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The U25s and perhaps a key early observation

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LAKELAND, Fla. – Greetings from Florida, folks. Looking forward to bringing you sights, sounds and observations from camp over the next couple of weeks. But to begin, I wanted to share with you what I think are the most important sort of organizational rankings in baseball, those of Under-25 talent.

Not only do such rankings talent into account farm-system talent but they also include Under-25 players on major league rosters. These rankings are important because young players get better, young players are typically in pre-arbitration service periods, and the game is shifting more and more toward younger players as the game further distances itself from the PED era (or so we hope).

Baseball Prospectus released its rankings of Under 25 talent on Monday. The good news? (OK, the really good  news for the Pirates). The Pirates rank fourth in baseball:

4. Pittsburgh Pirates

1. Gerrit Cole (23)
2. Starling Marte (25)
3. Jameson Taillon (22)
4. Gregory Polanco (22)
5. Tyler Glasnow (20)
6. Reese McGuire (19)
7. Josh Bell (21)
8. Nick Kingham (22)
9. Austin Meadows (18)
10. Jose Tabata (25)

Made MLB Debut? 3
Farm System Ranking: 3
Top 10 Prospects: Link
Prospects on the BP 101: 7
Top Prospect: Jameson Taillon
Summary: Pittsburgh’s 2013 playoff run was the culmination of a long rebuilding process driven largely by young talent the franchise signed and developed. While many members of the big-league club have aged out of this list, still qualified are budding stars in Gerrit Cole and Starling Marte, seven top 101 prospects, and starting right fielder Jose Tabata. The club has prospects at every level, from high-minors players ready to debut this year to 2013 picks making their full-season debuts. –Steffan Segui 

 

Tabata’s still only 25? Hard to believe.

The other good news for the Pirates is the Brewers rank 30th and the Reds rank 23rd. These teams might contend in 2014, but these small-market clubs are on the precipice of decline. The bad news is the Cardinals rank 1st and the Cubs are 10th, having greatly improve their system the last several years. Kris Bryant and Javier Baez look legit thus far this spring. What’s clear is there is an awful lot of young talent in the NL  Central.

 

KEY OBSERVATION FROM LAKELAND, Fla.

We know spring training stats are pretty meaningless and so, too, can be batting practice displays. But Pedro Alvarez put on a serious power display today in batting practice at Joker Marchant Stadium. The Tigers’ spring training home has deep dimensions. It’s 340  feet down the lines and 420 feet to center. But Alvarez easily left the park to the opposite field in batting practice multiple times and was completely focused on using the opposite field.

If Alvarez can do a better job of using the whole field, an approach that will perhaps allow him to better combat soft stuff, then perhaps a Chris Davis-like breakout is possible. Alvarez enters with five hits in his last nine at bats. It might not mean anything. But Alvarez has been squaring up everything from lefties and righties alike. The Pirates’ best chance to take a step forward offensively I believe is for Alvarez to take a leap forward.

- TS

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Comments

  1. NMR says:

    “Tabata’s still only 25? Hard to believe.”

    33 is the new 25, Trav.

    -The Reds could get ugly. They seem to be headed towards an odd mix of high priced players they’ve signed to extensions with few young, cost controlled guys to support them. Now guys like Mesoraco, Hamilton, and Cozart coooouuuld solidy them at important positions for a long time while big prospects like Robert Stephenson and Phillip Ervin progress, but they’ll have to get awfully lucky.

  2. Jim S. says:

    You are right that Alvarez is a big key to this offense being successful, Travis. We saw it a bunch of times last year. When he goes the opposite way, he does damage. But, that is a hard transition. I’m sure he is focusing on it, but recognizing you need to do it and actually getting it done consistently are two different things. He also pounded a Buehrle pitch off the wall the other day. If he can hit LHP at even a passable rate this year, that would also be a huge step forward.

    The Under 25 ranking is not surprising. It has been coming for awhile now. Very encouraging development. This organization was a disaster just a few short years ago.

    The Baez HR vs. Milwaukee yesterday was very impressive. He crushed it to RF – way, way out. Lots of pop there. The Cubs are going to be a handful by next season.

    Did you happen to see 21 year old former Buc prospect, Wang, throw his inning vs. the Cubs for the Brewers? 1-2-3, with 2 whiffs. Made the lefty hitter look silly. Supposedly, this kid is nowhere near ready for the big club, but if all you have seen of him was yesterday’s 1 inning, he looked good enough to at least be a situational lefty reliever. Maybe he just had a good day, but he looked pretty deceptive to me. I’m not saying Milwaukee can afford to keep him all year – especially if they contend for awhile – but it was difficult to watch him pitch for them. We might need to trade with them to get him back.

  3. Andrew says:

    I feel like the Reds are in a similar position to that of Twins were several years ago. However their rotation is very solid, and if they can continue that run of good health their lack of depth will not be exposed.

    Alvarez and the breakout, color me skeptical, I think people see that elite power and dream. He needs to make more contact, his swinging strike rate against even fastballs is twice the league average.

  4. Steelkings says:

    Let me apologize in advance:

    “Tabata’s still only 25? Hard to believe.”

    Only 25, been a father, married, divorced and lost a child……..Sort of

  5. theplanisworking says:

    + many on the “33 is the new 25″.

    If Tabata qualifies for AARP next year, these rankings would change a bit. ;)

  6. theplanisworking says:

    The Reds will either be really good, or really bad.
    They have had a simply puzzling offseason.

    And, with their owner going on the warpath yesterday, it could get really ugly.

    In regards to Alvarez, I would love to see 50 HR’s.
    I would settle for 20% fewer K’s, and more doubles.
    Then, being he would be making better contact, I would like to see the HR production increase.

  7. Steelkings says:

    Like I said in the other thread, Alverez is tied with Marte and Polanco for most spring at bats. No one else is even close. Hitting in the 4 hole today will widen his gap.

  8. Steelkings says:

    - many….I just minus’ed myself

  9. Jim S. says:

    I saw you wrote that, Steel. Where are you going with that? They are getting them as many ABs as possible because they are hoping more reps. will help them work on deficiencies?

  10. Jim S. says:

    + many for self-minusing.

  11. NorthPirateFan says:

    Is there really anyone who believes Tabata’ claimed age of 25?

  12. theplanisworking says:

    Since he self-minused, we won’t make him sit in the corner.

    By the way, what is a selfie minus?
    Does that go viral on the internet too?

  13. Jim S. says:

    You think he’s younger, North? :-)

  14. NMR says:

    Major League Baseball

  15. NorthPirateFan says:

    Not only married and divorced but married to and divorced to a woman who if we are to believe his age was 23 years OLDER than he was at the time of their marriage.

    Really now, giggle test anyone? Which is more likely he actually and unknowingly married a woman that much older than him OR he’s lying about his age and married someone much closer to his own.

  16. theplanisworking says:

    I thought they cleared this up in 2011?

  17. The Gunner says:

    uh oh………..here we go again (source: Pgh Trib)

    “Pirates’ Locke scratched from start with tightness in right side”

  18. NMR says:

    You’re kidding, right?

  19. Jim S. says:

    Irwin and Locke both scratched already. Not a good sign, depth-wise.

    Should have traded Locke for Carp over the weekend. :-)

  20. Andrew says:

    The Department of Homeland Security, post September 11th, the days of players claiming to be three years younger and named Eny Cabreja like Wandy Rodriguez are past.

  21. Steelkings says:

    Right side of what?

    By the way.

    Cumpton is throwing batting practice for the 2nd straight outing. I think he should try and miss a few bats.

  22. Steelkings says:

    This really pisses you off, doesn’t it?

  23. Steelkings says:

    I’m not sure you like it when the thread dives to ridiculous.

  24. JohninOshkosh says:

    I saw the U25s play at Lalapalooza one year. Lead guitarist shredded it.

  25. NMR says:

    Then you clearly haven’t been reading my posts. ;)

  26. NMR says:

    No way, man. They were way better before going mainstream.

  27. The Gunner says:

    shoulda coulda woulda!!! But, I agree with you on that one, Jim.

  28. The Gunner says:

    On a positive note, Ground Chuck had a good 3 inning outing today.

  29. Steelkings says:

    Ha Ha! Atta Boy.

  30. Ghost says:

    “Alvarez… was completely focused on using the opposite field.”
    It was the teases of this development that late last season brought me around from being anti-Sir Whiffalot, to turning into a neo-, quasi- fan. (Yes, I’m hedging my bets on Petey. But I also am an optimist and cannot bring myself to buy into the more common “So-and-So is what he is” school of thought usually assigned to Petey. Alvarez is roughly now at the age where the light switch came on for a number of great hitters. Reggie Jackson spoke of just this same epiphany of learning to go oppo in his late twenties. Cutch’s power to the opposite field took off last year. Slightly different adjustment, but Jose Bautista finally figured out what it means to “start earlier so you can slowww down” when he got to Toronto.
    In short, if Petey really makes up his mind to use the ‘whole field’…
    it will be exciting to watch.
    Big “if,” of course. But what the heck. Let’s see if he can pull it off.

  31. 21sthebest says:

    I’d be concerned about Pedro messing up his swing by trying to go opposite field on purpose. I feel that based on where he stands, he can drive the pitch on the outside edge up the middle or to right center. I always felt the key with him was laying off the pitch that was a ball outside. Now with two strikes, I wouldn’t mind seeing him shorten up a bit but otherwise I’m thinking same swing every time. His success going oppo can continue to be just by the ball getting a little deeper and I don’t see him as the type of hitter who should have more than one type of swing except with two strikes. I feel like by doing a better job of laying off the outside pitch just even a little but better, his numbers would really improve.

    I thought Bautista was still a dead pull hitter but I’ll have to check out his hit chart.

  32. Steelkings says:

    I dont think intentional oppo hurts a swing if you understand where pitchers pitch you. Rarely do guys intentionally go middle in to Alverez. When they do its way in. Away, away, away. Thats what he see’s. Simply hit it where its pitched. This is about recognition more than anything else.
    About letting the ball get deeper. High school, yes. In the majors you can let a breaking ball get deeper, but the best you can do letting a fastball get deeper is foul it off.

  33. 21sthebest says:

    Hit it where it’s pitched is exactly what I’m saying. I think he can go middle to right center on a strike on the outside edge.

    I’m skeptical that Pedro is skilled enough to go oppo intentionally. Totally agree that it’s about pitch recognition.

  34. 21sthebest says:

    The other thing I meant to add is that I don’t want Pedro thinking too much up there. I think it’s important for him to swing at less pitches out of the strike zone and if he improves that aspect even a little bit, I think his numbers improve a decent amount. But by adding the component of teaching him to go the other way, I just think that may be too much.

  35. Steelkings says:

    Have you read the Science of Hitting? If not, I highly recommend it.

    Ted Williams in the book describes the importance of getting your pitch to hit. Not to be confused with recognizing your pitch and hitting it. When he talks about getting your pitch to hit, he means forcing pitchers to occasionally pitch to your strengths and not always to your weakness.

    Jim asked me what was I getting at with me pointing out that Pedro was leading the team in spring at bats. Well its more than just Pedro learning how to handle the ball on the outside corner. I’M SURE he worked on that all off season. Now he is proving it. He is showing the scouts that they cannot approach him the same way they did last year. If they put the heavy shift on and throw it on the outside half, he needs to prove right now that he will hit that pitch where they aint. If he proves that, (and he’s well on his way) he will see less heavy shifting and more pitches middle in. This will positively effect his BIP% and cut way down on K’s.

    You must have a strategy when you come to the plate. Last year pitchers dictated to Pedro. This spring Pedro is working hard to turn that around.

  36. 21sthebest says:

    That would be great. I’m more of a believe it when I see it when the real games start. I’m just not sure pitchers right now are doing much more than trying to get stretched out, finding their release points, and working on fastballs.

    I have no idea what Pedro did all offseason and yeah, you have to come to the plate with an approach.

  37. Andrew says:

    I am in the believe it when I see it crowed. Pitchers do not breakdown and game plan for hitters until their last one or two starts of the spring.

  38. Jim S. says:

    We do tons of tee drills with our 12 year olds, Steel, to do exactly that. Inside corner, middle and outside corner drills. Let the outside pitch get a little deeper, and hit it into RC (for righties) and LC (for lefties). Then, when you pitch to them in the cage, you can see which ones recognize the location and apply the logic.

  39. Jim S. says:

    Grace Kelly, Osh?

  40. Jim S. says:

    He did, Gunner.

  41. Steelkings says:

    Tee drills are good at times. But kids 16 and under have a hard time with the term “Let it get deeper”. You are telling them to intentionally be late. It actually puts hitters on the defensive. Rather than looking for something to drive they are looking to be patient with the outside pitch.

    Heres what I do to teach it. Behind an L screen, I soft toss to the outside corner from directly in front, asking them to “Hit it to right center”. They will pull about every other one on average by accident. Even the High School kids will pull lots. So, we combat this buy asking them to self toss and hit it to right center after every failed soft toss. If I have younger kids (9-12) I will put them in their natural stance and then stick a ball under their rear heal and then have them self toss, and hit it to right center.

  42. Steelkings says:

    @ andrew

    Every pitcher that faces Pedro at anytime knows he led the NL in home runs. They also know that he struck out 186 times because he cant hit the ball on the outside corner. And Pitchers rarely breakdown hitters or game plan. Thats the catchers job. See Below

  43. Andrew says:

    Steelking: mainly referring to the fact that teams aren’t exactly game planning for hitters this early, here is a quote from Chris Capuano.

    “Normally it changes in your last start or two of spring training,” said Capuano. “That’s when you actually start to break down the hitters. Before that, first and foremost you make sure you’re executing pitches….”

    And Alvarez as long as pitchers do not go middle or middle-in there is a good chance they get a swing and miss.

    http://www.brooksbaseball.net/h_profile.php?player=476883&time=month&minmax=ci&var=whiffswing&s_type=2&endDate=03/05/2014&startDate=01/01/2013

  44. Jim S. says:

    I like the short toss, too, Steel. That enables us to put the pitch exactly where we want to, and it gives them a legit shot to do exactly what you are saying – try to hit it to RC. We don’t actually tell them to let it get deeper. We tell them to go the other way. But, when you set up the tee, you place it a little deeper on the plate, as opposed to in front of the plate a bit for a ball in the center. When I am tossing, and they pull a pitch on the outside corner, I can see the smart ones get a little disappointed because they realize that is not what they were supposed to do. I usually stop and tell them that when the ball is being tossed slowly from a short distance, they can pull it if they really want to, and sometimes still hit it hard. But, if it were an actual swing in a game, trying to pull that pitch on the outside corner results in a weak grounder to the SS most of the time. They get the concept, but as you say, it is a work in process, for sure.

  45. Steelkings says:

    We do a lot of self toss. Even with the high schoolers. Play 21 outs. Put a defense on the field. They stay there for 21 consecutive outs. Clear the bases after every three. They toss it to themselves. The hitter holds the bat in one hand and tosses it up in the air, then hits it. Swing and a miss or a foul ball and they are out. We ask them to hit behind the runner. You will be amazed at the amount of failure involved with the simple task of fungo hitting.

  46. Jim S. says:

    We’ve never tried that drill with the kids, Steel. But, I think a couple of our coaches would struggle to get a hit doing that, judging by how they hit infield grounders.

  47. Steelkings says:

    Again, You dont have to game plan for Alvarez. He lead the NL in HR’s and if you throw it in there he may very well hit it in the weeds. Its not like he one of 28 guys you’ve barely heard of in spring training.
    But thats not the point anyway. He has to hit it over there to loosen up the shift. Teams play the short stop on the 1st base side of the 2nd base bag against him. The right fielder is darn near in straight up CF. Allowing them to play defense like that and throw it on the outside corner is like them having their cake and eating it too. You have to get them out of that. You have to show case that you can hit it over there.

    There is an awful lot of trees being killed with all the note taking going on behind the backstop.

  48. Steelkings says:

    I think the book is called “Growing up Babe”. When he was a kid he had to walk over 5 miles to get to school. He took his bat ball and book sack. Toss the ball up, hit it and go get it. All the way to school and back everyday. It all about eye hand coordination. 90% of hitting. you know..”hit what you see”. We work self toss into every batting practice. One on deck guy hitting tee balls into a net while the other self tosses into a net. No idle time.

 
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