Over the last month, Kiley McDaniel has been posting some great reports over at FanGraphs. I’ve been retweeting them on Twitter, but keep forgetting to link to them in the nightly First Pitch column. So here are links to all three reports, with some thoughts on each one.
The first report was specific to top prospect Gerrit Cole. Overall it was a great look at Cole. A few notes:
**McDaniel feels that Cole should scrap the curveball. That’s definitely his 5th best pitch. I wouldn’t see the harm in getting rid of the pitch. With three plus-pitches (one of them a breaking ball) he doesn’t have much need for a second breaking ball.
**McDaniel notes that when Cole was missing, he was missing up in the zone, which seems to be the consensus. He notes that Cole made some slight changes to do a better job of driving the ball down through the zone.
The Other Power Arms
In the second report, McDaniel looked at a few other power arms outside of Cole and Taillon. He focused on Nick Kingham, Clay Holmes, and Vic Black.
**McDaniel said that Kingham has the upside of “a solid 3 or 4 groundball-inducing, innings-eater starter”. In the last two Prospect Guides I’ve called Kingham a potential number three starter who could pitch 200 innings a year, so I’d agree with McDaniel’s assessment.
**After reading the great report on Holmes and his delivery, I went back to look at some video. Here is a video I took of Holmes during Spring Training.
Here is a video Will Cleveland took at the end of June.
There’s definitely some changes between the two videos. In the first video the stride is longer. I can definitely see where his arm is dragging behind, and it looks like it’s a bit worse in the first video. His arm is more extended in the second video. After his first outing in Spring Training I spoke with someone who knew better than I would who called his arm action loose and effortless when talking about his velocity. McDaniel calls him awkward and stiff, but I think he’s talking about his body, since he later says the arm action is in his favor.
**The final pitcher profiled was Vic Black. McDaniel called Black a one-dimensional middle reliever, noting his issues with command.
In the final report, McDaniel profiled a few of the hitters who are ranked lower in the system. Normally when we hear about the hitters, we hear about Gregory Polanco, Alen Hanson, and Josh Bell. This time it was Mel Rojas Jr., Gift Ngoepe, Wyatt Mathisen, Luis Urena, and Stetson Allie, as well as relief pitcher John Kuchno. I’ll let his reports do the talking for the other players, but I did want to highlight Urena.
If you bought the 2013 Prospect Guide, you’ll see that I had Urena as the 50th best prospect in the system, and identified him as a sleeper candidate. I say “I” had him ranked there, because I was the only one who had him in the top 50. When it comes to the 40-50 range of the rankings, it’s mostly highlighting potential sleepers or notable upper level guys who have high floors. Most of the guys who draw consideration were only voted on by one writer. I put Urena in the final spot just to highlight him. Some of the alternatives were Colten Brewer, Dalton Friend, Dan Gamache, Ryan Hafner, and Bryton Trepagnier. All of those guys were voted on by different people for different reasons, so I wouldn’t say they all fit the same profile I gave Urena as a sleeper.
McDaniel also had Urena as a potential breakout player in 2013, and for a lot of the same reasons. The big reason was his power. It seems every time I see Urena, he’s crushing the ball. He’s got a lot of raw power, and that’s been showing up on the field more and more lately. I noticed it at the end of the year, then during instructs. I also noticed reports from others during instructs about his power, and this is another one. The one thing I would disagree with McDaniel about is his arm strength. I saw Urena play a lot of right field last year, and in the span of a week saw him fire two perfect strikes to third base. McDaniel calls his arm “fringy”, but I disagree. I don’t think that’s uncommon for people to disagree about arm strength. That seems to be the dividing point between people in the discussion of whether Alen Hanson can stick at short.
As I noted in the Prospect Guide, Urena has all of the tools that made Polanco a breakout candidate. One crucial difference is the strikeouts. Urena has horrible plate patience. Comparing the two at the age of 19 in the GCL:
Polanco (2011): .237/.333/.361, 19.5 K%, 11.8 BB%, 169 AB
Urena (2012): .200/.275/.407, 44.8 K%, 7.4 BB%, 145 AB
Urena has more power at the age, but Polanco’s K/BB ratio is much better. I noted that his strikeouts don’t speak well for the chances of him breaking out like Polanco, and that he was rated there more for the tools than the results. It’s rare for hitters to show improvements with such horrible strikeout totals. There was a discussion about this over at Bucs Dugout in the comments section, with one comparison being Wes Freeman in 2009. Statistically, that comparison works. When you consider the background, they’re a bit different. Freeman had experience in high school. Urena didn’t have much organized experience, and only has 408 career at-bats. So there’s a better reason that Urena is very raw.
I thought it was interesting that McDaniel said he does well trying to keep his swing short. McDaniel also said that he has some length to his swing at times. Usually that leads to more holes opening up, which leads to more strikeouts. But if he can learn to consistently keep his swing shorter, that could help prevent some of the strikeouts to the point where he’s not swinging and missing almost half the time. I think Urena will always struggle with strikeouts. That doesn’t mean he can’t have a good career ahead of him. He probably needs to get that percentage down to around 25% or less, all while maintaining plus power. He’s mostly driven by power right now, and that power seems to be showing up in games more and more. That’s what made him a sleeper candidate for me, and it seems like McDaniel is on the same page.
Links and Notes
**The 2013 Prospect Guide is now available. The 2013 Annual is also available for pre-sales. Go to the products page of the site and order your 2013 books today!
**The eBook version of The 2013 Prospect Guide is also available through our publisher. They also have a discount code during the month of January that allows you to save 20%. Use the code JANBOOKS13 to get the discount. This code is only valid on the eBook on the publisher’s web site, and not the books on the products page of the site.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.