A rebuilding club always has one thing going for them. They can always point out toward the affiliate locations and say hey guys, look over there, not here.
That doesn’t work on everyone of course, nor should it, not every fan wants to see how the sausage is made, especially when it’s been over 40 years since any was produced.
So it stands to reason that frustration about simply not having that aspect of all this at their disposal was boiling over. Both for fans and the club alike.
Yesterday was a sweet release.
Recent draft picks did well. Older draft picks did well. Players acquired in trades excelled. It was a who’s who on the Pirates top 30 showcased all at once and it’s actually hard to imagine a better first day back.
Let’s have a look at some of the most noteworthy performances and then we’ll discuss the overall landscape a bit.
- Endy Rodriguez the catching prospect who the Pirates received as part of the Joe Musgrove deal had a couple hits and an RBI. He looked pretty fluid calling the game and handled the pitching staff well.
- Alexander Mojica the 18 year old International signing out of the Dominican Republic has a rare power tool and he wasted no time putting it on display in the form of a home run.
- Sammy Siani is 20 years old and a terrifically talented center fielder took an 0 for 3.
- Hudson Head the centerpiece in the Joe Musgrove deal doubled in his first at bat then struck out in his other 3 at bats.
- Liover Peguero had one hit and one walk in his 4 at bats but his one hit was a big one, a three run shot. Not a bad hello world for one of the pieces the Pirates got for Starling Marte.
- Nick Gonzales started his career with a double and then went quiet.
- Quinn Priester took the L, going 3 innings and giving up 6 runs, 3 earned. Definitely needs to work on his command, a common problem for pitchers with expanded pitch mix at his age.
- Ji-wan Bae, the 21 year old international signing out of South Korea played second base and had one hit.
- Oneil Cruz was rather a surprise placement in Altoona, considering he went into Spring with a shot to make the club, but he looked to take advantage of it yesterday racking up 2 hits and almost more importantly didn’t strikeout. Contact numbers are going to tell the story on Cruz this season.
- Canaan Smith-Njigba acquired in the Jameson Taillon deal had a hit and drew a walk. This kid is a specimen, and just looks more mature at the plate than most his age do.
- Cal Mitchell had the only RBI for the Curve in this game but was kept hitless for the affair.
- Mason Martin had a hit and a walk but still struck out twice. This is an area of focus for him. The power is there, he’ll hit enough, but the strikeout has plagued his young career and he’ll need to reign that in to keep moving.
- Roansy Contreras also brought back in the Taillon deal probably had the single most impressive outing of anyone in the entire system. Going 5 strong innings with 11 strikeouts. He did give up some hits, 5 specifically, but this kid won’t stay here long if he keeps pitching like this.
- Travis Swaggerty, let’s start with the good shall we? He went 3 for 4 with a homerun to lead off the game. For a guy who skipped a level, obviously great to see.
- Cole Tucker, sigh, 0 for 5. I mean, it’s one game, but it’s hardly worth mentioning he did well in the field, you know that without asking.
- Chase De Jong isn’t really a prospect, but if you’re looking for immediate impact on the big club, it’s noteworthy that he absolutely shoved. 6 innings with 2 walks, 2 hits and 10 strike outs.
- Chris Sharpe had 2 hits. I mention him because he’s an actual outfield prospect who has some upside. Aside from Swaggerty he’s the closest and contact for him too has been an issue.
So what does all this mean?
It means for the most part, important players to the future of this ballclub had success yesterday by in large. And that’s really all it means.
I’ve seen some trumpeting that the Pirates fleeced the Yankees in the Taillon deal. I personally believe that is going to be the case by the time this story is written, but it’s far to early for that kind of talk.
Progression through the minor leagues is a journey rarely experienced without plenty of downs to go along with the highs. I’m no more ecstatic about Contreras’ outing as I am devastated about Priester’s.
Indianapolis isn’t the most exciting squad in the mix but it sure could be come mid season as players graduate to the next level. I wasn’t a believer in Swaggerty and his 3 for 4 didn’t change that, one game rarely does, but the Pirates outfield situation is bad, and they won’t be able to sit on a kid who could help all season, so how he and Sharpe perform is important to watch. Aside from that, it’s a holding tank for depth pitching. Tucker of course is another to watch, but we need to be honest, he’s never really hit at any level and that is precisely what they want to see. If he’s to make it back to the Pirates his bat will lead the way.
I doubt anything short of injury will create much movement in the ranks for a while but as the month plays out you’ll start to be able to see who is creating an opportunity for themselves.
All in all, it’s a great day for baseball, and an encouraging day for people following the rebuild closely, but most of all, it’s a great day for the country as hundreds of places all over our land got back to business, the business of baseball.
Eyes peeled everyone, Craig and I are gonna go full nerd on you every once in a while.