September Call Ups for Pirates Underwhelm

9-1-21 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

Anyone who’s watched MLB for even half a decade can think back to when that top prospect got his first taste of action in the league. September has been an unofficial holiday of sorts for teams long since out of the race who were given a chance to see some of the future show off their skills in the show.

It’s also served as a welcome break for playoff teams who needed to start thinking about rest instead of the race.

This year MLB has changed the rule to a meager expansion from 26 to 28, paired with an MiLB season that extends on longer than normal and the reason isn’t all that important to this discussion. It’s more about the effect.

The Pirates are poised to call up Shelby Miller and Phillip Evans, not exactly the let’s see the young guys feel you’re looking for in September is it?

It’s not about deserving, Shelby Miller has been pretty good for Indianapolis. In his 10 appearances only one was a start and he’s posted a 3.86 ERA with a 0.929 WHIP. Much like Yoshi Tsutsugo, I have to question the intention here.

Shelby and Yoshi are both free agents after this season, and while the Pirates certainly have enough money to resign both if they so chose, it’s easy to see how thin that line is. For instance, if Yoshi hits even another 5 homeruns that would be 10 in his short time here, and would clearly garner him interest from other organizations. Shelby being transitioned to a reliever too could potentially get himself interest.

So, I’m trying to think, what do the Pirates get out of this? Why is this more important than seeing youngsters?

I mean, let’s even lump Phillip Evans in there. Wouldn’t you rather see a Castro return? Maybe Diego Castillo? How about this Marcano kid that Cherington was clearly smitten with?

Wouldn’t we get more out of Shea Spitzbarth than Shelby Miller?

So here’s what I got.

This one is borderline conspiracy theory. I wonder if the Pirates are trying to build a reputation for doing right by veterans that sign with the club for a shot. In other words, if you sign here looking for an opportunity, you’re going to get one.

The other thing is really about how different the minors are this year, they’ll be playing beyond even MLB and the club might simply not want to pull guys, then send them back, preferring to just let them continue to play so we get guys they don’t really care about like Evans, Miller, even Tucker.

I mean, when things don’t make sense to me, I have to try, but even I don’t 100% buy either of these.

The thing here for me is the position this club is in. They’re at the bottom arc of the rebuild progression. Of all the times you’d want to see kids play the final month, MLB has taken the tool out of the box. Couple that with AAA and for that matter the 40 man being loaded with guys who not only aren’t young, but aren’t locks to be on the 40 man as soon as this December.

So let’s put these guys in buckets.

One Last Look – To me, this is Tucker, and Evans. This seems like taking a last look at two guys who probably aren’t going to be able to stay on the 40-man. Change that probably to definitely if things go unchanged. So, you give them a chance to change it. Bring up Tucker and Evans and let them have a shot at proving you wrong.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this makes much more sense with Tucker than Evans. Tucker is a former number 1 pick and while he’s had ample opportunity to show, well, anything, I can understand why you might want to give him another shot at the show. Evans has already been given a good shot, and I think he showed enough to make the call, but I still can’t see him sticking around. By activating him, they’ve actually set up a situation where it’s more likely he goes as they’ll assuredly want to remove him from the 40 man again.

Veteran Showcase – Yoshi Tsutsugo and Shelby Miller fit nicely here. These are both free agents after the season. Both will likely get interest from elsewhere should they perform well enough that the Pirates would want them to stick around. Both are only here for one reason, opportunity.

It’s a double edged sword. Every homerun Yoshi hits makes him more expensive, and less likely to stay. Every strikeout makes him cheaper and more a guy you kind of hope they don’t roll the dice on. And I’m not even touching the fact that we have no idea if the DH is universal or not. If it isn’t, he simply has no place on an NL team.

Shelby Miller has tasted success in this league. Problem is it was all the way back in 2015. If he’s someone who can give you 8-10 appearances out of the pen and show something, he’s the type of guy you’d be looking for heading into 2022 anyway so it stands to reason a guy who has really bounced all over the lace since 2017, up and down, here and there, he might be inclined to latch on where he was given a shot.

That said, the Pirates don’t just have to make 40-man decisions on borderline guys like this, they have to make them on actual prospects too.

None more so in my mind than Diego Castillo. He needs protected from the Rule 5 draft, AND he also will qualify for Rule 55, meaning 5 days after the World Series he can become a free agent. The Pirates just promoted the Fangraphs number 22 ranked prospect in the system to AAA and the decision on him is coming like a freight train.

Now, maybe they’ll see what they need to see in his last month at AAA, but the soon to be 24 year old is in position to jump ship should he like if the Pirates don’t step up and lock him down.

Sure seems to me it’d be good to get a look at him up here, at least over Evans or Tucker, but maybe I’m just thinking like a fan.

I can’t get past the thinking though that if you felt he was worth acquiring, he’d be worth keeping, and they have to answer some questions to make that call.

Feels like a missed opportunity to me. I’d also have liked to see another catcher, but if I’m honest there isn’t really anyone who’s earned it, not that Perez himself has either.

Point is, with only 2 spots, there were always going to be guys left out that we wanted to see more from, but pulling up retreads and busts didn’t spark my interest nearly as much as guys who could really be here and part of this thing would have.

Probably not the biggest deal in the world, but curious to say the least.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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