9-18-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
Jack Suwinski is universally seen as a virtual lock to be the Pirates starting left fielder in 2023. Hitting 16 homeruns in your first 90 games in your rookie campaign will do that.
But Jack has struggled to recapture the magic.
He went into a huge tailspin that caused a demotion to AAA, a demotion that was supposed to help him figure out how to cut down on the strikeouts, preferably without sacrificing the power he’d so admirably displayed after his emergency call from AA Altoona.
Unfortunately, the strikeout numbers in AAA were actually worse. In 117 at bats he struck out 49 times, folks that’s just brutal.
It makes you wonder if that’s ok and gets you penciled in as a lock to start in 2023, why isn’t Mason Martin up here? I mean if we’re going to excuse strikeouts in lieu of power numbers, what’s the difference right?
In 282 big league at bats, Jack Suwinski has taken the old strike 3 rumba back to the dugout 96 times.
There’s no denying his defense is where it needs to be. There’s no denying his power is sorely needed. The question is, how do you bat someone who can’t crack .200 anywhere near the middle of your order?
Again, don’t get me wrong, largely what Jack has done in 2022 has been good for a rookie. Rookies get better, and that’s what you have to hope here too, but the strikeout problem followed him even before his power emerged in 2021 so it’s not like the Pirates drew it out of him or something.
There can be a place for a hitter like that, and given the alternatives, the Pirates likely will make sure there is, but for Jack to really become a true and long term answer out there, he’s going to have to evolve.
I don’t believe he’s receiving the help he needs.
Regardless of your thoughts on Andy Haines, and as most of you know, mine are rather negative, Jack simply has to become less predictable. That means more than anything else, recognizing, and ultimately laying off the absolute glut of breaking pitches the find their way under his bat.
See it’s an oxymoron, he has hit several of his 16 homeruns by swinging at them.
Take a look at where his strikeouts have come from.
Folks, pitchers know exactly how to get him out, and until Jack shows he can lay off, he’ll do nothing but face even more of them.
Oh, he’ll hit the mistakes, but lets be really blunt here, pitchers simply don’t make enough mistakes to live on them alone. First and foremost Jack must force them into the zone and the only way to successfully do so is to stop swinging at the shear volume of pitches he’s seeing in places he can’t reasonably hope to contact them.
It’ll never be 100% eliminated, I mean not a week ago we heard on the broadcast as Bryan Reynolds sacrificed a bat he struck out with to the concrete walls of the runway to the locker room. Another he chased low, bottom line, it’s not like Jack is the only player to ever deal with it or indeed struggle with it.
This is hardly a disaster of a rookie campaign for Suwinski, but it is instead a really good foundation to build on. He’s shown some things that plainly put, most guys aren’t capable of. Unfortunately it won’t be enough if he doesn’t make some more adjustments.
The best thing about playing this many kids is the amount of room they have left to grow. Off seasons are universally accepted as the period of time in which all players take their biggest jumps.
Jack is in no way alone here, he’s got a team full of players who have their own issues to deal with. This is how a group of players, individually focused start to come together and form a team. Pulling each other up, pushing from below, encouraging from within and finally supporting in their lowest moments. All in an effort to one day do something special together.
We, not a single one of us, know exactly where this thing is headed, or who will be a part of it when and if they pull it all together, but suffice to say, improvement and minimizing weaknesses will play a very large role in that cause.
I focused on Jack because while he has already done enough positive things to captivate much of the fan base, he also very clearly has not reached the heights of what he can become.
The possibility of never moving beyond where he is surely lives too. That’s why continually harping on where so and so will find a place to play or who should be trade bait are truly premature. Jack may or may not wind up being a fixture on a team that matters, but truly nothing matters more than the process of allowing his play and the play of other players around him to answer those questions.
I’ll never forget what my high school baseball coach said to me when I was mired in an 0 for 17 streak during my sophomore season. He just said if you’ve never struggled in this game, you haven’t played it either.
Nobody likes hearing from the GM that the bulk of this teams improvement will come from internally improving. At this stage though, to say anything else would be a complete and utter bald faced lie. Players like Jack will be part of that.
And it continues with his next at bat.
Just like it does for all of these young players.