Five Pirates Thoughts at Five

5-2-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

I’m following the Buccos from all the way out in Los Angeles this week, and sometimes listening to the buzz of baseball in a very successful city, well, it lends you some perspective. You see a team that outspends almost everyone every year, and has a embarrassment of talent, guess what, incredibly similar complaints. Call this guy up, send that bum down! They never should have signed that bum.

Obviously all this speaks to is the way fans are, I just think it’s funny not being around it out here, you’d never expect it happens.

Let’s dig in.

1. The Alford Era Ends

And somehow it wasn’t the Pirates choice! Anthony Alford as you surely know by now has selected free agency after clearing waivers and this part here is the kicker, being assigned to AAA Indianapolis. OK, so he’s gone now, and this probably shouldn’t matter, but for whatever reason I just can’t get past it.

I mean why would you even try to keep him? Sincerely? That’s where I’m at, I just don’t get it. This isn’t a guy that’s 23 and been hard done by for years, this is a guy who has had multiple cracks at MLB now, and while I know there is real talent there, and I’m sure he works hard, man it just never happened.

Thing is, this team didn’t even need him to be great. They needed a good glove, maybe put a few over the wall, even if you hit .200. That’s not a high bar, and I’m actually grateful he had the integrity to just take himself off the menu for this club.

I never hated the dude, I never hoped for him to be bad, but when Ben Gamel, and Jake Marisnick beat you that handily, c’mon.

What I want, really more than anything, is for every once in a while, this team to just once do what’s expected. Do what’s universally normal. Be capable of realizing just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Again, I’m making a big deal out of nothing, I’d just like to at the end of the day trust that my GM is capable of recognizing the point where you’ve exhausted all hope and it’s time to move on.

2. Reynolds is Finding it

Something we don’t have much of with this team are track records. You have to be around for a while to build up one of those. Well, Bryan Reynolds has one, and it’s all about seeing pitches. If he’s walking, he’s usually hitting too.

Everything that makes Bryan go is pitch recognition. He doesn’t ever get too far off mechanically, if anything he’ll lose the ball from one side of the plate or the other. Start chasing a tailing away fastball, or taking balls a bit too borderline.

When he’s showing that he’s coming out of it, almost inevitably it starts with an innocent walk. Sure, he’ll pop in the occasional hit, even a really important one, but 9 times out of 10 that first real sign that everything is coming back into focus for him is taking a walk,and working for it at that.

Every guy has a process. For Cutch it used to be putting a charge into one opposite field. When he did a couple games in a row, look out..

Well, if Bryan keeps staying patient at the plate, look next for him to start guessing right early in counts and driving the ball out of the park or to the gaps.

3. Ke’Bryan is Working

Hayes off to a great start to 2022 right after signing a big extension is best case scenario for everyone. That said, Hayes isn’t quite where he wants to be yet I’d imagine. I’m seeing him pull the ball more, he’s shown opposite field gap power, I just have to imagine luck is going to catch up on some of the groundballs that are getting through.

He’s hitting it plenty hard, and to a degree that makes luck, but to add impact to his game, he’s really going to have to find that power stroke. I have every confidence he will to a degree, but man it’s such a fine line. This league is seemingly hung up on creating a return to the deadball era, so it’s not like I’d like him to force power at the expense of his average.

Even when a player starts to prove themselves there is always more to learn.

4. First Base is Becoming Clear, at Least for Now

Michael Chavis deserves more playing time. Maybe it’ll expose him, maybe it’ll give him the opportunity that was missing in Boston, no matter what else he does though, and even though he’s below average height for one, he is the best first baseman on this team as currently constructed.

Now, Yoshi is going to get at bats, and they aren’t going to come at the expense of Daniel Vogelbach who’s been hitting quite well. Yoshi has played poor defense and unlike Reynolds, walks won’t turn into a breakout.

Let’s not fool ourselves, they aren’t just going to cut Yoshi, and if the Pirates are struggling to play him at the moment, believe me nobody is trading for him. This club needs to see what Chavis is anyway, arguably more than they need to see if Yoshi can pop 20. If there’s one thing this team needs to come out of 2022 with, it’s a clear path for first base.

Yoshi is only signed for this year, Vogelbach has an option for 2023 and Chavis isn’t even in arbitration yet. Next up they have Mason Martin, who’s been ripping apart AAA so far.

I don’t expect them to say Mason Martin is the first base sith lord for the next decade. But I’d like to know, if Chavis is good enough to man it for most of 2023 should Martin either not make it or look like a rookie.

If they don’t answer that question, they’ll never know if they need to sign one or not. You can’t go into 2023 hoping Martin holds it down all year, unless of course they call him up like June and let him show you this year. Again, I think they’re a Yoshi away from that being realistic, even if it shouldn’t be that way. This position to me is very up in the air.

5. Another One….Another One….

This is going to be Mitch Keller’s theme all year. Throw a good pitch, well throw me another now. Pitch a good inning, I need to see the next. Pitch a good game, next time needs to be longer. Be the first Pirate this year to go 6 innings, great don’t give up 4 runs next time out.

I’m not sitting here trying to tell you there’s a right time to trust that Mitch Keller is real, instead, I’m just going to suggest you take a step back from his career numbers and just individually do what you’re asking him to do. Take it pitch by pitch, and let him show you.

Inning by inning, start by start, he’s going to either show that this is different, or he won’t. You already know he’s going to be given a long leash and that’s just going to take most of the season. I understand he’s been a struggle, but if he figures it out he’s very important.

The funny thing is, I see many of you marveling about the pitcher Joe Musgrove has become and he really has, but he’s just reaching free agency right now and he’ll be 30.

Developing a dominant pitching staff is hard and its why no matter how good the pitching the Bucs have coming is, sometimes development goes like this. If Mitch turns it around this year, he’ll enter arbitration next year and when he hits free agency he’ll be guess what? That’s right, 30.

You never know which way it’s gonna go either. Is he a guy who develops and looks like he has the goods from the jump or is he a guy who struggles for 4 years before making it? Reality dictates option number 2 dominates the chart.

We all needed a savior when Mitch Keller came up, and when he turned out to not be the savior we wanted we decided he had no place in our present or future. Folks, I’m not telling you he’s turned into a completely different player, but I am saying he’s not exactly so far off track that its unfathomable he’ll figure it out.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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