Week In Review: Pirates Revert Back, Polanco Stays Down, Draft News Picks Up

If you want a summary of the last week in 140 characters or less, then Ed Giles has you covered with this tweet from Saturday night.

I don’t know if I agree with the last sentence. I don’t think the 2013 season and the 2014 season have to be linked. It’s possible that 2013 was legit, and the performance this year is also separately legit. Then again, Ed might have just been talking about the actual performances against the Brewers and in interleague play. In those cases, the Pirates have fallen back into some bad trends recently.

This week they lost two of three to the Yankees, dropping their interleague record to 3-5 on the season. They’re 2-1 at home, and 1-4 on the road. They also went 1-2 against the Brewers, dropping their season total to 2-8. I wrote about how they’ve returned to the time where they can’t beat Milwaukee.

The encouraging thing is that they’ve been decent against everyone else, and close to a .500 team. But right now they’re in a deep hole, and have probably lost their chance of contending this year.

Here is the recap of stories from the last week.


I don’t know how to classify Gregory Polanco. When people talk about the farm system, they don’t really include him anymore. I’d put him in the prospects section, but the truth is that he’s more relevant to Pirates news now, so he’s in this section.

Ryan Palencer wrote about Polanco this week, looking at his overall success this season, and talking to a scout who says Polanco has the chance to be a star. It’s funny how that statement was received. A year ago, most people would have been pleasantly surprised at that statement. Now it’s as if most people are expecting Polanco to be a star.

We also learned a few more details on the offer that was made to Polanco. The details still didn’t give the complete picture, but they did tell us that Polanco would have gotten a raise if he would have ended up a Super Two guy. It also seems that raise is lower than what Polanco would have been worth as a Super Two player. As a result of the new information, I went from saying that his $25 M guarantee was fair, to saying it was low if that was his guarantee as a Super Two player. He should be guaranteed $25 M for his 0-6 years as a non-Super Two player, which seems to be a raise over the reported offer.

**Russell Martin Expects to Return From the DL on Wednesday. Meanwhile, I wrote about how Tony Sanchez might be throwing away his chance at being a starter. If the throwing issues from Sanchez continue, they could prevent him from taking over for Martin next year. I also looked at what Martin could cost in free agency. It’s a price the Pirates can afford, and might want to consider paying.

**I’ve been looking at guys who could see a positive regression to the mean in the last few weeks. I looked at Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker, and both players have already seen improvements. This time around I looked at Jordy Mercer, who has all of the same bounce back signs that Alvarez and Walker had. One thing is for sure: The Pirates need Mercer to bounce back. A look at their current and future shortstop options shows that it’s pretty much him for the next year and a half, if not longer.


As I’ve written many times this year, the two biggest themes in the minor league system have been injuries and Gregory Polanco. I looked at the overview of the system earlier this week, wondering where the breakout prospects were. The Pirates have had some good stories at each level, and Polanco is a breakout guy in his own way. However, they haven’t had a breakout prospect yet in the “Gregory Polanco-Alen Hanson-Tyler Glasnow” sense.

**In our weekly top ten lists, I looked at whether Mel Rojas is finally putting things together, and how Brandon Cumpton continues pitching well, even if it is for Indianapolis. A lot of good prospect tidbits in these articles each week. They go up every Monday.

**Ryan Palencer wrote about how Phil Irwin is getting back the feel for his pitches.

**Minor Moves: Three Catchers on the Move, Edwin Espinal to Disabled List

**Pirates Release Four Minor League Pitchers

**Pirates Sign Second Baseman Nathan Sopena

**Here are the minor league recaps from this week, highlighting all of the notable prospect performances each day. Many of these also feature live game recaps and prospect reports on some of the top players in the system.

**And here are the Prospect Highlights from this last week, looking at clips of some of the best plays from the top prospects over the last week.

2014 Draft

The 2014 amateur draft is now less than 20 days away and we are getting into the mock draft season. Over the next couple weeks, we will see more and more mock drafts leading up until June 5th when teams start making their selections. The Pittsburgh Pirates will make their first round pick that day, selecting 24th overall. They will also make their second round pick(65th) and nine picks later, the will make their competitive balance pick, wrapping up the first of three days worth of draft picks.

Below, you will find links to some mock drafts from industry experts, as well as our preview of the draft and some recaps from the week. Besides the upcoming mock drafts, we will be concentrating on a smaller group of players, ones that are mentioned within ten picks or so(higher and lower) of the Pirates first round pick. Most high school seasons are done already and most college teams have wrapped up their regular seasons as well. That means most of the news between now and the draft will be playoff action in the NCAA and covering any mock drafts and rankings.

**Draft Prospect Watch: Keep an Eye on Kentucky’s A.J. Reed A.J. Reed is getting a late push into the back-end of the first round.

**Draft Prospect Watch: Updated For Players Linked to Pirates First Round Pick. Recap of the Thursday/Friday action for players in the Pirates range

Matt Imhof - Photo Credit: Cal Poly University
Matt Imhof – Photo Credit: Cal Poly University

**Draft Prospect Watch: Kyle Schwarber Homers, Matt Imhof Goes to Pirates in Latest Mock Draft. Early week action and a mock draft from Dan Kirby that has the Pirates selecting Cal Poly pitcher Matt Imhof

**First Mock Draft From Jonathan Mayo Has a Familiar Name For Pirates. Jonathan Mayo releases his first mock draft and he sees what a lot of people recently have seen for the Pirates.

**Baseball America’s Second Mock Draft Has Pirates Going With Monte Harrison. BA thinks the Pirates could go with a toolsy prep outfielder with huge upside.

**2014 Pirates Draft Prospects: Kyle Schwarber, Matt Imhof, Foster Griffin, Forrest Wall  Scouting reports and video on four players the Pirates could be looking at.

**Keith Law’s First Mock Draft Has Pirates Taking Vanderbilt’s Tyler Beede. Law believes the talented pitcher from Vanderbilt could drop all the way to the Pirates, while most think he will go much earlier.

** Baseball America Unveils New Top 100 Draft Prospect List

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.

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At this point I’ll just be happy if this team can somehow miraculously finish .500


/Here is the deal with Huntington. We know that his offers to Looney and Johnson were close. We also know that he didn’t put in a qualifying offer for A.J. Would anyone else have based on what we knew? He said he was going to play for Pittsburgh or retire. He also knows that Pittsburgh is not playing on the same level as most teams in baseball when it comes to salaries. Huntington didn’t offer A.J. with the hope of improving the team within the restriction he was operating. Based on what how the team is playing now. Even with the addition of A.J. Burnett to the rotation, Jose Abreu at first, performing the same way he currently is in Chicago, and with Polanco in right since the beginning of the season, performing at the same number he is putting up in AAA, this team would be about 3 to 5 games better and just over.500 and 4 to 4.5 games out.
The problems with this team lies on the field, not in the offseason moves!


You keep telling yourself that


You forgot to subtract Wandy and the $5M Mistake from your roster. The most amazing stat I have seen for the this team is that they have ONE win from a starter not named Cole. ONE!
That is close to impossible to do – and they have managed to do it.

Wandy should be on the 60 day DL – should never have come north with the team. Volquez should never have been signed. Put Burnett and Cumpton in these spots and you easily have 5-6 more wins – less innings from the bullpen and a whole lot of ripple effects that make the team a lot better.


100% agree with everything you said.


No question the team has not played well, there has been underperformance by Pedro after a good start, Mercer, Marte, Davis and collectively in RF, and add in some poor starts by Wandy, Volquez and Morton and a high rate of blown saves and maybe they are lucky not to be out if it altogether already. For whatever reason, they stood still over the off season, maybe they just missed on players like Loney. Abreu looks like a player they really should have gone after, maybe they couldn’t take the financial risk and if so maybe this ownership group shouldn’t be in the game. The unfortunate fact is that a log of the good will generated by strong starts in 2011 and 2012 and the great year last year has evaporated and this group has been playing lifeless dumb baseball, they looked like the Bad News Bears in that 7 – 1 loss to the Yanks. As Tim points out they have likely already lost their chance to contend this year. Maybe maybe Polanco gives them a spark when he finally comes up. They could also easily be out of it altogether with a poor homestand against the O’s and Nats followed by a road trip to LA where they seem to play miserably. Let’s hope for the best and hope Tim is right that players like Hanson and Glasnow will help them to be competitive in the future!!!


This ownership group should NOT be in the game. You are correct.


TIm , I am going to maintain that NH is working under more financial restrictions than most people know. They would have loved for Andrew Lambo to work out, because that would have saved them money by going in-house.Qualifying Offers of $14 million? That’s fantasy island for this team and NH said as much. NH is no dummy and he is a good company man. He’s not going bad mouth his boss. But the Pirates are putting financial considerations BEFORE baseball considerations. I mean, WHAT ELSE can it be? Their division got better…they did not. Everybody in BASEBALL saw it. Yahoo Baseball lists the Pirates as one of the top five most DISAPPOINTING teams in MLB this season. The reason? The Pirates stood pat. ESPN BASEBALL TONIGHT said the same thing. Tim, you listed the Pirates needs in the off-season. You wrote what they needed to do. NH saw the same things. I just believe that he stood “pat” because he was not given the financial freedom to make the moves that he wanted to make. Any discussions about the Pirates precipitous fall should begin there.


I am really tired of this crap – if you want to play with the big boys you need to pay up. Record attendance – playoff appearance – and one of the lowest payrolls in MLB for the last 10 years SHOULD have been converted into some BOLD moves [signing a one season wonder like Looney and a rehab project like Johnson would not be my definition of BOLD] to build on last years success.

I have used the term “hubris” to describe what I see as the problem. I believe that the FO convinced itself it was smarter than the rest of the league – that it could work some sort of magic that nobody else had access to and get away with it…

Now they will get to see the repercussions of their choices – lots of empty seats for the balance of the year.

Ed Giles

My point about 2013 was that if you were having a conversation with someone who said “See, last year was a fluke!” you’d have a tough time making an argument that the 2014 team is better than 72 wins (2011) to 79 wins (2012). Basically, when you consider recent history right now, 2013 looks like an outlier. As I said in the next tweet, there’s a lot that could still happen in the next 4.5 months. We could be having a very different conversation (in a much better or much worse way) in October.



Got to disagree slightly – the Bucs were solid and contenders in the first half of both 2011 and 2012 – two second half collapses that I blamed on Hurdle and Huntington. 2013 was a bit of redemption for them both. So treating 2013 as an outlier is not right – it was a continuation of what they did in the prior two years – with a couple of more aggressive moves at the deadline coupled with a smart trade to get value out of Hanrahan when the signs of regression/decline were there.

Ed Giles

I don’t think you can reasonably call the 2011 team a contender. You could make a case for the 2012 team since they were 16 wins above .500 at one point with a solid run differential, but both teams finished with three others ahead of them in the standings (and the 2011 team without the benefit of the 2nd wild card). The early success of the 2011 team was clearly smoke and mirrors (we joked that “winter is coming” at the time), but the 2012 team looked more like the real deal. In the end, both teams finished reasonably close to their preseason projections. The sequencing of the wins ended up being a huge bummer for all of us, but both of those teams weren’t much more or less talented than their final records showed.


Hubris – should be Huntington’s middle name…

This did not have to be – will be interesting to see if any one is held accountable…

Steve Zielinski

The 2013 was not as good as their record indicated. The same claim can be made about the 2014 team.


You could sure say reversion all right! As in reversion to awful! Last year was no fluke, the team performed wonderfully! This year, meh or worse (ok worse!). Can see it all the way from Australia. They have played to this record, blown saves, mediocre starting pitching, horrid horrid offseason!! Tim pointed out that they should gave gone after Abreu, don’t know how hard they tried but they should have gone all out and they should have closed the deal to bring Polanco up as soon as possible. That and re-signing AJ and Byrd and this team is fighting for the division. They look dispirited and the schedule is tough! Hate to say it but this level of play means 70 – 92 and they will have ruined the good will and enthusiasm from last year. Just dumb, so many who follow the team see these moves as obvious, why can’t the FO. If they want attendance at less than 10,000 in August and September (maybe even June and July) they have found the formula!!! Maybe miracles will happen when they bring up Polanco but they need to get Wandy ANC Volquez out of the rotation now. Locke and Cumpton likely to outperform them. We’re down to hoping for miraculous turn around if we want to see meaningful baseball, 6 – 0 vs O’s and Nats would be a start and tt would be a real miracle at this stage, 2 – 4 more likely. What happened to the bats with


I think this past off season will be interesting to look back on. First, off coming
off a winning season, the expectations changed in the minds of the fans and
probably of few people within the organizations. Yet Huntington I feel, and if
anyone has heard of timeline from the front office, I would love to know, was
looking at 2015 or 2016,as the years when the organization reverses it course.

Knowing where the organization was at in 2008, with no talent to win in the
major or minor league system. Knowing that you have to rebuild from only the
draft, international free agency of teenagers and trading away major league
talent to acquire minor league prospects, no one could have thought it was
going to happen in 5 years. All of those avenues, in most cases, take 4 to 6
years to develop. Also none of those avenues alone would be able to give you
the success you needed. Once they start to pay off, then the GM could fill in
the blanks with a free agent or two.

So coming into this off season, Huntington has to look at his plan and
determine if was ahead or was last year an over-achievement? If you’re ahead of
the plan do you change your aggressiveness toward free agency? Knowing how the
league has restricted draft spending, knowing how international free agency has
changed to where who can sign impact players out of Cuba more frequently, instead
of only 16 years old, do you change your course? With those changes how do you
operate in those arenas that for the most part you were not in, meaningful
impact everyday free agents and impact international players?
I think that plan ‘A’ was Abreu, outside shoot, but still plan ‘A’. He fit the organization better, Looney, who
I think was plan ‘B’ and the Lambo experiment was next. I think the plan was not
to offer A.J. and use that money to get 1B and a starting pitcher, in Josh
Johnson. Good thing this didn’t happen since Johnson is going to miss the
entire season with elbow surgery. Also it looks like now, Byrd was never in
play. Instead of spending 28 million on two year of him, they try to spend it
on Polanco and get a lot more years, with plan ‘B’ to ride out Snider and
Tabata until July.

Then with the money being too much for Abreu and Looney and Johnson falling
through, Huntington throw the hat in the ring for A.J. and that fell through.
So when you look at it they may have ended up starting 1B with plan ‘D’, plans
‘B’ in the starting rotation with Volquez and in right. I think
Huntingon, did a good job of not over spending this off season. Yes,
Would Abreu helped? Yes. Would Polanco starting in RF from opening
day helped? Yes. Would having A.J. in the rotation would have helped?
But the fact is none of those moves would have change the outcome
dramatically or all together maybe 3 more wins at best. And between now and next July you are
possible added multiple important pieces that you may want to lock up long

The simple fact is the majority of the team right now are not
playing smart baseball. Every game you see base running mistakes.
You see batters not advancing the runners when they have the chance.
You see pitchers not making the right pitch at the right time. You
see costly and ‘dumb’ errors that seem to lead to multiple runs. Even in
the wins you see the mistakes. The double header this Sunday they had 5
runners thrown out at non force bases. They had 3 errors that lead to two
unearned runs.

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