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Monday, December 5, 2022

Pirates Prospects Daily: The Pirates Continue to Focus on First Base

The Pittsburgh Pirates have been addressing their first base position in the early part of this offseason.

Earlier this month, the Pirates added Ji-Man Choi in a trade with the Rays. On Tuesday, they claimed Lewin Diaz off waivers from the Miami Marlins.

Choi and Diaz are both left-handed hitting first basemen, and neither stand out as full-time starting options. The Pirates have needs at first base and DH, so it’s possible that both could end up playing on the same team.

What’s interesting is that these two first basemen are complete opposites.

Diaz excels defensively, but has struggled offensively. Choi is the opposite, struggling on defense, but doing well offensively. The difference between the two on defense can be the equivalent of a full win. Offensively, we haven’t seen much from Diaz, while Choi can hit enough to justify his role as a starter.

Chances are that Diaz is a standard waiver claim, with no guarantee for the roster. That said, it looks like there’s a clear issue with his swing in the last year.

Diaz saw a massive decline in his barrel rate in 2022, along with a continued decline in launch angle to pair with his increase in ground balls. He made less hard contact, and saw his power drop from 2021. Diaz seems to have more power than Choi, although Choi gets on base more often. Between the two, the Pirates might be able to get a 1-2 WAR first baseman.

It would be interesting if the Pirates could figure things out with Diaz. He just turned 26-years-old, and has five years of control remaining. That said, nothing the Pirates have done would warrant any kind of optimism that they could get Diaz on the right track. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t take the flier on him. It just means we probably shouldn’t be locking him into the 2023 lineup just yet.

Highlight of the Day

Pirates Prospects Daily

**The Pirates claimed Lewin Diaz from the Marlins and designated Hoy Park for assignment.

**Our Article Drop hit the site, with features on Jared Jones, Nick Garcia, Dauri Moreta, Noe Toribio, and John O’Reilly.

**Missed Yesterday? Anthony Murphy looked at the best contact hitters in the Pirates’ system in 2022.

Song of the Day

Pirates Prospects Weekly

Every Tuesday, we release our Article Drop, with all of our features for the week. This week, we went heavy on player features.

Anthony Murphy profiled two Greensboro pitchers who I talked with at the end of the 2022 season.

**Jared Jones: Learning To Trust Stuff Through Development Process

**Nick Garcia: Simplified Approach In Work As A Starter

I looked at Dauri Moreta’s sinker, wondering if he even has such a pitch, or if he just has a really inconsistent four-seam fastball.

**The Mystery of Dauri Moreta’s Sinker

Ryan Palencer broke down the seasons for a pair of relievers who finished the year in Indianapolis.

**Noe Toribio Sees Growth As a Reliever

**John O’Reilly Finished Strong After Rollercoaster Season

Pirates Discussion

Weekly Pirates Discussion: Where the 40-Man Roster Stands After Rule 5

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Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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joesolo6181

I hate to say it but the both of them leave a lot to be desired. If they lose Munoz in the rule 5 draft it would be a shame. Seems like another year with limited production and defense.

GlypheNotes

I know nothing about hitting mechanics but looking at his highlights, Diaz’s stride strikes me as very jerky. I can see how that could be impossible to get timing right on a consistent basis. I’m just comparing it to someone like Henry Davis who seems to be in balance and ready throughout his long stride. Diaz’s lower half just lunges as he goes to make contact. Maybe they can work on balance and change the lower half of his swing.

Does anyone think they might let Choi be a switch hitter? He tried it a could years ago and hit a home run.

Danatural08

good observation on his stride, i don’t like the look of it either. Not so much the leg load, but the landing on the front foot & lifting everything after – usually a symptom of trying to hit HR’s, players want to lift the ball. You can see in his videos of HR’s they’re high towering fly balls that barely get over – by lifting thru the impact he doesn’t get the backspin on the ball for good carry.

There’s a youtube video from his preTwin signing & his swing at a young age did have a better path, but it’s obvious that there has been several swing changes over the years with him.

b mcferren

move Reynolds to first base

jaygray007

keep reynolds in the outfield

PirateRican21

Move Davis to 1b already. That’s assuming that he is able to stay healthy and starts hitting upper level pitching.

leefieux

They need to institute a DF (Designated Fielder). Just think how many jobs it would create! I bet the MLBPA would go for it!! 🙂 🙂

Danatural08

Could a team do this already? Like when Ohtani pitches & hits in the same game, could they still have a DH that hits for a different position player? We can do this in the local adult baseball league that’s supposed to be following MLB rules, but not sure if there’s wording in the DH rule that a DH only hits for the pitcher.

leefieux

I am not sure what you’re asking. I think you’d have to have that ‘DF’ bat in that case or use up all of your ‘DFs’.

Danatural08

It’s assumed that a DH is hitting in place of the Pitcher, but if the pitcher is a good hitter, such as Ohtani or Bubba Chandler for example, couldn’t the team allow the pitcher to hit, while DH’ing for a separate position player?

EightMenOut

DH is only allowed for the pitcher

Danatural08

ah, gotcha, thank you

jaygray007

I understand wanting to take a shot at fixing Diaz. What I don’t understand is that they’re essentially picking Diaz as a Rule 5 pick at this point (ie. He needs to be on the mlb roster), and we have talked ad nauseum about how teams don’t pick up thay type of player due to how it hamstrings your roster.

I hope they have a plan to basically hold him as a developmental bench piece until/unless he looks like a good hitter.

An offseason resulting in Choi and Lewin are penciled into 1b amd dh most days would be a failure IMO. Fit lewin in as a powerful bat off the bench and longer term development project? I’m listening. I just domt know if it’s doable on a 26 man roster.

TNBucs

Yeah, this is what keeps me from saying “why not?” because it seems like they’re prioritizing him over Nunez but I’d go with Nunez given the age difference. I do like that he’s a plus defender but if we’re focusing on defense then I might go with another Rule 5 eligible player, Sabol, because of his defensive flexibility.

We’ll see–if they lose Nunez or Sabol while using a roster spot for Diaz, it would appear Littlefield-like. If I was betting, though, I’d bet that they made the right call–if you look at players in teams’ top 30’s, there is a lot of talent left unprotected:

https://www.mlb.com/news/rule-5-draft-prospects-protected-on-40-man-rosters

But if they got it wrong…

jaygray007

i dont think theyre necessarily choosing Diaz over Nunez. I think that they think that they can have both. theyre trying to have both. we’ll see. if i’m the Nats, i’d take Nunez in a heartbeat.

Anthony

You guys are overthinking this…This is ALL about risk managing your roster based on probabilities; THAT IS IT. Diaz is insurance in the unlikely event that Nunez gets taken in the rule 5. This doesn’t mean Diaz is our co-starting 1B or that the FO values Diaz greater than Nunez or that Diaz will still be on the 40-man a month from now.

jaygray007

i dont think the outcome of nunez R5 should really impact their decisions on Diaz. it’s apples and oranges.

if they were going to use a 40 man roster spot on a bad 1b anyway, they shouldve just added Nunez to begin with.

This is about trying to end up with both guys. and thats fine!

im much more concerned with the 26-man-roster building aspect of this.

if things happen in a way that Lewin Diaz is on the 26 man roster, i’m not entirely sure i like the result. he has to be on the roster because of his lack of options.

my opinions are pretty independent of the whole Nunez thing. my opinoins are purely about Diaz’s potential role on a MLB roster.

Anthony

I agree with you; Diaz should not be on the 26-man roster. And, I don’t think he was added for that reason.

jaygray007

what are you saying then?

it sounds like youre saying that Diaz was added as Nunez loss insurance.

That makes no sense, as the cost of adding Diaz (ie. a 40 man spot and a 26 man spot) is higher than the cost of adding Nunez in the first place (a 40 man spot).

Thats like paying for insurance that will pay you out 900k if you make a claim, but you pay a one-time fee of $1 million for the policy.

makes no sense.

Last edited 11 days ago by jaygray007
Anthony

My point is that Diaz is fungible, while Nunez is not. Nunez wasn’t added bc they don’t anticipate him contributing to the MLB team in the near future. Adding him now would lock up another spot on the 40-man and waste an option year. Diaz can be outrighted and sent to AAA if he passes thru waivers. But to answer your question, yes, I think Diaz was added as insurance in the unlikely event that Nunez gets picked in the rule 5. Either way, I think Diaz gets DFA’d at some point this off-season.

Last edited 11 days ago by Anthony
NMR

TNBucs

It doesn’t make much sense to me that they’d claim Diaz as insurance–why commit a 25-man spot when all it took to protect Nunez is a 40-man spot?

I think instead the two decisions are independent–that they don’t think Nunez will be selected and that they liked Diaz more than Park. But when taken together, then it makes less sense to me.

jaygray007

bravo 🙂

adding Diaz is about them independently liking Diaz. factoring in Nunez is just totally galaxy braining it too far. As you said so eloquently, the opportunity cost of adding Nunez to the 40 was a lot lower than the opportunity cost of adding Diaz to the 26 and 40.

Keeping Nunez off the 40 was about them thinking that theyll be able to retain him, off the 40.

Grabbing Diaz was about them thinking Diaz was a worthwhile add to the 40/26.

“let’s keep nunez off the 40 and pick up diaz and add HIM to the 40 and 26 just in case that guy who we kept off the 40 gets picked” is some pretty dumb logic, if that’s what happened.

The cost of adding Nunez was lower than the cost of adding diaz.

these were not related decisions.

Last edited 11 days ago by jaygray007
Anthony

It would be extremely odd for them to go into the regular season with Choi and Diaz as their 1B. There is virtually no complement with that tandem. If they find a RH platoon for Choi, then that would be three 1B’s on the 26/40 and that isn’t going to happen on the 26 let alone the 40. They may “like” Diaz, but there were other motivations for claiming him.

Scam likely

Could be something, why not? Still many dfa’s on the 40 man.

Wilbur Miller

I’d actually say that picking up a declining, third-tier, 31-year-old and a 26-year-old failed prospect are a way of avoiding focusing on a position. It’s more kicking the can down the road.

SBRO

It’s the same uninspired low-probability/low-upside plodding we’ve seen for 3 years now. Honestly, it wouldn’t even take much money to show they’re at all interested in competing.

Miguel Sanó is high-risk, but he’s yours for probably $4-5M, and he hit as recently as 2021. His knees probably won’t let him start more than 50 games in the field, but it’s not like they’re set at DH either. Even if it blew up in Cherington’s face, I’d happily acknowledge the effort.

Or if you want to play it safer and lower ceiling, Carlos Santana has a good glove and hits lefties well; he could platoon with Choi and serve as a pinch hitter/late inning defensive replacement. 37 year-old who won’t be getting any starting gigs and won’t cost more than $2-3M.

Cobra

Vogelbach = smart pickup last year of professional hitter with established MLB power and OBP success

Van Meter, JT riddle, Kai Tom, Alford, Greg Allen, Yoshi = let’s roll the dice that our magic Pirate potion will work on these guys

Not an inspiring track record on guys without past proven MLB success . Lewis Diaz is one of these guys

Pay money for the Sanos, Santanas even Luke Voit to pair up with Choi.

Start building a winning culture –stop holding open auditions during a MLB season like we are a Frontier League team — so that Ke’Bryan doesn’t culturally think it’s ok to take out sunflower seed packets while opposing teams are rounding the bases

SouthernBuc

Cobra, I agree with you on the poor track record and I hope we see less(none soon?) of that each year. I am not as sold on your using Sano and Voit (I can buy into Santana if only for the walks and tough at bats) as examples. They are very poor fielders who have some old history of hitting homeruns. Not sure how they vary greatly from Andujar (risk on defense) who we already have and is younger and more athletic. IMO they are just somewhat more accomplished retreads that teams in contention feel are very expendable.

MB21

I don’t think we on this site like the “most common approach in Pittsburgh.” It’s more than insanity to try the same thing and fail – especially in a repeated cycle over 15 years! How about an actual plan for the position with real players for a change? Even Vogelbach was a question mark (crap shoot?) or they wouldn’t have gotten him so cheap.

adicesa14

Yes, it’s the most common approach we’ve seen in Pittsburgh, but it’s more ‘fan-service’ than baseball related. The Pirates seem to want to show they’re doing something. From what I’m reading on these pages, Choi and Diaz are each potentially half a player, one potentially offensive and the other potentially defensive. To boot they’re both left-handed hitters joining a majority left-handed lineup. I don’t get it. If they want a short-term ‘fix,’ sign one of the right- handed hitting veterans that are available, on a one (or two) year contract. At least, that type might have a positive effect in the clubhouse.

Last edited 11 days ago by adicesa14
bianco599

I’d take LaRoche, his slow starts, and his son in the dugout today if given the option. Adam not Andy.

leefieux

LaRoche was under appreciated in Pgh because of all the hype he got when we traded for him.

SouthernBuc

That is spot on. He was built up to be a All-Star middle of the order power hitter. In fact he was a solid starter who on a real good team likely would have hit 6th (hmm. just like the Braves did most of the time). Overall he did what he was paid for.

bianco599

I don’t remember him ever smiling. I googled Adam LaRoche smiling and most of his smiles were saved for the White Sox. Or when shooting a massive deer or elk.

Last edited 11 days ago by bianco599
leefieux

Apparently he was a quiet, studious guy who had a dry sense of humor.

bianco599

Who could grow a great beard. Could picture his as an actual pirate out on the seven seas swashbuckling.

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