BRADENTON, Fl. – It was tempting to go to Disney today to see all of the Indianapolis starters pitch. But I decided to skip that trip today and head over to Pirate City for coverage for two reasons. The first reason was that we already wrote three articles on those guys this week, which can be found below.

**What Do the Pirates Pitching Prospects Need to Work On?

**Glasnow and Taillon Show What They Need to Work On

**Pirates Are Set to Rely More on Their Prospect Depth in 2016

John Dreker has been following the game today, and was passing along some notes while I was on the field and then editing video. From the sound of things, those articles above aren’t out of date yet. Tyler Glasnow struggled with his control, which is a problem that stems from nerves and the lack of the ability right now to drop his curveball in for strikes early in the count. The last update I got as of this writing was that Jameson Taillon was doing well, striking out Freddie Freeman on a swinging fastball, and throwing a nasty curve to Jeff Francoeur. He needs experience against upper level guys, and this is a good step for him.

The second reason I skipped the trip was because today was set to be a big day at Pirate City. For one, I knew yesterday that Cole Tucker would be throwing from shortstop, and wanted to get video and an update from him on his rehab from labrum surgery. That update can be found here.

Live batting practice has also started up in camp, and I was looking forward to the group going today. Thanks to wonderful timing, I was able to see some of the best young pitching prospects in the lower levels of the system. If you’re wondering which players might be able to replace Glasnow, Taillon, and the NGTs (Non-Glasnow Taillons, aka my short code so I don’t always have to type Chad Kuhl, Steven Brault, and Trevor Williams separate from Glasnow and Taillon…if anyone asks in future posts, refer them to this definition) as the top pitching prospects in the game, then it would be someone from this group. I managed to get video of some of the best guys, while also running around and getting photos of the rest of the pitchers today.

The first guy I saw was Mitch Keller, who is the top young pitcher in the lower levels of the minors. I could see Keller making the jump to West Virginia this year, which would be pretty exciting to watch. He’s got a fastball that can hit mid-90s with an effortless delivery, and a nice curveball to pair with that, along with a developing changeup. I wouldn’t put a hard upside on him, but will say that I think he’s got a ton of upside, and his ceiling could start coming into focus this year.

The next guy was last year’s Breakout Prospect of the Year, Yeudy Garcia. He’s a hard thrower who works 93-96, touching 97, with a lot of movement on his fastball and a slider that has really developed well in the last year. Garcia should start in Bradenton this year (I’m saying should because I haven’t heard anything official, but you can pretty much guarantee that), and could make it to Altoona by the end of the season. When I say that Keller is the top young pitching prospect, I’m referring to his age. Garcia is the top pitching prospect of this group, but will be 23 this year, versus 20 for Keller. Garcia is still young, but he’s not in the same group as these other guys, and some of the other younger guys in the system.

Luis Escobar might be my big pitching sleeper this year, which has become really difficult to say recently. In the 2016 Prospect Guide, we listed him as a sleeper candidate, and the number 48 prospect in the system. I had some good writeups about his fastball last year, pointing out his 91-93 MPH fastball, which touched 95, along with a plus curve when he had command of the pitch. I also called Escobar a breakout candidate at the start of the year.

That was all before Keith Law rated him 12th overall in the system, one spot ahead of Yeudy Garcia. That’s a ranking I disagree with big time right now. It may end up looking like a great call in a few years, but Escobar isn’t the number 12 prospect in the system, and isn’t ahead of Garcia. A big reason is shown in this video — his control and command aren’t consistent. That’s what I saw last year in the GCL, and saw at times today. You can see this in the video below.

As for where Escobar ends up, I could see West Virginia due to the talent and stuff, but I could also see Morgantown due to the lack of control and command. That will be something to watch as Spring Training continues.

If I was picking four lower level pitchers to highlight, then Gage Hinsz would be the last guy on this list. But Hinsz pitched yesterday (and you can see the video here), which is why he isn’t in this article. I’d also include Stephen Tarpley. He pitched today, but that came at the same time as Keller.

Billy Roth is behind both of those guys, but definitely a top 50 prospect, and one of the more interesting lower level guys. This wasn’t a great session for Roth, who was wild and inconsistent, while showing a drop and drive delivery that probably isn’t helping his fastball much. That fastball was sitting in the 93-96 MPH range for most of last season, and while he’s had some big control problems in the past, he did improve the walks last year.

Roth has some great stuff, and if he gets the control ironed out, he could also be a guy who could shoot up in the prospect rankings. I’d definitely separate these guys (and we did), listing Garcia and Keller as top 20 prospects, and Escobar and Roth as top 50 guys who could jump in the top 30 or higher by this time next year.

Finally, here are some photos of some of the other pitchers today. I couldn’t get video of them all, but managed to run to each field to get as many photos as I could, including a few guys we haven’t gotten shots of before.

Brandon Waddell, who was taken in the fifth round of the 2015 draft.
Brandon Waddell, who was taken in the fifth round of the 2015 draft.

 

James Marvel, taken in the 36th round out of Duke and given an over-slot bonus while recovering from Tommy John. He's obviously now healthy and pitching to live batters.
James Marvel, taken in the 36th round out of Duke and given an over-slot bonus while recovering from Tommy John. He’s obviously now healthy and pitching to live batters.
Seth McGarry, taken in the 8th round last year, with the upside of a late inning reliever (but probably a starter for now).
Seth McGarry, taken in the 8th round last year, with the upside of a late inning reliever (but probably a starter for now).
Adrian Valerio in the cages.
Adrian Valerio in the cages.
Ke'Bryan Hayes taking a swing.
Ke’Bryan Hayes taking a swing.
Michael De La Cruz going for a low pitch.
Michael De La Cruz going for a low pitch.
Tito Polo standing in at the plate
Tito Polo standing in at the plate
Infield coordinator Gary Green talking with an infield group before fielding drills.
Infield coordinator Gary Green talking with an infield group before fielding drills.
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95 COMMENTS

  1. Anyone care to talk about the article, or have we all moved on to Tyler Glasnow drama?

    I’m seriously impressed with Mitch Keller. Incredibly easy velocity and plane, unlike the other more high effort deliveries from Garcia and especially Escobar.

    I know these aren’t hard designations and I’m not complaining, but the lack of Stephen Tarpley talk here and in national outlets this winter has been a big surprise. Lower FIP with more strikeouts and less walks while five months younger than Yeudy Garcia at the same level, and left handed, yet very very little hype coming into the year. Just a matter of getting lost in depth?

  2. I cannot believe I am about to type this….can they get a sports psychologist to help the nerves???!

  3. So are we saying that Glasnow shouldn’t be on the team opening day? I see the folks that are usually demanding he be up, won’t be because Nuttings are cheap, best 40 go north, etc., etc. are awfully quiet.

    • He (or Taillon) could throw 30 innings with 40 K’s and 5 hits, 3 walks and no runs in ST, and I doubt if we’d waste a whole year of control and bring him north at the start of the season.

    • Many fans fail to differentiate the difference between opening the season with a rookie and waiting until the mid-June Super 2 date.
      – No team should want to open a season with a rookie because they would lose control of 5/6’s of a season in a player’s prime. If the player goes north with the team on opening day of 2016, he will be a free agent after the 2021 season. If a player is called up in late April, he will be a free agent after the 2022 season. That has nothing to do with being cheap, it is just being smart. (The Cubs did it with Bryant last year.)
      – if a player is clearly ready by late April, then the only reason to wait until late June is to delay the arbitration clock. Now that decision could be considered as cheap (or smart depending on what camp you’re in). However, the closer it gets to June for the player to prove he’s ready, the more reasonable it is to wait for the June Super 2 date.

      Ready or not, he should not go north with the team on opening day…

    • The regular season roster consists of 25 players until they are allowed to expand to 40 on September 1.

  4. Always like Waddell. One of the few I saw in college. Not sure if he’s a starter though after reading some analysis here.

  5. I was reading the Glasnow thread below and was realizing how hard it is to project these prospects. Glasnow absolutely has the ability to be a special pitcher, but he also could end up an inconsistent one. There is no law that says his curve will progress, that his change up will develop, or that his control will stabilize. Even if he is a Randy Johnson level talent, that might take years to get to – just like it did Randy.
    I’m not being negative just stating the obvious. It might take the 11 starts that John mentions below, it could take a couple of up and down trips to AAA over the next couple of years to work on things, or he could settle in as a maddengly inconsistent back of the rotation guy. Time will tell…

  6. Tito Polo looks to be in the best shape of his life. Seriously, that guy looks like he has the same build as Cutch.
    How has Michael De La Cruz looked this year?

    • Tito Polo is in ridiculous shape and has been for at least three years now. I don’t think you can find someone in the Pirates’ system in better shape than him. He is a strong human

  7. I wish Montana DuRapau was in camp. Does he have any chance of ever starting or is he strictly a reliever for certain? I hope he keeps throwing in the 90’s. Little guy like that, it seems hard to do, but skinny Kent Tekulve threw in the 90’s. I couldn’t get it above 60 mph when I tried at Kennywood once. That is a hard thing to do.

    • DuRapau has been an extra sent over for the bullpen twice. USUALLY, that isn’t a good sign early in camp, because it means he isn’t in minor league camp getting his work in. It could be because he is a reliever, so he doesn’t need to build up like starters do, but last year, almost every player sent as an extra during the first two weeks for the MLB games, was released before the season started or early in the year. With the way that he dominated last year, let’s just say it’s odd that he is one of the extras two days in a row, but it doesn’t mean he isn’t well thought of still.

      • Very confusing.

        With a 1.38 ERA, a 0.514 WHIP, and a 69:9 K:BB ratio last season…I can’t believe he’d be in any trouble.

        Any chance he’s being auditioned? Only other option I could see is he’s about to be packaged.

        • He didn’t pitch in either game, he came over as the extra pitchers in case a couple pitchers get knocked out early. It doesn’t necessarily mean he is in trouble, as I said, it could just be that relievers don’t need to build up innings like starters, so it’s not as bad if they skip days. I just said it’s usually a bad sign. Here are the early extras from last year and what happened to them:
          Ryan Beckman, Taylor Lewis, Nate Baker, Matt Nevarez-all released
          Pat Ludwig-retired because he was being sent to Bradenton after pitching for Altoona previous year
          Adam Miller- Kept in Extended Spring Training, went on DL with phantom injuries during the year to open up roster spots for someone else
          Wes Freeman- released during the season, but got injured during ST. Was a filler
          Matt Benedict- used as filler at three different levels
          Thomas Harlan- 25-year-old non-prospect
          Jose Osuna- the lone exception

          If you look at the early players from 2014, they used a lot more and 21 of the 25 aren’t in the organization anymore. Two of the exceptions are catchers, one is Gift Ngoepe and the other is Dan Gamache. They didn’t have as many catchers in MLB camp, so that explains those two(and they were the only two used)

            • My knowledge is about 90% Pirates related. I usually get lost real quick when people don’t talk about baseball or The Simpsons. Luckily I’m great at zoning out when that happens so I don’t learn anything that pushes important Pirates trivia out of my brain.

  8. By the way, yes, those are some fantastic pictures you have there & have been showing. Great work!

  9. I seem to remember Glasnow often has a couple of rough starts early in the season or after a layoff such as the ankle injury. Given his height and length, it might take a few weeks to get the delivery repeatable and lockdown the command.

    • I guess he is kind of long, if he was laying down. But that won’t really be a factor when he’s pitching, I’d think 🙂

  10. I know he’s a bit older and should really be in the NTG group but what about Kingham? How long do you think before he makes the jump to the majors?

  11. Does Keller have a similar delivery to Jake Arrieta where he steps slightly toward third and come across his body with the pitch?

    Roth’s plant foot is a mess, just my observation. It is going to be hard to be accurate when that foot is sliding and rolling to the outside.

  12. Great photos Tim.
    Awaiting John Dreker’s complete game account.
    Yes Glasnow had a rough first inning. Also Taillon gave up a homer first batter in the 4th. The 5 Pirate runs scored later were done after Clint changed the lineup and brought in all the rookies who hit and scored big, giving Bucs first lead 6-5. WOW impressive.

    • Won’t be any complete game account, just taking notes:
      -Glasnow threw 45 pitches in 1.2 innings before reaching his limit, 23 strikes/22 balls. Hitting 96 mph, threw a lot of change-ups.
      -Taillon hitting 94 mph, 2 ip, 35 pitches, 20 strikes, two impressive strikeouts listed above. He and Glasnow faced all MLB hitters, so it was a nice test
      – Brault allowed a homer to Nick Markakis, a lefty hitter and the first spring hitter he faced. He’s never allowed a HR to a lefty in three regular seasons
      – Hanson made another defensive gem, which got a nice applause from the road crowd
      – Harold Ramirez continues to hit, so does Elias Diaz
      – Pirates won 9-6, Trevor Williams closed it out for the save

        • Yes, but it’s March 5th and they faced a tough lineup in a short outing, so all the asterisks apply

          • With Glasnow, after his AAA wildness and now this along with the nerves, should we be concerned? I know it is early, but…….?

            • No, not yet, he’s 22 and has a month of spring training and at least ten AAA starts in him no matter how he does from now until June. I’d save the concern for mid-May

              • Unless in those 10 AAA starts he shows some consistent command, he may not be up at all.

                To me, it is better hitters making him be more consistent. And, until he does it, I’m going to be worried.

                • I’m guessing your question was rhetorical then, because I gave good reasons not to worry. Even if he is the 5th starter for Indy and came up on the earliest possible date to avoid Super 2, that’s 11 starts. Players can do a lot in a month of spring training and 11 starts, so I personally wouldn’t worry about his results on March 5th against the best lineup he has ever faced. If they feel he isn’t ready, then he can make more AAA starts, it’s not as if he has to come up on June 10th or else.

                  • I think the command lead to the nerves/frustration
                    just as you said it’s early
                    Taillon looked a little rusty but he looks like he belongs.
                    Harold Ramirez comes as advertised kid can rake !
                    The play by Hanson was ridiculous
                    Not sure if you were in the area and not related to the actual game but Sean Rodriguez’s daughter calling to him from the stands was the cutest thing I ever saw

                  • It’s not a rhetorical question. I just wasn’t ‘buying’ your ‘good reasons’. 🙂 🙂 His end of the year starts worry me more than his two ST starts.

                    But I will take your word that he could very well be ready in 11 AAA starts and that it will have been me worrying about nothing.

                    • A minimum of 11 starts, and that’s with him being the 5th starter and coming up on the first day Super 2 passes(usually June 10th is the safe date, give or take a couple days). He could do 13 starts and be up a week later if he starts the opener

                    • Looks to me like you are getting rather selective in your evaluations of Glasnow. I would look at the overall package and not focus on only his bad starts. Especially the ones in early March when all pitchers seem to be working on something. I would still take a nervous Glasnow over a confident Locke any day.

                  • Haven’t you been reading these message boards John? Lots of “knowledgable” fans just know Locke and Vogelsong are going to implode by June 15th, if not sooner.

                  • I think foo is not so much worried about results, as he is worried that maybe the same things causing the poor results are present and aren’t improving much. If his velocity was down, or his curve wasn’t breaking sharply, or his fastball was flat- those would be things we aren’t worried about because of it being early. But jitters (in a spring training game no less) and command…. we’d like to see better given all the attention that has been paid to it over the last few years. Personally, if he was throwing a bunch of changeups, like I heard he was, then that’s probably causing some of the issues, and its something he NEEDS to work on, so if thats it, then I’m truly not concerned.

                • well if he is throwing more changeups, then its purely a spring training thing sicne we know that’s not a good pitch for him at this point

              • How is it all one issue? Was he nervous his whole time on AAA? Even before this ‘nerves’ issue, he had me worried.

                Before this, he needed to get his curve over consistently and develop a change up. He has yet to do both, at least from what I’ve been reading.

                Sure it’s early in ST, and I’d like to be optimistic, but I have seen nothing that leads me to believe that any of these problems will get resolved any time soon.

                He very likely will spend most, if not all of 2016 in AAA?

                • I hope so. That would indicate that there wasn’t a pressing MLB need, beyond maybe Taillon or Kuhl being called up. I would reather see him spend a full season in AAA just to grow up and gain confidence. What’s the rush?

                  • I don’t think it would be considered rushing him if they called him up in June. Counting the playoffs, he already has ten AAA starts. Add another 11-12 starts and that’s not far off a full minor league season. They usually make 25-27 starts. Rushing him would have been calling him up in September. Since then, he’s pitched in the Instructional league, Major League Spring Training and at least two more months in AAA.

                    • well it’s rushing him if he isn’t improving- regardless of the # of starts. He is ready when he’s ready

                    • I can read John. Your statement has nothing to do with my statement, but thanks anyways. When he is ready, he will be up…..anytime after super 2 🙂 I just think it’ll be awhile, it could be 5 starts in AAA, or it could be 20 more, or 35 more who knows. I don’t think he’s close personally

                    • When he is ready, he is ready, and he plays as far as I am concerned. But if he isn’t ready by mid season I am not going to blow a gasket. I will be content to wait until he shows he is consistent at AAA and is ready to move up.

                • I’ve been reporting on the nerves issue since he was in Bradenton. He’s got command problems, but things really spiral out of control when he lets his nerves impact him. He’s slowly gotten better at that, and gets rid of them when he’s comfortable with a level. But it’s not completely gone.

                • I think you’re worrying way too much. Three of his last four regular season starts at AAA were very good. In those three, he had 20 IP’s, gave up 11 hits, struck out 22, and walked 4. In the two playoff games, he wasn’t great – but wasn’t awful by any means.

                  • Ken…I was looking for some game logs for him. Glad to hear about those last 3 starts.

                    I think I’ll go take some Xanax now. 🙂 🙂

                • well most of the AAA season in AAA- probably. I think you’ll see him in August- I think Kuhl would likely be the first pitcher called up in a need since they aren’t going to necessarily care about super 2 with him, then once we get to the end of May, I think Taillon is the first permanent add-on, with Glasnow not even being looked at until after the all-star break

            • I’m not sure they will keep them all on the same schedule. At some point the five prospects have to be ready to start on different days(might not be five different days due to room in Indy’s rotation). If they keep them together for one more start, then they will all pitch the 10th again. I have a feeling they will want to move them to three innings each, so they might end up playing a B game in the morning and 1-2 of them will get their innings that way.

              • That was my next question- with no game on the 10th, what is likely to go on at Pirate city that day? any idea what the schedule will be since i’ll be down there

                • If any of the Indy five doesn’t pitch with the big league team in Tampa, they could be pitching a 10:30 simulated B game at Pirate City. They start minor league full workouts on March 8th, so it will be busy on that side by the 10th. About 40 players reported this morning for physicals, so now there is over 100 players there. You’ll probably see them working out on 3-4 fields at PC.

                    • I found out this morning that the Pirates added a B game in Sarasota for Thursday morning, so some of the players will head over there and some of the players will head to Tampa for the afternoon game. There will also be workouts at McKenchie Field for the stragglers left back, and Pirate City will be busy with workouts. Basically, Pirates stuff will be going on at four locations.

                    • ahhh, so no B game at bradenton. Are Sarasota’s B games open to the public….if so where do they play?

                    • Hmmm…..well I know they play their spring training games at Ed Smith, but they wouldn’t be playing a B game at their spring training park would they???

                    • They played the Instructional League games there, so it’s possible. I would say no though, because they have a 1:05 game at home that day, so it’s probably at one of the back fields behind the stadium. Best thing to do is see if you can call the stadium and ask for info.

                    • Thanks John, I’ll see if I can scare up the info……if only a site like this existed for the Orioles. But- it doesn’t. Because you guys are awesome and unique. Even having the opportunity to disagree or ask clarification on a writers point of view after an article and hearing back from them is amazing- even if we butt heads. I don’t say it often enough, but I appreciate the opportunity to do just that. It’s fun and it keeps the brain working!

                    • we called today and the person whom answered said at ed smith field there is no public access to the practice fields there…… we were going to drive up, but i guess now we won’t be. We will be at Pirate City in the morning and then will figure out what to do as the day goes on

                    • Too bad because Glasnow is starting there. Not sure who else would be pitching there instead, because they only announced the starters for each game

                    • any idea whom is slated to pitch tomorrow? we ended up going to ed smith anyways and caught the game there after haggling with some scalpers

                    • I just want to make sure before I make the 45 minute drive up there, that I’m not wasting the trip

      • Taillon, Brault, Kuhl, and then Trevor Williams all exhibited a lot of confidence in their pitches and all were able to not fall behind too often – quite a few first pitch strikes. Glasnow was tentative from the very first batter, and pitched behind in the count to most of the batters he faced, therefore the 45 pitches in 1.2 IP.

        The ball that Hanson made the play on was the defensive highlight of the game. He also had two hits, an RBI, and scored twice. One of the hits was a gift on an attempted sacrifice bunt where the 1B charged and the 2B covered second, leaving nobody to cover first.

        It was a home game for the Braves, but the vocal majority were Pirate fans – of course I was a few rows behind the Pirate dugout and maybe it just seemed a lot louder in that area. Nice touch by Josh Bell and Adam Frazier signing autographs for the Pirate fans right before the game, and Jameson Taillon taking the time before the game out in the bullpen to walk over, pick up a ball and toss it over the fence to a little girl who was trying to get autographs – you could tell it made her day.

        Frank Coonelly was a few rows in front of us and stayed there for most of the game; a fan a few seats down said that NH was also there, a few sections over and behind the plate.

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