Observations from minor league camp


BRADENTON, Fla. – Quiet day in Bradenton as the Pirates and Blue Jays were rained out. Too bad because the Blue Jays were bringing a strong lineup of regulars up from Dunedin and Jason Grilli and Wandy Rodriguez were scheduled to throw.  Alas, Grilli will have to wait until Friday to make his Grapefruit League debut and Rodriguez will also have to wait another day to take another step forward in proving the health of his elbow.

On a slow news day, I thought I’d share some observations from the Pirate City complex where I spent some time on Wednesday afternoon. …

*The first thing that jumps out at you is the size of these pitching prospects. Tyler Glasnow now lists himself as at 6-8 (though still a lanky 220 pounds, but stronger than he was). Nick Kingham is built like a man. Not only is he 6-foot-5 but he’s thickly built throughout his frame. He’s build a little bit like Gerrit Cole … only he’s got an inch or two on him.  Luis Heredia appears to be in really good shape. He’s slimmed down as previously reported to give the Pirates another 6-foot-6-plus right-hander. The thing is they’re not even the biggest kids in camp. Twenty-year-old Jen-Lei Liao, a signing from Taiwan, is 6-foot-6 and an easy 270 pounds.

*Austin Meadows is dealing with a Grade 1 (mild) hamstring pull. No timetable on his return, Too bad. Wanted to see him at work.

*Don’t forget about Josh Bell. He’s a rare athlete on a baseball field, remember he was recruited to play baseball by the University of Texas before the Pirates filled up a suitcase with $5 million. Bell looks like he could play outside linebacker or small forward. He’s physical and confident. I’m not sure the bat will ever play enough but he demonstrated he has plus power in batting practice. There’s not many switch-hitters with power in the game. He’s blocked by a number of quality outfielders, but if the hit tool comes they’ll find a place. Maybe first base? Or maybe he becomes an attractive trade chip.

*Stetson Allie is a real wild card. His conversion from pitcher to hitter when better than anyone expected … until he was promoted to High-A.

*Reese McGuire appears to come as advertised. Hard to evaluate pitch framing on spring training backfields but everyone raves about his defensive acumen: the release, the strength, the accuracy of his throws … his understanding of how to call a game at such a young age. He doesn’t look like an overwhelmed teenager. I think he has a chance to be the Pirates’ Francisco Lindor, which is high praise: a plus-plus defender at a key position with at least an average bat and plus instincts and intangibles. Prediction: he’s a consensus top 50 prospect next spring.

*JaCoby Jones is an interesting guy. The Pirates still had him taking grounders at shortstop on Thursday but I have to think his long-term home is int he outfield.  He’s a really good athlete with a Hunter Pence-type of body. He’s a lottery ticket who has had his swing completely rebuilt.

In closing, I haven’t been around any other No. 1-rated farm system’s backfield but I would think this is what they look like, and Polanco and Taillon are in major league camp.

- TS