News yesterday out of the Windy City that the White Sox decided to bring up their top pick i the 2020 Draft, Garrett Crochet, and his subsequent debut where he blew away the competition with triple digit stuff really had some Pirate fans wondering why we can’t do the same.
The easy answer is these teams are light years apart in their evolution but somehow I sense that won’t be enough to sway some folks so let’s take a little deeper look.
First let me begin by saying this has almost nothing to do with talent or player evaluation. It has much more to do with the timeline. People love to say the Pirates have punted this year, truthfully, I hate the analogy because team building is much closer to rock climbing. Every solution becomes your next anchor, every placeholder free agent or mid level internal piece is a foot or hand hold as you meander your way up.
The Sox have found themselves reaching the tipping point for their window early, they expected to be competitive in 2021 and over the course of a full 162 game 2020 they could very well have discovered they were right in the first place. So what they’ve done here is decide their first round pick who profiles as a starter can help an area of deficiency right now in the bullpen. In the pen he can get away with firing those fastballs and most nights that’ll be enough to help the club.
So, Gonzales or Cruz could help the Pirates right now too you say? Of course they could, but the difference is to what end. As I said this isn’t really about player evaluation, we know that Gonzales and Cruz could provide some pop but this would be like starting Thanksgiving dinner before you finished grocery shopping. The Pirates are nowhere near competitive so bringing either of them up would do little more than waste their control on a non-competitive team on top of the fact neither are really ready.
You can’t ask a hitter to come up and only face fastballs the way you can exploit that talent from a pitcher. In fact the Pirates could have Mike Trout and Dustin May at Altoona and I’d not recommend bringing them up right now. Next season, sure, but right now all they do is accelerate decisions and take trade opportunities off the table.
There is no quick answer when your team is literally building from the ground up. Let’s say next season the Pirates go on a run. Ok, I’ll pause here for laughter to subside. It’s not about this scenario being plausible, it’s more about explaining this situation.
So the Pirates somehow leverage Taillon returning, Kuhl and Keller improving, maybe Brault and Brubaker really keep evolving, and it becomes a fairly effective starting rotation. They find themselves in contention out of nowhere because the NL Central stinks and things just fell right for them. Reynolds looks like himself, Hayes doesn’t suffer the sophomore slump etcetera, etcetera, you get it, improbable success smacks them in the face.
Then if you want to think about rushing a guy to the show because they have something that will play like Tanaj Thomas in the back end of the pen, ok you consider it. The benefit of what he can provide in the short term makes the sacrifice of his service time worthwhile.
That’s just not where the Pirates are. I know it’s easy to see what the team is now and imagine that most of the players could be replaced with youngsters and actually improve, but it just isn’t true. We see Hayes come up and be the best player on the team, and no I don’t think that’s a stretch at the moment, so of course we infer that there are others who could be just as much of an upgrade. This system has some very nice talent, but not enough, certainly not enough to throw away everyone who is here with no return to do so.
Writing something like this is tough, I’m essentially telling you to be patient. Telling a fan base that has seen a handful of winning seasons in 40+ years to calm down and wait isn’t exactly a fun message to convey, especially when you don’t really have much evidence yet that this management team is actually heading in the right direction.
If you’re just looking for reasons to believe, a good start would be properly using what is here and not continuing to play bad cards.
The Pirates, right this minute have internal, ready options that could make this team better and they refuse to use any of them. Right now they could move Williams to the pen and replace him with Ponce. You’d find out about a young starter and answer a question about Williams potentially helping the pen. In other words, you could find out if he is someone who should be here next season regardless of their ability to get a deal done while simultaneously learning more about a young pitcher who has impressed in his three starts already.
Jared Oliva was expected to make his debut this season and the Pirates are struggling with outfield production and finding someone to hit leadoff consistently. He could be here right now, rather than watching Frazier play cavernous left field and do his best with his infielder’s arm. He could give you a reason to sit Polanco who there just isn’t a list of questions to answer anymore. He will be here next season and if you want to see him improve, wait for Spring, meanwhile wouldn’t it be nice to get a look at Oliva now?
Blake Cederlind could have come up a bit earlier but we’ll never know exactly when he fully recovered from his COVID case. Even so, no reason to pretend he isn’t the best internal option to close games, let’s see it, well, if they ever have a save situation again that is.
I’m sure there are others, I’m also sure with so few games remaining this is a pointless conversation because it’s damn near hindsight, but suffice to say, they had very real options to use youth that would have made sense.
When you’re talking about bringing up a guy who hasn’t played one game at any level beyond college, it’s important to keep in mind who that type of player is, that’s a Griffey, or Harper or Strasberg, and while I’m quite sure Nick Gonzales will be a very good MLB player one day, those three he is not.
So as painful as it is, expect improvement next season, even if slight. Pray that Shelton has managed this season like he has no clue at times because of the oddity involved and injuries. Hope the Cherington has a plan and begins in earnest to implement it this off season. But whatever you expect, please don’t expect this club to take one or two of the very few potential stars and completely skip the development part of the equation, because they won’t, nor should they.