A little over a week ago, we announced that Pirates Prospects will be making the switch to a subscription site. For $2.99 per month (or $2.50 per month on an Annual plan, and less under our three-year Top Prospect Plan) you can get access to the only site that provides daily in-depth prospect coverage of the Pirates’ system, along with some of the best overall coverage of the Pirates’ organization.
The overall response has been positive. I expected there would be some who would be against the subscription model, either because of a tight budget, or out of some weird principle that online content should always be free. That has included several people who have said “I love the site, but I just don’t pay for online content.”
To that point, I ask the following: How much do you really love the site? I’m guessing in any given month you’ve bought at least one cup of coffee, or maybe a soda, or something else that costs $2.99. And you probably enjoyed that purchase for part of that one day. So the question is, do you love the site less than you love one cup of coffee? Because that’s how much we’re charing for daily content on your favorite team that you can’t get anywhere else. And if you participate in our DraftKings promotion, you don’t even need to spend $29.99 for the yearly subscription (it only requires a $5 minimum deposit). You’d also get to use that money playing a fantasy sports game where you can win money.
I realized when I made this switch that some people would be upset over the fact that a site they read daily would be switching to a paid site. It was an inevitable change, and I’ve tried to make it user-friendly for all of the site readers, with low prices and special promotions that will make it easy to subscribe. One thing I’m sure people will want to see is where their money is going, and what kind of expanded coverage it is buying. I’ve already made travel plans for the start of the season, kicking off the transition with a lot of live coverage.
I’ll be flying up to Pittsburgh to cover the home opener and the first three games of the Pirates’ season. That Thursday, I will be driving over to Altoona, where I will cover the first four games of the Altoona season. And on both sides of this trip I will have coverage from Bradenton, with a look at the Marauders and at the guys in extended Spring Training. My goal this year is to see every affiliate twice, which each trip covering five games, so that I can see everyone in the rotation once (the exception being Altoona at the start of the year, because I’ve seen everyone in Spring Training already).
We will also have writers covering almost every home game from all of the minor league cities. Each writer will be submitting 2-3 player features per week from their level, along with 3-4 player notes from every game they cover. The player notes will go on the Player Pages, serving as an archive of the progress of every player in the system. Every week we will pick the best 3-4 from each level and run them in an article (all of the player notes will be uploaded to the pages on this same day, which might end up being on Fridays).
Overall, we’ll be providing a ton of live reports from the minor league system this year. That has been the number one focus of this expansion, and a lot of the funds will help pay for that expanded coverage. Here is a rundown of what to expect from each level. Or, if you’ve already heard enough, you can go ahead and subscribe now.
Ryan Palencer (@RyanPalencer) will be returning to the site this year to cover the Indianapolis Indians. Ryan will begin his coverage on Opening Night, which is one week from today. Indianapolis projects to have a very interesting team. The pitching depth will be strong, with a rotation that will include Nick Kingham, Adrian Sampson, Casey Sadler, and eventually Clayton Richard and Jameson Taillon.
John Holdzkom will also be returning to the level. Last year, Ryan was writing about how good Holdzkom’s stuff was back in July, two months before he came up and surprised everyone. In his first article on the right-hander, Ryan summarized:
“Despite the lengthy journey, Holdzkom is only 26 and could have some quality seasons left in his arm. If the control issues stay in check, he has the stuff to potentially compete for a bullpen spot one day, especially if the curveball progresses.”
The offense will feature top prospects like Alen Hanson and Elias Diaz, who could both be in line for a promotion to the majors at some point this season. There will be plenty to cover, with Ryan giving updates on all of the guys who could make an impact in Pittsburgh, including the surprise guys this year.
I am pleased to introduce our new writer in Altoona, Sean McCool (@NotSoMcCool). Yes, that’s his real name. No, I didn’t hire him for the name. Well, not just for the name. Sean is a marketing specialist who follows the Pirates, minor leaguers, and advanced stats closely. He will be covering Altoona throughout the year, while also providing graphics, charts, and other material for the site. Sean will be joining me to cover the team for the opening series.
Altoona will feature two of the top prospects in the system this year. Tyler Glasnow is the top guy, and is expected to be pitching at the level the entire season. Josh Bell is one of the top hitting prospects in the system, and will be making the transition to first base this year. Both could be in line to join the team in mid-2016, and their progress will be something to follow this year.
Altoona will also feature interesting guys like Stetson Allie (making the move to right field), Keon Broxton, Willy Garcia, Max Moroff, Jason Creasy, Chad Kuhl, Angel Sanchez, and John Kuchno. Everyone from that group has a chance to at least reach the majors.
I’ll be covering Bradenton again this year, and am excited about covering what looks to be the best team in the system in 2015. Top prospects Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire will both be at the level, and will probably be here all year. The outfield is expected to feature Meadows, Barrett Barnes, and Harold Ramirez.
The infield also looks promising, with Wyatt Mathisen, JaCoby Jones, and Erich Weiss. First base will feature Edwin Espinal and Jose Osuna splitting time, with Espinal getting some time at third, and Osuna getting time in the outfield.
The pitching staff also looks promising, with Steven Brault and Cody Dickson in the rotation to start the year, and Tyler Eppler, Luis Heredia, and Clay Holmes expected to join the team at some point during the season.
Bradenton will have a special situation where all eight position players and all five starting pitchers have a legitimate shot of reaching the majors. That’s not always the case in A-ball, and it will give me plenty to write about this year.
West Virginia – Job Open
The one position we need to fill for the season is in West Virginia. We have received a lot of interest in the Morgantown position, but won’t be filling that until the middle of June. Check out this post for information on the position, along with how to submit your application.
Other Minor League Coverage
One of the things I want to do this year is have multiple opinions on every team in the system. Along with my trips to see every team, we will have other writers serving in “utility” roles.
John Dreker has covered West Virginia and Altoona in the past, and will have coverage of both teams at times during the 2015 season.
Pete Ellis covered West Virginia and Altoona last year, and have some coverage of both teams again this year, while also providing coverage from Morgantown later in the year.
We are also looking into adding additional writers as the season goes on. And I’m hoping to make it down to the Dominican Republic at some point this summer to get live reports from the Dominican Academy.
Major League Coverage
One of the things I’ve heard people say is that we shouldn’t be focusing on Major League coverage, since there is so much out there on the topic. I agree that there is a lot out there, but the thing about that excess coverage is that it’s all the same. We will eventually expand our MLB coverage this season (the first priority is getting the minor league coverage locked down), and when we do expand in that area, we’ll be looking to provide a different look than the same coverage you get everywhere else.
Quality, Not Quantity
I might not have been clear about one thing in my announcement last week. I mentioned that we would have more live content this year, due to the increased resources. That does not mean more articles. We already have a ton of daily articles, averaging eight articles per day last year (which, going back to the price, means you’re paying less than one cent per article). We’re not going to increase that average, because it’s way too easy to fall behind with the current average.
When I say more live content, what I mean is that we’re going to be increasing the quality of the articles. Last year we started incorporating live coverage into the daily and weekly recaps of the system. This gave us something other people didn’t have in their nightly recaps: a live report of what actually happened, and how certain players looked. We’ll be bringing that back, and will have much more of it this year. The same goes with the weekly reports that I mentioned above. And we’ll have more frequent player analysis from every level.
We already provided plenty of prospect coverage, but the added resources will take that to a new level.
Having advertisements on a paid product isn’t uncommon. You buy a newspaper or magazine, and it’s filled with ads. You buy a car, and the dealership throws an ad on the trunk or around the license plate. You subscribe to Hulu Plus and get commercials.
We’ll still have our ad networks running on the site in the early part of the transition. I’d like to cut those ads down quickly, and eventually get rid of the networks. I’m leaving open the idea of having sponsors on the site, but those ads would be less intrusive (no risk of video ads somehow sneaking in, even though I have that disabled), and wouldn’t be as spammy (some of the ads that show up that you guys tell me about are crazy sounding).
I’ve had a lot of questions about the Prospect Guide this week, wondering if subscribers will get a discount. That is currently the plan, although a few things need to happen before that gets finalized. First, there’s the obvious: I need to focus on the site transition, along with adding writers. Once that settles down, I’ll need to get an idea of how much the book will expand with about 7-10 new writers contributing this year. That will give me an idea of the price of the book, and will give me an idea of the discounted price for subscribers. There will definitely be some big discounts for subscribers.
App and Podcast
One of the downsides to the ad model was that I couldn’t have an app. That would have killed the business, since it would have taken readers away from the site and from the ads, generating no revenue. We will have an app in the future. I’m currently researching options and prices, but hope to have one by summer, if not earlier.
Another thing we had to cut was the podcast, because it didn’t bring in any revenue. But since you are paying for the site, rather than the site relying on page views to make money, we can focus on things like a podcast, without having to worry about how it’s not going to bring in enough ad revenue to justify the work. The podcast will most likely return, although that’s another thing that won’t be immediate.
We’re just under 1,000 subscriptions after just one week, and the site hasn’t even switched over yet. My initial goal is 8,000 subscriptions, and if we reach 12,000 there will be a lot of additional expansions added, including a full-time editor. As I said earlier, if you enjoy the site, then consider paying the small fee each month to subscribe (or participate in the DraftKings promotion). Because if you liked the site before this change, you’re going to love our coverage after the change.