This is always a strange time to cover a baseball team. Well, it’s a strange time to cover a baseball team that isn’t in a pennant race anyway.
See, there’s a sweet spot for a team in the Pirates position. At the beginning of the season you at least have some hope, even if it’s completely misguided. That said, the Penguins are still in season and in this market, they are very much so on the march toward the playoffs most years.
By the time we hit August you run up against the Steelers, and without going too deep, they’re usually pretty competitive.
The Pirates don’t compete with these clubs on the field or for that matter off. When the Pirates are playing well or in a race they get their fair share of attention but when they’re down, they rightfully fade to the background.
If you’re reading this, you know what I’m talking about, and while you’ll probably stay interested in all the comings and goings of prospects, the actual day to day just isn’t gonna grab too many of you.
Oh I’ll keep telling you about it, kinda my job you know?
There is a benefit to all this though. Baseball is not a sport that goes hand in hand with knee jerk reactions, I mean it’s not great for any of them, but most of all baseball is all about averages. Sometimes the cover provided by the NFL ramping back up gives the room to really evaluate development without the constant chants to DFA someone who’s pitched 5 innings or the guy who hits .300 over a week or two and clearly must be extended for 7 years.
This time of year it’s all about figuring out what internal options they have already in place along with who clearly isn’t.
So that’s what we’re going to focus on. When we find someone or we think they have something special to offer, let’s highlight it and talk through it.
For instance, Hoy Park had elite OBA in AAA this season and his speed paired with that ability make him a great candidate to bat leadoff. We saw him get that opportunity once already and I’d like to see more. See, it’s not just can this guy hit, it’s also what role does he fill? Let’s face it, lead off is a huge hole left by Adam Frazier’s trade. Hoy has an advantage here, he gets a chance to play a bit this year and lay a base of MLB contribution before his next real competition even gets to play baseball again, Travis Swaggerty.
That said, it can’t be seen as a bad thing that Travis won’t immediately be asked to jump in and be ready to lead the charge night in and out.
We also have the closer role, which clearly David Bednar has a handle on and what stinks about this situation is he has no real competition. I mean, where does competition for a closer role come from? Usually the set up guys right? Well therein lies the problem, the only one they have right now is Chris Stratton and bluntly, he’s not traditional to the role, he’s just the best they have left.
Sam Howard could potentially compete for the job and at some point late next year Blake Cederlind has a shot at working his way back into the conversation. There are some guys in AAA I hoped would play a role in this pen and they still may, but their 2021 performances didn’t really live up to the threshold that the Pirates needed or wanted to see. Joe Jacques, Beau Sulser, Hunter Stratton and Matt Eckelman.
The moral of the story is really that the Pirates are going to have to go get some BP arms next year, there simply aren’t enough options.
These are the types of things we’ll be watching. Second base, Right field, Short Stop, First Base, Bullpen and Closer, Starting rotation.
Much like the Steelers will be evaluating youngsters starting tonight to see who can or can’t be part of the puzzle, the Pirates will use the rest of this season to find answers.
There aren’t enough. But they’re coming.
Next year we’ll be having discussions that touch on many more viable options coming. We’ll be talking about Miguel Yajure, Roansy Contreras, Cody Bolton, Omar Cruz and those are just arms.
Yeah, for some people baseball season officially ends when the Steelers kick off tonight, but for many of us, next season starts now.
Oh, and Go Steelers! Here’s to a great season.