This site is now in its seventh year of existence. For the last four years, I’ve been doing this full-time, allowing me to see every affiliate throughout the year, along with a trip to instructs. By the end of each year, I’ve seen every player in the US part of the system, including the recent draft picks. And in that time, there has never been a player I’ve known less about than Connor Joe.

I’m probably not alone on that. Joe went down with a back injury last year, almost immediately after joining the Jamestown Jammers. I reported the injury back in July, and that, plus the information that came with his selection in the draft and his stock photo from Jamestown, was all I had on him. He was drafted as an outfielder, and the Pirates said he could play first base as well. There was a report that he would get work behind the plate during instructs, but when instructs came around, he wasn’t playing.

So my goal in the early part of minor league camp was to catch up with Joe and see how serious his back injury was, and what kind of plans the Pirates had for him. I talked with him on Tuesday, and talked with Larry Broadway this afternoon about his progress. I also got some video of his workouts today, although there is a disclaimer on that part (more below). The video of both interviews, along with some action from Joe can be seen below.

He not only missed the entire season after throwing his back out, but he also missed all of instructs. That put the plans to have him catch on hold, since that wouldn’t be a good move with his back problems. He’s fully healthy now, but the Pirates are limiting him in the early part of camp as they try to build him up. He took some swings off a tee in the batting cages, but didn’t take batting practice on the field with the rest of his group. He also didn’t participate in base running drills.

Joe did participate in infield drills, and the most notable thing was that he was taking grounders at third base, in addition to his work at first base. He played five positions in college, including some third base, but he was at first base more often. He looked better at first base than he did at third base. His footwork was good at both spots, although his glove wasn’t as smooth at third. He wasn’t making the throws to second or to first during the ground ball drills, but was throwing at first base on the flips to the first base bag.

The Pirates drafted him for the bat and the power, as outlined by Broadway in the video below. If he does end up having a power bat, then he could play first base. However, the Pirates are very thin in their system at third base, which would make that a much better spot for him, if he can handle it. It would be even better than the plan to get him work behind the plate, since the Pirates already have Reese McGuire, Jin-De Jhang, Taylor Gushue, and Kevin Krause as catching options in full season A-ball.

It’s still too early to tell where Joe will start the season. My guess right now would be West Virginia. That makes the most sense from a rehab standpoint, since it would be an easier transition for him back to the game after so much time off. It would also make sense from a position standpoint. I currently project Wyatt Mathisen at third base in Bradenton, and Edwin Espinal at first base. Those assignments haven’t been made, but that seems likely for each player. Meanwhile, West Virginia would just have Chase Simpson as a 1B/3B option, leaving open the possibility that he and Joe could spend the season switching back and forth between those spots. This would put Joe on a “JaCoby Jones” type plan, where he spends time at a lower level, but gets work in at a position that would be more valuable in the long-term.

Here is the video on Joe:

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16 COMMENTS

  1. Nice feature, Tim. Nobody else out there doing this kind of quality work on the Pirates.

    While power development would certainly help Joe’s game, the Pirates were dangerously close last winter to paying seven figures for a first basemen who just posted an ISO that would’ve ranked 16th among all qualified *shortstops*. I don’t have any delusions of Joe turning into a star, and maybe that’s an indictment of a supplemental R1 pick in itself. But I think there’s plenty of opportunity for Joe to save the org money as a quality bat that can play multiple position for league min followed by at least a few cheap arb years. And there most certainly is value in that.

    I think one can still reasonably argue the round in which the Pirates took Joe, but that to me is an argument that quickly fades after the draft year. Nobody goes back and complains that a guy who turned into a quality big leaguer should’ve been picked in the 100-150 range instead of the 30s.

  2. Although it has nothing to do with the player – Connor Joe is probably a great kid and a fine young man – but I did not like the pick at all. Primarily for three reasons – (1) it seemed like a reach in that slot, and it came on the heels of what appeared to be the Pirates reaching in their earlier pick for Tucker, (2) Joe did not seem to have a position – when he was drafted, the Pirates said he was an outfielder, and (3) I thought there were players still available who seemed to be more highly rated and played positions of greater need in the organization (first base, third base, shortstop).

    Obviously, being a Pirates fan, I hope he proves me wrong. I do like that he is playing first and third now. If he can stick at one of those positions and hit for power and average, he will be a promising prospect.

    • Seems like the Pirates’ scouts saw a bat that they liked alot. Where he might play defensively bore little if no consideration. That approach can work out if the player is athletic enough. Consider Neil Walker, C to 3RD to 2ND, and he’s carving out a decent career. It should be fascinating to see how Conner works out.

      • Certainly more so with Jung-Ho Kang, but I think to a degree Connor Joe and Cole Tucker will say a lot about the org’s current aptitude for scouting and development of hitters.

        All three bats came with plenty of question marks, but as you said of Joe, I don’t think there’s any doubt the Pirates specifically saw something in them others didn’t.

    • Im guessing the took him for his bat alone, and figured they could get him into a spot since he had played so many. Possible OFer, ability to play 1B and maybe 3B with time. Good enough bat to develop somewhat quickly and saved a bit of money to be used elsewhere.

  3. Tim – Nice report. Great to finally learn something about this guy. I like the idea of getting him to 3B. As an aside, what’s with the “Embrace the Suck” on the Pirates Mental Conditoning poster over Joe’s left shoulder during the interview? I can’t make out the small print.

    • Embrace the Suck is a common Army (and probably across all military branches) saying. For the Pirates, I guess it’s meant to remind the players that they gotta put in a lot of grueling and no-fun work in order to play, so they might as well embrace it.

    • Pretty common term used in sports. I had a HS basketball coach use it, and my college baseball coach say it during the most evil of conditioning days. Sometimes it was “enjoy the suck” but same idea, you gotta appreciate the times that aint all that fun to get better.

  4. Thanks for the update Tim. The kid looks strong, but the fact they are easing him into the game at ST makes me think he has some continuing physical impairments. He has a very limited window, so I wonder how long he will be limited to hitting off a Tee and doing non-throwing fielding drills. Has he been released to play?

    • yep…I gotta admit that I had no idea he was of Asian heritage….not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. 🙂

      • I’m surprised as I’m sure most of us are lol.
        After listening to his interview apparently he was born or came here young.
        Tim, I’d be curious to know more of his background story. Is he of Chinese, Korean, Japanese heritage etc.

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