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Pirates Q&A: Pirates Roster Decisions, Future Transactions, and System Analysis


Here’s the first batch of answers from our now weekly Q&A feature. We’ve got one other batch of answers coming this weekend (focusing on some prospect questions) along with one or two articles for next week on subjects we wanted to expand upon. Today’s article gets everything else, including a few plugs for the 2019 Prospect Guide, which you can purchase for 10% off using the code “10YEARGUIDE”.

Here are the questions and my answers:

Spring Training Decisions

Yark – Assuming 1 position player will be added from outside the org(anywhere) and 1 pitcher(either sp/rp) how do you see the bottom of the 25 man and playing time in Indy looking? Altoona promotions etc

Jim Deweese – Who’s the 26th man…Reyes or Osuna

Tim: Answering both of these at the same time. If it’s between Reyes and Osuna, I’d think Reyes would get the job due to his versatility. I’m not sure how the final spots will play out until Spring Training comes around. Last year I would have guessed 13 position players, only for the Pirates to go with an extra reliever.

Right now I see the lineup as mostly set, unless they’re still looking for a shortstop. The bench will have Elias Diaz, Jung Ho Kang, at least one of Kevin Newman or Erik Gonzalez, and two more spots open for Spring Training competitions. John had a good look earlier this week at the chances for the NRI guys. We’ll have our Spring Training tracker up next week, looking at the chances of everyone making the team.

Other Transaction Questions

SalemPirate – With hindsight being what it is, did the PBC err in the Archer trade? I base this on the fact that there’s been hardly any improvement on the roster thus far during the off season. IMO Archer was an overpay. If you’re going to acquire players claiming you’re being competitve in the fuuture, should not continue?

Tim: I don’t think they did. They improved the roster by adding Archer. If there’s any mistake highlighted in your question, it’s that they haven’t further improved the roster after the trade. And they’ve actually done that in small ways with the addition of Lyles and Chisenhall, but I think they can do much more than what they’ve done so far.

AttyMike – Dickerson gets traded or extended this season?

Tim: Depends on what plays out during the season. If they’re not contending at the deadline, and if he’s having another good year, I could see a trade happening. I also think the performances of Bryan Reynolds and Jason Martin will impact that decision. If neither of them can step up as a replacement option, then the Pirates would need to consider keeping Dickerson around. The extension decision doesn’t need to be decided during the season though.

George M – Since the Yankees have stocked up on half the relief pitching market, should the Pirates try to bring back Tarpley to be the left hander their pen so badly needs? NY obviously has use for him now, what prospect value would it take?

Tim: I liked Tarpley when he was in the system. Good guy and a good arm. I wouldn’t yet say that he’s the lefty the pen badly needs, since he has nine innings in the majors with an alarming walk rate and a strikeout rate higher than any number he’s put up in the minors. He’d be an interesting young option and a candidate to make the team, but I don’t think he’d have any more of a guarantee of opening the season in the majors here.

rickmontgomery – We’ve talked a lot about various free agent possibilities, but not so much about trade possibilities. If you were the GM, who specifically would you go after and who would you be willing to give up to close the deal?

Tim: It’s hard to talk about trade possibilities, since you don’t always know who is available. I think shortstop is the big weakness for the 2019 club, so that would be the position I would target. I’m not sure of the complete list of available players, but targeting shortstop is my simple answer to the question.

ironmike56 – Let’s assume no more salary dumps (as in Cervelli) are in the immediate future and the GM has the freedom to add $12-14M to this year’s payroll. What two positions would you like to see the Pirates upgrade by signing free agents and who specifically would you target?

Tim: Shortstop and you can never have too much pitching. I don’t even think they need to trade Cervelli and clear his salary to find upgrades. And I’m saying that as someone who thinks they could sign Machado, get to just over $100 M, and probably afford it.

Darkstone42 – We discussed Machado quite a bit last week, but I’d like to think about a different high-priced FA instead: Dallas Keuchel.

If the Pirates don’t intend to bolster the offense, why not sell-out on run prevention? I’d anticipate Keuchel getting less than Machado, both in yearly salary and term, because he’s not the top of his position and he’s some years older, but he’s likely still got productive years ahead.

What kind of deal do you expect him to get, and what kind of deal would make sense for the Pirates with their current young arms and Keller on the way?

Tim: Honestly, I think that their best approach would be the one they have — going with a reclamation type guy in Jordan Lyles and putting money toward other positions (I’m assuming they will do the latter, although that’s not guaranteed, and I wouldn’t predict Machado at all). Their approach in 2016 was to go for Niese and Vogelsong to bridge the gap to prospects. The problem is that Niese and Vogelsong had little to no upside. I can see an argument for upside with Lyles, or with an opener strategy, meaning they might not be desperately counting the days until Keller arrives.

You Should Buy the Prospect Guide

jpulver8 – Which minor league player do you believe will go from basically an unknown to a legit prospect this year? And what do they most need to improve on to get that kind of recognition.

Mark H – PP seems to have been higher than others on Pablo Reyes as he progressed through the Pirates system. He has produced at every level and he is a fun player to watch. He seems to have confidence in himself and that unexplainable “it” factor to possibly be a successful major leaguer. Are there any current players in the system that you could see flying under the radar and end up knocking on the door of the big league club?

Tim: We’re currently working on the part of the Prospect Guide covering the players outside of the top 50. I usually have a better idea of a breakout player after that process, and during the minor league part of Spring Training.

jimmyz – Which positions of the Pirates farm system do you think have the most and least depth?

Tim: A quick look at the depth chart in the book confirms what I thought off the top of my head. Shortstop is the best area of depth, with five of the top 26 prospects leading the way. Catcher is the weakest area, although you could also make an argument for third base, since all of the guys behind Ke’Bryan Hayes project as bench players at best, or more likely Quad-A guys. I say catcher because there isn’t a prospect like Hayes at the position who could profile as a starter, or at least more than just a defense-first starter.

JamosLN50 – Can we get a deep dive on the state of relievers in the system? It seems like the pipeline is stronger than in years past. Is that due to a change in approach? A re-evaluation of reliever value? How does the pipeline today compare to 3 or 6 years ago? Also why do they stay loyal to Never when he’s left a lot to be desired?

Are there any current SPs whose stuff would play up especially well if they were moved to relief? For instance, it was suggested that Hearn could’ve made the pros as a reliever very quickly. Perhaps Escobar, Bido, Robles, Vieaux?

Tim: I think the reliever depth is looking good, although I don’t think it’s a change in approach. I think it has more to do with the rotation in the majors being in a better place, which has led to the Pirates being quicker to move guys to the bullpen, or keep them there from the start. Even some of the guys who we list as starters (Brandon Waddell, Cam Vieaux, Eduardo Vera, Luis Escobar) will probably end up in relief with the Pirates due to their current rotation options. But the Pirates have also done a good job of getting a lot of interesting hard throwing relievers through various avenues, leading to a better chance of getting a good reliever for the majors (which already worked out this past year with the emergence of Richard Rodriguez, Kyle Crick, and Edgar Santana).

Quick Hits

tmcgowan – What changes have you been able to see to the analytics down at Pirate City from several years ago? Some players talk now of detailed analytics on side/bullpen sessions as they work on different pitches and see it in real time. Any insights like that which you have personally witnessed?

Tim: I think the biggest thing has been the addition of trackman data to every park, including Pirate City. This has been going on for a few years.

rickmontgomery – Tim, when is the wedding and are we all invited?

Tim: It’s March 16th, right in the middle of Spring Training. I’m torn on the invites. If I invite everyone, it means I don’t have to write a ton of articles beforehand to make it seem like I’m still in Bradenton, since everyone would be at the wedding and no one would be reading the site.

piraddict – What changes in approach do you think that the Pirates’ new hitting coaches will implement, and will that change in philosophy permeate through the whole system?

Tim: I don’t have an answer for this, but I’m hoping to get an answer during the early days of Spring Training, especially with any changes that might pertain to Josh Bell or Gregory Polanco.

JamosLN50 – How does the PP staff plan out the content calendar? Seems like a grueling process but you guys keep churning out hits. Wouldn’t mind a peek behind the curtain…

Tim: We take it in turns to act as sort of executive officer of the week. But all decisions of that officer have to be ratified at a special biweekly meeting by a simple majority, in the case of purely internal affairs, but by a two-thirds majority, in the case of more major…

JamosLN50 – Is there any precedent for a poor fielder catching on at the keystone a la Adam Frazier? I find it hard to believe that he can just become a good fielder in one year / offseason… the guy has only obsessed over baseball his whole life. Why now?

Tim: I wouldn’t say that Frazier has figured it out, since you typically need a few seasons of data to tell whether a player is good defensively. Josh Harrison had a similar start, where he became a much better defender in the infield after more reps. But Harrison also wasn’t that bad of a defender when he came into the league.

Pedro Alvarez might be a good example of a guy who showed measurable improvements. His range went from -2.2 his rookie year to 2.5 in 2013, and his UZR/150 went from -5.6 to -2.8. The problem was that his improvement in range came at the same time that he forgot how to throw, with his many throwing errors hiding those improvements.

The lesson here would be that we need to see if Frazier can maintain what he showed in the second half last year, while maintaining the skills he already has working for him.

JamosLN50 – What’s the one injury the Pirates can not afford this season if they’re going to contend?

If the Pirates are far out of the playoff picture, do you envision a sell off this Summer?

Tim: I’d say Archer or Taillon, since their strength is so heavy on the rotation. As for selling, I think it would be more of 2016/2017 where they only trade guys who are under contract for another year or less.

Bill Harvey – In your article on one of the questions from last week, you said you could not find any correlation between infield defense in 2018 than in 2013. I read an article a few months back that showed batted ball data for each position, it was structured around wether bad defensive SS’s like Correia needed to move off of the position. Essentially, the infield is seeing less ground balls at every position, but none more than SS. However, SS still see the most groundballs of all infielders.

My question is this, if this is true the case, does it matter if a team has a great defensive SS? Couldn’t they get by with one that isn’t horrible defensively, but provides offensive value? On a team like the Pirates, they could use all the offense they can get.

Tim: I hope that the takeaway from that article is that you don’t necessarily need a good defender at any position, as long as you can make up for it in other areas. I think the Pirates have a bigger need for offense than infield defense. They shouldn’t ignore infield defense, but if they’re prioritizing one thing, I’d go for an infielder who can boost the offense.

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Tim Williams
Tim Williams
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.

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