If you want to be lazy about it or ‘funny’ go ahead and say bad. But I’m talking about what type of team it looks like they’re building toward for the window. There are some factors beyond money we’ll talk about and we’ll discuss the type of talent that has been brought in as well as what was already here.
They Will Pitch
Seems so simple, but the talent they’ve amassed and continue to covet is largely on the mound. I think we’ll continue to see that when the team makes their picks in the draft this Summer. In fact 14 of the Pirates top 30 prospects are pitchers, 8 of which were brought in by this regime.
There will be more. Many of you are already in line to get your Rocker jersey and maybe he will indeed be the number one overall pick but it’s almost just as important that players like Carmen Mlodzinski pan out. The Pirates seem to understand that picking a pitcher with your first pick every year and assuming they’ll lead the charge one day ignores how many pitchers you actually need.
One thing I’d really like to see is someone to emerge as a lefty option. Even Cherington has broached this subject almost jokingly saying it wasn’t his intention for every pitcher he’s brought in to be right handed. At this stage, it’s all about best available, but at some point they’ll need to have some options from both sides.
All that said, I love the direction. If there is one thing this team can’t afford to buy, it’s pitching, well, that and our next category.
Who Will Hit the Long Ball?
I don’t mean who can hit 20, that can happen randomly, hell even Kevin Newman hit 12 in 2019 and he had never hit more than 5 in any professional season throughout his career. I call this unexpected power, it’s great when you get it, but in no way do you count on it.
The answer I hear from fans is often Ke’Bryan Hayes, and he certainly has gap power I’ll give you that, but he too has never hit more than 10 over the fence in his career. That doesn’t mean he can’t or won’t develop more but this isn’t Pete Alonzo.
If you want to really see power that seems like a natural part of a player’s game you have to start with Nick Gonzales and the biggest problem there is we have nothing but college to go on and he played at Presley Askew Field, home of the New Mexico State Aggies which happens to sit 3,900 feet above sea level. He has above average power tool and his bat speed is elite. That should allow him to maximize his raw power, we just don’t really know what that translates to.
Cal Mitchell is an outfielder who has shown real pop in his three seasons with the Pirates and his power tool sits around 50-55 which is slightly above average. He’s still filling out and will probably start in AA Altoona this season. In order to hit more homeruns he potentially sold out a little too early causing him to miss more barrels than you’d like to see but most scouts have him pulling back a bit on that and finding his happy medium. So why do I mention him as a power option if he’s slightly above average, well for his body type and where he is in development he profiles as someone who will hit 25 without changing who he is at the plate and that leaves room for development that brings out even more.
Mason Martin is probably the most prolific of the power options in the system. His raw power sits in the 70 zone and that equates to 30-35 bombs as an expected stat. In fact that’s exactly what he did in 2019 hitting 35 homeruns in single A. He plays first base so adding bulk won’t be an issue if he so chooses and the swing is natural.
The average isn’t where you’d like it, but if they can help him find a way to draw more walks its certainly something that can be worked on. Raw power like this doesn’t come along every day, in fact he’s the highest ranked raw power player in the Pirates system since Pedro Alvarez and Josh Bell.
Oneil Cruz has a power tool in the 60’s and that makes him someone to watch here too. Most of our information comes from his time in Single A where he hit 24 bombs playing in West Virginia, and anyone who’s seen highlights from his Winter Ball stint this season has seen the effortless power with which he flicks the ball over the fence. The power is in there, but it remains to be seen how he puts it all together. Pump the brakes just a bit on him if only because he’s only played 34 games in AA and I’ve seen a ton of people pencil him in for MLB this year.
Speed & Defense
This is the bulk of the Pirates top prospects. Headlined by Travis Swaggerty, the Bucs have a ton of players who can go get it and run the bases like deer. Funny thing is, speed on the basepaths, at least from a stolen base perspective has all but been eliminated from the current version of MLB but I’ve often said, different doesn’t equal wrong and the Pirates could really use the wealth of speed in their system to make some opponents uncomfortable.
Now, are they thinking this way? I don’t know. None of these players were brought in by this front office but I can say these types of players were very much so part of what Ben developed in Boston and he very much so went and got those guys.
One thing is clear as we look at the prospects, right now, this team isn’t tracking toward the Twins model of 7 players in the lineup capable of hitting 25 homeruns, but it could be an athletic team that makes the most of balls put in play offensively and defensively. In an age of baseball where everything is scouted to death, it might be advantageous to be an outlier and it could be some fun baseball to watch.