First Pitch: Super Two/Service Time Issues, and Why They’re Not Big Issues

I didn’t think I’d be writing about service time or Super Two this year. The Pirates have had this issue the last three years with Starling Marte, Gerrit Cole, and Gregory Polanco. The top prospect is expected to debut later that summer, gets cut in Spring Training, and then there’s nothing but outrage for two months saying that the team won’t win unless the prospect comes up.

It looked like the discussion would be avoided this year, and for the most part it pretty much has. The only thing I’ve seen that is Pirates’ related is a silly radio rant that Tyler Glasnow should be in the majors right now, and shouldn’t have been cut after his one successful inning during Spring Training. This despite the fact that his fastball command and his changeup is still a work in progress. And this rant wasn’t something I felt the need to write about, because while it’s disturbing that a few people took the rant seriously and came to me with questions about why Glasnow was sent down, it’s not really a story. It’s another made up controversy in a Spring that has been extremely slow for Pirates’ news.

But then there’s the situation with the Cubs sending down Kris Bryant, and all of the outrage over that move being made for service time purposes, or Super Two purposes. And I can’t help but think about Gregory Polanco last year. The Pirates held him down, and people freaked out for months. People went crazy if you defended the move in any way. As an example, I argued that it would be foolish to call Polanco up early, and as a result I got the nickname “Tim Shilliams” on 93.7 by Colin Dunlap, and that led to the birth of the least creative Twitter parody account ever.

And then Polanco came up, was good for a week, started to struggle, was sent back down, and you stopped hearing anything about how the Pirates were evil for not calling him up. You never heard those same people talking about how keeping Polanco down opened the door for Josh Harrison to establish himself as a starter. You also don’t hear any mention of Polanco’s struggles now when people talk about Kris Bryant as a lock — just like they were talking about Polanco in the same way a year ago.

The argument for Bryant to come up is that he shouldn’t have to wait 14 days to be in the majors — which would buy the Cubs a full year of service time in his prime. He also wouldn’t be a risk to come up mid-season to avoid Super Two, although I don’t think the Cubs are worried about that as much as a small market team would be.

I feel these arguments are just the annual hot takes during Spring Training, where writers are too close to a situation to analyze the big picture and see that it doesn’t matter. Does anyone talk about how Evan Longoria came up a few weeks late with the Rays? Are we talking right now about how Gerrit Cole came up in mid-June with the Pirates in 2013? No, because their teams had successful years, even without them coming up on Opening Day.

So why are we acting like Bryant is a big issue? In a month he will probably be in the majors, and no one will care that he stayed down. A year from now, people will be talking about guys like Josh Bell and Tyler Glasnow, and ignoring how things played out for Bryant, Polanco, or anyone else before them. It seems the biggest argument in favor of bringing guys up now is because “I want to see him in the majors now!” And that’s not a real issue, especially when talking about 14 days of a 183 day season.

There are so many calls for a solution to fix this “problem”, but every solution I’ve seen ignores the real problem. Every solution involves forcing teams to bring up players early and pay them more through Super Two, with no extra benefit to the team. And that ignores the fact that teams work the system this way to gain an extra year of service time, and to save millions of dollars, because some teams just can’t afford to throw away millions on two months of performance, and some teams know that the extra year of service time is all they will get from certain players. Those are two big MLB problems, and service time issues are the symptoms.

For now, I’m dreading next Spring, when the Pirates will most likely have this conversation surrounding Josh Bell and Tyler Glasnow at the same time.

**We have less than 100 paperback books of the 2015 Prospect Guide remaining from the final shipment. I don’t anticipate ordering another shipment this year. That means once the current batch is gone, the paperback version will be sold out. You can order your copy of the book on the products page of the site.

**Francisco Liriano Named The Opening Day Starter; Is Locke Losing Ground To Worley?

**Who’s On Third? In The Pirates’ Farm System, It Could Be Anyone. I looked at how the Pirates have made a practice of drafting athletic players with good bats and moving them to difficult positions to fill such as third base and shortstop. A recent example is Jordan Luplow, who was drafted as an outfielder in the third round last year, and who will move to third base to get the bulk of the playing time in West Virginia this year.

**Connor Joe Will Likely Start The 2015 Season In Extended Spring Training. Joe is another guy drafted as an outfielder who will move to third, although he will be delayed going to West Virginia.

**Jung-Ho Kang Among Top 20 Rookies For 2015

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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While 99% of the time in baseball its best to have patience and make good business decisions, I don’t think this is a completely dead topic. The pirates are now a playoff contender on a yearly basis. For most players coming up from the minors this doesn’t mean much, but when you have a special player that can impact a team in his first season or even help a team in the playoffs, 2 more months major league experience could make all the difference… For instance, its possible Polanco could’ve overcome the difficulty with two extra months and helped us make a push into the playoffs… No certainties, but you gotta believe in giving young guys with massive talent the chance.


People are complaining about it because the Cubs are using a paper-thin pretext to let ownership steal money from an employee. It’s obviously the right move from a pure competitive perspective, but players are people and the fact that the rules of baseball incentivize teams to transparently manipulate them for monetary gain is legitimately a problem.


I also am enjoying the Pittsburgh media discussing nothing else except the Neal walker contract situation. NW has been a good pirate during this transition time, but nothing that would not be missed. He should be dealt at the end of the season so hopefully kang or Hansen can take his place. When NW either is traded or leaves for more money the sky will certainly be falling for those idiots from 93.7 and 105.9.


“his fastball command and his changeup”,. If Glasnow was in the Cards organization these would not be problems, he would have been up even though he is not ready yet. A lot of teams don’t care about total development. The Cards theory is get everything out of a player as quick as you can. Did Wacha have 3 pitches when he totally shut down the Pirates and everyone else? and how old was he when he came up? He had one pitch, he was 21, since 2013 when they brought him up, he still does not have 3 pitches. Glasnow has 2 exceptional pitches.


You are full of it. Go back and read about Wacha. Miller was the young guy with basically one pitch.


You want to deal with me, I suggest you drop the dishonest and full of it garbage. There are a couple of people on this blog site I won’t reply to, keep it up and you will be one of them also.
You could of gotten your point across without someone being full of it and dishonest stuff is just a joke, he lived with his fast ball, watch the game he pitched the one-hitter against the Pirates again and show me how many times he threw anything but a fastball, yea he has a changeup, a changeup that he was working on, not his out pitch at the time. Glasnow does have an exceptional curve and a moving fastball and he claims he is more like 6’8, he also grew after the draft and he was 21 when he got called up all facts.


Wow ! Should I be worried ? Ok,I’ll drop the dishonest. How about disingenuous ? You could have taken the time to research that information as others here have, but no, you couldn’t be bothered.

Luke sutton

Wacha has a plus changeup, so while its true he doesnt have a long list of plus pitches, he has 2 plus options and his curve is passable with the other two. He doesnt use the changeup a high amount of the time, but its been effective in it current usage level. Extreme FB pitcher that uses it well and plays the change off of it to great results.


September 9th 2013 – it was actually 2 hitter – he threw his fastball 71% of the time, his cutter 10%, his curve 5%, and his change up 13%. All of his pitches had a positive value though his fastball was by far and away his best pitch (though his change was quite effective, too). So to answer your question: he threw his threw an offspeed pitch about 1 out of every 3 or 4 pitches.


As Merss point out Wacha has an exceptional change up, and comparing the development of a 19th overall college junior and a 5th round prep pitcher seems suspect.


It doesn’t just seem suspect Andrew. Basically it is dishonest, at a minimum ill informed.


Wacha was called up 2 months before his 22nd birthday, which would be roughly equivalent to a late June early July call up for Glasnow, which is highly unlikely, but not entirely out of the question. And if it were not for innings limits, I wouldn’t have been shocked if Glasnow would have seen a September call up. We are essentially talking about a year’s difference in their prospective big league promotions, and given their respective development paths – Wacha a 1st round pick out of college; a lanky high-schooler who saw a velocity spike as he grew into his 6’7″ frame – that difference seems pretty appropriate.


Wacha had 2 great pitches l, his change up was grear


Give me the forty’s and fifty’s any day, paying these players that don’t deserve the salaries they are getting and the young players agents trying to dictate when a player should be brought up is outrageous. Back in the day baseball favored the fan, now it favors the players and the fan is paying for it at the gate. There was a time when the inmates did not run the prison, they do in modern day sports. No matter how they resolve this issue, the small market teams and the fans will be the losers.


Tim, Tim, Tim, One can not go back and pretend things would have been the same if Polanco had been brought up mid to late April – who knows what the result would have been – to defend the FO for NOT putting the best 25 players on the field earned you a bit of flack – but go look up three things – 1] The Bucs won loss record on May 1, 2] Tabata’s OPS on May 1, and 3] Snyder’s OPS same date. The bucs should have won the division last year – and having Polanco in right field earlier may have made a difference – but we can never know because it didn’t happen.

Luke sutton

Polanco breaking camp means Harrison doesnt get the at bats he did early in the year and could easily alter his season. His playing time would have been cut drastically if they are throwing Polanco in RF for 2 months. So you win a few more games early, and just as possibly lose a few game that Harrison helped win if Polanco sees the same timeline of success and struggle.


As I said – we can’t know because it didn’t happen… But he DID get off to a great start when he did arrive – two hot weeks in April – early May in place of the horrid numbers being posted by T & S could have won a couple more games – I said last year that I wanted the best team on the field – that the savings from the Super Two crap was no excuse – that fans had supported the team and deserved better. I cancelled my season ticket plan in protest – and sent Huntington an email saying why – never got a response. I remain a fan of the TEAM – i grew up in Western PA and it is MY team – but I remain free to spend my hard earned money on other things


Lonley this is a textbook argument to ignorance.

The Pirates offense was awful in April, but almost no team is going to bring up a top prospect for the first 20 days and lose a year of service time. This different than the Super Two savings. In May by wRC+ the Pirates offense was 2nd in the NL, and in June 1st.

The early struggles last season had a lot to do with the rotation have a 4.00 plus ERA in April and near 5.00 in May. Was Polanco coming up to replaced Alvarez and his .680 OPS in the clean up spot when teams walking McCutchen 1/5 of the time? You are greatly exaggerating the impact of player that hit worse than league average in 300 at bats.


For the record – I never thought Polanco should have come north with the team – thought he could spend the first 20 days in Indy to get through the service time issue. One will never know how he would have done had he been brought up late April/early May [breaking in as the DH in the Baltimore series might have been a good idea] – and it is possible he might have hit better – made the right adjustments earlier – not developed some of the problems he apparently had. spending two month in Indy “on hold” could easily be the reason he regressed after his hot start – all hypothetical since we can never go back and undo what I considered then to be a mistake – and an insult to the paying fans.


So your reasoning is nothing more than an argument from ignorance. Teams have an incentive to manipulate service time, not sure how being rational is insulting.


That is pretty harsh Andrew – I expect better from you 😎
But you may be right – I am ignorant of what could have happened had Polanco been in Pittsburgh late April – early May – because it did not happen. BUT There is a probability greater than zero that the Pirates would have won more games with him in right field May 1 – And yes there is a similar probability that they would have lost more. My only point is/was that coming out of spring training a year ago they BEST option in right field was NOT Tabata or Snider. Polanco earned the spot and yes I think parking him in Indy for three weeks would have been reasonable given the Mlb rules – but he could/should have been brought up,a lot earlier IMHO


We don’t know if Polanco would have helped if called up
sooner thus you cannot say it wouldn’t have helped,
that is an appeal to ignorance, maybe not a well know type of fallacy but one none the less. That is what ignorant is referring to not the more general meaning of the word.

It was a two game gap, an infinite number of things could have occurred differently for the Pirate, for the Cardinals, and the outcome would have changed. The Pirates were 8-11 against St. Louis despite outscoring them by 7 runs over the season series.

Call it uncharitable but the only reason the Polanco decision receives attention because it can be wrapped and logged as a grievance against ownership.

Luke sutton

So let me get this straight, just to be sure. You think that calling him up sooner, thus getting less at bats before seeing ML pitching, could have made his adjustment period somehow better? And that extra at bats in AAA can be attributed to the reason he struggled in his initial season?

That aint just hypothetical, its backwards of any usual logic used with young guys. Sure, anything is “possible”. But do you really think getting more at bats in AAA is at all likely to hurt a player? If anything, he had nothing left to prove in AAA but was going to struggle in the majors either way, since more at bats never hurt a player.


If he was a starting pitcher.

Brian Bernard

Is anyone else concerned about the poor hitting performance – ugly even of Sean Rodriguez?


Being honest Brian, I was a bit concerned about his acquisition after watching a number of Ray’s games last season. I saw more than a few weak ABs from him. But, I have to defer to this orginization when it comes to scouting and evaluation.

DG Lewis

He actually needs to stay down 20 days to avoid the Cubs losing a year of control – if a player is on optional assignment for less than 20 days in a season, he earns major league service time for the time optioned.

Scott Kliesen

First off, the words “extremely slow for Pirates news” are music to my ears during ST. I’m sure Rangers fans are really excited to be commenting on how their team will replace Darvish right about now. Let’s hope the biggest issue Pirates have is who will win the final rotation, bullpen and bench spots for the next 3 weeks.

This particular subject is much ado about nothing. Unless you’re a player, of course. Or his agent. If I were Kris Bryant’s agent, I would sure want him to be able to be a FA in 6 years instead of 7. But for the most part the system seems to be working well for both sides.

Plus it gives media hacks and fans something to talk about every year about this time.

Chris Hale

I know this is just spring training but Elias Diaz looks like a big league hitter right now. His approach from what I have seen is advanced. He hits balls to all parts of the park. Today he fought off an inside fastball and just by the way he adjusted and swung the bat has me impressed. I know he has no shot of making the opening day roster but I think in the 2nd half if the Pirates need help this guy could play big league baseball right now. This guy looks like the future.


Diaz looks great. Do most still feel his defense is as good as had been advertised? Because if his defense is as good as has been proclaimed I could easily see him being a top 10 catcher within 2 years


Chris: That was an excellent adjustment on his part and shows how his bat has improved over the past few years. With only 10 games at AAA last year, he could probably use at least 2 or 3 months at AAA honing his game and Catching guys like Kingham, Sadler, Taillon, and Sampson. Stewie at 33 is short term at best as the backup to Cervelli,


And Sanchez is playing like a stud. I’d rather have him at the #2 and let Diaz mature for awhile.


As long as the economic environment of baseball is an uneven as it is, these little ways for small market teams to save money are necessary to maintain any kind of competitive balance. So I guess there are two options: put a cap in baseball and lower all player salaries (how would you like that, MLBPA?) or force small market teams to bring these guys up early, lose that year of service or get saddled with the Super Twos, increase the gap between teams competitively and thus in their revenue streams, and risk some teams folding and taking away jobs from possible ball players (does that sound better, MLBPA?)

And I think that’s the reason, actually, that the MLBPA hasn’t pushed this. They know it won’t be good for their guys overall, and they don’t necessarily represent guys in situations like Bryant’s anyway. The owners obviously have no motivation to spend more money they wouldn’t otherwise have to. So if neither side wants it, it won’t happen, no matter what the fans demand, and that’s the way it should be, ultimately.

S Brooks

One thing I will never miss about Pittsburgh (I live in California, and I do miss a lot about my home city, but not this) is the parade of idiots on sports radio, TV and print. If it’s not Fedko’s feeble-minded Glasnow rant, it’s the BS about Kang being a clubhouse cancer. (My favorite is still Dejan K seriously trying to make the point that Huntington’s been no better a GM than Littlefield was.)

If only Pitt basketball were NCAA Tournament bound, there might be something else to divert their attention away from pulling s*** out of their…you know.


Agree, its too bad these idiots don’t realize these teams survival is their live blood, too me it’s like cutting off your nose to spite your face. Sure constructive criticism is okay, but making up stories and changing the context of what someone is saying is just wrong.

Chris Hale

LOL Collin Dunlap has no credibility whatsoever . The guy is clueless. Him talking baseball is a joke, I can’t believe people are actually complaining Glasnow got sent to the minors LOL. It is the most obvious move ever, He hasn’t even pitched above high A yet. I thought they brought Polanco up at the right time. I Knew there was a good chance he would struggle after pitcher adjusted but I still think he could be the best Pirates OF in time. Just as Glasnow could be the #1 starter. IN TIME



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