Actual baseball, well sorta, is being played now and man did it feel good listening yesterday. It was also good to hear the genuine crack off the bat of Ke’Bryan Hayes. Man that kid makes a sound we haven’t heard in Pittsburgh since Josh Bell’s one month of dominance.
Let’s dig in, cause things are swirling around the old noggin today.
1. If the Bat Plays, So Will He
I keep hearing people say Cole Tucker needs to move to the Outfield because there is too much coming in the middle infield. Let’s be honest about Cole, he needs to hit. That’s it. Where he plays will sort itself out if the bat warrants it. If it doesn’t, he’s better off at least playing a position where he can positively impact defensively like shortstop. Is he Jay Bell or Raphael Belliard? I know which way I lean, and there can be a place for either type of player, but Belliard wasn’t going to take reps from anyone in the outfield, I suspect Tucker won’t either. It’s so simple you almost believe there has to be more, but no matter what you believe is best for him, nothing happens without that bat becoming more of a concern for opposing pitchers.
2. Bryan Reynolds’ Batting Slot
Early in Spring a coach will sometimes lift his skirt a bit and show you what their ideal order is for most nights. We obviously don’t know if Derek Shelton subscribes to that way of thinking but yesterday’s starting lineup sure looked plausible minus Stallings and a potentially healthy Adam Frazier.
Coach put Bryan Reynolds in at the number 3 hole and I get it, so what I’m going to say at this point is probably nit picky. I think Reynolds is at his best when he has more pressure to get on base than to drive in runs. Now, that’s not to say he can’t or won’t drive in runs, but he’s at his best, in my mind, when he has just as much incentive to take his walks as to gap one. I also love having a switch hitter in that spot because it prevents pitching changes from creating a lack of balance in the order.
I also like his speed there in front of two players (Hayes & Moran) very prone to doubles. Ultimately, I’ll settle for being happy if Shelton simply picks an order and sticks with it a bit, but if I’m allowed to nitpick, Reynolds is my number 2 guy.
3. Pirates Announcers Speak the Unspoken
One of the most interesting aspects of yesterday’s broadcast had to be Greg Brown and Bob Walk directly talking to the plan this franchise has undertaken. I’m not saying they’ve lied to us in the past, but they certainly liked to give you the rose colored glasses version of the roster. Yesterday, they focused on what was being built and even touching on the methodology behind it. It’s a small thing, but in many ways it really was refreshing to not hear that Musgrove was traded because Kuhl and Brault were ready or something to that effect.
It’s important to remember that the Pirates announcers are first and foremost team employees, so if they’re being more honest about what’s going on here, I take that as the team sanctioning such communication. It’s nice to know that we could get a little more transparency and coming from the announcers themselves it might just reach the people who aren’t reading 10 columns a week and listening to 7 podcasts. A fanbase that sees the vision might just support the journey.
4. Standing O
It was wonderful to see Trey Mancini back from his Stage 3 Colon Cancer treatments.
Gives you the chills, even with stunted number of fans in the stands. The Orioles are a real competitor for worst record in baseball for 2021 but this story is bigger than all that. You know everyone on that field was chomping at the bit to play the game, so to see it all come to a halt in the bottom of the first to give this young man a minute and a standing O after tossing an attempted double play ball into the outfield in the top half.
None of that mattered right then, and here’s wishing Trey a healthy and productive return to the game he fought so hard to return to.
5. Colin Moran Might be a Legitimate Upgrade at First
No joke. Defensively he will almost assuredly provide a steady hand that has been shaky at best for the past few seasons. In fact he flashed the leather on a screamer down the line early on. He can make the throws too, his arm and glove have never been an issue for Colin, range was. At the plate he may not hit the highs Bell could, but he probably avoids the lows. Overall, I believe Moran will ultimately make the Bell trade feel less painful than paper suggests it should. Batting behind Reynolds and Hayes (even if Shelty ignores my suggested order) will provide him ample opportunity to drive in runs, but I do worry about protection in the lineup for him.
If Polanco can hit even .250 his power is real enough to scare some into pitching to Moran although I might be tempted to move him down to 6 to split the lefties up a bit.
Question of the Week
This question was specifically about signing Porcello but we can easily insert any name of a pitcher still hanging out there on the market.
First of all, if a pitcher is still out there, chances are there is a reason. They either think they’re worth more than the teams do or there is something we don’t know that teams are concerned with.
Ben Cherington himself has suggested he might not be done bringing in players including a veteran pitcher, but at this stage of the Spring I think he’d probably be inclined to wait and see who gets waived later on.
Players get waived for all sorts of reasons that don’t always tie directly to performance. It could just be a numbers game or a guy who signed an MLB contract and wants nothing to do with riding a bus again. The Pirates could have more success shopping in that market. And that’s if they get to that point and still feel they need to. Could simply wind up feeling pretty good about who they already have.