Pirates Prospect Daily: Valentin Linarez’s 2022 Season Feels Familiar

When looking at Bradenton’s rotation last season, most of the attention rightfully went to some of the other bigger names, like Anthony Solometo and Bubba Chandler.

As two of the bigger prospects in the system, it’s not a surprise they caught most of the headlines over the course of the season.

Valentin Linarez pitched the majority of the 2021 season in the Florida Complex League, making a brief cameo in Greensboro to close out the season. He began the 2022 season in Bradenton, and got off to a rough start.

As the year continued to unfold, Linarez kept getting better and quickly put that rough start behind him — over half of the earned runs he allowed throughout 2022 came in April and May.

Linarez finished the season with a 3.97 ERA, holding opponents to a .207 average while posting a 25.2% and 11.9 BB% strikeout and walk rate, respectively. His cameo with Greensboro went a lot better in 2022 than it did the year before (7.2 innings, 2 ER, 7 K). 

While he didn’t put up the eye popping strikeout numbers that Luis Ortiz did back in 2021 with Bradenton, there are still a lot of parallels between the two.

Both were on the older end for Single-A (Linarez is 22-years-old), and have the typical starting pitcher frame (Linarez is 6’5″, 225 pounds).

The thing that really helped Ortiz’s rise in 2022 was the jump in his velocity, going from a consistent mid-90s all the way to be able to hit triple digits on a regular basis.

Linarez certainly has the frame that may allow for more velocity, and he does hit the mid-90s with his fastball right now. He also throws a pretty good slider, that also got some positive notes from FanGraphs, and has been working on his changeup as well.

It’s hard to predict the kind of jumps that Ortiz had onto anyone else, as a lot has to go right to see it.

If there is one player in the lower levels that has been throwing up the same kind of signs, it would be Linarez.

Highlight of the Day

Pirates Prospects Daily

By Tim Williams

**Wilbur Miller’s latest column looked at the service time manipulation concerns with top prospects like catcher Endy Rodriguez. I’ll have some thoughts on this below, in the P2Weekly section.

**Roberto Perez made his debut in Puerto Rico. The free agent catcher is looking to show he’s healthy in winter ball. John Dreker has more in his latest winter league updates.

**Missed yesterday? Anthony looked at how the rotations at each level are shaping up.

Song of the Day

Pirates Prospects Weekly

Wilbur Miller had some thoughts about giving Endy Rodriguez a chance to make the Opening Day roster.

WTM: The Pirates Could Be Sending a Bad Message to Their Young Players

I watched Rodriguez this year in Altoona, right at the start of his amazing finish to the season. If we are talking about whether his bat is ready for the majors, there is no question in my mind that he is ready for a shot on that side of the ball.

The thing holding him back right now might just be the lack of experience behind the plate. There’s not much the Pirates could have done about this. They had Rodriguez starting the 2022 season behind Henry Davis.

It’s a huge credit to Rodriguez that he not only planted himself clearly in the catching picture, but that he used the 2022 season to surpass Davis on the catching depth charts.

The defensive skills from Rodriguez are strong, with a flawless, almost second nature transfer ability on throws down to second.

I would imagine the Pirates want Rodriguez getting more work with pitchers, game calling, and managing the flow of a game at the higher levels.

Likewise, I would think it would benefit the younger pitchers in the Majors to work with a more veteran catcher — and it’s unfortunate they didn’t get that chance last year with the injury to Roberto Perez.

There is definitely a service time benefit the Pirates will receive in keeping Rodriguez down. That’s become pretty standard of teams to take advantage of across the game. This sucks for Rodriguez, but the blame here goes to MLB and the MLBPA for keeping this system in place.

The Pirates aren’t really in position to not use this tactic, unless they can find a way to start offering pre-MLB Debut long-term extensions.

At least Rodriguez can try to aim for the new Pre-Arbitration Bonus Pool when he does arrive in 2023.

The biggest strength of Rodriguez is that he’s a quick learner and quick to implement new things. There’s a valid argument that he could accomplish a lot in a little bit of time in the minors.

It’s not unreasonable to think that Rodriguez could make huge strides behind the plate in just a single month in Triple-A in 2023.

I think he will be the starting catcher in Pittsburgh for more games in 2023 than anyone else, regardless of when he arrives.

Our latest Roundtable will go up on the site on Thursday.

Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.

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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pittsburghbob69

I don’t think Linarez has the control Ortiz has or even had to start with. Every time I watch him, I want to like him, but the ball just seems to get away from him too much. You can even see it some in the clip you posted. And the velo varys too much for me.

Again, I want to like him, I just don’t see it.

Last edited 1 month ago by pittsburghbob69
pittsburghbob69

And not to keep souring on the past but I’m taking Domingo Gonzalez, Trey McGough, Joe Jacques, Austin Roberts and probably even Peter Solomon and Cristian Charle over Linarez. And twice on Sundays, Joelvis.

ST1300b

Is it just me or does it look uncomfortable for a righty to face Linarez? Something about his motion seems like he’s aiming at them! Lol
Anyone know his splits?

NMR

It reeeaaally feels like we’re conflating the “service time manipulation” issue.

Manipulation of service time was never about whether or not to skip prospects over entire levels of minor league baseball!

Kris Bryant is the poster child specifically because he dominated AAA over an extended period the season prior to him being held back. Absolutely nobody was calling it service time manipulation when the Cubs advanced him from AA to AAA instead of straight to the show.

We’ve somehow divorced this topic from whether or not it actually benefits the team and player.

We just had a historic number of top 100 prospects make their debut on opening day rosters last year. Why don’t we see any articles on whether or not their teams actually benefited from it? Shouldn’t that be materially important to this discussion?

Last edited 1 month ago by NMR
joesolo6181

I like Linares size and was impressed by his second half performance. It seemed like something clicked. Lets see what next season brings. May be the pirates found a way to develop at least one pitcher.

emjayinTN

The Pirates system has a lot of pitching – we will get to see how well we have developed a lot of them in 2023. The Rotations at MLB and AAA look strong and contain a lot of guys who may stay longer than 6 years for the Pirates in MLB.

Then there is a group in A and lower that can all develop into MLB caliber SP’s, led by Jared Jones, Anthony Solometo, Bubba Chandler, Thomas Harrington, Hunter Barco, and Michael Kennedy.

Valentin Linarez is part of the group in between. Some of the pitchers around him are Adrian Florencio, 23, Santiago Florez 23, ?Brennan Malone? 22, and Eddie Yean who is still only 21. 2023 will be a test to see who can achieve “Trade Status”, because there is very little hope they can progress in the Pirate System.

joebaseball

“The biggest strength of Rodriguez is that he’s a quick learner”
Since one of the important issues with catchers is pitcher communication, and some Bucs pitchers speak English and some Spanish, is this a problem with either Rodriguez or Davis?

Tim Williams

It’s not an issue for Rodriguez. I discussed that in the article linked. I’m not sure about Davis and Spanish. I just haven’t had a chance to ask him about that yet.

Zack

I hope Endy has an absolutely incredible spring. I’d like to see what Shelton has to say when he’s watching Endy do his thing in person every day.

Regardless, they need to sign more catchers. Both for the major league club and for triple a.

Ethan Hullihen

The implication that at any point service time manipulation is the fault of the players bugs me.
They recognize that this will happen under any system in which days are counted as they are.
So, they attempt a very reasonable free agency qualifier based on age, but are rebuffed.
They try and wipe out Super 2 entirely, making arbitration 4 years. No go. So then substantially increase the Super 2 group, but no dice.
So they try and significantly increase what prospects can gain an extra of service via preformance. Nope, not that either.
In the end, the owners won’t even recognize that the problem the players want solved, because they know they can’t. So it’s “alleged service time manipulation”. And instead of some kind of punishment for manipulation, they are rewarded for doing what they should be doing anyway.
Luckily, I believe in psychology that rewarding good behavior is more beneficial than punishing bad, so at least there’s that.
Anyway, place the blame on those who are doing something wrong, no one else.

Last edited 1 month ago by Ethan Hullihen
tventimiglio

If this is important to players they need to sacrifice something in return. Concessions are not usually given without something in return.

b mcferren

for service time manipulation, why doesn´t the league just change the date that the clock turns to the second game of the season instead of mid June?

Last edited 1 month ago by b mcferren
Ethan Hullihen

Because that would mean a change to the Super 2 system, which as I stated, was a no go.

b mcferren

could you please elaborate? its just a date

such a simple change would have a profound affect on the problem

Ethan Hullihen

When you say “mid June”, my assumption was that you’re talking Super 2–generally the date assumed that prospects will fall below the projected Super 2 figure.

Of course, there is no such “date” on the calendar–it’s not as if it’s June 12th on the MLB calendar, it’s based on the top 22% of players in service between 2 and 3.000 years. So, it’s not the same every year, it changes every offseason, and isn’t even known for at least 2 more years from when teams try to game it.

So, again, if you mean teams call up a player in mid-June, you likely mean they are trying to avoid the player reaching Super 2 status. The players essentially tried to do what you’re suggesting–making it the top 80% of players between 2 and 3.000 years, which would have effectively moved the date up in the calendar significantly. However, the owners wouldn’t even entertain it, so we’re left with the same set up as we were, save the picks awarded for rostering players for a full season and being penalized if players win awards even after not being rostered all year and still gaining a full year of service (see Harris II and Rutschman this year).

Wilbur Miller

That last sentence — How radical!!

emjayinTN

Thank you, excellent read, very educational.

There are small to mid market teams who are thriving in this system – Tampa Bay and Atlanta are two of them. They have excellent front office management, excellent Field Managers and Coaches, and have proven that smart people can work within the guidelines that favor the major markets.

Another small market team that can play with the big guys is Oakland. They do well, then the rest of MLB harvest their FA’s, and then they start again. Almost every expert liked the Brewers or Atlanta as the winners in the Murphy trade. Oakland got another young excellent starting OF, and 3 solid, young pitchers, 2 of whom will see the mound in MLB in 2023.

skliesen

Atlanta is a regional team. Now that they built a new stadium in a more desirable part of town, surrounded by hotels, shopping, bars and restaurants, fans from all over the SE come and spend their money to watch the Braves.

Their revenues may not be on same level as LA, Chicago, NY and maybe a couple others, but they certainly make enough to afford a $200 + million payroll. In no way they should be compared to TB & Oakland in a MLB economic discussion.

roberto

Tampa has a metro population twice that of Pittsburgh. Atlanta’s is more than triple.

TNBucs

I don’t know about Atlanta as “small to mid market” but I’ve been thinking for several years that the Brewers should be considered the model small market team, or at least equal to the Rays. From what I’ve read about that trade, the Braves did well as they got what they wanted but the Brewers did exceptional as they got a player who is likely to be an above average starter for them for years for a prospect that profiled as a 4th OF.

It’s not unusual for me to think “how did they do that” with a Brewers move; what keeps the Pirates from engaging in moves like that? We need a catcher and Contreras would have been a great fit as he appears to have the bat to DH if someone comes along to move him off catcher.

skliesen

I think there’s a good chance this is a byproduct of the Archer deal. The one time they roll the dice in this type deal, it blows up in their face and costs the GM his job. Whether it’s Nutting or BC I’m not sure, but clearly the Pirates are a world-class risk adverse organization since then.

Cocktailsfor2

Before some grammar nazi attacks you, the usual phrase is ‘risk averse.’

it is useful to remember that there is a distinction in meaning between the two words — you might well say that you are averse to having an adverse reaction, but you would not say that you are adverse to having an averse reaction.

skliesen

Thanks, Mr. Hand. Now can I have my pizza back?

Cocktailsfor2

You’re absolutely right, Mr. Skliesen. It is our time. Yours, mine and everyone else’s in this room. But it is *my* class.

Mr. Skliesen has been kind enough to bring us a snack. Be my guest. Help yourselves. Get a good one!

skliesen

I feel sorry for those not old enough to appreciate this.

Cocktailsfor2

Truly.

And Kevin Kline is indeed a lucky man, ifyaknowwhatimean…

skliesen

Indeed!

TNBucs

I’ve wondered about that too because Cherington just seems so conservative when it comes to making moves. The major leaguer for prospects trades are easy–you can always point to the upside at the time of the trade and if the prospects don’t pan out, well most don’t make it anyway. Great way to maintain job security.

The time may not have been right, yet, to make bolder moves, the kind where you come out looking brilliant or like an idiot ;). But at some point the Pirates are going to need to make those types of moves and, obviously, get them right if we’re going to catch the Brewers, Cardinals, and Cubs who are known for bold moves (of course in the latter two cases, it’s a lot easier when you have their resources).

NMR

Amen. Matt Arnold and Ben Cherington are on philosophically opposite poles.

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