1-9-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
From the moment the Pirates made their moves to protect prospects from the Rule 5 draft, fans have been speaking about Mason Martin in past tense. Even if it was acknowledged that he’s still part of the organization, fans were much more apt to make sure his issues were highlighted.
It’s kind of the opposite of what happened with this young fella before the protection deadline. See back then, everyone seemingly wanted to ignore he struggled with strikeouts and focus solely on the incredible and rare power tool.
So, for the record, as of right now, Mason is still a Pirates farm hand. His power tool is still freakish. His ability to tramp down his strikeout rate remains his largest hurdle to taking the next step. That said, the same reason he didn’t get the protection from the franchise is the same reason he’ll likely not be selected, he simply isn’t ready for, nor expected to be ready for MLB.
I’ve felt over the past month or so an overwhelming sense that fans have taken this to mean he’ll never be ready, or isn’t in the Pirates plans at all, but that’s simply not what this means. Literally all it means is he is a top 30 prospect that the team doesn’t think will be a factor on the big league club, and isn’t likely to stick if someone else wanted to take a crack.
You’ll remember Craig and I both thinking it might be wise to protect him simply because of position depth. If you eliminate Martin or blow right past him you have to rely on position changes to find the next first baseman this club is developing, so to assume this team has just washed their hands of the youngster is clearly not how the team sees it, instead this is just part of the risk teams with a glut of top end talent in their system has to accept.
In fact he’s not even the best of the group that was left unprotected. Baseball America just chose Cal Mitchell the Pirates young outfielder as someone they see taking a huge step forward this season. I’d have protected him over Jack Suwinski if I’m honest, but I also hardly think the Pirates believe Mitchell is out of the plans now because they chose to go another direction.
Players like this suffered the most from missing 2020.
It made their completely normal progression through the minors look like they stalled out, and while everyone worked as hard as they could to somehow progress through it like Matt Fraizer or Max Kranick showed, not everyone picked right back up where they left off. Tough decisions were made like this all over baseball. As soon as it was decided that 2020 was still going to count toward the running totals of every player, this was an inevitable outcome for some guys.
The real point here is that in no way does being left unprotected mean the club has given up on you, and it certainly doesn’t mean they have moved on to a new plan with you no longer being an option. Simply put, it means you aren’t one of the 40 guys they think has the best shot to help the big club this season. In a franchise that probably had about 8 more borderline possibilities, someone was going to get left off the list.
We don’t need to write eulogies for guys that are still very much so alive and if Mason can just improve his K to BB ratio even marginally he’s right back in the conversation. This club has signed Yoshi Tsutsugo for one season and cut loose Colin Moran so it’s not even out of the question he could find his way to the show this season let alone Spring of 2023 where his numbers will dictate how they proceed and whether he’s in the mix for taking a position or not.
In Atlanta Daysbel Hernandez their number 26 prospect was left exposed. In Boston Gilberto Jimenez their number 10 prospect was exposed. The Pirates have others too like Tanaj Thomas, Omar Cruz and guess what, the more prospects this team develops the more this will come up.
It’s a bet, an educated risk that you’ll hold onto most of these guys anyway, but the business of putting a team together means the vast majority of your 40-man roster better be capable of helping, and now. This subject got a lot more attention this season for a couple looming reasons.
First, they have a whole lot more guys on the farm that fans care about now, and the lost season caused more of a traffic jam of guessing.
I suggest that Martin will put in work this year, and find himself right back in the consciousness of the fan base, in fact with the lack of power this club is set up to display, I wouldn’t be shocked to hear his name sometime before the All Star Break, especially if the DH indeed comes to the NL.
This process is messy, and every single year you’ll find reasons to explain why building the way the Pirates are trying to do it is hard. Should they ultimately succeed, it won’t come without casualties. They will miss on a guy. They’ll even give up on someone way too early who figures it out and blows the doors off in his new home. But, maybe lets actually see it happen before we mentally make cuts here folks.
Mason Martin is still a Pirate.