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Worst-kept secret: Polanco is very good at baseball

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ST. LOUIS -- It's like the final scene of "The Poseidon Adventure" this morningin the Lou, with the sun peeking over the Arch after a loud, stormy night. In a few hours, I'm off to Bawl'mer, where I hear it's gonna  be even wetter and colder the next coupla days.

Anyway, I spoke Sunday with GM Neal Huntington and asked about everybody’s No. 1 topic: Gregory Polanco, Superstar. Huntington insisted the Super 2 thing “is not a driving factor” when management decides when to call up a promising prospect. When I tweeted that quote, it got a lot of responses, some of the laced with four-letter words. (Remember, folks, I’m keeping my Twitter feed a family-friendly place. Drop an F-bomb = blocked.)


So, let’s pretend for a moment that it’s really not about the money. Why, then, is Polanco still mashing balls all over Victory Field instead of PNC Park?
“He’s continuing to refine some of the intricacies of his game,” Huntington said. “Somebody asked the other day for a detailed list of what he’s working on. When Andrew (McCutchen) was coming up, I gave a detailed list as to what he was working on, then watched major league teams attack those weaknesses I’d identified in spring training. So, I’m not going to give you a detailed script that opposing teams can attack when Gregory gets here.”
That seems a bit disingenuous. Opposing teams have scouts and coaches who compile and analyze massive digital libraries of the swings, steals and catches Polanco has made. They aren’t clicking on Triblive.com every morning to figure out how to pitch to Polanco.
Whatever. I also asked newbie Casey Sadler for his impressions of Polanco and how the soon-to-be third piece of the Dream Outfield is handling the waiting game in Indy: “He’s very humble, very level-headed. Just goes about his work in the right way. He’s real fun to play with. He understands that he’s there to get work in and get experience. He’s still young. He’s handling it very professionally.”
For more about Polanco and when he might arrive in the big leagues, check out my story Tuesday’s Trib. That is, if there are any copies left on the news stands after opposing pitchers swoop them up to glean clues about Polanco’s weaknesses at the plate.
– Rob Biertempfel

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Comments

  1. TK says:

    Question: Casey Sadler was a 23 year old pitcher with Indy who was pitching well. Why were the Pirates not concerned about his Super 2 status when making the decision to call him up to Pittsburgh?

  2. Excellent. Good insight on interview with NH. Hope opposing pitchers don’t read DK’s blog, either, to see how good Polanco is.

  3. Nate83 says:

    Thanks Rob for the info. I’m surprised he would say it wasn’t a driving factor. It has to be something that is being considered. We are still at least 50 days and maybe more then that away from clearing super 2.

    He is still near or below 100 total at bats in AAA so I’m not in the group that is saying he is definitely ready and him not being up is all about the money. If Polanco is still batting above .350 1 month from now after 250 at bats or so it will be harder to justify that it’s not about the money. If he comes up on June 25th after cooling off it will almost be impossible to convince anyone that it isn’t about the money. If Polanco comes up anytime before June then NH is obviously being truthful.

    It should be noted Marte came up in late July or early August after winning a batting title in AA the year before and playing well (but not Polanco well) in AAA

  4. Pedro was in a 1-23 streak or something close to that when they brought him up, but he had been doing good prior to that streak.

  5. Nate83 says:

    Cole worked out good for them last year. He had really bad control and a pedestrian numbers until a nice 20-30 inning stretch right before he came up. It felt like the right time to bring him up regardless of Super 2. Polanco is making it tougher with his unbelievable start.

    Cole had three years of college under his belt before starting his road to the majors. Polanco literally came out of nowhere 2 years ago and I honestly do think he is learning with every at bat. The pitchers in AAA will adjust to him and he will have to do adapt. He is only 3 years removed from being a .229 hitter in low A. He hit .285 last year in AA. So I’m not about to say a 25 games hot start in AAA deserves a call up without being a scout.

  6. Jim S. says:

    Good post, Nate. I made the point last week on DK’s blog that he could have a bad stretch of 100 at bats and still have a high overall batting average. But, some people would suddenly doubt whether he is all that good. This has literally all happened so fast for Polanco that it makes sense that he has things to work on that are being masked by all of his obvious assets. I have no problem leaving him in the pot to cook for another 45 days, even though I agree he’s already better than what we are getting from RF at the moment.

  7. Zach says:

    Base running needs work, specifically stealing them, stolen bases= 4 caught stealing= 4 so far this young season and I think 2 of those were him getting picked off, I am positive it happened once

  8. Nate83 says:

    He adds the obvious value of speed and defense but isn’t Tabata batting .270 and hasn’t he actually played adequate defense. I’m not sure Polanco would put up an average much above that. As I mentioned he batted .287 in AA last year. Is that really enough added value for the cost down the road.

    I actually have no issue with them bringing him up. I will be extremely excited if it happens and hopeful that he kick starts this offense. The fan part of my brain says bring him up but the logic side can’t be upset that he hasn’t been brought up.

  9. dcpinpgh says:

    from saberbucs.net

    Gregory Polanco was rated the #24 prospect in all of baseball, prior to this season, by Baseball Prospectus; and he is off to a great start at AAA this year.

    The prospect rated #20, Astros outfielder George Springer, hit .311/.425/.626 — 1.050 OPS at AAA last season. He had 18 HR in 266 plate appearances. Between AA and AAA, last year, Springer hit 37 home runs.

    Polanco had a .262 batting average and .761 OPS at AA last year.

    Springer, this year, was hitting .353/.459/.647 — 1.106 OPS at AAA, so, the Astros promoted him to the major leagues. He is hitting .171 with a .475 OPS. That’s worse than Marte, Snider, and even Jose Tabata.

    It’s possible that Gregory Polanco might not be ready to dominate the major leagues after 96 career AAA plate appearances.

  10. Nate83 says:

    Thanks for the comparison. I’m not against him coming but it’s not uncommon for top prospects to struggle before living up to potential. As good as Wil Myers played last year he didn’t exactly dominate the league. Polancos struggles may not be as bad if he has a little more seasoning and faces some growing pains in AAA.

  11. Jim S. says:

    Good point about Tabby. As usual, Busch Stadium was tonic for him this weekend. Hopefully, he’s on a good streak now.

  12. Jim S. says:

    Good comparison, dc. But, isn’t Springer 24 vs. Polanco 22? I think that plays a big part in AAA stats. Imagine what Polanco would do in Indy 2 years from now, judging by quickly he is improving and what he is already doing down there.

  13. Nate83 says:

    Which supports the argument that maybe Polanco staying down longer is not a bad idea. Springer in theory should have been more ready to handle the jump.

    I’m really excited about Polanco. Can’t wait to see what he adds to the team. I haven’t heard one bad thing about him as a person or professionally. I just heard a story about Jose Abreu with the White Sox and how unassuming he is and how hard he works at getting better everyday. The kid doesn’t even know how good he is already so he is working his butt off trying to get better every day. It sounds like Polanco could be the exact same way.

  14. And for a dissenting view….http://hiddenvigorish.com/2014/04/when-will-gregory-polanco-be-ready/

    “But many players have transitioned easily to the big leagues after little or no time playing at the AAA level. Gregory Polanco already has more at-bats in AAA ball than Yasiel Puig, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Miguel Cabrera, Paul Goldschmidt, Joe Mauer, Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzki, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Mike Trout, and Manny Machado, just to name a few. When a player is ready they are ready, and the only thing that matters in determining that are if he passes the eye tests of the scouts and staff within the organization”

  15. Brendan says:

    I’m generally in favor of proceeding cautiously when it comes to a prospects promotion–particularly to the majors. Just because they might have an impressive stat line doesn’t mean they’re ready developmentally.

    However I find the Springer comparison uncompelling at best. We’re talking about a completely different player. In this case one who has a lot of swing and miss in his game that Polanco does not.

    You can’t ignore historical precedent, yes man top prospects who later become stars initially struggle at the ML level. But you also have to deal with the skill set of the player in question. Polanco isn’t Springer. Beyond the value he adds in the field and on base here is a scouting assessment of his readiness courtesy of Baseball Prosoectus:

    “Over the last few days, I have asked multiple veteran scouts about Polanco. After explicitly asking them to identify the fatal flaw that could hold Polanco back, each struggled and could come up only with handling same-side breaking balls; each of them even cautioned that this amounted to nitpicking.”

  16. Botherhood of the Redus says:

    I love it…perfect time for the old rope-a-dope….Huntington says the guys has stuff to work on and then POW, here he is…I love it when he telegraphs his passes and everyone get’s all up in arms because they don’t read between the lines. Polanco is on his way.

  17. Nate83 says:

    How many of those names you mentioned where actually top 5 prospects and in most cases drafted extremely high or purchased at a much higher amount then Polanco?

    We are talking about a kid who didn’t even start the year in the top 20 prospects in the Pirates system 2 years ago. His rise to the top has been impressive but lets be realistic. He batted .286 over an entire year last year in AA. 25 games does not just make those facts go away. Don’t get me wrong it’s encouraging but I think you have to accept it for what it is which is a stretch of 90 at bats which has been really good. Look at the top 10 hitters in each league right now and at least half won’t be there at the end of the year.

  18. Nate83 says:

    In the end you may be correct and Polanco might be up in the next week or two and then we will have absolutely nothing to talk about. Then all the anger towards the perceived notion that this was all about money will be noise under the bridge. Just like the fear that nothing would be added to the team last year.

  19. Nate83 says:

    This was supposed to be in response to Hidden but it somehow ended up down here instead.

  20. FlBucco says:

    +1

  21. Andrew says:

    Just to name a few? That seems like a selection bias there, are you familiar with this piece while it doesn’t include Harper or Trout and only looks drafted players.

    http://www.hardballtimes.com/the-historic-risk-of-manny-machados-promotion/

    There is an inherent risk with promoting players too fast. I do not think number of AAA bats is overly important but more information is most always better.

  22. NMR says:

    Mike Trout hit .220 over his first 40 games as a big leaguer.

    Just because a player is ready does not mean they’ll be successful right away.

  23. Trust me when I say there are more, many more, that have excelled with little or no AAA. I’ve a list of more than 30 players with less than 40 games at the AAA level. They range from good to star players. Some where considered elite top prospects. Some were a little more surprising and came out of nowhere like Polanco. The point is there is no magic number of ABs needed or batting average that must be maintained that signifies that a player is ready. Top talents generally produce when they get here. There are instances of players that get called up too early and get sent back down to AAA before they stick in the majors (like Pedro), but that scenario it is greatly overblown. 6 of the top 10 players in fWAR from last season played less than 40 games of a AAA ball in the minors.

  24. Nate83 says:

    I’m shocked your attached link of your entry questions how much his full year of 2013 stats in AA should be used in determining his readiness but 90 at-bats in AAA is enough to determine he is most definitely ready. It is all part of the process.

  25. Jim S. says:

    Hidden:

    I don’t think that list is definitive of anything – not that you said it was. A lot of those guys are either struggling now, or have struggled mightily at some point after having initial success. I think it is very accurate to say the decison about when to bring a guy up is a very hard one, and teams often get it right and often get it wrong. I would say it comes down to a decision about whether you want to bring a guy up when you think he is better than the guy(s) he is going to replace, or whether you want to try to bring him up at a time when you think he is ready to maximize his potential and have the best possible MLB career. Those are two different things altogether, it seems to me. Huntington seems to be trying to make sure Polanco is ready to have the best career he can once he arrives, while many fans seem to think he should come up now because he is already probably better than the guys he is replacing. It could be that an extra 2 months of development would make a big difference in the long run. I also think there is probably a list that could be made of players who never reached anything close to their potential because they came up too soon, and just weren’t ready.

    Of that list:

    * Are we sure the best thing for Heyward was to bring him up at such a young age?

    * Is Puig the certain superstar he seemed to be last August?

    * Is Justin Upton much, if any, better than he was several years ago?

    * Is Bryce Harper better than he was at 19?

    I’m not necessarily arguing that any of these guys came up too soon for certain. But, I think there is at least a question for some of them.

    Thanks for the post, Hidden. Very interesting topic.

  26. NMR says:

    “They aren’t clicking on Triblive.com every morning to figure out how to pitch to Polanco.”

    I can appreciate the humility, and I’m sure you’re mostly correct, but it did take teams over 100 innings to figure out Tony Sanchez couldn’t throw out my mother-in-law trying to steal second base.

    Dejan had that one covered from the start.

  27. Botherhood of the Redus says:

    I certainly hope you are right Nate….need some zip to this thing before the weather breaks. I feel like Alvarez is pressing and Cutch is so surprised when he gets something to hit he’s forgotten what to do with it haha

  28. Botherhood of the Redus says:

    Sanchez better hit .350 to make up for his soft gun…the kid is being given every break he could possibly ask for to earn a spot in the show. Don’t blow it

  29. Let’s get facts straight for a second on Mike Trout’s first go round in the big leagues. Yes, he only hit .220. He also posted 0.7 fWAR in just 40 games. He also had just a .247 BABIP that season. That is a BABIP of 100 points less than he has had in any season in the majors or minors. So yeah, those first 123 ABs in bigs he had some really rotten luck. Was he superstar yet? Obviously not. Was he a major league quality productive player? Absolutely. And who is to say he wouldn’t have struggled in his first 40 games regardless of the amount of time he put in at AAA.

  30. brendan says:

    I’m much more interested in scouting reports than a prospects stat-line. Not to say the numbers are irrelevant. But they also convey a limited amount of information, in concert with a scouting report you get a better sense of where someone is at developmentally.

    Again historical precedent is useful and it’s worth keeping in mind that a lot of guys struggled initially making the adjustment to the majors. But at the same time no developmental path is the same. One player may require 500 amount of AAA at bats. Another 150.

  31. Nate83 says:

    This assumes Polanco will end up being a top 10 WAR player which we all hope he will be but is most definitely not a guarantee. Using that example is debating backwards. I have no way to logically debate that.

    So I will debate what I know. Having 90 great at bats no more makes him the top prospect in all of baseball then a full year of batting .286 last year makes him average. I think you are overstating his prospect status a little. Also his path and background has to be considered. 3 years removed from batting .229 and he was a pitcher when they first signed him.

  32. Jim S. says:

    I haven’t heard much about the Trout kid lately. Still struggling? No wait, it has to be lineup protection that is the key to his success.

  33. No selection of bias. I stopped because the point was made. Plenty of great players I could continue to list.

  34. brendan says:

    As I mentioned above I’m all for caution when promoting prospects. Particularly prospects as potentially valuable as Polanco. As impressive as Polanco’s current batting line is, that alone wouldn’t be cause for promotion.

    But when the scouting assessment matches the results, as it seems to in this case based on the above excerpt from BP as well as similar assessments from other national outlets one has to consider the possibility that he is indeed read, despite less than 100 AAA AB’s.

  35. NMR says:

    What worries me the most is that I’m not sure the gun is his only defensive flaw.

    Pirate pitchers have uncorked wild pitches at twice the rate with Tony catching as they have with Russell Martin catching over the last two years and Tony already has given up an alarming number of passed balls.

    Same scouting reports have been written about this guy for years, but man, there must be something I’m missing because this is not a good defender.

  36. Nate83 says:

    Maybe he is auditioning for first base :) He would only need to hit .270 and hit 15 home runs to be useful there.

  37. NMR says:

    My facts are just fine, thank you.

    Go back and read what I wrote:

    “Just because a player is ready does not mean they’ll be successful right away.”

    Nothing to do with luck or AAA time.

  38. Nate83 says:

    I agree with your overall point but he was pretty good yesterday blocking a bunch of balls in the dirt so maybe there is hope.

  39. Botherhood of the Redus says:

    Baseball is such an imperfect and ongoing battle, and there really is no one that performs flawlessly…that’s why it’s such a great sport. The guys that suck can sit next to the guys that don’t suck and say “get them next time”. That said, the Pirates have 2 guys, Cutch and Alvarez, that get so hot at times that when they disappear, they completely disappear. Marte isn’t setting the table, ever….last year, the Pirates scored first and even if they wen down the still tasted that early lead an knew the game belonged to them….this year has been all about swimming upstream. Time to turn the kayak around and simply go with the current. Polanco up soon, and believe me I have always been a staunch “let him marinate in AAA” guy but not this time. The pitching has not been great, but it’s been good enough to win a few more ball games…does anyone else think we may never see the dominant Grilli again?

  40. Jim S. says:

    Good points, Brendan. It could be the Pirates’ internal assessments fall pretty much in line with those outside assessments. If that is the case, I would be very surprised if they stubbornly kept him in the minors only for financial reasons. At that point, there are also some financial reasons, such as the success of the team now, that argue in favor of having him on the team. I don’t know how to balance the financial questions, but I hope it comes down to more than just that.

    I believe the team will start trending in a positive direction, and I hope I am right. If that is the case, wouldn’t it be great to add him to a team already playing good baseball in the next several weeks.?

  41. Nate83 says:

    They should have more wins by just pure luck. They have a run differential of -8 which includes losing by 7 yesterday. Before yesterday they had a -1 run differential which typically would put you a game or 2 within .500 not 5 games below.

    If Marte and Pedro start to hit they will score more runs. You just can’t have two of your first 4 batters struggling for this prolonged period of time and expect to compete. Add Mercer and Ike to the equation and very little chance to win. The good news is Mercer, Marte and Pedro have all shown they are capable of better in the past.

  42. cmat0829 says:

    Rob, did you follow up with NH after he indicated that the Super2 Rules are not the ‘driving factor’ of Polanco not being in Pittsburgh yet, with any of the following questions?:

    1) Why isn’t Super2 a consideration for the Pirates, given our market and financial considerations?
    1a) Aren’t financial considerations ALWAYS a factor, as in your (NH) comments in the winter about AJBurnett and about being able to allocate a % of salary to one player?

    2) Are you (NH) specifically saying that when the management team feels Polanco is ready, he will be called up…regardless of the Super2 timeline? Is Super2 not a factor AT ALL or just not a driving factor.

    3) Why would you comment so specifically on the previous draft rules, how the Pirates ‘exploited’ the rules to their benefit and be mum on the Super2 system and the Pirates strategy vis a vis that?

    4) Last year at the trade deadline, you famously said that you be prepared to do something ‘stupid’ to improve the 2013 roster, but not ‘insane’. Do you think calling Polanco up before Super2 is cleared, and that leads to him being arbitration eligible sooner, would be ‘stupid’ or ‘insane’ or neither?

    Regardless of which side of the Polanco Debate you are on, I think we can all agree the doublespeak annoys us (to put it politely). Would be much more refreshing for NH to say: “Look, I won’t lie to you. The system and Super2 Rules are absolutely a consideration. It isn’t the ONLY consideration — player readiness is paramount — but it is a very important consideration. We’d be stupid not to consider the system, the rules, and balancing all the decisions with both short and long-term implications.”

  43. NMR says:

    “Regardless of which side of the Polanco Debate you are on, I think we can all agree the doublespeak annoys us (to put it politely).”

    I think you may be forgetting who writes the checks on Federal Street. Direct your complaints accordingly.

    And not to speak for Rob, but I really don’t fault any of the beat writers for not pressing further. These guys will undoubtedly have an answer for every follow-up. That much is clear. At some point it just is what it is.

  44. Thanks Jim. I never intended to have this be comparison to any of these players or debate about whether they were best served by an early call up. The point is simply to counter the notion that he needs to put in a certain mount of time in AAA ball. Many players put in little to no time at AAA and do quite well, and I listed some of those examples. As I said, when a player is ready they are ready, and the only thing that matters in determining that are if he passes the eye tests of the scouts and staff within the organization. I want Polanco here because I think he is ready, and I think the Pirates think he is ready. I don’t know that for sure, but that’s my opinion.

  45. cmat0829 says:

    Valid points. It could be that Rob did indeed ask follow-up questions and those elicited non-answers (or worse) and thus no content reported in the blog. I also get your point that if NH were asked these questions he may not answer them. But last summer, he did provide the ‘stupid but not insane’ answer to questions that are very similar in nature.

  46. NMR says:

    Great conversation so far, but I feel we’re all kidding ourselves by pretending finances aren’t in play.

    Now I fully respect if you’re one who choses to ingore the financial aspect of Major League Baseball and believes the best players should be on the 25-man roster. But for those who are more resigned to their fate as a Pirate fan, what are you willing to give up for six weeks of Polanco?

    Seems like that is a relevant question, considering all factors. Are we prepared for Polanco to be too expensive to keep by his fourth time through arbitration? Are we prepared for the possibility that Super 2 makes an extension unlikely to be reached? For other positions not to have the budget necessary because of the extra money they’re paying Polanco?

  47. Jim S. says:

    I have a minor quibble with your post, Redus. It pertains to Cutch, and I only bring it up because so many Pirates fans seem to think a couple of things about him:

    1) He does not perform in clutch situations; and/or
    2) He is very streaky

    Cutch for his career:

    Overall: .296/.381/.489

    RISP: .295/.406/.484
    Men on base: .302/.398/.507

    By month:

    April: .270/.351/.432
    May: .320/.398/.537
    June: .317/.391/.505
    July: .314/.387/.535
    Aug: .285/.377/.472
    Sept/Oct: .274/.387/.466

    He hits pretty close to the same, if not a little better, with runners on base in his career than without runners on base.

    He hits better than the average MLB player in every month of the season. He definitely hits better as the weather warms up, and as the season goes on, then falls off a bit at the end. I’m not certain, but I would think most players follow a similar path.

    Does Cutch slump on occasion? Sure, just as every hitter does. He gets out of them quickly, on average. I don’t think he disappears often. I think that is a myth.

    I know you weren’t ripping Cutch. I just think sometimes we forget how consistently good he is.

  48. Nate83 says:

    Well he said it’s not the driving force. That hardly means it not a force at all and being considered. In fact it isn’t double speak until it is actually double speak. If Polanco comes up sometime before Super 2 then it not only validates what NH said to Rob but is strengthens the fact that it always was about his actual development and if he was ready.

    We always jump to conclusions before the whole story has been written. If NH cared what any of us thought Byrd, Morneau and Ike Davis all would have been on the Pirates team much earlier and at a much higher cost. I still think there is a decent chance Polanco does come up before Super 2.

  49. NMR says:

    “Stupid but not insane” is kind’ve what I’m talking about, though. That gave us nothing new. No specifics, or even anything close.

    Trust me, I’d love to get the details as much as anybody. But I just don’t think anyone is cracking the code at Federal Street and certainly don’t consider it Rob’s fault (not that you are, either).

  50. Jim S. says:

    I hear you, Hidden. I think yours is a good point that there is no magic amount of time needed at AAA.

  51. Nate83 says:

    Well stated NMR I would like to add one more factor to all of this. They may already be willing to bring him up but a roster move needs to be made. Snider and Tabata have no options left. One will need to be traded. Neither has great value but both have value. I could be wrong but I don’t think both stay on team especially with a first base platoon taking up two roster spots. Some other dominoes have to happen and may be in the works.

    Delaying Polanco a little protects against one of our outfielders getting hurt and not having the depth because Tabata or Snider have been traded. I think they like Decker but I don’t think they plan on him being on the 25 man this year.

  52. cmat0829 says:

    Good questions, I prefer NH answer them, but I know he won’t. To me, the question is “what is ‘stupid’ and what is ‘insane’” to try to help this 2014 club compete better, right now.

    If I were GM, there is no doubt in my mind I would NOT bring Polanco up before his Super2 status was assured. It just doesn’t make fiscal sense to spend the extra money for 4-6 weeks of rookie year production. And if I were GM I’d be so uncomfortable each and every day until I can call him up…and I’d curse that this rule even exists.

    THAT said, NH has taken very few real risks as a GM. He has earned the extension and if he were EVER gonna roll the dice, maybe this is the time. He stares down Nutting and says, I’m gonna call this kid up… I’m risking some $$ down the line, but we’ll try like hell to get an extension in place before it hits us…. and worst case he is a superstar and forces us to make room in the budget for him but making some unpopular trades in a couple of years…

    So put me down for a NO on calling him up now, thinking like a businessman, and YES to calling him up now, thinking like a fan.

  53. Andrew says:

    Listing good hitters then citing their AAA PAs, to disprove the importance of AAA PAs is the definition of selection bias, however I agree with you overall point and what you wrote below. I just find it odd how many people have definitive opinions of Polanco and believe he should be in the lineup tomorrow and will make an immediate impact.

  54. Nate83 says:

    I personally am not prepared to sacrifice those things. I don’t value 45 games of Polanco as much as some others do and I’m not convinced he will add that much value. Rookies are rookies and even ones that win rookie of the year awards don’t always have crazy stats.

    If he is called up even though I don’t think it’s the best decision for the long term of the team I will not be screaming it’s a horrible move and I will be very excited to watch everyone of his games after I pick him up in fantasy baseball.

  55. cmat0829 says:

    BINGO. No one really covers this aspect of it. You will need a Plan B if Polanco scuffles a bit, god forbid he has to go back down like Pedro. And I greatly prefer both Tabby and Snyder to Decker and whomever else is in AAA.

    And I agree, the logical move is to trade Tabby or Snyder vs. other less ideal roster moves (dump Barmes, option Harrison, carry one less pitcher…none of those to me is even worth talking about)…..if I had to choose, I’d keep Tabby for his RH bat and for ability to spell Marte (who needs quite a bit of spelling lately).

    I guess a wild card is that the roster move is to send Marte down to AAA… not calling for that, but wondering how many poor atbats and Ks can pile up before that is realistically considered…..

  56. cmat0829 says:

    NH didn’t ask me , but if I were his communications consultant, I’d tell him to pick one of two paths… either TAKE THE HIGH ROAD and ignore some of the rants or fans, twitterverse, etc… just stick to the talking points no matter what the question asked (the GeorgeWBush approach) OR specifically take on these opinions/questions with direct answers (the Chris Christie approach). Never, ever straddle back and forth across these paths.

    NH gets in trouble by sometimes addressing the criticisms but not directly,not thoroughly, and that serves no purpose. I consider the statement “Super2 is not the driving force” as a form of doublespeak. It is way too political answer for a sports exec. If he wants to address that question/criticism, then do so. If he wants to take the high road, then do so. This is NMR’s point also about the ‘stupid, but not insane’ comment. Obvious the purpose of him doing that was to answer his critics… but he didn’t do so with any specifics so it was a swing and a miss.

  57. Jim S. says:

    Tabby, to me, definitely has value over Snider in that he seems to hit RHP and LHP close to equally. For that 4th OF, who might need to spell Polanco or Marte, or PH a whole lot, I prefer a guy who can’t be exploited so easily by the manager of the other team.

  58. Nate83 says:

    I honestly think the stupid but not insane comment was more then you will get from most GM’s. I don’t think he gains anything by saying the insane was trading Taillon and Polanco for Stanton. Not only does he bring another GM into the equation but he opens himself up to being second guessed. There are fans out there that would make that trade because they value prospects very little or not at all. I don’t think any GM talks specifics about trades that where not made. It may leak but it doesn’t come directly from their mouths.

  59. NMR says:

    “the Chris Christie approach”

    If you believe that, I have a free-flowing bridge in Manhattan to seel you. ;)

  60. Nate83 says:

    I thought that was an interesting individual to use for an example. I would have picked Toronto’s Chris Farley stunt double of a mayor Ron Ford (love that guy).

  61. NMR says:

    Ha! Hey who doesn’t kick back and relax with a little bowl of crack every now and then. Man of the people!

  62. NMR says:

    Thanks, gents.

  63. Andrew says:

    In actual baseball news the Cardinals have demoted Kolton Wong.

  64. NMR says:

    Odd handling.

    Did they really see something in 76 PA that they didn’t know about before putting him on the Opening Day roster?

  65. Andrew says:

    Matheny said something about his swing becoming too long. They promoted SS/2B Greg Garcis, and OF Randall Grichuk, who was the other player in the Freese deal. Their off season moves haven’t really paid any dividends yet, other than Peralta crushing two Volquez pitches.

    http://mlb.si.com/2014/04/28/st-louis-cardinals-demote-kolten-wong/

  66. NMR says:

    I think Matheny is the biggest problem they have on the field right now.

    Would’ve pegged him to be a defense-minded manager, but he still apparently loves playing the worst outfield in the league.

    Peralta has been a big upgrade, and he’s still only hitting .176.

  67. Andrew says:

    Good call on Peralta, I let the announces fool me into thinking he has been struggling and forgot how terrible SS was offensively last year for the Cardinals.

    They kept running Kozma out there when he couldn’t hit last year but not Bourjos this year.

  68. Jim S. says:

    I agree on their off-season moves. I questioned whether Borgeous would hit, and I still do. I only wish they had traded away Jay, who actually can hit pretty well, but can’t play CF very well. That would have really left them short handed with OF.

    Craig and Holliday are a disaster running down balls. I love Holliday with a bat in his hands, though.

    Peralta’s range looks suspect to my eyes, and we’ll have to see if he can hit HR against anyone except the Bucs. I thought it was telling that they signed the Cuban SS for more money than most thought he was worth.

    But, when your staff starts with Wainwright, Wacha and Miller as 1-3, and your bullpen all throws 97, you can cover a lot of shortcomings.

    I always think they are not as smart as they are given credit for as an organization, but then I look at their track record and it is hard to argue with. They definitely do things their own way.

  69. chethejet1 says:

    Tabata has little trade value with a contract remaining that has approx 12 million until 2016 and little production.

  70. $10-12 million more spread over 4 seasons is losing a Clint Barmes for a season. Not signing Cy Young Volquez would cover 2 of those 4 seasons.

    $10-12 million spread over 4 seasons is much ado about nothing! It’s not $10 million a year more! Pirates are already under budget for this season about that whole amount!

  71. cmat0829 says:

    It’s takes a big GM to admit he’s WONG. Seriously, I’m not THAT far away from a similar demotion for Mr. Marte….

  72. cmat0829 says:

    Does Mr. Ford live in a “van, down by the river”?

  73. Rob Biertempfel says:

    Good conversation, all o’ y’nz.

  74. jay says:

    Just trying to understand the problem of super 2 status. Does the fourth year of arb mean 3 years cheap for the team with 4 arb years or does the team lose a cheap year? If the team does not lose 1 of the cheap years, and if Polanco is as good as hoped, could the Bucs afford free agency rates. Only way Polanco is a Buc in his seventh season is if he is signed long term early…or he stinks.

  75. Zach says:

    Marte needs glasses or contacts whichever, he doesn’t see the ball well

  76. Ghost says:

    It was. Even had some Rob Ford stuff.

  77. Nate83 says:

    2 years cheap and 4 years arbitration with super 2.

  78. CW says:

    a couple things…

    a) if sadler is a mainstay in the rotation, enough to not get sent back down and gain super 2 status, that does not bode well for this season (even considering the poor start). this is nothing against sadler, but it implies that others are not performing. on the other hand, if polanco is brought up it is not w/ the intention that he will be sent back down (barring significant struggles).

    b) sadler’s projected ceiling is in the bottom half of the rotation, whereas polanco’s projected ceiling is far higher (all-star, mvp candidate). mind you, these are just projections (and ceilings at that), and not guaranteed, but they do affect such value judgements.

  79. Fausto Carmona says:

    Your assessment is garbage…If what you are saying is THE gospel about only having 90 some at bats and he needs more, then how about the kid we have here in Baltimore, Manny Machado….He didn’t even take 1AB at AAA. That’s right, not even 1!!! I saw Polanco in AFL games and you could see this kid is ready…If you really think there are things he has to “Work on” then I find it funny…You Pittsburgh fans should know by now how friggin cheap your ownership is…Nutting is cheaper than Angelos and that has to be a hard pill to swallow…Gerrit Cole: Huntington did not want to bring him up but all the injuries forced him to and he didn’t like it one bit!!…Stop being sheeple and read between the lines: Your owner is one of the cheapest SOB’s in Baseball…He got TV money, competitive balance money and what was invested back into the team?? Edinson Volquez for 5 million bucks…That man pocketed the money even though you needed a first baseman badly…Its a shame because with a owner that would even spend a little bit, this team could be deadly. Its a shame

  80. Fausto Carmona says:

    In all due respect I will put my money where my mouth is….I will give you 20$ if Polanco gets called up before his super 2 is expired…I can be almost certain….Then after he plays there for a year or two, he will then be offered what Brandon Phillips calls a “Homeboy Hook-up” type deal that Cutch AND Marte got…

  81. erad67 says:

    Sadler isn’t being called up for the remainder of the year. Totally different situation.

  82. Jack says:

    Polanco had 9 errors in 117 games 2013 (obviously a lot for an outfielder), is this a fluke or is he going to be a defensive liability?

  83. Brandon says:

    +++ Well stated

  84. Jim S. says:

    Actually, if a team projects that Tabata will play like he did last year he is not overpaid as a 4th OF for a lot of teams. And, he is actually better than a bunch of guys who are starters right now. As I said, though, I would keep him. He’s more valuable and versatile than Snider as part of this team.

  85. Al Byrd says:

    Speaking of the Cards, what do you expect Matheny to do to prevent running the “worst outfield in the league” out there every day? Sit Holliday and his $17 Million? Or Craig who hit over .400 with RISP last season before suffering a pretty serious injury? They don’t pay Holliday to play defense and have done quite well with him since his signing. I think you are nitpicking a team that the Pirates would like to be.

  86. NMR says:

    Hi Jay, players typically are under team control for six years before free agency. The first three of those years are at or around league minimum pay while the last three years present the opportunity for arbitration.

    Super 2 players get an additional turn at arbitration in place of their last league-minimum season for a total of four. While that first year may only cost under $5m, the problem is that arbitrated salaries build off one another such that by year 4 Polanco would be making significantly more than he typically would his last time through arbitration.

    This has been an issue for the Pirates before if you remeber the Hunter Pence trade talk. Pence was a Super 2 player that the Pirates specifically said they couldn’t afford his last time through arbitration.

  87. NMR says:

    First, you have no idea how much it will cost. That much is undisputable.

    Second, the Pirates have already used Super 2 as a reason for not acquiring a player: Hunter Pence.

    If Polanco is as good as he billed, he’ll cost $15m by his fourth time through. Are you really comfortable believing the Pittsburgh Pirates will pay that?

  88. Botherhood of the Redus says:

    I agree Jim…It has just been that early in this season it seems like either cutch or Alvarez are getting up with men on as they should and not pushing runs accross. You are 100% right though, a slow April is nothing new if we are to look at Cutch’s career.

    Looking at baseball reference, Cutch appears to be on the same pace as last year in terms of how many runners will be on base (400+) and the % of runners that score as a result (not neccesarily because the result of an RBI…16% ish)…cool stat…like it very much. Exposes rally killers for what they are…Cutch does not seem to be that based on numbers. Perhaps it is expectations that lead me to see things slightly off….

  89. Leo Walter says:

    Polanco was only in Altoona for about a month and a half and hit .263. He did not spend an ” entire season at AA “.

  90. Leo Walter says:

    Cmat,if you aren’t used to the ” doublespeak ” as you call it, in MLB by now, you will never be. It is in constant use by almost 100 % of every one, players and management, and is constantly on display.

  91. Nate83 says:

    Good catch Leo. I was looking at his overall minor league stats for last year. Didn’t mean to represent his stats in correctly. He only had 68 games in AA last year. His average for the year was actually boosted by his single A stats.

  92. Jim S. says:

    Redus:

    I thought cutch has actually been pretty good driving in runners so far this year, but his opportunities have been few and far between. Maybe I didn’t examine it closely, though, when I looked at his career #’s. But, I think we agree cutch will be ok.

    Now, Pedro … he is struggling to get hits, for whatever reason. As many have mentioned, his K’s are down, his walks are up, he has had some nice bombs to LC. But, he just can’t get the results so far. I have to think if he keeps doing what he is doing, he will improve this year over last year.

    Baseball is just a tough game to figure out sometimes.

  93. Jim S. says:

    Good topic, obviously, Rob.

  94. NMR says:

    You didn’t watch the World Series last year, did you?

  95. Jim S. says:

    Jack:

    I’ve only seen snippets of him in the field, but I have read some things that the Bucs themselves have said about his OF play over the last year or so.

    I remember reading one internal assessment that when Marte, Cutch and Polanco were all at the stage Polanco was at the end of last season, rating them on defensive only, it was thought that they were all good to very good defensive CF. Polanco and Marte were thought to be pretty close to the same in defensive ability, with both being a shade better than Cutch. Both of them had much better arms than Cutch. We’ve definitely seen that Marte’s arm is much stronger than Cutch’s, even though I think Andrew has worked to improve his arm the last few years.

    I have also read that Polanco is still learning to play RF. He still needs work on balls hit directly over his head, and he is still learning proper angles on balls to the gaps in front of and beside him. This is a pretty young guy who spent some of his development time as a pitcher, so he is not all the way there yet. But, I think the Pirates believe they will have Gold Glove candidates at all 3 OF positions pretty quickly after Polanco arrives. I am personally not worried in the least about his errors in the minors before this season. Everything I have read is that he will easily be a plus defender in RF once he settles in.

    Maybe Rob could add more from discussions with Pirates management and/or talent evaluators.

  96. Nate83 says:

    His overall defensive value will be really good. Groat has pointed out some issues Polanco has to work on defensively (errors included) but he won’t be a liability in my opinion.

  97. Jim S. says:

    Or, the end of last night’s game vs. the Brewers. Pretty harmless flyball by Kris Davis landed easily near the RF corner, and he got a gift triple, and later scored the insurance run.

    Bourjos was brought in specifically to replace Jay as often as possible in CF, in order to make up for the lack of range of Holliday and Craig in the corners. I think they figured Bourjos would hit less than Jay, probably, but they were willing to accept less hitting in order to improve their OF defense. But, Bourjos isn’t hitting a lick.

    Now, it seems like they don’t know what they want to do with their OF play. As I said yesterday, though, fortunately they have a monster pitching staff to keep from being exposed so badly in the OF. Their starting pitchers have the highest # of K’s in MLB right now, and their bullpen seems to either strike out or induce grounders on most hitters. So, maybe that will save the OF defense. Of course, they don’t exactly have great infield play, either. But, their pitching is so d*mn good.

  98. Jim S. says:

    Fausto:

    Do you actually expect people to engage in a discussion with you when you begin your first post with “Your assessment is garbage …”?

  99. NMR says:

    And that’s why I feel it is completely fair to question Matheny.

    Cards have two weaknesses, defense and baserunning. Front office chipped away at the problem by adding an excellent defender in center field that can also steal and take extra bases.

    Matheny gave him 50 PA before turning back to Jay, who predictably has been awful in the field and on the bases, while barely notching a .300 OBP.

    No clue why the Front Office would hire a guy who clearly doesn’t think as pregressively as they do. Ditto Mat Williams in DC.

  100. Jim S. says:

    I agree with you on Matheny. Maybe he needs to adapt, as Hurdle has (in some ways, that is).

    I’ve always thought the Cards were pretty old school in how they approach things. They are late to the party on some of the new theories on shifts and so forth. But, they have obviously been pretty d*mn good from a scouting standpoint for a long, long time. I think they have generally hit the mark on key acquisitions also (Holliday, Beltran, Carpenter (the pitcher), etc.). Maybe they lost their touch a bit this off-season.

  101. Fred Baggio says:

    You are the worst.

  102. Jim S. says:

    In case yinz guys (and gals) haven’t seen this …

    Nice article about how cool your town is. From a Chicago paper.

    http://www.philly.com/philly/living/travel/20140420_Beautiful_Pittsburgh_has_plenty_to_boast_about_-_but_doesn_t_feel_the_need.html#0bXKUptbdqzGcEuw.03

  103. Nate83 says:

    You are entitled to your opinion. You may want to double check exactly how Machado is doing offensively and how scouts reacted to him coming up early. His defense is remarkable but you will find many around the league saying he wasn’t close to ready offensively when they brought him up and that has played out. I’m sure the kid will figure it out but he could have had a much stronger understanding and knowledge base if he stayed in the minors for another year.

    Trust me I beat the Nutting is cheap drum more then most on this blog. However this management team has been pretty consistent on how they bring players through the system. Polonco’s path has been quicker then most. Until he actually isn’t up until after Super 2 I don’t think you can call them cheap. He still may come up in the next couple weeks.

    The kid batted .268 in AA last year in a much larger sample size then 25 games this year in AAA. What do you think that translates to in the majors? He is very young and seems to have a very high baseball IQ. It doesn’t hurt to allow that to continue to develop while not doing something that will hurt the team down the road. See NMR’s post below at 7:25 yesterday. It is very well thought out and presented. Much better then “your assessment is garbage” rant that you came with and a comparison of a player that could end up being the example of why not to bring a guy up early in Machado.

  104. Ed says:

    I believe Polanco could very well be on the same maturity level as Abeau. Talk about missing an opportunity. The Pirates missed out on a golden one not bidding for Abreau. He would have been mainstay for years to come.

  105. Leo Walter says:

    Nate, I didn’t want to come off quite so hard there. I have been watching the Curve since ‘ 99 so I usually have a pretty good idea of what has gone on. By the way, Polanco impressed the heck out of me even with his .263. He has quite the approach, but did need some work on his routes, though he was playing CF.

  106. Nate83 says:

    No problem. It didn’t come off as hard at all. Thanks for the insight.

    Ironically I think most are confusing what I’m posting with what I actually would do myself. I think he is ready and would bring him up. As a fan I wanted it to happen as soon as the extra year of control passed. However I am not a scout and I’m also very aware of the financial side of things. Whether I agree with it or not the payroll the Pirates are willing to spend is what it is. Bringing him up now effects future moves.

    Considering the simple fact that he makes the team better now I would bring him up but those other factors do exist and with all those things considered I wouldn’t bring him up. The added value isn’t enough to offset the potential financial problems down the road in my opinion.

  107. Leo Walter says:

    Has Greg Polanco played on the AFL ?

  108. Al Byrd says:

    I think Matheny sat Bourjos to prevent from getting off to the kind of start we did, while no one other than Molina and Holliday were hitting. They had the most brutal schedule to start the season I have ever seen and they could have been out of it before the season started if he didn’t find some way to win some games. So maybe he was grasping at straws, but he had to do something. I also doubt that he sat Bourjos without talking to Mozoliak about it. I would think that once they start hitting throughout the order (which they will) he will probably be out there again. The point is, they have won the WS twice since ’06 and lost it once or twice. Until we can do the same, it’s hard for me to criticize their organization or manager too much. Especially when he has only been managing for a couple of years.

 
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