11-2-21 By Craig W. Toth (aka @bucsbasement on Twitter)
Since taking over as the Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager in November of 2019, Ben Cherington’s Open Day Lineups in the outfield have consisted of Bryan Reynolds in Left, Gregory Polanco/Guillermo Heredia in Right and Jarod Dyson/Anthony Alford in Center. In the last game of the 2020 shortened season the Pirates trotted out the trio of JT Riddle, Reynolds and Jose Osuna. Just a few weeks ago it was Alford, Ben Gamel and Yoshi Tsutsugo that roamed the grass at PNC Park; with Reynolds getting an off day before an extended number of off days, as the team put a cap on a 101 loss season.
Obviously, the outfield hasn’t been the only area of concern for the Pirates over the past two seasons; however, outside of Reynolds there hasn’t been a whole lot of progress filling the voids on either side of the rising star. During this time Pittsburgh has tried 15 different players in outfield beyond the ones already mentioned; 12 of whom took the field just this past year.
Things have gotten so bad that Ben Gamel seen as a lock/must have at $2.9 in arbitration; not that I disagree with the sentiment. Still, it’s not like a player with a -.3 WAR, 1.2 fWAR, 101 wRC+, 104 OPS+, -8 DRS and -9 OAA is one that you should clamor for and/or be satisfied with. He simply played better than the alternatives, which truly wasn’t hard.
Nevertheless, this isn’t about Gamel, as he is purely a placeholder until the first wave of prospects arrive on the scene; or so we have been told.
Now, as a fan of watching prospects develop I have been conditioned to be cautiously optimistic about the potential of players within the Pirates Minor League System; as well as those outside the organization. Merely listing off the names of prospects at specific positions down on the farm, does little to spark optimism within a portion of the Pirates Fanbase; and honestly I can’t blame them. Personally, I have a little more confidence in the ability of Cherington’s people than I did in the ones under previous regime, but this shouldn’t be confused with blind faith.
Next year in Triple-A Indianapolis the Pirates could have an outfield that consists of Travis Swaggerty, Canaan Smith-Njigba, and Cal Mitchell; along with Bligh Madris, Jared Olivia and/or Chris Sharpe as potential holdovers. Between those in the first group (Swaggerty, Smith-Njigba and Mitchell), they have a grand total of 85 plate appearances at the highest level of the Minors. As far as Double-A Altoona is concerned, Matthew Fraizer, Jack Suwinski and Lolo Sanchez might lead the way for the Curve. Further down in the system, other prospects like Hudson Head, Sammy Siani, Jack Herman, Lonnie White, Jr., Rodolfo Nolasco and Shalin Polanco exist.
Many of these players have potential in the form of the often referenced future value, much like plenty of former prospects before them; who to this point have resulted in the aforementioned Bryan Reynolds and his matching voids to either side. Which is probably part of the reason(s) why some are still championing for Oneil Cruz to move to right field, or regularly referencing Ji-Hwan Bae’s work in center in the Arizona Fall League.
Some may agree with this assertion because it is how they view prospects, while others may see it as me going to the dark side due to some unexpected pessimism.
Truthfully it’s just an opinion, and how I perceive the current situation. It won’t stop me from continuing to provide information on prospects because it’s part of what I love about this great game.
However, I won’t try to change anyone’s perception concerning how this will all work out in the end. By now we should all recognize that a person’s perception is their reality, which is something that is not easily altered.
And of course, all of us will windup being at least a little bit wrong once the actual reality arrives; with a lot of time wasted in the midst of a fight with no clear winner.