Monday Mop-Up Duty: the attrition game and Pirates looking at Didi?


SOUTH HILLS – Pirates general manager Neal Huntington says the ligament intact. The Pirates are hoping some rest alleviates the pain. But you never want to hear about a top pitching prospect feeling elbow pain. And Jameson Taillon is experiencing elbow pain.

This is problematic for the Pirates on two fronts: for starters, he’s one of their most valuable organizational assets and this could potentially delay his development, secondly, the club was also likely counting on him for some impact, second-half-of-the-season innings.

“At this point in time, the ligament is intact,” Huntington told reporters on Sunday. “He’s just got some discomfort in there. How quickly will it work itself out? We’ll have a much clearer picture when he gets back from his second opinion. At this point, we feel positive he’s just going to miss a little bit of time.”

We’ll see.

What we do know is pitching injury is inevitable and depth is critical.

As we’ve pointed out before in this e-space, the Pirates went into late August/early September last season with 80 percent of their Opening Day rotation no longer in their rotation.

The Pirates had Charlie Morton, Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano in reserve in 2013. If Taillon isn’t healthy, I doubt they have such  impact arms in reserve in 2014.

We’ve seen how fleeting pitching depth can be again this spring with Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin hurt in A’s camp, with Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy in need of TJ in Braves camp, and with Patrick Corbin also out with a shredded ulnar ligament.

We saw Liriano leave a game on Thursday with a strained groin, while not thought to be serious, his Opening Day start could be in jeopardy. It makes me wonder how good this team will be if it does not get 380-400 innings from Liriano and Cole.

I like the Pirates’ 2014 Opening Day rotation better than its 2013 Opening Day rotation. But if Taillon isn’t healthy, I’m not sure there is much impact in reserve. And it was pitching depth that allowed the Pirates to win the attrition fight last summer and fall.


Didi Gregorius is a left-handed hitting, glove-first shortstop who the Diamondbacks have  had on the market this offseason. We’ve mentioned him in this space as a possible fit for the Pirates – along with Stephen Drew. We don’t know if Jordy Mercer can hit right-handed pitching and the Pirates might need a longer-term answer at short. So it makes sense the Pirates would have some interest. A Mercer-Gregorius platoon makes some sense. Or Mercer could become a super utility player. Diamondbacks are said to be looking for pitching….I suspect Didi might have more pop than he’s given credit for. His home runs averaged 106 mph in exit velocity last year – which is surprising small-sample exit velocity – and he’s also shown some patience at the plate


9. Not only is Taillon feeling discomfort but Tim Williams reported Tyler Glasnow will not start the season due to back pain. Fellow right-handed pitching prospect Clay Holmes is out for the year Tommy John surgery. The rash of injuries and pains throughout the spring training camps is a not-so-subtle reminder of how difficult it is to graduate a young prized pitcher to become a durable, top-of-the rotation workhorse.

The Pirates believe they can improve upon industry standard attrition rates. And it’s important they do because no club has spent more draft picks and treasure on amateur pitching than the Pirates under Huntington as we’ve documented.


8. Some feel the Pirate have adequate pitching depth, and the Pirates do have a number of starting options that will not make the rotation,  but I contend Jeff Locke, Brandon Cumpton, Stolmy Pimentel are back-of-the-rotation options and are not going to be mid- to top-of-the-rotation difference makers.


7.  I don’t know what the terms were of the Pirates’ extension offer to Starling Marte were but I can’t blame the Pirates for trying or for Marte betting on his own talent.

I do think the days if outrageously team-friendly bargains are over in pre-arb extensions … unless clubs target players before they reach the majors. Clubs are going to have to start carrying more of the risk burden in these deals, or pay closer to true market value in arbitration buyout/free agency years.

This is would be my extension preference list if I was an adviser to Huntington:

Gregory Polanco, Cole, Marte and Neil Walker. (I don’t think there’s much of a chance Pedro Alvarez would be amenable)

Polanco was not a first-round bonus baby like George Springer so he might have more incentive to sign a 7-year, $23-million-type extension that the Astros offered to Springer last fall before he reached the majors…. I know Scott Boras represents Cole but maybe this rash of injuries has Cole thinking about securing some more guaranteed dollars. …. I think it’s wise to approach Marte and I’d also approach Walker – who has more upside remaining, I think– and who might like to stay in his hometown.


6. In regard to perhaps now targeting players earlier in their careers, it’s never been more important to evaluate your own talent.


5. I’m not sure if I mentioned this previously but one player that jumped out at me at Pirate City was Alen Hanson. He was more physical than I thought and barreled up major league pitching in a B game I witnessed. If he can stick at short, opinions are split, he could be the most undervalued prospect among the top Pirates’ 10 prospects.


4. Travis Ishikawa deserving of a roster spot? Who had this in their roster bracket? I’m hesitant to give any weight to spring numbers but he’s squared up plenty of MLB pitching this spring. The process has been good and so, too, are the results: .467 OBP this spring and 1.100 OPS. What do you do with Andrew Lambo and Ishikawa? For me, this is the only tricky roster decision remaining.


3. I’d be surprised if Bryan Morris  is not on the Opening Day roster.


2. Andrew McCutchen looks ready, eh?


1. The Pirates were probably going to have some run prevention regression no matter how healthy they were/are this season. What the Pirates really need is for their bats to improve in 2014; to have some breakouts and improvement from Alvarez, Walker and Marte. And I do think Walker and Alvarez are going to have excellent seasons.





Percent chance Baseball Prospectus is giving the Pirates to make the playoffs, fourth in the NL Central, only ranking ahead of the Cubs. Baseball Prospectus projects the Pirates to win 79 games.

The Pirates are in line for some regression but I think the Vegas preseason line of 84.5 wins seems more reasonable.



“You know how fast I am.”

– Marte when asked how fast he is by yours truly



Next year when you’re filling out your bracket consult Ken Pomeroy and his adjusted rankings.

I had no idea Tennessee was any good until I found Tennessee ranked 6th in his overall power rankings. Tennessee is in the Sweet 16. Thanks, Ken. (Of course, as a reminder that stat wonks don’t have all the answers in any sport I could  have used a heads up that Baylor had a 207-foot wingspan advantage over Creighton. Creighton shot 42 percent from 3 in the regular season, an incredible number, but couldn’t find any shooting space against Baylor.).

– TS