For the last two years on New Year’s Eve, I’ve written about the boom or bust players who could make a difference for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the upcoming season. The 2013 group included players like Francisco Liriano, Starling Marte, and Mark Melancon. The 2014 group had guys like Jordy Mercer, Travis Snider, and Edinson Volquez. All of those guys helped the Pirates making the playoffs two years in a row.

The 2013 article was titled 13 Boom or Bust Players Who Could Make a Difference in 2013. Continuing with that trend, the 2014 article was called 14 Boom or Bust Pirates Who Could Make a Difference in 2014.

When I started writing the 2015 article, my initial thought was that there wouldn’t be 15 players who qualified as “boom or bust” candidates. But then I started counting them, and quickly got to double digits. I put a few on here who are marginal — maybe there’s not a big chance for a boom — and got the list to 15. But the list is different this year.

The Pirates needed Francisco Liriano to work out as a top of the rotation guy in order to compete in 2013. They needed the production that Edinson Volquez brought in 2014. They took a risk with each guy, and it paid off. The 2015 team doesn’t need as many risks to work out in order to be a strong team. A lot of the guys on this “boom or bust” list are guys coming off the bench, or back of the rotation starters, or middle relievers. The starting position players factor into first base and right field. Those have been problem areas for the Pirates the last two years, and yet the Pirates have made the playoffs each season.

Considering the rest of their roster, I don’t think they need production from first base and right field to contend. If they get that production? Then you’re talking about going from a contender to a team that could be set to make a run for it all. And that’s the theme this year. The boom or bust guys aren’t trying to make the Pirates contenders. The Pirates are already contenders without them. The boom or bust guys this time around look to be taking the Pirates to the next level, by putting them over the top. Let’s proceed with the list, starting with the pitchers.

Pitchers

Vance Worley – Worley represents a common theme on this year’s list. He had great results last year, but they came in a small sample size, and followed a trend in his career where he struggled. This casts doubt on whether he can repeat those numbers going forward. I think he can. His xFIP numbers were in line with where he was at prior to his injury in 2012. That injury threw off his mechanics, and he didn’t get back on track until joining the Pirates. Now that he’s back to his old mechanics, he looks like the pre-injury pitcher, with no reason to think that his poor numbers in 2013 were anything other than injury related. If that is the case, then Worley will be an outstanding fifth starter.

Jeff Locke – In 2013 he had a great first half, and a horrible second half. The first half looked lucky, and his second half struggles were predictable. Locke got another shot at the rotation in 2014, and once again looked great in the first half. His numbers this time looked legit, with no signs of regression. However, things fell apart in the second half once again. This raises the question of whether he can have success over an entire season. The Pirates should start with him and Worley in the rotation, until Charlie Morton returns from the DL (I didn’t include Morton on here, although he could be boom or bust based on his health). Even if Locke doesn’t stay in the rotation when Morton returns, he will eventually get another shot at some point during the 2015 season. The Pirates will need first half Locke more than second half Locke.

Jameson Taillon – The starting rotation looks strong at the top with Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, and A.J. Burnett. The back of the rotation has good options in Morton, Worley, and Locke. If enough people stay healthy and productive, then the Pirates could be in a situation where they don’t need to rely on Taillon, who is returning from Tommy John surgery. I think Taillon has a chance to make it to the majors this year, although I doubt he pitches into September and October, since the Pirates could go with a common approach around baseball and limit his innings the year following his injury.

Nick Kingham – Kingham is in a similar situation to Taillon in terms of playing time. However, if a spot opens in the rotation, he would be in better position to take that spot and play all season. He enters the 2015 season with more time in Triple-A than Taillon, and isn’t coming off a major injury that would limit him later in the year. Taillon has more upside, but Kingham projects to be a solid middle of the rotation starter one day, and wouldn’t be a bad option as a mid-season replacement. You could also make similar arguments here for Adrian Sampson, although I think Kingham has more “boom” potential.

Radhames Liz – The Pirates need middle relief help. The Pirates have done an outstanding job grabbing pitchers with zero value and turning them into pitchers who are key contributors. At this point, would anyone be surprised if Liz becomes a dominant reliever in the majors for the Pirates? The reports on him out of the Dominican Republic were strong, and the reports we heard were from people outside of the Pirates’ organization. He’s got outstanding stuff, and will be throwing in a low pressure role. That’s a great situation for any reclamation project.

John Holdzkom – Holdzkom put up outstanding numbers in a very limited time last year, and was one of the top stories in baseball due to the fact that he started the year in indy ball, and finished pitching in the Wild Card game. He’s got the stuff to be a late inning reliever and future closer. It’s still too early to say whether his numbers last year were legit. If they are, then the Pirates have a strong seventh inning man, adding to their combo of Tony Watson and Mark Melancon, who were two of the best relievers in baseball last year. If Liz also works out, then that’s a dominant, hard-throwing bullpen that can shorten games.

Stolmy Pimentel – This is a personal choice, which comes with the disclaimer that I don’t think Pimentel will get the chance to break out with the Pirates. Last year was the year to see what he could do in the majors. Instead, the Pirates treated him like a Rule 5 pick, despite a lot of praise from pitching coach Ray Searage. This time around the bullpen is more crowded. Holdzkom and Liz should each get spots. Antonio Bastardo will get the fifth spot. One of Locke or Worley will take a spot when Charlie Morton returns. Then there’s Jared Hughes, who definitely earned a spot last year. Pimentel might get a spot at the start of the year, but could be squeezed off the roster a few weeks later when Morton returns. If the Pirates gave him a shot — a real shot where he pitches more than once a week in blowouts — then I think he could be a solid reliever and a future closer. I just don’t see them giving him that shot, especially when it didn’t come last year under the same circumstances.

Position Players

Francisco Cervelli – The biggest loss for the Pirates this off-season was the departure of Russell Martin. That comes two years after the Pirates were criticized for valuing Martin much higher than anyone else in the league. Is it possible that two years later, they’ve found another gem? There are numbers you can dream about with Cervelli. He had an .802 OPS last year, and an .877 OPS in 2013. However, those came with small sample sizes, with the 2013 figure coming in just 61 plate appearances. If you want a bigger sample, he has a .729 OPS in 785 career plate appearances. That’s about what you can expect from Martin in a non-career year. The defense is solid, with better pitch framing skills than Martin, worse blocking and throwing, but highly praised game calling. I’d say Martin is the better defender, but Cervelli is good. A big question is whether he can stay healthy as a starter. If he can do that, and if he can put up his career numbers or better on offense, with his usual strong defense, then the Pirates won’t miss Russell Martin at all.

Josh Harrison – I hesitated in putting Harrison on this list, since he definitely had a “boom” season in 2014 (even though he didn’t look like one of the candidates last year at this time). The thing about that strong 2014 season is that it came in 550 plate appearances. His career up to that point consisted of 575 plate appearances where he looked like a marginal MLB bench player at best. So which one is the real deal? Did something actually click for Harrison in 2014 that will carry over to future years? Or did he just have a career year, only to decline going forward? I don’t think you’re too optimistic to think he can be a starter. I don’t think you’re too pessimistic to think he’ll revert to a bench player. But expecting his 2014 numbers again might be too much. I’m not saying it’s impossible, and that’s why I’ve got him on the list. The fact that he could reasonably be anything from a bench player to a star player makes him the definition of “boom or bust.”

Pedro Alvarez – He had a horrible year on both sides of the ball in 2014. The Pirates are moving him to first base in 2015, eliminating the throwing issues from third base. Perhaps that can allow him to regain the power he had in 2012/13, which disappeared in 2014. Alvarez has one year to bounce back, as I can’t see him sticking around with the Pirates in 2016, coming off another bad year, and due for another raise in arbitration. The Pirates had one of the best offenses in the game without his production last year. Imagine if they get the 30+ homer per year Alvarez back.

Corey Hart – The backup plan for Alvarez, and likely platoon partner, is Corey Hart. He was a great all around player as recently as 2012, but injuries have derailed his career. He struggled last year, both with injuries and from a performance standpoint. It seems like a long shot, but if he can get healthy, he might have a chance to get back to being a strong everyday option. That would either put pressure on Alvarez, or provide the Pirates with a replacement for Alvarez.

Jung-Ho Kang – Perhaps the biggest profile “boom or bust” case is going to be Kang, assuming he signs (which I think he will). He’ll be high-profile not just because of the impact he can make in 2015, but because of the domino effect he could have for the makeup of future Pirates teams. There’s also the fact that he’s the first hitter making the jump from the KBO. If Kang does work out, he could be an option for almost any infield position. The reports don’t seem strong on him being an option at shortstop, but he could replace Harrison or Alvarez if either struggle, or replace Neil Walker if he gets injured.

Sean Rodriguez – In 2010/11, Rodriguez was a 2.0 WAR player. He struggled defensively last year, while seeing a drop in his power and OBP. That followed two years where he put up an 0.7 and 1.1 WAR. Obviously the Pirates are banking on a bounce back here, since they not only took on his $2 M projected salary, but also traded a promising pitching prospect in Buddy Borden to get him. If he bounces back to the 2012/13 production, the trade would have value. But the idea that he could possibly bounce back to the 2010/11 version puts him on this list, and makes him a strong backup option for Neil Walker at second.

Gregory Polanco – Polanco was on this list last year, as he was expected to make the jump to the majors and claim the right field position for good. He made the jump, but struggled in his debut in the majors. That’s similar to the situation the Pirates had with Starling Marte, who under-performed with a .737 OPS in his debut in 2012, before breaking out with a .784 OPS/4.6 WAR in 2013, and an .808 OPS/4.1 WAR in 2014. Polanco was worse than Marte in his debut, putting up a .650 OPS. That doesn’t mean he’s not still a breakout candidate. He’s got the potential to be the best outfielder the Pirates have, even when you include Andrew McCutchen. The Pirates will make him the starter on Opening Day, giving him another shot to reach his upside in the majors.

Travis Snider – Last year Snider started hitting when Polanco arrived in the majors. When Polanco struggled, Snider continued hitting. At the start of the year it looked like the Pirates would need Polanco to replace Snider and provide production in right field. It ended up that Snider was the one who saved the day. He’ll be a fourth outfielder at the start of the season, and will once again be there if Polanco struggles. He’ll also be there if (when) Starling Marte gets injured (probably after getting hit with a pitch), or if Andrew McCutchen goes down for any amount of time. Snider was always a top prospect, and if he has a huge season this year, we’ll look back at the second half of the 2014 season as the time when he started putting it all together, rather than just a fortunate stretch of hitting.

IMPORTANT: You will need to update your password after the switch to the new server in order to log in and comment. Go to the Password Reset Page to change your password.

116 COMMENTS

  1. If Sean Rodriguez plays enough to have much of an impact either way for the Pirates, that’ll be a sign of trouble. A marginal player, on the downturn.He does have good skill at getting hit by the pitch, so that’s something, and has some power. Better than the usual no power stiff the Pirates have run out as the utility infielder, but less of a fielder than Barmes was, unfortunately.

  2. I expect Worley to be pretty good this year. He didn’t really out pitch his peripherals or anything crazy like that, plus he’s got a past history of being very good. If two of three between Liz, Holdzkom, and Pimentel can put it all together and pitch well that really gives the bullpen a boost and makes it a lot more solid. Hell, if one of the three can do that to go with Hughes, Bastardo, Watson, and Melancon it’d be big for the pen.

    I expect Polanco to take some big steps forward this year, and really start to show off his skills. I think he’ll have a very good OBP, steal 25-30 bases, and finish with around 55-60 extra base hits. Plus top notch defense. If Pedro can do what he was on pace for last year before getting hurt (20-25 HRs, to go with a career best BB and K rate) that is huge for this offense. Cervelli just needs to stay healthy, if he does he’ll be a 3 WAR player IMO. I expect some drop off for Jhay, but still an OPS of .770-.780 which is still pretty darn good.

    • I agree, except I am a little more optimistic about J-Hay. Expecting some regression is logical, but I am hoping for a .300/.325/.475/.800 line from him.

  3. There is a huge question mark at catcher. Chris Stewart is the mist established catcher and he is an established backup. Cervelli shows nothing but pitch framing ability and even that is not clear cut.

  4. If Cervelli makes us forget Martin and not miss him, I will buy Tim a case of his favorite beer. You can save this post and bring it out in September.

  5. I’d be surprised if Tallon pitches in Pittsburgh in 2015….he will need this year just to get back to where he was pre TJS.

  6. If you believe Cervelli’s .231 ISO in ’13 or his .408 BABIP in ’14 are legit, then go ahead and dream on those numbers. Personally, if he gets 100 starts and pulls a .700 OPS I’ll be elated.

    • I guessed him at .268/.343/.379/.722 for 2015. I would be happy with that if the defense is above average and he stays on the field. Anything more offensively and I think he is a huge steal.

      • Only on the cusp of January can a bunch of dudes argue for hours about two mediocre ballplayers and what their value is. Baseball is a drug and January is the worst part of withdraw.

        • I will go with mediocre, the only thing I can say is at this time in their careers, Alvarez has a higher upside going forward, Hart is not expected to be his former self, but he could be serviceable on the offensive side, on the defensive side I don’t see either one of these guys as a good first baseman, if Pedro plays there for a couple of years he might develop into a serviceable first baseman, but he probably won’t be in Pittsburgh much longer than next year. First base is not a throw-in position in major league baseball, to be good at it takes a lot work and time, if you just want someone to catch the ball and step on the bag, anyone in the majors can do that.

  7. Keep Taillon on the farm all year. Let him work himself back into a solid pitching prospect without the MLB pressure.

  8. I would not want would not want want the Pirates to be in the position of the Nationals a few years back with Strassburg.

    • The Pirates are deep and unlikely to have the same problem with Taillon that Washington had with Strasburg, I remember Morton having limits on him when he came back from TJ.

  9. Tim, here is the question that I will be waiting for your to answer on the first day of spring training. “Which gloves and how many fielding gloves is Alvarez carrying the first day of spring training?” I look forward to the answer to that question.

    Dave

  10. My best case scenario would be for Kang to be awesome and Hart to be healthy and Pedro to be dealt. He is such a flawed hitter and I don’t feel like he will be a plus 1B. I feel like Pedro’s head will follow him wherever he goes. Even when he is going good he is not a consistent player and I would prefer Hart to return to close to the old Hart and just take the 1B job or if Kang plays really well Walker would move to 1B. With Walker being a decent catcher and 3B in the minors and moving to 2B so quickly I feel like 1B is not gonna be much of a thing for him and he will be above average there. Pedro still has to throw at 1B and the length of the throw is not necessarily the issue. We have all seen Steve Blass and Mackey Sasser and Tony Sanchez enough to know that.

    • How can you have more faith in Hart than Pedro? Hart hasn’t been relevant since 2012. His career has been derailed by injury, yet your more comfortable with him over Pedro? I don’t get it.

      • Hart is a way better player than Pedro. That is the only reason why. If Hart is healthy I have more faith in him and I think that is a very well grounded opinion.

        • The only problem with Hart is he is not a very good or experienced 1st basemen, instead of having one problem at 1st base, they now have 2.

          • I definitely agree with that leadoff. Hart is not good there. I figure he will be Garrett Jones-like there. Which Pedro might be also. You hope with a defined roll hart will be a little better there. Pedro did manage a .770 OPS vs righties last year and I feel if he repeats that and so does Hart vs lefties the 1B position is miles ahead of 2014 offensively. You deal with the defense if the position hits 10-15 more HR than last year…and it easily could.

        • 30 year old Corey Hart WAS a way better player than Pedro.

          33 year old Corey Hart has far, faaarrrr more questions to answer than 2015 Pedro Alvarez.

          • I would agree but I wouldn’t say far more. Hart needs to answer 1: Am I physically sound? That is a huge question. Pedro: Can I throw? Can I play first? Can I find a balance between making contact and hitting for power? Can I keep my strikeouts below 1 every three at bats consistently? …and we already know he is one of the worst lefties in the league at hitting lefties. I don’t hate Pedro. I just hate watching him scuffle and hate talking about the same issues every year…it is a sign he is severely flawed.

            • Pedro can absolutely play firstbase. I don’t understand why people think learning first is rocket science. Pedro is already an infielder with an extremely plus glove. People assume Neil Walker will be able to slide to first without issue, but why not Pedro?

              • Because he still has to throw the ball and must be quick about it. He does have the glove, but so do 500 other guys, you still have to cut, you still have to field bunts then throw quickly, it is not all glove at 1st base, Jones could catch the ball, but that was about it.
                Then again, maybe he wlll throw better at 1st base because rarely will he have time to think about it.

              • Because of Pedro’s throwing. …and Walker has already made moves to new positions. I am not rooting against him. Everything is just always difficult for Pedro…and I don’t see him relishing his new position by learning it by playing in the offseason.

                  • Hahaha!!! I know 1B not a stretch for a 3B but he still could use some reps at the plate too! We all know Pedro is allergic to playing winter ball. he proved that 4-5 years ago. Pedro seems like a guy who likes the game but doesn’t love it so he is gonna work hard and do what is asked of him and say all the right things but he isn’t like a Mike Trout or even Cutch who is just non-stop working and improving. I may be way off base but I have had a close family member play in the majors and there are those types of personalities. Pedro seems like the like not love guy…whether it not be playing winter ball or choosing a guy like Boras as his agent. Pedro is a smart and educated guy. He is gonna do what he needs to do, get all he can, and then be out of baseball at 33-34 (or sooner the rate he is going) and onto running businesses or his foundations. Nothing wrong with that. I’m just saying he is not all baseball all the time like a Cal Ripken or Tony Gwynn or Mattingly. I’m sure Pedro doesn’t mind if he doesn’t become the super star that is expected out of a #2 pick and he just wants to do a job. Jeff King was this guy too. If he was just a better g’damn player I wouldn’t have to contemplate about any of this!

                    • Two guys can reasonably disagree with one another, especially when discussing pure conjecture.

                      However, the next time anyone in the Pirates organization questions Pedro’s commitment to the game will be the first.

                      In all the times guys on the internet question Pedro’s commitment because he won’t go to winter ball, guess what’s one thing you’ll never read; the fact that he apparently worked hard, in the United States, to increase his production 54% from a year earlier. If he’d gone to winter ball, you can GUARANTEE folks would credit that work for his turnaround.

                      There is history here. He’s proven before that he doesn’t need to spend his winter in the Dominican in order to get better, as blatantly obvious as that is in the first place.

                    • Well he improved 54% because he was abysmal the year before. He basically returned to what he was his rookie year. He went .112-.058-.115 OPS+ Then .115 again then .102 Has he ever really improved? I would say more like regressed then went back to what he was. Hey, I’m glad he didn’t just fade away. I ever said he didn’t work and agree what I said is pure conjecture. I didn’t convey it as anything but that.

                    • If you ever want to see cutch frustrated. . Watch an interview when he’s asked about pedro’s lack of commitment. .

                    • You seem to have quite the personal insight on the mind set of MLB players. That line about choosing Boras for an agent is particularly hilarious. Tell that to Max Scherzer also and see what his response might be. As for playing Winter ball in Latin America, sit down and talk to any non Latino player about the plusses and minuses of that experience.

                    • Your last point is especially pertinent.

                      Starlin Castro is currently being advised to leave his home country because he’s become a target due to his wealth.

                      Excuse me, but I’m not nearly close to being entitled enough as a fan to EXPECT players to put themselves in that position.

                    • Exactly NMR. Some folks just seem to think everything is just THAT easy, that there is no backstory to anything related to baseball. ” Hey,just take your glove and go on down to the Dominican and play ball “. Shortsighted.

                  • You people always dissing the value of a good first baseman or how easy it is to learn shows how little you actually know about playing the game.

            • Sorry, but that’s just a laughably biased analysis.

              Corey Hart may not have been 100% healthy last year, but he was healthy enough to get over 250 PA. In that time, Corey Hart didn’t “struggle”. He was absolutely awful. Pedro Alvarez, in “horrible” year, hit 33% better than Hart.

              Hart on struck out 2% less than Alvarez, walked far less, and showed almost a complete lack of power.

              • Hart was never healthy. He kept coming back and getting hurt. He never got untracked at any point. It has happened 100’s of times throughout history. I’m not saying Hart is gonna come back and take the job. I am saying it would be nice if he returned to health and was close to the same guy…because he is a better player than Pedro…at least he was. I understand the argument that Pedro may have a better chance of returning to 2013 than Hart does to 2010-2012…but if Hart does and Pedro doesn’t…

                  • By the way in my predictions I had pedro at .245/.324/.445/.769 and hart at .258/.316/.436/.752 which either proves my points I am making here wrong or maybe proves they may have almost the same season…or more than likely nothing.

                  • By loading one side of the hypothetical far more than the other, that is how.

                    We’re fans. We’re allowed, no, we’re SUPPOSED to be biased. Nothing wrong with it, just something you have to consider when having these discussions.

            • If you dont have questions about can Hart play 1B, then you cant have questions about can Pedro play 1B. Both players shifting from other spots, both going to be able to do it fine. Easier for a 3Bmen to transition than an OF id say. Seems more of the questions are from Pirate fans that dissect every part of Pedro and tend to be way down on him, and not having seen as much of Hart. Hart has just as many gaping problems as Pedro does, mainly the fact that his body shows no signs of being able to play 130 games. If its a huge question on Pedro hitting well, its an even bigger question if Hart can not break down physically.

          • Corey hart has 2 questions. Can he stay healthy and is his bat speed still there. That’s it

            Pedro has: lets count. 1. will he be willing to learn and play first base without pouting, i have no problems saying that he can play first if he wants to, he is a good fielder. 2. Will he ever be able to learn pitch recognition, because that is his flaw. It isn’t his swing, or his approach. His struggles against lefties and righties were all directly related to not being able to recognize sliders from lefties and changeups from righties, then also not being able to catch up to slightly above average fastballs….trainwreck

        • Not to belabor the point but Pedro has zero .790 OPS seasons and Hart has 5. He also has 4 seasons over .840. I know he played in a hitters haven but Hart’s .751 road OPS is higher than Pedro’s OPS anywhere and Hart has a .004 point lower OPS against righties than Pedro. Pedro really may have seen his last days ever hitting against many lefties again (Thankfully) so if he does get near his career .792 OPS vs righties at least we know the platoon should be awesome….because Hart pounds lefties.

    • First base won’t necessarily cure Alvarez’s throwing problem, first basemen throw the ball a lot, we have not had a first basemen that can throw the ball to second base with regularity in many years other than Morneau and for some reason we did not want to pursue him.

      • But for many that have gone through the “yips” they admit its often a specific task that causes struggles. For Pedro, it was the 3rd to 1st throw that caused him the vast majority of his issues. He wont repeat that throw often at 1B. Even guys that were clearly yip happy like Knoblach (butchered that spelling im sure) were fine on other throws. Would not be surprising to see Pedro not struggle with most throws, particularly turning the DP.

        • It appeared to me that time was his biggest problem, when he took his time he was wild, most of his throws to 2nd base were in rhythm without hesitation, his throws on bunts were at times wild, but I think that had more to do with balance, grip and hurry. the only place he threw the ball well was to 2nd base.

        • Not that it is a problem but I’ve seen Pedro throw a few into RF when going to 2B in his day also. All 3B do it from time to time but it remains to be seen if Pedro can overcome issues once at 1B.

      • He doesn’t have throwing problems from 3rd to 2nd, why would he have trouble throwing from 1st to 2nd. The only reasonable comparison would be throwing from 1st to 3rd which he may do 5 times in an entire year

      • That had more to do with the fact that Morneau did nothing offensively while he was here. There was no one screaming on the hilltops to resign Morneau till after he had success in Colorado.

  11. IMO, the most “talented” outfielder the Bucs have is Marte, not Polanco.
    IMO, I think Kang has as much talent as Mercer does defensively and probably more offensively.
    IMO, Worley, a pitcher with an under 3 ERA can be classified as a No. 5 starter is beyond me. He may not have had a full year last year, but he had 17 starts, was 8-4, struck out 77 hitters, walked only 22, faced 458 batters, his FIP was .344 his xFIP was .354, His lifetime FIP is .386. With those numbers on most teams he is a 2 or 3.

    • Yeah, for me Worley is just one of those guys that is a great 3 or 4. Strike-throwing machine, efficient, unflappable…he has a gameplan that is proven and if it doesn’t work one start he is right back grinding it out the next start. If he stays healthy he is a middle rotation horse and bullpen saver. I watched Justin Masterson a lot with the Indians and what I saw from Worley last year I liked better than Masterson. I hope he can continue that. I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t crank out 2-3 200+ inning 3.75-4.00 era seasons for the Bucs.

      • He is the best pressure pitcher the Pirates have, -0.59 in the clutch last year, Lester ranked as a NO.1 was -0.40 in the clutch last year. These guys are real bulldogs with RISP.

    • I think between Marte and Polanco, they are very close, but it is easy to say Marte based on performance so far…..Polanco will always have more plate discipline and likely hit for a better average and have a better OBP. I think Polanco’s arm is better and way more accurate than Marte, Marte’s defense is currently way better, Marte is currently a better base stealer (but that could change this year), Marte and Polanco have about the same level of power. Polanco’s ability to hit lefties well will be the defining point

      • I agree with the statement on Worley. If he is pitching well, he is a #3. anyone who can have a worley as a #5 should be winning division titles

      • Dude you keep preaching this, show me evidence that Polonco’s arm is way more accurate than Marte’s arm. I don’t buy that. I love Polonco and can’t believe people want him behind Snider but I don’t know that he will hit for higher average. I do agree on the On base. I don’t see him being a better base stealer than Marte at any point. I think Marte will hit .300 this year and Polonco around .280. I love both players and think both will soon be stars!

    • I tend to agree, while i havn’t seen enough of Polanco to judge.. Marte has the makings of being a superstar offensivly and defensively those low outside breaking balls are killing him though lol.
      Mercer is Okay defensively and around the all star break was pretty great at the plate. If Kang can Play SS in the majors it surely will be some preasure but unless there is a trade it will be Jordy’s job to lose.
      Worley should be the 4th guy to start the season until morton comes back. after that just have to see if any one Wandyied it.. maybe by then he’ll be number 1.

  12. It’s a nice article and I enjoyed it. I’m still not convinced Pedro will be at 1st base to start the season. I’d also love to see Harrison have another great year, but who knows? I’m not sure anyone can be sure he’s the real deal. I don’t, however, expect his glove to regress.

    • I am convinced if anyone wanted him over the winter, he would not even be here in the spring, but since it looks like he will be here, 1st base is where he is going no matter what IMO, I believe the addition of Kang cemented that move.

      • Maybe Hart will hit great in April & May and Pedro will plod along at .250 and 7-9 HR going into June and look average at 1B and then he can be dealt. The thing with Pedro is if he could do all those things for just 2015 they can deal him after the season too. For him to stay he needs to not have throwing issues, get about 400 AB, hit 17-20 HR, and keep his walks and contact rate in a zone like last year where it had improved a little. Of course, Pedro has to be the one slugger that sees more pitches, makes more contact, and hits the ball for less average AND authority. He is f’n confounding.

        • I agree. pedro is an odd one. He did seem over all better last year at the plate. seeing more pitches. Poking a few the other way (the other way with pedro is up the middle lol) and still had some power while still getting 18HR in 400 ABs, still hitting for his career avg and a better OBP than his 36HR season. If he could’ve thrown the ball to 1st and gotten the ABs I think he would’ve gottn 30+ but of course who could say. and what? 8 stolen bases?

    • IMO, there were no real exploitable holes in Harrison’s plate approach. For a short guy, he has great plate coverage and can hit both the high and tight and the outside corner. That said, if he tries to go for more power, he could end up screwing himself up. For that reason I think it behooves the Bucs to leave him at leadoff regardless what Polanco does.

      • Last year.

        Last year he had great plate coverage. The rest of his career, not so much.

        Harrison’s OBP is completely dependent on BABIP as he take walks like the plague. If he regresses even into the .310 BABIP range he’ll be lucky to post a league average OBP.

        • Some players do better with a full time role. Josh appears to be one of them. Yes, he’s a free swinger. But he’s not fooled that often compared to say, Marte. I don’t see a better spot for him in the lineup.

          FWIW, Steamer took his BABIP down to .313. Bumped his walks to 4.4%. Nets a .320 OBP but retains a 3.1 WAR, which is down, but still better than most 3b. Four fewer runs scored. I think Bucs can live with that for 2015.

          I don’t think you want to make Polanco the leadoff hitter this year.

          • I didn’t specify, but my comment specifically pertained to your part on Harrison at leadoff.

            I agree that he should start the year there, but I believe Polanco has the better skill set for the role.

          • I do. Realistically you want someone like Harrison hitting with runners on base, not trying to get on base. Move Harrison to #2 behind Polanco

        • You nailed it NMR… Harrison did slightly increase his walk rate last year but not by a lot…and he walked 1 time in Sept/Oct last year so it’s not like it was consistent improvement. I think if he can walk over 30 times in 2015 that would be a huge accomplishment.

        • There’s this thing with Harrison though– look at his BABIP history…
          In 2008 in low A it was .327
          in 2009 in A ball it was .333
          in 2010 in AA it was .321
          in 2011 in AAA it was .333

          He’s had a high BABIP everywhere he’s played. The exception was 2011-2013 in his first 500 PA in MLB. Maybe it’s still more likely that he’ll revert, but I think his minor league history justifies some optimism.

          • You absolutely do not want to use minor league BABIP’s for any sort of legit Major League projection.

            Quality of fielders isn’t anywhere close to those you’ll see in the Major Leagues.

            • I am not an expert on BABIP, and I’m sure you know more about this than I do, so please believe me that I’m willing to be educated. Your assertion that major league fielders are better seems logical. Is there research or is it just a logical assumption?

              What I do know about BABIP is that speed combined with GB rate is a factor, and line drive rate is a factor. So, surely minor league stats are good for something, even if you have to scale them somehow.

              I don’t know how much of BABIP is driven by the quality of fielders, nor do I know how to quantify the effect of fielding across the various minor league levels . Do you?

              • Sorry, I don’t have a specific link for you. Just knowledge I’ve gained from reading folks a lot smarter than me over the years.

                The concept of BABIP being relatively stable is based on analyzing years and years of Major League data. The same could be done for minor leagues, but would be inherently different given the skill at each level. Minor league fielders, and just as importantly minor league pitchers, are not of the same quality as big leaguers, thus the numbers don’t transfer. As a topical example, Pedro Alvarez out-BABIP’d Harrison in both AA and AAA.

                Batted ball distribution certainly contributes heavily to BABIP, but I think what we’re starting to learn is that quality of contact – how hard the ball is hit – has even more impact. We simply don’t have the velocity data to back it up…yet. Of all the batted ball types, line drive rate has been found to be the most variable – and the highest BABIP value. Guys like Harrison who show a one-year spike in BABIP fueled by LD% should not necessarily be expected to continue doing the same.

                • Like Arik I’m not an expert in stats.. 🙂 but couldn’t you say the same about pretty much every other minor league stat?

            • Another thing that I wanted to mention but I’m keeping it separate. Harrison has often reminded me of Bill Madlock. Short, quick, powerful, good contact, plays 3B and … wears #5. 😀

              I looked up Madlock’s career and in the minors his BABIP was .320. Over his major league career it was .308, but through age 30 it was…. .320.

              I’m not trying to use this one data point to make a point… I just thought it was interesting.

            • Your comment assumes that the batter doesn’t improve as he rises through the levels of competition. For those that make the Majors that isn’t true. Ball player rise to their level of incompetency, just like managers in organizations. Even though the fielders (and pitchers) have improved as Harrison has graduated from league to league, so has Harrison. In fact some players (Cutch) exceed the MiLB projections by continuing improving after they get to the league

              • No, it doesn’t.

                If your comment was correct, then we’d see BABIP’s at the Major League level similar to those at the minor league level.

                They aren’t.

                • You seemed to be determined to miss several points. One: as Arik alluded to, Harrison’s MLB numbers in 2014 were generally consistent with his minor league numbers across all leagues, when he was playing regularly, throughout his career. 2: Consistently high BABIP’s across a career indicate that the guy can hit, and it won’t be a surprise to see him continue hitting if he plays regularly. In fact it would be surprise if he stopped. In Harrison’s case his poorer numbers in his initial two years were probably due to intermittent play more than anything else. 3: No one suggested that actual values of BABIPs would be universally the same across all leagues. There are park factors in addition to increasing levels of ability to contend with. But just because the absolute measure of league average BABIP doesn’t directly transfer between leagues that is no reason at all to conclude that no possible inference can ever be made about an individual player who demonstrates consistently high BABIP throughout his career.

      • For me Harrison’s only issue is he hacks at everything. I hope pitchers don’t make some adjustment and then he is just flailing. He is so athletic and has the quick bat so he will always hit .260+ and pound balls in the gaps but Harrison does not walk so if he hits below .270-.280 he is not a guy you want at the top of the order with a .300-.315 OBP. I feel they really need him at the top too because Marte profiles more as a 5-6 hitter to me because of the high K rate.

        • To me, the only thing that makes Harrison effective is that he hacks at everything. At least a couple dozen of his game winning, game saving, or extra base hits came on pitches that noone including cutch could have hit a foul tip on. That’s a great skill set, being a bad ball hitter made careers for a lot of players, as long as they have a short swing, a fast swing, and decent power to drive the ball, and use all fields. Guess what, Harrison does. If he sticks to his “hit the ball where it’s pitched” approach, just like Russell, he’ll be succesful

      • There’s a strong argument to be made that he shouldn’t even be trying to hit the high and tight and/or the outside corner. Guys who swing at everything and who have long, successful careers are a rarity; good strike zone discipline seems to win out in the long run.

        • Even hackers like Kirby Puckett had some semblance of discipline. …and Harrison/Puckett have some definite similarities in approach and body type. Although J-Hay is very doubtfully Puckett, he does have extremely similar k:bb numbers. I would be happy with Harrison being the poor man’s puckett.

          • I’d be happy with that, too. It’s just that the odds are against it. But who knows? There are a few guys here and there who make a good career outta hacking away and maybe Harrison is one of them. Or maybe he can refine his game a little and make the hacking away not such an issue.

              • That’s perception bias talking.

                Most free-swingers have limited success until the league figures out they’ll swing at every pitch– good or bad– and exploits that to get them out. The ones who continue to free-swing and don’t adapt mostly fail and get forgotten in short order. The ones who adapt and improve on their free-swinging ways stick around and their free-swinging ways are chalked up to just being a youngster and they’ve improved since then. The ones that try to cut down on their hacking and still fail are the ones cited by “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” crowd; however, it’s highly likely that those free-swingers simply lacked the talent or ability to keep up their run of successful hacking and were trying to improve on it in order to stick in the league in the first place.

                The idea being that unless you’re one of the exceptional few that has a real talent for swinging at everything– like Vlad Guerro or Pablo Sandoval or the like– you probably are broke and need to fix yourself.

          • Pitch recognition is what is important, plate discipline is overrated. If you can hit it, and hit it well, then hit it.

  13. Thing I never understood, if a team is worried about a pitch count(i.e. Taillon). Then start him later. Don’t let him throw till june/july if it means he can pitch in September/October.

Comments are closed.