worst: 4.15 / 7.51 (4.56 / 7.16)

Average of the Top 15 Rotations: 5.00 (5.41)

Average of the Bottom 15 Rotations: 6.39 (5.97)

MLB Range of the 11-20 Ranked Rotations: 5.45 – 6.33 (5.37 – 5.96)

Once again the results improved from 2010. However, I think the expectations are still too high for number five starters. The best team in baseball had a 4.15 ERA from their fifth best spot, but the average is a 5.54 ERA, and the average from the best rotations is a 5.00 ERA.

Dividing Lines

In his original article, Sackmann had dividing lines in his research, where he basically took the mid-point between each rotation spot to give a better idea of the range for each rotation spot.  This can also be accomplished by getting the average of all of the pitchers for each spot (for example, the mid-point for the #1/2 starters is the average of all of the #1 and #2 pitchers).  The dividing lines for 2013 (with 2010 in parenthesis):

#1/#2 – 3.21 ERA (3.36)

#2/#3 – 3.69 ERA (3.88)

#3/#4 – 4.19 ERA (4.38)

#4/#5 – 5.09 ERA (5.15)

That breaks down to the following ranges:

#1 – 3.21 ERA or better (3.36)

#2 – 3.21 – 3.69 ERA (3.36 – 3.88)

#3 – 3.69 – 4.19 ERA (3.88 – 4.38)

#4 – 4.19 – 5.09 ERA (4.38 – 5.15)

#5 – 5.09 ERA or worse (5.15+)

The quality of pitchers has gone up considerably since the original study in 2006. The dividing lines between a number one and a number two starter was a 3.87 ERA in 2006. Now the dividing lines for a number two and three starter is better than that mark.

At the same time, a back of the rotation starter still puts up an ERA around 5.00 or worse. It seems that if someone drops below a 4.19 ERA (which is the end of the range for a number three starter), he’s not considered a guy who should be in a major league rotation. A good rotation is going to have a number three quality starter at the number four spot, but is still going to have one weak starter in the rotation.

When I talk about future projections for prospects, what I’m referencing are the league averages and not where they fit in on individual teams. When I’m talking about a guy who can be a number four starter, I’m talking about an ERA in the 4.19-5.09 range. I feel like the opinion of each starting spot is usually one spot higher than the actual results. When people think about the numbers from a number four starter, they’re actually thinking of a number three starter. The numbers from a fifth starter are what people think of as a fourth starter.

Tonight I’ll take a look at what the Pirates have in their rotation, based on the above numbers.

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Is There a Spot in the Majors For Jeff Locke? http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/is-there-a-spot-in-the-majors-for-jeff-locke.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/is-there-a-spot-in-the-majors-for-jeff-locke.html#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 15:22:20 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=76109 If you look at Jeff Locke’s numbers from the 2013 season, you won’t find much wrong on the surface. He put up a 3.52 ERA in 166.1 innings last year, with a 4.03 FIP that suggests he over-performed his season numbers a bit, but no more than Charlie Morton (3.26/3.60), Wandy Rodriguez (3.59/4.42), or Jeanmar Gomez (3.35/3.85).

But the season numbers don’t tell the story with Locke. During the first half of the season, he had a 2.15 ERA in 109 innings. During the second half, he had a 6.12 ERA in 57.1 innings. I didn’t think he was as good as the first half numbers, but I also didn’t think he was as bad as the second half numbers.

Locke’s BABIP was .228 in the first half, and .365 in the second half. Typically starting pitchers are around .290-.300. His strand rate was 83.3% in the first half, and 67% in the second half. Starters are normally around 70%. So you had a case where Locke was lucky in the first half, and unlucky in the second half, hitting two extremes with neither telling his true talent level.

Strand rates and BABIP are things that pitchers have very little control over. You’d like to think that a pitcher can focus harder when runners are on base, and by doing so, improve their strand rate. But that raises questions about why they can’t do this before putting runners on base. And BABIP involves where a ball is hit. A pitcher might be able to have some control of the area or the side of a field where a ball is hit, but he can’t control exactly where it is hit, which is why about 29-30% of balls hit into play fall in for hits.

One thing Locke has control over is his walk rate. The biggest decline in the second half for Locke came with his control numbers. He went from a 10.8% walk rate in the first half to a 13.5% walk rate. His first two months of the season were the only ones under 11%. After that, each month was over 12%, with July and August coming in over 13%. The league average walk rate last year was 7.9%.

Last night, Locke’s control looked great. He struck out ten batters in six innings, while walking one. Granted, this was against High-A hitters, but Locke did a good job of pounding the strike zone. Out of his 82 pitches, 59 went for strikes. That’s a 72% rate, which is much higher than his 59% rate in the majors last season. I wouldn’t say that his second half walk issues are behind him based on that outing, but there were no issues with his control this time around.

Locke is currently nearing the end of his rehab work. He threw 100 pitches overall last night, with the final 20 coming in the bullpen after his six innings were complete. His entire rehab work has been in Bradenton, but that hasn’t stopped him from watching every Pirates game.

“I just want to get back up there with those guys. They’re doing such a tremendous job,” Locke said of his teammates in Pittsburgh. “I’ve watched every single game at home, and it stinks. It sucks watching those guys walk it off [from Bradenton]. It’s awesome, and I’m so proud of those guys. It’s good the way they’ve been throwing the ball too. It’s been absolutely fantastic. You want to be a part of that.”

Locke was a part of that last year, when the Pirates surprised everyone by winning 94 games and advancing to game five of the NLDS. He was a big part of the success due to the first half of his season. Being with the team last year, Locke didn’t understand what it was like to be on the outside of the situation in Pittsburgh. He mentioned last night that Gerrit Cole described that desire when he was promoted to the majors last year. Cole said that he just wanted to come up and be a part of the winning in Pittsburgh.

“That’s how I feel right now, watching those guys,” Locke said. “Something special going on in Pittsburgh, and I think everyone wants to be a part of it.”

The flip side to this is that, with the Pirates getting good performances, there might not be an opportunity for Locke. Francisco Liriano, Charlie Morton, and Gerrit Cole have only made a few starts combined, but there’s no reason why they shouldn’t have guaranteed rotation spots at this point. Edinson Volquez, who everyone was skeptical about heading into the season, looked great in his first two appearances — one a relief appearance and one a start.

The one early weakness looks to be Wandy Rodriguez. You don’t want to make much out of the numbers from two starts, especially when those numbers include a 30% HR/FB ratio (league average is around 10%). The bigger concern with Rodriguez is that his average fastball through the first two games is 87.4 MPH, which is down from his 89.4 MPH last year, prior to his injury.

Rodriguez currently looks like the weakest link in the rotation. I don’t expect the Pirates to remove him any time soon, and especially not after two starts. That means there might not be a spot for Locke when he’s done for his rehab. Even if there is a spot, there is also a lot of competition for that spot, from guys like Stolmy Pimentel, Brandon Cumpton, and Casey Sadler.

“I think it’s no different than when you get called up,” Locke said of his current situation. “Not everybody is Gerrit, where they make room for somebody. Not everybody is another guy, a veteran that comes in and you’ve just got a spot. It’s right back to square one, I think. Of course I want to be up there. Do I feel like I deserve to be up there? Absolutely. But I understand how it goes too. We’ve got a lot of depth, starting depth. They’re all good too. There’s no slouches up there.”

Locke could still make one more rehab start in the minors. Technically he has 30 days to be on rehab assignment, which could give him more than one start, although the Pirates couldn’t make a case that he’s still rehabbing if he’s throwing 100 pitches every five days. If Rodriguez continues his struggles, or if an injury comes up, then a spot could open for Locke. Otherwise, it’s likely that he’d go to Triple-A to serve as depth.

“I earned it my first time and my second time [in the majors],” Locke said. “I earned it last year in camp. I don’t feel like it’s going to be given to me at all. But I’m ready to take it on and ready to get back up there again.”

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Prospect Highlights: Willy Garcia’s Walk Off Homer; Cody Dickson Strikes Out 7 http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/prospect-highlights-willy-garcias-walk-off-homer-cody-dickson-strikes-out-7.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/prospect-highlights-willy-garcias-walk-off-homer-cody-dickson-strikes-out-7.html#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 17:08:41 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=76078 Here are a pair of highlights to get you through your afternoon.

Last night the Altoona Curve won 4-3, thanks to four different solo home runs. The game winner came off the bat of Willy Garcia, who hit a line drive home run to the left-center gap. Garcia has a ton of raw power, as shown by this home run. His big drawback is that he lacks plate patience, leading to a lot of strikeouts and not a lot of walks. That’s going to be a big test for him in his jump to Altoona this year.

Cody Dickson is a sleeper prospect to watch, and is my sleeper pitcher in West Virginia this year. He got off to a great start to the season over the weekend, striking out seven batters in five shutout innings. Imokemp (who you should be following on Twitter), GIFed the seven strikeouts, which can be seen below. Dickson was our number 17 ranked prospect coming into the year. His scouting report from the 2014 Prospect Guide can be found here, for free.

 

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An Early Look at the 2015 Pittsburgh Pirates Rotation http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/an-early-look-at-the-2015-pittsburgh-pirates-rotation.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/an-early-look-at-the-2015-pittsburgh-pirates-rotation.html#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 15:20:03 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=76023 It’s way too early to be talking about the 2015 starting rotation. The 2014 season is just over a week old, and we still have a lot of questions to be answered about the rotation this year. However, the recent injury to Jameson Taillon has led to a lot of questions about how the 2015 rotation will look. Taillon was originally supposed to be in the majors by mid-season this year, and would have been part of that 2015 group. Now that he’s out for the year with Tommy John surgery, his potential debut gets moved back to next June, and the Pirates have some questions surrounding their 2015 rotation.

A bigger issue is that Francisco Liriano, Wandy Rodriguez, and Edinson Volquez are all free agents at the end of the year. That might not be bad news to a lot of people on Rodriguez and Volquez, but Liriano should be missed. Currently that leaves just two members of the 2015 rotation, along with a lot of question marks.

The Locks

Gerrit Cole – He started looking like an ace at the end of the 2013 season. So far, the results have been good in 2014. If Cole becomes an ace this year, that would be a huge boost for the 2015 rotation, since the Pirates would have their leader.

Charlie Morton – Last night was a rough outing, mostly due to Starlin Castro and his two homers. Since returning from Tommy John surgery, Morton has looked like a strong middle of the rotation starter. The Pirates also have him under control through the 2017 season. If he continues looking like a middle of the rotation starter, then the Pirates will have a good start to their rotation with Cole and Morton.

Could Arrive to the Rotation in 2014

Some of the guys below are already in the majors, or have been in the majors in the past. However, with each guy there are question marks about what they can do in the majors.

Stolmy Pimentel – He already has one outing in long relief, which was almost the length of a start. I’d expect Pimentel to get the first shot at a start in the majors this year. The organization loves him as a starting candidate, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him in the 2015 rotation. He’s got the stuff to be a number two or a number three starter if he’s consistent. A lack of consistency with his fastball command has been an issue in his career, and if that continues it would be likely that he’d end up a solid number four starter.

Nick Kingham – With Taillon out for the year, it’s possible that Kingham could make his Major League debut this season. The conservative upside with Kingham is that he’s going to be a strong middle of the rotation starter who can eat 200 innings per year. However, Kingham has improved his game each season, and could exceed that projection to be a strong number two starter in the majors. If he arrives to the rotation this year, then he would certainly be in the rotation for the 2015 season.

Jeff Locke – He’s the only guy on this list who has significant time in the majors. That said, we don’t know what Locke can do. He had a great first half and a horrible second half last year. I think he’ll wind up in the middle, pitching like a solid number four starter. He should get a shot at the rotation again this year, and could use that shot to make a case for a 2015 spot. If you’re a believer that the rotation needs a left-hander, then he would be the top internal option.

Brandon Cumpton – Cumpton is in an interesting situation. He’s good enough now to pitch in the majors, however, his upside is lower than a lot of the other guys in the system. He’ll be used as a depth option this year, and could make the jump to the Pirates’ rotation at some point. However, it’s hard to see him escaping that depth role next year. He’d have to come up and really impress, showing that he’s more than a back of the rotation starter, in order to win a 2015 rotation spot.

Casey Sadler – He’s just getting acclimated to Triple-A, so it’s hard to accurately project when and where Sadler fits into the majors. His upside is a back of the rotation starter, and his heavy sinker approach will definitely work in Pittsburgh. It’s likely that he’ll end up a depth option next year, just like Brandon Cumpton this year.

Phil Irwin – Just like Cumpton and Sadler, it’s hard to see Irwin escaping the depth role. He could make it to the majors this year as a starter, although the Pirates would need to go through a lot of injuries for all of these guys to make it. I think Irwin’s upside is a back of the rotation starter, which might make it difficult for him to jump past a few other guys on this list.

Mid-Season 2015 Rotation Candidates

A lot of the talent in the previous section has the upside of a number four or a number five starter. The big boost the Pirates could get might come from mid-season additions. At this point it’s hard to absolutely project any of these guys in the rotation for 2015. A lot depends on what happens in their recovery. It’s also possible that some new names could be added to this list by the end of the 2014 season. And as we saw with Taillon, projecting someone to end up in the rotation by mid-season isn’t a guarantee that they will end up in the rotation at all during the season.

Jameson Taillon – Most players are back from Tommy John surgery one year later. That would have Taillon ready for the 2015 season, with a shot of making it to the majors by mid-season. Tommy John surgery doesn’t really take anything away from a player these days, so Taillon’s top of the rotation upside remains the same.

Tyler Glasnow – He’s currently rehabbing a lower back injury, and should be with Bradenton soon. His eventual arrival in Pittsburgh will depend on his control numbers. Last year he improved his fastball command throughout the season, although it still left a bit to be desired. If he continues that improvement in High-A, then he could end up in Altoona by the end of the 2014 season, and on pace for a jump to the majors in 2015.

Joely Rodriguez – Rodriguez should spend most of the 2014 season in Altoona, but could jump to Indianapolis by the end of the year. He’s a lefty who throws 91-94 MPH, and has two off-speed pitches that are at least average or better. He lacks control at times, but did a better job in that area last year. Rodriguez is a lot like Justin Wilson in the sense that he could be a dominant lefty reliever if he doesn’t get a rotation spot. However, with his stuff, he could pitch like a middle of the rotation starter, especially with the PNC Park advantage for lefties.

The 2015 Rotation, An Early Look

My early prediction for the rotation would have Cole, Morton, Pimentel, Kingham, and one from the Locke/Cumpton/Sadler/Irwin group. The problem with this rotation is that it lacks upside. Cole would be the only top of the rotation guy. Morton is a strong guy to have, but you want one more guy like Cole in the rotation. It’s too early to say whether the Pirates will sign someone, or try to bring back one of their departing free agents. We haven’t seen how the rest of the guys on the above list have done in the majors, and that could impact the approach next year. But at this moment it seems they’d have more of a need for an established outside starter this off-season than they did last off-season.

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How the Cardinals View the Pirates as Competitors http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/how-the-cardinals-view-the-pirates-as-competitors.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/how-the-cardinals-view-the-pirates-as-competitors.html#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2014 15:24:00 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=75980 The general consensus among fans and media following the Pittsburgh Pirates is that there’s a large gap between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pirates. The Cardinals are seen as one of the best teams in the National League. They’re a team that does everything right, has very few weaknesses, and a team that will coast to winning the NL Central, along with a majority of the games against the Pirates.

Meanwhile, the view on the Pirates is that they will be lucky to win a Wild Card spot, that they’ve got no chance of competing against the Cardinals, and that there’s a huge disparity between the two teams. But do fans and media on the St. Louis side feel the same way?

Over the weekend, I was sent a message from a Cardinals fan on Twitter. The message simply said “how most of Cardinal Nation feels about Pirates“, along with a link to a column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. That column, which can be read here, talks about the Pirates emerging as a worthy rival for the Cardinals.

The column included quotes from both Mike Matheny and Clint Hurdle talking about the respect they had for the other organization. While the view in Pittsburgh seems to be that the Pirates hope to one day be on the same level as the Cardinals, the view in this column says that the Pirates are already there as legit rivals. I think both sides would agree that the Cardinals have the edge right now, but the perception of the gap between the two teams seems smaller from the view of Cardinals fans and writers.

The column was written before Sunday’s series-deciding game, which the Pirates won to take the opening series 2-1. Last year the Pirates won the season series 10-9, then lost to the Cardinals in five games of a best of five NLDS. So far the results support the idea that these two teams are closer than a lot of people think.

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Prospect Highlights: Polanco Crushes a HR, McGuire Shows Off a Cannon http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/prospect-highlights-polanco-crushes-a-hr-mcguire-shows-off-a-cannon.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/prospect-highlights-polanco-crushes-a-hr-mcguire-shows-off-a-cannon.html#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2014 02:48:40 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=75958 All of the scheduled minor league games tonight were rained out, which means there is no Prospect Watch. In it’s place, here are a few videos from the weekend, highlighting some top plays by guys like Gregory Polanco, Reese McGuire, and more.

Gregory Polanco crushed a home run in Sunday’s game against Columbus.

Earlier in the weekend series, Polanco reached on an infield hit to second. The second baseman didn’t field the ball well, but he might not have had a shot at Polanco.

Chris McGuiness got in on the action over the weekend, crushing a hanging breaking ball for his first homer of the year.

Jeff Roy had a really impressive catch in Bradenton. There’s not a good view of the catch, although between the pictures and the far away video, you kind of get the idea.

They did have video for West Virginia’s games this weekend, which allows us to see Reese McGuire gunning down a runner at second.

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