The Mass Departure of Prospects From Pirates Camp Will Come This Week

BRADENTON, Fl. – This has been a great camp for the Pirates prospects. They’ve put up great numbers, staged several comebacks, and gave a glimpse of the future. But that experience will end soon.

The Pirates usually make their first cuts after the first off-day. The first off-day comes Tuesday, which means cuts could be Wednesday.

Later this week is the deadline for teams to send down guys on the 40-man roster with zero service time, in order to avoid a DL trip if they get injured. A player on the 40-man can be sent down before this date, even if he’s injured at the time. Anyone who stays up after this date would have to be placed on the MLB disabled list if he gets hurt in camp. In Nick Kingham’s case, he’d spend his Tommy John rehab on the 60-day DL, burning service time in the process. The Pirates won’t risk this with any of their prospects.

Finally, minor league games begin on Wednesday, which will allow these guys to get built up for their own seasons.

You combine all three of those things, and we will end up seeing a mass exodus of prospects from MLB camp this week.

“Especially early it was a lot of fun,” Neal Huntington said of the prospect performances. “The consistent quality of the at bats, the professionalism. The comfort that they showed. They weren’t intimidated. The versatility. Frazier bouncing all over the field, Moroff bouncing all over the field. Elias Diaz continues to swing the bat well and improve. Defensively, he still has one of the better arms in camp. You see Wily Garcia dive, pop up and make a strong throw. You see the tools but you also see baseball abilities.”

It hasn’t just been the position players who have impressed. The pitching group provides a great rotation of prospects for Indianapolis, led by two of the top pitching prospects in the game, Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon. The pitchers haven’t had the same success as the position players, but the talent is still there.

“They remind us that there is still some growth,” Huntington said. “And that’s not the end of the world right now that they basically each got a few crooked numbers put on them. It’s a great learning experience for them. You see the stuff , you see the pitch-ability, you see the intelligence you see the aptitude. Very, very positive signs each one.”

I wrote about the infield group earlier today, noting the crowded situation since David Freese has signed. There is a chance that this crowded group could end up resulting in someone being left behind in Altoona. It’s almost a guarantee that one starting pitcher will be left in Altoona, due to the need for early season depth

“We may have a couple guys that end up back at Altoona that really shouldn’t be there,” Huntington said. “But there’s just depth and major league need there in front of them. And that’s hard for them to understand and hard for us to explain to them but that’s also good for us as an organization that we have a bunch of prospects around.”

It has been good to see the prospects faring so well this spring, and it’s an even better sight that anyone left in Altoona would mostly be there due to prospect depth. The best thing will be later this year when those prospects start making their way back to the majors, and hopefully perform as well as they have been performing this spring.

Too Soon to Tell When David Freese Will Get In Games

David Freese has a weekend of practice under his belt now, since signing with the Pirates. However, it’s still too soon to tell when he will get into games.

“He’s trying to get his feet underneath him,” Huntington said. “He’s trying to get his swings in, trying to get his legs in baseball condition. We joke about standing around all the time, and there’s no way to get in standing shape. Just wearing spikes for a couple of hours is something that he’s going to have to get used to again. We want to be aggressive, but we want to make sure we put him in a position to be successful. We’ll build upon each day and see how he feels.”

One of the things Freese will need to work on this spring is the transition to first base. He’s going to be the starting third baseman until Jung-ho Kang returns, and will be moving to the right-handed first base platoon role at that point. Freese has only played 21 innings at first base in his career, and hasn’t played since 2011. The transition might not be an easy one, but the Pirates trust the skills enough to give him a shot.

“The hands and the feet obviously have worked well enough to be a third baseman, better as of recent years,” Huntington said. “We feel like he’s a hard worker. We feel like he wants to be there, and that’s an important part of the process. He wants to come over here and help us, and he’s going to do everything he can, and be prepared… Intelligent veteran, hard-working, wants to be there. Has a lot of the traits physically and mentally that we think should allow him to make the transition.”

Other Notes

**Huntington was asked which one of Jameson Taillon or Tyler Glasnow could arrive first. The answer was a non-answer, but I figured I’d include the quote, since I’ve seen the question asked here many times.

“That’s a really hard question and I think it’s an irrelevant question for us at this point in time because they will each have a number of opportunities in the minor leagues. We will make that decision when and if that opportunity is needed. You see Jameson and you see the maturity and the advancement, he just needs innings against upper level competition. You see Tyler you see the incredible stuff and what he can become but there’s also some things for him to work on as well. Really excited to see both of those guys competing and anticipating they will help us at some point this summer.”

**Huntington said that Cory Luebke is getting closer to game action, which could come in the next week.

“Cory threw another healthy pen. Our guys liked the way the ball came out of his hand, and we’ll probably have another side session for him, see how that goes, and hopefully progress him in a game sometime in the next week or so.”

  • Jack Welch had an approach that might suit the Pirates well at this point. He felt you should always upgrade your talent. One way he did this was to force his department heads to rank their team – and cut the bottom 10% each year. That created opportunities for transfers and new hires. Do it long enough and you have a top ranked organization.

    In the spirit of “Neutron Jack” – here are my four nominees from the current 40 man roster.

    Pedro Floriman – don’t need both him and Gift – Negope is cheaper.
    Kyle Lobstein – never understood the signing – see no role for him.
    The next two are either or – although I could see dropping all 4 of them
    Scahill or Holdzcom – same role – don’t have room for both
    Morse or S-Rod – yes you have to eat their salary – but put the best team on the field and do what you need to do.
    Of course if you can trade any of these for an Autographed Bob Walk hat or Bob Prince bobble head go ahead and do so..

    • I’ve dealt with the principle at work myself but I don’t think it applies here. Mostly because the 40-man is an arbitrary grouping of players not the top 40. Additionally, a released roster isn’t automatically replaced by someone else on the 40-man. For instance, if Lobstein, Scahill, and Holdzcom were released, they wouldn’t get replaced by the next best pitchers say Kuhl, Brault, and Williams. It would just reduce our current options. However, if Kuhl were ready on say May 15, you could release any one of those guys to make room.

    • Thank God Nutting doesn’t run his organization like Welch ran GE. I trust NH & his staff to make changes to improve the franchise without being beholden to some ridiculously archaic 10% rule that Welch used to have his team live in constant fear for their livelihood.

  • Why does Kingham burn service time? Couldn’t the Pirates be just burn an option and send him to AAA as he wasn’t injured in MLB? What’s the difference between Kingham burning service time and Taillon not burning service time when he was injured?

    • I think one reason is because we need his 40 man roster spot, maybe not in April but some point before June and if we did option him then he would be down to 1 option year remaining (2017). He projects as a 3-5 starter so they figure they rather trade that 1 year of service time in exchange for that option in 2018.

    • He gave a scenario in which a player would pick up service time, using Kingham as the example since he is already injured and explaining why the Pirates wouldn’t do that. Kingham will be sent down Wednesday, just like Taillon, Glasnow, Hanson, Bell, Garcia, Moroff and Ramirez, since they are all in the same boat.

      Elias Diaz already has time in, so if he got hurt, it wouldn’t matter when it happened, he would need to go on the MLB DL.

      Players like Reese McGuire and Adam Frazier might get sent down Wednesday, but if they do stay up, it doesn’t matter because they aren’t on the 40-man roster.

    • I’m saying they’d send Kingham down now, because the alternative is he burns service time.