Rodolfo Castro was called up out of necessity and 40-man implications directly from AA Altoona. He was always going to be the easiest and most logical to be sent back down. Maybe not to AA again, but down regardless.
Instead he went on a historic homerun streak to make at least some fans consider him ready. In the time since he’s fallen off a bit but still continues to make good contact and collect, well, you know, normal hits. We’ve seen him show a bit of inexperience around second base too.
Much like the homeruns, he has a knack for displaying the “homerun” on defense too. Showing off a cannon of an arm and an ability to gobble up balls that illustrate a range few mentioned as being in his tool kit.
The point is, this kid has something. I know, that’s not going to satisfy analytics junkies, and I guess I’m not really trying to. The Pirates have now made a series of choices that show they see it too. The latest being the DFA of Erik Gonzalez. See the easy call would have been to send Castro back down and bring Derek Shelton’s trusted veteran utility guy back. Instead, they decided they had heard and seen enough to made a decision on whether they would be offering Erik Gonzalez a tender sheet.
At the same time, the club decided they’d seen enough of Anthony Alford tearing it up in AAA. While needing an outfielder with the absence of Ben Gamel to the IL, it made sense to get potentially one last look at Alford in the bigs. Hey, it’s one game, I’m not getting ahead of myself.
As we sit here all of this is nothing more than learning for us fans. We’re starting to see that there comes a point where the team will in fact move on. I have little doubt Ka’ai Tom will follow. Dustin Fowler was also cut loose. Making room for promotions, and clearing the field up a bit is an important effort the rest of this season.
If you’re really watching, the internal competition scene for 2022 is starting to really take shape. Lets look at a few positions and really understand what this is starting to look like.
This appears to be almost a lock to return as Jacob Stallings and Michael Perez. The hope is that Carter Bins the recently acquired catcher from Seattle might be AAA ready in 2022.
I think what we saw recently was a message that the plan for catching on this ball club will be internally developed. Henry Davis, Endy Rodriguez, Abrahan Gutierez and Bins were all brought in starting this Winter and I think that speaks to making Jake and Perez the bridge to that generation.
There is always a possibility they’ll choose to upgrade the backup position, but I’d say Perez is probably the front runner with his control and they really like his glove. Personally, I’m underwhelmed watching him but the numbers and direct comments from the team speak to him being pretty good.
This position is a weird one. Mostly because there are still decisions to be made. Colin Moran is here and his early season performance had many thinking about a reasonable extension. With the DH probably on the way, it might not be a bad guy to think about keeping around. That said, he’s also approaching that 2 years of control point that I keep telling you to look for, the one that equals a decision, trade, extend or roll the dice and kick it down the road.
At the same time, Mason Martin has shined for AA Altoona this season. His K rate is still not something ideal, and while you think of historic homerun hitters who struck out a ton, if you think the potential to be more is in there you develop it. That may very well be next year for Mason.
The Pirates have insulated themselves a bit though, especially if the rest of this season keeps John Nogowski looking like a viable option to man the spot. They also chose to use Phillip Evans last option rather than DFA, meaning they kept in the system one of the two guys they’ve had man the spot the majority of the time Colin has missed on the IL this season.
This looks like the mix I’d expect for Spring, probably doesn’t make sense to bring anyone else in. Especially having Hoy Park and Michael Chavis around who also have the ability to play there.
Wow do they have options here. Hoy Park, Tucapita Marcano, Michael Chavis, Rodolfo Castro, Kevin Newman, Ji-hwan Bae, and Cole Tucker who I believe will be DFA’d to remove him from the 40-man roster (meaning he might not be here). This group really gives me hope that we’ll see some production from both positions.
Here’s the thing, because of position versatility, I think we could see as many as 5 of them make the roster. Nogowski is the key to whether this is 4 or 5. If he makes them keep him as a pure first baseman and bench piece they won’t have room for one of them.
This is an obvious upgrade from the mix last Spring. Instead of waiting for Peguero and Gonzales, the Pirates have an entire first wave to work in and through. Some of them with enough pedigree to find themselves to be a real answer.
Ke’Bryan Hayes has played an excellent third base when he’s been healthy and he’s certainly shown enough to have locked down this position. The way this team (and really most teams in reality) like to rest players having a competent backup for him who can play elsewhere is important.
It’s a role Phillip Evans looked like he might grab onto and keeping him on the 40 man at least for now, says the Pirates are prepared to think he’s at least nice insurance.
So many options for this role, Chavis, Castro, Park, Marcano, Evans, heck even Hunter Owen will get another look in Spring.
This one is a lot like first base. No real need to bring in outside help, just grow and use what you have.
Bryan Reynolds. There’s your lock. He’s absolutely going to be a starting something in 2022 and if I had to guess, it’s Center because he wants it to be. Yes, even if Travis Swaggerty makes the club.
Polanco will be bought out for 3 million dollars this Winter and no, I don’t think they’ll bring him back on the cheap.
I believe the team will retain Ben Gamel, he has one more option and he’s a nice player to have around who can play anywhere out there and even pitch in at first if need be.
Now, you have the aforementioned Swaggerty who should have probably been up here this season, his injury stole so much time from him this year though he may just have to start in AAA again.
Jared Oliva got some time, but the team just didn’t use him much. I like Jared, but man I don’t know if I can say he’s an answer. More than that, I’m sure the team doesn’t see him as such.
Anthony Alford may not know it but these last two months are his time to show he’s worth keeping around or following Dustin Fowler.
They are simply going to have to bring in another option from outside, unless they decide Hoy Park should make OF his home much more often. Even then, we’ve seen the benefit of having experienced outfielders this year.
My bet, they sign at least one more real outfield option.
I’m encouraged to see the club starting to turn the page and focusing on answering questions on players as we finish out 2021. That’s exactly what they should be doing. Next time I’ll check in on the Pitching Staff and Coaching.