Winter Mini-Camp: Day One Discussion Thread

The Pittsburgh Pirates are holding their annual winter mini-camp, which will run from today until Wednesday. Some players use this as the beginning of their Spring Training and will stay in Bradenton getting ready for the upcoming season. Tim Williams will be covering the action there until Wednesday, but for now we will open up a discussion thread for anything on your mind.

Here are some notes from the first day:

**The first bit of news was Daniel Bard at camp. The Pirates signed the flame-throwing reliever to a minor league deal last week. More on him in this article. They also re-signed Guido Knudson, who was released last week.

**The first question on everyone’s mind will probably be about who is there, and in this case, who is on first. Both Josh Bell and John Jaso are already at the mini-camp. That’s right, the first basemen learning the position are both in attendance. While it’s just a three-day event and not much goes on there, we know the biggest story last year from mini-camp ended up being Pedro Alvarez not showing up. In hindsight it looked even worse once we saw him try to play first base. Three days won’t do much for Jaso or Bell at first base, but it is clearly better for the blood pressure of Pirates’ fans that they did show up. We will have an article on Jaso later today.

**There are some very interesting minor league names in attendance. First round picks Kevin Newman and Ke’Bryan Hayes are both in attendance. Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow are both there, as well as Alen Hanson, Harold Ramirez, Reese McGuire, Gift Ngoepe, Trevor Williams, Clay Holmes, Steven Brault, Chad Kuhl, Gage Hinsz, Max Moroff, Casey Hughston, Dan Gamache, Jacob Stallings, Jerrick Suiter, Adam Frazier, Willy Garcia, Eric Weiss, Wyatt Mathisen, Albert Baur, Ryan Nagle, Chase Simpson, Billy Roth, Tito Polo. That’s just a partial list.

**Nick Kingham is also there and he has already been throwing for three weeks after taking some time off. He had Tommy John surgery at the end of May, but it certainly sounds like he is trying to get back as soon as possible from it. The Pirates tend to go with the cautious approach for returns from major injuries, so we will see how they handle his return.

**Jung-Ho Kang is also in attendance. We will have an update on how his rehab is coming along soon.

  • Bill W …how did your dentist visit go? Well, I hope.

  • Does Anyone know if Josh Bell will get any time in the outfield this spring whether it be at practice or in games or will he be completely focused on 1b? If Jaso ends up working out, Bell could then be an option for the outfield whether it be as an injury or rest day replacement.

    • Things could change, but I’d say without a doubt Bell will be working 100% at first base. Jaso is signed for two years. Bell will arrive some time in the middle of his first year and spend 6 1/2 years at first base for the Pirates. If all works out as planned, he is their long-term answer there and it would make more sense to get him as much time as possible at first base because he is below-average there now.

      I’ve seen others mention about him possibly splitting time in the outfield once he comes up and I’ll point out two things. Bell last played outfield in August 2014 and he wasn’t that good at it. He was average at best. He put on some extra weight/muscle since he moved to first base, so you’re talking about taking an average outfielder off the position for 16 months now and you take away some of his range. Bell would be a below average outfielder right now who doesn’t practice the position

      • Eesh, not good news at all…

        • What isn’t good?

          • That Bell may no longer profile as an average outfield defender.

            An awful lot has to go right in order for the Pirates to pencil Bell into the lineup at 1B and forget about the position for 6 1/2 years. Having flexibility to move back into his natural position – whether that be for the Pirates or someone else – would obviously be beneficial for everyone involved.

            • I think you have a lot more concern than the Pirates do. I wouldn’t worry about Bell at first base, just his arrival time is in question. The Jaso move just gives them some leeway they didn’t have before. Instead of Bell coming up in early June, he may stay down longer if the glove still needs work and things aren’t a mess at first base. If he shows a big improvement, you will see him in June regardless of what is going on at first base with the Pirates. Outfield isn’t an option for him at this point

              • This really comes down to what is considered acceptable value at the position for a contender.

                This is far, far from a case of whether or not Josh Bell will learn to play 1B at an acceptable level. He must do that, *plus* lift his power output above average *and* learn to hit right handed or else, as the projections clearly show, we’re talking about a ~1 win player.

                Is that really the kind of guy a contender sticks at a position for six years and forgets about?

              • Also not super, super satisfied with the whole the-Pirates-aren’t-concerned thing given recent and long term success – or lack thereof – identifying and developing talent at the position.

                • I never said they aren’t concerned, but you have a lot more doubt in someone who will be 23 this year, playing his second full year at a new position, and someone who missed nearly a full season with a knee injury. He isn’t a finished product by any means, which is why I think signing Jaso may have been done to give him more time. If it means he can get in an extra two months in AAA, then that’s what they will do, but if he’s ready in June, Jaso won’t hold him back.

                  • Well the Josh Bell that plays for the Pittsburgh Pirates organization will be 24 shortly after the trade deadline, and my comments are far more concerned with the pressure that 1B puts on bats than Josh Bell personally.

                    I think Josh Bell is going to be a fine Major League hitter. But unless he somehow turns himself into a plus defender, you’re talking about him needing to be upwards of a 120 wRC+ hitter to approach a ~2 win player. That’s no small feat for any player.

      • One thing to note that salary arbitration may render him un-signable before he becomes a free agent. Cole will be the first player to test the “years of control” theory in that his last year he may command $15 to $18 million in salary. Look at Melancon this year he is supposed to get $10 million in this his last year of arbitration and PBC is looking that it may not bite.

        • Bill, that is a good point. It is one that nobody has been talking about: How these big salaries this offseason are going to affect arbitration awards/salaries for players across the board. While the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, and others need not worry, the small market teams like the Pirates, Indians, Brewers should be. Those 6 years of control may be shrinking fast.

        • Huge difference between paying a top of rotation starter $15+M in his last year of arb and ANY reliever $10M or more at any time…

  • Jerry Crasnick recently opined that the window of contending for the Pirates is closing. His evidence: The Walker trade and the Alvarez release.

    But when I read the names of the players at minicamp, I see a wide open window.

    The Pirates have a strong and deep system — still, after trading prospects for rentals, after picking late in the first round, after Seligula pushed for rule changes that constrained an aggressive team like the Pirates.

    • I agree. If we had been bad the last couple of years we’d be looking at the quality of our top 10-15 prospects as providing the foundation of the next good Pirates team. Crasnick must be used to teams with the Pirates’ MLB talent trading top prospects to to go “all-in.” But since the Pirates won’t do that, the window should stay open. We just need to avoid any ill winds (Tommy John surgeries, Coghlan slides) blowing through those windows.

    • Completely agree, think the prospects the Pirates have makes their success sustainable for the long haul. Its definitely top 5 in baseball. The question becomes is it enough to go over the top and win a championship….at some point the Pirates need to be players in the FA market as well.

      • Playoffs are a Random Crap shoot.

        Best teams don’t always win in these short series.

        All we can do is get in there. Hopefully WE will be the hot team with the hot pitchers. Look at L.A. with Kershaw and Grienke back to back. How did that work out?

        • LOL.

          Yeah, the Royals are totally kicking themselves for getting Cueto and Zobrist at the deadline. Buncha good that did them.

          • NMR…I know you know what randomness is.

            I saw this stat: PKs in the NFL made 99% of FGs inside 30 yards this year. Minn’s Walsh hadn’t missed all year. So, of course, he shanks the game winner.

            This is the Randomness showing up that I talked about. You might only have 1 out of a 100 chance of something showing up, but it WILL show up…and not always at the most opportune time.

            Talent will get you to the playoffs (baseball and football). But, after that, no matter how much you stack the odds in your favor, “stuff” happens.

            This is why you can’t build a team to either win the World Series or win the Super Bowl. The goal is to get into the playoffs. After that…….hopefully, the ‘dice’ are rolled in your favor.

            • Btw, all the World Series proved is that the hottest team wins. WERE the Royals the best team in baseball? Or just the hottest at the right time? I choose the latter, because I know how randomness and probability work.

              Btw, where were those 6 HRs from Murphy? Or were they just random (of course they were).

              Randomness means lack of pattern or predictability in events. A random sequence of events, symbols or steps has no order and does not follow an intelligible pattern or combination.

              (Please note that randomness is different than ‘odds’).

              Odds were that Walsh would make that FG. He was arguably the best PK in football. How did THAT work out?

              • Something can be subject to randomness yet also be predictable. If I roll two dice, for example, I know it’s more likely that I roll a sum of 7 than a sum of 2. And if I roll a pair of dice 162 times I’m certain I’ll get more 7’s than 2’s. But that doesn’t mean the next roll won’t come up snake-eyes.

                The problem with the playoffs isn’t that things aren’t predictable, but that there are not enough games to ensure those predictions pan out.

                • As an aside, European soccer leagues have it right–you play a long regular season and declare/celebrate the champion. No playoffs at the end of the season to take away from the feat of winning the regular season where randomness should have balanced out.

                  Then come back the following season and have the tournament (Champions League). It won’t work for U.S. sports, but it’s kind of a shame we don’t do more to recognize regular season champs. In fact winning the regular season in the U.S. can almost be a curse because then you’re seen as a failure if you don’t win the playoffs.

            • I *do* understand randomness, and because of that I know better than to believe silly things like baseball playoffs being a “crap shoot” or all about “luck”. They aren’t. That’s not what randomness means.

              Of course you cannot build a team in a manner that *guarantees* a World Series winner; that notion is equally silly. But as a matter of fact, you absolutely can build a team that increases the odds of outperforming your competition and better suited to *capitalize* on the inherent randomness in the game. That is what a World Series champion does better than any other team in the tournament, after all.

              • I posted the randomness definition below and that IS what randomness means.

                Yes, you can create better odds, but as long as randomness occurs, you can’t create a sure outcome.

                As for luck, let’s say you have two pitchers who will throw 28 out of 30 quality starts. Each pitcher will also have 4 ‘gems’ among those 30.

                In a short series (which is what every playoff series is), what are the odds that a gem will show instead of one of those two bad games?

                However, let’s say one of those gems ‘show’ for Pitcher A and one of those ‘bad games’ show for Pitcher B in game 7.

                The odds are equal for each pitcher. So, Pitcher A is labeled a big game pitcher. Yet all it is was one of those 4/30 Gem probabilities showing up. And Pitcher B, despite being a cool, calm collected customer had NOTHING coming out of the bullpen that day.

                That is where luck comes into play. I call it a crap shot, because, with two dice, ‘7’ will show up many more times than ’12’, but in any one roll (or 3 or 4 rolls), 11, 3 and 12 can all show up, even though the odds were that a 6, 7 or 8 show up. (This is also known as the Strat O Matic theorem….LOL…And I have been there…LOL).

                Hence….Randomness and Probabiliity go hand in hand.

                • Again, that’s not how randomness and probability work, Foo. Not in the context of baseball. That’s a wildly over-simplistic explanation of how randomness and probability work.

                  You can choose to believe your definition, or you can choose to side with the Ivy Leaguers manning front office positions that still believe there’s value in improving their ball clubs past the point of simply making it to the wild card game.

                  I choose the latter.

              • If you are good enough to make the baseball playoffs, it’s pretty much a even odds at that point. What’s the difference between a team that is a .600 team vs. a .610 team? The answer is well within the noisy outcomes inherent in the game. That doesn’t mean you wouldn’t rather be the .610 team, but it does mean you don’t want to “be a player in the FA market” just to get to from .600 to .610 if the cost is 5 “rebuilding” seasons at .480.

                • Arik….correct…the talent level is so miniscule between the top teams.

                  And, as the Brewers demonstrated on us, even a horrible team can win 3 straight vs a 98 win team, so in the playoffs ANYTHING can and will happen.

                • Well now that massive straw men have been introduced into the conversation this should be a terribly productive talk. Great argument…

                  • NMR: No Straw Man….

                    He just wrote what happens collectively when you’re dealing with probabilities.

                    As I noted in my Pitcher A/ Pitcher B note below, when there is not that much difference in odds between two teams, randomness is the deciding factor.

                    And luck plays a huge part in what probability outcome occurs.

                    • “That doesn’t mean you wouldn’t rather be the .610 team, but it does mean you don’t want to “be a player in the FA market” just to get to from .600 to .610 if the cost is 5 “rebuilding” seasons at .480.”

                      This is the literal definition of a straw man, Foo.

            • Lee – that kick had nothing to do with randomness – it was a player choking and shanking a kick – like some pitchers – some kickers are not very good in high leverage situations.

        • Yes – but you greatly improve your chances when you win your division and avoid the coin toss play in game.

      • I don’t agree on the necessity of high dollar FA. Trades at the deadline, yes. Turn around FA at low dollars, yes. But the big bucs need to go into extensions of All Stars already on the Bucs’ roster.

  • On a player like Jung Ho…even though there’s not a ton (when you look at the overall history)…does said player normally go back overseas for any length of time for rehab or does he stay stateside?

  • When Josh Bell sent his notice to all MLB clubs asking not to be drafted, it seemed like he was asuming himself to be a prima donna and it turned me off. As far as I know, he has done nothing to deserve that view. So far, he has done all asked of him to my knowledge. Kudos to the young man!

    Lots of minor league names…are they there by invitation, or just on their own.

    Is Kingham ahead of schedule?

    • Bell is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen. No one should question his desire to succeed. I think the minor league camp is made available to everyone, but most are invited/asked to show up. Lots of 2015 draft picks. Kingham is well ahead of schedule. He is where we expected him to be about 6-7 weeks from now

      • Noticed Meadows was omitted from the attendees list. Oversight or absent?

        • He might be there, only listed the ones Tim personally saw and I asked about Meadows when he gave me the list. He wouldn’t be required to be there, so I don’t know if I would use the word absent if he isn’t there.

      • That’s good to hear about Kingham. Quite unusual to be such a quick bounceback.

        Very nice comments about Josh Bell too. Seems like the kind of guy you’d like to see be successful.

    • I just think at the time, maybe he legitimately believed that he would not sign, and just wanted to be transparent. But all the sudden the Pirates come along and $5 million can buy a lot of college degrees.

  • The Kang update is coming soon, no need to take a vote on it, it is top priority. His interpreter isn’t there yet.

  • Yes agree that Kang update would be great.

  • IS Kang weight bearing and walking without the aid of any braces?

    • He’s posted a few short videos on Instagram of him walking as well as one of him playing catch. So it appears he has been without braces and able to at least play light catch for a few weeks.

    • He’s been without braces before Thanksgiving…just based on the videos hes posted, looks like he’s been moving around just fine. Not in game shape, but I think he’s been in Bradenton for awhile now working out. Thats where that water slide video was taken I think.

  • Just hearing Jung-Ho Kang is state side and in attendance makes me feel better

    • piraterican21
      January 11, 2016 9:57 am

      Ditto, Kang health is the only news that would interest me from this three day practice.

      • While I definitely want to know Kang’s progress, I would like to also know if Taillon is still throwing as good as pre-hernia, if Glasnow is throwing at least an average change up, and finally how Kingham looks.

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