Prospect Notebook: Meadows, McGuire, Brault, Taillon, Glasnow, Korean Scouting

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.”

  • Look at who the Pirates signed in the international market this year and where they are from. Are they geniuses or is it that the Dominican agents don’t trust them? The Bucs need to spend more to get top Latin American talent. They should blow through the cap in 2016 and pick up some top prospects. So what if they get can’t sign anyone for two years for more than $300,000 they don’t want to go that high on anyone anyway.

    • I’m not quite as big on absolutes as you, but I do think there’s still quite a bit of cognitive dissonance surrounding the club’s Latin American talent acquisition.

      -Gayo is so good, he doesn’t need to sign high dollar picks…even though the only good prospect he’s signed since Polanco is Harold Ramirez, a seven-figure player. I’m not at all comfortable resting on laurels of 6, 7, 8 years ago when so much is changing in the industry.

      -Scouting 16 year olds is impossible so it doesn’t make sense to spend big money on them, yet folks will tell you that Gayo is such a good scout that he doesn’t need to target the industry-consensus best players. This one just blows my mind.

      -The reason the Pirates don’t sign top prospects is that they’re now capped and the penalties are severe. Again, makes little sense considering the overwhelming majority of the guys they sign don’t even break the penalty limit.

      I think if the Pirates and everyone else were being honest they’d tell you that the real reason their philosophy has changed over the years is that Latin America is a dirty, convoluted market and they believe they have a better chance of signing as many kids as possible in the hopes of getting lucky than they do of working the dark corners that result in deals for top players.

  • I am curious how many innings they consider Taillon pitching this year. Or maybe more to the point how many they will allow him to pitch next year.
    No matter what they do, I doubt he will be available for the playoffs if the Buccos extend their streak.

    • 12. definitely 12. so he should be able to get stretched out to about 17 next year. if things go right, he should be able to pitch a full season about the same age that Doug Bair made his Pirates Debut back in the early 90s

  • Can you say Miguel Sano, Neal???? A big one who got away for peanuts (over what the PBC seemed willing to pay), although the Bucs were in on the early bidding Minnesota snagged him at the end, when another $200K OR $300K may have gotten him.

    • The brilliant Maloni has spoken ! What a gem of baseball wisdom that was.

    • meatygettingsaucy
      September 13, 2015 10:45 pm

      I feel like spending my life savings and purchasing bill board space all over Pittsburgh just to explain the Sano situation and how it was Sano’s agent who did not offer the Pirates a chance to make a counter offer, thus leading him to signing with the Twins.

      • mgs : Giving Maloni the facts is like shining a light in a human eye. The brighter the light, the more the pupil closes.

    • I would highly recommend watching “Pelotero”, a documentary chronicling the signing process around Miguel Sano and Jean Carlos Batista.

      Let’s just say that Rene Gayo certainly did himself no favors during the process. He’s portrayed on hidden camera in a particularly unflattering light. It wasn’t a money issue. Gayo tried to strong-arm him into shutting things down and entering into a handshake deal prior to the July 2 deadline and more or less shattered the relationship.

      99% of Dominican kids agree to deals before the J2 deadline. It’s just how it works. Kevin Maitan agreed to a deal with the Braves before THIS year’s J2 deadline, and he isn’t eligible to sign until 7/2/2016. Gayo tried to get Sano to do the same, it didn’t work. Isht happens.

      • I find it somewhat ironic that this narrative gets distributed about how Gayo and the Pirate int’l scouts are so good that they don’t need to target top prospects when they severely muffed the process with the best kid they’ve ever scouted.

    • Oh no! We didn’t get Sano!

      The Bucs also drafted Brad Lincoln over Clayton Kershaw and Tony Sanchez instead of Mike Trout!

      The organization has fallen apart, it’ll never be a .500 ball club!

  • McGuire with the dreaded, OBP > SLG, catchers have relatively long and uneven development paths but everyone knows the offense needs to get better.

    • I’m not too worried about him…there’s still a lot of struggling he’d have to do before hitting the panic button is necessary.

      He’s 20, at High A, and is a catcher. Even if he has to repeat a year, he’s still making his debut at 23-24 and is a defensive whiz.

      If his defense holds, and he can hit .270 with 8-10 HR’s, he’ll be a solid contributor.

    • Serious contact quality issues with Mcguire. Three years of below average BABIP’s through the A-ball levels and almost a complete absence of power production isn’t a fluke.

      He needs to develop some semblance of plate discipline before the tools will actually play.

      • Has there been documented problems with his plate discipline? I hadn’t heard any from Tim and he watches all the games, did I just miss it?

        • I didn’t see any, and the stats didn’t show any. I think NMR might have been arguing that the consistency of hard contact wasn’t there. That’s what I saw. He can drive the ball hard sometimes, and does a good job of hitting to the gaps. He just doesn’t do this on a consistent basis.

          • I think NMR is assuming that the lack of hard contact is due to him swinging at anything he can get the bat on, versus swinging at pitches he can actually do something with. Have you witnessed any of that watching him Tim? Something like swinging at outside corner pitches on a 3-0 count or something like that

        • You can almost always assume any kid that can’t manage a 6% walk rate against A-ball pitchers swings at far too many bad pitches. Couple Mcguire’s poor contact quality with that low walk rate and it paints a picture of either a kid who’s so weak the bat is getting knocked out of his hands, or one who’s making contact against pitches he can’t drive.

          And yes, others have taken notice:

          “He’s aggressive, and because of his contact skills, it leads to as much poor contact as good…I originally thought that McGuire’s offense had the potential to be major-league average, which would make it well above average for his position, given his glove. But after further views, it projects more towards being average for a catcher. That still makes him a heck of a prospect, but unless he shows a little more aptitude in terms of driving the ball and making better contact, it limits his elite-level ceiling and keeps him more in line of becoming a major-league regular. – Jeff Moore”

          • I think he may be one of those hitters who has good understanding of the strike zone, but probably is conditioned to swing at anything he thinks is a strike. I say this, because that’s how i was for the 15 years I played. I wouldn’t let a strike go by, but I didn’t swing at balls out of the zone. I had great contact skills, but because I wouldnt wait for something I could drive, I hit a lot of weak balls, slapped a lot of balls to that short-3b hole. The good news is, that has nothing to do with talent and everything to do with mindset. He will grow into a more patient hitter, and will likely be a fantastic situational hitter because if he sets his mind on hitting a ball to move a player over, he will probably be able to do it.

        • “Some semblance of plate discipline” was probably overstated, but nothing about his profile suggests that he’s commanding the zone.

  • I think they would like to get Park, but Kang’s success put the sticker price out of their reach. Might not be a bad thing either.

    • Once again, Neal Huntington speaks candidly about management successes and failures. This guy is one of the very few GMs in professional sports who will give an honest interview. My perception is that as his track record has become more established, his confidence has also grown and he feels no need to be defensive about every move. His Sunday interviews are well worth tuning in to.