7-12-21 – By Gary Morgan
Good afternoon all you Henry Davis super fans and doubters. Yesterday was probably the most feel good day we Bucco fans have had this year as the Pirates grabbed a new top prospect and won a game on the back of another.
1. Oh Henry
We could probably argue all day about whether the Pirates did the right thing or not selecting Davis number one overall in the MLB 2021 Draft, but instead let’s just talk about some things this tells us about Ben Cherington.
First, this is the second draft he’s conducted as Pirates GM, and while we haven’t seen the entire picture yet we do know two years in a row he’s taken the perceived top college bat available. Regardless of position, that fact is undisputable.
Craig Toth, my co-editor and friend, often talks about his method for evaluating prospects with me. He likes to put much more focus on a player’s floor than their ceiling. When you draft college players who have dominated NCAA it stands to reason this is a factor you’re looking at as well.
There is no doubt the projections on Marcello Mayer for instance have his ceiling higher than Henry, but the floor could be anything from replacement level to simply not making it too. Henry is more in the category of being extremely likely to make it and be a good player, with an upside of great.
This makes Davis what some will perceive as a slight, safe. Even Jack Leiter had half the scouts overlooking or being scared off by his height. So taking a guy like this who can hit even if he doesn’t stick at catcher makes a ton of sense. When you can’t afford to fail, don’t gamble.
Following it up with a really nice pick of Anthony Solometo a big left hander with a funky deliver they are sure to change quickly and they’re well on their way to a productive draft. Don’t get things twisted, this guy is a project. He’s not walking right in and shooting up the ranks. This is like buying a body for an old Dodge Charger and hoping you’ll find all the parts to turn it into a mean machine.
Here’s the thing, this is all about signability. They got four top 30 talents with their top 4 picks. None of this means they have 4 future All Stars, but it does mean that Ben Cherington is shooting his shot. We’ve heard openly from 3 or the top 4. Lonnie White Jr. is the only one who hasn’t spoken up.
Let’s put this in perspective, if all 4 of these guys sign, all 4 of them will move into the Pirates top 25 prospect list. That’s what you call a powerful impact.
2. What Do the Pirates Do With Nogowski When Moran Returns?
The short answer is, if Nogowski is making you question what to do when Moran comes back, smile.
The real question is not Moran, they’ll still need a backup first baseman even if they decide that role is filled by Moran himself. No, the real question is can there be a role for Phillip Evans, or Gonzalez, or Tom?
I think anyone who has watched this season can’t honestly be concerned about moving on from any number of players.
Bottom line, if Nogowski is an issue than he’s done far more than they expected he would, in fact, there’s little doubt he already has. If you recall, we spent much of the early part of the season wondering where Evans would play when Hayes returned from the IL, when’s the last time you thought about making sure Evans can play recently?
My gut tells me by the time Moran returns, we’ll be happy he’s back, but again, if not, it’s a far better problem to have than wondering why they keep using Erik Gonzalez at first base.
3. Speaking of Good Problems
What do they do with Rodolfo Castro? Let’s be honest, he’s had one really really good game. I’m struggling like hell to not go overboard, as most of you know this has been what I’ve called the most evolved prospect in the system. Meaning not that he’s the best they have, but the best that was close to ready.
His versatility is exactly what this club looks for, and not to be crazy about this, but when you’re rebuilding a team the benefits of showing a frustrated fan base a glimpse of something you’ve developed can act as a real beacon of hope.
Conversely, send him down so you can find a spot for Ka’ai Tom, Phillip Evans or Erik Gonzalez and feel the deserved wrath of the fans. Not that they should fear you or anything, they have to do what they think is best, but right this second, Castro’s swing is MLB ready and he’s even shown ability in the field.
Perhaps this is as simple as dropping him in to replace Adam Frazier, but just in case it isn’t, I suggest Gregory Polanco eventually getting healthy isn’t enough reason to send him back down.
The rest of this season could really be fun, but bold decisions will show how fun.
4. Trade Competition
When examining the trade market, it’s important to keep an eye on who else is available out there. For instance Richard Rodriguez was one of the top relievers available and still is, but the emergence of Craig Kimbrel from the Cubs probably closes a door for the Pirates.
It doesn’t mean they can’t move him or won’t but it takes away at least one potential suitor.
Sometimes when these types of situations crop up you can almost sit back an wait, because as long as Kimbrel remains on the board, moving Rodriguez won’t be nearly as easy. The price difference is real, Rich Rod is the bargain choice and he comes with control, but he also isn’t the perceived top choice if you’re looking for a nailed on closer. If we’re really honest, Richard isn’t a lock to be a closer on most teams, and that matters.
Think about stuff like this as you envision players being moved, because while we cover things like value and need, it’s equally important to understand the players on the block from elsewhere too.
Tyler Anderson is an affordable, steady left handed starter, that has real value in the market, but look at who else is out there, John Means, Danny Duffy, Matthew Boyd, Michael Pineda, Madison Bumgarner and I’m not even mentioning guys like Max Scherzer. Suffice to say, at least some of these will require clarity from their teams if not have a few moves drop before Anderson is on the table.
5. All Star Players
The Pirates have two All Stars of course, Adam Frazier and Bryan Reynolds, and what’s really shocking is these two were more than worthy from a team that quite simply is the bottom of the barrel when it comes to offense in MLB.
It says a lot more about the players surrounding them than the players themselves that even their prolific efforts weren’t enough to make this team look competent at the plate this season.
To have a record this paltry and have two deserving All Stars isn’t common, we’ve seen plenty of years when the player who wore the P was easily the worst player on the squad, and seeing them actually play was going to be a stretch.
What I think we’ll see instead is Adam Frazier taking the first at bat for the NL and Bryan Reynolds playing 2 or 3 innings himself.
Another thing here I like to think about is while it was awesome that Frazier was voted in by the fans, I love what it says about Reynolds that he was voted in by his peers and coaching competitors.
That should impress you because that vote tells you something. It tells you when other teams face the Pirates they worry most about one player, and that’s Bryan. He’s earned the respect of his opponents before the broader fan population and maybe that has something to do with his lunch pail persona.
It’s been quite some time since I was this proud of who represented my club in the game.