It might be difficult to surpass the talent that the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted in 2011. Not only did they land Gerrit Cole and Josh Bell in the top two rounds that year, but they also drafted breakout pitching prospect Tyler Glasnow, and other talented pitching prospects like Clay Holmes and Jason Creasy. If there is one other Pirates’ draft that could match the potential success of the 2011 group, it would have to be the 2013 draft.
The Pirates entered that draft armed with two picks in the top half of the first round, due to the compensation pick they received for not signing Mark Appel. They ended up going for upside, selecting Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire with the 9th and 14th overall picks, respectively. They also selected JaCoby Jones, Cody Dickson, Chad Kuhl, and a few projectable players currently in the lower levels. This list doesn’t include players who have been traded, such as Blake Taylor (for Ike Davis), Buddy Borden (for Sean Rodriguez), and Shane Carle (for Rob Scahill).
There is a lot of potential for success here, but the real impact comes with Meadows and McGuire. As I reported this week, both hitters made adjustments to their swings this off-season. Meadows lowered his hands, so that he could add more power. McGuire also lowered his hands to try and remove his bat wrap, while also adding 15 pounds of muscle.
Both hitters made similar adjustments with their hands, so I wanted to see if that was a common approach the Pirates were taking with all hitters, or just a coincidence with these two. I asked Pirates’ Minor League Hitting Coordinator Larry Sutton about this, since he worked with both players during the Fall Instructional Leagues on the changes. Sutton said that the similarity with the two cases was getting the hitters to a strong hitting position.
“As we individually evaluate each hitter, every hitter is different,” Sutton said. “They all have different hitting personalities. There is no cookie cut way that we do things. Ultimately, if we can get hitters in a consistent, strong hitting position, now it’s just a matter of how can we get from there.”
Sutton pointed out that McGuire’s adjustment was made to get rid of his bat wrap. The adjustment for Meadows was due to his hands being too high last year, preventing him from squaring balls up. He actually came into Spring Training with his hands too low this year, and had to adjust them back to the new spot.
“The idea is, with young hitters if we can minimize movements — whether it’s a big leg kick or a big stride — and we see that 93 and 94 is giving them trouble, then we just start talking about the possibilities of minimizing movements,” Sutton said. “When we make just a small adjustment in their set-up, where their hands are at, it just helps them to be just a little bit shorter to get into that strong hitting position.”
Meadows has a ton of power potential, and could be a starting outfielder for any team, including the Pirates. You can envision a scenario where it might make more sense for the Pirates to go with Meadows and let Andrew McCutchen walk, assuming Meadows reaches his potential. That’s not to say that Meadows will be as good as McCutchen. It’s just saying Meadows could be good enough that the Pirates would be better off going with him, rather than spending $25 M per year for what could be McCutchen’s declining years.
McGuire has plus defense behind the plate, and if he learns to hit, he’ll be an All-Star catcher in the majors. The current “catcher of the future” is Elias Diaz, although McGuire has more upside, and would supplant Diaz, especially if the bat picks up.
We’ve seen the Pirates have success with their young, projectable pitching prospects, making adjustments to help them reach their potential. There has also been success developing young, projectable hitters, although it’s not on the same level yet. Meadows and McGuire could be two big success stories if the new adjustments work and help them reach their offensive potential.
**I’ve been working on an article this weekend that might be one of my best articles in this site’s history. It started with a question in the weekly Q&A, expanded into it’s own article after I started breaking down video and creating GIFs, and really took on a life of its own after two very candid and very detailed interviews. The best thing is that this article is a culmination of conversations I’ve had with one specific player about one specific adjustment over the last four years. So going into the article, there was already a lot of background on the subject, which really allowed things to take off. I’m hoping to have the article up tomorrow, but it might be delayed until Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on whether I feel it needs one final piece of information.
**We have less than 100 paperback books of the 2015 Prospect Guide remaining from the final shipment. I don’t anticipate ordering another shipment this year. That means once the current batch is gone, the paperback version will be sold out. You can order your copy of the book on the products page of the site.
**Every day I upload content on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and the video features on YouTube. Be sure that you’re subscribed to all of those sites to follow everything we upload throughout Spring Training (there is different content for each social media site).