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.+ posts
Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. 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.