Pirates Pitching Will Ultimately Decide How All This Works

5-19-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

Now, that’s probably a true statement for every team in baseball right? Can’t pitch, probably aren’t going to win a whole bunch. That being understood, we probably should look at how the franchise is handling this important facet of the game all throughout the minors and dig in on the methodology.

When fans complain about how this team uses the pitchers at the MLB level, specifically preventing them from going deep into games on the rare occasions they look capable, the common returned narrative is that this ethos will change when the Pirates get more “capable” starters up in Pittsburgh. I’m not so sure.

The Dewey Effect

First thing most fans point to is the Dewey Robinson hire to explain the Pirates seemingly sudden desire to have the roles of 90% of the pitching staff be undefined, but that’s simply not what was done in Tampa. Yes they had an overriding philosophy that most starters seeing a lineup 3 times through isn’t a great idea. It’s also true that the Rays like to sprinkle in an “opener” on occasion.

Last year the average Rays start was in the mid 70’s, the league average rested in the mid 80’s. That led to a typical start being over before or right at 5 innings.

The effectiveness of the starter doesn’t matter. The number of pitches doesn’t matter.

Now, Dewey is a pitching instructor, he didn’t come here with a secret sauce to make this all work, and he certainly didn’t come here with widely available information about what the Rays system looks like, point being, nobody needed Dewey to come here and describe what’s publicly out there already. He’s an older guy who has allowed himself to not only adopt some analytics based focus but lead on it, that’s why his hire was important, but as far as I’ve heard, there is no desire to mirror the Tampa system entirely, even if it sure feels and looks that way. Which certainly could mean, they absolutely plan to copy what they do, but don’t want to say it out loud or at least give you the expectation that the results will match too.

Don’t forget, Dewey himself during a Spring Training interview said “talent is the secret”.

Why Can Quintana or Anderson Go Deep Then?

See that’s the thing, we can talk about the Pirates implementing this strict system but the last two veteran arms they’ve brought in, Tyler Anderson and Jose Quintana, clearly get a longer leash.

So this leads one to ask, is it because they’re experienced? If the answer to that is yes, I’d have to follow that up with, well clearly you value that, how do you expect to ever cultivate more of that from your own system if you refuse to let them try to do so?

The other thought is, could it be as simple as not caring about their health as much because they aren’t in the long term plans? I mean, that’s a really crappy thing to think but they were clearly fine with Anderson and Quintana pushing more chips in the pile.

Now, to their credit, both of those pitchers, and it’s incredibly early to act like it’s a sure fire lasting thing with Q, have shown they were capable of it. They grew up being pitchers who probably felt they failed if they didn’t at least reach the 7th too, but man you just can’t sit here and tell me the Pirates are doing everything they do based on analytics yet continue to show me it only applies to guys not here on a 1 year show me contract.

What is the Opener or Piggyback Achieving?

I mean, I don’t really know.

The opener was something that when originally implemented caused the opposing manager to scramble and at times redo the lineup. Now, teams caught on rather quickly that it was preferable to just deal with less than optimal matchups for an inning or two than to wholesale change your own plan when a team chose to do this.

Today it’s seen as a way to simply never let a lineup settle in. You may reach the 5th or 6th inning before you as a hitter have seen the same pitcher twice if everything goes right.

Does it work? Well, sometimes, but I guess it depends on what your idea of ‘work’ is.

Last night the Pirates implemented an opener. Wil Crowe went 2 innings and gave up a run. Mitch Keller (the ‘starter’ supposedly benefitting from the opener) went only 2.2 innings and also gave up a run.

Duane Underwood went’ 2.1 innings you know, more than the opener did. And David Bednar closed out the game with 2 innings of work.

Like it or don’t, this is where many analytics wonks see baseball headed. I’m just not sure how this helps anyone. You’ve taken Crowe out of the mix for the bullpen where he’s really thrived. Diminished your supposed starter to little more than a middle relief guy, which ok, I can get behind if you choose that path with him. Forced a guy criminally overused last season to go 2.1 innings a week removed from returning from injury and finally continue to beat the hell out of your unquestioned best bullpen asset David Bednar.

I don’t see enough there to pretend it’s working, or helping. And I say that after it netted a 3-2 win.

What are Fans or Players to Think?

We spent the first month of the season crying and laughing that no Pirates starting pitcher had a win until recently, but it was hardly just poor performance that created it. The implementation of this near perpetual avoidance of seeing a lineup more than twice has created a system that rarely allows a starter to complete 5 innings.

When the game is over, fans still say ‘well, Thompson sucks he can’t even get through 5!’ and how can you argue? Fans don’t really by in large care that he only threw 67 pitches when he was pulled.

The Win stat means very little in modern baseball, and this methodology directly created it.

Part of the magic of going to a baseball game is knowing that every single night could be a no hitter, or a dominant shutout complete game. Well sincerely, do you feel that way when you go anymore? For either side too, not just the Pirates. You simply can’t expect it’s even plausible to think you’ll see something like that anymore.

Will you as a baseball fan trade that aspect of the game for winning more games if that’s how it shakes out when they have enough horses or will you always be at least a little disappointed that your starter simply isn’t going to rack up wins or innings? It’s a question the Pirates are forcing you to answer, and increasingly a question MLB fans in general will have to grapple with.

I guess MLB could examine how the Win stat is decided, or perhaps even eliminate it all together, but the history of baseball and how it ties to modern baseball makes that difficult. Let’s say Michael Burrows comes up here and is just everything you’d want in a starter, but the team does what it does and he rarely sees the 6th or 7th inning. He pitches for 10 years in Pittsburgh and never has more than 10 wins but aside from that, total stud. How does he ever compete with history? How is he ever “GOAT”? He can’t even eclipse Randy Tomlin’s win total so how can you sit there and tell me he’s better?

Make no mistake, this changes the game.

I bet it changes the salaries too folks. I mean how many 300 million dollar starting pitchers will there be? Adjust for inflation obviously but how many guys are going to get that kind of mega deal if they’re pitching 5 or 6 innings once a week? Wouldn’t it make more sense to have 7 Wil Crowe types at like 6 million a year? I wonder if the players will remain as passive about all this as they’ve been when it starts punching them in the pocket book.

Or will free agents gravitate to teams that don’t do this? Some openly thought it was reckless to allow Hunter Greene to throw 118 pitches in his no-hit bid the other day, but man if I’m a starting pitcher on the market, I’d rather know if I’m performing I can achieve than know I’m not going to get the chance regardless.

I’ve talked to veteran pitchers, to a man, they hate how this has all evolved, even if they understand it. I’ve also talked to young pitchers and almost universally they claim that getting deep into games is still on the table but they understand why they get yanked so early.

Maybe that’s just not speaking ill of your employer, maybe it’s just a generational thing too, but if the players don’t put up a stink, don’t expect the WIN to survive the decade, at least not in it’s current form.

I mean the first player who sits down at an arbitration table and hears “well, you only had 4 quality starts last year Jim” knowing they got yanked with like 58 pitches 5 or 6 times might just flip the table over.

One Thing is Abundantly Clear….

We should probably all look at how the Pirates (and the vast majority of the league for that matter) are handling starting pitching all through the system and realize this is the plan.

Not cultivating 18 game winners, or dominant starters who eat the majority of every contest they enter, instead a collection of long men where the time they show up in a contest is really just a suggestion.

Instead of looking for a 5 man rotation that just shoves, it’s more like a 7 or 8 man mix that together push most contests to the 6th where the back end guys take over.

All of this probably still means, if you win, we won’t care, if you don’t, we won’t care about you or worse we’ll just label you incompetent.

Top 15 Prospect Update

5-18-22 – By Justin Verno – @JV_PITT on Twitter

Another week down. A few positive signs here, if we look hard enough. And a few disappointments. Let’s get to it.

1-Oneil Cruz

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
Week.167/.310.292.602.125.2907217.2%27.6%
Season.185/.302/.328.630.143.2947512.9%%27.3%

2-Henry Davis

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
Week.200/.500/.8001.300.600.53724312.5%%0%
AA.200/.500/.8001.300.600.53724312.5%%0%
A+.341/.450/.5851.035.244.4621798%18%

3-Roansy Contreras

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPBB%k%
week4.16.236.681.1517.6%23.5%
AAA14.22.454.541.1616.7%33.3%
MLB7.23.523.732.890.919.7%32.3%

4-Liover Peguero

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
Week.280/.308/.440.741.160.3301063.8%23.1%
Season.322/.352/.525.877.201.3841424.8%20%

5-Quinn Priester-no stats yet

6-Nick Gonzales

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBA+wRC+BB%K%
week.316/.364/.316.679.000.3149689.1%40.9%
season.212/.341/.308.649.096.3109314.3%36.5%

7-Endy Rodriguez

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwWR+BB%K%
week.429/.500/.5711.071.143.4891966.3%12.5%
season.283/.361/.500.861.217.3871318.4%26.9%

8-Matt Fraizer

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
week.261/.292/.435.726.174.319994.2%29.2%
season.176/.212/.278.490.102.222353.2%31.9%

9-Jared Jones

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPBB%K%
week2.123.147.313.865.9%23.5%
season23.26.855.914.001.5211.3%34%

10-Bubba Chandler No stats

11-Ji-hwan Bae

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwWRC+BB%K%
week.304/.414/.478.892.174.39514017.2%10.3%
season.270/.357/.423.780.153.35111212.4%17.8%

12-Michael Burrows

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPBB%K%
week49.005.712.0010%25%
season30.22.352.683.800.987.3%32.5%

13-Travis Swaggerty

*wishes he only had 1 AB last week*

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
week.000/.125/.000.125.000.091-5612.5%87.5%
season.174/.269/.232.501.058.2444311.4%36.7%

14-Miguel Yajure

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPBB%K%
week0.227.0037.957.5057.1%14.3
AAA2.26.758.324.062.2528.6%%42.9%
MLB10.111.325.896.672.1311.3%7.5%

15-Anthony Solometo- No stats

MY FIVE

16-Kyle Nicolas

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPBB%K%
week51.803.660.8015.8%21.1%
season24.23.654.364.191.018.2%27.6%

17-Maikol Escotto

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
week.063/.167/..063.229000.136-285.6%33.3%
season.206/.267/.412.679.206304795.7%32.4%

18-Mason Martin

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
week.217/.357/.435.792.217.135911717.9%32.1%
season.246.316/.525.841.280.3601188.3%32.3%

19- Hudson Head

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
week.316/.381/.421.802.105.3711219.5%47.6%
season.266/.375/.426.801.160.37012110.7%36.6%

20-Connor Scott

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
week.214/.267/.214.481.000.230406.7%26.7%
season.276/.344/.391.735.115.3351098.2%21.4%

A Few quick thoughts-

I know it sounds funny, BUT…

Mason Martin, Oneil Cruz and Matt Fraizer all had decent weeks if you squint hard enough. I get that Cruz OPS was not good and the BA wasn’t good either. But his OPB was decent due to a good walk rate of 17% and his ISO was a decent enough at .125. He’s shrinking his zone and that’s a good step.

Mason Martin had a really nice week despite the .217 BA. Like Cruz his walk rate was terrific(17.9%), another good example of shrinking that strike zone. But unlike Cruz his numbers, outside of BA, were terrific. Look past that .217 and his OBP was .357, I’ll take that every week! His OPS remained close to 800 coming in at .792. Mason made much needed adjustments and I can’t wait to see how this week shakes out for him.

Matt Fraizer, man I will take any positive momentum for the kid and finally we get a heartbeat! He’s still on life support as the .261/.292 is nothing to hang his hat on, I get that. But it’s nice to see something, anything, he can build on.

Failure to Launch

I hate typing this BUT Jared Jones has hit a snag. He’s young so it’s by means time to panic, but he’s got some things to work on for sure.

Must be something in the pitcher’s water because Burrows had his roughest outing as well, though he did settle in a little bit. And I don’t even want to talk about Yajure’s outing.

Steady as she goes

Ji-hwan Bae’s good start to the year continued. His bat has been as steady as can be.

Kyle Nicolas’s breakout season is also intact. Outside of one rough go Kyle has been terrific. A reminder, I did NOT like the Jacob Stallings trade return and Kyle has shut me up every time he’s been given the ball.

Hudson Head still has a K rate that absolutely needs to be better. But the stick continues to play at A+. He continues to show he can get on base, .375 on the young season and when he hits the ball he hits it hard, OPS coming in at .801.

Anne are you OK?

Does Travis Swaggerty even have a heartbeat? It’s like the baseball version of Weekend at Bernie’s. I feel for the guy, but the Bucs have to be considering demoting him? Right?

Top 5 Pirates Prospect Performers

2-17-22 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement on Twitter)

When it comes to Major League Baseball the word prospect has a fairly simple definition of any player that has yet to exceed the rookie eligibility requirements. The implications and expectations often attached to the term are a completely different story; especially when numbers are introduced, in order to rank specific players. As the numbers get smaller, the larger these expectations become. Add in how, when or by whom they were acquired, and you might start to feel like you are opening Pandora’s box. Even using the label Top 5-like I do in each of these posts-can start garner a reaction.

To a degree this certainly understandable because the feeling of hope-particularly within the Pittsburgh Pirates Fanbase-is regularly tied to these prospects; which in turn causes an almost visceral response when a player does not meet the anticipated level of production.

Take the recent demotion of Cole Tucker for example. After being drafted in the 1st Round of the 2014 MLB Draft (24th Overall), Tucker found himself in the Top 10 Pirates Prospects, according to MLB Pipeline, for the next five years; eventually earning an unexpected promotion to the Pirates in 2019, and hitting what would be the game winning home run in only his third professional plate appearance. During the 432 at bats that followed he would hit only another 4 homers, while slashing .211/.259/.314 and accumulating -2.1 WAR; or -1.8 fWAR if that’s the number you subscribe to. This season alone he struck out 25 times, hasn’t walked once and put up a 11 wRC+. Now he’s down in Triple-A focusing on batting strictly from the left side of the plate after being a switch hitter for his entire career.

His direct replacement in the transaction was the current 35th Ranked Pirates Prospect on Fangraphs, Rodolfo Castro. Yes, the same Rodolfo Castro that hit a Major League Record five homers in his first five hits last year; but, was ultimately optioned back down to Double-A Altoona more than once because he was hitting .198, was striking out at a 29% clip and made some costly errors in the field. Well he’s back after working in a 17.2% walk rate with Triple-A Indianapolis this year, and having a .856 OPS at the level going back to last season.

Will he stick this time, the next, or at all? Well on that, we’ll just have to wait and see. I’m not in the business of making predictions. Not even when I make these Top 5 Pirates Performers each week. They are simply to give you guys an idea-or a snapshot-of what’s going on in the Pirates Farm System.

With that said, here’s your weekly snapshot.

1) Cal Mitchell-OF (Indianapolis)

The last game of the series probably didn’t go like Mitchell wanted it to as he went 0 for 5; still, hitting streaks all end at some point. This latest one went 5. His longest of the season.

During the remainder the Indians six-game showdown with the Charlotte Knights, Mitchell tallied 8 hits in 23 at bats; including a two-homer outing on Friday Night.

On the year he is slashing .294/.365/.510 with 5 home runs, 12 total extra base hits, a 13.0% K to 8.7% BB rate and 6 stolen bases in as many attempts.

As Gary stated in his Weekly Five Pirates Thoughts At Five, “It’s becoming hard to ignore how Cal Mitchell has performed…”

2) Tyler Samaniego-LHP (Greensboro)

Signed by Pittsburgh for $75K as the 433 Overall Pick in the 15th Round of last year’s MLB Draft out of South Alabama-home of Pirates 2018 1st Rounder, Travis Swaggerty.

After almost a month, and following his initial assignment to the FCL Pirates Gold team, the former Jaguar got his first action for the Low-A Bradenton Marauders. In 5 appearance and across 7 innings of work Samaniego posted a 1.29 ERA and a .86 WHIP, while striking out 15 and only walking 2.

Due to this success the 6’4” lefty received a promotion to the High-A Greensboro Grasshoppers. Deployed mostly as closer/high leverage reliever, he has continued to deal to the tune of a .068 ERA and a .900 WHIP with 19 Ks and 9 free passes in 13.1 innings; thanks to a mid-90’s 4-seam fastball, paired with a plus slider.

3) Jacob Gonzalez-1B/DH/3B/OF (Greensboro)

Gonzalez has followed up his Two-Time Florida State League Player of The Week and Player of The Month for April Honors with a South Atlantic Player of the Week after his first taste of High-A in the Pirates Organization. In 5 games and 19 at bats, he blasted 3 homers, a double and a triple; good for an otherworldly OPS of 1.930.

Yes he is 24 years old, and yes this is his second go-around at High-A; however, if he continues to hit-especially if he moves up again-we might not be able to make statements like this anymore.

4) Travis MacGregor-RHP (Altoona)

When you first glance at MacGregor’s stat line for the first month and change of 2022, I doubt you would be very impressed. A 5.40 ERA, with an accompanying 1.450 ERA is less than ideal. Nevertheless, if you look at his last 4 outings-all from the bullpen-the potential for a different story starts to emerge.

Over 11.1 innings-including a full 4 in his last appearance-the 2nd Round Pick from 2016 out of East Lake High School in Tarpon Springs. Florida, has a 1.59 ERA and a .882 WHIP. During this time he has only allowed 4 walks, while striking out 14 batters- 8 in the aforementioned 4 inning relief appearance.

Of course, it’s a small sample size. Nevertheless, it’s definitely worth noting the immediate change in his new role.

5) Colin Selby-RHP (Altoona)

The last, and really only time I wrote about Colin Selby was back in April of 2020, while waiting for a Minor League Baseball Season that would never come. At the time Selby was preparing to more than likely take a spot in the High-A starting rotation due to his 2.97 ERA and 1.114 WHIP the previous year in then Low-A Greensboro.

When baseball finally returned in 2021, Selby finally did find his way to High-A, but only now he was back in Greensboro; and, he wasn’t going to be used as a starter anymore. Needless to say this was a tough adjustment for the young man as he fought through 31 appearances and 59.2 in order to achieve a 4.37 ERA and a 1.240 WHIP; ultimately earning a promotion to Altoona-serving as the team’s closer-to begin 2022.

In 10 appearances-5 of them save opportunities-Selby has posted a .73 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP with 13 strikeouts in 12.1 innings; with his one major struggle being the 7 free passes he has given up. Luckily for now this has only resulted in one blown save, which took place almost a month ago at this point. Since then he has allowed only 3 walks-the same number he did during that outing-and has struck out 8; including a season high 5 in Friday night’s contest with the Somerset Patriots.

There you have it! My Top 5 Pirates Prospect Performers for the sixth week of 2022.

Now remember, let me know I missed who your Top 5 is and be sure check back each and every Tuesday during Minor League Baseball Season!

With 3 of the players listed playing in Greensboro, I really wish more of their games would be streamed on MiLB.TV.

A Pirates Core Is Building

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-e2gxa-122a0d0

Don’t look now, but the Pittsburgh Pirates are starting to find some starting pitching. (Well, not so much with the opener on Monday night…but you get the idea.) They also have sent Cole Tucker down to the minors and we don’t think he’s coming back. Craig identifies the next Pirates prospect he thinks should make the major league roster this year, and it is not one of their top-ranked players.

Craig Toth covers the Pirates for Inside The Bucs Basement, and joins his buddy Chris at a 9-foot homemade oak bar to talk Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball. Listen. Subscribe. Share. We are “For Fans, By Fans & all Pirates Talk.” THE Pirates Fan Podcast found EVERYWHERE podcasts can be found and always at BucsInTheBasement.com!

Five Pirates Thoughts at Five

5-16-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

As we sit here on the day after a historic victory while being no hit, and take a quick look at the Pirates record of 15-19, it’s probably fair to say, nobody has predicted everything they’d see with any real accuracy.

Not just the record, or some strange historic win mind you, I mean who’s been called up and when. Who’s been DFA’d and when. Who gets at bats vs who doesn’t. It’s fair to say, predictable doesn’t define this franchise right now.

Lets get after it.

1. The Clock is Ticking on Yoshi Tsutsugo

The Pirates signed Yoshi to a very reasonable 4 million dollar contract this off season at least partially based on the audition he had last season with the club. He hit a bunch of homeruns in that short sample but by season’s end that had dried up to a degree.

This season, he’s just not been effective. He’s not hitting for average, which if coupled with some homeruns would be fine. He’s not played good defense, because well, he’s not a good defender.

Yoshi doesn’t have one base hit to the pull side all season long in 2022, and even a team like this isn’t going to just sit here and keep trying all year to “make him earn” his contract. Now, it’s May, they aren’t going to give up that quickly, especially given the comments team officials made about LA and Tampa giving up on him a bit early. If the Pirates can’t move him or he hasn’t hit come July, they’ll cut bait, but I’d argue maybe it’s a good idea to consider waivers now.

If someone claims him, hey, the money is off the books and Michael Chavis or Mason Martin really get a nice chunk of time. If he goes unclaimed, well you can stick him in AAA and keep paying for the exact same amount of meaningful production.

There’s simply no downside. And I mean that even if he goes elsewhere and starts hitting. He was never going to be a story beyond 2022 anyway so really who cares?

Regardless, this isn’t Polanco who was being paid over 12 million. This isn’t some guy with a long track record that should have you believe he has the good stuff coming around the corner.

Hey, if the Cardinals can option Paul DeJong, the Pirates can DFA Yoshi. Again, this is probably premature, but nobody should be under the illusion that they’ll just stick with him all season regardless of performance. There isn’t anything tying him to this baseball team.

And yes, I do understand why they keep playing him. If he’s here, he must get time to try to become some form of productive, otherwise, see previous option I mentioned.

2. Jack Suwinski & Diego Castillo Have Had Successful Cups of Joe

Jack has had some success after being called up from AA Altoona on an emergency basis. He’s hit a couple homeruns, racked up some hits, drawn a few walks and handled himself defensively very well. His short time in a Pirates uniform has seen him build up a 0.6 WAR figure, but let’s be really clear, he’s fading a bit.

Young guys do this, as the league sees more of them, approaches become less throw it up there and see what he does with it, and more OK, he can’t hit this, or that. With a .254 OBP and .588 OPS, it’s pretty easy to see that Jack needs a bit more seasoning.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s been productive, and I’d consider this a success, but he’s also simply run his course, for right now anyway. It’s becoming hard to ignore how Cal Mitchell has performed in Indianapolis. In 115 plate appearances he’s logged 30 hits, 10 walks for a .294 batting average with an OPS of .875. His five homeruns aren’t to be sneezed at either, Indianapolis is arguably a harder place to hit homeruns than PNC Park.

There is nothing wrong with sending a guy like Jack back down to get eyes and opportunity on another prospect who’s performing. And it certainly doesn’t mean Jack can’t come back at some point.

Diego Castillo’s numbers are eerily similar to Jack Suwinski. 91 plate appearances, 2 dingers, batting average of .233, OBP of .264 and an OPS of .589. What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander. Diego too has had a real shot and he too is seeing the league push back now. He too has racked up a positive WAR or 0.3 and again, being sent down is neither outrageous or a death sentence. He’s shown me enough to believe he could work on a few things and come back better.

Some fans will label these guys busts when they get demoted, but reality is, this is the path for most youngsters, and watching this club over the next couple years, I suggest y’all really get used to it. Not everyone is Bryan Reynolds or Ke’Bryan Hayes, and more so, I’m speaking to how they jump on the scene, not how they evolve.

These call ups are valuable, but being sent down to work on a few things that will make them better is even more so for many.

And before you remind me that Cal Mitchell isn’t on the 40-man I’ll remind you Hoy Park is, Cole Tucker is, Heath Hembree is, let’s not act like that’s a lockout status right now despite their foolish and wasteful loss of Beau Sulser.

3. The Pirates Will Never Be Done Trading, but it’s Also Not the Same as it’s Been

This rebuild started in 2019, December of 2019 to be precise and ever since then, it’s been about finding out who, if any who were currently on the team would be here on the perceived improved club.

Mission accomplished. Bryan Reynolds, David Bednar and Ke’Bryan Hayes.

Now what?

They’ll trade people of course, but it’s not the same as it’s been the past few seasons. For instance, will they trade Jose Quintana at the deadline? I mean, probably but they may also find that he innings he’ll eat are more valuable to this franchise than the prospect he’ll return.

Chris Stratton may get traded, but it won’t be because the Pirates don’t want to pay him and they desperately need more prospects to improve the farm system and hope to win. It’s instead going to be about not believing Chris Stratton is good enough to bank on, coupled with becoming a free agent. Prospects will be the return but nobody who is going to jump right into the Pirates top 15 or anything.

Those days are largely over for a minute.

It’s a weird gray area. I can sit here and tell you I wouldn’t rule out 90% of this roster as movable, but I’d also tell you it doesn’t have to happen for many.

I’ll go this way. Here are guys to look for being moved and why.

Jose Quintana – Obvious, he’s a traditional rental and if he pitches like this, he might actually return something worth caring about. Hey maybe even a viable AAA level catcher to help bridge the gap to Davis.

Ben Gamel – Last year of arbitration, but again, he isn’t going to net much and this team in my mind would benefit more from keeping his bat and presence on this roster for a few more seasons to provide a buffer zone for rookies to land near. A measuring stick.

Chris Stratton – He’s pitched a ton for the Pirates, probably most of the productive innings he has to give if we’re honest. He’ll get moved and he’ll return a lottery ticket type. Not unlike Watson returning Cruz back in the day. They should only be so lucky again.

Heath Hembree – Pray he looks better soon and this is his destiny. If not he’s a DFA. Pretty simple.

Duane Underwood Jr. – The Pirates straight abused him in 2021, and we’ll see if he can rebound this season. Either way, this is the type of guy you could see the club moving on from if only because nobody knows better than Pittsburgh how much of this guy they’ve used up.

Jake Marisnick – He’s been fun to watch in the outfield, but he’s also not a kid. Some playoff team might like a defensive sub who isn’t going to be around beyond October. He lacks the bat to be what Gamel could be here.

Yoshi Tsutsugo – If only. As mentioned above, long way to go before he should have as graceful an exit as a trade.

Now, is the list limited to these players, absolutely not, but we’re not in a place where this team needs to look at a guy like David Bednar and his big time value, drool a bit about how many nice prospects he could return and pull the trigger. No, he’s a guy they need to simply allow to help this team continue to improve by answering questions.

Point is, the heavy lifting of remaking this system is over. At least for now. They’ll have to draft and develop what they have well, but if the Hayes extension is a turning point for this franchise as they themselves claim it to be, we should expect less attempts to pile an already loaded system with more by way of shipping out everyone with a pulse. In fact, most of this team is now a product of that effort, with more to come.

The team being required to move everything for more prospects ended last year, now we’re largely onto only doing so when they actually want to or must in order to get something they really want. It may seem like no different to many, but it very much so is a shift that has to happen in all these types of builds. Otherwise, well, you simply aren’t building, instead you’re just playing musical chairs.

4. Roansy is Different

People love yelling about calling up prospects, and I get it, that’s what this team has been telling everyone to look at for the best part of 3 years but there is no rush on Roansy Contreras. He’ll get here soon, but if he were to throw 150 innings this season I’d be shocked.

His forearm tightness last year caused him to only throw 58 innings in 2021 and the most he’s ever thrown back in 2019 was 132.1. In other words folks, this isn’t a kid that is used to a huge workload. Not yet.

That doesn’t mean he won’t get the call, or shouldn’t. It certainly doesn’t mean he can’t help or won’t look good, but be really forward thinking about this one. He’s going to be handled very carefully, and with good cause.

In other words, why rush to get him up here when his expected innings won’t come close to getting him to the end of the season?

I can already hear your answer, he’s better than who’s here, and you’re right. That’s why he will undoubtedly get the call up again, but just be aware, he’s not going to be shoving 6 or 7 inning starts into September.

And no, it doesn’t matter that Nolan Ryan would have happily thrown 300 innings if they let him.

This year is all about getting the feet wet and above all else, ending his season healthy with sights set on a normal offseason with real expectation for 2023.

5. Should We Be Concerned About Poor Performing Prospects?

I mean, yeah, but not to the degree I see daily on social media.

Prospects have to perform in order to get the promotions they need and the call up to the bigs they eventually seek. That said, when a prospect is in the first month or so of playing at a new level, not all of them are going to immediately take to it.

It’s why I always caution fans, and any of you who’ve read my work for any length of time know this, you simply can’t pay any attention to the ETA’s that get listed for prospects.

Those ETA’s don’t factor in injuries, bumps in the road, being blocked, hitting a snag that takes months to work through, slow starts, you know, real life.

Let’s talk through a couple right now by way of giving you some examples.

Nick Gonzales – He’s struggling right now in AA Altoona, and I’m not here to make excuses for him. I will say, I and many others warned you that duplicating his power output from Greensboro to Altoona was not likely. Most of his 2021 power came at home and that ballpark is strange, inflatingly strange in fact. He immediately struggled in 2022, but not just with power, he has struck out at a very heavy clip, 46 in his 126 plate appearances to be specific. Well, most people ignored that issue last year because despite having 101 K’s in only 369 ABs last year, he managed a batting average of .303. People also tend to ignore the way it is trending for a guy, and it’s very much so been better the last week than it started. His skill set remains intact, and lets just say a month of by far the worst OPS of his professional baseball career shouldn’t scare you into bust territory quite yet.

Liover Peguero – Here’s a guy who hasn’t struggled to make the jump with the bat, kid is straight killing the baseball in Altoona, hitting .322 with an OPS of .877 in 125 at bats. So why is he on this list? Well, defense, and to be frank this is primarily box score warriors. He’s created 10 errors at short stop this year and that follows his Greensboro effort where he laid down 23. Not good. Thing is, really watching these errors this season, man, it’s really not that bad. In fact, I’d be fine giving 4 or 5 more errors to Aaron Shackelford and off his ledger. Point is, he’s not missing his target by a mile. He’s fielding just about everything that comes his way. His range is elite, his arm is elite and unlike Oneil Cruz he isn’t throwing singles into doubles with regularity. The number isn’t great, but honestly, for those watching, he isn’t seen as a problem in the field.

Oneil Cruz – He’s struggled at SS, but he really always has a bit. Much like Liover, he could get to balls and the arm is scary strong, difference is when he misses, he really misses. Despite all the hooplah about him playing outfield, and the few clips that make him look lost out there, he’s actually held it down quite well and that arm if he takes to it is going to make him a weapon out there. If you want to worry about Cruz, do so at the plate and even then, treat it with the recency bias the Pirates will. They aren’t looking at his totals for 2022 as much as how he looks right now. How’s he been the last week or so. Is he picking it up? Is he working on the things we want him to work on? His 18 walks and 38 K’s in 139 plate appearances say yes. They wanted him to spend significant attention on drawing more walks and being more selective. Sometimes that leads a kid to be less aggressive and that lack of aggressiveness leads to taking balls he shouldn’t. See Bryan Reynolds early season in Pittsburgh. Point is, in the past two weeks he’s really started to find a balance and it’s reaping rewards.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is, box scores are cool, but a month in they can be very misleading. If you were a top prospect on April first, changes are you still are on May 16th, and there’s a very good reason for that, teams expect struggles, in fact sometimes they force them. For instance, you might take a pitcher who’s throwing 79% fastballs and mowing down everyone he faces and tell him OK, next time out 15% fastballs bucco. Let’s see how it goes. You do that to teach that the other stuff doesn’t play and needs work, or even just to show to the extreme how much they’ve been leaning on it.

You might take a guy who’s been raking but averaging 3 pitches per at bat and tell him he has to take the first two pitches for a week.

You could have a guy hitting .295 but the one thing the team wants to see is how they hit curveballs and he hasn’t made contact with one all season yet. So while you read box scores and yell for him to come up because he has to be better than player X on the big club, you have no clue about this very real hole and at the big league level it won’t matter how well he hits fastballs because after a week he simply won’t see one if he can’t hit a breaking pitch.

I’m not saying you can’t trust a single stat you see, but you have no idea what these guys are working on, let alone what constitutes success to their plan. Everything they have to go through on the way up will crop up again in the bigs, and more. Preparing players to be big league players is not linear, you’d do well to remember that, and you’d do better to watch a game or two instead of a twitter clip of a homerun and a declaration they’re better than someone who’s stuck in the league for half a decade.

Cliché but true, this is a process. You and I just aren’t privy to all of it.

Ten Things We’ve Learned So Far in 2022

5-14-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

The Pirates have played 32 games, hardly a sample size anyone should be basing anything on, but still enough to be able to talk to some situations. What have we learned?

10 – Michael Chavis Looks Like a Major League Player

Now, that doesn’t mean he’ll have a super long Pirates career, it just means, the guy looks the part and I feel very comfortable saying he’s not someone who should be worried about getting called into the manager’s office. The Pirates in my mind focus far too much on position flexibility, but that shouldn’t mean having it is a bad thing. Especially if you actually do it well.

On a team with multiple options that play his positions, and countless others in the minors, but Michael has something most don’t, he’s producing.

9 – The Rotation Might Have No Holdovers

It’s incredibly early, but as we sit here, the only starter who’s looked like a viable starter is Jose Quintana, a 33 year old free agent here on a prove it contract who will absolutely not be extended and if he isn’t traded will have surely proven himself untradable.

Everyone else, man they’ve shown nothing but flashes. A good start here, a nice outing there. Maybe a 5 inning outing where 4 2/3 were good and they still gave up 4 runs during the short lapse. It’s just been really bad.

There is some relief coming, but these questions (players) need sorted first.

Zach Thompson is already an older prospect. He has plenty of control, but even if he proves himself a decent starter, he’s probably not someone who’s going to be here shoving 3 or 4 years from now, at least not in the rotation. On top of that, he’s been pretty bad, which if we’re honest, was much more of his track record than his stretch of success in Miami. I could see him moving to the pen, but as you’ll see as we go through this, not everyone can.

JT Brubaker has good stuff, looks good for most of every start, but the inning or two he doesn’t are total disasters. He too is no spring chicken, and he’ll officially not be a really cheap option next year. If it weren’t for his propensity to give up gopher balls, I might suggest the bullpen.

Bryse Wilson was given up for peanuts in the form of Richard Rodriguez from the Atlanta Braves. They sent him up and down from AAA to Atlanta 33 times. Atlanta is a brilliantly run organization. Let’s just say, that wasn’t a mistake. Wilson pitches like he sees himself as Roger Clemens, but unfortunately he has Bryse Wilson stuff. Should I mention the pen as an option again? I mean, if you want a selling point, he’s young, like real young for as much MLB experience as he has, but he’s been the worst of the 5 and on this team, holy hell is that saying something.

We all know Mitch Keller. The velocity is real, the stuff is real, he’s even got movement this time, he’s got everything but results. That’s because he rarely puts every aspect together. He has excellent control tonight, well except that one sequence. He has the slurve really working tonight, well except that one he hung right in the sweet spot to Mike Moustakas. It’s always something, and the biggest something of all with Mitch is that if he doesn’t prove himself this year, he’s probably going to go the way of Chad Kuhl. In fact that’s very much so a terrific comp, Kuhl is really doing well early this year, but that took 5 years of the Pirates trying to make it happen with Chad before deciding he wasn’t worth it even if it happened with one year of control remaining.

Point is, until I see something, not one of these players would be in my rotation in 2023. Opportunity is still there, but one of them maybe two are about to find out that expires when Roansy and potentially Dillon Peters replace them.

8 – The Management is an Issue

I know some are hesitant to blame Derek Shelton or Oscar Marin because they haven’t had the talent to really coach, but they’ve had enough to show us something in my eyes. I think you can show fans you’re going to use what you have effectively even while acknowledging you need much more. We’d get that right?

So if Marin has one or two pitchers really take to what he’s laying down, maybe I could buy he helps them, just needs more. If Derek Shelton didn’t regularly make head scratching decisions and seemingly sacrifice the balance of a contest in the name of rest, again, I might be more willing to accept it’s not fair to judge.

This isn’t just poor choices, that stuff happens. Here’s an example I’m talking about. It’s imperative that the Pirates understand what a player like Diego Castillo is, yet he starts maybe half the games. I gave him a pass because he had other guys to look at too but when it still wasn’t a lock he’d start most nights once Newman got hurt, man, I’m sorry, what are we doing?

Nice guys, I’d love to be proven wrong and more than that I’m sure they’ll get more time, but I’ll caution, this is an awful lot of work to do only to come to find out your coaches can’t coach. Better start evaluating at some point, might as well be now.

7 – Catching is a Quandry

Even given the Starting Pitching, Catching to me is far more of an open question. I’m not saying that Henry Davis can’t make this club in 2023, but I am saying it’s a bit much to ask of the kid. He’s coming along fine but even if he makes the club next year, I can’t see it being as an immediate starter and if a kid like that isn’t starting, he shouldn’t be here. Needs to play.

This all leads me to say, I think the Pirates are going to have no choice but to look back to Roberto Perez. He’s likely going to miss most of the remainder, if not all of the season now, so he might resign cheap. Bluntly, this is a guy I want helping bring my stud number one overall catcher along.

6 – Ke’Bryan Hayes is the Real Deal

Power is the only thing you can say you need to see, but honestly, even if it doesn’t come he’s simply been good. Hitting to all fields with authority and looking confident at the plate, he’s easily the most balanced hitter in the lineup and yes I’m including pinch hitting All Star Bryan Reynolds.

Hayes hits them where they ain’t because Hayes can and does legitimately hit the ball where it’s pitched. He pulls what he should, he goes oppo with what he should. It’s been a clinic of decision making and efficiency at the plate. ANNNNDDD, I still think power will come.

Ke’Bryan just signed his 8 year extension with the Pirates and so far, it’s been the only no brainer good decision they’ve made.

5 – Bryan Reynolds is Visibly Frustrated

He’s, at least on the baseball field, usually very reserved. He’s not Colin Moran out there, he’ll crack a smile or slam a bat here and there, but this season he’s wearing it on his sleeve a bit more.

First, he’s being aggressively shifted and in the past, that never happened to Bryan Reynolds because he happily would beat one if it were ever employed. Now, well, it’s productive to do against him. I can say that because he hasn’t beat it often.

Additionally his underlying advanced stats paint a picture of a player who is doing what he’s always done. Very little variation from history to 2022. His May has been good so far, but I get the impression he thinks he should be doing more.

I agree of course, but as I watch him this season look out of sorts (for him) at times I thank god he had his breakout under Hurdle, because my guess is he’d already have been reduced to 4 games a week under Shelton if he wasn’t so established.

4 – The Pirates Have a Good Shot at 3rd in the NL Central

I know it doesn’t feel that way as the Reds keep beating the Pirates, but the Reds and Cubs aren’t done tearing down, while the Pirates largely are.

We all know what’s happening to this team as the youth movement is really getting into full swing. They’ll move some guys, but nobody earth shattering, and eventually they’ll get players like Oneil Cruz, Roansy Contreras and more up here. I said it before the season, this team will look better at the end than the beginning. I still firmly believe that, but the part I didn’t account for was the ineptitude of the start both those clubs would get off to.

Oh the Cubs and Reds have guys who will come back from injury and prospects of their own, but they’ll be moving established heartbeat of the club types, such as Luis Castillo, Wilson Contreras and more. Until and if we get a pennant race, this will have to be our substitute.

3 – Cole Tucker is Likely a Failed Number One Pick

There’s just nothing there folks.

Super nice guy, wonderful locker room mate, really energetic performer who tries his ass off. Of all he is, unfortunately he’s also just not a hitter.

He was recently optioned to AAA where I’m sure he’s going to play and presumably only hit from the left side moving forward, but I’m honestly surprised he didn’t find his way to a DFA this time.

If he performs at AAA, well it’ll be news worth reading, because he literally never ever has. It’s proof that number one pick doesn’t equal MLB player, but more than that, it’s proof that if a kid never does it in the minors, you’re a fool to expect he will at the MLB level.

I’m pulling for the person here, but part of me hopes he just stays in the question answered department. I’d rather spend time learning about Castillo, Castro, Cruz, Bae, Marcano, Peguero, and yes even Kevin Newman, at least he’s hit once.

Enough is enough.

2 – The Quest for “Good at Bats”

The Pirates have struggled like hell to hit with runners in scoring position. Part of that is talent of course, but part of it too is the overall approach from this club.

Almost to a man they are seeking a walk or at least a very deep at bat and honestly, it’s maddening to me.

It works to a degree, they get guys on base, but when it comes time to score, man it seems like they just would rather walk than look for something to hit.

Let’s use a scenario to explain what I mean here.

Say the game is 2-1 Reds in the 7th inning. Ke’Bryan Hayes leads off the inning with a double. Next up is Voglebach who’s been really good so far really. He always is looking for a deep count, but situationally here you want him to do his damnedest to hit a ball to the right side to at least bump Hayes to third. Instead, Vogey be Vogey, he goes deep and either strikes out or walks. Now, that’s not entirely fair cause he’s come through some too but go with me here because he could be anyone there really.

Next up now with runners at 1st and 2nd after the walk, Yoshi comes up and he takes one right down the pipe, then does what he does, leading to an eventual strikeout.

Move on to the nest guy, he swings for the fences panicking that the runners now need a hit to score likely and of course doesn’t get one. One more guy, one more out. No runs on a leadoff extra base hit.

All started by that one “good at bat” by Vogey. That’s what this team preaches, and again, I do get it, but if you want to start turning more of those runners in scoring position into runs, I suggest you look at what you have in this lineup and start teaching situational ball.

There is no reason with one out and a runner on third that a guy like Yoshi, or anyone really, comes up there hunting a walk. Ball in play is the goal there and yes sometimes that’s gonna be a lineout or pop up but a walk to set up the double play doesn’t seem to be working.

Funny thing is, you see some of the young guys understand that urgency more than the vets. Castillo seems to get it, Suwinski too. Seems to me the fundamentals come to Pittsburgh to die at times and I’d suggest watching the young guys to see if they come to Jesus and start seeking “good at bats” instead of scoring runs as we move forward.

1 – The Pirates Might Value 25 of Their 40-Man

I don’t get the impression the Pirates are high on the bottom third of the 40-man and bypassing it for pitching call ups more than once really illustrates that.

This speaks to the turnover of this roster I expect to see this year.

I mean let’s just do the 26-man as it sits right now. I could see Yoshi, Heath Hembree, Chris Stratton, Jose Quintana, Kevin Newman, Josh VanMeter minimally being gone and I’m not even digging. I could easily add Gamel (if I didn’t openly hope they’d keep him), and one or both of the catchers.

Kids are coming and we are continually seeing this team doesn’t care if the kid is on the 40 or not.

That puts a ton of guys on the table. Cal Mitchell, Mason Martin, Madris, Bolton, Fraizer, keep going, you’ll think of more.

The door is open for anyone who wants to kick it in. I expect the Pirates to make sure its not going to offer much resistance when they do.

A Pirates Slasher on Friday the 13th

5-13-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

For many fans, what the Pirates organization has put this city and base through is much like a horror flick. Everyone seems to see the guy hiding in the bushes with his machete, and yet every time, the characters just charge right into the one area they shouldn’t. At some point after countless bloody ends a select few members of the cast survive the onslaught and win the day.

Now if you really follow this analogy out, you already kinda know Jason, Freddy, Michael, typically come back for more and another bite at box office fortune.

The Pirates as we sit here aren’t a good baseball team, breaking news right? Much like the movie though, let’s be honest, you knew before it started who was going to meet their fate and who was going to survive to ultimately take down the killer.

Look at this team and sort out the survivors. The SURE survivors. Ke’Bryan Hayes, Bryan Reynolds, David Bednar, and then be real honest, those three are THE ONLY sure survivors.

Now you may like the comic relief character but rest assured, he’s going to die. All his character assures is that he’s going to die hilariously.

OK, you get the point, this team was built to be slashed.

That doesn’t mean everything is preordained but let’s be straight here, if Jack Suwinski becomes a staple in right field for the next 5-6 years, it wasn’t assumed. Hoped for, absolutely, but not assumed.

If Bryse Wilson somehow figures out how to stop alternating bad and meh starts or works his way to the pen and makes himself worth keeping, well, that’s great, but it wasn’t something the team pinned their success to.

I could easily go on. This club is almost entirely built on guys who have enough control left to matter if they catch on, but not the expectation they would.

OK, it’s not a slasher but maybe more like Stranger Things, the In Between.

The Pirates will find some guys from this group that stick and last. They’ll also find some guys who do nothing more than prove themselves worthy of being here as a measuring stick. Of course they’ll also find some of these guys simply get slayed early before you’ve even gotten to know them.

I often hear things while fans watch this happen that for the most part I just ignore. Like yesterday when Rodolfo Castro made his debut at short stop, I was hit with a barrage of “what about Castillo?”, “Great another guy who’s going to block Cruz”, my favorite “Peguero is the future, why waste time on any of these guys?”

Well, because next year Kevin Newman hits Arb 2, and the Pirates will face a decision. Do they ignore his bat and keep the sure glove around another year? Do they try to move him to someone who wants a sure glove? If they do, who plays there?

Kevin is a guy that this team has to prepare to move on from, and that requires trying who you have. Bluntly, they have no equal for his defensive prowess right now. Castillo, Cruz, Peguero, Castro, Bae, all would be a definitive step back defensively, yet you just can’t ignore each and every one of them has the potential to outhit him. Potential is a key word there, because honestly, Kevin hit better than almost everyone on that list on the way up too, at least for average and it’s obviously struggled to translate consistently to the majors.

That’s why you try guys like Castillo and Castro now. They’re ready to try, while Peguero isn’t. Soon Cruz will get his shot as well but for right now they have to answer a couple big questions, do we have anyone ready who we feel can handle SS and can anyone’s bat help us ignore the defensive deficiency?

First base is a mess. They have Yoshi who was never going to survive this year one way or another. He’s either going to get traded or he’s going to get cut. Michael Chavis has done some good things at the plate but he’s not an ideal 1B with his lack of size. Daniel Vogelbach can handle the position in a pinch but he’s not someone you want to play long term in the field. Mason Martin has looked pretty good and his defense is above average if only slightly. All of this will be sorted this year. They’re set up to have Chavis and Vogelbach return in 2023, potentially even as just insurance for Martin, but you can see how they could really go nuclear if they so chose.

The starting rotation clearly needs to evolve. Quintana certainly won’t be here so take everything he gives you as a plus. Anyone else is free to step up and take a spot, but push is coming. Roansy Contreras, Max Kranick, Cody Bolton, Omar Cruz, and now Tyler Beede will all get shots and that’s going to come at the expense of players like Wilson or Thompson, Brubaker or Keller, thing is, that’s a good problem. You want that, and so do the Pirates.

I keep hearing people say the Pirates will trade all these great players as soon as they get good, but really, that ignores what has actually happened here. Josh Bell was traded because his control ended in 2022, because of his agent, age and inconsistency they deemed him a poor investment. He’ll be 30 this year and while he’s finally looking more consistent at the plate all that means is they could have waited, had a decent bat for 2021 and most of this year then moved him at this deadline.

Reality is once they decided to slash Marte, who wanted no parts of living through a rebuild in Pittsburgh, the other dominoes were going to fall.

You don’t have to like it. They didn’t have to do it in the fashion they did, but here we are and after suffering through two of the worst seasons of baseball we’ve seen in over a decade, we’ve arrived at a point where real talent is right there. Guys you’ve waited for, guys you didn’t see coming, some you wrote off, others you built up and are currently underwhelmed by will all come together to remake this roster as the year pushes on and for a guy like me, man that’s fun.

I sat here in 2020 writing about a team that really had no alternatives. If Tucker stunk (Yeah I know the if is gone now) well what were you going to do? Nobody was ready, and the guys who were, well, they proved quickly they weren’t really options. Will Craig, Jose Osuna, you remember.

2021 saw an onslaught of Rule 5 pickups and waiver wire claims intended to stem the tide more so than fill a role long term. Ben Gamel came from that group, Chase DeJong, Anthony Banda as well. This year Greg Allen was claimed, Tyler Beede was just grabbed, but for the most part the team has come from who’s already here. A few low risk signings, a low impact trade here and there, but primarily, this team is internally built. It’s still not good, but every member of this team not named Bednar, Reynolds, and Hayes is now a measuring stick.

Want to crack this roster? Be better than this guy. Can’t be better than this guy, well, maybe you aren’t good. Who’s “this guy” well, take your pick. Chavis is a measuring stick, and his versatility makes him one for multiple spots. You want his at bats, you have to show you’re better and more than that, you have to do it when opportunity knocks.

We all got frustrated and continue to be by seeing guys like Josh VanMeter or Cole Tucker get starts, but it leads to finally deciding Tucker isn’t it. My guess is that soon it will lead to the understanding VanMeter isn’t either. Castro gets the opportunity when the Tucker decision came. Cruz or someone else will get one when VanMeter is done with his audition.

Sometimes a guy can force it from below. In Castro’s case, Tucker was just that bad and Castro was just ok. Cruz may just take it from VanMeter. Point is, that’s what a bunch of these guys are here for, to get beaten. If they perform and never get beat, great. If they don’t and it meant all they were happened to be a hurdle to jump, so be it.

This team by the end of 2022 will look different. I’m not here to tell you this is a caterpillar into a butterfly situation, but I will say the measuring sticks will keep getting stronger. Castro will be harder to beat than Tucker. Castillo is harder to beat than Evans was. So on and so on.

This group of prospects that are close to or actually ready, they for the most part aren’t the exciting guys, but that doesn’t mean they won’t find answers in this batch. Adam Frazier was a guy like this, a measuring stick who was ready before highly touted prospects like Kevin Kramer or Alen Hanson, thing is, he became much more than that. Jordy Mercer, Josh Harrison, Jacob Stallings, these guys sometimes stick.

The Pirates greatest sin was having nothing else coming behind those guys, that is no longer the case. And friends, whether you got it at the time or not, that was the point of all of this.

People love to point out that not all these guys will make it, and they’re completely right. Mass them up and make some positions look like a complete logjam, pray one or two emerge. That’s stacking, and over time it leads to sticking.

None of that happens without slashing.

Take the cuts in stride, and understand every time you watch a guy you find less than desirable, a question is actively being answered.

Again, I’m not blind, there are other ways to skin this cat. They could go out and get MLB proven and polished players to man positions and fill out the rotation, and honestly, that makes sense to most fans. From the start though, that has not been the intention of this club.

I actually get it if you can’t deal, but when you tune in and catch a poor performing player realize that unlike 2 years ago, there are alternatives now.

I’ll leave you with this. The Pirates in the past couple seasons decided that former number one picks Cole Tucker and Will Craig aren’t answers. They are still trying to see if Travis Swaggerty is going to meet the same fate. Quinn Priester has started the year on the IL and has stalled a bit beside. Carmen Mlodzinski is back on the IL. All these high draft picks might never make it, and no, I’m not giving up on any one of them quite yet, just illustrating, this is why you can’t sit here looking at your system pretending everything is going to pan out.

More than anything it’s why you hedge your bet. In fact look back in history, if Tyler Glasnow doesn’t look like a complete disaster in Pittsburgh that whole Archer trade never happens. That’s what the panic of realizing you don’t have more options coming does to a team, and that’s why a team like this had to build the system up in the first place, to avoid repeating history.

Slash away Buccos, and on this Friday the 13th remember that at some point, you make your own luck.

Top 15 Prospect Roundup

5-11-22 – By Justin Verno – @JV_PITT on Twitter

Ok, let me start this with an apology. Last year I did a weekly update on the top 30 prospects and was welcomed back to do it again this year and it’s time I stopped being lazy and get to it. Don’t get me wrong, there are other reasons I put this off for a few weeks (ok, a month, sorry) other than my propensity to procrastinate. For instance, in the early going averages can soar one week and dive the other, it’s hard to really gauge if it’s an improvement or if there’s even a baseline to start with.

So I decided to wait a few weeks and those few weeks became a month and more. But now it’s time to get to it, promotions are happening and I’m way behind!

I’ve also decided to change it up a little. Instead of doing the top 30 I will be narrowing in on the top 15 and have decided to add 5 of my own. Now, the 5 I’ve decided to include are for specific reasons, I’m not saying they are “better prospects” or even my favorite prospects, but I have reasons for adding these guys which I will include in the conclusion of the update. Let’s get to it.

1-Oneil Cruz

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
Week.238/.360/.524.884.286.387.13512%8%
Season.189/.300/.367.667.147.2957611.8%27.3%

2-Henry Davis

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
Week.412/.474/.8241.297.412.5582405.3%5.3%
Season.341/.450/.5851.035.244.4621798%18%

3-Roansy Contreras

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPBB%k%
MLB7.23.523.732.890.919.7%32.3%
AAA10.10.873.683.511.1616.3%37.2%

4-Liover Peguero

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
Week .316/.300/.421 .721 .105 .310 95 0% 35%
Season.334/.364/.548.912.215.4001555.1%19.2%

5-Quinn Priester-no stats yet

6-Nick Gonzales

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBA+wRC+BB%K%
week.143/.250/.190.440.048.221368.3%41.7%
season.188/.337/.306.642.118.3099515.4%35.6%

7-Endy Rodriguez

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwWR+BB%K%
week.250/.526/.9171.443.667.57525031.6%26.3%
season.261/.340/.489.829.228.3711218.7%29.1%

8-Matt Fraizer

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
week.125/.125/.188.313.063.138-180%31.3%
season.157/.194/.236.430.079.198213.2%33.3%

9-Jared Jones

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPBB%K%
week5.13.385.721.1314.3%28.3%
season21.15.065.723.981.2712.4%36%

10-Bubba Chandler No stats

11-Ji-hwan Bae

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwWRC+BB%K%
week.261/.340/.409.774.000.3871358%28%
season.261/.340/.409.749.148.33810311%20%

12-Michael Burrows

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPBB%K%
week8.22.081.710.928.3%33.3%
season26.21.352.203.550.826.8%34%

13-Travis Swaggerty

*only had 3 AB last week*

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
week
season.194/.286/.258.544.056.2615411.3%31%

14-Miguel Yajure

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPBB%K%
AAA2.00.00-1.52-1.520.500%71.4%
MLB10.111.325.896.672.1311.3%7.5%

15-Anthony Solometo- No stats

MY FIVE

16-Kyle Nicolas

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPBB%K%
week19.24.124.511.076.3%29.1%
season5.01.801.643.650.805.6%33.3%

17-Maikol Escotto

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
week.286/.481/.571.983.286.43816411.8%11.8%
season.235/.287/.481.769.247.3391015.7%32.2%

18-Mason Martin

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
week.053/.136/.053.189.000.108-459.1%40.9%
season.253/.305/.547.852.295.3611185,7%32.4%

19- Hudson Head

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
week.267/.353/.6671.0202.400.43316111.8%23.5%
season.253/.374/.427.800.173.37012111%34.1%

20-Connor Scott

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
week.063/.063/.125.188.063.081-560%16.7%
season.288/.358/.425.783.137.3551258.4%20.5%

A few quick things

  • Man, talk about a hot/cold week in the system? Not a lot of guys that had a so-so week, they were either ice cold or hot as the sun?
  • Obviously I am not in Greensboro nor do I get to see Henry Davis in an everyday situation, or even every plate appearance. But one has to wonder what took them so long to promote the kid to AA? He’s been about as dominant as one can be at any level, he just wasn’t challenged and sorry Mr. Cherington, that just wasn’t helping the kid at all. Do better, sir.
  • Nick the stick and Matt Fraizer are having a rough go, both really need to make an adjustment and fast.
  • Endy is coming along nicely, consider he is learning a few different positions.
  • Peguero and his power seem ahead of schedule. Some have speculated that the FO plans on moving Gonzo and Pegs up the system together, if that’s the case Gonzo better get it together as I have to think Liover is close to AAA.
  • Now for the 5 I picked. I picked these 5 because they are 5 guys I feel have the upside to take the system to the next level and all in striking distance to Pittsburgh. There are others with really high ceilings , Shalin Polanco comes to mind, but most are in the lower system.
    Connor Scott and Kyle Nicolas were late adds, I wasn’t going to include them but both have really impressed in their short time here. That’s not easy for me to admit as early on I did NOT like the Stallings return
    The guy on the list that may surprise some? Mason Martin. People, myself included, either love the guy or hate the guy. He got off to a blistering start but has really cooled off lately. However I see some positives with him despite the late freeze. 32% is not the ideal k-rate, I get that. It also isn’t terrible if he keeps knocking the hell out of the ball and he’s done that keeping the OPS over 800 the whole season. He seemed to work on a shorter swing and pitch recognition in the off-season and the early results were there. The league has obviously made adjustments to his new approach, if we can call it that, how responds in the next 2 weeks or so could determine how quickly he gets to PNC Park and frankly if we should be excited for him once he gets there. Keep an eye on Martin this week, could be an important step for him.

Pirates Need To Make Some Commitments

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-bhtmd-1222815

With so many question marks in the eventual contending 26-man lineup for the Pittsburgh Pirates, is it time to sign some older veteran players to extensions? We have a couple of names that should get locked in this season in order to cut down on the amount of maybes on the future roster. 

Craig Toth covers the Pirates for Inside The Bucs Basement, and joins his buddy Chris at a 9-foot homemade oak bar to talk Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball. Listen. Subscribe. Share. We are “For Fans, By Fans & all Pirates Talk.” THE Pirates Fan Podcast found EVERYWHERE podcasts can be found and always at BucsInTheBasement.com!

Top 5 Pirates Prospect Performers

5-10-22 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement on Twitter)

Ever since I started ranking the Pirates Prospects following the first week of the Minor League Baseball Season back on April 12th, my main caution to those following the Pittsburgh’s Farm System has been to be wary of the small sample size. One three hit game can balloon a batter’s statistics in the same way a rough outing can make a pitcher seem like he is destined to have an ERA north of 8.00 or a WHIP above 2.00. As the season progresses these numbers will almost always regulate themselves back to the mean, and a clearer picture of exactly who the player is starts to emerge.

After almost 30 games for the Indians, Curve, Grasshoppers and Marauders, early season struggles at the plate have been shrugged off by some, seemly hot bats have quickly cooled, a dominant appearance on the mound becomes the anomaly and one rough outing is a thing of the past. Then there are the prospects who have remained consistent through April, and into the beginning of May; ultimately leading to several repeat top performers for the first time this year.

1) Henry Davis-C (Altoona)

Jack Suwinski made the list , and was promoted almost immediately; for Davis it took an extra week, but it finally happened. After slashing .342/.450/.585 with 5 homers and 9 total extra base hits in an even 100 plate appearances for the High-A Greensboro Grasshoppers, last year’s number one overall pick is headed north to Altoona.

When it comes to Davis-as it is with the majority of prospects-the bat will be the primary factor in determining promotion through the system. So far this season he has spent nearly an equal amount of time behind the dish and serving as the team’s designated hitter. Obviously, it is possible that Davis eventually moves off the position, which is something I’ve heard rumblings of every since the Pirates selected him; still; it is far to soon to make that assumption.

2) Michael Burrows-RHP (Altoona)

Burrows earned his way into the inaugural Top 5 Pirates Prospect Performers, and hasn’t looked back. During his first start of the season Burrows struck out 4, did walk a single batter and allowed two hits in 4 inning of work; needing only 48 pitches to dispose of the Harrisburg Senators’ lineup.

Since that time he has posted a 1.59 ERA and a .882 WHIP, while striking out 31 over 5 starts and 22.2 innings. During his most recent outing Burrows all but silenced the Sea Wolves bats in his 4 innings of work; giving up one hit, notching 6 strike outs and allowing one free pass.

Now, I have seen some concern circulating Pirates Fan Social Media surrounding the limiting of his-and other pitchers-innings, i in somewhat of a trickle down effect from the Major League Club. Nevertheless, as it pertains to Burrows, it is my belief that Pittsburgh’s developmental staff is just being overly cautious with an arm that pitched only 49 innings during the 2021 season due to an oblique injury; and one that had thrown 90 pitches during the previous start.

3) Liover Peguero-SS (Altoona)

Peguero was also recognized in my first Top 5 of the year; partially because I witnessed his first home run of the season in person. However, he has found his way back on account of his bat not slowing down.

In 23 games-and over 99 plate plate appearances-Peguero has slashed .333/.364/.548 with 3 homers and 13 total extra base hits, highlighted by a 4 for 5 performance during the previous week. Current riding a 6-game hit streak, he currently leads-or is tied for-the team lead in all major batting categories; including AVG (.333), OPS (.912), HR (3) and RBI (18); plus it should be noted that he is 7 for 7 in stolen base attempts.

Despite his overwhelming success with the bat this year-a point of concern I saw raised due to him only posting a slightly above average wRC+ (108) at the hitter friendly First National Bank Field-a new worry has started to surface for some in the Pittsburgh Pirates Fanbase. In 185.1 innings at short stop this season, Peguero has 9 errors and a .894 fielding percentage, which is leading to questions being posed pertaining to his ability to stick at the position.

If you ask me, I am really not concerned because this small sample size doesn’t automatically mean he won’t be able to develop into a Major League Short Stop. And, it won’t necessarily matter as much as anyone thinks it will if he eventually gets moved to the outfield; as long as the bat continues to progress.

4) Tahnaj Thomas-RHP (Altoona)

Coming into last season Thomas was the #5 Ranked Pirates Prospect(#108 Overall) according to Fangraphs. Then it all kind of fell apart. Thomas’ ERA ballooned up to 5.10, his WHIP rose to 1.582 and his walk rate followed along with them to 5.19 per 9. He was still throwing his fastball in the upper 90’s, touching 100 mph at times; he just seemed to have no clue where it was going.

As a result Thomas fell down or off the prospect boards, and was is discussion for possibly being selected in the Rule 5 Draft after not being added to the Pirates 40-Man this past off-season; although once the MLB Portion was eventually cancelled, the conversation shifted. Now the focus was on whether or not he and the Pirates would be better served by bringing him out the bullpen.

So far this year, in an extremely small sample size of 9.2 innings, Thomas has posted a 0.93 ERA and a .931 WHIP with 9 strikeouts and 4 walks. Clearly we will all need to see more before making any longterm projections for him as a reliever, but it’s progress; and worth noting.

5) Matt Gorski-OF (Greensboro)

Originally drafted by Pittsburgh in the 2nd Round of the 2019 MLB Draft out of Indiana University, Gorski is in his second go around with the Greensboro Grasshoppers; following a season in which he blasted 17 homers, but batted only .224 with a 31.2% K to 8.5% BB rate.

This year he has started off with a 24.2% K to 14.1%, and has kept the power; already belting 8 homers, counting the two he hit this past week.

At 24 he is a full 1.4 years older than the average player in High-A, time is catching up with him; so, it’s pretty much now or never for the former Hoosier.

There you have it! My Top 5 Pirates Prospect Performers for the fifth week of 2022.

Now remember, let me know I missed who your Top 5 is and be sure check back each and every Tuesday during Minor League Baseball Season!

If you noticed four of the five players listed this week are with the Curve. Might be time to take another trip out to Altoona.