First Pitch: Thoughts on Worley, Pirates 2015 Payroll, Upcoming Draft Class

I’m going to keep it short tonight, because I’ve been sick since Friday, we’re in that dead zone right before Spring Training where there is nothing to write, and while trying to think of an article, I read that Jon Stewart is leaving The Daily Show, which totally zaps any creative energy and motivation I have tonight. First, The Colbert Report. Now, The Daily Show. Fortunately John Oliver’s show on HBO is hilarious (highly recommended, and not really a big focus on politics like the other two), but there is going to be a void for nightly news satire. I’m a fan of Larry Wilmore’s work on The Daily Show and The Office, and am looking forward to seeing more of his show. Now, on to some Pirates related thoughts.

**Vance Worley Wins Arbitration Case. I don’t really care which side ends up winning an arbitration case, since either way, the player is going to get paid a good amount of money. That said, out of the three arbitration cases this off-season, if I had to choose one for the player, it would be Worley. Neil Walker is getting a big payday no matter what. Pedro Alvarez is getting a big raise because arbitration looks at the career, and not the recent season. In Worley’s case, you have a guy who wasn’t even in the mix to be a member of his team’s starting rotation this time last year. The Minnesota Twins wanted to convert him to a set-up man, and by the end of Spring Training had such little regard for his future that they traded him for cash. We know how that worked out for the Pirates. He got his delivery back on track, he put up some nice numbers last year, and a year later he not only gets paid a nice salary through arbitration as a starter, but gets acknowledged by the arbitration panel as being worth more than the team offered. Last year at this time you might have believed that Neil Walker would get $8 M, or that Pedro Alvarez would get $5.25-$5.75 M. But I don’t think anyone would have projected this outcome for Worley a year ago.

**The only big salary decision remaining is Pedro Alvarez, and the difference isn’t major. If the Pirates win ($5.25 M), then their projected payroll will be at $89,797,000. If Alvarez wins ($5.75 M), then the projected payroll will be at $90,297,000. There will be some changes with the league minimum salaries (which are usually published on Opening Day), but nothing major. It looks like the Pirates will start the season with a payroll at $90 M. In the last few years they have added an average of $8 M during the season, so you can expect the total payroll at the end of the year to approach $100 M.

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 Draft Preview: Two Lefties At The Top For Prep Pitchers. John Dreker continues the draft previews for the site, looking at the top prep pitchers this time around. That seems like a very relevant area, as the Pirates tend to focus heavily on prep pitchers. They took two in their top four picks last year. Yesterday’s preview was the prep hitters, which was dominated by a strong outfield class.

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 Top 20 Prospects. For the full top 50, and profiles and scouting reports on 200+ players in the Pirates’ system, buy the 2015 Prospect Guide.

  • Must read for today – http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/breaking-down-jung-ho-kang/

    The author has some cred for spotting breakouts in swing analysis, last year he hit on JD Martinez and Jose Abreu

    • made the pirate fan in me super excited.

      made the fantasy baseball player in me super greedy.

    • Can’t say I’m necessarily as optimistic about the projection: “Taking the detestable jump into the predictive, with how hard he hits the ball and assuming only average contact and strikeout rates, I could easily see him hitting .280 with 25 homers, and that might be conservative.”

      But the mechanical knowledge and analysis is excellent. The reactionary criticism of Kang’s leg kick from the Ben Badler’s of the world showed their lack of knowledge and understanding of what actually makes hitter tick. Yes, he looks different. But there’s no denying the balance and control Kang has due to the athleticism in his swing.

      • I have to agree, the upper body motions and balance are really good. I was thinking .240 to .250 avg for Kang, but looking at that article and seeing the swing, I would have to bump him up to .260/.270 and of course the potential is there once Kang gets the timing down to hit .280+.
        .
        I’m not sure how many home runs Kang will hit, but he should at least hit plenty of doubles. A doubles hitter in the 2 spot or 5 to 7 spots is very interesting. Seeing Kang in ST will probably be what I’m looking forward to the most. I know numbers don’t mean a whole lot in ST but I’ll be looking for Kang to at least make good contact and not strike out too much.

        • I think I actually might lean opposite of that, not that I’m anywhere near qualified to do such a thing with any sort of certainty.

          It does seem like Kang could have some contact issues – say maybe striking out around 20%-25% of the time – and it’s just really hard to hit for high average today like that. Doesn’t mean he won’t, just that I typically err lower until a guy proves he’s capable of high BABiP.

          But seeing the bat speed and leverage created in the swing, it won’t surprise me one bit if he’s at least as powerful as Neil Walker.

          • Yeah, the strike outs might be what holds Kang back. He might struggle more in the MLB too with 150+ K’s over 500 at bats.

          • I try to keep this point in mind NMR : the tool everyone is looking for in MLB currently is….right hand power.

    • j: Thanks for the reference; it was enjoyable. I started playing the game when striding a foot or more forward was thought to be enhancing power. The overwhelming majority of swing teachers for the past 30 years or more have advocated a balanced swing method that I learned watching Charlie Lau’s “The Art of Hitting .300”. If any stride, a short stride such as Cabrera’s 4″ to 6″ stride, or a step in place where you raise the front foot and load to the back foot and then on the weight transfer, the front foot comes down in the same spot it was when the batter was in the balanced and ready position.

      Kang strides at least a foot forward and MLB pitchers will have a field day with him with offspeed stuff. I look for the Pirates to try to minimize that long stride. BTW, Mike Lowell did a thing on MLB the other day talking about hitters who get off-balance and turn out and leave anything on the outer third of the plate virtually unhittable – he used Pedro Alvarez as an example. Hope Pedro has video on that segment.

      • LOL.

        Has Charlie Lau ever watched Jose Bautista hit baseballs? That kind of antiquated coaching will eventually be a thing of the past. Hitting

  • Saw your tweet regarding ” fake news “. Gutsy stuff that would more than likely offend some of your followers. But you have my support.

    • I have respected Tim since before this blog started when I read his comments on the BD blog and I have been an avid follower of this site since it started but I have to say I was more hurt then offended by his comments. Not that I one way or another cared what his politics are as long as the owner of this site he would remain neutral but I guess now that this site has become so successful and the vast majority of his customers lean a certain way he can afford to offend whomever he wishes.

      • Two questions:

        1. Why did you think my comment was political? All it did was criticize a cable news network, and not a political party. The fact that criticizing a cable news network is considered “political” shows how much of a joke that news network is. If it makes you feel better, I’d replace FOX with CNN or MSNBC.

        2. Why would you feel personally hurt or offended by my criticism of a cable news network? I’m assuming you watch it, but if you criticized a show or TV station I watched, I wouldn’t be offended.

        • I’m too old to fight with you Tim.
          My days are numbered in days and months.
          What happens in the future doesn’t matter in my life.
          But I really care what happens to this country.
          I just despise the sharp witted sarcastic liberal people who take the freedoms they have for granted while all the time undermining the laws that give them this freedom.
          I keep thinking about that quote ” Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.
          This liberal ideology without restraints with it’s P,C. correctness is a form of censorship that allows in the future people to be incarcerated for speaking out against the government.
          Yeah Fox

          • I’m not fighting with you. Just having a debate. And we seem to be talking about different things. You’re talking about politics. I’m talking about a news network in general, which should have nothing to do with politics.

            • Tim: For many Conservatives, the Fox Network is thought to be the only legitimate news agency for intelligent, patriotic americans. Pittsburgh is liberal, Florida is fairly split, but did you not originate in the home of conservatism – Virginia?

              Been on here for 3 or 4 years, and this is the first mention of politics that I have seen, and thankfully so!

              • I’ve lived in central PA, Virginia (in an area that was extremely conservative), and now Florida (I think my area votes more Democrat). I don’t really identify with either party, and have voted for both parties. I also hate talking politics, because people are so divided on the issues that it’s pointless. So that’s why you don’t see me talking about it much.

                But this wasn’t politics.

            • I did love Stewart’s poking at Fox the other day showing their pundits bemoaning the fact Obama was a tyrant meanwhile lauding other middle eastern leaders for their “more aggressive than Obama” approaches to ISIS. They call Obama a tyrant, then say he isn’t decisive enough. Which one is it? I don’t mean to make it political but it was in the context of Jon Stewart’s segment…which was hilarious…he didn’t even need to make a joke…Fox did it all themselves. It was all footage of what they were actually saying. In the same show they also had a guy saying Obama doesn’t do enough against ISIS while running a graphic showing that the US is doing 80% of the attacks them on the right of the screen. I think Fox reports straight news ok but their opinion shows are on another plain as far as inaccuracy goes. Those people are ghouls praying on the misinformed and their emotions. But Keith Olbermann does it too on the other side.

          • So, two wrongs make a right? It is acceptable that Fox News operates as right-wing propaganda to counter left-wing propaganda?
            .
            Is it okay to lie and distort the truth to counter left-wing propaganda? Where do we draw the line? Ah, but Fox News doesn’t lie and distort the truth right? How would you know though, if any criticism of Fox News is treated as political liberal propaganda? Is Fox News held accountable if it lies or distorts the truth? If yes, who holds Fox News accountable then and if no, what stops Fox News from fabricating the news to suit their agenda?

            • Not to mention all these rich Tea Partiers and the Coke brothers and other rich super-conservatives that create puppet organizations to propagate conservative agenda disguised as news. They are far scarier than Fox. I feel sorry for those that take the bait. I have a friend I grew up with that has become ultra-conservative out of fear the world is falling apart and because he got religious. He is unrecognizable as the person I grew up with…it’s scary how people can drift too far to either side of the spectrum rather than realize the truth is usually somewhere closer to the middle.

              • I like the idea of talking a little politics once and awhile…problem is there is always someone who can’t have an open mind and have a normal conversation about it. It pertains to this site too…or any other blog…some people are always on the offensive and miss the point that these are all opinions…and everyone’s mostly thought out but also often flawed opinions combined somehow get us closer to the real truth…it’s actually a beautiful process when there is not some lunatic out there making everyone else shut down.

          • Too far Liberal or Conservative when it comes to news…it is all propaganda…supporting either completely makes no sense. To watch Fox news to get away from what you feel are lies on another news source is irrational.

        • I wasn’t personally offended by any of those comments at all. But having been on the receiving end of comments from some folks I know would find your criticism of that certain network offensive, I thought I was actually complimenting you.

          • That’s how I took your comment. There were some people who were offended by the tweet. Then there were a lot of people who RTed or favorited the tweet, so I guess I wasn’t alone with the thought.

            • Fine. No, you certainly aren’t alone, and I wanted to let you know without really poking the hornet’s nest….which is darned near impossible any more in our country.

        • LIBTERDZrDANGEROUS
          February 16, 2015 7:18 pm

          Of course it was political. Most leftists reference FNC in a disparaging manner. Do you believe that most traditional media is not liberal? The hypocrisy is jaw dropping. Just stick to baseball. It’s better for business.

  • Get better Tim, Spring Training is right around the corner.

  • Ok,

    For 2.5 million he better start hitting like he did in the past as well.

  • Worley is a bargain at two and half mil. As far as hurt feelings, would not matter if there was the Pirates have to pay him and he has to perform, nobody takes their hurt feelings to the mound and gets shelled because they are mad at the team. The Pirates are not likely to be mad, if they are, they can trade him anytime, there is probably a lot of teams that like pitchers that are 8-4 under .3 era.

  • Tim:

    Do the $90M in Payroll include the $5M posting fee for Kang? Seems to me it should be included!
    I live in Guatemala, and following your site is Priceless! JRI

  • Does a player ever really “lose” in arbitration cases?

    • Pedro’s case this year proves that no, a player never loses….as long as they don’t hit .170 with 0 homers.

  • The fact that the Pirates offered arbitration says to Worley and any of the other guys the Pirates want them. The union and the owners set the rules.

  • Great feature running on MLB Network about the Pirates developmental system – all the good stuff (‘Cutch, Cole, Walker, Alvarez) highlighting the Academy in the Dominican, and the program of using the amateur draft or signing Intl FA’s and developing them into ML Caliber players and pitchers. Larry Broadway, Director of Minor League Ops is interviewed and asked questions by Brian Kenny, John Hine, Mike Lowell, etc. They even go into the reclamation projects the Pirates have turned around. Must see for any Pirate Fan

  • I would imagine only players are upset after losing arbitration. It’s not like it’s coming out of NH’s pocket after all.

    • Scott: I think they all understand the process and put a little fat into the asking price. On most of the Arb’s I have seen, the team will counter with an offer that is close to that submitted by the player. In Worley’s case, if he was not a Super 2, I doubt the Pirates would have gone to Arb. But since they have to go through this exercise 3 more times, they may have wanted to leave something in the players memory. Could also be a softening up for a long term contract. What better way to get both sides together?

      • I agree players try to bump there number a little. As for extending Worley, he’s going to have to continue pitching as well as he did last season for this entire year before that’s a consideration.

      • if he was not Super 2, no arbitration and he gets the league minimum

  • Hope ya feel better tim.

  • Brian O'Donnell
    February 11, 2015 12:31 am

    I would love to see how this effects the relationship between the GM and the player. Does NH go to Worley and say “Congratulations” or is it kind of cold. I would think that NH would shake hands and take the high road. Anyway. I, too, am happy for Vance and glad that he is a Pirate.

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