9-23-21 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
There I was last night, listening to the Indianapolis Indians game. Roansy Contreras was pitching, and pretty well if not a little short, 3.2 innings of 1 run ball. I know, you know, hell he probably knows he’ll be starting in AAA next year.
Then I heard and fairly quickly saw on Twitter what Oneil Cruz did with his second AAA at bat.
He’ll almost for sure be starting in AAA too.
Baseball is unique like this. See, the NFL doesn’t have a development system, oh sure they have college football and the QB on the worst team in the league knows who the top QB in the NCAA is, but it’s just not the same.
Hockey has the AHL and there are prospects to be sure, but they’re mostly waiting to replace the low man on the totem pole, someone who probably spends most of their time looking over their shoulder already.
When a baseball franchise finally gets to the point where real talent, the threatening kind, is right there on the doorstep, and the club they play for has just about zero financial commitment for the foreseeable future, well, it hits different.
I know a ton of you want to move Oneil Cruz from Short Stop, and that may well happen at some point, but for now, the organization isn’t budging. So if I’m a former number one pick who has the total sum history of one season as a threatening hitter who happens to play that position, man I’m thinking a bit different.
You no longer have a light hitting, also former number one pick playing behind you. No, now you have the organization’s number 3 prospect, raw power tool possessing, 6′ 7″ freak of nature who looks like Manute Bol playing midget football out there.
None of this means he’ll be a star, none of this even means Kevin Newman is in immediate trouble, what it means is there is finally real competition, right there, and it isn’t just a 3 year down the road pipe dream.
We’ve seen improvement from Mitch Keller, and it’s my sincere hope that the Pirates patience is rewarded, but they aren’t without options, not anymore.
There’s a good chance we get eyes on Miguel Yajure again on Friday, and this time in a Big League uniform. Roansy Contreras adds to that pressure from behind. For a guy like Mitch, maybe pressure helps him, maybe it hurts him, either way it’s there.
I’m picking on Keller here a bit, but only because he matters. I’m not sure I’d like to be the starter who gave up 28 homeruns this season either. I’d rather not be the guy who just couldn’t find a way to get through a lineup 3 times more than once in ample opportunities.
Options provide something the Pirates haven’t realistically had in decades. Yes, even the playoff years. A pipeline built by both the previous administration and backed by the new one. This is the first wave, one that still had no pitching before Cherington arrived, but with plenty of talent, even if undeveloped.
Look, I named two guys, but there are more, oh there are more. These two weeks aren’t going to reveal everyone who’s going to provide that push. Hey, some of them will ultimately feel this same pressure themselves from the next wave.
That’s healthy, in fact that’s really what all of this is about. Building a winner can be done a ton of different ways, on a team that simply isn’t going to spend to keep up with the Jones’ a few less avenues to be sure. Sustainable winning is constructed, built from the ground up, and the next time you think they have too many players at some spot, push that noise back in your head and remind yourself a conveyer belt is just a platform if it stops moving.
This is the part of the trip to the beach where you can smell the ocean, maybe see a few seagulls in the McDonalds parking lot. No turning back now, the destination is just right there.
Be excited, be realistic, but more than anything, enjoy this next part because it’s a whole lot more fun than the part we’ve been watching.