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The John Hart draft doctrine … Scouting Gerrit Cole … and is the Pirates’ bullpen really overworked?

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INDIANAPOLIS – Greetings from the crossroads of America where I’ve come to watch Charlie Morton throw a bullpen. OK, OK, I’m really here to watch Gerrit Cole pitch. More on that later.

 

But first, I wanted to talk some more MLB draft. I caught up with former Cleveland and Texas GM John Hart, a current MLB Network analyst, to chat for tomorrow’s draft preview.

 

Hart was the architect of one of the better rebuilding jobs in modern baseball history: turning around the Cleveland Indians from laughing stock to one of the best teams in baseball.

 

Part of the success in Cleveland was tied to smart trades and pioneering long-term, arbitration buyout deals to young players, since copied by Tampa Bay and many other clubs. But a large part of the success came through the draft.

 

a_hart_i

As a kid growing up in Cleveland I worshiped at the alter of John Hart (sorry, not you, Charlie)

 

Like every team that drafts, the Indians had some misses. But what Hart did is swing and swing big early in the draft. The Indians didn’t often take “safe” college-ready players, like out of the Moneyball philosophy. They went for high-upside players in Manny Ramirez (11th overall – 1991), Jaret Wright (10th ovearall 1994 – an impact guy at MLB level until injury), C.C. Sabatahia (20th overall 1998).

 

Hart’s doctrine is this: the draft is the best vehicle for small-market clubs to acquire impact talent so small-market clubs should draft high-upside players, who are often high schoolers and riskier players.

 

“When I say higher ceiling, I think in the first round what you are looking for, if it’s a position player, it’s a guy who has a chance to be an everyday player on a first-division club,” Hart said. “We would like to take that a step further and say a player who has all-star type ability: .280-.300 hitter, 20-25 home runs, or a front- to-mid starting pitcher in the first round.”

 

In other words, even though Mike Leake is a solid No. 5 starter for the Reds, Hart would advise against forgoing a “safe” college arm that projects to be a bottom of the rotation arm eighth overall and draft, say, Shelby Miller instead in 2009, a riskier prep arm.

 

“Clubs that keep it simple (have success),” Hart said. “Look for an everyday player on a 1st division club or a starting pitcher, a guy who has a chance to be a starter front-to-mid rotation pitcher. That’s what I want to take.”

 

The Pirates are going to face this debate: upside high school prospects or second-tier college talent tomorrow with the 9th and 14th overall picks.

 

Some of the high upside candidates are high schoolers:

 

OF Clint Frazier

OF Austin Meadows

LHP Trey Ball (who they like)

SS J.P. Crawford

C Reese McGuire (who they like)

 

That’s the group I’d advise to be picking from them unless something crazy happens like Mark Appel or Colin Moran fall.

 

I’m not sure if the Pirates front office feels comfortable enough to take players that might not arrive for five years, but in the long-term, it’s high school players that give the Pirates the best chance to find another star, another Andrew McCutchen (11th overall 2005, high school pick).

 

IS THE PIRATES BULLPEN REALLY OVERWORKED?

 

We know the Pirates starters have struggled to go deep into games with injuries to Jeanmar Gomez and Wandy Rodriguez recently.

 

We know the bullpen has pitched more innings than any other club in baseball.

 

But are the key bullpen arms really overworked? Interesting stuff from Ken Rosenthal

 

*Jason Grilli has pitched three consecutive days only once, totaling just 43 pitches in that span. He has thrown 20 or more pitches just four times in 28 outings.

 

Mark Melancon has yet to pitch three consecutive days and gone back-to-back only eight times. He has thrown 20 or more pitches in just four of 30 outings.

 

Justin Wilson has gone back-to-back just twice and never after throwing 20 or more pitches. Only once has he thrown more than 30 pitches and then not taken at least two days off.

 

Clint Hurdle has done a very good job of keeping his key bullpen aces  fresh.

 

I wonder if there’s a common misnomer in baseball. Maybe what really happens is “overworked” bullpens are ones where middle relievers are forced to pick up the slack. That means a staff is having its weakest arms pickup more of the workload. That can be ugly. Maybe that’s where the lack of performance really comes from. Not end-game bullpen fatigue.

 

SCOUTING GERRIT COLE

OK, now what you’v long awaited for: my amateur scouting report on Gerrit Cole.

 

*The most impressive thing to me is the strength he holds deep into starts: his 88th pitch touched 99 mph Wednesday

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Scouting Gerrit Cole. It’s not hard. He’s good.

 

*The other thing that stuck out is Cole has been much more efficient lately: 95 pitches, 62 for strikes Wednesday.

 

Said a scout: ‘when Cole works down in the zone he makes it look easy.’

 

The scout was also impressed with Cole’s more direct path to home plate, resulting in better fastball command.

 

*Cole said he was aware of Wandy Rodriguez’s injury prior to his start but said he doesn’t think he’s the next in line for a call-up motioning to veterans Morton and James McDonald in the Triple-A clubhouse.

 

*Cole said he has been trying to pitch to contact and isn’t worried about his lackluster strikeout totals.

 

*Cole appeared to be working on his curve (not many changeups Wednesday) and it was sharp. Cole froze Vince Belnome on a knee-buckling curve in the third inning.

 

*Final line: 7Ip, 3H. 0R, BB, 3K. …. 18 straight scoreless innings … not many Ks but Cole was challenging the Bulls with his fastball that sat 94-98 mph.

 

*Cole’s fastball can still get flat when he loses the downward plane. Shelley Duncan drilled a 98 mph Cole fastball to deep center for a flyout.

 

*Wil Myers was 0 for 3 against Cole with mostly weak contact.

 

*I’m not a scout but I think this: Cole is ready for The Show. And when Super 2 passes at the end of next week, I think he could be there.

 

- TS

(@Travis_Sawchik)

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Comments

  1. John Lease says:

    What happened to Cooperstown for Neil H?

  2. Brendan says:

    Travis,

    With respect to potential SP options–assuming Wandy heads to the DL–aside from some of the names mentioned above and the other guys in the AAA rotation, Justin Wilson strikes me as the other candidate who at least merits mentioning–although it seems pretty unlikely they’d give him a shot this season. But I thought I’d explore it, even if only theory.

    Obviously he’s excelling in his current role—particularly of late—so you wouldn’t want to make that move without careful consideration. There’s also no guarantee his stuff would play as well over 5 + innings.

    The big issue with Wilson has of course always been his BB rate. However since giving up 3 BB’s on May 7th he’s had a K/BB rate of 17/2 over 12 games and 15 IP.

    The question as far as I’m concerned is whether this simply a small sample, his stuff playing up in relief, or if he’s in fact made a mechanical change that’s improved his control. I was curious if you had the chance to talk Ray Searage about his recent success and what you think it might be attributable to.

  3. RobertoForever says:

    Go back to the yinzers on Lisa’s blog.

    Travis is providing great stuff here that has been lacking with the Trib. No need for comments that add no value to the discussions.

    Goodness, some people just love to tear things down.

  4. RobertoForever says:

    Travis,

    Thanks for the on-site scouting reports from Indy. Great insight on what Cole is working on and how that affects his results.

    What did you think of Victory Field? Its one of my favorite Triple-A ballparks. Love the grass berm all the way around the outfield with the ability to bring your own coolers out there. Unusual policy but great for families.

    Saw Brad Eldred hit a bomb to L-CF that cleared the berm, trees and fence and hit in the street. Too bad he couldn’t hit the junk.

    Also, thoughts on Andy Oliver as a fill-in starter till Cole comes up.

    Thanks again for the great stuff.

  5. Roberto For Now,
    .
    Ya know, I had almost convinced myself that I was missing hearing your voice and the good perspective you sometimes brought . . . . . and then the first words out of your mouth here are attacking someone else. And that reminded me of the real YOU.
    .
    Read your own last sentence above! That would be the exact definition of YOU in the dictionary.
    .
    If you could overcome that part of YOU, it would be fun to entertain your perspective again. But it is never YOU.

  6. cmat0829 says:

    I don’t see them starting Wilson for quite a few reasons, notably:

    1) He is performing very very well in a key and growing role in the bullpen…a bullpen that is very much needed and very much needs support for Melancon that Wilson can provide.

    2) He isn’t ‘stretched out” for starting… they don’t want to risk any injuries and so they’d need to send him down to Indy to ramp up to start… that will take a while.

    3) There are other, better options. Cole will be in this rotation in about 10 days, no doubt about it. That makes the rotation AJ/Liriano/Locke/Cole and then there are many options for the #5 slot… Wandy could have a short stint on the DL; Gomez could return; Morton is ready; JMac can return.

  7. JuniataKid says:

    Good stuff. Think I’ll pass on re-upping my subscription to PG+.

  8. Brendan says:

    I don’t see them doing that other as I mentioned above. Largely because of the first two points you mentioned, success in his current role and not being sufficiently stretched out.

    I was bringing it up mostly as discussion point. What I am MOST interested in his Wilson’s improved control. As I mentioned in my comment above I’m curious if it’s a case of a small sample, his stuff playing up in relief, or if he’s made a mechanical change of note. I’d don’t have the expertise to analyze his deliver for such a change but I’d be curious to get the thoughts of Travis or anyone else who does, or as access to someone who does–such as Ray Searage.

  9. Travis Sawchik says:

    I think down the road Wilson could be a rotation option. Love the arm. Rare lefty velo. But for now I think they like him as a impact lefty out of the pen.

  10. Travis Sawchik says:

    Thanks, JunitaKid

  11. Travis Sawchik says:

    Hey Roberto,

    Victory Field is a great, great Triple-A park. The JW Marriott hotel offers quite the backdrop, too. … I think Oliver is a guy who could work his way into being an option if the injuries continue to mount. I think Cole is a very real option after Super 2 passes

  12. Brendan says:

    Thanks for the input Travis. I’d tend to think the same. If he continues to pitch anything like he has of late he could emerge as another 8th inning option so the Bucs don’t have to lean so heavily on Melancon.

    When next you have a chance to chat with Ray Searage, I’d be curious if his improved control has anything to do with mechanical changes, etc. similar to Francisco Liriano. I recall that you mentioned Liriano had tweaked his mechanics and was using a more over-the-top delivery, resulting in better fastball command.

  13. Jim S. says:

    That’s a really great question about Wilson, and one I have wondered about. Is it just that he has found his niche in the bullpen, and knowing that he is only going one or two innings he is able to focus on keeping his mechanics together? Maybe he loses his mechanics, historically, as he tires throughout a game? Or, is he just simply getting better and would be a monster starter who gives up very few hits and avoids control problems for the most part? He is a valuable pitcher for this team, now and in the future, whether as a starter or reliever although a stud lefty starter would be awesome.

  14. Jim S. says:

    Travis:

    Your stuff is always great. I love the topics you choose to write about. The John Hart interview is terrific, and having just read it I am reflecting back to things he said last night on the MLB Draft show. You really highlighted his philosophy well in the interview, and the Pirates followed it to a T in round 1. He laid out a blueprint for us that the Pirates executed.

    Thanks, also for the Cole write-up. I will admit that it does perplex me that he is currently not striking out more hitters. But, I guess we will all gladly live with that in the short term if he keeps giving up 1 hit every 2 innings.

    Keep up the good work. Love your stuff. Much appreciated.

  15. Jim S. says:

    You nailed it on all 3 points, cmat. Let’s allow Wilson to continue to grow and contribute in the vital role where he is currently assigned. He is doing a terrific job right now. Let’s allow the Bucs to figure out what other roles he might be capable of later.

  16. RobertoForever says:

    Groat

    Glad you piped in. I was afraid you might come thru with an ACTUAL contributing comment, instead of a complaint, wrapped in a criticism, wrapped in a back-handed compliment.

    And I don’t think there actually was a personal attack in MY post, but there were several in YOUR post.

    I just am not interested in this blog becoming smart-aleck, inane, immature ‘humor’ posing as ‘comments’

 
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