Five Pirates Thoughts at Five

3-14-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

Baseball is back on the field, but none of us forget what we just went through. Nobody forgets that the system didn’t change for the better or that the owner still isn’t spending, but it’s also time to realize at some point baseball on the field takes precedence. It doesn’t mean we stopped caring about the issues, it’s just means that at some point we’re covering baseball, instead of the facilitation of a poorly run league.

Let’s dig in.

1. Remember the Plan?

From the minute Starling Marte was traded to Arizona, the Pittsburgh Pirates were rebuilding the franchise. We knew then the plan was to trade anyone who didn’t fit into the vision and rebuild the system from the bottom up. We further knew it wasn’t going to be a quick turnaround. Now that they’ve gotten to the point where some of those youngsters are on the doorstep fans are getting antsy.

After months of listening to all of baseball argue about how much the Luxury Tax threshold would be set at, it’s hard to jump right back in to watching the Pirates and see that 42 million dollar payroll. I’m all for the Pirates signing people and spending, but let’s not pretend what we’re seeing wasn’t the plan all along.

There are areas this team should absolutely spend on. Bullpen, Catcher, I could even make an argument for DH, but the point of acquiring all these young guys and building up the system was to at some point have them play.

This doesn’t mean you have to be ok with the payroll figure, hell you can even rightly feel it’s a joke, it is, but it’s also just a number. You don’t want to block Cruz or Swaggerty, Contreras or Yajure, you know, the guys you need to see in order to know what you have.

I say that because realistically, 20-30 million isn’t going to make this club a winner, but having Cruz and Contreras knock the rookie out of their game this year sure might help make it one in the next year.

All I’m saying is don’t forget the plan you bought into back in 2019 didn’t change, our patience level did, which is totally normal especially when this team refuses to give any indication of when they flip the switch to building from tearing down. Couple that with every team in the league seemingly rumored to want Bryan Reynolds while the team never shuts it down and you have a fan base that can’t help but think that they’re nowhere near something that resembles effort to win.

Don’t fight with people about this. You can trust Cherington and still think they should/could do something to improve the MLB product too. I promise nuance is allowed.

2. No Rule Five Draft in 2022!

Want good Pirates news? Well there you have it. I’m not convinced the Pirates were going to lose a player, but now we don’t have to worry about it. Mason Martin, Omar Cruz, Tahnaj Thomas and Cal Mitchell will all be in the system and when stacking prospects is your thing, well let’s just say you don’t want to fill a bucket with a hole in the bottom.

You could look at this another way too, now the Pirates can’t use the Rule 5 to go get something, and after what we watched in 2021, man I’m not convinced we shouldn’t be popping champagne in the streets.

It buys the Pirates another year to understand who all these guys are and avoid losing someone who could really be a piece. I do wonder if they were not forced to protect some guys if they don’t choose a few members of the 40-man differently. For instance, I don’t see it as likely that Liover Peguero will be ready this year, so it’s fair to expect they wouldn’t have put him on their 40-man. Maybe someone closer to cracking through makes it like Bae or Martin.

No matter how you look at it, I consider it an overall net positive that this event isn’t taking place in 2022.

3. No, They Won’t Rush Henry Davis to Help Already

When you draft a college player number one overall of course the timeline is going to be faster than some high school kid. But not this fast. Not at catcher.

Thing is, I won’t even sit here and try to convince you he wouldn’t easily be just as good as if not better than everyone but a healthy Roberto Perez and even he would get out hit by Henry I’d wager, but he’s too important to the future to risk forcing the issue here. He has some things to learn and his maturity will help him learn it more quickly than most but a catcher is not someone you want learning on the job, at least not at the major league level.

And I say this while I firmly feel he’s going to look like the best option this Spring. When he plays, really pay close attention, you’ll see what’s missing and what he needs to work on and even if you don’t, trust me, someone will point it out. I expect him to move through this system in fairly short order, but I don’t think expecting him to make it now just because the Pirates chose to jump the gun on moving Stallings is fair to him or his future. High A and MLB are still a healthy talent gap from each other.

4. Do Any Rookies Really Have a Shot to Make it Out of Spring?

Yes.

Ok, so that’s not enough to constitute a thought, I guess I better keep going and elaborate a bit here.

First of all, we don’t 100% know the roster size yet. MLB will be speaking to GM’s soon to determine if we’ll have 2 or 3 extra roster spots in April. If we do in fact have a few extra spots, I’d imagine that opens the door a bit for some guys.

We should probably be honest here, what you really want to know is are we going to see Roansy Contreras or Oneil Cruz right? It depends. Cruz probably could, and the DH position sure would be a tempting carrot, but Roansy simply has to get at least a few innings in at AAA I’d imagine.

If anyone has a shot I might give it to Diego Castillo or Rodolfo Castro. I think both could fill a utility role and that might be nice to have, but it’s just as likely they use every spot for pitching which immediately leads me to guys who are on the bubble to begin with like Dillon Peters, Hunter Stratton, Yerry De Los Santos or maybe even Beau Sulser.

Why not Max Kranick or Miguel Yajure? Well, players like that I can see the Pirates wanting to keep them at starter and that being the case I’m not sure you’d see them spend up to a month in MLB pitching out of the pen.

So, I guess a more accurate answer might be, yes, but it might be boring.

5. Any NRI’s That Might Catch Your Eye?

Again, Yes. First let me explain what NRI is just in case. Non Roster Invitee is the term and the Pirates have quite a few you may have never heard of who could make you look twice. Last year Matt Fraizer wound up being one of these guys and you never know when the next one will crop up.

My personal dark horse to have people finally notice him is Jared Triolo. The third base prospect was the Pirates CBBs pick and the 72nd overall. Like so many other prospects, he lost 2020 to COVID but came out of the extended break to put up a gorgeous 2021. The power popped and so did the stolen bases. 15 HR, 25 SB, a .304 AVG with a .480 SLG. He gets lost because of his position but this kid’s no joke.

Enmanuel Mejia is another reliever who spent time in Bradenton and Greensboro last year and in 31 games/42 2/3 innings he racked up 53 strikeouts versus 27 walks and a stellar ERA of 1.10. He functioned as the closer in DSL as well as Bradenton culminating in a 1.26 WHIP. He’s not close to making the majors, but he’s close to making his way into everyone’s consciousness.

Bonus: Slap Singles

  • Many of you ask what Neil Huntington is up to, it’s now being reported that the Cleveland Guardians have hired him as a special assistant. He’s been out of the game since his ousting in 2019 from the Pirates but he’s come full circle.
  • The Braves win the Matt Olson sweepstakes and pay dearly for the privilege. Oakland receives in return OF Cristian Pache, C Shea Langeliers, SP Ryan Cusick and SP Joey Estes. For all the Reynolds rumors swirling around and to lend perspective, it would take more than this. Think about that before you get worried.
  • The Rockies have signed old friend Chad Kuhl details of the deal aren’t available yet but it will be a MLB deal.
  • Fernando Tatis Jr. broke his wrist and will miss at least 3 months. Brutal news for the Padres.
  • Reportedly Andrew McCutchen is in talks with the Brewers
  • ATTSports Pittsburgh is expected to release their Spring schedule for televised games early this week.
  • Hoy Park has tested positive for COVID-19 and is still in South Korea. Could wind up hurting his chances to make the club.
  • Ben Cherington said today when asked about being quiet post lockout, “We’re confident that we’ll be able to add to this team through free agency and/or trade.”
  • From Jason Mackey. Check out what he got from Ben Cherington today.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

2 thoughts on “Five Pirates Thoughts at Five

  1. Nice read–and with several bonuses!

    1. I do wonder to what degree they’re reluctant to commit to “Now we’re flipping the switch,” for multiple reasons. In short, the reasons point to managing expectations and timing. As I learned in the first half of NH’s tenure, small markets are generally always courting hyenas and vultures, whether buying or selling. Add that antsy fan base and it’s tough to temper.

    2. I know for me and a good number of long-term-vision fans, we can become partial from our emotional investment in prospects through their years of development in the Pirates system. Some say the Pirates would easily get back greater value with the early Rule V pick than any player lost, and although I can’t say one way or the other, I definitely think that’s at least plausible. The counterarguement was a good number of prospects speculated as targets of other teams–if you pick one but lose three, that’s likely a net loss. Regardless of all of that, I’ve also seen some heady fans and insiders (might’ve even been ITBB at some point, can’t recall) talk about how rarely a Rule V pick turns into a true impact player–whether in the draft year or beyond. If Thomas, Martin, etc. turn out to be significant pieces, then sure, count those blessings years from now, haha.

    3. I’m impressed with your patience to continue explaining these things. MLB seems inclined to contract the minors further, so *maybe* in a decade or two players will have a more realistic chance at hitting MLB within a year, but we’re way away for now.

    4. Agreed, similar to No. 3, still focused on proper development.

    5. Didn’t Triolo win the Gold Glove at 3B also? For those who follow prospects with any regularity, I definitely think he should be on the radar already. Those kinds of seasons don’t grow on trees, even in the low and middle minor leagues. I expect a strong ST from him in the late innings against the other MiLB guys. If not, I give him a pass from that excellent 2021.

    Good for NH. I imagine in part nobody wanted to potentially take on the remainder of his Pirates contract–if I recall correctly, that extension ran through 2021. If Littlefield can still hang around, he’ll keep finding work.

    Nice rundown. I hope Hoy Park can overcome this disadvantage. From what I saw last season, the work ethic and attitude appear to be in the right place, just a question of putting together the skills and athleticism at the top level. He seems likely to be a journeyman utility, but I’d hate for that opportunity to fade.

    BC on Nutting: I can only hope that’s all true, but the cynic in me questions the lack of substance.

    Liked by 1 person

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