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Monday Mop-Up Duty: can Polanco be Puig?

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SOUTH HILLS – It’s June. The Gregory Polanco Watch is officially on.

I went to check on the prized Pirates’ asset on Friday night for a story on Polanco in Sunday’s paper. My contribution to the Polanco-hype machine is here if you’re interested.

Polanco has been discussed so often it was difficult to mine fresh material, but I did attempt delve into what makes him such an unusual prospect. You have to be unusual if you can be compared to an Avatar, Miguel Cabrera and California Chrome in a three-paragraph span. You simply don’t see many baseball players with his size-speed combo. Then there’s the batspeed, aptitude and efficient swing plane for a big man.

I think what has been somewhat lost in all the Super 2/Nutting/Polanco chatter is what kind of impact will Polanco make when he arrives shortly to Pittsburgh? Can he be Yasiel Puig or Wil Myers of 2014? Or is he going to be just another rookie who faces a steep learning curve?

Consider on June 3 last season when Puig was called up from the Double-A, the Dodgers were 23-32. Puig put up a .319 average, hit 19 homers and stole 11 bases and the Dodgers won 92 games and made the postseason.

Myers was called up on June 17 when the Rays were in fourth place in the AL East. Myers led the Rays with 53 RBIs from that point and helped them advance into the postseason.

puig

Can Polanco be Puig or Myers … minus the demonstrative bat flips?

 

Can Polanco provide that type of impact? Most rookies cannot. But he won’t be most rookies.

Some will say the Pirates’ biggest issue is starting pitching, and I won’t argue – though it looked healthier at Dodger Stadium. But the Pirates can use an impact player regardless of position.  The primary goal for any club is to increase its run differential.  The Pirates’ run differential is -32. Polanco can help the net run production as the Pirates’ RFs have combined for the NL’s 12th-ranked OPS at that position. (I like Josh Harrison, but he’s a super sub)

The stage is set for Polanco to make an impact. He’s improved –  not stagnated or regressed – at his last three stops above A-ball. He’s like a rare tropical storm that doesn’t weaken upon reaching landfall. Can he continue his rare trajectory? The Pirates’ 2014 campaign might depend upon it and it’s a campaign that looks a little healthier with the club coming off its first series win at the Dodgers since 2006.

 

STARTING NINE THOUGHTS (SOME NOT ON POLANCO) …

 

9.  Another sign that the Polanco call-up is imminent is he began hitting lead-off for Indianapolis the on Saturday.

“There are some things we’re trying to get him used to,” Pirates GM Neal Huntington said. “Right field is a big one, and that’s gone well. I don’t know if he’s going to hit third for us. We’ve got a pretty good guy there.”

I think you can make an argument for Polanco to hit in a number of spots in the batting order but I’m not going to argue with giving him the most plate appearances possible. He’s immediately a superior lead-off option to anyone else on the roster.

Great find from the Trib’s Alan Robinson on Final Word last night: Dave Parker, Barry Bonds and Roberto Clemente also debuted in the lead-off spot for the Pirates. You can argue Polanco is the club’s top positional prospect since Bonds.

 

8. Recall, Joey Votto told David Manel his interesting theory about lineup protection last month: it’s about who is hitting in front of you, not behind you. What are the quality of your table-setters? Perhaps the only way pitchers will begin pitching to Andrew McCutchen - on pace to challenge Ralph Kiner‘s club record for walks  (137) – is if there’s more runners on in front of him.

Against RHP I’d propose this lineup:

1. Polanco

2. Walker

3. McCutchen

4. Davis

5. Alvarez

6.  Marte

7. Martin

8. Mercer

 

7. If you haven’t seen Polanco play, prepare to have a lot of fun. It’s an advanced approach, advanced plate discipline, blazing bat-speed and he runs like a deer.

 

6. While the world waits on Polanco, maybe Francisco Liriano is figuring things out. Ray Searage told me in New York he felt their last bullpen session had been fruitful and that Liriano had fallen into some bad habits. Liriano’s velocity has slowly been trending up. Getting him right is the biggest thing that could happen for this club …. beyond the addition of Polanco.

 

5. You’re probably aware Bryan Morris was traded for the Marlins’ comp pick – 39th overall – on Sunday. Considering he was on the roster bubble this spring and out of options that’s not a bad return. Now, the chances of the 39th overall pick developing into a MLB regular is something like 15 percent. The Pirates researched those odds when they sent a comp pick to the Marlins for Gaby Sanchez two years ago. (And remember, only comp picks can be traded in the draft).

Morris impressed scouts with a two-seamer reaching 97 mph this spring and a cutter touching 91. But his results haven’t matched his velocity and this might be the reason:

 

4. Pirates are hoping that was an outlying performance from Brandon Cumpton. The 2015 rotation is a mostly blank canvas.

 

3. Jason Grilli’s command is a bit spotty but you have like seeing his velocity at 95 mph and getting swings and misses on the slider.

 

2. Tyler Glasnow‘s last two starts: 9 2/3 IP, 6H, R, 4BB, 18Ks. That’s more like the Glasnow we saw strike out every one last year. Remember he was dealing with a back strain out of spring training so perhaps it took him some time to get back to full strength.

 

1.  At this time next season we could be looking  Alen Hansen Watch. If he can stick at shortstop he offers the Pirates potential for another impact upgrade. I was impressed with Hansen this spring. He was more physical than I thought.

 

STAT OF THE WEEK: 2

Where Baseball America’s Ben Badler said he would place Polanco in his personal, updated top 100 list. Polanco is No. 3 in Keith Law’s updated list.

 

HE SAID IT

Pirates Latin American scouting director Rene Gayo:

“Guys who are good, when you push them, they get better. The new thing they sell in development, where Johnny has to stay there for 100 years until he figures it out, that’s not how it works. The gifted ones, you challenge them, they rise to the occasion.”

HE SAID IT II

Polanco on Super 2

“I don’t worry about that because I don’t have that in my hands. I just go out and play. If I let that go in my mind, I’ll be thinking too much. I know some day I’m going to go up there.”

 

NON-BASEBALL RECOMMENDATION OF THE WEEK 

Two of today’s great front men together for an underrated tune:

- TS

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Comments

  1. Matt says:

    I’m still very optimistic that the Pirates can get back into it, uniform number in RF notwithstanding. Looking ahead from today to the All-Star Break, 25-16 should be realistic on paper, and in my head, given the talent level. But they will only go as far as the starters take them. That also includes spots #1 through #8 in the order.

    My question, we all know Polanco will fix everything. Does that also include LF? Does Marte even care this year? Is there really much of a difference in having Marte or Snider or Tabata batting 7th?

  2. tomf says:

    the proposed lineup above omits the most productive Pirates player not named McCutchen

    the inability of (too) many to recognize the level and significance of Harrison’s play is baffling

  3. RobertoForever says:

    Firsties!

    Happy Monday. I look forward to my first game with GP patrolling the outfield in front of me, whenever that is.

    If you had told people the Pirates would be 4-3 at this point of the road trip, I don’t think anyone would have guessed it was because of a 3-1 visit to Chavez Ravine. Great showing by Cutch on ESPN last night. He really rained on their planned Puig parade. Love it!!

  4. Nate83 says:

    First of all great column on Polonco Travis. Really well done and stayed away from the hype angle. Very honest depiction of what this kid could be and why. I like Polanco’s skill set a lot and his control of the strike zone to go with his natural talent gives him a better chance then most rookies to contribute. For what it’s worth Myers is struggling a good amount this year. Baseball is a tough game. No guarentees.

    Pirates are 16-12 over the last 28 and their offense has had the best OBP during that time in all of baseball with the 3rd highest batting average. I’m not sure how much Polonco whould have helped during that stetch. Pirates are playing 6 games above .500 if it wasn’t for the 4-14 stretch. There is not possible way anyone would have thought Polanco should be up at that time. He will help but they have not been losing because he wasn’t brought up “when he should have been”.

    I like the line up you posted in number 8. I can’t remember the last time I saw a Pirate line up with that much possible consistancy. Not many automatic outs or hitters that can’t hurt you in that line up. Davis will be very key in how that line up produces. Especially if he reamains in the 4 hole.

    I like Coldplay and KOL earlier stuff much better but still respect both bands. Martin is one of the most unassuming celebrities I have ever seen. Really doesn’t seem to have any ego or understand how talented people perceive him to be. Hopefully Followill can keep his head on straight.

  5. Nate83 says:

    The Puig love is crazy. They showed him in the dugout so many times that it was sad. If you knew nothing about the guy you would have thought something drastic happened to him right before the game and that was the reason they had been showing him so much. I predict Kim drop Kanya West sometime in the next month or two and starts going out with Puig. The camera’s already follow him everywhere. It’s a match made in heaven. I’m using the word heaven very loosely.

  6. Jim S. says:

    When ESPN announcers start using Puig and LeBron in the same sentence so often during broadcasts, that tells you what they think hyping Puig can do for them.

  7. Jim S. says:

    I really enjoyed your article on Polanco, Travis. Great stuff!

    I won’t predict what Polanco will do because I’m not a scout and I also have not seen anything more than clips and maybe one game of his on TV. But, he sure seems like the real deal. I say drop him in the #1 or #2 spot and see what happens.

    I’m not so worried about Cumpton. He was bad on Saturday, but he was also pretty unlucky with some of those ground ball hits. That happens to sinker guys. I think he’ll be a fine #5.

    Edinson looked pretty darn good last night. I think he’ll always be an enigma. He has that great arm, but he needs a lot of pitches to get out of innings, and he generally allows a lot of base runners. I have my concerns as to whether he can keep us in games all year, but I have no issues with last night’s performance whatsoever. He had great stuff, and he battled a very good lineup in their park for 5 solid innings. He’s done what a #4/5 is expected to do this year so far.

    Reports of Cutch’s demise were, of course, greatly exaggerated by many. If this has been a slump he’s been going through, a lot of players will start wishing for slumps. He hasn’t been getting many XBH before last night, but I thought he had been already hitting the ball pretty hard. He just needed to elevate more of them. Cutch looks like a .320 hitter with 60+ XBH to me again this year. I’ll take it.

    I thought NH made a good deal to dump Morris for the #39 pick. Morris doesn’t miss bats, and the extra 3-4 MPH this season apparently didn’t change that. I also question whether he’ll maintain the extra velocity. He was not very dependable, last year or this.

    I think Puig is on a fast track to becoming the best hitter in the league. He seems to be on every pitch. This is not the free swinging guy we were led to believe last year. This is a guy with a very good idea at 23 what he is doing at bat, and he crushes anything near the middle of the plate.

    Am I allowed to say here that I still don’t like Zack Greinke? He’s a very good pitcher, of course. I just don’t like his attitude, and never did. Glad we beat him last night.

  8. NMR says:

    Apparently it takes 17 ESPN announcers to cover a game, given that 15 of them are devoted to Puig compliments.

  9. likeabugonarug says:

    Martin gave the induction speech for Peter Gabriel into the R&R HOF this weekend. Then performed a song with PG. Was both a good speech and a strong voice. PG can still sing after all these years, too. Obviously showing his years….

    Kevin

  10. Donald says:

    Andrew McCutchen also started as a lead-off hitter in 2009.

    When Polanco does come up, I think the Pirates need to at least let Harrison take a few starts in left from Marte to send a message. Watching him get picked off 2nd base multiple times, or basically walk into a caught stealing because he thinks ball 3 is ball 4…. he’s showing he isn’t 100% focused on what is going on. If you’re Manny Ramirez, you can make mental errors and get away with it… but Marte hasn’t shown the all-star player people feel he can be yet.

    In the last 28 games:

    Marte: 76 at bats, hitting .211, 22 strike outs, only 1 stolen base (caught 3 times), 2 homers.

    Harrison: 73 at bats, hitting .288, 8 strike outs, 3 home runs.

    Marte’s on base percentage (.259) is below Harrison batting average. And he has taken himself off the base paths a few times. I’m not one of these people that thinks Harrison is going to develop into an all-star everyday outfielder, but in a small sample size, if you want Marte to stay sharp it may not be a bad idea to let him start sitting the bench a little to realize he needs to use the tools we see flashes of, and to keep his head in the game.

  11. NMR says:

    The inability of one to recognize the last the last three years of Major League track record is baffling.

  12. Nate83 says:

    I’m hoping seeing Polanco dominate like we all know he will :) helps Marte regain some focus. Maybe he needs to be a little more Chris Martin a little less Gene Simmons. Check the ego at the door and get the most of your talent and don’t assume anything. I don’t think he lacks drive or hustle but he definately needs to recognize his flaws and focus more.

  13. Roy Madison says:

    The problem with this is that Harrison would be a huge liability in LF at PNC park. I could see Harrison getting a few starts in LF on the road though.

  14. Jim S. says:

    The Puig stuff by ESPN really is over the top, and I am a guy who now thinks he is blossoming into maybe the best hitter in the game within a year or two. I love watching him. Buster comes on and can’t understand why half the tweets are pro-Puig and half are anti-Puig? Maybe it is because fans are bright enough to appreciate how good Puig is all on their own, and if you force feed him, LeBron, etc. to fans endlessly, they will get fed up with it. But, that is what ESPN does. They focus on the 1%, rather than the entire great game of baseball, which is why the majority of fans tune in ultimately. Just my opinion.

    Cutch was only destroying 3 of 5 pitches for 2 doubles (one of which was nearly a HR) and an absolute bomb to RC as this was all going on. They mentioned how good he is, but only because they would have looked foolish not doing that.

  15. Nate83 says:

    Marte just got a deal showing the Pirates see him as the future. There is no chance that changes based on 15 good games by JHay and Marte struggling a little. JHay will return to a .260 hitter that falls behind in counts and offers below average defense. I have grown to like the guy but I have no illusions of him being more then he actually is. If Marte continues to struggle I agree JHay should start for a few games to send a message and JHay has earned occasional starts at 3rd, short and 2nd but he should not get a majority of at bats in left field.

  16. FlBucco says:

    Harrison has earned the opportunity to get at least 4 starts a week – a couple should probably come from Marte….

    I worry that the Bucs are seeing him go through a Tabata phase – both guys are still young – and both are pretty much
    set for life financially thanks to the Bucs giving them extensions – and both guys really don’t seem to have the passion for winning that Jay Hay shows every play.

  17. kr70 says:

    Polanco puts up Puig numbers, he can flip bats, burgers or cars and I won’t care!

  18. NMR says:

    I don’t know, Jim. If the wife had to watch one more slo-mo of Cutch’s “explosive lower half” she might’ve left me for him.

    ESPN is obsessive and compulsive, because we as a society are obsessive and compulsive.

  19. NMR says:

    “Something is unique or it is not. Something cannot possess degrees of uniqueness. To be unique is to be one of a kind. The word often is misused, but it is being employed correctly with Polanco and his situation.”

    Heady stuff, Trav. Your writing is top notch. Pleasure to read.

    -The hype machine has taken on Elon Musk proportions. There’s going to be a lot of disappointed people out there, and none of that will be Gregory Polanco’s fault.

    Hype creep is no more evident than in these new descriptions of Polanco’s swing. It is neither short, nor efficient. Just isn’t. And never has been.

    What he’s done to this point is make up for that with elite batspeed and hand eye coordination. Biggest test as a pro will be whether or not he can handle inside velocity, because that is absolutely where pitchers will be attacking in the zone.

  20. Dan Gordon says:

    I haven’t missed many games this year, and I’m really disappointed in Marte. He has played poorly and seems to be battling himself–striking out frequently and being disengaged in the outfield many times. I think he should go back to Indy when Polanco comes to the big team. I think Marte needs to get a grip on what he has to do to be a real big league contributor. Right now, Harrison is the better player. That won’t last, but it’s true right now.

  21. NMR says:

    APB out for SteelKings…

    re: 2) Is there any objective reason that Ike Davis and Neil Walker aren’t flipped in the order?

    5) Hopefully the Morris trade signals a change in organizational philosophy. As our friend Andrew likes to point out, few things are overvalued in baseball more than plus velocity without command, and Morris coupled that with a complete lack of breaking pitch to generate swings and misses.

    Excellent trade. Justin Wilson is next.

    4) Cumpton obviously isn’t THAT bad, but outings like tht are what happens when your fastball command fails you and you have no secondary pitches to keep opposing teams off balance. Cumpton just isn’t much more than depth on a good team.

    3) Walking the opposing team’s utility infielder on the 37th breaking ball of the at-bat with two outs in the bottom of the 9th and a three run lead shows either a complete lack of inteligence or a complete lack of trust in your fastball.

  22. Nate83 says:

    Wilson could be next. I don’t think you were doing this but I don’t think it’s fair to compare him to Morris. Although I agree he is probably the next relief pitcher on the team that is probable overvalued by others. He could get a pretty good return if they decided to part ways with him.

    I agree Cumpton is good depth and not much more. Good teams have good depth so it shouldn’t be under appreciated or taken for granted.

    There is absolutely no reason for Van Slyke to come up to bat with neither of the two guys in front of him putting a ball in play. Horrible job by Grilli of shutting the door and allowing the other team to have a chance without doing anything. Melancon and Watson have been very efficient this year with their pitches. Grilli should take note.

    I’m not sure about moving Walker to clean up. Only if you believe his current power surge is for real. His career high in home runs is 16. I’d be afraid he would try to do to much hitting 4th and it would reduce his walks. Davis has already shown the ability to still work walks batting 4th.

  23. NMR says:

    -I’m absolutely comparing Morris and Wilson, Nate. Not saying they’re equal, mind you, but comparable. Big arm, poor command, lack of secondary pitch. Pretty damn comparable if you ask me. Let’s hope the Justin Wilson that showed up in May continues.

    -Still not sure why Walker’s power surge and it’s sustainability makes a difference, Nate.

    The Ike Davis that is playing for the Pirates is not a power hitter. That Ike Davis retired in 2012. This version, with the rightfully reworked swing, will not be hitting 25+ homeruns until he learns to drive the ball.

  24. bradthedad says:

    If the market for Morris is a 39 pick, I can only imagine what Wilson is worth.

  25. tomf says:

    because no MLB player has improved after his first three seasons

  26. NMR says:

    And we should ASSUME that every one of them with one good month has?

  27. NMR says:

    A platoon 1B, apparently.

  28. bradthedad says:

    Ouch! Maybe the Marlins overpaid?

  29. Andrew says:

    Going back to the Cardinals series,(which 72 PAs), the impressive thing about Harrison performance is it is not BABIP related and he has 4 walks and 7 strikeouts.

    On the other hand, I really do not get the consternation about Marte, lower contact, hitters which he is, are streaky by nature, hitters like Marte are going to be volatile because BABIP is volatile. He has been disappointing at the plate and it is frustrating that is K% rate doesn’t seem to be improving, but in the NL he is top 10 in base running runs and top 10 in outfield defense. (And this is on a team that was the worst base running team in the month of May, someone needs to tell the Pirates that yes the break even point is lower in low run environments but it is not 0%.)

    Marte was never going to be leadoff hitter, a spot lower in order is much more suited because there his speed is more useful. I fine with working Harrison into the lineup but if I have to choose a starting left-fielder I’m going with Marte.

  30. NMR says:

    That definitely seems to be the consensus, but only significantly if you buy into sabermetrics.

    Relievers are too tough to predict, IMO. Morris is one new grip away from pairing a wipeout slider/curveball with already elite fastball velocity. Or natural regression will take it’s course and he’ll be back in the minors. Your guess is probably as good as the experts.

  31. NMR says:

    “I’m not one of these people that thinks Harrison is going to develop into an all-star everyday outfielder…”

  32. Steelkings says:

    And to think I took so much grief at my suggestion that Tony Sanchez figures out how to play RF when Polanco comes up.

  33. Nate83 says:

    Walk rates are similar but Wilson has a considerable higher K/9 rate a much lower batting average against and a much better ERA. I do think he is probably over valued by other teams but he’s left handed and had a 2.03 ERA last year while being used a lot with 73 innings pitched. His value is much higher then Morris’s in my opinion.

  34. Nate83 says:

    It’s a great return for Morris. The Marlins gave up the highest draft pick they are allowed to trade to get a marginal relief pitcher the Pirates considered not keeping on the roster this year and probably wouldn’t have if not for a really good spring. The Pirates can thank Joe Madden for making glowing remarks about Morris based on one spring training game.

  35. Andrew says:

    Sorry I wasn’t really disagreeing with Donald, I just wasn’t sure were to put the comment. My main point is Marte brings value even when striking out at 28% clip.

  36. Steelkings says:

    Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
    That saved a wretch like me.
    I once was lost but now am found,
    Was blind, but now I see………………………..

  37. NMR says:

    My boy!

  38. Andrew says:

    - Lineups are fun to talk about, I don’t have an opinion on Walker vs Davis, I’m just happy that Alvarez has been moved off the 4 spot.

    - NMR I don’t get it, stats people are maligned for their fixations on numbers but scouts love the radar gun readings. I think Wilson is better than Morris, Morris was one of the worst relievers in the league, Wilson can actually get strikeouts at around league average for relievers.

    I going to steal a concept I’ve seen Tim Williams cite, trade a reliever at peak value, and when there was talk of trading Wilson for the big half of the first-base platoon, because other teams saw starter potential, I would have signed up for that.

    - Cumpton will be okay, he just cannot walk guys because 1) it leads to runs when grounders find holes and 2) it means he is going to be facing more batters thus the order it going turn over quicker.

    -Grilli was a pitch away from a prefect inning, I think that is a snapshot of the volatility of relievers.

  39. NMR says:

    Never said anything about value, Nate.

  40. Jim S. says:

    Cutch’s explosive lower half would be a great fake twitter account handle.

  41. Jim S. says:

    I actually think Harrison is a liability on defense in RF at PNC. I think he would be a disaster, defensively, in LF.

  42. Nate83 says:

    Value or not we will have to agree to disagree on this one. I don’t think it’s fair to Wilson to use his name in the same sentence as Morris and say they are comparable in any way.

  43. Andrew says:

    ESPN also love star power, which plays on the celebrity worship of society, and the more divisive the better, hence the Puig love. There production quality is 2nd to none, but the content leaves a lot to be desired, I just see the focus on stars, and sports writers yelling at one another for what is, a business model to drive traffic.

  44. Nate83 says:

    I was thinking the same thing about Grilli and then wondered if his ego got in the way and he just needed to strike out the side so bad he started getting cute with hitters he shouldn’t have been doing that with.

  45. Jim S. says:

    I really thought Grilli had a K swinging on one of the guys he walked, but didn’t get the call or appeal.

  46. Jim S. says:

    Calculated gamble on Miami’s part. He could turn into something, but I wouldn’t count on it.

    #39 pick could turn into something, but it is certainly no guarantee. I am of the opinion that the Pirates are likely to get more out of that pick than they would have out of Morris going forward. But, I’m not expecting our Wacha. :-)

  47. Steelkings says:

    Time will only tell if the return is great or not. I’m going to set the odds at 80% that the Pirates will draft a non Scott Boras lower level right handed pitching prospect with the pick.

    Either that of a Tight end!

  48. NMR says:

    Still need a winger for Crosby.

  49. NMR says:

    “I going to steal a concept I’ve seen Tim Williams cite, trade a reliever at peak value…”

    Great way to build a farm system. Awful way to win baseball games.

  50. Steelkings says:

    If the Pirates were,…………. Dare I say it,……… In a competitive mind set……… They would take that 39th pick, throw in their own first round pick and bundle up Wilson and add Smrgingazma from the Cubs. Or perhaps David Price from the floundering, fluddering TB Rays. Or throw in Marte and Tabata and get Gioncarlos ………..Oh …nevermind. What the hell was I thinking.

  51. Chuck H says:

    The Pirates should and probably are glad to have 2 lefty relievers like Wilson and Watson. Both throw in the mid to high 90s and can get both righties and lefties out consistently. I hope they keep them both because I would hate to see either one of them pitching against the Bucs.

  52. Steelkings says:

    On a serious note*…Should the BMTIB revisit the contract for Grand Prix

    Breaking news:
    The Astros have signed top first base prospect Jonathan Singleton to a five-year contract with three club options.

    The historic deal — a first for a player with zero major league service time — carries $10 million in guaranteed money and can be worth up to $35 million if all the options and incentives are triggered. Singleton, 22, will be promoted from Triple-A Oklahoma City before Tuesday’s game against the Angels to take over as Houston’s regular first baseman. He was sporting a .941 OPS, 14 home runs, and 43 RBI in 54 games this season at Triple-A and should be owned in all mixed fantasy leagues. The contract costs Singleton quite a bit of earning power and is a big win for the Astros’ front office even if the kid doesn’t completely meet the hype.

  53. Jim S. says:

    I don’t really understand why devaluing building through your system in favor of constantly seeking upgrades to the major league roster by trading away prospects is a competitive mindset.

  54. Andrew says:

    I cannot find much fault with how the Pirates handle bullpen construction and when they decided to trade relievers.

  55. NOT BLINDED BY LAST YEAR says:

    Now that is some dealing that I could live with. I think they should make a few packages of Grilli/Liriano/Tabata/Snyder/Pedro/Davis/picks and make a few deals to bring in a 3b/1b/pitcherm close by committee with watson getting a good look at closer, put Polonco in RF and get a good look at what you have for next year. Not opposed to bringing Hanson up to see what he could do (the 2 in front of him aren’t hitting and his defense can’t be that bad)

  56. NMR says:

    Ha, I think he gotcha, Jimbo.

  57. NMR says:

    Neither can I, which is why I think it’s a good idea to hold onto a few good ones, even past “peak value”. Maybe win a couple baseball games here and there.

  58. Steelkings says:

    Well jim, because thats how the Red sox do it. Thats how the Yankees do it. And in a smaller sense, thats how the Cardinals do it. You know, the teams that actually win a championship every now and again.

  59. NMR says:

    Nevermind. He was actually serious. Oh boy.

  60. NMR says:

    #Gioncarlos ;)

  61. Steelkings says:

    Hey shut up! I cant catch any fish with you making all that noise.

  62. Nate83 says:

    Astros signed Jonathon Singleton to a 10 million guarenteed contract before he plays 1 game of major league baseball. I think the contract is 10 million for first 6 years with 5 million in bonuses. Another 20 million possible on 2 option years. So he will get a possible 35 million for 8 years.

  63. Steelkings says:

    Look up!

  64. NMR says:

    :):)

  65. NMR says:

    Brooks has Volquez throwing 35% 4-seamers last night, although I can’t honestly tell the difference because of how much his ball moves.

    Wonder if this’ll be a theme?

  66. Steelkings says:

    Not if he plays till he’s 27 and retires.

  67. Steelkings says:

    Answer number two:

    Major League Baseball is supposed to be entertaining and trading a turd level reliever for a risky prospect almost put me to sleep.

  68. NMR says:

    I actually really appreciate this comment, Steel.

    And I’ll apply it to the Polanco debate, as well. If your argument is that watching Gregory Polanco play baseball is more entertaining than waiting to see if the added payroll flexibility achieved from him not being Super-2 translates into an improved big league product, I would vehemently agree.

    I just don’t particularly agree with all the other management-level justifications for bringing him up.

  69. Andrew says:

    I think Tony Sanchez to 3rd base, the next Josh Donaldson, could have some miles on it.

  70. Andrew says:

    Yes, certainly keep some.

    I had this theory about Volquez, that it seem the Padres wanted him to throw more sinkers, in effort for more command or groundballs, maybe both. His change up whiff rates seemed drop with the greater sinker usage and he went to the curve as his out pitch, which isn’t as good of a pitch. No idea if this was purposeful change.

    I think that he needs his four-seamer for his change up to be effective, just theory, but it should be interesting to watch.

  71. Nate83 says:

    That throw from third to first doesn’t seem much different then the one from catcher to second. However the current third baseman has made a habit of air mailing a throw once every 4 or 5 games so maybe it wouldn’t be noticeable.

  72. Jim S. says:

    I think he’s definitely serious on this one.

  73. Jim S. says:

    C’mon, Steel. I think you’re out of over your skis (no Nutting pun intended) on this one.

    The Red Sox and Cards do not operate that way. Everyone makes the occasional trade to give up prospects, but that is not a sound way to build an organization – especially for a team with the limited financial resources and constant need for new ski lifts like the Bucs.

    Toronto did operate that way the winter before last. It didn’t work out well last year, but maybe they will pull it off this year. The Yankees are an organizational mess that only competes these days by spackling the holes in the walls with high priced free agent acquisitions. They don’t have a system left to trade from, so they have to outbid everyone for Tanaka, Ellsbury, McCann, Beltran, etc.

  74. Jim S. says:

    Haha! Good comeback, Steel! Very funny.

  75. NMR says:

    I actually think this deal is completely fair for both.

    The reaction to these kind of deals, similar to Marte’s, has been predictably hilarious. Take this for example:

    “It goes without saying that this deal is a huge potential boon to the Astros. If Singleton turns out to be a quality player, he would have gone well beyond $35 million in his arbitration years and first free agent season, but if Singleton busts, they’re only out $7 or $8 million above and beyond what they would have paid by going year to year. Risking $7 or $8 million for a chance to save upwards of $30 million — let’s assume a high-quality slugging 1B would have earned ~$40 million in future arbitration earnings and another ~$25 million for his first free agent year — is a total no-brainer for a team like the Astros.”

    You don’t need your toes to count the number of hitters who have maid close to $65m over three arb and one free agent years, even adjusting salaries, while the bust rate on prospects like Singleton is multiple times higher than success rate.

    The chances of bust are exponentially greater than him turning into a the kind of player that gets $65m. All these deals do is keep the team safe in the even that Singleton, or Marte, or Springer, or Polanco, do happen to defy the odds and become generational-type players.

  76. NMR says:

    I can buy that, Andrew. I think it is completely reasonable to believe that the whole 2-seamer transformation is not universally successful, and that Volquez may very well be better off with “straight” stuff.

  77. Nate83 says:

    Giants only lost one series in the month of May and that was to the Pirates. I mentioned it earlier but the Pirates are 6 games above .500 if you don’t count that horrible stretch of 4-14. Looking at the standings today they are only 3.5 games out of the first wild card spot and 3 out of the second wild card spot. I definately don’t think this season is lost. The starters are capable of better and I do think the offense is capable of maintaining close to what they did in May. Maybe not the average but they can hit for more power then they have shown.

  78. cmat0829 says:

    Bold prediction: If Puig played for the KC Royals he would be getting 1/3 of the hype and attention. Perfect storm…LA, Dodgers and Puig.

    He is obviously an incredible talent. He’s not perfect by any means, mostly his overexuberance that leaves him prone to injuries (is a catch of a foul ball worth a DL-stint? Not sure but you wouldn’t know by how Puig plays….) and misplays in the field (throwing to wrong base).

    Pitchers are great and they will figure out a plan to pitch to him, so while he will be an AllStar perennially let’s not mint the HOF plaque just yet. And I’d say that it’s somewhat disrespectful to Mike Trout that Puig sucks all the oxygen in that market, let alone nationwide.

    But ESPN knows only one volume level – oversaturation to the point of sickness. But point take also that our society kinda demands that, I just prefer just a bit more depth and perspective in my media, but ESPN, like Pedro, is what it is.

  79. Leo Walter says:

    Me too Jim. The ball and strike calls both ways last night were a disgrace.

  80. cmat0829 says:

    If and when (1) Tony Sanchez actually demonstrates a PLUS major league BAT (he has NOT shown that to date) and (2) an actual ability to play defense at a position other than catcher (for that matter, he hasn’t shown major league defense at catcher either yet), then we can sanely discuss a position move. My head can’t remain intact to balance between the “get rid of Pedro, he sucks” and yet lead the charge for Tony Sanchez to play 3B. Ooops, my head just exploded. Again.

  81. cmat0829 says:

    no, let’s not have that Carlos Gomez BS on our team, please.

  82. BostonsCommon says:

    ‘All these deals do is keep the team safe in the even that Singleton, or Marte, or Springer, or Polanco, do happen to defy the odds and become generational-type players.’

    I don’t think there is nearly as much risk associated with these contracts that is being perpetrated everywhere else. In all likelihood, most will be market value contracts (or very close to it), much like Tabata’s, or even Jay Bruce and Justin Upton.

    The way Cutch is outplaying his deal is the ultimate outlier and an example of a generational player.

  83. cmat0829 says:

    DK may be sleeping, but I’m pretty sure this post gets you “NO SOUP” for at least a year.

  84. cmat0829 says:

    Singleton served a pretty healthy suspension for marijuana use… so um, yea, there is a decent chance his head won’t be on straight and he’ll fall short of stardom….so let’s not go and celebrate the Astro’s just yet.

  85. cmat0829 says:

    Quick hits:

    Polanco batting leadoff. Not sure it’s really about Cutch being in the 3spot currently, or Polanco following in the footsteps of Bonds, etc…. ask yourself, if the lineup Travis proffered plays, who else bats leadoff if not Polanco? Pirates pretty much NEED Polanco to bat first.

    Marte’s Pity Partay. Pirates NEED better production out of LF… but at this point, playing Marte and hoping for a ‘good’ Marte to show up has the best odds… even when Polanco is playing RF, I still think Marte in LF is the best option. JayHey cannot play LF at PNC, period. But it is humbling watching Marte struggle, to be sure.

    Morris trade. Pretty clear the Pirates ran out of meaningful innings to roll the dice and/or meaningless innings to see if Morris could conjour up any level of pitch command… and him being out of options, you figure to lose him …so no issue whatsoever with the trade. Hope he does well in Miami, though. He does have some building blocks to be a good pitcher. But he had enough chances here.

    Cutch’s Spot. Interesting, Travis, to note the idea of ‘protection’ being more about those hitting in front more than those hitting behind…that said, I humbly suggest that Cutch move from the 3spot… to EITHER 2 or 4. If it is about those in front of him, then go ahead and hit Polanco, Walker and Ike in front of Cutch.. give more of a chance for Cutch to hit with people on base… you can then return Pedro to behind Cutch, and follow with Martin/ Marte / Barmes. Or bump Cutch to 2, and go Polanco/Cutch/Walker/Ike/Pedro/Martin/Marte/Barmes….

  86. NMR says:

    Speaking of, looks like Alex Anthopolous and Toronto may be deserving of some oopsies by us. That is a damn good team.

    Kudos to him for trusting talent and having the stones to stick with his decisions.

  87. cmat0829 says:

    not sure what the Hell you were thinking … for one, they can’t trade their traditional #1 pick…for another, Cubs won’t deal Samardija within their divison…for another, they want TWO top level pitching prospects for him, not the 39th pick, a pick they can’t trade and Wilson…. Marlins aren’t moving Stanton, and most certainly not for Marte and Tabata…. so pretty much the entire post was of the level of ‘what the hell are you thinking”

  88. cmat0829 says:

    they have kept both Grilli and Melancon beyond their peak value. Possibly Wilson too. Jury out on watson. fact is , relievers don’t have a TON of value anyway in terms of the return they bring.

  89. NMR says:

    Somebody may have already made the connection on DK’s Blog, but the Pirates essentially traded Bryan Morris for Gaby Sanchez, no?

  90. NMR says:

    Pretty enlightening article on FanGraphs if you have the chance.

    Apparently Singleton’s struggles last year stemmed from the fact that he turned into an alcoholic once he had to stop smoking. What a stupid, stupid rule.

  91. Travis Sawchik says:

    Thanks, NMR

    The Polanco Hype Machine is in overdrive and I’m partially responsible for this.

    I think the swing plane is pretty efficient and the bat is traveling along that path quickly while staying in the hitting zone for a quite awhile.

    I’ve also seen him get loopy at times but I think that’s more geared toward his pull side. More compact when going the other way from the handful of plate appearances and batting practices I’ve watched.

    But I’m no scout. I just pretend to be one at times.

    “Short swing” has to be something of a relative term since a 6-4 guy with long levers is not going to be able to have Jose Altuve’s bat path

  92. John Lease says:

    Impossible. A carved statue can play right in PNC. In fact, a carved statue has played right there, his name was Craig Wilson.

  93. Travis Sawchik says:

    Thanks, Jim!

    Agreed that Puig’s approach at the plate has been really impressive. It’s allowing him to unlock those monster physical tools. I’m not sure he’s far off from Trout territory.

    Cuba’s produced some undervalued talent lately: Cespedes, Abreu, Chapman, Puig …. all creating surplus value for clubs.

  94. Travis Sawchik says:

    Thanks, Nate

    I think I was guilty of some hyperbolic stuff … but the kid has been amazing. I’m most concerned with trying to be honest in stories and Polanco is honestly a unique dude. I think the power will come into play more, too, as he ages. I love the approach.

    Agreed on Martin. And agreed on Caleb. I hope KoL can keep it together.

  95. Jim S. says:

    That is a good point.

    I still prefer to think that they traded Bryan Morris for Michael Wacha. I guess the Wacha compensation pick for Pujols was a bit higher, though, right?

  96. NMR says:

    Ha, you certainly have nothing to be ashamed of.

    I’m no scout , either. I only reference just about every single report prior to him going bonkers in April. It has long been known and accepted that Polanco’s swing is on the longer side. Just part of the package.

    But your point on “short swing” is excellent. Polanco very well may have a short swing, relative to his size. But that’s still real-world length. Nobody will be handing out cookies for relative length to the ball. Which in part explains why guys his size are so rare (note that I didn’t say unique!).

  97. NMR says:

    Yeah, Wacha was the 19th over selection, I believe. Back in the days where compensation picks were different.

    Pretty big jump in talent between those picks, traditionally. Or at least thats what the guys who run the numbers tell us.

  98. Jim S. says:

    On how the batting order should be laid out …

    I don’t think moving Cutch out of #3 would go over real well. In fact, it would go over about as well as asking him to move to RF or LF for Marte or Polanco – which is to say, not well at all.

    He’s the reigning MVP. He’s the team’s best player. He’s the team’s best hitter. He is signed to a very team-friendly deal for the next several years. I don’t think he is hurting this team at #3. I don’t see it happening, and if done, it has a chance to back fire big time.

  99. Jim S. says:

    Yeah, true.

    But, somehow Gaby continues to be unappreciated by a large % of the fan base. Some people just can’t see quality if it is not out there every day.

    They also seem to forget how to combine the stats of 2 players in a platoon and compare them to one guy who plays everyday.

  100. Jim S. says:

    I thought we split that series 2-2.

  101. Jim S. says:

    Or, was it just a 3-gamer?

  102. Jim S. says:

    I keep wondering what Pedro’s throwing issue is, Nate. it seems like they could take some video of the 3b who make effortless, accurate throws to 1b, over and over, and work with Pedro to improve. He does that thing where he loads up by tapping the ball in his glove as he gathers his feet while moving toward 1b. Then, he seems to throw the ball way too hard. It just seems like he puts way more effort into routine throws than he needs to.

    He does the same thing on throws to 2nd for force outs. He often handcuffs Walker. The goal should be to make throws that are very easy to catch, and Pedro never seems to do that. I wonder if anyone has ever explained it to him from that standpoint. Touch is your friend, Pedro.

  103. Jim S. says:

    Question for the more SABR-minded. Have you ever heard anyone doing a study that breaks down which batters a particular reliever faced over the course of a season? I wonder if the guys we think had dominant seasons maybe did so because they had the good fortune of facing weaker hitters, on average? I think we tend to just assume that all hitters faced by pitchers are basically the same over the course of a season. In reality, for a reliever, maybe that was not the case at all.

    Similarly, a batter might have had a good or bad season hitting, in part, based on the quality of pitchers he faced.

  104. Re: point No. 3 The mound at Dodgers Stadium has a way of making pitchers look better than they are, throw harder. Grilli hit 95 mph, let’s see if he can do it elsewhere. Edinson Volquez really stood out to me. His stuff, mound presence, confidence seemed to be the best its been in a Bucco uni.

  105. RobertoForever says:

    The most productive players in May were Ike Davis and Gaby Sanchez. Led the team in OPS for the month of May.

    I think Harrison was 5th on that list

  106. RobertoForever says:

    cmat,

    Agree wholeheartedly. Look at Abreu in Chicago. Even he is not getting the love and he is on a historic pace. At some point they will be giving him hero worship, maybe once the NBA finals are over.

    There’s always a good chance of hero worship from the mother ship, when the have a website just for your city. ESPNChicago, ESPNDallas, etc.

  107. Steelkings says:

    Thank C-mat! For taking me seriously, that is. The fish in this pond are so big its phenomenal!

    DANCING FISHIES

    Have you ever gone fishing
    On a bright and sunny day
    With all the little fishies swimming
    up and down the bay
    With your hands in your pockets
    And your pockets in your pants
    All the little fishies do the hoochy woochy dance
    Do Be Da Do Waa! Do Be DA Do Waa!
    Yeah, all the fishies do the hoochy woochy dance

  108. Steelkings says:

    How bout when Polanco comes up he watches for a while. Maybe a pinch hit or two. The Rates have won 10 of the last 15, no?

  109. NOT BLINDED BY LAST YEAR says:

    SOUNDS ABOUT RIGHT

  110. NMR says:

    The Gaby trade was unquestionably a “win now” move, too. First impressions, man. Some people just can’t get over them, no matter how much evidence there is.

  111. NMR says:

    Cool thought, but I think there might be too much noise in a statistic like that, Jim.

    Tom Tango created the Leverage Index, which measures the importance of the situation given the inning, score, players on base, etc. That certainly would make a difference for relievers.

  112. CJ says:

    Top comment right there. Thanks for the laugh!

  113. Steelkings says:

    Gorkys Hernandez fans are rolling their eyes

  114. Steelkings says:

    Boring created the entire evolution process for a BLOG

  115. Jim S. says:

    It would be tough to manage that stat, NMR. But, in a lab somewhere, I bet some SABR nerd is already thinking about it.

  116. Donald says:

    We’ve seen Josh Harrison have these hot streaks before (well, maybe not THIS long of a hot streak) and he usually cools off, so I’d say it may be more of a fluke than anything. My main point being that the Starling Marte we are seeing in 2014 isn’t the same guy we’ve heard about for several years and also seen the past couple. He was never an ideal guy to be batting lead-off, but at the same time, he should be better than batting 7th. And on this team right now, 7th is where he belongs. Of more concern though is the mental mistakes he’s making on the base paths and in the outfield. That’s why I’m suggesting if Harrison continues to swing a hot bat, make Marte sit a few games to realize anyone can lose a job on a major league ball club. I’d rather see it be more of a spark for Marte than a promotion of Harrison to starter.

  117. Andrew says:

    Ricardo Rincon for Brian Giles?

  118. Andrew says:

    Fair point Harrison has also provided the Pirates with just as much value as Marte in 100 less PAs

  119. Andrew says:

    I know Baseball Prospectus has an quality of competition measured by OBP and OPS and also their T Average, but much of their stuff is pay-walled and not that navigable. I also remember someone writing some about this for starting pitching, there was obvious variance between the leagues and divisions.

    My first thought would be that the regression built into projections should cover the differences in competition faced. Though it might be interesting to look at what pitchers Dominic Brown homered off last May that lead to proclamations of his breakout and that he had achieved some new talent level.

    For relievers you can get a lot of mileage by shielding them from facing opposite handed batters who crush opposite handed pitchers.

  120. Nate83 says:

    Hanrahan fetched a nice return. I personally don’t think they kept Melancon past his peak. Unless you consider his peak 4 incredible months between April and July of last year. He has been very solid this year and still has considerable value. Watson is Watson and should be for a good while. Pirates are lucky to have him and I don’s see them trading him. Maybe he makes it possible to trade others.

    If the Pirates stay within striking distance of a playoff spot I don’t see any significant bullpen pieces (Grilli, Melancon, Watson) being traded.

  121. BostonsCommon says:

    Down on the farm, Josh Bell is quietly putting together another very solid season. Through 58 games, he’s .308/.354/.466 leading the team in hits, doubles, triples, homers, RBIs, total bases and OPS and was named an All Start today.

    Pretty encouraging for a 21 year old in High A with barley over a full season’s worth of games played in his entire career (187 games)… Stay healthy kid.. Keeping racking up ABs.

  122. NMR says:

    Killin’ me, Steel! The great Gorkys Hernandez trade of 2012.

  123. Nate83 says:

    I hope he can stay healthy as well. Very intriguing prospect. Pirates don’t have many power hitting prospects in their minors. With Meadows and a few others in the mix for outfield I have to imagine his future may be at first base if he continues to progress towards his potential.

  124. NMR says:

    I’m bearish on Bell.

    Monster size, legit contact skills, but underwhelming power combined with my own admittedly amateur eye test makes me think there are very real questions about the batspeed. And guys that lack batspeed get blown up as they progress.

    Couple that with known swing issues that seemingly aren’t getting any better make me question the coachability as well.

    I think most organizations with decent systems have Josh Bell-types, but those guys didn’t come with $5m signing bonuses. He’s the Luis Heredia of Bucco hitting prospects.

  125. BostonsCommon says:

    ‘I think most organizations with decent systems have Josh Bell-types, but those guys didn’t come with $5m signing bonuses. He’s the Luis Heredia of Bucco hitting prospects.’

    I take a little exception to this. Ignore the pedigree and signing bonus, and I don’t know that most organizations have guys his age matching his production at that level. Think that’s a bit of a generalization.

    The Heredia comp is flat out unfair. Heredia has done nothing to justify his signing bonus (production, development, professionalism).

    When healthy, all Josh Bell has done is produce. I’d also argue that ‘underwhelming’ is not an accurate description of his power.

    I’ll remain bullish until he gives me more of a reason not to be.. An ‘awkward’ appearing swing isn’t enough at this point.

    That said, this year is all about AB… He’ll get his true test next year in Altoona.

  126. Steelkings says:

    Yeah NMR…..Both his fans (Mom and Dad) are quite pissed that he has not been mentioned on this blog as a key element in the massive trade that helped bring the great future HOF’er Gaby Sanchez to Pittsburgh.

    Oh my god I’m falling asleep again

  127. reger says:

    We don’t need a prima donna like Puig, I’ll be happy with another Bobby Bonilla.

  128. reger says:

    We need a Rightfielder not another 1st, baseman.

  129. NMR says:

    Never said “most organizations”, Boston. I said most organizations with decent systems. You can find Josh Bell’s in most, if not all, top 10 systems.

    .174 ISO last year, .159 this year. In A ball. That’s simply not impressive power production for a corner bat. Barely even above average. Track the production of current successful major league corner bats and you’ll find the vast majority showed better power at similar stages.

  130. NMR says:

    Fringe arm, fringe speed, fringe defense. Guy HAS to mash. And he hasn’t.

    His stat line is fine, but scouting A-ball stat lines isn’t exactly a great way to judge prospects.

  131. BostonsCommon says:

    Fair enough.

  132. NMR says:

    But you’re absolutely correct, overall. As long as he keeps producing, I don’t care how it happens.

  133. BostonsCommon says:

    Last thought on this:

    With regard to swing changes, adjustments, and acceptance of coaching.. all of that comes a little easier after a player has struggled. Cutch said as much about his development.

    I don’t know how much adversity he’s struggled through at this point, aside from his knee.

  134. Tyler says:

    If not I say put JHay there. He’s been playing out of his mind and I would rather see him than Tabata or Snider

  135. Tyler says:

    Let’s hope polanco doesn’t have to be Puig. They’re swinging the bats better right now, with a few outliers the pitching has been better even though the starters’ records don’t show it, and everybody is contributing so it doesn’t fall all on Cutch and Pedro’s home runs

 
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