-P- Travis Sawchik has an interesting article about infielder Cole Figueroa, who really sounds like the Pirates' kind of player:
Seeing the vast amount of data pouring into the game, and thinking about how to take advantage of it, he began to teach himself code, ‘R,' or programming language.
He spent hours at Coursera.org — the Web site reassures a new visitor one can "Code Yourself!" — where there are step-by-step instructions in learning how to code and program.
With his nascent coding skills, he began to research and refine data given to him by the Rays, though the Rays kept much of their data off limits from their proprietary database.
He created models to understand how a player with his skills would age. He studied players with similar physical and statistical profiles. He studied what skills would age well, which would age poorly. In three consecutive seasons in Triple-A, he improved his on-base percentage.
This is fascinating stuff. The Rays sound like a good organization for a player curious about this kind of thing to be in, and here's hoping the Pirates are as well. Figueroa is the kind of player you'd think, from his stat line, would be very cerebral -- his high on-base percentages, high walks totals and low strikeout totals in the minors suggest that he's trying to make the most of every pitch and has developed some idea of how to do that, despite not having a whole lot of power. Of course not all players with that profile are concerned about coding or statistics, but it's interesting to see that Figueroa is.
-P- Jung Ho Kang still isn't ready to run the bases at full speed, trainer Todd Tomczyk tells Stephen A. Nesbitt. Kang could rejoin the Bucs in mid to late April.
By my count, that opens the door for someone like Figueroa -- who Neal Huntington said in December would be "given every chance in the world to make our club" -- to find a roster spot. With David Freese in the lineup, Chris Stewart, Michael Morse, Sean Rodriguez and Matt Joyce figure to take four bench spots. That leaves a spot that could go to someone who can play shortstop, like Figueroa or Pedro Florimon.
-P- Another candidate, although one I'm guessing has less of a shot, is Gift Ngoepe, who Bill Brink profiles today. Ngeope stopped switch-hitting last year and hit .257/.333/.352 playing much of the year at Altoona and then moving up to Indianapolis. That's not bad for a player whose calling card has always been his glove.