4-20-23 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement on Twitter)
Prior to official start of the Pittsburgh Pirates 2023 Season there were some assumptions that could be made concerning what roles certain players were going to be asked to perform throughout the year.
JT Brubaker seemed to be a locked into backend of the rotation, Jarlin Garcia was acquired to be the late-inning lefty option out of the bullpen and Jared Triolo possibly had the inside track to fill in at Third and Shortstop if needed.
Now JT is out for 14 to 16 months following Tommy John, Garcia still can’t grip a baseball and Triolo is on the IL after undergoing hamate bone surgery; which can actually have season long effects at the plate, even when he does return.
Add in the obvious loss of Oneil Cruz-who was set to be the everyday shortstop-for around 4 months with a broken fibula, Ji-Man hitting the shelf with an Achilles Strain and Mike Burrows being out for an extended-but as of yet unknown-period of time with an ominous elbow injury.
Plus you have a bullpen that appears to have guys jumping off and on the 15-Day every time you turn around.
Sure, some of these may have not been asked to play majors roles; but, all will challenge the overall depth toward the top of the Pirates Farm System that had been touted all off-season.
Undoubtedly a few of these early season injuries have led directly to opportunities for a few guys, that might have otherwise had to wait their turn to show what kind of player they are. Johan Oviedo leaps off the page in this category due to his 2.22 ERA and 1.151 WHIP through 4 starts in Brubaker’s absence. Another example of taking advantage of an unexpected opening would have to be Rodolfo Castro. Going from platoon split second baseman to starting shortstop has led to a .319/.418/.511 slash line with 2 homers across 55 plate appearances. Even Andrew McCutchen could be seen as benefiting from the lack of competition at DH, with there not being a need to shuffle Choi and Santana to the role as well.
Then you have Mark Mathias, Tucupita Marcano and Yohan Ramirez, who have gotten quicker than expected call-ups.
Still, I can’t help but wonder what the long term effects of these injuries could be, the pressure they could put on other players to perform and decisions that could be forced if there are anymore at the Major or Minor League Levels.
For example, Luis Ortiz and Quinn Priester have more eyes looking to them to meet or exceed expectations with the loss of Burrows. Although, this has inadvertently allowed Osvaldo Bido to emerge as an option as well.
Another instance involves the possibility of speeding up the timelines for Nick Gonzales, Malcom Nunez and/or Liover Peguero.
Will these guys be Major League ready, if or when they are are called upon?
Is there as much depth at the outfield positions, as was assumed with the Spring Training battle between Canaan Smith-Njigba and Travis Swaggerty; as well as Cal Mitchell to a lesser degree?
Honestly, I guess only time will tell.
Nevertheless, I will have to say I worry less about the starting rotation-at least to a certain degree-because we have seen Ortiz have success at the Major League Level; albeit in a small sample size. And, I am definitely not worried at all about a position that I haven’t even mentioned yet…catcher. I mean, who truthfully believes that Endy won’t perform well-particularly with the bat-when he arrives in Pittsburgh? My assumption would be not many, if any.
Clearly we are only a few weeks into the season, so I am not sure why I am even thinking about all of this. Maybe, it’s better to just enjoy baseball being back, and my favorite team being 12-7.
We’ll let this all be future Craig’s problem.
One thought on “Through The Prospect Porthole: Assessing Farm System Depth After Early Season Injuries”
Solid depth so far, agreed that it’s kind of in “not a problem until it is a problem” territory right now.
That said, they definitely need to be careful on the pitching side when the length of the starters suffers.