The Pirates can at the very least provide some fun baseball to watch. The bullpen has been really good all season and while it isn’t to be confused with the top teams in the league this lineup, healthy, can hang with a decent amount of teams and keep them in most games. Oh yeah, they’ll move some more players, but the most important parts are likely here for a while.
1. Arrange and Conquer
The Pirates have a really solid top 4 now with some of the injuries clearing up. Frazier, Hayes, Reynolds and Moran look good and I really like seeing the damage they can do all on their own.
But I’ve been thinking. You know that’s kinda the point of this feature.
I wonder if they can arrange things slightly different to utilize specific skills of some other players to try to get even more juice out of this squeeze.
Now, I don’t really want to mess with that stretch of players, but what if they were to take a guy like Ka’ai Tom who has very little interest in more than drawing walks and use his skill set a little differently. Traditionally you’d like to see a guy like that in the leadoff spot but that’s not what I’m shooting for here. How about a little Joe Maddon treatment? What if the Pitcher bats 8th and Tom bats 9th? He could do what he likes to do best, draw walks, get hit, whatever, and then when the lineup turns over it creates a situation where that stretch of 4 can have a running start.
Now, the way Gamel is playing this might come at the expense of Polanco. Typically lineup changes don’t do much to change things really anyway, but Tom is a really extreme and odd player, with a very specific skill set. Don’t go nuts here, I’m not saying Tom is anything more than we’ve seen, but it could be really cool to see Frazier and company get more opportunities to drive in players other than, well, themselves.
2. What Was Hidden is Now Found?
It’s too early to say Luis Oviedo is where the team wants him to be, in fact being that I’m fairly certain the club wants him to be a starter in the future I can’t really say that point will come this year at all.
But what if they can go from hiding him to using him? They’ve worked with him and the results are starting to bear fruit. 98 plus on the gun and breaking stuff that is really starting to play.
Rule 5 pickups are a challenge, they sometimes tax a team by making the bench short, or the bullpen a bit thin, but every once in a while you find out talent wins out. We might be watching that with Oviedo right now, and instead of questioning the sparing use of Luis I think maybe I’d be better off just trusting that he’s learning in the background. If he keeps looking more polished each time out that belief is going to be rather easy.
3. Starling, a Man Misunderstood
2015 I think it was, I was sitting in the left field bleachers at PNC Park. Not my favorite seats in the park if I’m honest but I intentionally jump around to different vantage points when I go, the game has different stories to tell depending on where you sit.
This is one of those stories.
See I had always assumed Starling Marte didn’t really care to learn English. I had that impression from listening to his interviews and hearing the broadcast crew mention it quite often. There I was using rudimentary Junior High School Spanish classes to try to tell him how much I loved watching him play.
He smiled at me, you know the smile I’m talking about, looked up and said “Don’t hurt yourself, I do English” He reached over the wall and shook my hand, thanked me for appreciating his work.
Simple interaction, but I learned from it. I learned first of all, maybe the Pirates and those who work for them weren’t being straight with us, and maybe, just maybe, Starling wasn’t exactly eager to show the team what he regularly showed those of us who actually appreciated him.
His return to PNC this weekend brought much of that back to the surface for me, and I’m not one to really get on the broadcast crew, most of the time I don’t even listen to them if I’m honest.
Marte made mistakes, none bigger than his PED suspension in 2017, for some that alone takes away any chance that he was a positive force in this market. My issue has always been that people were far too happy to call him lazy, stupid, or even assume he didn’t care. He was blessed with athleticism that few posses, and when he didn’t make a play that he alone was capable of making seem ordinary most of the time the parade of dismissive tones rained down from all directions.
I’m not here to tell you a statue needs erected in his name, but I am here to say maybe he deserves a better tribute when he comes back than maybe a Joe Musgrove. Nothing against him, just a barometer.
4. Late Bloomer
Jacob Stallings has always been a defense first catcher, and honestly I don’t ever see that changing. He’ll always be considered that because it’s exactly what he is. That said, Jake has evolved. He’s added power, actively seeking damage when he swings as he’s realized he is never going to get to the point where he contends for a batting title, he’s instead actively shifted gears to focus more on doing damage when he does make contact.
Look, he’s not Molina, but he certainly is in that model.
I personally don’t think he’s going anywhere, what he does is simply too valuable to the development of the pitching staff over the years to come.
5. No Outfielders Coming?
Maybe that’s a bit harsh.
I mean I don’t think Dustin Fowler or Anthony Alford are going to play a role, but Chris Sharpe and Bligh Madris are really taking their opportunity by the horns in AAA. Sharpe is leading the East division in doubles with 10 and Madris ranks 7th in OBP .421 in the East.
These aren’t 21 year old players with delusions of having hall of fame careers at this point. Bligh is 25 and Sharpe literally just turned 25 like yesterday. These players have been largely overlooked as many saw nothing but Swaggerty and maybe an honorable mention for Jared Oliva, but these players have just as much of a chance to play a role as anyone.
As we travel the path Ben Cherington is taking us on, players like this will also find their day in the sun. They may not wind up being a long term answer but every team needs players like this to pan out too.