Pirates Have More Prospects Set to Arrive in 2016 Than Any Year Under Hurdle

BRADENTON, Fl. – Once again today, the Pirates went into the second half of a Spring Training game trailing, only to see their prospects battle back and give them a lead. They eventually lost that lead with a few late home runs, and lost the game 11-8, but it’s encouraging to see continued success from the minor league players.

Last week I wrote about how the Pirates are set to rely on their prospect depth more in 2016. It’s easy to see why that would be the case. They’ve got a lot of talented and versatile infielders in Alen Hanson, Max Moroff, Adam Frazier, Dan Gamache, and Gift Ngoepe who can play any role from starting at a specific position, to providing a good bench option. They’ve got some great starting pitching prospects in Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon, along with future MLB starters in Steven Brault, Chad Kuhl, and Trevor Williams. There’s also Elias Diaz and Jacob Stallings who could step in if the catching group starts to suffer injuries (remember 2011, anyone?).

I asked Clint Hurdle today how this camp compared to previous camps in terms of prospects who could make the jump to the majors this year.

“From my perception, we’ve got more internal prospects at this camp than we’ve ever had before,” Hurdle said. “You always bring in internal players, because you want to look at them. But real guys that have done well, that have moved up through the organization, that have got the attention… So from that perspective, it just seems to me with the pitching, along with the position player pool — you’ve got a couple catchers in play — it just seems like it’s been the most prospect-laden camp that we’ve had since I’ve been here.”

Hurdle even added that a lot of the guys who are in camp now were in trade conversations last summer. I can imagine that was true for a lot of guys, and I know it was true for Chad Kuhl, as I know of at least two teams who asked for him in trade talks, only to be denied by the Pirates. I also talked with about half a dozen scouts who raved about Kuhl last year, especially in the second half. It’s easy to see why, and if you don’t know, you can read about why here.

That definitely makes this an exciting camp to cover from a prospect standpoint. You’d hope that the “prospects arrive mid-way through to help the Pirates battle back” trend won’t carry over to the season. It would be better if it was something along the lines of “prospects arrive mid-season to give a contending team a big boost”. Either way, the Pirates could see a big wave of prospects arriving this year, with a lot of talented guys in that group.

Is the Shift Easier For Versatile Players?

Max Moroff was playing third base today, but at one point shifted over to the right side of the second base bag, and made a 5-3 putout on a hard grounder. Moroff has much more experience at second, and not much time at third base, which got me thinking: Would he be more comfortable with the shift than a traditional third baseman?

The Pirates have so many infielders who are versatile at all positions, due to the focus in the minors of moving guys around for versatility reasons. The side effect here is that it might make the Pirates a better defensive team when they’re shifting and have guys playing all over the field in the same game.

“I think it can work to their benefit,” Hurdle said. “I think it definitely can work to their benefit. When you’ve got men that have just been one-sided most of their career, and you’re starting to see some third basemen go into the four hole way back, or some different things, it’s a little odd at first. It’s a little different. You’ve changed the furniture on them in the living room. When you get somebody that’s moved around — J-Hay played a lot of second base, when we were shifting him, even from third over, it was a comfortable shift for him. I think it’s comfortable for Max. We have a few other guys on the team, I think their versatility is a comfort for them that plays well for our defense.”

Harrison is an example of a guy who has played everywhere, and should be comfortable with the shift. Jung-ho Kang has played third and short, and practiced at second base. Jordy Mercer played second and third base in the minors.

Down in Triple-A, Moroff has played second, short, and third. Adam Frazier has played those three positions, along with all three outfield spots this spring. Alen Hanson has also covered every infield spot except first base. Add Gift Ngoepe to that list, and you might even be able to include first base, since he’s spent plenty of time helping Josh Bell with his defense in the last year. Dan Gamache doesn’t have shortstop, but has played second and third, and has recently been adding first base.

It doesn’t just stop at Triple-A. Take a trip over to minor league camp and you’ll see infielders working at one position on one day, then working at another position on a different day. This is ultimately to create more options for a cleaner path to the majors, but it can certainly help with the shift when guys are in the majors at one position, and are asked to move over to another spot for a play or two.

Other Notes

**Speaking of versatility, the Pirates had the following players at somewhat uncommon positions today: Dan Gamache at first base, Michael Morse in right field, Pedro Florimon in center field, Jake Goebbert in left field, Adam Frazier in left field, Max Moroff at third base. Most of these guys have played those positions before, but these are all cases where the player hasn’t played the position much in the past (or in a case like Morse, there are questions whether they can play it going forward). But if they’re going to want a role with the team this year, or an increased role in some cases, they’ll need the added positions to get at-bats and playing time.

**Pedro Florimon helped with the comeback in the sixth inning, hitting a two run triple. Florimon is a great defensive shortstop, but struggles with his offense. Hurdle was asked about his offensive upside, and noted that it’s still an area he’s working on.

“We’re still scratching, and I think he’s still trying to learn and bring more consistency to that side of the ball,” Hurdle said. “We actually had him out in center field today, moving him around to enhance his versatility. Because he’s a gifted guy. He’s got range, he’s got speed, he’s got a glove that works, he’s got a strong arm. He’s still working on a consistent approach at the plate, something he’s going to be stubborn with.”

Hurdle noted that Florimon needs to put the bat on the ball, minimize his fly balls, and have more of a mixture of ground balls and line drives. He strikes out a quarter of the time in his career, and has seen his line drive rate drop below 20% the last two years, while hitting a lot of weak fly balls.

“Where it can go? Time will tell, but I know he’s making every effort to become a more consistent ball player. That makes him a more attractive player.”

I’m skeptical that Florimon can improve his offense at the age of 29, but if he can get close to his 2013 totals with the Twins (.611 OPS, 23% line drive, and actually hitting fly balls that cleared the fence), then he’d be a great option off the bench for his defense and versatility, while having some sort of value beyond those two things.

**Max Moroff had two hits today, including this nice piece of hitting on an opposite field single with two strikes, which Sean captured.

**John Jaso was batting cleanup today, which Clint Hurdle said was due to Starling Marte being out of the lineup. Could that be a spot for him during the season?

“[He has] quality at-bats,” Hurdle said. “The guy’s going to see pitches, just look at them. He could end up there. I’m not settled on anything right yet. Just thought we’d run him in there today. Marte was not in the lineup today, so he was a good option for us.”

Jaso seems like a better option at the number two spot, due to his high OBP. However, he’s not fast, so he might not be a guy you want in front of Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte, if that’s how the lineup shakes out.

**Here is the lineup for tomorrow’s game:

#Pirates lineup tomorrow vs the Phillies

A photo posted by Pirates Prospects (@piratesprospects) on

  • HartHighPirate
    March 11, 2016 4:44 pm

    Tim, I watched the game and there has been no comment on Harold Ramirez. Great contact hitter. Leading all batters .621. Hitting major league pitching. Granted he is young but he should be moved up to start at Altoona. Your feelings on Harold Ramirez?

  • Check my profile picture
    March 7, 2016 7:23 pm
  • Come quick comments and questions:
    1) Florimon – probably a nice guy, but he is blocking some real good talent behind him that can both field AND hit. He’s out of options, Will he just be cut or traded at the end of spring training? Not much room for him at Indy either.
    2) Seems we may have too many 1st base/third base older options and most do not have options and no place to put them at Indy? Again who may be cut/or traded?
    3) Overall, it looks like we have many nearly ready MLB players. Would you want to trade any of them for an area of need such as for a very high upside starting pitcher? Who would you trade? Obviously we know Diaz is off the table.
    4) Final non related note. New announcer seems to be pretty good.

  • Adam Frazier has been one that I have been pleased with so far. I can’t say I have been impressed with Gift, Max,or Alen….they have done exactly what I have seen in Altoona. They both are going to be great for the Pirates as far as being good depth guys at this point. Dan Gamache made some good plays at first.

    • If they are doing exactly what you saw at Altoona, but at 2 higher levels- then you should really be impressed.

  • Max Moroff has definitely caught Clint Hurdle’s eye with his work this spring. Plus he’s been knocking the cover off the ball right from the start. They seem to be using him at third exclusively so far, though I assume that will change.

    Alen Hanson has executed well so far too, offensively, defensively, and on the bases. I think he has a good shot at making the 25 man if Jung Ho is not ready, and from the sound of Neal Huntington this afternoon on ‘The Neal Huntington Show’ with Brownie, Kang will not be ready to start the season. Greg Brown said the same (about Kang being DL’d to start out).

  • country western announcing team…back to JoeBob!

  • Tim, couldn’t help but notice that you missed a golden opportunity in the intro to use your coined term “NGT’s”.

  • piraterican21
    March 6, 2016 8:21 pm

    I wonder is Hurdle is the best coach to handle the wave of prospects, seems that he favors vet a little too much.

    • ArthurDayne
      March 6, 2016 8:24 pm

      There’s an article out there on the net about that. When he was in Colorado. Apparently it was a complaint from the Denver fans and media. I’m gonna give him the benefit of the doubt. Be about 2019 before we start getting that answer.

  • ArthurDayne
    March 6, 2016 7:34 pm

    Any veteran pitchers working on a new pitch?

  • Here is my first attempt at a Survey Monkey Questionaire.

    Pirate Prospects-centric, but also some MLB Bucco questions.

    https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/9M2YZ7B

    • I think Hanson fits in with what Pirates are trying to do on both sides of ball this year, and as such, will be a starter at 2B for majority of games this year.

      • So as a rookie he will be taking J-Hay’s starting job- Nope.

        • Scott Kliesen
          March 7, 2016 5:39 am

          Harrison is going to get his starts all over the field. I think Pirates will appreciate Hanson’s speed and defense enough to give him regular playing time at 2b for majority of year. Sorry if you disagree, but it’s just an opinion.

          • That’s fair Scott- I don’t see any reason to think that Hurdle would trust a rookie to start as a 2nd baseman. If they are going to have someone move all over the field, it’s going to be Hanson. I still think it’s more likely Hanson starts in April, then goes down to AAA until later in the season. If he doesn’t go down, he’s going to be that utility player since he can backup shortstop way better than Harrison.

            • Scott Kliesen
              March 8, 2016 9:57 am

              You may be right, certainly so about Hanson being a better fit at SS than Harrison. I just believe Harrison is best when he’s playing the Super Utility role, whereas it will be an easier transition for Hanson to focus solely on 2B. I think Kang will play some at SS, but mostly at 3B.

              • I think Hurdle said specifically in yesterday’s interview that Hanson is not being looked at, at shortstop at all, so I think maybe I was wrong there Scott. I guess we shall see!

    • Solid B!

      Not bad for a first effort..

      I have something over 500 surveys in my past – this is better than a lot of them

      Would love to see how the folks on this site feel about this…

      The Pirates should be willing to go “all in” to win the World Series
      Could be done a couple of ways – simplest would be agree – disagree – five point scale
      or you could try and put out options like…
      – YES! I am getting old and need to see another WS win!
      – Maybe – depends on how things evolve during the year…
      – Not so sure – stick with what has worked – compete and try and get to the post season but don’t give up prospects or get tied up to expensive contracts.
      – Don’t know/care – just want them to be fun and entertaining.

      A question or two on payroll – an agree – disagree type…
      1. The Pirates can spend more in 2016 if they wanted to.
      2. The Pirates SHOULD spend more in 2016…

      I think a lot of the sturm and drang that we see comes from how we see these two questions. ..

      Another interesting one might be
      Which of the following players do you think will be playing for the Pirates in 2018…

      Cutch
      Cole
      Bell
      Meadows
      McGuire
      Tucker
      – and you can go on…

      Can’t wait to see the results..

    • Enjoyed taking that. Will we get to see results when you’re done running it?

    • Great stuff! It was fun to participate.

    • Jim Garland
      March 7, 2016 8:34 am

      Nice job. Better than most I’ve seen for sure

    • Please take the survey.
      Can’t wait to see the results.

  • Will be nice to see Hanson and Bell get some ABs against ML pitching tomorrow. I know we are still very early in ST – but I worry that the regulars need to get more ABs to avoid another slow start.

    The first inning infield defense was not encouraging…

  • Watched the game today on MLB.TV which was the Root Sports broadcast. Already love Joe Block with Bob Walk exponentially over anyone and Tim Neverette.

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