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Monday Morning Mop-Up Duty: breaking down BP’s top 101

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SOUTH HILLS – It’s that time of the year again when in the bleakness of January top 100 prospects give us a brief reprieve from polar vortexes and serve as a starter course for that hopeful, optimistic time when pitchers and catchers report. MLB.com’s top 100 prospect list came out last week and featured six Pirates. On Monday, Baseball Prospectus released its top 101.

I suggested last week that the Pirates’ representation in the MLB.com list might be a little light and up to eight Pirate prospects are worthy of inclusion.

BP included the following seven:

 

19 - Jameson Taillon

24 – Gregory Polanco 

42 – Tyler Glasnow 

59 – Reese McGuire  (Love this placement)

77 – Josh Bell  (Bucco blog breakout candidate)

80 – Nick Kingham 

89 – Austin Meadows

 

The differences between the two lists? Alen Hanson did not make BP’s top 101, which to me is surprising, but Kingham and McGuire did. BP was aggressive with McGuire’s placement, and I’m in the small camp that prefers McGuire to Meadows. All-Star, two-way impact catchers don’t grow up trees. Also, MLB.com ranked Polanco about 10 spots higher.

For me the Baseball America list is still king – though I’d welcome subjective data that demonstrates otherwise. We know Baseball America ranked the Pirates as having the No. 1 system in the game so I think we could see eight Pirates on that list.

The rankings again show that while the Pirates have not been perfect in amateur evaluations, the system is much healthier than it’s been in some time. But the Pirates are not alone in the NL Central in possessing an rich collection of prospect talent …

 

STARTING NINE THOUGHTS 

 

9. Here is the top 101 prospect membership breakdown by team in the NL Central:

 

Pirates     –  7

Cubs          – 7

Cardinals – 4

Reds          – 3

Brewers   – 0

 

So 21 of the game’s top 100 prospects reside in the NL Central, which is a disproportionate share of talent. The only organization to top the Cubs and Pirates with top 100 talent is Minnesota, which placed eight prospects in the top 101.

 

8. The Cubs are not an immediate threat to NL Central clubs in 2014, but beginning perhaps by 2015 and I think by 2016 they will be a force to deal with — if, IF, they can get some pitching.

The Cubs collection of young offensive talent is unsurpassed in the National League and perhaps rivaled by only Minnesota’s dynamic prospect duo of Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano (Sorry to bring up that name, folks). 

The Cubs’ quartet of  SS/3B Javier Baez 3B/RF Kris Bryant, CF Albert Almora and OF Jorge Soler is a terrifying collection of positional players. Baez and Bryant both project to have 70+ power at the MLB level. Almora is a five-tool star in the making and the toolsy Soler is younger than Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig.

 

7. So in some ways it was a big deal for the division that the Cubs lost out on Tanaka, but then again I think a 7y/$155 million commitment to a pitcher who has already logged such a workload is a foolish investment.

 

6. The Cardinals graduated so much young talent to the game over the last two years they’ve dipped a bit in the prospect standings. But they have a very young MLB roster – younger than the Pirates’ – and they have game’s best pure hitting prospect in Oscar Taveras.

Four of the game’s top 13 position player prospects – Taveras, Baez, Bryant, Polanco – are members of NL Central organizations.

 

5. I don’t love the Reds’ system but  think everyone is too light on Billy Hamilton. MLB.com ranked him at 39 and he just cracked Baseball Prospectus’s top 50. Look, I know the bat is in question but I think the approach is actually quite good (Career walk rate of 10 percent in the minors). And that speed is something we haven’t seen in decades. Even if he posts an OBP of .310ish he’ll be an impact force as a defender and baserunner. I like to bet on unique talent.

 

4. The Brewers are in long-term trouble. They have zero top 101 prospects in the game according to Baseball Prospectus and unlike the Yankees that cannot overcome scouting mistakes with a half billion dollars in free agent spending in the offseason

 

3. Now, unlike the Cubs they are a sleeper threat in 2014. I believe outside of one horrendous month last season the Brewers actually played respectable baseball in 2013. And with Matt Garza now officially in the fold, Ryan Braun off suspension, freshly minted stars in Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy and Jean Segura and a similar openness to defensive shifting as the Pirates – maybe the Brewers could be a surprise team in 2014. I still think their pitching is light, especially with Yovani Gallardo following off his track to acehood, but the Brewers did become more interesting in a division that hasn’t done much to improve itself in the short term.

 

2. Brendan posted this in the last thread, but here are some Pirates-related excerpts from Jason Parks’ chat last week:

1) vegetto712 (Florida): Name game time! Outside of the top 50 prospects, give me 2 pitchers and 2 hitters you think are going to be well within the top 50 by this time next year!

Jason Parks: David Dahl and Josh Bell with the stick; Alex Reyes and Braden Shipley with the arm

2) tr (Mattress factory by the Goldsteins): In a couple years, which 2013 draftee are teams gonna be sick they didn’t draft earlier?

Jason Parks: From the first round, McGuire, Shipley, Marco Gonzalez, and Hunter Harvey come to mind as guys that will be viewed as draft steals.

3) Mike (Utica, NY): Why do people still think Jameson Taillon is highly regarded, is it because he was the 2nd pick of a draft in between two perennial All Stars? Looking back do the Pirates have to be kicking themselves for not taking Machado at 2?

Jason Parks: The same people down on Taillon are most likely the same people that were down on Cole. They focus too much on the minor league numbers and lose the developmental context involved with the process. Taillon might not be the ace some thought when he was drafted, but I guarantee he makes some of doubters look short-sighted and foolish in the coming years. He’s still a top 20 prospect in baseball and the top prospect in the Pirates system. Don’t overthink things.

4) Matt Trueblood (F**k Minnesota): Taillon over Polanco surprises me. What’s your stance on GP these days?

Jason Parks: I like him. He’s a legit high-end prospect, but he isn’t without warts. I just like Taillon more. Higher ceiling for me.

5) Daddyboy (Mpls): Would you trade Profar for Cole, based on need?

Jason Parks: Gerrit Cole? Hell yes. No question or hesitation. Cole has the stuff to develop into a legit number one starter. Give me that all day long.

 

1. So in summary, when you look at these lists there’s plenty of reasons to think the NL Central is going to be a tough playground for the coming years despite the inactivity this offseason. Few if any divisions offer a similar collection of talent, particularly if you take into account young major league talents like Gerrit Cole,  Starling Marte, Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez etc.

 

HE SAID IT 

Pirates president Frank Coonelly to ESPN Radio 970’s David Todd:

“Some of the TV numbers [for other teams’ TV deals] that I’ve seen reported publicly are way overstated,

Coonelly also maintained the Pirates’ local cable deal was  “grossly understated” and that teams will receive  “significantly less”  than the reported $25-27 million in national TV dollars in 2014. That level will be reached later in the contract, Coonelly said.

 

HE SAID IT II

To ESPN on A.J. Burnett. “We’d love to have A.J. back, but right now we’ve turned the page and we’re heading to Bradenton (Fla.) thinking he’s not going to be with us,” Coonelly said. “But if he surprises us and calls up tomorrow and says he wants to pitch again, we’d love to have him.”

Sounds like the door isn’t shut but it’s getting there …

 

NON-BASEBALL RECOMMENDATION OF THE WEEK

When possible, avoid polar vortexes

– TS

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Comments

  1. Steelkings says:

    Good info Travis!

    Didn’t I read somewhere that Miguel Sano was nursing an elbow problem that a lot of people feared Tommy John surgery for him?

    At this point I would be surprised if AJ Burnett did not come back. I read, I thought somewhere on the Trib that AJ was getting into game shape with his off season regimen. And then, when someone on twitter said that the stats AJ posted last year didn’t seem like the stats of someone who is retiring, Followed by a response from someone saying Burnett should report to Bradenton Ricky Vaughn style, AJ replied by posting a picture of his Batman costume.

  2. NMR says:

    -Does anyone remember how BP graded Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows prior to the draft? I can’t imagine any possible way that Frazier gets ranked 53 spots above Meadows based on actual performance. Real head scratcher there.

    -Those Cub bats are gonna be fun to watch…but they’re also going to strike out eleventy billion times a game. Lot of free swingers in that bunch.

    -Billy Hamilton had good plate discipline until older pitchers realized they could knock the bat out of his hands. No reason to throw that kid a ball. No chance he’ll walk anywhere close to 10% in the big leagues. It’ll also be interesting to see how good his defense actually is. All too often speedy guys are just assumed to be good center fielders.

    Robert Stephenson is gonna be an absolute nightmare.

    -The Pirates were 12-7 against the Brewers last season. Assuming healthy lineups for both sides, I don’t expect any better than 10 wins out of 18 this season.

    -Has anybody told Coonelly that continuing to claim the Pirates actually have MORE TV revenue than everyone gives them credit for only further puts the pressure on his boss, Bob Nutting, to spend? This guy is an absolute idiot.

  3. 21sthebest says:

    I don’t see how that puts more pressure on Nutting to spend. So Coonelly is either an idiot because 1) He negotiated a lousy deal, or 2) He’s trying to correct the misconceptions that it’s not a lousy deal.

    I don’t like the guy. He has digged his own grave. But he was asked a question.

  4. NorthPirateFan says:

    Reinforces by doubts about Baseball America and their approach. McGuire ahead of Meadows after their debuts .. by 30 spots? Come on.

    Don’t get me wrong I like McGuire and don’t doubt he belongs on a list of top prospects and sure he’s a catcher which adds some value but anyone who sees him as being that much better a prospect than Meadows is using a very curious system to evaluate.

  5. Travis, I agree with you in preferring McGuire over Meadows. I’m also way higher on Kingham than most. I think he is going to be better than Taillon. Baseball Prospectus is much more reputable with prospect rankings than MLB. MLB has a bias due to their needs to cater to all franchises.

  6. NMR says:

    One of the few legit reasons the Pirates actually can claim for why payroll is in the bottom five year after year is their poor local TV deal.

    Coonelly, repeatedly, claiming it isn’t that bad raises the obvious question of why payroll isn’t higher. Dejan has been calling him out for this since Coonelly made those stupid remarks at Pirate Fest.

  7. NMR says:

    “I think he is going to be better than Taillon.”

    Any reason in particular?

  8. 21sthebest says:

    My impression was Dejan was calling him out because what he was stating couldn’t be factually incorrect. I don’t recall Dejan questioning payroll but maybe he did.

    Obviously the Pirates front office talks about being in a smaller market but I sure hope they’d never say outwardly that an alleged poor local TV deal is the reason for low spending to date. Anyways, I think the level of payroll is due to years of poor financial and baseball management.

  9. Travis Sawchik says:

    NorthPirateFan,

    Do you mean Baseball Prospectus?

  10. NMR says:

    Last weeks chat:

    “But rather than confessing that the Pirates just blew it or didn’t hire the right outside advisers — they didn’t — they’ll expect you accept BOTH that their TV contract is fantastic AND that they can’t afford more than what they’re spending.

    Double-oops.”

  11. I like his mechanics a little more. I think he uses his size better. Keeps his posting leg straighter and drives the ball down. Taillon may have a little higher upside but my hunch is that Kingham is going realize more of his potential. I also think Taillon is a little more of an injury risk. They are very close. I think the biggest reason people rate Taillon higher than Kingham is he started out with a higher pedigree. But Kingham has caught him in my mind and I have them neck and neck.

  12. 21sthebest says:

    Yeah, I didn’t take that as Dejan calling them out for not spending more but I suppose he was. That was just worded strangely to me but anyways, I didn’t agree with that comment by Dejan. I don’t think there’s any secret that payroll could be higher than where it is right now. And maybe it will be. And if it’s not, I suppose management will say they won’t spend just to spend.

  13. Travis Sawchik says:

    *I don’t know what Frazier’s and Meadow’s predraft grades were by BP — but the premium batspeed set Frazier a part from every other HS bat. But Meadows had the superior debut and the swing-and-miss in Frazier’s game is a redflag

    *Most reports on Hamilton’s defense have been positive. Not sure about jumps/instincts but he has unreal recovery speed and enough arm. And you can argue Double-A arms are more talented than Triple-A arms – where fringy Quad-A types are hanging on. So Hamilton’s 16.9 percent want rate at Double-A in 2012 seems impressive. I’m buying even with a .300-.320 OBP. If he’s a .350 OBP+ plus guy he could be a monster.

  14. brendan says:

    Since Jason Parks began heading up the BP Prospect team a year or so ago they’ve placed additional emphasis on their own in person scouting–in addition to of course drawing insight from industry sources. I’d assume they liked what they saw and that’s at least in part why he’s ranked considerably higher on this list than others.

    We’ll see. Obviously these lists are just a snapshot and very fluid. But last year Jason was definitely the biggest advocate of Gerrit Cole, placing him higher on his list (at #3) than anyone else. Other writer’s enthusiasm for Cole seemed to have been tempered a bit by less than dominant minor league numbers but Jason remained high on him.

    When you’re evaluating prospects you’re often going to be wrong but I think he’s a smart guy who perspective is very much worth considering.

  15. Skip says:

    I have the same question as NMR: Hidden, please tell us why you’re higher on Kingham vs Taillon. Also, why do you prefer McGuire over Meadows?

  16. Steelkings says:

    Hidden Vig,
    I’ll debate that a little. There’s an old saying when you are dealing with throwing a baseball. Whether it is the shortstop or the pitcher. “The ball will go where the eyes tell it too.” The other thing you have to do is control the glove.
    Taillon is better at both of those things. Smoother with his head definitely. I left links for video below. If you look at Kingham he really jerks his head hard. Especially when hes trying to pull down a curve ball. No way he can keep his eye on the target. For that reason he will struggle with control.

    Again Taillon is smooth. He wont over power people but he will be more likely to consistently hit his spots.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Pnff2MbbHk

  17. NMR says:

    Great reply, and thank you very much for your time.

    I’ve never been able to get over Taillon’s arm action, personally. He gets the ball up so quickly that the batter has all day to pick it up.

    Still think there is a sizeable gap in stuff from the video I’ve seen of the two, but Kingham’s command seems like it is on point.

  18. NMR says:

    Nice post!

    Kingham does seem to settle down later in the video, specifically from the wind up. I love how darn simple his mechanics are. Absolutely nothing to them.

    Taillon still definitely has SOME drop to his delivery. You can tell somebody taught him to be a drop and drive guy along the way. I’m not a big fan, especially for a guy as tall and gifted as Jamo.

  19. Jim S. says:

    The bottom line is that revenues for this team will be much larger than last year by many, many millions of dollars. The team President seems content in telling us that the new local TV deal is a really good one that is greatly understated. We also know the national TV deal increased by a large amount this year. Some teams have even admitted how they will apply that budget. Yet, this team will increase its payroll for this year by very little, if at all, as we stand right now. Having won 94 games last year, that doesn’t sit well with me.

    I am as pro-business as anyone. But, this is not a normal business. And, having an owner whose #1 goal is a healthy profit every season puts us at a disadvantage to other teams who only seek to break even on a yearly basis. I wish we had an owner whose #1 goal was winning.

  20. Jim S. says:

    We shall see about Hamilton. The old adage that you can’t steal 1st base applies until a guy disproves it.

  21. Jim S. says:

    I keep reading that Kingham’s control is much better right now.

  22. brendan says:

    A couple of Pirates related items from the comments section of the article as well the accompanying chat, provides a bit of additional context for the rankings.

    Q: No Alen Hanson?

    A: Was on the initial list. Good prospect; not a SS for me; bat is good but not great. I think he gets overrated a bit, but you can make a case for him in the 75-100 range, along with 20 other prospects that missed the list.

    Q: Your stuff is always a must read. Regarding Gregory Polanco, last year you noted a few questions about his long swing, ability to cover the inner half, and power. Do those same issues remain unsettled? Or do you think he has shown some intrinsic limits that might let him be a solid regular but not an all-star? If you have the time to elaborate, it would be much appreciated.

    A: Those questions remain, but I’m still high on the player. I don;t see an all-star, but a first-division player is absolutely possible–hell, even likely. I don’t see a top ten overall player, but he can do just about everything on a field at a solid-average or better level.

    Q: I think you’re selling Austin Meadows hit/power tools a little short. Kid impressed the heck out of us locals late last summer. Why should I temper my expectations and align with your analysis?

    A: When I’ve put eyes on Meadows, I’ve been impressed with his athleticism and physical profile, but his plan at the plate and swing never did much for me. I get the short-season results, and I’m not discounting production. But I don’t see a CF profile from Meadows, and I don’t see Frazier-like bat speed either, so the profile is a little light for me. He’s still a top 101 player in a very loaded talent class, so its not like I’m suggesting he’s a bust or a fringe-prospect.

    Q: I’m surprised to see Phillip Ervin ranked almost 30 spots higher than Austin Meadows considering their relatively similar profiles. I always thought Meadows would rate higher, with louder tools and more projection. Any insight into what caused the separation?

    A: I like Ervin more; better chance to stay up the middle; plus runner with plus arm; better bat speed. Just needs to stay healthy.

    Q: If Polanco goes out and destroys AAA pitching from April until June, does that change your feeling about his bat?

    A: Production in the upper minors can’t be overlooked, but other factors will be looked at as well. I don’t just scout the stat lines.

    Q: I assume Luis Heredia’s ceiling has dropped to the point of not being really in the top 101 conversation. Or was he in the conversation?

    A: He wasn’t in the conversation.

    Q: A few prospects that blow up the rankings next year.

    A: Alex Reyes, David Dahl, Francisco Mejia ,Jose Martinez, Luiz Gohara, Edwin Diaz, Jorge Alfaro, Reese McGuire, Jose Ortiz

    Q: Can you please tell us something about Taillon over Appel?

    A: I like Taillon more; well above-average FB/CB combo; pitches with balls. Appel is going to move fast and develop into a quality 2/3 type; Taillon is likely to do the same but has already found success in upper minors.

    Q: Nobody talks about their feelings on Reese Mcguire on any site. What kind of player are we looking at?

    A: A dual-threat catcher with plus arm/receiving skills and the chance to offer something at the plate. We are ranking him #4 in a loaded Pirates system. I really like him.

  23. Steelkings says:

    And also Hidden Vig,
    I think Kingham scap loads much harder than Taillon. And because of the herkier jerkier motion. one that takes the bill of his cap from the third base dugout to the first base dugout every pitch.

    @NMR

    I dont teach drop and drive either, however an argument for that type of motion is in the next video of a guy who is really similar to Taillon.

  24. Steelkings says:

    And also Hidden Vig,
    I think Kingham scap loads much harder than Taillon. And because of the herkier jerkier motion. one that takes the bill of his cap from the third base dugout to the first base dugout every pitch. Eventually he will be the one thats hurt

    @NMR

    I dont teach drop and drive either, however an argument for that type of motion is in the next video of a guy who is really similar to Taillon.

  25. Steelkings says:

    The old dreaded Weird Double post!

    Note to Trib*
    Your loyal subscribers need an edit / Delete feature. Do we need to chip in? Wait…..Thats the PG+…….

  26. NMR says:

    Boy, some of those answers did not impress me one bit.

    I actually agree with the author on his analysis of Meadows based on a corner OF profile. But there is no way Meadows is a lesser prospect than Josh Bell right now. Meadows has the superior mechanics, athleticism, and bat speed.

    Oh, and LOL at worrying about the length of Polanco’s swing. Classic sign of an evaluator too focussed on one specific style.

  27. dcpinpgh says:

    @ Jim S, there is no proof that Nutting is making a fistful of dollars every year. In fact the opposite is documented.

    I understand that most people want to think that Nutting is making millions upon millions. It makes the people of Pittsburgh have hope. I mean an evil rich(sorry if in some people’s book, those words are synonyms) owner is becoming richer and that’s why the Pirates didn’t win for ever and a day. All that is needed is a night in shinning armor. Mario and Burkle, maybe….The truth is, most people would run the Pirates the same way. X amount comes in, and no more then X goes out…

    http://triblive.com/sports/pirates/3769786-74/lustig-nutting-money?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+tribunereviewpirates+%28Pirates+Stories%29&utm_content=Google+Reader#axzz2PMrFfQj3

  28. NMR says:

    Huh, never made the connection, but now I can see some similarities (outside of arm action).

  29. NMR says:

    If you consider paying down his own debt “putting money back into the franchise”, then Bob Nutting thanks you.

  30. Andrew says:

    Jim I understand the sentiment, but teams knew this national television money was coming, it was not a windfall, and was very likely worked into revenue projections for some time, now payroll projections…

    I agree with the comments that there is a disconnect between “having a television deal in the top half,” and a payroll in the bottom five. The Pirates front office public relations people appear to be utilizing the strategy of sowing dis-information in order to obscure the truth. However, one point in their defense is how were better outside experts going to help the Pirates’ better leverage their position prior to 2010. Compare how the Phillies and the Astros have done in negotiating new television contracts, having a good product to sell is a huge advantage.

    That said, greater payroll flexibility would certainly help at the margins, improving the likelihood of signing Johnson or Looney, or making Stephen Drew less unattractive.

  31. NMR says:

    @Andrew

    One way outside consultants could’ve better leveraged their position in 2010 was to wait three years until the previous contract was actually up.

    Unbelieveable.

  32. Andrew says:

    I am critical of the “Nutting is cheap” crowd but Forbes estimates show the Pirates having a positive operating income every year since 2004, (when the revenue sharing was reworked). Regardless of how that operating income is used, dividends or debt payments, Nutting is benefiting as owners long term payoff usually comes via selling the franchise at a higher value.

    I am siding with NMR and Jim here (not that anyone cares) as I wrote above no one is arguing for a Tanaka style contract, but merely some marginal improvements to help mitigate the risk of some of rotation options and the big half of the first base platoon.

  33. Skip says:

    NMR: LOL because his swing isn’t long? Or LOL because his long swing doesn’t really matter?

  34. Andrew says:

    That is certainly true, if I were more critical I would cite hindsight bias; on the revenue issues I am merely playing devil’s advocate. (Side note, where is it mentioned that they negotiated three years early, I remembering hearing it but do not remember where? Additionally, I cannot find any articles from when the deal was negotiated in 2010, most appear to be written after the more recent mega-deals, I did find this gem, though let’s bring back those front office people.)

    http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1129&dat=19900621&id=z_FRAAAAIBAJ&sjid=yG4DAAAAIBAJ&pg=5732,5591222

  35. NMR says:

    LOL because his bat speed and hit tool more than make up for it.

    I certainly wouldn’t teach a little leaguer to purposely have all that extra movement, but man, just watch Polanco and tell me it is hurting him.

  36. NMR says:

    Conversely, I’d be interested in hearing exactly what they don’t like about Meadows swing. That kid has about as tight and compact of a swing as I’ve seen out of a high schooler in a while.

    Frazier has other-wordly batspeed, but he cheats for some of it with that load and hitch. Meadows is pure hips and wrists.

  37. Skip says:

    Mr Nutting owes it to the community and all of us loyal Pirates fans to spend the $ necessary to compete for a championship – otherwise he shouldn’t own the team. Taxpayers paid for the stadium (at least partially), which further obligates Mr Nutting (or any other similar owner).

    This team has a chance to win a championship in the next couple years IF they add just a couple of key pieces, with 1B, RF, SS and more starting pitching arguably being among those pieces. The window will not be open long.

    So I’m with those of you who believe a Tanaka or Ellsbury type contract is unrealistic, but if this team goes into the regular season as it is CURRENTLY constituted, that would be slap in the face of all of us Pirates fans.

    Some modestly expensive (by baseball funny-money standards) options are still out there. It will be interesting to watch…

  38. NMR says:

    Dejan is the one I’ve heard mention the timing issue most recently, and I still don’t believe there is a writer in Pittsburgh with a better pulse on what happens within that organization than him.

  39. NMR says:

    Great find, btw!

  40. Skip says:

    Without seeing these guys in person, it’s so difficult to truly evaluate a swing when we can’t see the pitch type or location. But I agree – Polanco seems to be showing he can get the barrel of the bat to the ball with good bat speed on a mostly level plane.

  41. MorselPix says:

    Travis, you are allowed three uses of the word “toolsy” per calendar year.
    That’s 1.

  42. NMR says:

    That is a great point, Skip.

  43. Nate83 says:

    I wanted to say thanks to all the people posting. Great conversation and information. Most of you know a lot more then I do about the fundamentals. I’m a fan of the sport and follow the prospects a little but don’t spend a lot of time analyzing swings or pitching motion. I wouldn’t even know where to start or how to do it.

    I’m looking forward to hearing all the conversations and at least learning enough from all of you to not be surprised when prospect A ends up being not as good as prospect B. At least I will feel like I have a slight idea of why it happened.

  44. LeeFoo says:

    Hidden Viggorish…I’m with you on Kingham being better than Taillon. Not much difference in the stuff, but Kingham’s command is so much better.

    Ask any pitcher and command will take average stuff very, very far. And Kingham’s stuff is above average. He has three plus pitches.

    As for JT, I still rue not taking Machado.

  45. Steelkings says:

    Thats because in the above video your vision isnt clouded by all those arm tats AJ currently has

  46. Steelkings says:

    Between walks and HBP, Taillon and Kingham have almost Identical stat lines for 2013. Taillon 147 innings pitched with 49 unintentional BB’s and 9 HBP’s. while Kingham pitched 143 innings with 44 unintentional BB’s with 12 HBP’s. So I dont think anyone’s command can be described as “so much better”.
    I’m also going to assume that because both players are 22 years old and with the understanding that Kingham has been with the Pirates 1 more year than Taillon, and with the fact that Taillion is in Indianapolis and Kingham wasn’t as of 2013……The Pirate Pitching coaches disagree with both of you.

  47. brendan says:

    What might be the upgrades you’d like to see at those positions?

    1) RF – At the moment, I’d prefer to go with Tabata and Polanco later in the season rather than any of the options on the FA market, such as say Nelson Cruz.

    2) SS – I think there’s a case to made for signing Stephen Drew–which has been made by a few folks on theis blog–as long as the length of the commitment isn’t too long.

    3) 1B – There are a few options out there. Ike Davis being the most discussed name. I think it depends on what you have to give up to get him.

    All in all the big question with multiyear deals is how it will effect the Pirates ability to retain their own players who’s salaries will take up a larger portion of the Pirates payroll: Pedro, Walker, Marte, Cole, and eventually Cole, Taillon, Polanco, etc.

  48. All pitchers load their scapulas. It is only problematic if they aren’t doing it correctly. I don’t see any issue with Kingham’s scapular loading . I think Kingham and Taillon load up quite similarly. I’d prefer both of them to have their elbows a little lower at load up but neither really show an inverted W. By the way, AJ Burnett…now that is a guy with some severe scapular loading. Frankly I think Taillon pulls more violently to the glove side than Kingham. I agree Kingham has issues with his head not being steady at times. I’ve seen it on video but not when I’ve watched him throw live. I don’t have a problem with drop pitchers per se. I just prefer guys that are 6’6″ not do it. For shorter pitchers it creates an advantage. Can really throws hitters off throwing at such a low plane. These japanese drop pitchers are getting $150 million contracts so I guess the establishment doesn’t look down on the practice too much.

  49. NMR says:

    I also question just how close Kingham’s stuff is to Taillon’s. The videos you linked demonstrate a pretty clear difference in favor of JT.

    Kingham sits 90-92 with his fastball, touching 94 whereas JT sits 94-96, touches 98. Also showed a hammer of a curveball. I will say Kingham’s change seemed better.

  50. NMR says:

    Isn’t that the shame of this offseason in a nutshell?

    These guys finally built a solid team with few distinct holes. Put themselves in a situation where one or two key acquisitions could complete the team. And yet they’ve done absolutely nothing.

    I’ve always worried that these guys were happy with “good enough”. This off season is absolute proof, IMO.

  51. NMR says:

    Ha, pretty sure a guy on Dejan’s blog offered to give another a “shortstop clinic”. I promise I won’t put you through that. :)

    How are you feeling?

  52. NMR says:

    Amen on the difference between short and tall pitchers. Wandy is a great Bucco example of a guy who probably wouldn’t get much benefit from the little downward plane he could create if he wasn’t a drop pitcher.

    I also noticed quite a bit more effort in Kingham’s deliver on those 94’s than when he sat between 90-92.

  53. LeeFoo says:

    Jim S…….amen to the Billy H comment!!!

  54. LeeFoo says:

    Here’s P2 on Kingham.

    Apparently he sits 92-94 and can hit the upper 90s. And, Steelking, as you well know, walks are not always a good indicator of command.

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/01/pittsburgh-pirates-2014-top-prospects-6-nick-kingham.html

    “Kingham currently profiles as a strong number three”

    Btw, that is precisely what the MLB guys, Mayo, Callis and Hart said about JT Sunday night.

    Foo

  55. LeeFoo says:

    NMR…as some writers have pointed, sometimes ‘nothing’ is the best course of action.

    Foo

  56. Steelkings says:

    Kingham loads like crazy

    http://www.ebay.com/bhp/nick-kingham

    Not all guys scap load like crazy. I didnt have to go far to find one.

    http://cdn.fansided.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/4/files/2013/03/GerritColeST131.jpg

  57. 21sthebest says:

    I couldn’t disagree more with that take Jim. After years of financial and baseball mismanagement, although I do believe the financial goal is to have the team self sustaining from a cash flow perspective without additional partner contributions or bank borrowings, I don’t think this management team is about to make potentially bad deals for the sake of spending and risk going backwards in both ways.

    I don’t believe that just because revenues are bigger this year that they have to spend this year. Unfortunately, and maybe you disagree with this, I don’t think there were very good free agent options at first base and right field. I also don’t think there were a lot of choices. I would have gone 3 years on Loney myself, but I won’t criticize Huntington for not agreeing with me. I don’t think Loney is a great 3 year option but I think he was the best available.

    This team lost Jones, a month of Morneau and a month of Byrd. We should also get another 30 starts than we did last year from Cole, Morton, and Liriano and we won’t have to put up with 10 starts from Sanchez and JMac. I think this team is in great shape.

  58. For people that might be short changing Nick Kingham’s breaking ball.

  59. NMR says:

    Where did Jim even hint that he wanted bad deals made? Wasn’t even close to what he said.

    Fact is that good teams who want to WIN get better. The Cardinals were in “great shape” as well. What did they do? Got better.

    There is no doubt at all that the Pirates could get better, and could use money to do it.

  60. NMR says:

    Bob Nutting thanks you, Foo.

  61. NMR says:

    You know what would be great? If actual radar gun readings backed up what Tim WIlliams wrote.

  62. 21sthebest says:

    “Where did Jim even hint that he wanted bad deals made? Wasn’t even close to what he said.”

    He didn’t. I didn’t say he did. I was trying to explain why I don’t think they’re spending a lot this year. Jim said the No. 1 goal is a healthy profit. He said this is not normal business. I don’t agree with those statements. That’s what I was trying to get at.

    “Fact is that good teams who want to WIN get better.”

    I think the organization is doing a lot of things to get better and to try to stay that way year after year. From a free agency standpoint, that hasn’t happened this year and doesn’t look like it will. Who would you have signed to get better?

    “There is no doubt at all that the Pirates could get better, and could use money to do it.”

    I think Loney makes us better. Not sure 3 years/$21M+ would’ve been smart but I would have gone for it.

  63. 21sthebest says:

    Nutting loaned the team $10M in 2003 when reportedly nobody else would. He got repaid his interest at 7.8% and the principal was converted to equity. This was a great deal for the minority partners and the franchise.

  64. 21sthebest says:

    Also, at the end of 2006, the team also had an operating deficit of approximately $65 million. They also borrowed $20 million from banks in 2009. At the end of 2009 the deficit was approximately $30 million.

  65. NMR says:

    I’m a sucker for prospect highlight videos.

  66. LeeFoo says:

    About AJ and that Perotto report that he was only offered 8.5 mil. VERY good article, imho on whether or not AJ is coming back.

    http://saberbucs.com/blog/2014/01/27/pirates-reportedly-offer-burnett-8-5-million/#comment-273

    Plus, I commented thusly:

    “He got an offer from the O’s at 3 yrs/40 mil. So it isn’t about the money.

    Personally, I think he WANTS to retire, but can’t bring himself to quit. The same reason guys play way past their ‘sell by’ date.
    But, from everything I’ve read, if he really did want to go for the money, Pgh WOULD HAVE given him that QO.

    Once a team makes a qualifying offer, the player has two choices: he can accept the one-year deal or decline in search of other offers. (He cannot go back to the team and then say, “okay, I’ll take the QO” after turning it down(.

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2012/11/explaining-qualifying-offers.html

    Btw, also remember that AJ did NOT want the Bucs to extend him a QO. He thought it’d be insulting.

    Foo

    Also, is Perotto that well sourced that he is the ONLY one who managed to ferret out that figure? I highly doubt it.

  67. 21sthebest says:

    Sorry. Nutting loaned the team $20 million in 2003.

  68. Jim S. says:

    Andrew:

    The owner of the Rockies stated that the new TV deal is, in fact, a windfall, right? Why would he say that if it is not true, at least to some degree? Even the Rays appear to be spending more freely this year.

    I don’t think I understood your point about the Phils and Astros. Are you saying they don’t have a good product, and therefore did not negotiate good deals? The Phils deal was huge, including a stake in the media company. I believe the Astros deal was huge also. Or, are you saying the Bucs have an inferior product due to market size? I don’t expect the Pirates to make a TV deal that approaches the amounts teams in much larger markets are able to get. That is not fair to the Pirates because our market just doesn’t have as many eyeballs. But, the Bucs’ ratings are outstanding right now (while the Phils’ ratings are plummeting), the team is on the upswing, attendance is growing. I have to assume they have more local TV money than previously. Coonelly seems to be saying that, right?

    I really am not a Nutting basher, nor am I a Coonelly basher. Some people hear or read anything from them and don’t even judge what they read on the merits. They automatically assume it is a lie, and just cover their ears and continue to assume bad things about anything the owner or president of the club say. I am not in that camp whatsoever. I am mainly neutral on those 2 parties – or, at least I have been – and I am very pro-Huntington. But, not increasing the payroll now, when:

    1) Attendance and all other day of game revenue is increasing;
    2) It follows in my mind that apparel sales are up for the Bucs, although I assume they share that with other MLB teams. Still, it should represent more money, I think;
    3) The club president says they signed a “top half of MLB” local tv contract, which other teams are utilizing to increase spending;
    4) Large increase in national tv money – as much as $27 million per season, possibly, although a chunk comes off the top for various expenses this season.

    It does not add up to not adding a few pieces, in my mind. Specifically, if the reports are true that the Pirates offered AJ $8.5 million, that is a slap in the face of fans. I don’t live in Pittsburgh, but I visited PNC last year on 4 separate occasions with my family to attend a total of 7 games. I also attended games in Chicago, Milwaukee and Cincinnati. Many people in the Pittsburgh area spend a lot more than me, and I think we all deserve much more than the commitment from ownership right now. I find it very discouraging, and I guarantee you if this is how it will be my commitment will wane quickly. They could miss the playoffs by a few games this year, and I feel they easily have the money to bridge that gap. If they choose not to, what are they telling the fans? We get Edison Volquez for $5 million when we maybe could have had AJ for, what, $10 million?

  69. NMR says:

    “Specifically, if the reports are true that the Pirates offered AJ $8.5 million, that is a slap in the face of fans.”

    I think what this means is they – specifically Clint Hurdle – really didn’t want him back.

  70. NMR says:

    I stopped reading at “Perotto”.

  71. Jim S. says:

    21:

    I don’t want them operating foolishly from a financial standpoint. I don’t want them deeply in debt, and I don’t want them continuing to go back to the investors for more money. I really don’t.

    But, if they signed a good local TV deal and all of their sources of revenue seem to be increasing, I’d like them to not always be nearly at the bottom of the barrel in terms of payroll. I can’t imagine how the Rays, for instance, bring in anywhere near as much revenue as the Bucs do right now. Yet, they are adding and the Bucs are not. That frustrates me – a lot!

    I believe the evidence points to the Pirates having a lot of financial flexibility that is currently not being utilized. I don’t think they are on the brink of disaster if they choose to spend another $15 million this year. In fact, I don’t believe they even come close to risking an operating loss for this one season if they do that. They have every right to pursue an operating profit every year. But, not every team does that. What I meant by the fact that this is not a normal business is that not every normal business receives so much support in financing a facility that it enables that business to ensure a profit, as this business has. I believe they have an obligation to the tax payers beyond what they are doing right now. There are at least several owners in MLB who put winning first and are willing to accept a break even business model to do that. I’ve heard GMs comment to that effect. I wish the Pirates had that situation. They don’t. I have not been a basher of this owner, but I honestly wish he would cash in on one of the greatest investment decisions in the history of investment decisions while his team is worth a record amount.

  72. You are comparing images at two different phases in the delivery. Kingham is in the high cocked position. He is fully loaded. Cole is just starting to load up. All pitchers load. Loading isn’t an issue. It is how they load. As long as the elbow stays below the shoulder it isn’t really a concern. Here is good detailing of loading. http://www.chrisoleary.com/projects/PitchingMechanics101/Essays/ScapularLoading.html

  73. Jim S. says:

    In JAL’s links today, there is an article by James Krug that I found interesting. I don’t believe everything I read, and maybe he has some things wrong. But, it is worth reading.

  74. Jim S. says:

    Your posts are always well thought out, Brendan. I’ll take a stab.

    1) I can live with the RF situation, knowing Polanco should be here by 4th of July-ish.

    2) I would have loved to see a Drew signing. Jordy hit very well last year, but is anyone convinced he will repeat this year? That’s fine if we were 72-90 last year. But, we were 94-68. We should be eliminating question marks. But, I knew they would not pursue him.

    3) 1b – I don’t disagree that this decision depends on what we’d have to give up. I am not in favor of giving up high end talent (Kingham, Wilson, etc.) for Davis, Smoak or Moreland. I believe at least one of them could be obtained reasonably, though.

    I like Lambo’s chances to be a decent to good MLB hitter, eventually. But, I am not convinced it will happen this year, and I would put that under the same heading as my comment about Jordy. A team with legit playoff aspirations should not be counting on up to 500 ABs from an unproven guy like that. And, to me, Clint’s stopgap from last year of letting Gaby have all the starts at 1b is not a recipe for high OPS.

    I would add a #4 missed upgrade as well. If reports are true that the Pirates offered AJ only $8.5 million, I think either they truly are the cheapest team in MLB or they really did not want him back. I think they needed to offer at least $10 million to have any chance whatsoever of signing him. Even that would represent a hometown discount. Maybe he would not have taken it, anyway. But, to me, he is certainly worth an offer of $5 more for one season than Edinson Volquez was offered. There were, and are, other pitchers available that could have been signed to 1 year deals who may have cost more than Volquez, but who also have better track records.

    I hope they can fix Volquez. But, if they just got the best they could for $5 milion, that does not sit well with me.

  75. Here is pic of Cole with his arm in the high cocked position. As you can see the shoulder blades pinching in indicating the scapula load.
    http://i1.wp.com/www.piratesprospects.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/DHP_1037.jpg

  76. Jim S. says:

    dcp:

    I’m the farthest thing from a guy who thinks rich people are automatically evil. I deal with very wealthy people every day in my business, and I actually find most of them to be honest, hard working, community-oriented, charitable and genuinely concerned with the welfare of their employees. I greatly admire people who put their fortune on the line every day to build businesses and create jobs.

    But, I think Bob Nutting is doing just fine with the Bucs, and has been for several years now. The value of his investment has increased many times over, and I have no problem with that. As I have said, the Pirates are at a competitive disadvantage vs. teams whose owners value winning over profits. Mr. Nutting owns other businesses where the public does not have a vested emotional interest in its competitive success. His other businesses were not subsidized by the public to the degree that this one is, either. Whether he likes it or not, that puts the Pirates on a different plane than a ski resort or other businesses he owns. If he is not interested in doing what it takes to satisfy the community that he is attempting to win as his main goal, then I wish he would cash in and sell to someone who will place winning above profits. I can’t make him do that, of course. But, I don’t have to continue to support things as they are with my hard-earned dollars.

  77. Nate83 says:

    Still home from work. Energy is up but having many other problems stemming from the pneumonia. I’m seeing a specialist tomorrow but I’m currently a medical mystery. Thanks for asking.

  78. 21sthebest says:

    I hear you Jim and agree with not wanting them in the bottom when it comes to payroll. And I think they could probably spend another $15M this year. But this is the first year of the new national TV deal and the first year after a winning season following 20. I guess I’m just patient and I wasn’t thrilled with the free agent options for first base and right field. And I don’t mind being patient until Polanco is ready. Just like you and I personally, we don’t want to manage our finances year to year. We want to bank some for the future.

    I have no qualms as far as them meeting their obligation to taxpayers. Prior to 2013, I thought Nutting had an obligation to sell the team because he hasn’t produced a winner. Now, I don’t mind seeing how the team does in the next year or so.

    Financing the facility doesn’t ensure a profit. They lost approximately $90 million cumulatively from the time this ownership group got involved in 1996 through 2004.

  79. 21sthebest says:

    I agree with your post except that I think it’s Bob’s ego that keeps him around. I think he wants to prove to himself and to us that he can produce a winning team.

  80. NMR says:

    Just wanna say I greatly prefer pitching mechanics arguments to payroll arguments. Good stuff, guys.

  81. NMR says:

    Which link is that, Jim?

  82. NMR says:

    Ha, one time I went to MedExpress and had the Doctor call in all the other ones just to look at what was wrong with me because they said they’d never seen it before. Have fun being a test dummy!

  83. Andrew says:

    Not sure where this post is going to end up on the page.

    Jim I was not bashing you and don’t consider you a Marxist instigator, also I think you have a valid point. My point about the Astros versus Phillies was in response to the idea that better outside help would have assisted the Pirates front office in negotiating a better deal in 2010. The Astros do have a large deal, but are currently receiving a much smaller payment than expected and CSN Houston has an involuntary bankruptcy filing against it. Compare this to the Phillies; similar market size, they have negotiated a deal without difficulty, some of which could be attribute to the team’s relative competitiveness. (as NMR posted the Pirates could have waited 3 years.)

    Rockies owner said they expect $19 million this year in national television money of which $5 million is dedicated to player salary, and another $5 million he left un-appropriated. So a possible $10 million to payroll, it is reasonable to question where that money is going for the Pirates, Volquez, Morton extension? (I still do not think this was a windfall, teams knew the national television contract was up and that television dollars were rapidly increasing.)

    Your points on revenue growth are correct, and I agree with what you wrote below. First the debt burden is a none issue, plenty of other teams have larger total debts and as percentage of value. And damn right baseball is not a traditional business it is a cartel, and a rational owner should not seek short term profit but maximize franchise value which should entail putting a quality product on the field.

  84. Andrew says:

    It is the #19 IS Sports.

    And the piece is terrible full of half arguments, fallacies, and appeals to emotion, not to mention factual inaccuracies. There are good arguments to be made about payroll, this is not one of them. NMR and Jim the arguments you have made here are far better than that article.

  85. Andrew says:

    If you want to read something worthwhile here is a link to piece discussing Frank Coonelly at the time of his hire.

    http://bizofbaseball.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1493:sizing-up-frank-coonelly-to-the-pirates&catid=29:articles-a-opinion&Itemid=41

  86. NMR says:

    Great posts, Jim and Andrew.

  87. NMR says:

    Foo, where did you hear the Orioles rumor?

    FWIW, offering three years to a guy who doesn’t even know if he wants to play one IS NOT giving him more money. AJ would actually have to play in order to get it.

  88. NMR says:

    I’ll agree with you, Andrew. Some baseball blogs are great. The majority are like the one that guy wrote.

  89. 21sthebest says:

    That isportsweb is fans just like you and me. I know some other people that they have asked to write articles. James Krug posts on another sport site that is very vulgar, people post pictures of naked women, etc.

 
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