First Pitch: Gregory Polanco, The Draft, and Starting Pitching

If you missed my report earlier today, sources told me that Gregory Polanco will be called up on Friday. The details of the report said that Polanco will leave Indianapolis tomorrow and be activated on Friday. After my report came out, Ken Rosenthal followed with the same report. Then Dan Zangrilli of 93.7 The Fan. Then Chris Cotillo, who broke every signing and transaction this off-season it seems, had the same information.

That’s when things took a weird turn. The Pirates started denying the report, with officials texting, e-mailing, and calling everyone to say that Polanco would not be up on Friday. I received a text and e-mail from two different people in the organization saying my sources were wrong. It looks like Rosenthal got the same thing.

I can’t speak to the information everyone else had. As far as my information, and the conflicting reports, the only thing to do is wait and see what happens on Friday. The original information wasn’t a guess, or speculation, or something made up. It was detailed information from a source with knowledge of the situation. But then you’ve got the Pirates denying it, and they would know.

I was asked on the radio tonight if it was possible my source was wrong for whatever reason. Obviously that’s possible for anyone. It has never happened to me, or this site, and we’ve reported a lot of signings and promotions over the years. And I have had situations where Pirates officials have denied a report that ended up being correct. I’ve also had situations where I received good information, and worked to confirm it, then saw someone else break the story first while I was looking for more confirmation. My goal is accuracy, not rushing to be first.

I’m still believing my sources on this one, at least until Friday passes and Gregory Polanco is not in Pittsburgh. I heard back from one source that said nothing has changed. As for some other quick hits on the subject:

**If you’re wondering about Super Two, Polanco would have 115 days on Friday. Super Two has never been lower than 122. That includes the increase to 22% eligibility. So Polanco would be safe.

**Had a few people saying that it would make more sense to call up Polanco on Monday, because they’d increase ticket sales that day, and wouldn’t need an increase over the weekend. That shouldn’t be a factor in calling up Polanco at this point.

**Obviously I have an interest in Polanco coming up on Friday, since it would prove my report correct. With that disclaimer out of the way, Polanco SHOULD be up on Friday. There’s no reason to keep him down for Super Two purposes, which was the only reason to keep him down. The Pirates have a big series this weekend, at a time where they need to make a move in the standings.

2014 Draft

Moving on to non-Polanco information, tomorrow starts the 2014 MLB draft, which is always one of the biggest events on this site. We rolled out a few previews today, with rankings and a look at where the Pirates stand this year. Here is a rundown of the pre-draft coverage.

**2014 Draft Primer: A New Challenge For the Pirates. John Dreker takes a look at all of the big links and stories leading up to the draft, along with the challenge the Pirates face by trying to find talent lower in the first round.

**Pirates Prospects 2014 MLB Draft Top 100 Tiered Rankings. This is the third year we’ve had tiered rankings. The goal is to get an idea of the talent levels expected for each pick, showing whether a pick was fair value or not on draft day. John and I gave our analysis with each talent tier, noting guys we would take.

**The 2014 Draft Pick Signing Tracker is Live. Always the most popular feature on the site. Follow this on draft day for links to all of the drafted players, and follow as the signing period progresses to keep track of who the Pirates have signed, and how much has been spent.

**Keith Law’s Final Draft Prospect Rankings Has College Players in Pirates Top Two Spots. Expect a lot of final mock drafts to come out tomorrow. The specific names don’t matter for the Pirates, unless there’s word of a pre-draft deal or a specific focus. The key information is the type of talent that is projected to be available. So far, the talent looks good for pick number 24.

Starting Pitching

**FanGraphs had a good article today about how starting pitching has been the problem for the Pirates this year.

**Meanwhile, Jonah Keri wonders if the Pirates penny pinched their way into irrelevance.

I could probably write a whole article on these two, but I’ll keep it short. I agree that pitching has been the big issue. I’ve said that before. Where I disagree is the idea that the Pirates are somehow paying for the mistake of failing to sign Burnett. A quick stat check on Burnett and Edinson Volquez:

A.J. Burnett: 4.41 ERA / 4.10 xFIP

Edinson Volquez: 4.25 ERA / 4.10 xFIP

I thought that Burnett would struggle because of the Phillies’ defense and park. He’s actually struggling because of a low strikeout rate and a high walk rate. That might be due to a sports hernia he is pitching through. Meanwhile, Volquez hasn’t been a replacement for the 2013 Burnett, but he’s been good. I’ll take his numbers in 180+ innings.

I’m not comparing the numbers above to say that Volquez is better, or the same as Burnett. I’m just pointing out that any talk about how the Pirates hurt their season by not adding Burnett is misguided. If Burnett was here, he’d be just another struggling pitcher on a team full of struggling pitchers. The one valid criticism is that they didn’t make him a qualified offer, and missed out on a draft pick. That wouldn’t have helped the Pirates this year.

The problem for the Pirates is that their pitching has been very disappointing. That goes for almost all of their pitchers. The FanGraphs link includes a list of guys who are doing worse this year compared to last year. It’s pretty much the entire staff.

One pet peeve of mine is how bad seasons by small market teams are treated differently than bad seasons by big market teams. The Phillies added Burnett and Marlon Byrd. They’re 24-33. The Red Sox won the World Series last year, then made some big off-season moves. They’re 27-31. So why is it that the Pirates, at 28-31, need some storyline or controversial reason as to why they’re losing? If the Pirates are only losing because they’re cheap, then why are the Phillies and Red Sox losing?

The simple answer here is that the Pirates are losing because their entire pitching staff took a step back from 2013. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that. And that wouldn’t change with Burnett in the rotation.

Links and Notes

**Luis Heredia Activated From the West Virginia DL

**Minor League Schedule: Luis Heredia Tries Again For His Third Start

**Prospect Watch: Two Homers For Tony Sanchez, Three Hits By Gregory Polanco

**Prospect Report: Mel Rojas adjusts to the Triple-A level

**Prospect Highlights: Heads Up Play By Gregory Polanco

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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“I’m just going to quote the article above for you, since I know you guys have trouble with reading comprehension” – Timothy Williams
Thank you so much for making it easier to read for us idiots. Wow.

Bob Ross

What I do not understand is if they are going to call up Polonco, why on Earth would they deny it? Wouldn’t it spike attendance? Wouldn’t the marketing department want to hype it? They would get huge walk up crowds. If they do not call him up and your sources were wrong, why on Earth would they not? This is a real head scratcher.


Could be that the front office is too involved with the draft and any trades that might be going on to give Polanco the attention that they want to give him when he comes up. Could also be necessary to wait until Chris Dickerson can play so Indy has an outfield.


I don’t see where this staff taking a step back was a surprise to anyone. Wandy’s injury was a known issue. Lirianos up and down career was a known issue. Volquez being the worst starter in the league was known. The unknown was the injury to Taillon. NO way to predict that. Everyone, including me, got caught up in the Volquez vs AJ comparisons, missing the point that there were and are, other options out there if your willing to pay the price in either money or prospects.
I read the article highlighted in the piece were NH used several excuses for not signing AJ. None of which they addressed anyways with the exception of a guy they were already going to sign. the real question is what they do now. There are going to be a couple of front line pitchers available. Will they use that renowned farm system depth to get one ? Or will they go the conservative low risk ways they usually do and hope to catch lightening in a bottle like they did last year ?


OK, fair enough if you think the SP taking a step back was expected. But where’s the criticism of the Cardinals FO for failing to address the step back we all knew their offense was going to take? The Pirates’ ERA was 3rd or something in the league. Repeating that wasn’t an outrageous expectation, though you apparently knew it wasn’t going to happen (even though it still can, since we’re only looking at about 1/3 of a season. But the Cards average with RISP was so ridiculous, it beat the prior all time record by 25 or 30 points. Everyone knew that wasn’t repeatable and lo and behold, they’re scoring exactly a run less per game than last year. Which makes the Bucs additional 0.7 runs allowed per game seem pedestrian.
But they signed Jhonny Peralta you say? Yes and lost Beltran. Other moves essentially boiled down to Wong replaced Freese. Did anyone really think Peralta/Wong could replace Beltran/Freese? Plus they’re cheap because this year’s combo is making $15.5 mil vs. the $16.2 mil Beltran/Freese made last year. So the Cards blew it by not addressing this obvious need and are paying the price, just a couple games ahead of the Bucs and trending down while the Bucs trend up.
And one thing that couldn’t have been predicted was Wandy blowing up. A think all reasonable observers thought 1 of 2 things: either Wandy’s hurt and can’t pitch or he’s healthy and pitches like he’s always pitched. Nobody could have predicted he’d be so bad for 6 starts that he’d weigh down the Bucs numbers for the 1st quarter of the season. But things are turning around for just about all the pitchers, both starters and the pen, so we’ll see where this stands in another month or two. Unless you gave up on the season a few eeks ago like some others.


What the Cards did has nothing to do with this conversation. “well they did it” is a very poor argument. Wandys arthritic elbow was and is indeed predictable in that they very rarely get better. Lirianos career stats show he’s an on again off again pitcher. No mystery there. Where anyone could have reasonably expected the statistically worst starter last year with ONE good season ever to turn into an ever average pitcher was wishful thinking. Morton is a very erratic pitcher that varies from start to start and sometimes from inning to inning. Which is fine for a 4th or 5th starter but not a middle of the rotation guy.
That’s not even talking about what they tried to do at 1st. One of the areas they used as an excuse for not offering AJ the QO. Now they have fixed 1st but not until they trotted Lambo and Isikawa out there to stink up the joint.


“Well they did it” does matter, because a lot of this is just baseball, which has variations from year to year. The Red Sox win the World Series, stand pat and suck this year. The Reds were good last year, lost a lot of players, added nobody and are the same as the Bucs. The Twins were terrible last year, spent a ton of money (small market wise), and aren’t real good again. The only teams that signed anyone significant AND are better than last year are MIL and SF, and if you think Hudson or Garza caused a 20 game turn around, you have no credibility at all.
But somehow it’s only the Bucs that are cheap bunglers that mismanaged the entire offseason. They were supposed to be the one team that saw through all the clutter to make a perfect signing or two. Well they were the year before, but no team does that consistenly. So instead they’re just building one of the best organizations, top to bottom, in MLB. Sucks for us.

Gabriel Jones

I’m just gonna leave it at this. Tim Williams will never be a credible journalist until he can learn to take some criticism. I have known from my own experiences and from others that he will block anybody on Twitter or on Pirates Prospects simply for not agreeing with him. Not because the person is being slanderous or profane, but simply because they don’t agree with him. As the owner of his own Twitter account or website, Tim certainly has the right to do so. But it chips away at his credibility as a journalist if he can’t take criticism. Thanks.


Stop making stuff up !


This site is about commenting on the column, not about the authors, Tim will tell you I disagree often, but I will not bash the team or the columnists. Sometimes disagreeing is just having another viewpoint. IMO, Tim would not block anyone for their thoughts on columns that are posted unless they are totally out of line. In fact it is to his favor that more people comment, not less people.

Gabriel Jones

I said your ARTICLE was complete lunacy. Because it was. I did nothing to criticize you personally. Tim, there IS a difference. None of the people I know that you have blocked have done such things as stalk you or attacked you personally. I’m not doubting that there has been people that have taken it to that level. I’m sorry for that. But there is a difference between criticism of your ARTICLES and criticism of you as a human being. I like most of the content on this site and I think you guys do a great job but not everyone is out to get you just because they disagree with your writings.


Tim you are a font of information on the pirates I quite frankly can’t find anywhere else,when I found your site last off season it was like a light in a dark room. No I don’t always agree with you although I find myself in agreement far more often than not. You do a stellar job, don’t sweat the a holes of the world who just want to argue for the sake of arguing. It reflects how miserable their vain pitiful little lives are.keep up the good work tim we are counting on you.


I think the pirates are trying to move snider or tabata or even barmes if j-hay becomes super sub infielder, but polanco should be called up.

Ron Loreski

lol they’re not trying to move Barmes. Jay Hay is not a SS in anyway. Let it go.


I said a couple of days ago that it would not surprise me if the pirates kept polanco down well past the super two cutoff just so they could say, see we told you it was about triple a at bats and not about money. If that turns out to be the case the front office will lose a lot of the respect they have earned from me over the last several years. C’ mon huntington swallow your pride and put the best team on the field.

Bonds Top Hand

First, as far as Tim reporting Polanco coming up. I do not doubt for a minute that the information given was correct at the time. There has never been an announcement on this site that was totally shot down. But I guess this gives the haters their 15 seconds to bash. As far as why it was shot down; it all comes down to the lack of leverage for the front office. Any sane person would realize why the Pirates were shopping Tabata / Snider (and showcasing them in the last couple of games.) But they (the front office) still have to save face and keep the clubhouse anxiety at a minimum as to who is going until that player gets the respectful meeting being told of their fate.
And as far as struggles of this years team. The bullpen has improved lately, but you can’t have 10 blown saves in and record amount of games, and also be on pace to set the record for most one run games in a season and be in 1st place. If even 7 of those 10 blown saves are reversed, you have a team in the first wildcard spot and a couple games back in the division. The bullpen killed us early, and Martin’s injury didn’t help the staff when he was out. 10 blown saves in a quarter of the season could come back yo haunt us big time.

Chris Hale

I think we saw how valuable Walker is to this team yesterday. He is an average defense 2b men and a above average offensive 2bmen. He makes 99% of the plays he should make. Though I agree he needed a day off yesterday, We probably win that game if he is in the lineup playing 2nd base. This also shows us that even as good as Harrison has been at he plate, He hurts us defensively. When Polanco get’s here they need to get him in the lineup 3 or 4 days a week. but sticking him fulltime at any position is not an option. especially because of who he’d be replacing


I have to disagree with Fan Graphs and anyone else about the pitching staff. Stats simply don’t always tell the true story. The starting pitching staff is supposed to keep you in games and for the most part this staff has done their jobs. Yes it would be nice if they went deeper into games, Yes it would be nice if they were more efficient, but as far as runs, looks to me like they are actually doing pretty good. Here is another thought on the pitching staff, until Harrison came along and started hitting, the Pirates were a sinking ship, the same pitching before him, the same pitching after him, but the win loss results are considerably different. Could be that hitting was really the problem,in many ways I might add.

As far as Polanco is concerned, I would think that the Pirates probably had to have some kind of meeting today to plot a course because they need to make multiple moves, remember bringing Polanco up really sets off a chain of moves and they have the draft, they have the Mazzaro situation to address, busy day at Pirate headquarters.


Pirates starting pitching has had the 2nd most runs scored against them in the NL, that is raw runs nothing fancy. I’m not sure how that qualifies as doing their job.,ts&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&sort=15,d


The most runs is what I am talking about when it comes to stats being
misleading. The Pirates have for the most part played very poor defense,
defense that is not defined by an error by a fielder once in a while,
but a defense that does not make plays. Harrison makes a catch in right
field and the next thing that happens the other team has 2 runs that
they should not have had if he lets the right fielder field the ball.
The other team winds up with a total of 3 runs and only a bunt hit. Sure
the Pirates walked a lot of players, but struck out a lot of players,
if the defense does it’s job the score should have ended up something
like 2-1 and a win.


Fangraphs was using rankings by fielding independent pitching, not runs. I really do no follow your argument, the Pirates pitching has been bad by almost all measure as compared to their peers. If your argument is that in your opinion the pitching has done its job, okay. But, in the words of Patrick Moynihan Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”


Tim, I have no doubt you provided an accurate report. Polanco needs to be in Pittsburgh Friday.


Not trying to be disrespectful to a professional here but……that Keri article sucked.


@piratesprospects:disqus: Just curious: was it a source or multiple sources? You switch back and forth in the above.

Lee Young

Looking forward to (hopefully) finding out who the PTBNL is for Ike Davis.


Jacoby Jones


No chance. It will be a prep pitcher that is not playing yet this year. Almost certainly Blake Taylor.


Neil kezowoslki or whatever


Wonder how this Polanco thing will actually play out. My gut is that they want to work the phones for awhile and try and get some value for Snider and/or Tabata. If they can they will bring him up…

I do think there is some logic to having him get his first at bats away from what will likely be a PNC circus – hence my thought was the upcoming Miami series made sense.

Regardless – the kid needs to get started on his major league career soon – he has nothing left to prove – or learn at AAA.


That’s what I was told about Trout and Harper also. The way I see it, as a longtime Polanco booster,250 or so AAA ABs and an unsustainable BABIP means it will more than likely take at least 30+ games for him to get acclimated to MLB. That is IF they promote him right now.


Bingo, I think they are downplaying the promotion to preserve trade leverage with Snider. I’m sure that after NH got so much for Morris that he is hoping for a similar outcome.


Hit the nail on the head. Problem this year is pitching staff…can they turn it around from this point forward? Will tell the tale on this season.


Great job on being the first and wrong than waiting to get it right. I had a very entertaining evening reading twitter b/c of the mighty Shilliams. Way to be credible! Also. Where were these AJ numbers a couple of weeks ago when all of his numbers were good?

Andy Shaw

IQB, how do you know he’s wrong yet? It’s not Friday night.
And he brought up the AJ numbers because right now is when Jonah Keri made the comparison. And if AJ’s numbers haven’t been as good lately… um, those stats still count, too. That doesn’t make it wrong to point out what they are now.

But at least we’re debating the merits of when a top 5 in baseball prospect is coming up and not, you know, #freeduffy


Burnett’s numbers have been pedestrian all year, if you take out his last six starts (because parsing down samples in always a sound idea) were he allowed at least three runs, yes his ERA looked great, but he was still beating his fielding independent numbers by a run and half. His was getting less strikeouts and walking more and his ERA was the product of an unsustainable strand rate and BABIP.

Yes the Pirates should have made the qualify offer but Burnett would not be saving the Pirates and their underwhelming pitching.

Bonds Top Hand

Could it be that AJ misses the game calling and pitch framing ability of Martin? Because Ruiz is no where near as clean behind the plate as Martin, nor does he call as good of a game when handling his staff.


Burnett pitched extremely well with Barajas and McKenry behind the plate in 2012. It was easily predictable that Burnett’s ERA or RA-9, would jump going to Philadelphia, but in addition he is pitching much worse.

Bonds Top Hand

Having a much older infield behind you, with alot less range doesn’t help his cause. And the shifting, which he always made his displeasure known, helped him a ton. But to see the runs saved broken down in that manner was eye opening. As a pitcher, to leave a team so strong up the middle from C,2B,SS, and CF to where he is now must seem like Dorothy in the tornado going to Oz.


Tim is not going to be wrong.

Anyway, who cares what AJ’s numbers “were”, what matters is what they are. You seem to want to cherry pick stats that favor AJ and ignore the recent starts that have pulled Volquez even.


First of all, if Polanco isn’t up tomorrow , than Tim is wrong . All signs are pointing to Polanco not being up tomorrow so there’s that. As for me cherry picking, I provided zero stats. I was simply pointing out that there was no mention of Burnett’s stats a couple of weeks ago and that’s bc it wouldn’t have went with Tim’s agenda, which is AJ was a ‘luxury’ and they have plenty of depth which has proved to be laughable when you look at the rotations abismal numbers. Volquez leads the league in HR’s allowed and wild pitches but that was omitted bc it didn’t fit the agenda.


At the time, it did seem as though they did have enough depth to replace Burnett. I can’t blame him for making that judgement because when he made it the team still had Cumpton, Locke, volquez, Wandy, and Taillon waiting to play this year. Odds were, one of those guys would’ve been able to have a nice season, but they missed those odds with Wandys implosion, Taillons injury, and Locke and Volquezs inconsistency. It happens, but you can’t blame the guy for having an opinion and some facts to back it up. It’s way easier to justify ignoring you while you preach from hindsight-ville because that requires no courage or intelligence


Now you are contradicting yourself regarding Burnett. You said the new ballpark and lack of shifts would impact him. So, since his numbers are similar to Volquez, based on your own words, one can conclude that Burnett’s numbers in Pittsburgh would be better. As for your last comment bout HRs and wild pitches not mattering and numbers still ‘good’ that’s beyond laughable and it’s not even worth commenting on. I have no agenda except for the fact that the Pirates made miscalculations this off season and it’s led to predictable results.


Excuse me for asking but are you by chance related to lonely? You both sound remarkably similar. I.e. sour, disgruntled and mean.


There is no agenda, its reality AJ is an aging guy who is breaking down. Its reality. You woudl think that the distrust and hatred of management would have died when their methods were proven effective, but yinzers continue to follow uninformed nonsense spewed by talk radio people who can’t even be bothered to get facts/rules correct.

I agree, Tim is wrong if no Polanco Friday, I’d bet heavily against that case.


One season doesn’t erase all of the other horrible seasons . A track record has t be established in order to gain warned trust. Uninformed nonsense? We can gladly exchange numbers on the ‘nonsense’ you speak of and it will be obvious that you are wrong . As for the bet, I will bet you the deed on my house that he isn’t up tomorrow.


Your deed, huh? You got a bet IQB. But first tell me if it’s Park Place or Boardwalk?


One season plus the bright future matters when the entire plan was tear it down and build it from the ground up. I suppose you think Jeff Luhnow is a fool in Houston too? Go back to listening to Madden.

Scott Kliesen

First, glad to hear a media member say he’d rather be right than first. Definitely a breath of fresh air in today’s world.

I think we all can agree Polanco should be up tomorrow. Sounds to me like Pirates are working phones hard to get something for Snyder and aren’t having any luck.

Clearly SP is the primary reason for Pirates drop off this season. But the defensive miscues aren’t far behind. Mental mistakes by Snyder and Harrison in the first cost them both runs. Unfortunately an all too common issue this season.

Dom DiDominic

Tim, speaking for 99% of the followers of this site, we appreciate your professionalism, accuracy and thoroughness of your reports. This site provides great analysis and information of top prospects as well as guys I would have never heard of without this source.
Keep up the excellent reports from all your staff and, as a commentators, we will provide the guessing, no source related comments, unfounded projections and wonderful trade idea that NH just has not thought of yet.
We are all hoping there are 10,000 fans tomorrow cheering their heads off for the Buc right fielder.


Tim: Excellent article. No reason to keep GP in AAA, and the Pirates have followed the course that was set prior to the start of the season. He is part of our future and it would be hard to doubt that he could not be a key performer for the Pirates right now at the plate and in the field. But, that means losing some parts, and putting even more pressure on Marte to turn it around. JHAY/Tabata/Snider were supposed to be our weak point, but JHAY has changed all of that making RF a power position and valuable leadoff batter. Marte is a lost ball in high weeds at this time and what are the Pirates going to do? I thought I would have been reading about Harrison and a RP to the Yankees by now. Or something about Tabata or Snider.

Starting pitching has been a problem, but not because the Pirates did not sign a front line pitcher. Volquez has been a legit #4 in the Rotation and Brandon Cumpton will help. Burnett brought more than an ability to pitch, but maybe it is good that the leadership role is up for grabs. Who can fault what we have gotten from Gerrit Cole, and he is as close to the leader of the Rotation as anyone I can see, regardless of his youth. We need better from Liriano and Morton. The BP let us down early, but have returned to be an area of strength. This team has found the right formula for winning, and being only 3 under .500 at this point is actually better than they deserve. We know the issues with the pitching, but Martin missed 2 or 3 weeks, we struggled trying to develop 1B and RF, and at the same time, Marte and Mercer were struggling. Walker has been excellent, ‘Cutch has started to hit for power lately, and we need some more consistency from Pedro – but luckily, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Wilbert Matthews

Well said.

Andy Prough

Yup. There’s a difference between being cheap and throwing huge cash at guys on the wrong side of their career arc. If you are going to spend money, I’d much rather see it go to Cole, Polanco, keeping McCutchen in Pittsburgh for life, etc. I don’t mind if they get big money – Cole and McCutchen are going to probably deserve every penny they get from the Pirates.


The Last Paragraph should have been first and you need to make the last paragraph a separate article itself!!! Nice job Tim!!

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