On the surface that headline probably seems like click bait, I get it, but being 100% sincere, I think it’s provided some things for the Pirates that we would have otherwise not seen and providing he comes back in top form the Pirates will be in position to improve faster than had it not happened.
First of all, If Hayes doesn’t get hurt, who knows how much playing time Phillip Evans gets, let alone Wilmer Difo even being here. Those two things are the very definition of obvious, but really think about it.
Hayes stays healthy and Difo is still at the training site, Evans is maybe pinch hitting and playing a game or two per week. In fact, what Difo is doing right now, Evans would be performing that role.
Instead, we got a really nice look at what Evans could do if he was getting regular playing time and possibly more importantly, now the Pirates know they need to find a way to keep him in the lineup. For the way he’s been hitting, I’m not sure this is so obvious if only in small doses.
I should backtrack here just a bit. It’s never a ‘good’ thing when a star gets hurt, I certainly am not saying that. I am saying when it happens, the very best thing you can do is learn something about the rest of the team.
We don’t know exactly when Ke’Bryan Hayes will return but we do know he’s eligible tomorrow to come off the 10 day IL. When he does, someone is going to have to go, and because of the emergence of Evans and to a lesser extent Difo, the choices are rather clear.
It’s Alford or Fowler.
This is not ideal if only because moving one of them is literally deciding you’re ok losing one. Anthony Alford got off to a super hot Spring and I’m not just talking results, I’m talking hard contact, hustle, energy, approach, everything. Fowler started a bit late due to being acquired so late, he’s fast and he has a nice power tool but he was nowhere close to what Alford did in Spring.
Fast forward to the season, both have awful approaches at the plate, both have made mistakes on the base paths. Defensively both look capable and Fowler has made some above average catches.
Both have struck out far too much, Alford at just an alarming rate, Fowler looking inept at best in some at bats.
Recently, Fowler has made better contact and even collected a couple hits.
And that line right there might just be the determining factor. Just a couple signs of life from Fowler might very well end up deciding this move.
Again, If Hayes doesn’t get hurt, we probably aren’t thinking about getting Evans in the outfield mix. Instead we’re debating Goodwin or Stokes or Oliva for one of these guys if not both and we’re probably fully aware the team isn’t making a move like that this early.
Even if you’re smarter than everyone else and you always knew Evans was this good, being forced to see it by losing Hayes takes the question marks off his spot in the lineup.
Difo doing so well since his call up makes this situation real. The injury and ultimate recovery is going to force action. Difo was an odd choice to come up and cover a short injury as he was going to have to clear waivers to go back down.
I took this as an admission they weren’t all that concerned if they lost him and maybe that was the thought, it can’t be anymore.
The injury has robbed us of really seeing what this offense could do in the early going, but when Hayes returns the Pirates potentially have a more potent lineup than they’d have trotted out there because of some answers they were able to get.
Things like this can seem like silver lining BS, I get that, but they could have just stuck Gonzalez at 3rd and not learned a damn thing about Evans, instead they actively went out and forced the answers to make themselves visible.
Now we get to see if they trust what they learned first hand or the scouts that led them to Alford and Fowler in the first place more.