3-13-23 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
Another week of Spring games in the books and with the World Baseball Classic in full swing too, baseball is everywhere right now. The results haven’t been great for the Pirates so far, not that the record matters in Spring, but you still want to see players starting to show the rust knocking off and fewer blow up innings from the pitchers.
You can give the bats excuses, like the old cliché that the bats lag behind arms in Spring, it’s true, but it’s hard to give that to them when you watch what other teams are doing with the bats.
Point being, the Pirates woes are theirs, and they’ll eventually right the ship or get off to a slow start.
Lets Dig in.
1. Fast Forward!!!!
It’s so hard to tell a fan base that has dealt with what we’ve dealt with to be patient, but that is exactly what is needed here.
No, I don’t mean deal with inferior pitchers to start out while the Pirates manipulate some rookies out of paychecks, I mean right now, the Pirates have a decent starting 5. Keller, Brubaker, Hill, Velasquez, and Contreras looks to be the way we’ll start and while I do think they have superior talent that will start in AAA, we’ve seen enough ball to know they’ll need to draw from that pool.
Fans from the jump this Spring have envisioned the rotation including Burrows, Ortiz and Priester by season’s end and all along I’ve been telling everyone to pump the brakes a bit there.
It’s not that those 3 couldn’t make it to the show, it’s that they aren’t the only ones who could. Carmen Mlodzinski looks really good, Johan Oviedo is a guy the Pirates have certainly not given up on, even a guy like Kyle Nicolas could work his way into that conversation.
There isn’t an order this has to happen in, and there’s no rule this has to happen this season. There’s a very real possibility we head into Spring of 2024 with yet another veteran starter brought in (most likely from the left side) and 4 or 5 qualified starters fighting for a single available spot.
All I’m saying here is, I’ll take 8-9 guys I want to see and be ok with watching it turnover slowly. It’s a luxury we haven’t seen in these parts, really in my lifetime. There have always been teams where they had one of two guys coming, but this is different, to the point where a few could fall flat and they’d still be in good shape.
2. Where’s the Offense?
For one thing, waiting for at bats.
The Pirates current leader for at bats is Rodolfo Castro with 26 and he’s trailed by Cal Mitchell and Oneil Cruz with 23 apiece. That’s about a week’s worth of ABs folks. Most players have far fewer than that, so it’s super hard to hit the panic button, just like it should be hard to pretend Ke’Bryan Hayes is going to keep up his 1.077 OPS he’s racked up after 13 at bats.
Look, it certainly hasn’t been ideal, I just got done saying Bryan Reynolds and Andrew McCutchen had really gotten off to slow starts in Spring and Reynolds answered with 2 homeruns, while Cutch has started hitting the ball harder too.
This isn’t an excuse, every team is in the same boat when it comes to getting regulars ready to go and as we’ve seen, they certainly aren’t being shy facing Pirates pitching.
There is something to be said for the inconsistency of work load in Spring, and the Pirates will start to swing in a different direction soon. By MLB rule, players with no service time who remain on the MLB Spring roster on the 15th who get hurt and are on the IL both accrue pay and MLB service time, so you’ll see them make a flurry of moves likely tomorrow.
These moves will ship out players like Triolo, Rodriguez, Gonzales, Burrows, basically if they are a guy you’d think this team would want to “manipulate” chances are they aren’t going to take a risk that they get hurt and get service time.
This doesn’t mean you won’t see them again in Spring, it just means they’ll be “over from MiLB camp” as opposed to on the MLB Spring training roster. Even so, there comes a point where getting prepared for the MiLB season is important as well so the ABs will diminish.
This will force the team to focus their energy on the guys who have a real chance of heading North, and the hope is in doing so we’ll see a bit more, well, readiness start to emerge.
When you start a lineup that only misses maybe 1 projected starter though, you expect the offense to look a bit more polished than it has. I can’t stress enough how little I’ve seen tangibly change with the overall team approach at the plate, and yes, it scares me.
3. MLB Presentation
Before we start here, let’s touch on what looks to be the plan as we sit here for the eventual folding of ATT SportsNet. It seems the plan will be for MLB.com to offer free streaming with no blackout restrictions for all affected markets. Now, for those of you who already stream content this is going to be fine, you’ll adapt and move on.
For those of you who don’t, well, you’ll have to figure it out. If it’s something you’re super concerned about, let me know and I’ll make it a point to write up some “easy” ways to make sure you can watch.
All that aside, I was talking to my friend Graves on Twitter and she mentioned how tiring it was hearing every new analyst who comes into the booth and their individual take on all the new rules.
This really got me thinking, cause I’ve heard it all over the league, even national broadcasts.
When those calling your game are acting like these rules are silly, or unnecessary, or even damaging to the game, I’m not sure how they expect fans to embrace them.
That doesn’t mean you lie to the listener, but maybe don’t start out with things being awful and hoping it gets better. Instead maybe just ensure we all understand the rules, what they’re intended to cause/create and let us decide for ourselves if we like them or not.
It’s not just about rules either, think back a few years to all the young players coming up to the league and showboating after a homerun. Think of how critical most broadcasts were toward them, even as those antics drew some youngsters to the sport.
I can honestly say, I’d much prefer a player drop their bat and jog or hand the football to the ref like Barry Sanders, but man this is the game you’re selling. It’s not against the rules and like it or don’t it’s putting eyeballs on your sport that wouldn’t be there otherwise.
At some point, MLB broadcasts both locally and nationally, need to realize they are the salespeople, so they might want to start acting like they like the product they’re selling. As opposed to acting frustrated by it.
4. One Lefty Reliever on the 40-man
That’s right, Jose Hernandez the Rule 5 Selection from the LA Dodgers is the lone left handed reliever on the 40-man and while he’s largely been impressive, he’s still a guy no good team would enter a season banking on. He’s never even thrown a pitch in AAA and now that Jarlin Garcia is almost assuredly starting the season on the IL the Bucs need a backup plan.
Michael just wrote up a nice piece about all the internal options last week. It’s a nice breakdown of NRI’s, and young prospects but man it screams the need for a trade to me. It’s too early to allow your best laid plans to disintegrate, and if I’m the Pirates brain trust first thing I’m doing is teeing up a move to sure this up. Even if Garcia winds up being ok and comes back in April you still don’t want forced into leaning on Hernandez to get crucial outs late in games.
They could also wait for final cuts this Spring and pick off someone who had an out clause or simply were set free due to roster restrictions, but any of those guys will be someone who went through an entire Spring and failed to compel a team to keep them.
To me, this is the very reason you duplicate efforts with prospect acquisition, so you have depth to deal from. Even if you take someone you like who throws right handed to get a left hander you like, the Pirates must not turn a blind eye to this in my opinion. Eating salary could help make what you have to ship out even less.
They won’t be alone either. Take a quick look at Seattle’s projected roster and you quickly see they, right this second, don’t have any healthy lefties looking like locks to make their bullpen. So if you wait, well you won’t be the only one shopping.
Lefty relievers are short all around the league, but that doesn’t mean none. Look for something here, if the Pirates have one need to make a deal it’s this and I’d recommend shopping from the most stacked teams like Houston, LA, NY, they’ve filled their rosters and might have some more polished prospects, maybe even some with experience available for the right price.
5. OMG! Reynolds Likes Jack! Everything has Changed!
Bryan Reynolds could tell us his favorite cereal is Cheerios right now and someone would tell us it was code for saying the Pirates had a bunch of holes. Point is, everything he does and says will be analyzed and projected because real news hasn’t been coming out about his situation.
I believe 3 weeks ago now, I put forward in this space that these two sides will get this deal done, and I still believe they will but in this case, I think it’s just a guy who is genuinely excited about playing with a friend and has no reason to expect he won’t play with him all year.
I don’t think the situation is constantly in his head, I don’t think it’s causing him to struggle, I honestly think both sides being quiet is exactly what you want right now. Quiet tends to equal two sides that don’t want to invite the media to help them screw it up.
From the other side of this thing, take Ben Cherington’s appearance on 93.7 the Fan last week where he was very evasive about the situation. He clearly didn’t want to give any clues, didn’t want to lead you to any conclusions, just reiterated he didn’t see any reason Bryan wouldn’t be a Pirate all year long. It’s frustrating for media and fans alike, but when two sides are talking and they put in place a pseudo gag order, you just aren’t going to hear any progress, any red flags, nothing.
They could absolutely still screw this up, but for now, read into everything said or done however you like, until I hear different, I’ll just sit back knowing this is still playing out, and wait for something real to change instead of pretending there is hidden meaning in everything uttered.
3 thoughts on “Five Pirates Thoughts at Five”
Are lefties out of the pen as crucial as in the past? My idea is that the importance has diminished with the 3 batter rule. BTW, thanks for the great content. Struggling to find much online from my normal sources this year. Piratesprospets has been light, as well as Rumbunter. I discontunued DK so I don’t have to read about lack of caring tirades and The Athletic has lacked as a replacement Not sure why that is but oh well. You’re a welcome oasis of good content.
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Appreciate that first of all, and we certainly try to put out as much as we can. Yeah, there certainly is some specialization that has taken a back seat, but to me there are still some very dangerous hitters with awful splits and to not have the option, well, I think it’s grasping a few losses from the jaws of victory.
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I don’t see much of a history of hitting besides BRey, the Cutch of the past, a little bit of Cruz, and well, maybe no-one else. Need about 10 guys to step up to be <90 losses. Ke, Castro, Jack, Choi, Santana, and clutch bench guys. Normally an optimist but not seeing the runs created.
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