First Pitch: Where Would Jake Brentz and Pedro Vasquez Rank?

The Pirates haven’t had many situations over the last few years where they’ve brought prospects in to the team via trade. They’ve had plenty of situations where they have traded prospects away, which is usually the trend when you’re a contender and a buyer for several years in a row. As a result, we haven’t had many situations where we’ve had to provide analysis on new players coming into the system.

The trades over the last few years that brought prospects in were the Travis Snider deal (Steven Brault/Stephen Tarpley), the trade for Trevor Williams, the Charlie Morton trade (David Whitehead), and the Mark Melancon trade (Taylor Hearn).

We can add two more to the list tonight, as the Pirates received Jake Brentz and Pedro Vasquez as the players to be named later in the Arquimedes Caminero trade.

The immediate questions asked are “Where do they rank in the system?” and “How do they compare to X?” and “How would you grade this deal?” We always try to give answers to those, but they always come with the big disclaimer that a lot can change after our initial assessment. So I’ll answer those questions, but first, I’m going to expand the disclaimer by walking through our process.

First, we gather all of the information we can on the players, reading old reports, watching video, checking the prospect sites for other teams (if they exist), and so on. That’s pretty much all we can go on with the initial report. From there, we talk to people. We talk with the player to get some background, talk with the coaches about their first impressions, talk with the front office about what they liked, and talk with scouts who have seen the players. But we also like to see the players, and sometimes you need to see a player more than once. So it takes some time to go through the process for a strong evaluation.

I recently went through this with Taylor Hearn. I was in West Virginia shortly after the Melancon trade, and talked with Hearn for about ten minutes, getting background on his game, his progression, and so on. I saw him pitch two days later for the first time, and talked to him about what I saw in a follow-up interview after the game. Overall, I had about 16-17 minutes of interviews just with Hearn, not counting multiple discussions with his new manager and pitching coach. There was about half an hour of conversations from that trip, not counting previous conversations with Neal Huntington about Hearn’s upside. Basically, you could fill an hour-long TV show with all of the information I gathered on Hearn from the interviews, counting the commercial breaks, of course.

From the live view perspective, Hearn was a special case. He looked great right away, and not just “He had a good outing”. There are some players you watch who you just know they’re going to the majors. He was one of them. He looked like an MLB reliever doing his rehab work the night I saw him. If the Pirates wanted to settle on relief upside, it wouldn’t take much for that to happen.

But usually, you need a few views to get the feel for a player. When Steven Brault was added to the system, I talked with him a few days later. However, it wasn’t until the end of Spring Training that year when I saw his value, looking past the low velocity to notice the movement on his pitches and how consistently he threw at the knees or lower.

So with Brentz and Vasquez, we will definitely get a chance to talk with them in the next month, either in the final days of the West Virginia season, or during instructs. We might get a chance to see them pitch in one of those settings. And the goal is to have the most information possible when we rank them in the 2017 Prospect Guide.

As for where they’d fit in now, I can only ballpark it, since the ranking process involves a lot of different input, and a lot of that we don’t have right now. I’d say that Brentz would be a candidate to end up in the final spots of the top 50, which is usually the area we reserve for potential breakout players. He’s a lefty who has touched 96-97 MPH with his fastball, and while he’s very raw, there’s good reason for it, since he has only been a pitcher for three years.

I don’t think Vasquez would be in the top 50, but I could see him ending up outside of the top 50 and in that final tier. He seems like the type of pitcher who has good stats, but the stuff might not be something you can trust until he repeats the numbers at a higher level.

Then again, once we get a chance to watch these guys, and talk with them, and talk with others about them, these evaluations might go up or down. And that’s a huge factor. I can’t tell you how much valuable information I learn on new players by actually talking with them, with most of the stuff being information you’d think would already be out there, because it’s so important that you can’t evaluate the player otherwise.

As for the Caminero trade, the Pirates essentially got two lottery tickets for the hard throwing reliever, and while his velocity is impressive, he’s essentially stuck as a middle reliever due to his numbers. That velocity does make him a wild card for the future, with the chance that he might figure it out and become a late inning option. That’s why he had trade value in the first place. The Pirates didn’t get a return close to the Ivan Nova deal, but Caminero’s value also wasn’t close to Nova, since middle relief lottery tickets aren’t as valuable as a starting pitching lottery ticket.

I’d say the Pirates got good value on this market for Caminero, especially considering he wasn’t helping them much this year, and might not have been a big guy in the plans next year. The new additions don’t really replace some of the guys they’ve lost this year, but I do like that they went for lower-level lottery tickets, since those types of guys have a shot at developing into the quality of prospects that the Pirates couldn’t get otherwise for a guy like Caminero.

**Jung Ho Kang Homers in Rehab Outing with Indianapolis. Brian Peloza with the live recap of Kang’s rehab start in Indianapolis.

**Pirates Receive Two Pitchers From the Mariners in Caminero Deal. The breakdown of the trade, with info on each prospect.

**Prospect Watch: Tyler Glasnow and Trevor Williams Help Indianapolis to Doubleheader Sweep. Live reports tonight from Indianapolis and Altoona, including the yearly awards from Altoona.

**Thursday Will Be an Important Night For Tyler Glasnow to Get Back on Track. Brian Peloza previewed Glasnow’s return, looking at how he needed to get back on track after struggling with command.

**Eric Wood, Jin-De Jhang, and Montana DuRapau React to AFL Selections. Sean McCool talks with three of the AFL participants for this year.

**Pirates Trade Kyle Lobstein to Orioles for Lefty Zach Phillips. From Wednesday, the Pirates traded Kyle Lobstein.

**Pirates Sending Seven Players to Arizona Fall League, Including Austin Meadows. Here is the full list of players going to the AFL. I’ll be covering that live again this year in early November.

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Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.

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John Sickels about these two:

Overall I like this deal for the Pirates: Caminero is a decent reliever but is 29 years old and fairly fungible, while both Brentz and Vasquez add some intriguing (if very different from each other) pitching talent to the system.


We have given up (prospect-wise):


We have gained:


From the MLB side, we traded Liriano and Caminero for Nova.

We are weaker prospect-wise and stronger MLB-wise?


You left out the best return prospect Hearn!

Scott K

Paging Mark Melancon. If Pirates are stronger at MLB level, it’s more about JT, Kuhl and Bell’s contributions than Nova’s, even though Nova has outperformed expectations.

Bullpen not as good, as we found out on Monday in biggest game YTD.


I am not totally disagreeing with you but. As far as Monday. before the trade it would have been Feliz, Watson, then Melancon in 7,8,9.
We had Rivera, Feliz, Then Watson. One could argue Melancon would not have been pitching for the save in the 9th as the game would have been tied in the 8th. Just something to think about. The MM deal well Nova does account for a lot as regardless of how good of a closer you have, if you are not in position to close out games what difference does that make. You have to get to the 9th with a lead. Our rotation prior to Nova, JT, and Kuhl coming up was not getting that done. Your point is very valid, I just see it a different way.


RonHeb….I posted that exact scenario on the Asylum.




You forgot they added Hearn too. Good overview.


Was going to say the same thing but remembered Hearn was added in the Melancon deal. Need to add Melancon to the traded from the Pirates MLB list and Rivero to the MLB traded for list


Jake Brentz’ pre-season BA ranking was #25 .

In summary, he has a live arm but is really, really raw. He must’ve been a position player moved to pitcher?

Joe S

Seems to me like Vasquez’s performance would put him higher.

John Dreker

Based more off the scouting reports and the fact no one has him in the Mariners top 30, which isn’t a good farm system

John W

Look at the preseason Pirats Prospects List 2016:

Your 6th and 7th prospects (Ramirez and Mcguire) with a 5.0 rating gone in the Hutch/Liriano salary dump.

Your #14 Tarpley gone and one of your best breakout stories this year besides Keller gone in a RENTAL OF IVAN NOVA who had a FIP near 5 at the time of the trade.

Look at the rest of the system. Your #5 Alan Hanson just put another middling season in Triple A after repeating the level(playing better recently)

Your #15 Cole Tucker while young a very poor year with the bat in FSL

Some very good stories in Keller,Newman Hinsz(to a lesser degree).

But when you go through the top 50 with the prospects that have graduated I think it is undeniable this system is looking pretty thin especially at the lower levels.

NH are you ever going to start spending money Internationally in a serious way?


You talk about our number #5 having a middling season, but fail to mention that our #6 (Ramirez) and #7 (McGuire) were having empty calorie years at AA, while Tarpley has been fairly bad at a lower level. We are graduating so many players this season that the farm is going to look thin.
I’m much more bummed about Jacoby Jones than I am about anyone we’ve traded this season.


If you look at past high $$$ International signings, the results have been bleak. I posted 3 years worth and the return has been about 10% so far.

It just isn’t worth it.


You fail to include the addition of Hearn and this years draft picks. Everything you mentioned is pretty standard practice with a farm system.

Bobby L

With his new found FF, the time is ripe.

Bobby L

It’s impossible to judge these 2 w/o seeing them pitch for someone like me. But, numbers wise and with the level where both these were I was a little surprised Vasquez wouldn’t be higher rated.

With him coming over from the DSL and Jumping up to the same level as Brentz, seeing and experiencing a new culture and having success and being younger, he would be the one with both a higher floor and ceiling.

It has been several years, but Tim do you see do a podcast like several years ago? Maybe once a month and/or having a guest host (any of the writers) or co host. Possibly even adding a small fee

btw…nice article.

John W

Still can’t believe how badly NH got taken to the woodshed in the Nova trade. This system is considerably weaker than it was 5 weeks ago.

Scott K

“Considerably weaker?” The only prospect traded away who I would put in the considerable category is McGuire. And that is solely dependent on his ability to improve his bat significantly. The rest of those dealt away were most likely never going to start in Pittsburgh as regular members of the lineup/rotation.

Not to mention you’re totally discounting the prospects acquired in the Melancon and Liriano deals.

John W

The prospects in the Liriano/Melancon deals amount to Taylor Hearn as far as I’m concerned.

I don’t consider a guy who only has 3 years of control and will cost 2M in Arb a prospect. I won’t even get into the fact Hutch has been lit up like Christmas Tree since he came over(I still hold out hope he works out but he’s not a prospect)

Rivero is a nice piece but also is not a prospect.

The farm system a lot more shallow since these deals went down.


Well I want to go back to having the best farm system and having losing seasons. Keep them all down just so the farm system looks better.

John W

Lol yes that’s what I said Ron.


Sorry, I know I was being a smart….. Have a great weekend John.

John W

You do the same Ron. Go Bucs.


And it was stronger after the Draft Picks were signed then it was at the beginning of the season. Your point makes little sense.

Eric Marshall

How is that relevant? All systems should be stronger after the draft. Doesn’t mean you give away big assets for nothing, salary relief or a starter who had profiled like your existing 3-4-5. Just because Nova has been good for us doesn’t change the fact that NH got taken to the shed. The mantra from this site when the Caminero and Nova trade went down was we would get more back for Caminero given he has years of service ahead of him at very little cost, throws upper 90’s and has been good. Nova was almost 5 ERA… higher than our 3-4-5 last year… and only on contract for two months.


Its relevant because it is what all farm systems go through expand and contract especially at the trade deadline. Of course its going to be weaker. You can argue what the returns were as much as you want we can agree to disagree on that. But the fact the farm system is weaker after the trade deadline is pretty standard for a team that was still considered a buyer and not a seller at the trade deadline.

John W

Exactly. The return we got on Caminero trade isn’t remotely comparable to what we gave up for Nova which I remember many people arguing would be a wash.


I don’t remember that being argued. People were saying that Tim said they would be a wash I don’t remember that ever being said.

Eric Marshall

Obviously you need to read the site more thoroughly. It was based on 4 years of service for a decent to good middle reliever who threw mid upper 90’s vs. 2 months of a middling to bad starter in Nova who had close to 5 ERA.
I like the return for Caminero just do not like the Nova return. And don’t kid yourself… we were not buyers at the deadline.


Why do you keep lumping the two trades together it wasn’t a three team deal they were separate trades. 4 years of a Middle reliever is still less value then 2 Months of a starter (you forget the Pirates also get the initial rights to sign him before he can be contacted, and they could (although they wont) give him a Qualifying Offer and get relief). The Pirates have financial flexibility to bring Nova back too. You look so narrow minded at stuff.

Aaron S

Can’t give a qualifying offer to a player who has been traded.


Thats right I forgot about that. That part doesnt matter as there is no way the Pirates would give him one. The rest of it still applies though.

John W

Did we not just half our FinFlex 2017 savings on an aging infielder with a near 30% K rate and BABIP which screams regression?

Scott K

The Kang off field situation was a major factor in the decision to extend Freese. And the ever changing FinFlex will get a boost when Hanson takes over for SRod next season.

I think Freese would be better served to be a bench bat than the Starter he’s been thrust into for much of this season.


Thanks Scott Pretty much sums up what I would have said. Just one additional note. You say regression while yes his K rate is up, but his Batting Average, On Base Percentage, and Slugging are up from the last two years. So I am not sure you can just say regression.


we were not buyers at the deadline.

I think we were both buyers and sellers.

We were only 1 game over .500 so it was really hard to tell what to do with this team.


Agreed. We were not completely all out Sellers like say Atlanta, or Arizona. Proof by the fact we are still in the Wild Card race a month later. So you don’t sell off and grow the team, You don’t go all in and sell the farm either you make small moves that position you long term, but give you a chance this year. Which is exactly what they did.

Bobby L

There was a lot of talk about the depth before salary dump.
I don’t see any catching depth at all now. There isn’t room for both Diaz and Stewart at PNC. Stallings will soon be a free agent and Jin Ho (sorry about the name). Jin Ho has a good bat, but he hasn’t been a full time catcher.


Taylor Gushue is one to watch. But that is one position that does seem thin.

Bobby L

I like him . Not as much as someone I feel the PBC gave away in a trade but he does have value.


Ehh, I am not sure I am completely worried about the loss of McGuire as a prospect but the depth aspect is hard to argue. I completely agree there. Prospect aspect time will tell. I may change my thought on that but I never did agree with that as a position of depth.


I too thought that Caminero needed to validate last year’s numbers and move forward. He did not and was possibly going to lose his spot as a middle reliever. Vasquez had some impressive numbers last year in the DSL and will turn 21 this month, and looks like the better of the two on paper. Brentz will turn 22 shortly, and may have big upside, but he needs to really accelerate his development over the next year.

This trade favors the Pirates simply because we have two young guys with upside in exchange for a 29 year old MR who was not getting it done with the Pirates.

Eric Marshall

Definitely like the trade. Just wish we didn’t give up so much for 2 months of Nova…

Bobby L

Unless Cam improves he probably won’t be around when his controlable years are up.

Very much in agreement with you

IC Bob

Doesn’t Seattle have Caminaro for 4 more years? Shouldn’t the Pirates have received similar value they gave up for 2 months of Nova for four years of Caminaro? Just wondering.

Edward C

It wiil be interesting to see the rankings once you have a chance to evaluate them for the 2017 prospect guide. Of course you may have a much better idea this time next year after the team has a chance to work with them.

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