5-15-23 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
Well, fans who enjoyed the shelter of watching their team stink and still being able to say “hey, they’re in first place”, just lost their woobie.
The Brewers have passed them now and the Pirates are stuck trying to figure out ways to win when Mitch Keller isn’t the starter.
1. Facing Mitch is a *itch!
6 or 7 pitches, depending on how detailed you get naming them. Ability to change the plane or speed on all of them in any count to any hitter from either side of the dish. He can hunt strike outs if he needs them, he can hunt contact if he needs it.
Mitch Keller has plain and simple become the ceiling version of his projection.
How good has he been in 2023?
12th in ERA with a 2.38
Tied for 6th in Wins with 5
Tied for 3rd in Innings Pitched with 56.2
3rd in Strike outs with 69
17th in WHIP 1.02
17th in Opponent AVG at .208
The dude has 30 Strike outs looking. So mystifying the hitter couldn’t even swing.
His name is being mentioned with Spencer Strider, Clayton Kershaw, Gerrit Cole, Zac Gallen, Dustin May, I mean folks, Mitch Keller is every bit an ace in this league.
It’s been a long time since the Pirates had a dominant starter like this.
2. Is the Offense Coming Around?
Maybe. Maybe they’re just not facing the same level of competition too.
There have been some underlying things going on with this club. Andrew McCutchen has been less than 100%, as he gets closer to getting there, he’s improved. Carlos Santana is flat tired, two off days in 4 days this week should help.
Rodolfo Castro is in the lab working on his left handed swing, hopefully that has him poised to return stronger.
Bryan Reynolds is having an off timing stretch, as he does most years, good signs in Baltimore that he’s finding it a bit more.
Hayes keeps hitting the ball hard but he’s still not getting them to fall as often as you’d like and the power stroke is sporadic at best.
All in all, the key players are getting back to swinging the bat and I think Detroit being a better matchup could make it appear like they were medicine for the bats.
All in all, this might just be a team that does everything together offensively. When they slump, they all slump. When they hit, they all hit.
Not great for winning championships, but par for the course for .500 ball clubs.
3. Hard to Watch, but Panic Won’t Help
Starting out hotter than anyone but the Rays set fans up for the expectation that the team had arrived a year early.
It’s frustrating to watch the same team that destroyed everyone they faced for the first month sputter in every facet for 2 weeks and essentially piss away the buffer they built for themselves.
Thing is though, none of that makes guys who aren’t ready, ready.
I think I could make a case for calling up Endy Rodriguez, but man, you’d like him to be hitting better than .250. Henry Davis is killing the ball, but he’s doing it in AA, and the need to catch is more important than the promotion to AAA would be.
Could the Pirates call up either? Sure. Should they? I’m not so sure.
Before we get into this, in no way is this a “either are better than Hedges” argument. First of all, defensively, I’m sorry, you just flat out don’t get the intricacies of the catching position in MLB if you can’t see that’s a false statement. Hitting, hell yeah, no doubt I can honestly say either would outhit him over the course of a couple weeks.
Defensively though, not close. Won’t be close this entire year.
Is that enough to say neither of these guys should come up? Probably not, but it is enough to at least have a bit of pause.
The best argument for why you go ahead and call up Endy right now in my eyes is more about Davis. I move Endy up and keep 3 catchers on the MLB roster so that I can promote Davis and keep both working at their craft.
Endy would have to settle for 2-3 games a week behind the dish and 2-3 elsewhere but that would keep both progressing. Man that pesky .250 Average though, that’s tough to call up a prospect with that kind of production in AAA.
Part of me thinks it might just be panic at this point. Getting one of these guys up might help, but it won’t remake what has been happening either.
If the Pirates are developing hitters and worrying about where they play later, ok, but in this case it feels a lot more like they’re developing catchers who happen to hit.
At the very least, I can’t sit here and pretend it’s insane to not promote them to MLB but Endy could change that thinking with even a hot stretch of 3-4 games.
Can we stop acting like it’s a slam dunk? Cause it surely isn’t. I’m happy to have the conversation, probably lean toward promoting both up one level myself, but let’s not ignore the risks in an effort to pretend they don’t exist.
This is possibly the best way I can put it. A highly touted prospect typically has a high ceiling and a lower floor. Meaning IF he checks all the boxes we think he has to check he becomes a complete star in MLB. IF he doesn’t check all the boxes, we think he will only become XX. Could be bust, could be average, could be bench player, but those X’s always come with the worst case scenario tag.
For instance, Endy’s scouting report reads like this, there is separation, but not so much that he seems boom or bust. On the top end he’s a starting position player capable of 20+ homeruns and a .280+ average. He’s essentially as close to a sure thing offensively as you can get especially since almost every scouting report has his low end somewhere close to those numbers (or “Grade” which is a whole other scouting thing I don’t feel like getting into here).
Defensively, it gets interesting. On the high end, he’s good enough to start but he’ll never confuse you with a gold glover anywhere he plays. Athleticism is there to play any of a number of spots in the field including catcher.
On the low end, his best position is probably Right Field or First Base, Catcher is worth the try but not likely the profile of a starting catcher in MLB.
All that stuff is predictive, not fact. He can outplay that ceiling, he could out-stink that floor. The closer they are, the more sure scouts are. When the predictions overlap it tends to carry weight.
I say all this because folks, Endy sticking as a catcher is not exactly a sure thing anyway. Let’s not waste a year trying to 100% rule it out while we could be enjoying the bat that is a fairly sure thing to at least be above average.
If Davis wasn’t barreling baseballs and down Endy’s back, I might feel differently about the importance of developing him as a pure Catcher.
4. A Quarter Through and the Pirates Haven’t Played the Brewers or Cubs Yet
There’s a lot to like about MLB’s new balanced schedule, but sacrificing division games isn’t one of them. The NL Central is down, and for this division to really start spreading itself out, it’s going to take head to head contests.
It’d be a lot easier to know what this team was if we had some idea how they were going to play in the division. 2-2 vs the Cards, 5-2 vs the Reds, and nada against the other two.
I don’t think this team is going to finish in the bottom of this division, and the sooner we start playing them the sooner I can start deciding how dumb or smart I am in that thought process.
5. Will the Real Pirates Offense Please Stand Up?
That’s the list of what the Pirates have shown us in 2023 and neither are realistically true.
This team isn’t the juggernaut we watched have their way with the league for the first month of baseball. They also aren’t the sad look back to 2020-2022 we watched these last couple weeks.
When they were good, you could see the individual approaches shine through the organizational imperatives of taking pitches and making opponents work.
When they were awful, it looked like no matter the situation every hitter felt they had to see three or four pitches. Like, arguably more important than swinging the bat, like ever.
Neither of these are reflective of what this team’s overall body of work will look like when the last strike is thrown.
Let’s look for a slow ramp up, a bit of a warming to the task at the plate over this next week or so. I think we’ll see Reynolds heat up, line drives in the Baltimore series are usually a good sign for him. Hayes is starting to get his timing back and is turning on the baseball more when he’s challenged inside, and he’s near the top of the league in exit velocity, these things tend to even out.
Santana is clearly tired at least in my eyes, having 2 days off this week and one every week for a while will help.
Castro has been benched for better or worse in an effort to take his left handed swing to the lab. Let’s see how that turns out.
Bae must learn to control himself on the basepaths, and honestly, he needs to get on them far more often.
Joe needs to just be him. All in all, there are too many guys who can hit to simply continue, um, not hitting. lol
I don’t like how we got here, but I like where they are. Probably doesn’t make sense, but it’s also just how I feel.
3 thoughts on “Five Pirates Thoughts at Five”
Cutch seems to always have been slow early in the season. I was pleasantly surprised by his hot April and not so shocked at a cold May. He usually heats up with the summer weather. I have to guess that Bae will figure things out. A guy with a lifetime 294 BA, 10 walk rate and 373 OBP doesn’t just forget how to get on base even if it was in the minors. I think the recklessness on the bases plus the slippage at getting on base are a result of trying to do too much as many of these young players probably do.
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Gary, not sure if you read these comments, but if so I wanted to ask here as there’s more room than a tweet. Thought maybe you could expand on this idea in Hump Day Q&A. In the above article you mentioned carrying 3 C to promote Endy to MLB then Davis to AAA. Why not jump Davis to MLB instead? He could catch 3 days a week and play RF once a week. Putting him in RF more could bump Joe to more days at 1B giving more rest to Santana who I believe is playing too much and more than I believe they planned on playing him in the field due to Choi injury. True you could get more ABs for Endy at 2B, but either way they would both be catching the same amount if promoted to MLB. BC himself said AA & AAA were equal in their minds. Just a thought.
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I’ll get this in QA. Talked about this a bit on this week’s Fan Forum too