Instructs Report: Robles, German and Cederlind Pitch; Mathisen Continues to Move Around

BRADENTON – Just some brief notes from instructs on Thursday. The more experienced players returned from two days on the road to play the Yankees. The pitching lineup didn’t have the elite prospects that it had on Monday, when Mitch Keller and Taylor Hearn threw. The game did include righties Blake Cederlind and Angel German — the latter, of course, came from the Dodgers in the Tony Watson deal — and lefty Domingo Robles.  The starter was Robles, who got through two uneventful innings.  Cederlind is coming off a tough season at West Virginia.  He was sitting around 96 yesterday and had one scoreless inning; I didn’t see his second inning.

After playing second on Monday, Wyatt Mathisen was at first yesterday, with first baseman Jerrick Suiter at third.  I doubt Suiter playing third really means much, but as I noted Monday Mathisen may be preparing to move forward as a utility player. Adrian Valerio and Mitchell Tolman played short and second.  Logan Hill also played, showing he’s recovered from his broken hand. He lined a single to left his first time up.

In the black-and-gold scrimmage, Oneil Cruz continued to play short and continued to avoid having anything hit to him.  Sherten Apostel doubled high off the fence in left in two at-bats. I’ve seen him in five at-bats now and he’s doubled twice.  He seems to produce power with very little effort in his swing. If you missed it from yesterday, the Pirates recently signed his younger brother. Deon Stafford also continues to swing the bat well.

And a few pics:

Jerrick Suiter at an unusual spot. Photo credit: Wilbur Miller
Adrian Valerio. Photo credit: Wilbur Miller
Lolo Sanchez. Photo credit: Wilbur Miller
Logan Hill. Photo credit: Wilbur Miller
Bligh Madris. Photo credit: Wilbur Miller
Domingo Robles. Photo credit: Wilbur Miller

 

Having followed the Pirates fanatically since 1965, Wilbur Miller is one of the fast-dwindling number of fans who’ve actually seen good Pirate teams. He’s even seen Hall-of-Fame Pirates who didn’t get traded mid-career, if you can imagine such a thing. His first in-person game was a 5-4, 11-inning win at Forbes Field over Milwaukee (no, not that one). He’s been writing about the Pirates at various locations online for over 20 years. It has its frustrations, but it’s certainly more cathartic than writing legal stuff. Wilbur is retired and now lives in Bradenton with his wife and three temperamental cats.

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piraddict

Can Kevin Kramer play 3B?

piraddict

I don’t know, Suiter’s bat looks better at 3B than say: Eric Wood, Wyatt Mathisen, … even Ke’ Hayes. IDK if he can pay 3B defense, but it is certainly worth a look.

Eric Marshall

We need a third baseman. Why aren’t we playing prospects specifically there… Wood, Suiter, Mathieson, Osuna etc to get a path forward… knowing one way or the other if these guys are legit options.

tcs3gobucs

Wood and Mathieson have been primarily 3B until recently. I take that to mean if they were good enough to project as starters at that spot, they would have been left there.

joe s

Another utility player or two being developed by the Pirates yet again. Looks like they have cornered the market on those types of players and the rest of baseball will come to them to trade for these very versatile players. The riches it will bring will make them perennial winners and world champions. At last they found the way to win.

Tim Williams

I don’t understand the constant complaints against this approach. They’re not doing this with prospects who project to be starters. They do this with prospects who are projected to be bench players, and maybe an average starter at best.

And it works.

This approach led to Josh Harrison breaking out during the 2014 season. Without the experience in the outfield, he wouldn’t have been an option. The same goes for Adam Frazier. The same for Jose Osuna. He’s not making it up only as a first baseman. And now there are people calling for him to add third base to the mix.

The complaints make sense if they’re doing this with Cole Tucker, Kevin Newman, or some other projected starter who could be above average. It makes all the sense in the world with potential bench guys, especially when there is a lack of playing time for some of those guys like Mathisen.

thecrow124

I can only speak for myself, but I complain about this particular philosophy because the Pirates do it with so many players. Organizationally, they have no replacement for Kang at 3B, no replacement for Mercer at SS, no replacement for Harrison at 2B, and no replacement for Cutch in the OF. At least none the project to be much more than slightly above replacement level. So they take all these guys, that project to be replacement level, and teach them new positions, so that they can rest their actual good baseball players. I realize that bench players need to play more than one position, but if they are average at one and below average at the others, it is meaningless.

Take Mathisen, he appears to be a below average 3Bman, what point is there in teaching him any other position? He isn’t very good at his primary position, so isn’t even a good option as a utility guy. In order for him to be a viable utility guy at 1st and 3rd, he needs to bat for some semblance of power.

AttyMike

It seems, unscientifically, that lots of players fall into this approach. If they don’t project as starters, then they must have a lot of players who don’t project as starters. I wouldn’t cite Frazier as a success story. He’s a utility player in the bigs. Those types of players aren’t going to win you championships. If simply getting a player to the bigs is the goal, then I agree he’s a “success”. But that shouldn’t be the goal. Harrison was the opposite. He was really good at a lot of spots and they had the luxury of moving him around so they could accommodate other players coming up. That was the case with Walker to some extent as well. Frazier was just ok at many spots and that was his only chance of success. its a way to get his bat into the lineup. Osuna is not a good example. He’s really only decent at 1B. Barely passable in the outfield, thus his butt is glued to the bench mostly. Will Craig — washed out at 3B. His only option is at 1B. This is the approach to take when you draft so-so talent. Kramer soon to be tried at SS in winter leagues. Uh oh.

Kerry Writtenhouse

Kramer played short in college, so it’s really not a stretch. If I recall, he had an arm injury coming out of college or something like that.

Tim Williams

The problem here is attaching this approach to championships. Let’s just look at it in a vacuum, and not grade everything on the scale of “Will this win a championship.”

Frazier was a middle infielder. The Pirates had a lot of middle infield options when he reached Double-A. There wasn’t a lot of playing time for him at that level. So he moved to the outfield, and was able to have a breakout season at the plate, which may not have been possible if he was splitting time with others between the two middle infield spots.

Then a need came up in the majors for an outfielder. Frazier now has outfield experience, so he was able to fill that role. If he could only play second base or shortstop in an emergency, then he’s not getting that call. But they moved him around, and he became a super utility player who was able to step in when they needed an outfielder.

If Frazier doesn’t move around, he might not develop the way he did without the extra playing time. Even if he did develop, he might not have the same shot at the majors.

This should all be viewed in the scope of “Did they develop a major league player?” Frazier was never projected to be more than a super utility guy, with only a very small chance of him being an average starter (if the defense improved). They got him to his likely upside. This is a developmental success story.

Yes, the ultimate goal is a championship. But there are hundreds of smaller goals along the way, and each of those is important.

As for the other examples, Craig is a more traditional move. Players move from harder positions to easier positions all the time. That’s normal development.

Kramer moving to shortstop is the opposite. It’s a player trying out a harder position. He was originally a shortstop, and only moved to second due to Newman (and because he doesn’t project as a starting shortstop). But this is a case where a guy could be a starter, but isn’t a guarantee. So you try to add value in case he doesn’t reach his starter upside. If he can play shortstop as a bench guy, then you’ve got a valuable infielder who can play three positions with some power.

If Kramer ends up a starter, then you just keep him at second base. In a way, that’s like what happened with Walker. He was converted to a utility guy, but then developed well enough to reach his upside as a starter, and remained at one position going forward. You hope that is what happens with Kramer, but you plan as if that won’t happen.

piraddict

Sounds like a sound explanation of a sound philosophy to me.

AttyMike

Finagling what you can out of prospects is good. Don’t get me wrong. But to the extent the Pirates are doing this (Frazier is the only solid example that of the approach really working) , it’s not making them the competitive team they desire to be.

Tim Williams

I think what we’re really seeing is the impact of this site.

A lot of teams take this same approach with prospects who project as bench players. But the Pirates are the only team that has a prospect site that covers the progression and movement of every single bench player.

Go around every other organization and you won’t find updates saying a Wyatt Mathisen level prospect is getting time at other positions. But it’s happening. It’s just only reported here.

Because of our coverage, you know extreme details about this system that exist in other systems as well. It doesn’t mean the Pirates are using this method singlehandedly to try and win it all. It means they’re using this as a normal method to develop prospects like other teams.

TonyV

Every team has dozens of prospects and minor league players that never make it. If you can turn some of those into role players by getting them to an acceptable level playing to other positions why not do it? It prevents having to pay market rates for similar experienced players. Think Matt Joyce, Sean Rodriguez, even David Freese. If you can produce a couple of guys each year that prevents you from being in a position to sign or deal for those types of players you are much better off as far as retention of prospects and financial savings. No, you will find few impact players by that method and it is not the intent. It is a way to maximize your assets.

DangerWilRobnsn

They’ve identified an exploitable niche in the market. True trendsetters again!

Guaranteed 72 wins every year.

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