Pirates Prospects Daily: Three Years Covering The Individual Development Approach

ALTOONA, PA – Two years ago at this time, I traveled to Greensboro and Altoona.

At the time, I wasn’t confident in my reporting skills. I didn’t go to school for journalism. I don’t have the internal need to be the person distributing information to the crowd. My focus has always been business, and I’ve done this independently for 15 years because I’ve been training on business simulations since I was 13 years old.

What I ended up getting during that trip was the story of the Pirates individual development process. It almost seemed too easy. Either I am the best reporter in this town covering the Pirates, with the ability to get information no one else can get; Or, I was being fed information that would sound good.

I held the story. Three months later, Jason Mackey and Alex Stumpf reported the same thing I found. I decided to run my story in January 2022, as the first article drop on this site, to establish my coverage point going forward.


Last year at this time, I traveled to Greensboro and Altoona.

This time, I went in with the idea that maybe I am the best reporter in this town. Maybe I see things that no one else can see on the field, because no one else in this town has my level of knowledge of this game. I had another reporter joining me in Altoona that year, and that reporter wrote his Endy Rodriguez story based off my questions. I only agreed to group interviews because, to be quite honest, I love a challenge. This challenge: Can I produce a better story than other writers, even when they get the same base level information?

My article drop from that coverage highlighted Endy Rodriguez as the best prospect in the system, with a few views that were early at the time, and which are showing to be accurate a year later.


I just wrapped up two weeks on the road, in Greensboro and Altoona.

I’ve got 26 interviews to sift through when I get home.

Every outlet sent a reporter to cover Paul Skenes. Every one of those reporters had a chance to write the same stories I’m going to write about the other players in the Altoona clubhouse. I’ve yet to write anything on Skenes, but I already know that no one even picked up on what I’m going to write about. I’ve yet to see it discussed anywhere.

My focus for the upcoming month is writing those individual stories. My own coverage approach is to respect and honor the individual people involved here. I’m aiming to tell you the individual development stories of everyone I talked with over the last two weeks.

From there, the elephant in the room is how this all ties together, and what it says about the Pirates’ chances of winning. This is where I absolutely know that my perspective provides the most value. No one has spent more time around this development system than me. I know the flaws that needed to be fixed, and I know how much exact progress the Pirates have made.

During the month of September, my focus will be the individual player reports, but more importantly, an assessment of how this individual development approach is working.


**In probably the biggest news of the day, the Pirates could have their TV rights owned by the company that owns the Boston Red Sox. The Pirates would be faced with a choice. The first option is to allow Fenway Sports Group to manage their Pittsburgh-based Regional Sports Network. In this scenario, they’d be shown with the Penguins, who are owned by Fenway Sports Group. The alternative is to allow MLB to manage the broadcast rights for 80% of the current deal.

In short, the Pirates either give 20% of their local TV deal to MLB, or they allow the company that owns the Boston Red Sox to manage how much money they make.

What should happen is MLB should take over every team’s TV rights, and divide the money equally.

**Dejan Kovacevic’s latest column looks at four years of this rebuild for the Pirates. Dejan and I have always been on opposite ends of the spectrum in how we view baseball. He looks at things from a Pittsburgh perspective. I look at things from a Pirates perspective. The difference is that he looks at the city’s team, and I look at what a team should do independent of any city. That said, we’re not far off in our views right now.

I’ll have some thoughts later this week, after spending the last two weeks reporting on the heart of the player development system.

The biggest thing that stood out to me from that article:

Of all the backward Ks, Shelton had this to say afterward: “I think, at times, we get too passive. I think, at times, you look at pitches that are called strikes that may not be, and people get criticized for it. I think with young players, we have to have that fine line between being passive and being aggressive. I think today we got executed against. As good as our young hitters have been at times, I think we saw some young at-bats today.”

The Pirates being too passive is the single biggest concern I can find throughout the system. There are different levels of this issue in the various aspects of the Pirates’ massive organization. I’ll go into details of what that means in my upcoming column, which you should expect by the end of the week.

First, I’m driving home today.

Then, I’m turning 40 tomorrow, so don’t expect to see me online.

Once I’m finished with my September writing, I’m going to evaluate my health and desire to do this any longer.

This is no country for old bloggers.


PIRATES (58-73) VS Cubs

Score: Cubs 10, Pirates 1
Pittsburgh Starter: Bailey Falter, LHP (5.04)
–Line: 4.2 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HR
Player of the Game: Josh Palacios, LF (2-for-3, BB)
Attendance: 19,154

Notable Performers

  • Ji Hwan Bae, 2B (1-for-3, 2B, 3 K)
  • Cody Bolton, RHP (2.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K)

One Sentence Recap: It’s good to see Cody Bolton pitching well, at least.


I’m not doom and gloom on the Pirates going forward. I think their development has been slow, but steady in a positive direction. The biggest sign of hope I can see in Pittsburgh:


Pirates Prospect Watch: Jared Jones Strikes Out Ten, Final Reports From Altoona


Jared Jones struck out ten batters in his latest start, allowing one run in six innings.


I had my final reports from Altoona in Sunday’s Prospect Watch. I’ll have a lot of features from this level throughout the month of September.


I’ll also have a lot of reports from Greensboro throughout the month of September. These two levels are the heart of the development system. There’s a reason I cover them every year at this time.


I might try to watch Bradenton for a few games to end the season. My body can’t really take the heat or humidity of covering games in Florida, so I’ve yet to go to Bradenton this season. On a related note, I’ll be bummed to leave Pennsylvania and the high heat levels that are still below what it feels like outside at 3 AM in Florida.


The DSL Pirates Gold won the first game of the DSL semi-finals. For the full action on Sunday, check out the Prospect Watch.


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Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.

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I wouldn’t mind seeing the Pirates claim one of the starters put on waivers today to save us from three bullpen games every time through the rotation. I don’t mind bullpen games, but not to the extent we’ve been using them.


Thanks Tim for your coverage of Pirate Prospects over the years. I say that because I never seen such a conflicted person. I start to doubt that you care at all about the Pirates or their minor league system but you did a magnificent job nonetheless. Once again do what pleases you and get on with your life. I guess we can live without this.


My biggest criticism of Ben is the starting pitching currently is a joke. They shouldn’t be using openers or scrap heap rebounds like Falter. They should have never sent Priester down and on September 1 get Jones up here and see what he can do. Something is a miss with Conteras & Ortiz and falls on Martin.


I don’t buy the whole “player stalls, its always the coach’s fault” routine. Might be true sometimes but its always on the player to do the things necessary to succeed. Some of theim might just not do that to the level necessary.


None of hteir young guys hit the ground running, and none appear to be studs.


The logical conclusion of aggressively promoting players through the upper minors and “finishing” development in the show.

Shitty baseball and wasted service time.

Look around the league, the Pirates are no worse than nearly everyone else.


I think Endy’s doing quite well. Cruz was on point before his injury. Peguero has been somewhat of a pleasant surprise. Not disappointed about Bae but I tempered my expectations on him.


Right. I’m not expecting Acuna-like returns from the get-go. A lot of struggled, but some have shown some good signs. The pitching side of development up at the bigs has been more disappointing.


The two players I would like to see consistency and a little more ownership from next year are Hayes and Reynolds. When those guys are at their best, good things happen.


Hayes answers with an 8th inning 2-out 2 run homer to give the Pirates followed by a Reynolds triple. I love it!


Peguero follows with an absolute bomb…..!


I thik this guy might be a lock for next year. He’s bigger than I thought and I think he can play short.


You ought to see him in person. He looks like an NFL safety…..reminds me alot of Marte, including the swing.


I think he can play short as well. Do you prefer Peguero at short, then move Cruz? or do you prefer Cruz at short and Peguero at second?


Cruz has a lot of recovery ahead of him and that will impact his ability to play short.


i guess i’m not surprised that a system led by andy haines has a passive problem at the plate


Who’s running the ship? Shelton says things like this as if he has no control, everything is just the hand he’s been dealt. But he’s a former hitting coach and said when Haines was hired that the change was made so that they could all be on the same page.

At least Cherington acknowledged yesterday that he needs to get better (kind of a weak acknowledgement as in we all need to get better but still a step in the right direction); it would be nice to see Shelton take some accountability.


I agree with you (I think). Haines is running a system that Shelton approves/buys into. So does Cherington. They WANT what Haines is teaching.


Dejan is on another everything sucks, fire everyone kick.

What botherd me is he was 1000% in for s full rebuild. Now that we have all the prospects in Pittsburgh and they’re struggling a bit, the whole thing is s failure and heads need to roll.

This is the long rebuild process that you wanted DK. This is how it works, you can’t quit on it now, the prospects just got here. I can’t wait for 20 more sky is falling articles.


Yes he did. He said Cherington was doing the rebuild the “right way” Huntington never did. And the right was to trade every tradeable minor league piece for prospects, regardless of how far away they were. He said there should be no trades for people close to or at the major league level. That approach can only lead to a long rebuild, especially with the Pirates.


Rebuilds *overwhelming* fail to succeed in the modern game. They’re little more than a money-making scheme from Front Offices.

To that end, sure, blame DK for supporting Nutting’s disastrously long teardown to begin with.

But give at least him the credit of showing he actually cares whether or not it’s *working* and not the act itself.

The Pirates identified player dev as their main failure, hired the remnants of a dismantled Cubs Front Office that was shitcanned explicitly due to player dev failures, and now said Cubs have both a better big league club AND farm system than the Pirates.

Seems fair to start asking some questions.


The cubs are in contention because they used free agency to help the big league team. Bellinger is a guy the pirates could have signed. He signed a 1 year deal. I remember how mad I was when the cubs signed him. I thought he would have been perfect for the pirates. I also thought Nathan eovaldi would have been a great player to sign as well. He had been injured and would come cheap.

I’m not looking for the pirates to sign Ohtani or spend 1 billion dollars, but this offseason needs to be the offseason that the pirates bring in legit players that have big upside. A good farm system is great, but bringing in legit MLB players also needs to be part of process and this offseason needs to be the year it starts.


Yes, the Cubs used FA to help the team and yes I agree the Bucs should certainly supplement this off-season. But if you look at the Cubs homegrown guys, they’re better than the Pirates this year: Steele/Alzolay/Happ/Horner are a better combo than Keller/Bednar,/Reynolds/Hayes. And they might be going forward too.


They didn’t exactly sign the MVP version of Bellinger, either.

I, for one, would be thrilled to acquire cheap free agents and turn them back into stars.


Yeah, where’s that market (turn cheap FAs into stars) at? GMBC should do that.
I’m too lazy to look, but I’ve yet to see deep dive into Bellinger’s rejuvenation anywhere. Maybe no one has an answer, other than he cut his K rate almost in half from the last two seasons.


I’m too lazy also, but my somewhat credible Cub fan said he benefited from the new shift rule.


I listen to DK and his 10-15 podcast pretty much every morning, so maybe the writing is different. While that knee-jerk stuff is always eye-rolling, it’s fair to ask the question as to why so many guys stagnate, regress, or just plain suck when they get up here. Why is the development lacking? Are they worse at identifying talent or at developing it? It’s fair to wonder if this regime sucks at both. Cincinnati had a lot more on hand to trade for their rebuild, and even though they started two years later, they’re looking to be in better shape.

Which brings me to the next question: maybe this regime was good at the demo part of the rebuild, but has zero clue how to actually build? You know how Detroits rebuild went sideways? Like that.


I think your last paragraph hits the nail on the head–they have the right ideas but haven’t shown any indication that they know how to effectively implement those ideas.

We’ll see if that changes. One thing to follow is the 2021 draft, which reminded me of the 2009 draft conceptually (and ironically occurred two years after Huntington started). Time showed that while the idea may have been good, the implementation was very poor. Sanchez never panned out and those HS arms we were so excited about (Pounders, Dodson, ZVR, Cain) ended up earning a total of -1.3 bWAR (all Pounders; the other three never made the majors). Good concept, but will Cherington’s team have more success with it than did Huntington’s?


Actually look at the record since the break. 19-24. That’s an 72 win pace. August? 13-15. That is almost .500. The 20-8 was good, then they were AWFUL and on a 110 loss pace, but arbitrary endpoints always let you tell whatever story you want.

Fact is, they are on pace to finish a season with 90 losses. That’s ten more wins than last year. That’s actual progress.

Am I happy with the “way” it went down? Hell no. Do I fear they don’t actually have the players they need? Yes.

But it’s not fair to call this a 100 loss team. Not if they only lose 90. And if they won today they finish 14/15 in august and imagine if they go the other way at 15/14 in September? Will the narrative shift again or will we keep obsessing on the middle of the year when the vets were still here and (to be fair) they kitty decimated their pitching and power.


I’ll be more optimistic if they continue your arbitrary pace in August through September, and not so much because of their overall record but because their winning percentage since that fluky start will have surpassed the pace they played at the last few years.


Nice job putting things back in perspective. I think the over/under on Pirates wins was 67.5.


How’s this for arbitrary endpoints and perspective. The Bucs started out with 5 straight losses after the AS Break.

In the 38 games since they are 19-19. .500. The 5 losses from the 19-24 all came at the start.

The point is, the inability to strong a crooked number of wins together has obscured that they are a .500 team the past 6 weeks.

Seriously, I’m starting to talk myself into optimism. The pitching is even exciting the last few days.


Its difficult to assess whether Pirates’ development results are better/worse/no different than other teams w/o a benchmark or perspective. Otherwise, its all just subjective.


I agree its more than fair to wonder why key players aren’t performing better.

I didn’t want the full rebuild – it only guarantees losing season. DK lectured that this is the right way to do it – you have to trade away everyone. No half measures. Well, we did that. It takes 4 years in this process, you can’t advocate for this time of rebuild and jump ship now. And this is the first season all the kids are here. Are most of them struggling? Yes. Does it look good? Not particularly. Can you ask questions? For sure. But I also think there’s been enough bright spots to be optimistic. Its just too soon to declare complete failure, which is the overwhelming tone.

He said to fire Matt Canada into the sun 1000 times last year. Steelers offense looked pretty good so far. Maybe Canada will prove that he actually does suck, but it was the guy’s first year with a rookie QB- maybe that was a little premature? Its these prospects first exposure to the major leagues. He prints this stuff like he’s judge, jury, and executioner Criticism development – absolutely, but declare total failure – thats a bit much just yet. Just hold your horses. Or write fifty five more articles saying the same thing until next season starts. I think he’ll choose the latter.


Nicely said.


I heard Steve Stone talking about the White Sox a few days ago. He said one of the things that many teams don’t understand is that your scouting department and your developmental team have to be able to work hand-in-hand.

Just because your bring in guys with talent doesn’t mean you have the right staff for that. Also, sometimes it isn’t the most talented guys you need to bring in.

It also made me think of how the Pirates could bring in pitchers that looked washed up like JA Happ, Francisco Liriano or AJ Burnett, then Ray Searage turned them into Pirate gems.


I don’t pay attention to Dejan since he seemed to go off the deep end about Huntington and then took full credit for the changes. However, the only path I see for better management is when the local media, including Dejan, become critical enough that Nutting takes notice.

With Williams’ lack of experience in baseball, I don’t see him making a change at GM, and Cherington continues to endorse Shelton despite the team’s consistently poor play (as Mackey points out, since the 20-8 start they’re playing at a pace that would result in 102 losses; i.e., Cherington’s entire case for improvement in wins (which he highlighted in his presser yesterday) is based on the first 28 games of the season and nothing since).

Maybe if Dejan, Mackey, and others amp up the criticism, Nutting will take enough notice to create some sense of urgency from within. I’m okay with everyone getting another year, but if they’re not contending a year from now, then much bigger changes than, say, replacing a hitting coach should be made.


If you listen/read DK long enough, you’ll hear him take every side of every position. He talks out of both sides of his mouth. He doesn’t think he does that.


I’ve not read him in a long time, but isn’t it fair to wonder that he (as well as any sports columnists) changes their views as the results change on the field?


To some extent, certainly.


DK, like M Madden(ing), is about entertainment, certainly not insight or in-depth analysis.


Looking forward I hope to see more games like tonight’s from our starting pitchers whoever they may be.


Great move by Shelton to let him finish and make the statement.


What a great game tonight with Hayes starring all around with a brilliant defensive play to save 2 runs and Oviedo going the distance. In the prior format we would have had a dozen commenting all-night. Yeah….I miss it.


Hayes now leads position players in fWAR (2.2) and is second to Keller (3.0) overall. Loved the extension at the time, never really doubted Hayes given the defense, and so glad to see those high EVs paying off with balls finding holes. We’re fortunate to get to watch his defense and now with the hitting he’s back to looking like a star.


I must admit I am stunned by how flat out lethal Hayes is at the plate in this stretch. Even better than rookie year. Everything is hit hard and with more loft. The team did him a disservice by not disclosing his back issues when they first flamed up. They have to help him keep that back sound.


Get that yoga mat ready, Key!


The amount of time this site uses to explain its “coverage” is exhausting.


I enjoy the baseball writing very much. The frequent personal musings not so much.


It’s easy to spot those and skim or skip.


One of my favorite things about Tim is that he shares a bit about himself as a person and what is going on in his brain other than baseball. Let Tim be Tim.


Happy 40th Tim. Thanks for letting us know you’ll be out that day. You think you’re getting old now wait till you hit the half-century mark!

Rob Baran

Life begins at 40 Tim.

Curious what kinds of experiences you’ve had with other team’s developmental systems. Trying to get at how deep Your knowledge is outside our Bucs system that you’ve so ablely explained to us in recent years.


You know this answer.


this. will. be. prime. reading!
During the month of September, my focus will be the individual player reports, but more importantly, an assessment of how this individual development approach is working.”


I am excited for this. Deeper dives on the individuals playing the game.

In milb, I root for the man, not the team. What makes me interested enough to drive from Central Pa to Greensboro over Labrador Day Weekend is the individual pushing that rock up that hill.

I think Tim’s feature writing will blow away most of the reportage we see on this Pirates’ system.

Very much looking forward to it.



Yes it will. For those of you who did not play, it’s pretty hard to believe how haphazard amateur coaching can be. For example, I was 21 before our first-string catcher explained why my footwork on throws to second stunk. I never had a coach who was a catcher, so I had no clue.


This is so true. I had great coaches on fielding fundamentals but nothing on hitting until late. I think the better players have hitting coaches early now but don’t play enough to develop instinctive fundamentals.


Happy early 40 years young birthday tomorrow.

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