Hump Day Pittsburgh Pirates Q&A

3-15-23 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

I’ve loved doing these things.

It’s so easy to get stuck in a bubble of what interests you as you cover a team, doing things like this gives you a window into where the fans heads are, what’s concerning, what isn’t. Invaluable really.

Lets Go!

Question 1

Who do you *want* to see go to AAA? Who do you think would benefit the most from the ABs/IPs in the minors relative to being a backup/utility in the majors? – Whisky Rebel (@ProtonPirate)

Ha, Whisky has been following me for a long time and knew if he didn’t treat “want” like that I’d go on some diatribe about want having nothing to do with it. Love it. That said, I completely get where he’s coming from here, and I think there are some that are pretty easy to identify.

Let’s keep it to bigger names.

Luis Ortiz – He’s at a pivot point. Stuff is great, and he’s built like a guy who can give you innings, but for him to make it as a starter, he simply has to further develop his changeup or another off speed. I’d prefer that happen in AAA.

Colin Selby – I like his potential, and I think the stuff plays now, but I’d like to see him shut down AAA for a little while before he’s counted on in MLB. If the Pirates were down to 6 decent arms back there, I might feel differently, but they can afford to let him work a bit longer.

Jared Triolo – The defensive game is there, but the bat needs more reps, and to face some better competition. Looking at his frame, there should be more in there offensively.

Those three I think I can honestly say will benefit from more AAA soak time. They certainly won’t be the only ones sent down, but they’re the most in need for actual baseball reasons.

Question 2

Who’s winning the outfield battle and why is it Chavez Young? Looks like Taijuan Walker knew what he was talking about. – Cali Buccos Fan (@CaliBuccosFan)

To be 100% up front here, Cali asked this last week, it’s a carry over question and one that Chavez hasn’t made silly.

Now, Chavez Young isn’t going to make this team out of camp in 2023. That’s not entirely his fault, but he’s just not really in the running. Not on the 40-man and if a 25 year old is going to get a shot, it’s probably going to be their number one pick.

I will say he’s done nothing to hurt himself though, and even in the WBC he’s done well. 3 years ago, I might even be excited. I’m happy to have the depth, and defensively, I could make a fairly strong argument he’s their second best defender anywhere close, problem is, that best defender is his direct competition I mentioned, who happens to already be on the 40-man.

Question 3

Concerning the pitch clock, I believe there have been other consequences besides dramatically shortening the length of a ball game…a good thing. I think I’m seeing pitchers be more focused and throwing more strikes, and because of this the hitters are swinging at more pitches. Although it’s still early, what is your deeper review of the impact of the pitch clock? – Dale Merchant

Overall, I haven’t really seen much of what I see as lasting downside. Some confusion, some guys trying to quick pitch, some hitters thinking the 8 second thing doesn’t matter if the pitcher isn’t ready, basically stuff that will get ironed out and or the enforcement will get tweaked on.

I think this will be most noticeable in drama situations. Like 3-2, bottom of the 9th, bases loaded, trying to nail down a win, I have every confidence they won’t allow themselves to give up a free balk, but man as a fan, you don’t want that situation rushed either do you?

All in all, I bet we won’t notice it all that much. In stadium, I bet for at least the first few, man it’s all we’ll think about. You could miss an entire inning in the restroom brother!

As to guys swinging more, they are, but some of that is Spring too, nobody wants to just stand there and see 3-4 pitches in an at bat during Spring, all in under 25 seconds. They want to swing and do something productive up there. We’ll have to see how it plays out in the Bigs. I can say in the MiLB game, the numbers say it was almost negligible.

Question 4

Do you think MLB will ever retire the number 21 in honor of Roberto Clemente? Is Jackie Robinson the only player to have his number retired? – Don Jacobson

Do I ever? Yes, I think they’ll have to at some point. He represents such a large block of players in MLB (Latin American) and while he wasn’t the first, he was certainly the beacon most seem to point to as their idol.

They have to be careful though. I mean, so long as he represents an entire block, it works. But what if people want a Dominican player’s number too? You know where my head is going here I’m sure.

I’m a Pirates fan, of course I think 21 should be retired. Tell you what I’d do, poll the players. Every union member votes and I bet it clears 95% in the yes column. Make sure that’s the new standard to eclipse to globally retire a number.

I doubt many players will garner that kind of number.

Question 5

Who would you prefer for 4th OF: Swaggerty or CSN? – Michael – 412 Double Play Podcast 🏴‍☠️ (@412DoublePlay)

If I were to choose today, Swaggerty. His defense won’t be caught up to by anyone they have close, and he’s hitting. At 25, I have to think it’s close to now or never time for him and to his credit, he’s taken advantage of his opportunity so far. CSN or Canaan Smith-Njigba to those of you who think this might be an advanced stat, has also hit really well, solid contact, superior patience at the plate to many prospects too. GREAT problem to have if someone worth a crap couldn’t fit.

I’d also like to just point out here real quick, Spring has a tendency to make it seem like not making it out of camp as some kind of damnation for the entire season. Not Michael specifically, I’m speaking more generally here.

If either of these two don’t make it immediately, it’s very hard for me to imagine either of them not getting a legitimate shot this year. Hell even go back to question 2 and add Young in, talk up Mitchell if you like. When injuries start cropping up, or if Jack Suwinski shows he simply hasn’t evolved enough, opportunity will be there.

It’s been so long since we’ve seen players look good enough and not make it because there wasn’t room, typically that kind of stuff is reserved for manipulation of service time. Now we’re to the point in this build where potentially good/ready players aren’t going to make it immediately. A good build always gets to this point, and having watched this team since the late 80’s, no wonder so many don’t know how to approach it mentally.

Question 6

Does Drew Maggi have any shot to make the team? He’s been doing great this spring and it would be a real feel good story? – Don Jacobson

I don’t think so Don, not out of camp. I think the Pirates will keep him around as a Crash Davis type and maybe they give him a “gold watch” call up in September to get him his at bat as a reward for being a good soldier.

I can appreciate the story, and maybe if this was 2020 or 2021 I’d feel differently. At least then he wouldn’t be taking his shot while young players this team could really use are held back.

Question 7

Great problem to have hypothetical: It’s June and Brubaker is pitching well, Velasquez has been better than expected and Burrows is deemed ready for the bigs. What do you do? – Nick Cammuso (@npc210)

Well Nick, first of all, I think Burrows is very close right now so I don’t think we’ll have to wait long to start seeing how they plan to deal with this.

Also, full disclosure, I’ve already suggested trading JT Brubaker at the deadline if he has a market. Velasquez being moved doesn’t really need my endorsement, lol.

Here’s the thing, I think there’s a legitimate chance both of these guys are actually good. I also think those two, plus Hill could all be on the block this year, but turning over 3/5 of your starting rotation in a season tends to not happen. That’s a lot to ask or expect.

Burrows, Ortiz, Oviedo, and I’m not even going to push Priester, could all show themselves ready this year, but if the scenario is as outlined that Vince and JT are both good, well, good chance the team is doing well. Might be tough to force a change.

I will say short of injury, Vince could go to the bullpen, I’m less convinced JT is a good fit in the pen but I suppose you could do that as well.

The truth though, this is going to likely be messy. All three of those guys will likely get chances to take a spot via short term injury call ups or even performance replacements, but I suspect next Spring we’ll be looking at Keller, Contreras, Burrows, Ortiz, Oviedo, Priester, Nicolas, Mlodzinski, and maybe even more all fighting about who will form the rotation, AND the Pirates will bring in a veteran anyway.

There is nothing in baseball harder than flipping the switch to trusting young arms.

Question 8

How do you see a DH Split between Cutch, Santana and Choi? – Adam Yarkovsky

Great question.

For one thing, I’ve seen some chatter that Andrew McCutchen muddies up both the OF and DH picture, and that’s just hogwash.

Cutch and Santana are both at the age where you simply don’t expect 150 games worth of work from them anymore, and you probably shouldn’t expect them to be in the field more than 50% of their games.

Before Cutch was signed, most people saw Choi and Santana almost platooning both first base and DH. Which made some sense, but there seemed to be a need to find another right handed stick to work in there. I thought that might be Connor Joe and it still could be at times. Let’s say this team is facing Kershaw, well you could put Cutch in right field, Santana at DH and toss Joe at first. Or Joe plays LF and Reynolds slides to center while another right handed stick takes DH for the day.

All in all, I see Cutch being the primary DH and I bet he plays fewer than 60 games in the field. Santana and Choi would tag team the two positions against a bad matchup righty or even just when Cutch needs a break or plays the field. If all three vets stay healthy all year, which in and of itself isn’t a given, I think there are plenty of at bats to spread between the three of them, minimize how much fielding they have to do in an effort to keep them healthy and still not have any of them feel like they’re a “bench” guy.

Bottom line, I don’t see this potential logjam as a problem, I see it as wonderful to have, especially given the state of the Pirates 1B prospects as we sit here today.

Moving forward, the Bucs will have Malcom Nunez, Mason Martin and now Matt Gorski all competing at first base, so having too many options for 1B/DH, well, I’m ok with it in 2023.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

One thought on “Hump Day Pittsburgh Pirates Q&A

  1. I’m a bit surprised that there isn’t more chatter about extending Bru. Even with all of the promise, we all know, there is never enough pitching. I’m betting a 4-5 year deal is doable and wouln’t be an albatross as it would be at such a price that he could easily be moved if need be.


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