The Pirates outfield has been a desperate place.
Bryan Reynolds is largely on an island out there and seemingly nothing the Pirates have tried out there has been up to the task. Gregory Polanco, someone most fans have seen enough of is now someone the team simply can’t do without.
They’ve tried Ka’ai Tom, Ben Gamel, Wilmer Difo, Phillip Evans, Dustin Fowler, Anthony Alford, Adam Frazier, Hunter Owens, Troy Stokes Jr., and if I missed anyone, does it really matter?
You get the point here.
So the team has been waiting on Swaggerty to get at least a little soak time in AAA, especially since he skipped AA altogether. He was showing some power, lord knows the team needs that, and the average was still not where he or the team wanted it to be. Still, the arrow was pointed up, until he dislocated his shoulder diving back into first base.
After close to a week and multiple opinions his separation was classified as a “full dislocation”. Surgery will almost assuredly be coming but nothing has been announced at this time, regardless, this has all the makings of a lost season.
Since being drafted in 2018 he’s played 185 baseball games in the Pirates organization, all but 12 in Single A.
Those numbers aren’t likely to change this season now, and when he comes back he’ll essentially be returning from 2 full seasons lost to development.
Yeah, of course he was at the development site last year, and even if you consider it equivalent to a level of MiLB play, it wasn’t ideal.
Thing is, the Pirates absolutely have to have him make it. He doesn’t have to be the guy that leads this ballclub into the future, but he has to be part of the solution even if only defensively.
This is nobody’s fault, injury is part of the game. Nobody knew 2020 was coming, He’s not a bust, not yet, not because of this. I have questions about his potential, but none that prevent me from thinking right or wrong he will get a shot at it.
Mostly because there isn’t anything else coming beyond Jared Oliva who himself has been stunted by injury.
They’re going to head into 2021 most likely with Bryan Reynolds, and, well, that’s the list. Swaggerty’s injury means at the very least the Pirates will either shoot their shot and try to have him essentially jump AAA too so he can compete for a spot in 2022 right out of Spring, but that’s a dangerous game since the 3rd would likely be Jared Oliva. While I’d rather watch those two learn on the job than see the club pick up endless waiver claims, they’re going to need to fortify this position next season.
I was ok with their approach this season, although I did advise against it. I still understood the logic. The thought was they had these two kids in AAA who would eventually work their way into the picture if Fowler and Alford didn’t work out, instead they wound up admitting they were wrong in the first few weeks of the season and nobody else was ready.
Another thing the team could do is start looking at players who may wind up out there now instead of waiting for them to arrive before sticking them somewhere.
Oneil Cruz is probably the top example of this. Now he still has work to do with the bat, but he also can help this club by playing a position of real need. I’m struggling to understand leaving him at SS right now, and while I understand he’s pretty good there, reality of the organizational depth chart says he’ll likely never stick there.
Clearly nobody did much to build up the position prior to Cherington arriving, he’s brought in a couple like Canaan Smith-Njigba and Hudson Head but nowhere near enough yet. I’m not silly enough to think Ben doesn’t see the issue, but the type of talent he’s acquiring tends to be young, very young. That’s great, it’s what he’s supposed to do, but you also must keep in mind that the MLB club needs to field a team too.
Before this season is out, the Pirates need to burn through the junk drawer they’ve created. Alford, Fowler, Tom, and Stokes all need decided on, for good. And if I’m them, I’m manufacturing them a bit. I’d move Cruz out there now, I’d plant Castro out there too at least most of the time and after that you have to hope Smith-Njigba and Cal Mitchell evolve.
There’s not much to be done about this year, Jared Oliva is likely the best bet when we talk about youth coming up and contributing. But next year, this can’t be the same problem, and regardless of where they are in the rebuild, they need to bring in competence. Replacement level players are fine, I’m not talking about finding a way to get a star, just someone you’re sure can handle the position for a couple years while you grow your seedlings.
It may not matter how many games they win, but it makes a difference for developing a culture. That is formed by the collective attitudes of everyone involved, and if I’m on that field, especially on the mound or outfield, I’m looking around wondering why nobody cares.