Hump Day Pittsburgh Pirates Q&A

3-1-23 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

Ton of great questions this week, honestly, some of them are flattering that you’d think I could even attempt to answer, but I’ll give ’em a swing.

Lets Go…..

Question 1

Why are some Pirates allowed to play in the World Baseball Classic and others aren’t? – David Jonserz

This one is actually easy, so I won’t complicate it. The only reason we hear about this is because the Pirates protested Ji-man Choi participating in the WBC. This was not a personal decision, or because he cost too much, it was because Choi had elbow surgery and is actively in a recovery plan. The Pirates simply didn’t want to have another entity oversee that for him. Also, he should be ready to play as the event is taking place, but not likely before, so they’d like to have him in camp to get his ABs with them. That’s really it. Aside from that, if the international team wanted a player and the player wanted to participate, done.

Question 2

I just drafted a slew of Pirates in my first dynasty draft. Thoughts on playing time for Bae? CSN? -Phil Chaplin

First, I don’t do fantasy sports. So if there’s some milestone that makes a guy a good pickup vs poor, I don’t know it. That said, I think Bae is going to get plenty of playing time this season. He’s versatile, and even if he doesn’t make the team out of camp, he has first call up written all over him. Think about it, if there is injury or poor performance at 2B or the OF he’s the dude, if Hayes were to get hurt, Castro would move over to 3B, meaning Bae, to 2B. I think he can easily get 350-400 ABs without ever being named the starting anything.

CSN is a bit tougher. I can honestly say, the team would love him to emerge, they like a lot about him. Cal Mitchell got a little over 200 ABs last year on a very part time basis, that sounds like a good target for Canaan. The problem here is they have so very many of these type of guys, we’ll just have to see who emerges, and on top of that Bae himself will play a role in that competition.

Hope that helps, and here’s to winning your league Phil.

Question 3

Hi Gary! Thanks for the insight! Say, is it possible E Rodriguez or Davis see any catching duties this yr. So much positive news on Rod, just wondering what ya think here – Scott Chase

Hi Scott! I’d be shocked if Endy didn’t catch. Just yesterday on the broadcast Ben Cherington said they “really believe he can catch”. When he is called up, he’ll be primarily seen as a catching prospect but his versatility will really come into play when and if Henry Davis makes his way to the league. I don’t believe that will be significant in 2023. Davis could certainly make his debut, but lets be real, we’re talking September, dude has barely played.

I will say, if Henry has anything to say about it, he’ll be the Pirates Starting catcher for his entire career. There is no telling how they handle these two as we move forward. Davis could be the starting catcher, Endy would be the “backup” but plays a starter’s load because he can also play elsewhere, and they potentially carry 3 “catchers”. I literally mean this, they could do about 15 different things, and we’re all going to have to watch it play out. This year though, Endy is your guy.

Question 4

With an experienced gm like Cherington agreeing to oversee this organization. Do you think with his resume and experience that he got some kind of assurances from Nutting on salary. Maybe not particular numbers but maybe a ranking like between 20-23 – Todd Kemmerer

Well, I’ll start here Todd, I’ve been told he told Nutting what he thought he’d need and Nutting agreed to provide it. Nobody is going to give direct numbers, and a little secret, nobody cares about where they rank in the league when it comes to payroll.

You wouldn’t either if you really think about it. They have a ton of prospects, if a bunch of them work out and they manage to put together a team that only has a couple big contracts, hey, nobody is gonna get sweaty if the payroll is 27th. The highest they’ve been in recent times was 16th during the wild card run in the 2010’s, but the water level has significantly raised since then.

I’d further add in here, one of Cherington’s biggest motivations for coming here was the opportunity to completely restructure and rebuild a team’s entire system, and he knew it was going to take time. Something he watched and assisted with in Boston and Toronto, but he wanted to put his mark on a franchise and Bob handed him the keys.

I’d also say, in a moment of honesty, I’d bet he’s been a little cheap even for Bob. I’ll wait for the laughter to subside. This isn’t intended to be a joke though, Bob has now gotten involved in 3 things when it comes to players. Reynolds last year with the Arbitration case, he stepped in because he didn’t want Bryan going through that process, Cherington clearly didn’t mind it playing out. Andrew McCutchen coming back, I can honestly say his relationship with Nutting made this happen, and I hear Cherington wasn’t looking for another outfielder, at least not earnestly. Lastly, Nutting again is involved with the Reynolds situation, and openly opined he hasn’t liked how it’s gone. So if anything, Cherington in my mind is holding the purse strings tighter than Bob at the moment. Which makes sense if you think he believes he he’ll have the resources he needs when he wants them.

Question 5

What’s your take on Brubaker? His inconsistencies has bothered me over the years, is his development a year behind Keller’s? Or is what we see what you think we will get? Which is either a backend of the rotation starter or a long reliever. He showed glimpses of a middle of a rotation player last year at times, then at other times it was head scratching on whether he needed to be moved out of the starting rotation this season if some of the Triple A players you named did blossom and are ready by July. – Paul Swan

Let’s start here Paul, no matter what I say here on JT, half the readers will fervently disagree. He’s polarizing, and he’s that because like so many before him, he has the stuff, he has the number of pitches, he just hasn’t ever really put it all together.

Think about the differences of two other pitchers to help understand why we feel the way we do about Brubaker. Trevor Williams and Chad Kuhl. Trevor had clearly the better go of it here in Pittsburgh, but Chad is almost universally seen as the better pitcher. That’s because Trevor did a lot of things well, but to be successful, he had to do ALL those things well ALL at the same time. Kuhl had incredible stuff, he too wasn’t consistent, but he needed less of his “package” to come together to have success.

If those two had a child, it might be JT Brubaker. He has really good stuff, but he needs things to come together to succeed.

As of right now, he’ll be in the rotation, but after Velasquez and Hill, he has to be low man on the totem pole right? Well, even if he is, you’re now supposing 3 of the starting prospects are supplanting members of a rotation most think will be at least better this year.

I do believe Brubaker is a middle to back end of the rotation pitcher, and he has shown a proclivity for delivering innings. That’s incredibly valuable in today’s game, and I mean this sincerely, should the Pirates choose to do so, he’d have a trade market that would dwarf Hill or Velasquez.

Now, in relation to Keller. There was a time when he was actually ahead of Keller in the system before being injured, but Keller was always the higher prospect ceiling. That said, Brubaker contributed positively for 2 years while Keller only stuck in the rotation because the team was so embarrassingly light on options. Just because Keller turned his game around in 2022, well, it doesn’t discount how much good Brubaker did on the way there.

Brubaker’s biggest issue to me is getting settled in. If I were his coach (first of all he’d be out of the game lol) I’d have him alter his warmup routine and do it with that night’s starting catcher. Just knowing what is and isn’t working before the game would help him avoid those early game blowups that seem to precede his inevitable 5 scoreless that follow it.

Could he wind up in the pen someday? Sure. But that last paragraph is why I fear that move. It takes him time to settle in, and that my friend looks awful coming out of the pen.

Question 6

I’ll start here Elliot, overall, I like it. I wrote a little about this in Five Thoughts Monday but promised I’d expand here because of your question.

I think the clock, if MLB and broadcasters handle it properly, will really kinda slip our minds most of the time. I’m only 46, but I can honestly say when I was a child the game looked a lot more like what I’ve seen early on this Spring than what it had become.

I mean, watch this play out….

It’s crazy right?

You want to know how I know this was a real problem? During games I’d have people consistently reading my articles. We can see how many are on our site, and when in real time and during games, those numbers always tick up. Because people are thinking about baseball right then, and they have plenty of time on their hands.

Now, we don’t write small pieces typically. It takes a minute to really read and the time on page says they’re reading. You shouldn’t feel you have time to read like that during a game. I already see less tweeting during the game too. In other words, this pitch clock and hitter clock really, we should be honest it’s for both, is making the game something you can’t take your eyes from.

Now, I see it causing issues late in games. Not because I think we’ll see a ton of games ending on a dumb call, but because the drama of baseball late in games or the playoffs is just different, and honestly, part of why we love it so much.

In other words, I can see what people are concerned about, but we have to remember Baseball has a youth problem, and this Instagram and TikTok generation, well, they don’t have the attention span that you or I had. Think of it like this, When I was a kid, Microwaves existed, but not in most homes. They were a gadget that rich people had and if you simply got to use one you were wowed by how fast you could heat something. Once they became universally affordable, almost everyone’s mom wound up trying to cook WAY too much in them and you probably found yourself realizing faster didn’t always equal better. Now put yourself in a position where you literally don’t have a memory of not having one, and for the most part, you used it for leftovers or Hot Pockets. It’s just part of life to you, and you can’t imagine waiting 40 minutes to make a pot pie.

One more way to look at it. I have adult kids, but they will never know what life was like before the internet. I can absolutely say it’s ruined parts of life. Nobody can wait for anything, everything needs to be known instantly, judgements must be immediate. That said, there’s no going back, and nobody can survive in a world increasingly reliant on it. Well, baseball is trying to relate to a new generation that had started preferring to watch highlight packages (not unlike NFL Redzone) than an actual game.

Point is, even if you don’t like it, it’s hard to argue the game needed to do something.

Question 7

Good to see so much potential with the 2023 Pirates. Do you think the pitch clock makes it more important for pitchers to be decent shape? – Mark Graham

I mean, it’s always important for athletes to stay in decent shape, but for pitchers it’s all about the arm. I spoke to Eric Minshall, former pitching coach in the Pirates organization and his take was pretty low key on this subject. The repeatability shouldn’t be an issue in his mind.

Now, is a guy like Verlander or Hill going to tire over 6-7-8 innings of firing a ball every 15 seconds? Maybe, but it’s hard to say until someone acknowledges it. In the minors starters are rarely going coast to coast and they’re considerably younger, so it’s not exactly apples to apples.

If I had to guess, even if it effects someone, we aren’t likely to hear about it, but as with most things in sports, if it involves strength, agility, or stamina, age will adversely effect it.

Question 8

His early fielding scouting reports were based on him being a SS, and it was even suggested within that he’d be a much better 2B. That said, he does read the ball off the bat well, has grade 70 speed and his range is terrific. Where he lacks is the arm, relatively pedestrian grade of 45 on that tool which would seem to limit how effective he could be out there.

Without having the benefit of seeing him do it much all I can say is he’s fast enough, reads balls well enough but unless he has worked on the arm, probably not a perfect long term fit.

All that being said, the bat will tell the story. If he hits the way some think he can, they’ll find a place for him to play, and it may very well have to be in the OF.

He won’t be a gold glover out there, primarily because of his arm, but he’ll get to and glove just about everything he should and he’s pretty smart, he’ll hit his cutoff guys and make good decisions.

Again, has to hit to make them deal with what probably isn’t best for the defensive unit.

Keep sending in great questions all week long, I appreciate the participation so far!

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

One thought on “Hump Day Pittsburgh Pirates Q&A

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