First Pitch: A Glimpse at the Future

**Earlier today I wrote about Gregory Polanco and some of the defensive adjustments he made last year while he was in Bradenton. Polanco said that adjustment helped him to become a more complete outfielder. Everyone has questions about prospects, even the safe bets like Polanco. For me, Polanco becomes less of a question mark because of his skills in the outfield, and his speed. Those are two skills that translate to every level, and they are skills that will give him value in the majors, no matter how good or bad his bat is. As for the bat, I’m guessing it’s going to be really good, based on his advanced approach at the plate. Earlier today Polanco took batting practice with Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte, giving a glimpse of the future.

Polanco McCutchen Marte

**The Pirates named Francisco Liriano the Opening Day starter today. I don’t keep track of this type of thing, but I can’t remember the announcement coming this early. Not that we didn’t know Liriano was the top choice for that role. The only other possibility would be Gerrit Cole, who is most likely the Opening Day starter in 2015, especially if he picks up where he left off last year.

**Yesterday I wrote about Stolmy Pimentel and how he’s looking like a favorite for the 2014 roster. If you want a look at Pimentel, check out this video I shot of his bullpen from Monday.

**I’ve talked a lot about the potential outfield shifts for the 2014 season, and the latest news comes with the revelation that the Pirates have a program similar to Field F/X at PNC Park, which allows them to track every step that their players take on the field. Read about that, and how it could help the future shifts.

**Jason Grilli is on a lighter throwing program than everyone else, apparently. He threw five pitches off flat ground, and 15 off the mound today, after taking four days off. Right now it seems like this is a situation where the Pirates are going with a custom approach to make sure a veteran doesn’t get overused during Spring Training. Also in this link, Josh Harrison’s wife gave birth to a baby girl, which delayed his arrival to camp.

** With the Baltimore Orioles signing of Ubaldo Jimenez, the Pirates will move up one spot on the amateur draft. Baseball America released their top 30 list for draft prospects on Tuesday and they ranked right-handed high school pitcher Cobi Johnson 24th overall. Tuesday night is usually a slow night in college baseball, but some of the better names were in action. In that link, you can find results from Tuesday, along with an in depth report on Johnson and the strength/weaknesses of this draft class.

**Pittsburgh Pirates owner Bob Nutting will meet with the team tomorrow at 9 AM, and will meet with the media after that. I’ll have quotes tomorrow afternoon. Also, I will have video of Andrew Lambo doing defensive drills in the morning.

  • “The only other possibility would be Gerrit Cole, who is most likely the Opening Day starter in 2015…”

    and 2016.
    and 2017.
    and 2018.
    and 2019.

    It’s going to be really fun to watch Cole evolve into a potential “top 5 pitchers in baseball” kind of player over the next few years.

    Not that WAR is the end-all, be-all, but looking at all 21 of the 1st round pitchers the Pirates have taken in the draft over their history, here is the all-time career WAR totals (according to BBRef):
    1. Kris Benson 13.0
    2. Paul Maholm 12.9
    3. Sean Burnett 6.0
    4. Rod Scurry 5.8
    5. GERRIT COLE 1.5
    6. Brad Lincoln 0.6
    7. Daniel Moskos 0.2
    8. Vic Black 0.1

    • Of course, most of the Pirates best drafted pitchers were in other rounds (though some didn’t ever put on a Bucco uniform):

      John Candelaria – 2nd round: 42.4
      Tim Wakefield – 8th: 34.6
      Bronson Arroyo – 3rd: 25.7
      Chris Bosio – 29th: 24.8
      Rick Honeycutt 17th: 22.3
      Ed Whitson – 6th: 21.8
      Rick Reed – 26th: 21.1
      John Smiley – 12th: 20.2
      Jeremy Guthrie – 3rd: 18.8
      Don Robinson – 3rd: 18.0
      Gene Garber – 20th: 17.4
      Scott Baker – 36th: 16.2
      Bruce Kison – 14th: 15.4
      Jose DeLeon – 3rd: 15.2

  • Sort of related (as PiratesProspects was mentioned) – article on fixing the broken Angels farm system:
    – They have a copy of the 117-page “Cardinals Way” document.
    – Why Brandon Wood failed.
    – Why every coach in the entire organization needs to be on the same page.
    – Why spending in the Dominican matters.

    Interesting stuff – sort of feels like what the Bucs had to do from 2007 to now to effect organizational change.

    One wonders whether NH would now recognize that Brandon Wood had little chance at success.

    • Your last sentence befuddles me…

      The article gives NO reason that the Angels could’ve foreseen his debacle.

      “One year, baseball’s third-best overall prospect turns into the superstar you know as Mike Trout. Another year, he turns into the cautionary tale you know as Brandon Wood.”

      The ONLY thing this points out is the need to have more than one stud player to hang your hat on.

      • Lee – I’d suggest reading the whole thing, as later in the article Wood’s long loopy swing is discussed as something “unfixable” and how unfixable vs. fixable traits need to be addressed in drafting and development.

    • Scott, there are more than a few Pittsburgh sports media folks who need to check that out….and them think about it before they put any more stupid comments into the blogosphere or in print and on the radio and tv. No need to mention names, we all know the usual suspects.