Site Updates: Announcing 2015 Minors Coverage, App/Podcast Status, WV Writer Needed

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.

Indianapolis

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.

Altoona

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.

Bradenton

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.

Advertisements

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).

Prospect Guide

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.

Subscription Goals

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.

Site Updates

  • Would like to get a chance and meet with you in altoona on the home opener. Have you heard who will likely start it?

  • I’ll be glad when ads about sagging skin and hot asian singles are no longer a daily eyesore. Worth $3 a month right there.

  • Jason flower
    April 2, 2015 11:21 pm

    Happy to see the enthusiasm, see you in cincy for opening day!

  • Scott Kliesen
    April 2, 2015 9:28 pm

    Thanks for sharing so much information with us Tim. I find your openness and honesty refreshing. The way you communicate makes me think I’m a business partner in this with you.

    I’m a baby boomer who has been conditioned that it’s not only ok to pay for a service, it’s to be expected. Additionally, I was taught there’s no value in free. As such, I not only don’t mind paying for access to this site, I wholeheartedly endorse the decision to switch to this business model. I have no doubt I will have more in-depth coverage of the Pirates organization this season than I ever have, and to pay a few bucks a month for this is a no-brainer.

    I have no doubt Tim will reach his goals because the content is exceptional and unique. Keep heart Tim, as the season begins in earnest momentum will build and the subscriptions will flourish.

    Food for thought Tim, rather than give a substantial discount for the Guide, you may want to consider a value-added program. For example, purchase a subscription for a non-subscriber (friend, family member, business associate, etc.) and receive a guide for free. Or switch your one-year subscription to a three-year subscription and receive the guide for free.

    If I were you I would think long and hard before reducing the price of the guide to your core consumers, who have already shown they are willing to pay retail for the product. Always better to add value than reduce price when given the choice.

  • Tim – I’ll assume it’s only coincidental, but I noticed you haven’t linked FanGraphs Pirates Prospect List published today.

    Do you plan to continue linking relevant outside work once you’re behind the pay wall?

  • Great idea to increase MLB coverage Tim. Your live interviews this Spring far exceeded the quality of anything the name brand outlets typically offer, though most of them may be of minor league players or staff. I am referring to the thoughtfulness of your questions and the candid answers those questions elicited. We can’t get that anywhere else. Thanks!

    More MLB content may broaden your potential subscriber base as well.

  • johnrussellskinner
    April 2, 2015 11:09 am

    Speaking as a millennial who was raised by a baby boomer, I refuse to subscribe to, or finance anything. I read an article discussing how millennials WANT subscription based materials, and I personally won’t be a part of it. I think you do a great job Tim, and view the site probably around 20 times daily. As a musician, I totally understand trying to sell a product that some see as an unnecessary purchase. I truly do love this site, and I realize that a lot of web content is or will be subscription, but I greatly dislike that the financial direction the powers that be are attempting to force me into… And get off my lawn!

    • So are you saying you have never made a purchase of any kind in your entire life? I’m guessing you have. And I’m guessing one of those purchases would have been something like a coffee or a snack, or something else that provides you with enjoyment for maybe a few hours, max.

      In this case, you say that you view the site 20 times daily. That’s 600 times a month (I totally appreciate that, by the way). Let’s say you spend 2 minutes on average each time. That’s 20 hours per month.

      I’m guessing you don’t think twice about buying those small purchases like coffee, which will provide you with a few hours of enjoyment. For the same price, you can get access to a site that you love, and that you admit you read constantly, to the point where it probably provides you much more enjoyment than the small purchase.

      If you remove the social stand of “paying for online content is different than paying for any other product” then it would be a no brainer to subscribe.

      • First and only comment. Has to be trolling.

        Nobody actually speaks like that.

        • johnrussellskinner
          April 2, 2015 1:38 pm

          Not trolling. Just sincerely considering getting rid of my technology ties. I’ve been going out and playing ball a couple times a week the past couple years, and have to thank this site for at least assisting getting me back on a ball field. I’m just a crazy person in a crazy world trying to get by, fella. I’m a legacy bucs fan, but have talked to several college players where I live, and it is disheartening to me that baseball is such a business. It’s still my favorite sport, but it’s lost a lot of soul since I’ve been a spectator.

        • Yeah, I was skeptical.

    • So how exactly do you as a musician pay your bills?

      • johnrussellskinner
        April 2, 2015 6:52 pm

        Generally barely… and have to throw in a little bit of crap that you never wanted to play, but everyone seemed to want to hear.

    • Tim,
      I suggest you put out a monthly magazine for those that don’t want to pay for your electronic version. Of course the “monthly” magazine would have to be the size of War and Peace to contain the articles that you write monthly. It seem people will pay for a hard copy, but think they are being abused when paying for information on the internet.

  • Anthony Miller Jr
    April 2, 2015 10:39 am

    Interested to see how the future of this site is going to be. Just signed up. Thanks Tim for all the work over the years

    • Thanks for signing up!

      • Tim, I think the indepth articles on this site is well worth the subscription price. And thats not counting all the videos, pix and stats.
        I pay $6 per 200 word count for my sites. Your average article would cost me around $50-60 or more. Great work Tim. I will always pay for quality. This article would cost me 65 bucks. Over 2100 words.

Menu