The Pirates will be sending a talented group to the Arizona Fall League this off-season, highlighted by two of their best prospects, Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire. The AFL is mostly made up of upper level talent, which will be a challenge for both players. Meadows is currently in Altoona, and just finished the season in the Eastern League playoffs. McGuire finished the year with Bradenton, and didn’t get a promotion to Double-A.
Prior to today’s game, Neal Huntington discussed the decision to send both players to the Fall League.
“Austin is a very advanced player overall, and felt that he was absolutely ready,” Huntington said. “In Reese’s case, it’s going to be a push for him offensively, but it will allow his defense to continue to grow and develop. He’ll catch some better and more experienced arms. The offense is definitely ahead of the pitching in Arizona – it always is. Teams don’t always send their pitchers out there so typically it is more the position players that go into the league. We just thought it would be great for both guys to get out there and face some older competition to make a good next step to their development.”
McGuire didn’t have as good of a season in Bradenton as Meadows, posting a .254/.301/.294 line in 374 at-bats. Offense typically comes slower for catchers, especially strong defensive catchers who put so much focus on their pitching staff and defensive development. McGuire shows the tools needed to be a good hitter, with a line drive stroke and the ability to make solid contact with the barrel of the bat. However, that hasn’t translated to the stat lines on a consistent basis.
You can expect Meadows to start in Altoona next year, and this assignment will give him more of an opportunity against upper level guys. It would be very aggressive for McGuire to go to Altoona at the start of the year, although good results in the AFL, along with a solid performance in Spring Training, could help give him that push. He does a good job with his pitching staff, and gets a lot of good reviews from the upper level pitchers he has caught in the past. If anything, this assignment will continue that trend.
On the pitching side, the Pirates are sending Steven Brault to the AFL after a big breakout season. The lefty was promoted to Altoona mid-season, and responded with a 2.00 ERA in 90 innings with the Curve. He did pitch 155.2 innings this year, plus his additional 4.2 innings in the post-season. However, there wasn’t a huge jump over his 146.1 innings last year, and the Pirates felt he had some innings remaining.
“Our thought at this time was to maybe just gain some extra innings – maybe out of the bullpen a little to give him some experience there,” Huntington said. “It will continue to add some innings against better competition. He’ll be able to face some quality hitters out there and continue his next step in development rather than just going to the instructional league.”
Brault has shown the ability to be a future starter in the majors, although his upside would be a back of the rotation guy, with the most likely outcome being a solid number four starter. So don’t expect the bullpen work to change his upside in the short-term.
“We want him to be challenged and go out and get some experience and exposure out of the bullpen,” Huntington said. “It’s different out there. The bullpen is very different than it is in a real game because they pretty much know you got the sixth inning, so they go through the routine as opposed to the minor leagues. You pretty much know when you are going to pitch. It’s still a good controlled environment to get guys some bullpen experience. One thing – we still see him as a starter. I don’t want it to run that Brault will be our lefty reliever next year. We still see him as a starter. It’s just an opportunity to get him experience.”
Jameson Taillon Arrives at Instructs
The Pirates sent Jameson Taillon and all of their other rehab players home for a break at the end of the season, with all of the players expected to return for the Fall Instructional League. Taillon returned today, according to Huntington, and could get some innings during the instructs season.
“He’s getting back down there today, and he’ll continue his throwing program,” Huntington said. “If the program continues to go well, ideally, we’ll get him a handful of innings. I don’t see us stretching him out. I don’t see us building him back up again. We just want to get him back on the mound and get him back competing. Then, we will shut him down for a ‘normal’ offseason so that he comes into camp next year ready to go – so that there are no issues in the back of his mind about his body. He’s competed and he’s gone out and had some success hopefully. He’ll go into offseason mode then come into camp ready to go.”
There has been a lot of talk about how Taillon hasn’t “pitched” all year. That’s true in terms of the box scores. But Taillon was pitching all season in extended Spring Training, and then was ready to pitch in the Gulf Coast League on rehab before his hernia surgery. He should be ready to go on Opening Day 2016 for Indianapolis, and could be an option for the Pirates by the middle of the season.
Other Prospect Notes
**Huntington on Tyler Glasnow’s continued work with Indianapolis:
“You hope that he continues to understand the importance of fastball command. While his fastball is special, he does need to command it, and work ahead in the count, and the importance of the changeup as he begins to face better hitters and they begin to isolate the fastball and breaking ball. The value of the changeup, you hope that he begins to understand how he belongs and how great he can be if we continue to help him grow.
**Huntington on Indianapolis in the playoffs, and Dean Treanor’s role:
“I think Dean Treanor just does a fantastic job there, and the whole staff, our whole staff there. Nobody wants to be in Triple-A. Every veteran player feels like somebody shortchanged them somewhere and he should be in the big leagues, and every young player can’t wait to get to the big leagues, so without a shadow of a doubt it’s the most challenging level. Dean does a great job of keeping those guys focused, and it’s fun to watch them celebrate each other much like the guys up here celebrate each other. And to have that down in Triple-A is a testament to that staff. It’s also a testament to those guys. We’ve called up some guys, and there are some guys down there that I’m sure feel like they should be in the big leagues, and it’s a never-ending battle of ego. And yet guys continue to work hard because they want to get to the big leagues, and if their opportunity is not here, hopefully it will be somewhere else. But quality players, quality staff, a great facility, that front office is great to us, and it’s a great place for those players to play as well.”
**Yesterday I wrote about how Jung-ho Kang has opened the door for other players out of the Korean Baseball League, including Byung-ho Park. Huntington talked about their approach to Asian scouting after Kang’s success.
“We’ve talked about if there are ways to grow our foreign professional scouting departments, because right now, the department isn’t much more than a handful of people with some dual duty in terms of amateur and professional. We’ve talked a lot about wanting to be in a position to acquire talent in many different ways and needing to be in a position to acquire that talent. Our challenge is, with Kang’s success, the price will now go up, as has been done with the Cuban players and basically every market. You need to be realistic about which markets you can play in. We’ve done our due diligence in Korea, and we are aware of who might come out. We’ve seen the players that we need to. We’ve seen the players in Japan that we need to see. We’ve seen the Cuban players that we need to see. It’s a matter of where the market goes, and in Kang’s case, we set the market. We were the club that was willing to spend more money than any other club in baseball to get him. We’ve not had that same fortune in some of the other markets. We’ve been in a position to be able to do it, but we just haven’t been as successful as we have with Kang.”