If you take a minute to look at or listen to news and information concerning the Pittsburgh Pirates on social media, in articles and blogs and on any number of podcasts, it may take you a little while to find more than a couple of details concerning any player that will take the field for the ball club in 2021, other than Ke’Bryan Hayes; especially with many of the major publications releasing their top prospect lists over the past week or so and the very recent announcement of the Non-Roster Invitees to Major League Spring Training. Fans, experts, journalists and amateur commentators a like have become enthralled with the potential candidates for the young core of the future, even ones that have yet to be acquired by the Pirates Organization as part of the 2021, and in some instances the 2022 draft.
I am guilty of much of this myself, as Quinn Priester has continued to climb the rankings of many professionals thanks to the impression he left on scouts across baseball while at the Alternate Site in Altoona and during Instructional League play, video sessions involving pitcher Brennan Malone and others are almost continuously posted, breakdowns and assessments of the most recent trade acquisitions have been repeated ad nauseam and estimations as to where a multitude of players will begin the season are tossed back and forth; along with a near endless list of other topics concerning Pirates Prospects, or the Young Bucs moniker they are starting to be affectionately known by.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of this. The Pirates Prospects, all of them, are extremely important to organization; particularly their development under the recently instituted “player-centric” philosophy, as well as the tutelage of numerous newly minted staff members. Over the upcoming months, and truthfully years, eyes and ears, mine included will be regularly drawn to the happenings in Indianapolis, Altoona, Greensboro, Bradenton and beyond. And I’m positive part of Cherington’s attention will drift to the farm system as well because it is only natural, in addition to being necessary. However, he does not have the luxury of totally ignoring much of what will be taking place at the Major League level, as many fans have claimed they will, due to the underwhelming product that will more than likely be put on the field outside of a couple of bright spots and bounce back candidates.
Manager Derek Shelton’s concerns on the other hand are fully vested in the players that will be placed before him; the good, the bad and hopefully not too much of the ugly. Of course he will have cursory knowledge of the players who are making their way up through the system, most notably the ones teetering between AAA success and a place on the Major League Roster; however, this will be the extent.
For Cherington and Shelton, as well as members of his coaching staff, they won’t have the option of only observing the growth of players like Ke’Bryan Hayes and Mitch Keller or the progress that Bryan Reynolds will hopefully be making to get as close as he can to his 2019 form in the box, while maintaining the defensive prowess he exhibited just last year. They will be in charge of overseeing Colin Moran’s first full season at first base as he tries to maintain his increase in power, the position battle between the light hitting shortstop trio of Cole Tucker, Erik Gonzalez and Kevin Newman, the last hurrah of a largely underperforming and often injured Gregory Polanco, a mostly inexperienced and/or inconsistent pitching staff and pretty much anything a team that currently has around a 1% of winning the World Series.
Sure, a diehard Pittsburgh Pirates Fan will tune into most, if not all games that our team plays, but Cherington, Shelton and crew have to watch, study, evaluate and make decisions on all aspects of the game, individual players and in some instances every single solitary pitch; all while trying to find willing trade partners and free agents, combing the waiver wire, setting daily lineups, making roster decisions, preparing for the 2021 draft and juggling a host of other responsibilities.
If you take the time to think, it’s actually pretty easy, and fun at times, for fans to hope in and look toward the future as their team is stacking top prospects; contrarily, the Pirates are forced to exist in the here and now.