There were some interesting things developing in Spring Training 1.0 and as this short season starts to play out, here are 10 things I don’t want to lose sight of.
- Which Polanco Shows Up – Gregory is arguably the most gifted athlete on the club. And he has failed to gain traction due to injury and a lack of consistency. If Polanco is a homerun threat and looks like he could throw out a runner who made a bad choice heading to 2nd it’s a huge upgrade for the Pirates over what they had last season. Believe in him or not, he has the most potential of anyone who didn’t contribute last season.
- How Does Cole Tucker Get At Bats – Cole could very well be a nice weapon from both sides of the plate but Newman or Frazier will have to fall off the table or suffer an injury to find out. It’d be nice to get a handle on what he is sooner than later.
- Ke’Bryan Hayes to be a Rookie – If he starts out on the MLB roster and goes 10 for 20, breathe, he’s a rookie. If he starts out 2 for 20, breathe, he’s a rookie. If he hits 2 homeruns all season long, he’s not a power bust, he’s, say it with me, a rookie.
- Kevin Newman’s Bat – The Stats experts have predicted Kevin crashing back to reality in 2020, and honestly, it’s there. The numbers absolutely show he is primed for regression. If Kevin is again getting on base and collecting hits it might be fair to say twice is no fluke.
- Colin Moran Hitting Lefties – Colin did well in limited opportunities hitting left handed pitching. If he can again handle it well he makes an excellent DH candidate even if he doesn’t ultimately hold down 3B.
- Joe Musgrove’s Curveball – Joe has a wicked curveball. We saw him start to lean on it more as the season progressed in 2019. Look for him to mix it in with more regularity under Marin and become a little bit more of a swing and miss threat than he was under Searage.
- Bryan Reynolds as a Sophomore – As is legend, the sophomore season is one of the toughest a young player can go through. First, this is a very short season and we won’t get as much information as we’d like. Second, it should be expected that the league has done some homework. Bryan isn’t exactly going to fly under the radar being either the best or second best hitter on the club. Nowhere to hide, but something tells me he likes it that way.
- Josh Bell’s new throwing motion – Josh is a tireless worker. Sometimes that looks like Sidney Crosby, for less than generational talents it tends to look more like Josh Bell. Constantly fine-tuning and finding things that work in spurts. His defense was a focus in 2019 and it improved, this season he rebuilt (with coaching help) his mechanics for throwing the baseball. If he is a 1B vs a DH Josh’s value both to the Pirates and a potential trade grow exponentially. Never underestimate someone with this kind of work ethic. If he wants to improve, he will.
- Kyle Crick’s Control – Kyle has an incredible slider and a fastball to match. As 2019 dragged it’s bloody body across the finish line, Kyle found himself on the IL but prior to that he had completely lost the ability to place his slider. Batters learned much like we saw with Liriano years ago, that if you wait out Crick, you’ll either walk or get a fat one. Pick up spin? Spit on it. No spin, swing. He must be able to paint the corner with that slider or he is a dinger machine.
- Chad Kuhl’s Fastball – Before Chad went on the IL, ultimately requiring Tommy John, he was hitting triple digits on the gun and had just started to develop his secondary pitches into Lefty outs. This shortened and oddball Spring may have pushed Chad to the pen but there is still no reason we can’t watch to see how his bag of tools look now.
This club may not be good this year, but these story lines will be fun to follow as we watch them play. What do you think?