Site Updates: Big Changes For Pirates Prospects in 2018

When I started this site, it was just me. It was like that for the first year and a half, before bringing on our first contributors — a group that included John Dreker and Wilbur Miller. Over the years we’ve added more and more contributors, making this a group effort, rather than just me.

That’s what I want. I don’t want this site to be my voice, with a few other people contributing. I want it to be a group effort. I want it to be a team. And part of the team dynamic is that everyone plays a specific role, with some people being stronger in one area than another.

An important part of that transition from me being the central voice on the site to being just another member of the team is the self-evaluation of my own strengths and weaknesses. For example, John Dreker is probably the best person to cover the international side of things for the Pirates, not just here, but anywhere. That’s why I stepped aside long ago and let him take over that side of things.

I’ve been trying to find a way to step back from MLB coverage for some time, because honestly, I don’t think that’s my strongest suit. I feel that I’m in my wheelhouse when I’m discovering changes that prospects are making, and then writing really long chronicles of those changes over time in a 4,000 word article complete with photos and videos of every step of the way. You know, the type of extremely detailed analysis on pitcher mechanics or a batter’s stance that only hardcore and possibly insane people would crave.

But when people get to the majors, that aspect is gone. There are still changes, but the players are pretty much just going out there to play, and the development is over. So while I can cover the majors, I definitely don’t think I’m the right guy to provide that coverage for this site.

Alan Saunders joined the site during the 2016 season, and that helped reduce my role on the MLB side. But because our writers are independent contractors, and not full-time employees, I couldn’t ask Alan to do everything. I mean, I could do it if I didn’t have any consideration for others, and Alan is such a hard worker that he probably would do it, but it wouldn’t be right, and would technically be an illegal classification of his employment status. We needed another person to help out with the MLB coverage, in order to make it so that I could step back.

Earlier this week, I announced that we had brought on Matt Gajtka for that MLB coverage. This is perfect because Matt and Alan not only make a great team together for the MLB coverage, but they also can and have done a much better job than I can do at covering the big league club. And that gives me more time to focus on my strength, which is the prospect analysis. The overall result for you is that the site will be much better off at every level with the new changes.

If you aren’t a subscriber already, now is definitely the time to sign up.

With everything now in place, here is the anticipated schedule of daily coverage for the upcoming season, and how we will handle each area of coverage.

MLB Coverage

A beat writer typically writes 3-5 articles per day. They write a pre-game story. Then a post-game story. Maybe a transaction or other news. A small feature for the next morning. Then they work on a bigger feature for Sunday. All of that writing leads to two things: Several outlets writing the exact same things, and no time left for deeper analysis.

There’s always the temptation and sometimes the request for us to follow that approach and provide “real” Pirates coverage. There’s the feeling that you’re not really covering the MLB team if you don’t have 800 words recapping the previous game, or 500 words telling how a prospect feels to be called up to the majors for the first time.

We get drawn into that feeling from time to time, and it’s important to reassess our approach every so often. We want to avoid this type of coverage. We want to focus on deeper analysis, rather than being the fifth or sixth outlet writing the exact same day-to-day stuff. Yes, we’ll inevitably have some of the same news that other outlets have. But we’re not going to be focused on pre-game stories and game reports, which will leave more time for the rest of the coverage.

A typical beat writer is writing 3-5 articles per day. Alan Saunders and Matt Gajtka will be writing four features per week, focusing on quality articles, rather than quantity news. I feel this is the best approach with our resources, trying to give you something you can’t find elsewhere.

Prospect Coverage

The prospect coverage on the site won’t change much. We already report on the prospects in the system way more often than any other outlet. The focus going forward will be the same, with prospect features being the most common thing on the site, and the bread and butter of the site.

Going forward, things will be a little more structured, with articles from certain levels on specific dates. One change we’re making is that we’re going to stop the process of having live game reports in the Prospect Watch. John Dreker will continue to provide recaps of each game, but our writers at the game will be focused on their features, rather than a more detailed report. We will still have reports on the players and their performance, which will show up in the features and in other weekly articles.


The biggest expense for sports coverage is travel. That’s even more extreme with baseball, where there is non-stop travel for six months of the year, or more. We don’t travel to many road games, but I have covered some in previous years, and we’ve covered the team on the road late in the season when they’ve been competitive. I don’t think the latter will be a factor this year. I will also be scaling back my travel for the MLB team, limiting my only coverage this year to the Miami series, which is a quick drive for me, and low on the expense factor (and already booked well before everything was set in place).

As for prospect coverage, I’ve typically traveled to Indianapolis, Altoona, West Virginia, and the short-season clubs in Morgantown and Bristol. I’ll be cutting out trips to Indianapolis and Altoona this year, leaving that coverage to the local writers. The decision here is that we typically have years of coverage and background on those players, and there isn’t much more that I can add to the coverage that the local writers won’t be able to get.

That’s different in West Virginia, where we are still getting that important background, and where players are making progress throughout the season. In the past, I’ve traveled to West Virginia over two separate trips, covering five games each. This year I’ll either be cutting down the days for each trip, or cutting down to one trip. I’d prefer to go twice, since you can see a player in April, and see a totally different player from the same guy in August at that level.

As for the short-season leagues, that coverage is always TBD, based on the results of the draft. This past year I skipped Morgantown, instead having local writers provide the coverage, which was more than enough for the prospects at that level in a year when the Pirates went prep-heavy in the draft. There are also plenty of players on those teams who I cover in Extended Spring Training from April through mid-June and in instructs in September. So that two month stretch in Bristol or Morgantown isn’t as important for me to personally see.

The goal here is making sure we can manage the opportunity cost of coverage. There is always going to be a situation where we don’t see a return on our travel investment.

I can spend $1,000 for a week covering West Virginia, and can come away with 15 stories, but it’s not going to lead to 29 new subscribers to pay for the costs of the trip. It is going to lead to valuable information for the site, which pays off in the long run.

By comparison, I could spend $1,000 for a week covering Indianapolis, and I’m not really adding much value, since there is less to cover with prospects at that stage than there is in the lower levels.

I’d rather focus the spending on areas that provide the most value. And if given a choice between having a second person looking at the prospects in Indianapolis and Altoona (among other trips), or having someone like Matt on the site, I’d rather bring Matt on board and scale back the travel.

The Schedule

Here is the rough idea of what the coverage schedule will look like during the season:


Featured Article: 21 – A recap of the 21 best prospect performers in the system from the previous week, including game reports.

MLB: Feature from Alan

Minors: Indianapolis feature

Morning Report

Prospect Watch


Featured Article: Column from Tim

MLB: Feature from Matt

Minors: Altoona, Bradenton features

Morning Report

Prospect Watch


Featured Article: Column from Matt

MLB: Feature from Alan

Minors: Indianapolis, West Virginia features

Morning Report

Prospect Watch


Featured Article: Column from Alan

MLB: Feature from Matt

Minors: Altoona, Bradenton features

Morning Report

Prospect Watch


Featured Article: Site Updates

MLB: Feature from Alan

Minors: Indianapolis, West Virginia features

Morning Report

Prospect Watch

Weekly Chat


Featured Article: John Dreker’s draft updates (pre-draft)

MLB: Feature from Matt

Minors: Extended Spring Training/Lower Level feature

Morning Report

Prospect Watch


Featured Article: International feature from John Dreker

MLB: Feature from Alan

Minors: Extended Spring Training/Lower Level feature

Morning Report

Prospect Watch

There’s going to be a lot of articles. We’ll have a new site design soon that will help manage it all, so daily articles don’t get lost in the mix. There will be something for everyone, and plenty for those who read everything on the site. Most of the MLB and prospect features will be shorter. The Morning Report duties will be divided up between myself and John Dreker. The one long-form article of the day will be the daily column/feature. So we’re not going to over-load you with six articles that are 2000+ words each.

I’m really looking forward to the coverage for the upcoming season. I’m never really satisfied with where the site is at, and always looking to improve things. But right now I’ll stop that quest momentarily to get excited about where the site is at right now, and what we can accomplish as far as coverage in the upcoming year.

  • I welcome Matt however I do like your trips to get your insights on prospects adjustments and your track of those progressions could be minimized which would be disappointing. Hopefully you can share with the local writers their research to provide that detail.
    Just don’t change too much Tim. As someone said it’s easy to screw up a good thing.

  • Tim, I do enjoy reading your MLB articles with your insight and opinions on the Pirates. I hope you don’t completely abandon it. Part of the reason I signed up for the site was to get your view and thoughts on the big club. Just my 2 cents.

  • At least Pirates be prospects is contrnding

  • JoseGuillensArm
    February 9, 2018 8:04 pm

    Great news, this site is constantly evolving in a time when other major outlets are scaling back. The team assembled here and the timely, thorough coverage provided completely eliminate the need to search for Pirate news elsewhere. This site is worth every penny.

    One small question though; has there been any progress on the iOS app for the upcoming season?

  • Sounds great Tim!

  • One of my daily site checks is the box scores by MLB affiliate. I guess Bucs dugout does a minor league box score recap each day, but I haven’t found that it provides any additional value, there are generally a couple of players you look for from each affiliate, then check their player page to see their recent performance, and then if there’s a line that’s impressive from someone you’ve never heard, you check them out as well.

    I guess for me, I could see some value in a strictly statistical box score recap of the minors that also highlights player trends.

    • We have that already in the Prospect Watch each night.

      • True, two comments on that though.

        1. I think you can remove the the list that starts the column. So many players on that list are pitchers so don’t apply every night and it takes up a lot of space.

        2. The writeup can be wordy and provide unnecessary detail. There are definitely situations where like a starter cruises for the first 5 frames but has a bad 6th inning that blows up the line deserves to be highlighted, but other times game flow information isn’t really important. Especially if it’s a lower level game.

        Just as an example, take a guy like Cole Tucker, started his season terribly last year, but then went on a crazy run to bolster his stats. I would like to see a lot about, when was the turning point, what was his OPS then, what is it since that stretch.

        I know I know, maybe I should get my own site.

        • Thanks for the suggestions. We’ve thought about that for the top section, since it is redundant with the writeups and the box score. We’ve kept it because it’s an easy and quick reference for the top guys in the system.

          As for number two, we’re looking to make the recaps more concise this year, making them less of a blow-by-blow recap, and more of a summary of key points and trends.

          This would accomplish some of what you’re talking about in the Tucker example. The turning point stuff would come in the analysis articles elsewhere on the site.

          • Thanks Tim.

            Let me just reiterate my point. I spend too much time on baseball-reference pulling sample sizes from the game logs section on different pirates prospects.

            Help Me!

            • The Twenty article we posted last year is good for seeing trends when guys start getting hot because a really good week is going to get someone on the list. Once a player makes the list, then you get a nice breakdown of what got them there. We changed it to “21” this year as a little Clemente tribute with an added twist.

              The 21 article is great because it doesn’t care if you’re a prospect or not, have a good week and you’re on. If you start seeing that name repeat, then maybe that person becomes someone to watch closer.

  • rickmontgomery
    February 9, 2018 4:20 pm

    I’m really looking forward to the changes, Tim. As an old, retired guy, one of the highlights of my day is reading PP. More articles to read means I’m in my wife’s way less often. She says thanks.

  • Tim – one request. I’m a box score junkie. I’d rather see the box score than read a recap of last night’s Pirates game. Would it be possible for the site to have a link to the box score so that I don’t have to leave this site and go to ESPN to see it?

  • Re: Prospect coverage…I am reminded of that old Carly Simon song:

    Nobody does it better……….Makes me feel sad for the rest

  • Looks good,

  • Did I miss it. Any news about he app?

  • It seemed to me that John was the first person to report on Elias Diaz’s mother being kidnapped. I’m impressed. Y’all have a great team this year!

    • He was the first to relay the reports. John is always checking news reports out of the DR, Venezuela, and other places, which is why he’s always relaying the information first about signings. Then he uses the contacts he’s built up to get more information on the new players.

      I think without John, we’d only know about a handful of signings by the Pirates this year on the international side, rather than the dozens he’s uncovered in small blurbs in local papers in Latin America.

      • Is John multilingual? It never occurred to me until just now, but I imagine it would be a useful skill for his particular sort of information mining.

        • I know enough Spanish to get by. I can skim through searches quickly and know what they’re about, but sometimes I need translation help on articles or when talking to players. I did not know the word for “kidnap”, so that was new to me when I saw it.

  • rodcobrakeith
    February 9, 2018 2:39 pm

    Looking forward to it Tim. On a side note, I was just in Tampa on Wednesday evening for a business trip. I had to hit up Cigar City, just because. I also went to 7venth Sun on a tip from the bartender. Not bad at all. Angry Chair was on my short list…if you would have just mentioned a day earlier I would have tried out those guys. Oh well, next time.

    • I hardly go to Cigar City anymore. I’m part of their El Catador club, so I get their club-only releases. But other than that, they haven’t been releasing many interesting things in their taproom since their sale to Oskar Blues. Typically it’s the same stuff, which is great if you’re coming in from out of town, but not great if you want to visit them constantly.

      Angry Chair is my go-to in Tampa. 7venth Sun is a good one, and right around the corner from them. Hidden Springs is another good one, and there’s an amazing mead place called Garagiste right next door to them.

      If you go to the north St. Pete area, Rapp has a lot of good beers, and Arkane does amazing sours. Cycle, near downtown St. Pete, is one of my favorites in the area. And Calusa down in Sarasota is a place I go almost weekly.

      If I was traveling in from out of town, I’d probably make a quick stop at Cigar City. But Angry Chair, Cycle, and Calusa would be the must-stop places on my list.

      • Good list Tim. Calusa’s beer is amazing. Angry Chair too although I haven’t visited there yet. Cycle is consistent too although sometimes I don’t like their vibe. They tend to have a touch of snobbery from their staff. Their special releases are usually great. I love Rapp too. They have 30-40 beers on tap always from a little system most breweries would use as a pilot system. They brew their asses off. Their gose is incredible. I love 7venth Sun also. Mad scientists and great artwork. Barley Mow was another brewery I really liked but they are retooling into a more “Florida” theme which to me is disappointing because I loved their art and what they did too. I get sick of everything having to be sunshine, palm trees, and manatees and dolphins. I know I guy I was in the brewing program with that is going to open a brewery in Lakewood Ranch and I expect great things from him. He is really meticulous and won’t be in it to make average stuff. I just talked to him this morning and he can’t tell me the name yet. (Lawyer stuff.)

        • Hopefully that’s the case. I live near Lakewood Ranch and most of the stuff around here is average or worse. Either I drive to west Bradenton to Darwin’s, or I go down to Calusa, with the latter usually winning out.

          Calusa seems to do everything well, with some of the best IPAs in Florida, along with solid work with sours and stouts.

          • I know. I worked at Naughty Monk and didn’t love what we produced. None of the recipes were mine lol. I interned at Darwin and still talk to Matt and Jorge occasionally. Good people. Motorworks is a cool space with hit or miss beer. Some of it is decent.

            • I was told by a few players who are big craft beer guys that I needed to check out Naughty Monk. I went and wasn’t impressed.

              I’ve noticed a lot of the places that start off with a big area like they have usually don’t have good beers. And the places that start off with a small tap room that has nothing to do but drink usually have the good beers. Probably good reason for that. For the first few years I never heard anyone say Motorworks was good. Just that it was a cool place. You need something to bring people back, and if it isn’t beer, it has to be a big space with stuff to do.

          • You ever eat at Turner’s donuts? I drive all the way down there from West St Pete every 3-4 months just to have a donut and coffee in that place with all the old dudes in there. Love that place.