This week, Spring Training will really kick off on this site. Minor League games start this week, which will give me a few important views. First, it will give an idea of where everyone will be starting the 2014 season. I’ll also see these guys in game action, which is a lot better than bullpen sessions, batting practice, and live BP. Therefore, I’ll get a better feel for who is looking good heading into the 2014 season, and who raises concerns.
On the major league side, I’d expect the first cuts to come this week. Prior to this, there was nowhere for guys like Joely Rodriguez, Casey Sadler, Alen Hanson, and other Double-A and lower level minor league players to go. Now that there are games starting up, you want those guys down in the minors getting ready for the season, rather than sticking around in major league camp with no chance of making the roster, and with less playing time available. I’ll have all of the updates on the site, and be sure to follow the Spring Training tracker to see who is in camp.
On a site-related note, Pirates Prospects has a new logo.
Baseball Prospectus released a great study this week on catcher pitch framing and blocking, and the value that those skills have to a team. The study suggested that the value of pitch framing was much higher than we thought, leading to big numbers from Russell Martin and Chris Stewart. After the data was published, I looked at the four hidden wins the Pirates are getting from their catchers. Since that article, BP updated their numbers (I saw them right when they were posted, so there could have been some errors), and if the results are like last season, the Pirates could be closer to five wins from Martin and Stewart just for their pitch framing.
**Clint Hurdle talked about quantifying Pitch Framing, including his own experience with the skill as a catcher.
**Pirates Trying to Work Some Familiar Magic on Daniel Schlereth. So far he’s been going fastball only after changing his arm slot, and the results have been good. He could emerge as the number three lefty on the depth chart if the adjustment works.
Baseball Prospectus released a few rankings lists this week. The Pirates ranked fourth among top 25-and-under talent, combining the top prospect lists with young guys in the majors who lack prospect eligibility. One of the things I like about the list is that the Pirates largely have guys who haven’t reached the majors. They already have a talented team in the majors, and that looks to get much stronger when they keep adding top prospects year after year from the minors.
**Baseball Prospectus also named Reese McGuire one of the top defensive catchers in the minors.
**On Wednesday I reported that Stetson Allie is getting an aggressive push to Altoona in 2014. Right now he’s my early candidate as a breakout player for the 2014 season.
**Austin Meadows Dealing With a Hamstring Injury. Right now he’s sitting more as a precaution. Games start this week, so it will be interesting to see when he gets back in action.
**With games starting this week, here are five big stories to watch from minor league camp.
**Clay Holmes could be following the Nick Kingham path. Holmes didn’t have the best overall numbers last year, but quietly had a strong second half, and could carry that over to the 2014 season in Bradenton, much like Kingham did in West Virginia and Bradenton. Speaking of Holmes and Kingham, I wrote about the typical development plan the Pirates use with pitchers.
**Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Minor League Spring Training Roster. The Pirates will be bringing a ton of international players to the US for the first time, with a lot of those guys arriving next week. I’ll update the roster when their numbers are added. Until then, here is a link with links to all of their player pages, which we added this week.
The fourth week of the college baseball season had some strong pitching and that has been the norm early on this year. With just under three months until the draft begins, the strength of this draft class is pitching, pitching and more pitching. It’s not only the Friday night college starters making big waves, this class of prep pitchers looks to be just as strong. For most high school pitchers, their season is just getting started and the early reports have been great.
**Draft Prospect Watch: Michael Conforto Drives In Three Runs Links, notes, stats, a season ending injury and a perfect game.
**Draft Prospect Watch: Big Strikeout Numbers From Sean Reid-Foley The title says it all, Sean Reid-Foley is a big righty worth keeping an eye on. Link includes a video of the prep pitcher, who struck out 37 batters over his first 16 innings of work this year.
**Draft Prospect Watch: Aaron Nola Continues His Impressive Streak Two prep pitchers worth watching, Luis Ortiz and Grant Holmes, have made some big waves early.
**Draft Prospect Watch: Schwarber and Travis Come Through Big For Indiana While college bats are lacking high end talent, there are a lot of guys that look like late-first round and second round picks. For Pirates fans that look for possible help at the corner infield positions down the line, there are a lot of third baseman and some interesting first baseman to watch.
**Draft Prospect Watch: Virginia Is The Team To Watch This Year We take a look at Virginia, a team with five players that could be drafted in the first five rounds. Also, some news on former Pirates picks that didn’t sign, including insane numbers from Connor Goedert