The Best the Pirates Have to Offer in 2022?

6-19-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

It’s late June, and bluntly, the Pirates have already called up more players than I thought they would at this point. I mean, everyone they’ve called up so far was on my list of possible promotions, but not already.

The good news there is, we’ve actually gotten eyes on a bunch of guys we probably didn’t think we would yet.

So I think we’ll take a look, position by position and see if we can’t come up with the best 26 man roster, specifically to win more now, they could put together. In other words, I may not pick the best prospect, or long term answer, because that player my not really be best for this year.

These are all based on health too. For instance, when we hit catching, Roberto Perez obviously was, is and will be the best they have to offer, and yet, he gone.

Starting Pitcher (5)

Mitch Keller, JT Brubaker, Zach Thompson, Jose Quintana, Roansy Contreras
That’s right. Right now, it feels like that’s the best they got. I could make an argument that Mike Burrows is going to work his way into this mix, but let’s give him some time shall we? I could also make an argument for Cody Bolton, but hear me out, he hasn’t pitched, period, since 2019, and as good as he looks, he simply is going to run out of innings before the season ends. I think when I sit down to look at something like this in 2023, he’s a guy I factor in, but this year, I just let him focus on being healthy.

Point is right now those five are the best choices, and they happen to be who’s here, so hard to argue with the club right now.

Relievers (8)

David Bednar, Wil Crowe, Chris Stratton, Tyler Beede, Yerry De Los Santos, Cam Vieaux, Chase De Jong, Arron Fletcher

Now, this isn’t their current set up, and I’m jumping ahead to getting down to a 13 man pitching staff. I’ve swapped Fletcher for Banda. Not great, but injury does play a role here.

Soon this will be augmented by Nick Mears, Duane Underwood (COVID IL), Dillon Peters, and I think at some point Hunter Stratton. They should replace Fletcher, Vieaux and probably Stratton if we’re purely talking about who’s best as opposed to any other factor at play like trying to trade a guy, pay check, you know, all the BS.

This is thin. They are too short on starting options to really mess with many more of them being relievers at the moment, and set backs to guys like Cederlind have made it even worse.

Lots of sentiment out there that bullpens just come together out of scraps, but for poor teams (or teams who act poor depending on how you feel) need to put extra effort here to make up for deficiencies elsewhere.

Catcher (2)

Tyler Heineman, Carter Bins

Neither are good. Heineman can handle the defensive side well enough, as long as you don’t needs guys thrown out on the base paths. Bins is really not impressive, but I’d rather see him audition up here than watch Perez for another minute, plus get me another right handed bat up here and see if this kid can be a backup at least.

The Pirates didn’t make this position better this offseason, and let’s be real clear. The Pirates don’t have Zach Thompson or fringe candidate to help this year Kyle Nicolas if they didn’t move Stallings to Miami.

I said it then and I’ll say it again, the return was really solid for Stallings and he hasn’t exactly been great in Miami either, but this organization simply doesn’t have an exciting catcher before Davis, and yes he’ll be a fine backstop.

One more thing I’ll touch on, Blake Sabol. Guys and gals, listen, he’s just not a catcher. He can do it in a pinch, it’s a nice skill to have in your pocket, but at the MLB level, I’m sorry he isn’t going to play there. I’ve heard this now from 5 scouts and I won’t even mention the players who see it too. Seems like a great guy, hits well enough that he’ll likely find a way to the bigs in some capacity at some point, but not as a catcher. Just get that out your head. Also, don’t crap on his age, yes he’s 24, but he was drafted in 2019, it’s not his fault that he couldn’t really play until 2021. There’s an entire group of players in the same boat and I expect we’ll see the average age of MLB rookies have an out of character jump that reverts to what it’s always been soon.

First Base (2)

Michael Chavis, Mason Martin

I’d do this right now. And yes, Mason is struggling again. This is about right now, and right now those two give you the best chance to win.

I’d like to see the club explore more with Bligh Madris at first, it’s what he played in college, he too has been hurt by the COVID time off, and if they feel he can play well enough, he might just earn himself a spot due to his OF ability too.

Yoshi was a mistake, and Vogelbach just isn’t a fielder.

Long term, I don’t think I’ve listed the Pirates answer. I want to believe in Martin, but at 22, I just haven’t seen enough consistency. I think he’s always going to be streaky to a degree, and probably always struggle a bit with the strikeout. That doesn’t mean he can’t be a good player, just means those steaks need to become less of a deep bottoming out. He’s a living embodiment of his ceiling and floor. During a season he’ll show you both.

Third Base (1)

Ke’Bryan Hayes. Done.

OK, you need someone else for when he takes a break. Michael Chavis can play there, looks ok. Diego Castillo is an option. There are others too, even Oneil Cruz is a guy who can and has shown an ability to field it there.

Not worth wasting much energy on this spot.

Short Stop (2)

Oneil Cruz, Diego Castillo

Cruz is going to get a shot there, and his bat makes him the best option. Castillo aside from that one inning has been at least competent there.

When he comes off the IL, Kevin Newman absolutely has a home. The team needs that sure handed glove either at SS or 2B, but they need it.

As I sit here today, I honestly believe Cruz will make some spectacular plays at short, but I also believe he’ll start to show why his status as a short stop is tenuous at best.

I predicted the team would move on from Newman after 2022, one way or another, I’m about 50% less confident in that statement now. Absence makes the heart grow fonder perhaps, but he and Hayes had the left side of that defense on lock down, and now I hold my breath.

Liover Peguero who’s here now could certainly make his way into this position, but he has some work to do on his throwing technique. Yes, I believe that’s all it is. He doesn’t have a consistent arm slot when making throws and that tends to create inconsistent results. To me, nothing that can’t be cleaned up. Why is that different for Cruz? Well, maybe it isn’t, this is all based on my opinion. To me Cruz at least so far doesn’t seem to sense how much time he has to make a play because of that cannon of an arm. I think he will always be able to play it I just don’t see him having much more growth to do. For instance, it’s impossible to believe he’s gotten this far without a coach mentioning that double clutching hurts their double play success rate, or hey kid, set yourself and throw, you have time. It either clicks or doesn’t.

Second Base (1)

Tucapita Marcano

First of all, he’s on COVID IL, so I’m breaking a rule here. Backed by Diego Castillo, man I just like what we’ve seen from Marcano. He’s done well in the leadoff spot too, which this team desperately needs in order to properly use Hayes. Hayes to his credit has filled the leadoff role, but it sure would be nice if he was in a run producing spot and Tuc makes that possible.

Being 100% blunt with you, I’m far more impressed with Marcano than I thought I’d be. I like his energy and he’s been solid in the field too.

Kevin Newman could factor in as a safety net here too. Let’s be honest, once Cruz is here there won’t be a bunch of at bats for him if the Pirates do this right.

Outfield (3)

Bryan Reynolds, Jack Suwinski, Cal Mitchell

I know they just sent Swaggs down, but again, this is right now. In a couple weeks, Gamel is the best bet and I’d consider having him replace Mitchell.

I could make an argument that at 24 Matt Gorski deserves a shot. I could and have argued that at 26 let’s get Bligh Madris up here and give him a shot. But if I’m honest, I think the best mix has been mentioned. I wish someone was right handed, but we have to deal with what we have.

Utility (1)

Diego Castillo

Right now, his versatility and being right handed simply make him the best bet. I could hear Ji-hwan Bae, and honestly you might be right, but the make up of this roster, I simply can’t see eliminating another right handed bat for a lefty.

I also think Kevin Newman is going to take this spot and unless Castillo 100% proves he’s better than Marcano, he’ll be the victim.

Designated Hitter (1)

Daniel Vogelbach

Now, I’m only saying one, but I’d prefer this be a rotating spot. Use it for rest, use it for hot and cold streaks, right now, it’s a locked in spot for a guy who can’t do anything else.

This team has no power, so I’m not cutting one of the only guys who hits homeruns, even if he can’t run. Call up Mason Martin and I’d happily have the conversation. Maybe this is how you work Bae in. Not that he’s the DH, but his versatility could help make it work better as a rotating role. Safest bet right now is probably Vogelthiccccck.

So Now What?

I mean, injury can’t be blamed the way it has in the past. They’ve suffered some unfortunate losses but c’mon, the starting rotation has remained healthy, Canaan Smith-Njigba wasn’t here long enough for any of us to really know what we’ve missed and most of you were openly happy when Newman went on the IL.

This exercise is really about finding the best 26, and more specifically, the best current 26.

We constantly hear about who should be here and who shouldn’t, but really look at the options and think it through.

The toughest one for me is Bae. I think he’d do well up here, and I think he could help quite a bit, but this club is already too left handed, and that gives me pause, at least right now.

Add in Mason Martin and Oneil Cruz and it becomes super ridiculous.

Bottom line, this isn’t going to turn into a winner in 2022, but a better, more well constructed roster is available.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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