First Pitch: The Ideal Player, Robbie Grossman, Free Matt Hague

Today I put up a feature on the site talking about Robbie Grossman versus the ideal corner outfielder. The big knock on Grossman is that he doesn’t have the speed to play center field, and doesn’t have the power to play a corner outfield spot. People who are in favor of Grossman like the overall package, even though he doesn’t profile as the ideal player.

Pirates Director of Minor League Operations Larry Broadway had an interesting comment in regards to the split in opinions on Grossman:

“You can look at any major league rosters up and down the league and have ideals in your head, but then you can look at the rosters and see who plays,” Broadway said. “The guys with grit, the guys with guts, the guys who are consistent, you know what you’re going to get out of them. That’s what a big league manager wants: consistency out of you.”

We focus on the ideal player when talking about prospects. There’s a good reason for that. When evaluating prospects and upside, you want a consistent unit of measurement. Saying Gerrit Cole has number one upside means something totally different if you’re comparing him to the current Pirates’ rotation, rather than the ideal number one starter.

The discussion takes me back to the “Free Matt Hague” movement. Hague doesn’t profile as the ideal first baseman. He doesn’t hit for a lot of power, and if his numbers drop off at all from AAA to the majors he’ll end up as a an average starter at best.

Last summer when the “Free Matt Hague” movement started it was mostly fueled by the performance of Lyle Overbay. Hague was tearing up AAA pitching in June, while Overbay was struggling in the majors. Hague might not be the ideal first baseman, but you didn’t have to be ideal to be better than the production Overbay was putting up. Fast forward to the 2012 season where the Pirates have opted to go with a platoon of Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee. The platoon’s success will heavily depend on McGehee’s hitting against left handers. If he does well, the combo would perform better than what Hague projects to do.

It’s a similar situation to Grossman. He might not have the ideal power for a corner outfield spot, but the Pirates don’t exactly have someone with that ideal power from a corner. In fact, if Grossman did end up hitting .290 with 15-20 homers, 30 doubles, and a .390-.400 on-base percentage, I’m sure he would be a fit on almost any team in the majors.

I think we get caught up in the ideal player, and don’t focus as much on whether the actual player is good enough. I don’t think there should be one specific formula for an ideal player. Grossman, for example, doesn’t have the power needed to be an “ideal” corner outfielder. But he does get on base at a strong rate, and he does profile to have decent power. Grossman might not be the “ideal” player, but I happen to fall in the camp that thinks the overall package is good enough to start in the majors.

Links and Notes

**My recap from Pirate City today. Also, check out video of Gerrit Cole from yesterday.

**Charlie Morton pitched his first live batting practice today.

**MLB is expanding the post-season from eight to ten teams. I talk about why the change does very little.

**A.J. Burnett was hit in the face after a bunt today. Here is an update on his injury status, as well as an injury update on Daniel Cabrera.

**The Pirates play an inter-squad game on Friday. The game replaces the usual game against the Manatees.

**Pirates Director of Florida Operations Trevor Gooby had an interesting Tuesday night. While hosting an event at McKechnie Field, Gooby delivered a baby.