First Pitch: Two Cases Where Super Two and Service Time Don’t Matter

Today I had my weekly radio segment on ESPN 970 with David Todd. We discussed several prospect-related items in the upper levels, mostly focusing on Tyler Glasnow and Josh Bell. We then spent a lot of time discussing the upcoming roster decisions for the Pirates, following up on David’s article today that broke down who might be added when rosters expand. I’ll probably take a look at the same subject next week when the roster situation gets a bit more clear, as right now it’s complex. That said, David did a good job breaking it down at this point.

Before I get to the main point of tonight’s article, here is the full interview:

One of the things we discussed is whether the Pirates would call up Elias Diaz and/or Alen Hanson. They are both top prospects (we have them both top ten in the system), and if they were brought up, they’d both be in bench roles. And of course, when you talk about calling up prospects in September, two issues come up: service time and Super Two.

I’m going to assume that I don’t need to go into detail on those two issues, but I will give a quick refresher. Teams have control of a player for six full seasons, but if a team waits a few weeks, they basically get a seventh year of control. Thus, if a player was called up in September, the team would either have to keep him down until mid-May in 2016 to get an extra year, or their “extra year” would actually just be an extra month. As for Super Two, it boils down to a player likely getting an extra year of arbitration, replacing a league minimum year, if he is brought up before June. However, this wouldn’t apply if he was brought up in September and remained in the majors for good.

In the podcast, I discussed how it would make sense for the Pirates to bring up Diaz and Hanson this year. They both have similar situations — they could be assets in September, they could be starters in the near future, but neither would be locked in the long-term plans when you consider the makeup of the organization, and the Pirates don’t have to worry about Super Two or years of control as much with these guys.

Let’s start with those last two first. Diaz could be the catcher of the future, but he won’t be the starter or a backup on Opening Day next year, as the team has Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart under control. So keeping him down until mid-May probably isn’t going to be an issue, in order to regain that extra year of control. He also profiles as a potential starter, but not an elite player, which means the Super Two impact wouldn’t be big.

Hanson probably wouldn’t be up at the start of the year next year, unless the Pirates traded Neil Walker this off-season. Even then, they could use Josh Harrison at second base. And like Diaz, he’s not a guy who would make a ton as a Super Two player. But let’s just say they did bring Hanson up on September 1st, then kept him in the majors for the following six seasons. The downside to this is that they’d lose him to free agency after the 2021 season. If they brought him up for the first time a few weeks into the 2016 season, then they’d have him under control through the 2022 season. So that’s what is at risk: 2022.

If you’re talking about a potential ace like Tyler Glasnow, then 2022 is an important consideration. In Hanson’s case, it’s not a big deal, and that is mostly due to the talent the Pirates have throughout their organization. They have Max Moroff in Altoona this year, along with Adam Frazier. They’ve got Erich Weiss who just made the jump to Double-A. Then they have several high round middle infielders from the last two years in A-ball, including Kevin Newman and Cole Tucker, the last two first round picks. In short, they’ve got a ton of options to find a replacement for Hanson before 2022. They might even be able to replace him well before that season, opting to go with a league minimum guy when Hanson reaches arbitration.

You could make the same argument for Diaz. Just like Hanson, I think Diaz could be a starter for the next few years and beyond. But just like Hanson’s situation, the Pirates have a potential replacement that would allow them to deal Diaz early. That replacement is Reese McGuire, who might cut Diaz’s time as a starter in Pittsburgh short. This is nothing against Diaz or Hanson. It’s just illustrating the strength of the system and how the Pirates don’t have to play the Super Two game with guys who don’t project to be top MLB players at their positions.

Chances are, the Super Two and years of control issues for Diaz and Hanson will be issues for other teams. The Pirates probably aren’t going to have to deal with the extra money from Super Two, or the lost year by bringing a guy up early, as they’ll be moving on to McGuire, Newman, Tucker, Kevin Kramer, or someone who might not even be in the system right now (Hanson broke out in 2012 and Diaz broke out last year, so plenty can happen in the next six years).

Then we’ve got the subject of whether you’d want to bring Hanson or Diaz up right now. I think it makes more sense for Diaz. The Pirates will need an extra catcher, and Diaz is the best option they have. I’d bring him up before Tony Sanchez for the third catcher spot, just because I trust his defense more.

As for Hanson, Ryan Palencer broke down his recent struggles this week. You might be able to chalk that up to him pressing to try and get into the majors. But the key thing is that he’s not playing well right now. There’s also the fact that Hanson seems to struggle at every level when he first comes up, so he might not be much help. At the same time, that might be a benefit for the long-term, since this would allow him to get adjusted in an easier role before he moves into a starting role in the future.

The biggest issue with Hanson would be a lack of need. Diaz has a need, as the Pirates would be looking for a third catcher. Hanson would be the number three option at the least on the depth chart at every position. He’d be behind Neil Walker and Josh Harrison at second base. He’d fall behind Jordy Mercer and Jung-ho Kang at shortstop. There’s Kang and Harrison at third. I’d hope he would be ahead of Sean Rodriguez, at least at second base. But without Rodriguez, you’ve got four players for three spots, which means someone would need to get benched twice per week in order for Hanson to get a start per week. In short, there isn’t a lot of playing time available.

That doesn’t mean that Hanson couldn’t be used as a role player. He could be used for his speed, as a left-handed bat off the bench (he’s a switch hitter, but the Pirates have a bigger need for lefties), or as a late inning replacement if the Pirates get creative with their in-game roster moves (although he has shown strong defense at second base this year, so he could be a defensive replacement for Walker).

Overall, I wouldn’t even consider the Super Two or service time factors for Diaz and Hanson. The only consideration is whether they’d be needed. I’d say yes for Diaz, and maybe for Hanson, with the disclaimer that you’d be bringing up a prospect who is currently struggling in Triple-A, all for an extremely small role that wouldn’t make a big impact. With that consideration, they’re probably not losing much value if they go with Pedro Florimon again over Hanson (assuming Florimon clears waivers). But if they wanted to call up Hanson, it wouldn’t be the worst move in the world, even if the move would have more value to his development than to the September standings.

**Pirates Shutout Giants Behind Charlie Morton’s Dominant Performance. Pete Ellis takes a look at Charlie Morton’s struggles and then recent success against left-handers.

**Prospect Watch: Strong Start From Brault, Tarpley Struggles Through Outing. Indianapolis was postponed due to rain. Otherwise Travis Snider would have made his debut on the same night that Brault and Tarpley pitched.

**Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer Could Return This Weekend. Some interesting roster decisions would be sure to follow.

**An Adjustment to Josh Bell’s Leg Kick is Leading to Big Results. Great article from Ryan Palencer looking at the adjustment Bell made, which could be the source of his recent power surge.

**What Has Led to the Turnaround From Arquimedes Caminero? Sean McCool writes about how Caminero has turned things around recently, leading to him being one of the best relievers on the team lately.

**Morning Report: Putting This Season Into Historical Perspective. John Dreker breaks down the 2015 season with some historical context.


  • Tim – what are the implications if one of those guys is promoted in Sept, but then back in Indy next year to start the season? Is their free agent clock automatically trigger now regardless? How about super 2? Couldnt the Pirates just keep them in the minors a little longer than necessary to avoid super 2? Thanks

  • This year’s AAA playoffs should be a showcase for this class of prospects: Bell, Glasnow, Garcia, Diaz, Hansen, etc. You can always call-up Diaz and Hansen once Indy is eliminated, but I just do not see the playing time available to warrant 30 days on the MLB roster. But, a AAA championship could bond this group like Altoona championship team of Mercer, Harrison, Locke, Hughes.

  • The Pirates now being a hundred million dollar baseball club should render *most* position player Super 2 discussions moot. They have plenty of money to pay all but a true superstar in that fourth year of arb, and I think there’s legitimate benefit in giving a just-promoted prospect those two extra months of big league action to adjust. For a team in contention, an additional 150-200 PA can be a difference maker when evaluating whether or not a kid is ready to contribute during the stretch run.

    But as far as starting pitchers go, I really don’t think there’s much practical use for bringing a kid up before Super 2. In the end, we’re talking about the first eight or so starts of a pitcher’s career. If your ballclub can’t make up those appearances reasonably well with depth starters, then you don’t actually have any and your problems are much, much bigger than Super 2.

  • I’m going to dissent. If it’s a choice between Diaz and Sanchez, I think Tony should come up. Despite his defensive weaknesses compared to Diaz, Tony’s been up here, knows the pitchers, wouldn’t be intimidated, has a bat that plays at the MLB level and let’s face it, would probably be playing for his professional future at this point. Plus, it seems like defensively he’s gotten better over the past couple of months. He’s still an asset that should have at least some trade value as a backup catcher for some team.

  • David Kevin Coleman
    August 21, 2015 10:00 am

    The trade value of both would be enhanced if they had extra years of control and/or minimum salaries. I don’t agree that these are not considerations.

    • I thought about addressing the trade value aspect, but didn’t want to get into a hypothetical trade value several years down the road. And I don’t think that’s a big enough factor for the Pirates to consider right now.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    August 21, 2015 8:27 am

    I think the Pirates need to try to move Sanchez, if they can. He is long past being a prospect, he really has no future in Pittsburgh (unless we lose 2-3 catchers to injury), and he’s been passed by Diaz – with 2-3 younger catchers coming up through the system. He needs an opportunity elsewhere.

    • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. He’s still the #4 catcher in the organization. It doesn’t seem worthwhile to cut him lose, just because

    • Isn’t he a minor league free agent after this year?

      • I believe the Pirates retain his rights next year, but he is out of options, so he would have to make the team out of spring training and remain on the 25-man all year.

        • That seems extremely unlikely barring an injury…that being said, what IS his future? Especially if Diaz were to be brought up ahead of him…

          • Trade bait. Someone would give up a little something for him.

            • Why? He’s got questionable defense, an inconsistent bat. Not enough bat to move to 1B, not young enough to learn a new spot and get multiple quality years from him.

              He’ll land somewhere, but likely after being released and signed to a minor league deal.

    • So, attempt to trade a guy with no value? At most the Pirates would get cash or some organizational filler, so they might as well hang on to Sanchez instead.

  • If the Pirates are concerned about Super Two status, Hanson seems like they type of prospect to be less concerned about, as opposed to someone like the player Neil Walker became.

    • Unless Hanson puts it all together and becomes a pretty good top of the order guy (that IS his potential). Then, we’ll be regretting the time we brought him up in Sept?

      As for those coming up behind him, Moroff doesn’t excite me. He seems to be more of a utility player at this point.

      But, I could be wrong. 🙂

      • I think a best case scenario is Hanson is similar to Walker, where he gets expensive his last 2-ish years if he hits his best case scenario but we get 5 years of good to okay price for a good player.

  • I doubt very much Hanson is called up unless they lose Florimon. And only then will he be inserted as a PR.

    I agree w Tim about Diaz over Sanchez. I think it’s nearly certain he’s called up after Indy season is complete.