NRIs For Morel and Tabata, Kang Scouting Report, Harrison’s Future, Win Now vs Win Later

The transactions page has Brent Morel and Jose Tabata receiving invites to Spring Training. Earlier in the week we learned that Tabata was invited to camp. Morel isn’t a surprise, since he played in Pittsburgh last year, is still in their minor league system, and is currently participating in mini camp. The other day I uploaded the 2015 Spring Training tracker. Morel has now been added, giving the Pirates 20 NRIs and 61 players in camp.

Here are some other links and notes from this afternoon.

**Ben Badler from Baseball America was on MLB Network last night talking about Korean shortstop Jung-Ho Kang. You have to go to around the 2:45 mark in the video in that link before he starts on Kang and the first thing he mentions in the level of competition in Korea. Badler said that he profiles as an offensive-minded utility guy with average raw power. He also breaks down his swing and explains how it could work for him against better pitching.

**Neil Weinberg at FanGraphs looks at where Josh Harrison will go from here. Neil takes an interesting look, pointing out that Harrison was used as an emergency pitcher in 2013, which isn’t where you’d use a player of value, and followed that up with a five win season. The Steamer projections have Harrison with a 3.0 WAR going forward, which isn’t as good as his 2014 season, but definitely good enough for him to be a starter.

**Grant Brisbee has an interesting chart looking at teams who fall into the “Win Now” and “Win Later” categories. The Pirates are in the enviable position of being listed in both categories. The Red Sox, Padres, Nationals, Athletics, and Dodgers are the other teams in their range. As for the other NL Central teams, the Brewers are in Win Now mode; the Reds are one of two teams in the quadrant that no one wants to be in; the Cubs are slightly in the Win Now mode, but heavily in the Win Later section; and the Cardinals are heavily in the Win Now mode, but a little on the old side. As far as the NL Central goes, the Pirates rank second on this chart in both their chances to contend now, and their young talent.

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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In case anyone is still paying attention to this thread, Jeff Zimmerman at FanGraphs just posted some really interesting work on expected BABIP for the 2014 season:

Pirates of note:
Sean Rodriguez (+.082), Corey Hart (+.044), Polanco (+.023), Walker (+.015), and Alvarez (+.015) all were “unlucky”, posting actual BABIP’s lower than expected.

Harrison (-.010), Snider (-.013), Cutch (-.018), Marte (-.035), Stewart (-.089), Francisco Cervelli (-.092), and Tony Sanchez (-.0153) were all “lucky”, posting BABIP’s higher than expected.

Good news is that Josh Harrison still had the highest expected BABIP on the team, Walker should’ve had an even better season, and Alvarez/Hart both show signs of the good kind of regression.

Bad news is that Tony Sanchez and Chris Stewart were both a complete mirage, and Starling Marte may not actually be able to keep that extremely high BABIP needed to get on base.


Did I miss something regarding Tabata? If he is under contract, how would he be a Non Roster Invitee?


He’s not on the 40 man roster. His contract has no bearing on his roster status other than that it causes no other team to put a claim on him when they keep optioning him.


Good article tim, nice to see that all that sunbathing recently did’nt cook your


-I don’t really agree with Badler’s comparison of Kang’s leg kick to Donaldson and Bautista. If you watch closely, both of those guys are fully committed to the swing as soon as their foot starts to drop. Not much adjustment can be made after that point.

Kang pretty clearly starts dropping his foot earlier in the sequence, and will even hesitate according to his read on the pitch. Seems like much more of a timing mechanism than one used to generate momentum. Kang gets his power from great separation between his hips and shoulders. Much more rotational than your stereotypical directional Asian swing(a la Nori Aoki, Ichiro). There isn’t a hitter in the Major Leagues that has Kang’s mechanics.

-Pretty neat heat map showing how well Harrison hit inside pitching last year. One thing I noticed looking at his spray charts is that he had something like 10 groundball doubles down the 3rd base line, which gave him the highest isolated power percentage on ground balls in all of baseball. Not sure that is the type of “skill” that can be repeatable. I think the most important thing is that Steamer projects about a 19% drop in power and 12% drop in BABIP…and still has him around 10% above league average overall.


All interesting observations on Kang’s swing. I can’t wait to head down to Bradenton in 5-6 weeks to see him. I think it definitely makes sense that Harrison’s average most likely will drop and the doubles rate may drop a little but I think (and hope) his Homeruns stay at the same rate. He hit 16 HR his last 608 AB. He did hit only 4 HR his first 442 AB though so there is that. But I think he still has improving ability to hit HR.
A lot of people have been looking at Kang as an alternative for Mercer but he could be very well spelling Harrison as much as Mercer if Harrison happens to be a .270/10HR type of guy or less. He doesn’t get on base enough to be real effective unless he is keeping that average up over .280 and keeping the iso up around .130+. Harrison has a .742 OPS which is interesting because Pedro has an identical .742 OPS career. Harrison at .742 plus his speed and defense, 15 less errors, and just overall ability to put the ball in play and make things happen still makes me way happier than Pedro being there. But if he returns to anywhere near the sub .680 OPS player he was his first 500+ AB then he surely will lose playing time or go back to subbing. Unless Kang tanks too. I am thinking J-Hay will be a .750-.775 guy and we will all be happy with that. Well, there is always some malcontent that will blog they aren’t happy but sane people will approve!


Good thoughts, appreciate the reply. Very much agree with you on his on base skills. Really has to repeat what he did last year in order to be an effective leadoff hitter.

I’ve killed way too many hours this winter looking at how Josh did what he did. Absolutely fascinating. Couple possible red flags I’ve found regarding power/home runs are that he ranked just 148th in average fly ball distance, only had two home runs travel more than 400′, and had just has many travel under 350′. Further, five of his homeruns and 13 of his double were hit within roughly 30′ of the left field line. Essentially, his “power” seemed to be as much a function of where he hit the ball as how hard he hit it. Now I have no idea how “sustainable” any of that is, more just an observation than anything.

I think the only way he gets in trouble is if he tries to be a power hitter and yank fly balls. Focus on line drive contact and he’s at least a league-average bat.


Personally in a perfect world for me Polanco would walk 50-60 times and hit .290 and steal 30+ bases and Harrison would be 90% of what he was last year and Polanco would be leadoff because of the speed and Harrison would be 2nd because of he would have more power than Polanco at this point. Or Polanco could just hit .290 with 20 HR and it wouldn’t matter.


Literally could not have said it better. My thoughts exactly.

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