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More love for the Pirates’ draft … And final 2013 payroll numbers released

SOUTH HILLS – A brief timeout from hot stove news today – namely because there has not been much over the last 24 hours – to share  more encouraging analysis on the most important thing the Pirates can do: draft well.

After Baseball America ranked the Pirates as having the best 2013 draft last month, MLB’s Jim Callis agreed with that assessment earlier this week

 

Wrote Callis:

 

At No. 9, the Pirates grabbed the best all-around high school position player in the 2013 Draft. Georgia high schooler Austin Meadows has a chance to be a four-tool center fielder, with arm strength his only below-average attribute. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder entered pro ball with a reputation for having a smooth left-handed swing and an advanced approach at the plate, and he backed it up by hitting .316/.424/.554 in his debut. … 

 

The Pirates strongly considered taking the top catcher in the 2013 Draft class at No. 9, and they were thrilled to get him five picks later. Washington high schooler Reese McGuire is extremely athletic for a backstop, and his quick feet enhance his already strong arm. He threw out 44 percent of basestealers in his pro debut and also showed fine receiving and blocking skills behind the plate.

McGuire can hit, too. He batted .323/.380/.380 in his first taste of pro ball and should continue to hit for average as he advances. Once he adds strength to his 6-foot, 181-pound frame, he could develop 15-homer power as well.

 

I actually think McGuire has more potential upside than Meadows. If he can hit, you’re talking about a productive defensive and offensive catcher, which is among the rarest of commodities in the game.

 

Callis also liked some of the later round selections:

 

Louisiana State center fielder JaCoby Jones (third round) was the best college athlete in the entire Draft, featuring well above-average raw power and plus speed, and he could be a star if he develops more consistency at the plate. Mississippi State’s Adam Frazier (sixth round) was the top college shortstop available, though he may wind up at second base or in a utility role. He’s a gamer who knows how to handle the bat.

 

The Pirates also stockpiled some intriguing right-handers in the seventh through 10th rounds: UNLV’s Buddy Borden, Connecticut high schooler Neil Kozikowski, Delaware’s Chad Kuhl and Long Beach State’s Shane Carle. The college arms all have good sinkers, while Kozikowski may have more upside than any of them with a projectable 6-foot-4, 180-pound frame and a low-90s fastball.

 

As we see with the Yankees teams can’t out spend their way out of trouble. The Red Sox, Rays, and perhaps even Orioles are in better shape than the Yankees in the AL East because they have drafted and developed players more successfully. It was important the Pirates improved in this area and 2013 should offer encouragement.

 

As I wrote about last month,  free agency ain’t what it used to be. And that’s really an advantage for small-market teams provided they draft and develop well.

 

PIRATES CREEP UP PAYROLL LIST 

 

The Associated Press released the final payroll numbers for the 2013 season yesterday.

 

The Pirates’ final payroll was 74.6 million. That’s was an improvement of four spots as the Pirates ranked 29th in major league payroll in 2012 at  $61,300,313.

 

Now can the Pirates move up to the edge of the middle class in the next couple of seasons?

 

-TS

45 Comments

  1. Travis, thanks again for the frequent blog posts and infomation…. question, is the $74.6M total the sum of all player salaries or is it netted for the portion the Yankees and Astros were responsible for?

    At this point of the offseason, what do you think is the most likely outcome of the Pirates 1B situation?

    a) No acquisition, they go with Lambo and Sanchez as platoon (or Ishikawa if he has a hot Spring).
    b) They trade Bryan Morris (or another arm) to the Mets for Ike Davis.
    c) They trade for either Justin Smoak or Mitch Moreland
    d) Another scenario no one has talked about

    • Certainly wait for Travis to verify, but I believe that is the final 40-man payroll paid by the Pirates, thus does not include the salaries paid by other organizations.

      At this point, I’m convinced the answer to your question is d). Seems more often than not that Huntngton does his bidding in private. Trades for Burnett, Rodriguez, Sanchez, and Snider were all out of nowhere, and it seems fairly clear that Huntington isn’t sold on any candidate that has openly hit the market thus far.

    • No problem, Cmat, thanks for reading.

      As for your questions:

      Those payroll figures are for 40-man rosters …. and I believe they do subtract dollars paid by Astros and Yankees for Burnett and Wandy but I would need to double check that.

      I think the most likely scenario is Lambo and Sanchez platoon – but that’s a plurality vote. I think if you combined b) and c) that would be a 50-50 shot. … if that makes sense.

      • You could be correct but just doing a quick look through the 25 man roster I have to think that does include the 13.5 million paid by other teams for Wandy and AJ. I just don’t see how the number can get up to 88.1 which is what it would have to be if it did include that money. But maybe I’m missing something. The numbers I’m seeing don’t include the added cost for Monreau or Byrd which couldn’t have been too much for just 35 games or so. I also doesn’t account for players like Inge and Jonathon Sanchez.

    • I think the most likely scenario, cmat, is they trade for Davis or Smoak. I suppose you could throw Moreland in there as well, but I think that is less likely.

      Personally, if I could trade Morris for Smoak or Davis, I would do it today.

  2. Keith Law, on that “All Star”, Ike Davis (from his chat):

    Tim (Arlington)

    Now that the options have dwindled, looks like the Pirates are circling Ike Davis. Aside from the ridiculous rumored original request of Nick Kingham in return, what’s your take on Davis and what would you surrender to get him if you were the Pirates?

    Klaw

    (1:58 PM)

    Not Kingham, of course, but given the rest of their roster, taking a flier on him IF they think they can alter the swing enough to make his hit tool playable makes some sense. They’re in that grey area where getting a crazy 3-4 WAR season from someone might make them a playoff contender again.

    ===========

    On our quiet off season:

    Steve (Pittsburgh, PA)

    Was it a blunder for the Pirates to stand pat this fall and winter? The team has a sound strategy. But will failing to add on to the 2013 team prove to be a tactical blunder?

    Klaw

    (1:30 PM)

    They’ve avoided a major pitfall – assuming that they were only headed up and spending too much in the short-term to try to boost that. There are way too many reasons to expect some short-term regression, even though the rest of the decade looks bright. A team with a low payroll can’t make the mistake of confusing one year’s success with the start of a sustainable run of contention.

    =======

    Btw, I am a Keith Law fan and I agree with both of these thoughts. So, like I’ve been saying….if we can get him cheap….otherwise….

    In NH I trust.

    • Sorry…I foogot to add this about Davis’ ‘hit tool’

      Klaw

      (1:16 PM)

      Davis has power, but can’t hit enough to get to it. I don’t like his swing at all, specifically where his hands start, which seems geared just to lift the ball but not produce enough contact.

      (Keith Law on Ike Davis… could you fix his hit tool?)

      • Maybe Ray Searage could double as the hitting coach …

        Or maybe the Pirates hope Branson is the Ray Searage of hitting coaches

      • Keith mentions the hitch in Davis’ swing that I’vebeen talking about, not that it is any secret.

        If a demotion to AAA last year wasn’t enough to get him to change, I have to believe it is wishful thinking to expect the Pirates to fix him.

        • I thought I read that Davis had the highest OBP in MLB upon coming back from AAA? That is hardly definitive evidence that he has been cured. But, maybe he is back on track.

          • Small sample, but one can dream, I suppose.

            One thing we know for sure is that the swing didn’t change, and that seems to be the crux of the issue.

    • Good stuff. Keith is a smart dude. Thanks for sharing, Lee

    • I like Keith Law a lot too. And I would agree with him if the Pirates were like any other team. They just had their first winning season in 20 years.

      I think they should spend some money now because the window is only open for a few years. And then we will go back to younger players (Polanco, Hansen) and the younger pitching staftt ( Cole, Taillon, Kingham, Glasnow)

  3. So, let me know what you would have thought of this 1b platoon for the Pirates last year. It does not cover all of the ABs for the year, so we would have to project up a bit on the actual #’s.

    Player A RHB: 102 AB, 9 doubles, 0 triples, 4 HR, 21 BB, 16 K, .333/.448/.539
    Player B LHB: 308 AB, 13 doubles, 0 triples, 18 HR, 47 BB, 82 K, .260/.361/.477

    This combo hit .278, with 22 doubles, 0 triples and 22 HR. They drew 68 BB and whiffed 98 times. They had a combined .383 OBP, and they slugged .493.

    Since they did not combine for a full season’s worth of plate appearances, if they were to do that in ’14 and duplicate performance, they would hit approx. 30 doubles and 30 HR, while drawing close to 100 walks.

    That combo, my friends, is Justin Smoak and Gaby Sanchez. Platoons can be a very good thing. Ask Earl Weaver and Chuck Tanner.

    • but at what cost?

      • Good question, Foo. I don’t know what Seattle would ask. Stolmy? Cumpton? Morris? Maybe it would take more, but I don’t think we would need to mortgage the future to get him. I assume the asking price for him would be maybe a bit less than for Ike Davis.

    • Sweet Jimmie,

      There’s a reason you have to go all the way back to Chuck Tanner and Earl Weaver (both of whom are now managing in the afterlife———probably against each other, if you get my drift!).

      Platoons are seldom effective weapons. Frequently one or the other flakes out (see Jones and Gaby last season), and almost universally they are only good for a season or two.

      The increased use of statistics make it seem like platooning is a terrific idea . . . . but we still do not see increased success in the usage thereof. And, do you pinch hit in the 6th, 5th, 7th? Can the opposite platoon not be used in a regular pinch hitting situation, when you know the platoon-partner in the line-up is so weak against same arm pitchers late in the game?

      I’m for trading Gaby Sanchez for a real 1st baseman.

      Here’s a novel idea: Pirate Front Office INITIATES a trade rather than waiting for teams to float their guys on the market. Go get Belt in San Francisco. Giants have two other 1st Base options.

      • Pretty sure I can speak for Jim in saying that I’m sure he used that example for the Pirate reference.

        Otherwise, all he’d have to do is reference the World Champion Boston Red Sox.

        Platoons work. Teams use them.

      • I get that a platoon can get you in a bind in the middle of a game, Groat. I would love for the Pirates to find a Cutch at every position – a guy who hits vs. LHP or RHP. But, most players are flawed. There are positions where a platoon is a natural fit. Plenty of teams employ 1b platoons.

      • I think Belt is on the verge of breaking out big time, Groat. I would love to have him as our 1b. What would you give up for him, because I’m pretty sure SF knows what they have in him?

  4. And, I guess I should comment on the actual topic of this posting by Travis, which is the Pirates 2013 draft. I have a feeling time will prove that 2013 represented the most successful 1-2 picks combined in Pirates history. Those 2 kids have “great future” written all over them. The fact that most observers think the Pirates continued to pad the draft with more high end talent after them is further proof that this organization now knows what the heck it is doing in talent evaluation.

    • Jim S……….I hope you are right. NH and Roy Smith have been pretty darn good.

      I am anxious to see how they do now that (hopefully) we’ll be drafting low from here on.

      • Lee;

        I like that we will be drafting low, btw. But, I believe they have had 3-4 pretty solid drafts (based on industry analysis) in a row now, and they have found guys throughout rather than just taking a top heavy approach.

  5. Watching Russell Martin for an entire season changed my opinion on Reese McGuire. The difference between an athletic catcher like Martin and your stereotypical stocky, slow guy behind the plate is immediately noticeable. I didn’t like McGuire’s bat given his long and busy swing, but this kid has to have a serious hit tool to strike out in less than 10% of his appearances last season.

    Blake Taylor, a high school lefty who already hit 94 mph as a 17 year old on draft day, doesn’t even get a mention which says something about the quality of the rest of the draft.

    JaCoby Jones is an athletic freak with an awful swing. Love for him to start from scratch and see what he can do.

    • Have you seen McGuire play?

      I hadn’t heard about his swing being long.

      • TC….P2 had some video of Reese’s swing. It looked pretty compact to me, but I’m no scout. He is also really smooth behind the plate. I bet if you searched on their site, you could find it.

      • Hey Thunder, just video. Never live.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZQJ6ChNnlc

        Most obvious movement is the exagerated leg kick and long stride, but also notice the bat angle at the top of his load almost points at the pitcher. This creates a long, loopy path through the hitting zone. Also has a small hitch where he drops his hands before attacking the ball.

        Much better in this video from 2012, fwiw:

      • I have not actually seen the McGuire swing. There were mixed opinions, TC, of whether he would hit professionally, while there was almost universal agreement that he was the best defensive catching prospect in a long time. He certainly hit better than most expected in his short time after being drafted last year. That is no guarantee of long term success, but he is off to a good start with the bat. And, from everything I’ve read, the defense is every bit as good as advertised. He threw out 42% of SB attempts last season, and the Pirates feel he is very advanced in all other areas of defense as well.

  6. Off topic, but some interesting thoughts on Gregory Polanco over at Pirates Prospects:

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/12/winter-leagues-starling-marte-makes-winter-debut.html

    Also on the subject of Polanco, a piece over at Beyond the Box score, projecting potential future success based on AA K and BB rates. Not surprisingly that projection treats Polanco quite optimistically:

    http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2013/12/16/5212234/minor-league-prospects-double-a-walk-strikeout-rates-success

    • Thanks for the links.

      The second one is relatively on topic, considering BTB has done the same analysis for A ball, which these draft picks will soon be entering.

      • NMR…the last thing I want to do is take people away from this fine blog (and I DO love it), but JAL links that kind of stuff over on the PBC Asylum EVERY day. That was posted Monday or Tues…I fooget. It was a good read.

        Are we allowed to post links here? I know I got in trouble with DK about posting links. I didn’t know if it was HIS rule or the Trib’s.

    • His stock continues to rise, Brendan. Some say he will never hit for more than 12-15 HR per year, but even those observers seem to be projecting an average approaching .300 with a high OBP and good gap-to-gap power. In other words, a prototypical leadoff hitter. Then there are the observers who suggest he could be another Cutch with the bat. I recall that many people thought Cutch might never hit 20 HR in a season.

  7. I saw 3 GCL games at Pirate City this past summer. McGuire went through a period of adjustment. Good compact swing and started off strong, then struggled a bit, made adjustments and finished the season strong. His work behind the plate is eye-popping. I haven’t seen an arm like that since Tony Pena, gunning runners out from his knees. He’s the goods.

    • Thanks for the eyeball report, Country Belle.

    • Love the report, milkman.

      Can’t wait to see the new swing.

    • thanks for that eyeball…I’ve only seen videos…must’ve been AFTER the one posted here, because it looked different. I think they changed it. Very little leg kick.

    • Remember when Yadi couldn’t hit? First 2 full seasons he hit .216 and .254 with sub-.300 OBP, 6 HR and not a lot of doubles. But, he was a plus player because of his glove. Then, he started hitting .300+ 3 years ago, got the HRs up into double-digits, and continued to excel defensively. Now, he tracking toward Cooperstown.

      I’m not saying McGuire will follow that trajectory. But, the hitting often comes later for catchers who are so focused on their most important contributions – defense.

  8. What do you think of the idea of moving Austin Meadows to 1st base as the long termed answer? His throwing arm appears to be his only only non-plus tool, which isn’t a major requirement for 1st. The system is flooded with outfielders and there isn’t anyone blocking him throughout the system.

    • I think Autin’s the replacement for Cutch, BigWoo. He can run and play OF well, even if the arm is only average. He could easily shift to RF in PNC, and Polanco or Marte could slide over. I think if Bell can keep improving his hitting, with his monstrous size he is the likely candidate to shift to 1b.

  9. BWS…the prevailing thought seems to be that moving Josh Bell to 1b might be the answer?

  10. I could live happily with that thought coming true….

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