Then Came the Moves – Let’s Wrap Up the Pirates First Half of Spring

I don’t want this piece to come across as a glorified I told you so. It’s just more confirmation that the Pirates are sticking largely with the script as Spring Training progresses.

I told you yesterday that the Bucs would be purging the Spring Roster and why and once the game was over the Pirates were kind enough to oblige.

I thought what would be nice today would be to quickly talk about how all of these guys did in limited action this Spring. Some were given more of an opportunity than others but that’s ok, the goal was different for all of them.

We’ll break it up just like the Pirates did too. See, that initial tweet might as well have a title that says these guys are pretty close. Let’s call them the prospects we expect to see in Pittsburgh during 2021.

Rodolfo Castro

Castro was my dark horse to make the team out of camp. Meaning I think he’s further along than any of the other prospects and his incredible position flexibility makes him an attractive option. All that was before watching him smash two homeruns and generally look right at home taking MLB at bats and even looking like a field general at times out there once the games started to turn more into prospect showcases. I get the impression he won’t be held back long. Castro is the real deal.

Roansy Contreras

He’s never pitched above Single A before being dealt to the Pirates in the Jameson Taillon deal so the Pirates rightly didn’t put him on a schedule that had him breaking camp with the club. His one outing went exceptionally well though and he has special stuff. While he’s only 21 and as mentioned very little experience, sometimes bullpen guys can really rocket. This is one of those guys potentially, because the stuff is mature. I feel like very many bad things will have to take place on the MLB team in order to see Roansy make his debut this season, but if he does, it’ll be late.

Oneil Cruz

Honestly, he didn’t match the buzz did he? The Pirates did give him a real look. Of all the prospects he probably got the most time with other perceived MLB players. In is 22 official at bats he walked 2 times had 1 hit and struck out 5 times. He honestly looked worse than that too. Cruz is a huge talent and he’ll start in AAA where I hope they decide a path to pursue with him positionally. He played a bit of CF this Spring and didn’t look bad doing it, but you certainly couldn’t call him battle tested.

As with most position player prospects, the bat will tell the story. Right now, that part of his game needs work. So next time someone wants to argue what position he plays in MLB, tell them the batter’s box is the one that matters most.

Max Kranick

Max only got two innings of work with 9 batters faced. He’s 23 and has never played past Single A. I believe he’ll start in Altoona and he has work to do on his control. He’s always been a starter, but I see him as a fringe guy to ever make the Pirates rotation. Seems more like a bullpen guy to me. He really has an interesting pitch mix and all it takes to change the trajectory for a pitcher like Max is one or two of them becoming special pitches. His fastball won’t be that pitch. He’ll be a guy who needs to work most at bats backwards to be successful and I came away feeling more Zack Davies about him than anything. I think he’s out of the mix for this season.

Nick Mears

The Pirates gave Mears a real look in Spring, probably buoyed by his cup of coffee in 2020. His fastball is just electric but Nick still needs work on control. Far too many walks and as of yet not enough strikeouts to make up for it.

He’ll start in AAA and with Blake Cederlind going down and potentially facing TJ, he now officially becomes the next best bet to take a back of the pen spot this year. He certainly didn’t embarrass himself this Spring either, but it’s clear he needs some fine tuning. Keep in mind we’re talking about a guy who barely got a taste of AA before he wound up in Pittsburgh trying to get outs last season. I actually think starting in AAA is exactly the fine tuning he needs. He’ll be back, and it’ll most likely be this season.

The Second Part of the List

These are all the minor league camp assignments and I won’t dwell on them too deeply.

Cody Bolton – Never pitched this Spring, and while some have him penciled in as the next Starting pitcher prospect to look for, I think the Pirates would have to have a catastrophe for him to see MLB playing time in 2021 and that includes September call ups. Lots of potential, needs to start in AAA and make hay.

Jason Delay – We saw one at bat from him this Spring, but he adds to the catching depth and should start in AAA by the time they figure out which guy will be on the taxi squad. I think Indianapolis will carry three catchers but it’s possible they start Delay in AA.

Nick Gonzales – Honestly, anything you expected to see was probably too much. But you hear people toss around ETAs like candy corn in October just about every draft season. It’s clear Nick needs work. He showed nothing that even resembled a good approach this Spring and no, none of this means he’s a bust, it means he’s quite literally a brand new draft pick and this takes work. I don’t have a handle on where he’ll start, but I feel AA makes sense.

Jandel Gustave – One of Cherington’s first waiver claims last season the righty will start in AAA and add to a mix of experienced (albeit not much) waiting in the wings as depth. He’s also almost 29 years old and didn’t pitch one inning this Spring, so to see him listed anywhere constitutes the most action we’ve seen since his pick up.

Mason Martin – What can you say, he played a hell of a first base! Didn’t hit all that much but one thing that continued for him were strikeouts. That’s going to come with a power prospect but being it was stated pre-Spring that he wanted to work on that aspect and that was echoed by the coaches. AA makes a ton of sense here and I fear for the roller coaster in Altoona, cause this kid will hit the ball and far.

Cal Mitchell – Hard to say what they’ll do with Cal. He looked good in the field, took his walks at the plate this Spring, but not everyone can start in AA, however he might be too far along for Single A. I just don’t have a good handle on this one. Love the prospect, don’t have a handle on how much the team does if that makes sense.

Liover Peguero – Didn’t get any reps this year in Spring and that’s fine, they just wanted to get him some exposure and get eyes on him. I actually forgot this until talking with Craig but recall he had visa issues getting into camp in the first place and they may have simply not gotten where they wanted. For as often as you hear his name, I’d imagine many will be shocked to see him start in Single A but I think he just might. Going to be a really good player, but also not going to be here super quick.

Quinn Priester – Ahh, the 2/3 innings heard round the world. This was exactly what it was designed to be, a taste. It will be interesting to see what they do with him to start. Baseball America paint the picture that he might be the best pitching prospect in all the land by the time 2021 is over, I’ll just say AA is in his sights at some point, even if he doesn’t start there.

Canaan Smith-Njigba – Acquired in the Taillon deal with New York, Canaan will almost definitely start in AA and the Pirates really gave him a look this Spring. He’s built like a football player and has power potential that this system surely needs. This is someone I see targeting the Clemente wall before too long, but not this year.

Travis Swaggerty – Many projected he could help this season in MLB. I disagreed when I heard it, I disagree now. I just don’t see it and I believe he’ll start in AA. He has a ton of speed and is a terrific defender, but I just don’t see the bat. And yes, unfortunately I mean ever. I don’t like how the bat profiles, but I’d love to be proven wrong. I think for him to be most effective he’ll need to become an OBA machine.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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