Play the Kids, but Be Smart About it

5-26-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

Tucapita Marcano, Calvin Mitchell, Roansy Contreras, Yerry De Los Santos, Jack Suwinski, Diego Castillo, Cal Aldred, Beau Sulser, and Rodolfo Castro, have all been called up to the big leagues this year, and it’s been really fun watching all the debuts and the injection of hope and energy they provide.

All that said, more are on the way and as fans restlessly point to those who haven’t been brought up yet, or even who should, I think we need to talk a bit about why you might want to just slow down at least a little and enjoy it in the stages it comes.

You all know this is no surprise to me, I’ve been telling most of you who read consistently or listen for that matter, since 2020, this season was the first time we’d really start to feel the results of this rebuild. Meaning, 2022 was always going to be the first time prospects started forcing their way onto this club.

Maybe not the prospects you wanted or expected. Maybe not when you wanted or expected. Perhaps not to replace whom you really think needs to go, but the youth is very much so in the process of remaking this club.

Some of them won’t stay, and many of you will feel they didn’t get a fair shake. Some will stick and you’ll wonder what the team is seeing that you aren’t.

This isn’t a Pirates phenomena as much as an event we really haven’t seen in these parts for quite some time. Oh, some of you will claim to remember it from the last run, but really think back, nobody was excited Jordy Mercer was coming up here, despite how he turned out. Hardly anyone believed Josh Harrison would become a regular starter. Marte, Polanco, Cutch, Cole, Taillon, that’s quite a list but it didn’t happen all in one season like this. Another big difference, there wasn’t much else coming, at least not quickly.

What the Pirates did really was create a pinch point. A small area where some might squeak through but most weren’t going to fit, then finally the pressure was just too much and the flow is open.

Lots of folks were really mad about the club not signing more veterans in the off season and I’ll agree, more pitching, specifically a starter would be welcome, even another Quintana type, but this is why. What you’re watching unfold right now is the exact reason a ton of vets weren’t brought in.

See the Yoshi Tsutsugo situation. Here’s a guy who’s really not performing, at the plate, or in the field. His 4 million dollar price tag has probably allowed him to survive this long, but it won’t last much longer if he doesn’t show signs of life soon.

Mason Martin is breathing down his neck, Michael Chavis is proving he’s much more capable, and Daniel Vogelbach has rendered him irrelevant as a DH when healthy. Heck the team has even started having Gamel take reps over there recently, you know, cause they kinda have a ton of outfield prospects just about to be ready together.

The decisions will get tougher, but veterans have their place and the team would do well to not banish them all just to chase the next hot hitter or arm. Leadership and experience don’t always travel together, but when they do, a young team needs nothing more, well, aside from opportunity.

I write all this because I’m telling you, you’ve never seen what’s coming, unless you lived through the 70’s that is. Good players are going to get passed by better players. Once you have the obvious easy choices moved out of the way, man it get’s tough.

Play with me a bit here, Jack Suwinski has an awful batting average, but he’s looked the part in the field and hit some big homeruns. Takes a nice at bat, so it’s not like he’s flailing up there. In a normal year, even hitting under .200 he’s probably a guy you aren’t done watching right? Well, some other guys have started really pressing like Cal Mitchell who was just called up, Travis Swaggerty is starting to hit better, Canaan Smith-Njigba has been on a tear. At some point, these decisions aren’t going to be so easy to call for right?

Wanna get really crazy? Bryan Reynolds at some point is going to be asked to do more than hit .220 and struggle. They aren’t there yet obviously but at some point, it’s not crazy to think some of the guys we’ve already seen and some of who’s on the way could force even a guy we all believe in to either perform or get out of the way. I don’t think it’ll come to this, but I also don’t think anyone saw Matt Gorski flying through the system suddenly either or Conner Scott finally looking like the top pick Miami thought he was. Think about it, did you ever see Paul DeJong a 28 year old veteran who used to be a vital part of the St. Louis lineup getting sent down to AAA because some kids were far superior? It happens especially when you have a thriving system which St. Louis seemingly always has. Finally the Pirates can rival that aspect of their franchise minimally.

I told you 2022 would be fun. Not successful. Not above .500. Not a playoff team, but fun. I also told you the team would be much better in September than it was in April. I think we’re on track for all of that, and folks, it’s just starting.

Yes, they’ll still have to add players from outside, of course, but when this club shows up in Bradenton next Spring, it has a chance to be a really nicely filled out squad with several top prospects pushing to unseat someone either during camp or shortly thereafter.

All of those trades for “nothing” suddenly don’t look like nothing do they?

I’m not here to tell you that the record doesn’t matter, it certainly does to these players and us fans, but I am telling you growing pains are part of this, and as many as possible should work through those this year. Again, the very reason they weren’t artificially blocked with free agents.

It’s going to still be frustrating at times, hell, maybe the entire coaching staff aren’t the right ones to get the job done, I’d like to think they’ll use this year to find that out too even if many of us think we already know.

I’ll say this though, this team is very much so on the path they intended to be, and they’ve even got enough to battle through injuries. Enjoy the ride, be honest about what you see, and more than anything folks, let’s have real baseball talk about real baseball players, because that’s what we have in front of us right now.

The kids won’t let the energy drop too far the rest of the way, even if they get smacked in the nose a few times as they grow.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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