Today was the first day of mini camp, or what used to be known as mini camp. It’s actually called “voluntary workouts”, as it isn’t a required event for any player to attend. But “mini camp” is much easier to use, as people know what you’re referring to. We posted a partial list of players who were here in today’s open discussion thread, along with some notes.

In previous years, there would be a disproportionate reaction when players either attended or didn’t attend mini camp, with the idea that a lot actually takes place here. This is what actually took place today:

1. The players talked and caught up in the locker room.

2. The players, both position players and pitchers, had their throwing programs in the outfield.

3. The infielders came in and fielded ground balls.

4. A few groups took batting practice on the field, while other groups hit in the cages.

Basically, it’s a smaller version of the early days of Spring Training. The idea that mini camp will help someone learn a new position, or lead to big strides in some part of their game during the year, probably ignores that these workouts take about an hour. They won’t lead to a huge success. That said, the extra practice can’t hurt, as you’ll see in this video of John Jaso and Josh Bell fielding ground balls (the third player is Jake Goebbert).

Clearly there’s some work to be done with each player. I’ll have more on Jaso later this afternoon. I mostly followed Jaso and Bell around today, but here are some other notes and videos.

**Jung-ho Kang didn’t have his interpreter here today, so no detailed updates there. However, he did participate in his throwing program, and was walking around fine without the use of a brace. So that’s a positive sign. I’ll try to get more on Kang later this week, as his translator should be in town by the end of the week.

**Josh Bell incorporated a new leg kick into his swing, which we wrote about many times this year. He’s always looked great from the left side, but we’ve noted many times that his swing from the right side can look awkward and off-balanced, to the point where it becomes a two-part swing. The leg kick looks to have Bell much more stable, with easier movements as he shifts from his open stance to the load position. Bell starts open to see the ball earlier, but the Pirates want him getting to his back leg quicker to set up and drive the ball better. The current version of his swing is the best I’ve seen yet, and that includes from the right side. Check out the video:

It’s a different angle, but here is video from last year during Spring Training. You can really see how the leg kick changed his stance. He looks much more balanced from both sides this year, generating some easy power, and looking improved from the right side.

As for his defense at first base, I haven’t had a chance to talk with him yet regarding his off-season work. I hope to have an update later in the week.

**During the infield drills, the Pirates had the following alignments:

1B – Jaso, Bell, Jake Goebbert

2B – Alen Hanson, Adam Frazier

SS – Pedro Florimon, Gift Ngoepe, Juan Diaz

3B – Max Moroff, Dan Gamache, Juan Diaz (spent the second half of the drills at third base)

It’s hard to predict how the Indianapolis infield will go at this point. If Hanson is in Triple-A, I’d project him at second, Adam Frazier as a super utility guy who can play the outfield, and Moroff at third, with Gamache getting time as a utility infielder.

**Here are some videos of Alen Hanson, Adam Frazier, and Harold Ramirez taking batting practice:

Alen Hanson taking batting practice at Pirate City. #Pirates

A video posted by Pirates Prospects (@piratesprospects) on

Adam Frazier batting practice #Pirates

A video posted by Pirates Prospects (@piratesprospects) on

Harold Ramirez batting practice #Pirates

A video posted by Pirates Prospects (@piratesprospects) on

Ramirez looks like he’s in great shape. There were some concerns last year as he came into Spring Training, and he was benched for about a week while he got in better shape (later delays were due to a skin infection, which delayed the start of his 2015 season). Frazier has such a quick bat. I didn’t get video of Hanson from the left side (his best side), but he was looking good.

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  1. Kind of painful watching Bell on the scoop drill. I’m surprised he still looks that raw. All he can do is just keep repeating the mechanics until hopefully he becomes more natural there. The one thing you see with Jaso compared to the other two is that even though he seems to be rushing, he has nice first step quickness. He is athletic. It seems like he might be able to play at a few spots and be able to show close to average range. I’m sure he will make his mistakes, but at least he won’t be immobile out there.

  2. Did not realize that the fans were such great scouts. In a few swings and picks they can tell how good a fielder and hitter the players are and can determine with great accuracy the future each player has. It appears the Pirates have a few future Scouts here. Thanks for sharing your expertise.

  3. All I can say about Jaso at first base is Yikes!. If he doesn’t improve a lot we will be dreaming for the days of Pedro.

      • Everyone needs to re-read Tim’s description of the day’s activities above. Jaso’s a vet; he’s not talking every fungo on the first day of mini-camp like a gym class hero.

      • I thought he looked good on picks, to the extent you can tell anything from his first workout at the position.

    • What I saw was a guy who struggled with slow rollers on a basic drill. I am not going to comment on his total lack of fundamentals because I do understand he is in the learning stage but it will be hard to learn if he struggles with the basic fundamental of picking up a ground ball. I hope he gets it in the next ten weeks but I am not very confident based o what I saw.

  4. Youi heard it here first…Ramirez will be forcing himself into the Pirates OF conversation starting in 2018….he is that good….as a hitter, base runner, and outfielder….he does it all – and he is – 20 or 21?

    • there was a civil argument a while back about best hitting tool out all the prospects, my vote was Ramirez. But believe the majority felt Meadows was best…..I rate meadows 3rd behind Bell.

      • I’ve seen Bell, Ramirez and Meadows- Ramirez, in my opinion only, is the best pure hitter if you are talking about potential .300 hitters and not power or OPS

      • That’s that’s three really good hitters regardless of how you rank them so it’s exciting to think that they all will eventually be wearing Pirate black & gold.

  5. Harold Ramirez has ridiculous hands, but I’m not sure I’m too fond of how downward his swing is. It’s an efficient bat path once he gets started, and he’s very quick to the ball, but he’s going to hit the ball on the ground a lot. Which is probably fine for him, honestly, given his skill set.

    And I can see why Frazier has no power but also never strikes out. There’s a lot of quickness and efficiency in his bat, but his lower half seems like a spectator. It’s all hands, no authority.

      • which makes it even more stunning that Newman was our first round pick….for a singles hitter….who may not stick at shortstop (in my opinion, he won’t – doesn’t have the arm or range)….

        • He’s also an elite baserunner (smarts wise), and I think he’s undersold defensively. He may never be a plus defender at short, but he should remain passable there.

          • That all sounds well and good – I think he ends up at second base. But, we’re talking first round here….do you use a first round pick on a singles hitter with “smarts”??

            • I’m saying from watching him for his entire college career first hand that he’s more than a singles hitter with smarts and that, yes, he was absolutely worth a first round pick.

              • I think the hit tool is good enough to be an average big league hitter, and there were just four of those at the shortstop position last year. If he sticks at short, that’s an easy 2-win player without accounting for any value on the bases.

                He might not have star potential, but I’ll take that profile in the back of the first round.

                • I think the catch-all assessment is “high floor.” The guy’s about as likely as anyone to contribute somehow in the Majors. He might not be a difference maker, but useful Major Leaguers always have value, and he’s as close to a guarantee as it gets in the draft.

                    • It’s the best part of talking baseball. And I talk swings to my slow-pitch team all the time. Not trying to change theirs (unless they ask for tips), but every time a player on the other team has a pretty swing, I point it out, and of course, I bring up various Major Leaguers whose swings I really like.

                      I wonder how my teammates actually feel about how much I talk swings…

                    • For whatever reason I find it easier to see hitting mechanics than pitching…still nowhere close to good at it, mind you, but at least I can pick out general tendencies. Pitching, on the other hand, who friggin knows.

            • Yeah, late in the first round, you do. The value of a first round pick declines rapidly as you go through the round. There’s a significant difference in expected return even between 1-1 and 1-2. You don’t get Gerrit Cole drafting 1-19. If he becomes a starting SS, that’s a good pick.

            • Feels like you took his lack of HR power and made him a singles hitter. A large gap appears between not having much HR power and not having any extra base power.

            • Anybody remember a guy named Dick Groat? He was a pretty decent ball player who primarily was a singles hitter.

      • There’s more leg in Newman’s. Not a lot, but he gets himself onto his front foot more than Frazier did in this clip. He also starts his hands lower, so he should lift the ball more often. Neither will ever be a power hitter, but Newman’s swing is better geared for gap-to-gap.

          • They were pretty similar in college, Frazier walked more and Newman struck out less and stole more bases. Frazier had higher power numbers, but Newman also played most of his games in a park notorious for suppressing power and played for a small ball coach, so I’m not sure how much I trust the raw power numbers.

            And let’s withhold judgement on the pro numbers until Newman has enough at bats in the minors to actually say something.

            • Miss State surrenders the fewest HR outside of Vandy the past 20 years ., Frazier’s 3 year avg in college was .349 and led the nation in hits his final year. I argue also the SEC is a stronger conference.
              Hi-A is a pitcher’s league so don’t look for anyone padding stats there. We will see, hope they both have awesome years tho- go bucks!

  6. Bell and Hanson looked late to the ball on each right handed swing. Not sure if they were trying to push the ball. Bell from the left side was pulling everything as well.

    • The Pirates have their minor league hitters focusing on seeing the ball deeper in the zone, which leads to hitting to the middle and opposite fields. They aren’t against hitting to all fields, but want the hitters primarily focusing on the big part of the field.

  7. Bell’s swing looks great, too. Lots of legs, good finish to it, even from the right side. Ball sounded good off the bat, too, on pretty much every swing. Still looks a little flat, so I wonder if the power will come this season, but he’s going hit the ball hard often if he keeps connecting his upper and lower halves and finishing through the ball like that.

    • His RH swing is immensely better, but the swing path for both is still really flat. Game power won’t come until he adds more loft.

      • He seems stiff, to upright, which keeps his head balance but no loft and less torque than require to be a 30 HR guy, but he will hit, 40 doubles in a few years won’t be out of reach.

          • That is exactly what I was getting ready to say about the right handed swing for Bell. He looks a little stiff. Any chance they would ever scrap switch-hitting? I like Hansons RH swing. It’s simple and quiet. Kind of reminds me of Cutch a little. It looked like Frazier was letting the ball get as deep as he could and going opposite field purposely in that vid to me.

        • He’s never been particularly smooth or athletic at the plate; just insane, other-worldly hand eye coordination.

          After seeing the million iterations of his stance and load I’m convinced he could do pretty much anything down there and the results would be about the same.

          • That is always how Bell has looked to me, particularly in the field. But I will tell you that he looks a lot better from the right side than he looked in Altoona last season.

        • Griffey, Jr. was upright in his swing, too, and he was able to lift the ball. To me it’s a hands thing entirely. You don’t generate lift with your frame, you do it with your hands, and Bell starts his pretty high, just below the back shoulder as they start moving forward. Most power hitters either loop their hands (Griffey, Jr.) or start them closer to the waist to generate a direct upward path (Ted Williams). He starts his hands high and doesn’t loop, which keeps the bat flat.

          I think for Bell to be a successful power hitter, he’ll have to be more of the Ted Williams swing type, hands from the waist to the ball. I think looping the swing will cost him too much of that incredible contact skill he has. But even with this swing, he’ll be a successful hitter overall.

          • Very, very much agree.

            Bell looks like he’s had too many dumb hitting coaches telling him to “swing down on the ball” all his life.

            I found it odd for the club to be focusing so much on his stance and lower half. Any improvements there will be marginal.

            • Getting his legs more involved will put more distance on the balls he does get under, so there’s usefulness to it with respect to batted ball authority, but yeah, it’s not going to change his batted ball profile. The legs, after all, are much stronger than the arms, and you seldom see a power hitter whose legs aren’t involved heavily in his swing.

              Cutch is a good example. He’s a little dude, but he drives his lower body through the ball, which makes him a 20+ HR guy anyway. The weight transfer is complete and the hip rotation is violent. That’s what changes in stance and lower half can do for Bell, adding authority to every batted ball type, and it should probably be a focus of every hitter for that reason.

              Except Billy Hamilton. That guy should just chop the ball at the ground every time.

            • If you would have seen him at the beginning of last season, particularly from the right side you would understand their concern over his stance and lower half.

            • I remember reading here that last year the team work on adding loft to his swing, along with Meadows and Reece

  8. Defensively, that video of Jaso leaves a lot to be desired. He will have a lot of reps between now and the start of the season, but that was thoroughly unimpressive. Goebbert was obviously the most comfortable over there. As for picking the ball out of the dirt, it doesn’t suprise me to see Jaso do pretty well, but after over a year at first I thought Bell would be able to handle those hops a little better. All in all, that was a fairly easy drill IMO, and it left a lot to be desired. I hope that they all can improve by the time spring training and especially the regular season starts.

    • agree 100%. Thought Bell looked the worst at digging the ball out of the dirt. Jaso didn’t look comfortable fielding per se… gloved a ton of balls vs. getting it to the netting.

  9. Wow. Jaso looks completely uninterested in actually fielding a ground ball correctly – even in the 1st drill, the ball was off to the side of his body, using one hand, glove doesn’t come in towards his body upon contact with the ball (“soft hands”) – he just stabs at the ball and hopes it stays in his glove. I have high hopes for him to be a solid LH platoon 1B, so I really hope he works hard on his D.
    Bell actually looks decent defensively (although I would like to see what his throws to 2B look like) – and looks like he’s really concentrating on his fielding mechanics. A couple months more of doing this in practice / spring training games / AAA games and hopefully it will come naturally to him. And his swing looks really nice from both sides of the plate.
    Goebbert’s D looks like he’s done this before – clearly the only “veteran” 1B of the group.

    • Agree on Bell, you can tell he’s learning by the book as everything he was doing was text book robotic mechanics… Basically doing exactly what he is told to do. Overall I’m encouraged by his fielding in that video

    • Jaso looked like he was trying to be too quick, attacking the ball and trusting his hands more than his feet. He’ll need some reps to get out of that habit and develop some consistency, but his hands seem fine, and that’s the part you can’t teach. Picking is probably more important anyway, and he looked comfortable doing that.

      • I agree, Bell looked sharper, much better technique. Jaso, looked anxious. Its good though that he’s excited about wanting to play the position. Hopefully they can help him with his footwork, but agreed the picking portion of the job, he looked the best at.

    • Agree with both Brian & Darkstone (based on no special expertise, just my own lifetime of watching guys play ball): Bell looks very deliberate, repeating the fundamentals over and over, which is probably what he should be doing. Jaso looks like he has great hands and is very comfortable, but lacks the fundamentals… which shouldn’t be unexpected either.

      It sure was great to hear bat on baseball, wasn’t it?

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