Report From Minor-League Camp

I just returned from Pirate City and what turned out to be a great day. I'm just going to get all this out as quickly as possible before I forget any of it.

-P- I showed up before 9:00 and the minor leaguers were already working out on four fields. I met with Trevor Gooby, the Bucs' Director of Florida Operations, and he gave me a personal tour of the place. I won't describe what I saw in too much detail, because it would read eerily like what Pat wrote last year, but I will say that 1) Trevor Gooby is awesome and 2) it's really hard to square the widespread perception of the Bucs as a cheap, bumbling franchise with what you see at Pirate City. The complex is extremely classy and well-organized, and there are nods to Pirates history all over the place that go to great lengths to instill pride in the minds of the players. I also talked to Frank Coonelly for a few minutes while I was there.

-P- I hung out for a while after that watching the players practice on four separate fields. The players were practicing hitting, bunting, rundowns - routine sorts of things. It was hard to glean too much from it all because there wasn't a lot of action that resembled what you see in games and because batting cages obstructed spectators' views of the players.

-P- After lunch, though, were two concurrent minor league games against the Phillies, and these were just geek central. They were supposed to be AA/AAA games, with the Class A players visiting the Phillies, but they ended up agreeing to switch things around, so instead there were two separate Class A games. Clint Hurdle was on hand to watch the minor leaguers (and to talk to Garrett Atkins - more on that in a second) rather than managing the big league game at McKechnie. Zack Von Rosenberg and Brandon Cumpton were the two first pitchers at one game. Justin Wilson pitched an inning at the other one, but after that it was Hunter Strickland and (I think) Ryan Beckman, so I mostly watched the Von Rosenberg game, although I darted back and forth whenever I thought there would be something interesting. I also watched some of the pitchers warm up in the Bucs' bullpen.

-P- I saw Jeff Inman, a big-bonus pitcher from the 2009 draft, watching the game by himself, so I went over and asked him about his health. He was shut down last year with elbow pain. He said he made a couple of attempts to rehab it but it kept coming back. He pitched in fall instructionals, however, and says he is now healthy and ready to pitch. He doesn't know where he'll be assigned. He also seems like an extremely nice guy.

Keep in mind that the following impressions of the game are just one game, and a Spring Training game at that. As WTM points out in the comments, these pitchers, in particular, might well be throwing harder by the time the season rolls around. So if the velocities all seem rather low, that might have something to do with it.

-P- I talked to a Phillies scout who said that no one who was playing for the Pirates today particularly impressed him, and that they were all in kind of a cluster. That's one way of looking at it. It's true that there was no one blindingly impressive. Jameson Taillon, Stetson Allie, and Luis Heredia didn't pitch. A lot of the guys who did pitch obviously have potential, but right now they seem to be far from finished prospects.

-P- Von Rosenberg didn't impress me much, honestly. He was throwing 86-89. There wasn't a ton of zip on his pitches, and the Phillies were hitting a lot of them hard. Again, that might well be different in a month or so.

-P- Atkins was DHing in both the games at the same time, so he got about 87 at bats against Class A pitching today. He hit two homers that I saw, proving that Garrett Atkins can hit Class A pitching. Hooray! Hurdle appeared to spend a lot of his time giving Atkins hitting instruction.

-P- Backing Von Rosenberg in the field - and this may not be a complete list - were Gerlis Rodriguez at first, Adalberto Santos at second, Yhonathan Barrios at shortstop, Eric Avila at third, and Kawika Emsley-Pai behind the plate. Gregory Polanco and Dan Grovatt were in the outfield and so was (if I remember correctly) Mel Rojas Jr. Barrios muffed three balls at shortstop that I saw. Santos played outfield last year, but it appears they're at least looking at him as a second baseman. Polanco looks athletic and fast - he botched an awkward steal attempt at one point and got caught in a rundown, but nearly made it to third anyway because of his speed.

-P- Cumpton mostly sat at around 89-90 MPH.

-P- I got to watch Ryan Hafner, who was signed to a big bonus last year, a fair amount. He has a pretty good fastball that sits at 89-91 MPH, and a big body. His breaking ball needs a ton of work, though. It just doesn't move a whole lot, and he doesn't appear to locate it well at all, often leaving it up in the zone. It looks like he'll be a project.

-P- Joely Rodriguez pitched in the bullpen and in the other game. He has a 90-91 MPH fastball that looks like a pretty good pitch - it has a ton of movement. Again, though, I'm not really sure what he has going on in terms of offspeed stuff. In the game, he threw a couple of pitches that were considerably softer than his fastball, around 84 MPH, but the guys charting pitches behind the plate had to debate among themselves about whether to call them changeups or sliders, which probably isn't a great sign. Still, he's only 19.

-P- Barrett Phillips pitched in the Von Rosenberg game and was not especially impressive. He threw his fastball at around 86 MPH and struggled to control it.

-P- Of all the non-Atkins offense I saw today, the hardest contact came from Justin Howard and Kevin Mort, which isn't necessarily surprising, since they were both signed out of college.

-P- A couple of general impressions of guys who weren't playing: Jorge Bishop and Ping-Hung Chi are both really small. I can't conclusively say whether Trent Stevenson gained weight, but I think he did. While he's still slender, he doesn't look like Manute Bol anymore. And although Luis Heredia didn't pitch, he was obviously soaking up every minute of the action and clearly having a ton of fun, and he seems to be one of the more popular guys in camp despite being only 16.

-P- The guy who made this awesome video starring Fernando Perez was there collecting autographs.

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