Five Pirates Thoughts at Five

6-5-23 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

Anything I’d write the day after a series sweep against the Cardinals is bound to be at least a little positive right?

I mean, let’s not pretend this happens everyday. The Pirates haven’t swept the Cardinals in a 3 game set since 2018 after all. So it’s clearly worth bragging, getting excited about, all that, but let’s keep our heads about us to a degree.

For instance, after sweeping the Cards, beating at least, but more likely sweeping the A’s is almost being seen as a given. Look, it should be seen as a series they should win, it should even be seen as a series that you should shoot for a sweep, but folks, this team is squarely in the middle to slightly above middle of the pack, every series should be seen as an opportunity like that.

A’s stink yes, but when they play the Mets, they should feel the same. Win series, and always know what a team looks like now might not be what that team looks like in 3 weeks when they get here.

Let’s dive in and have some good conversation.

1. Pairs – AKA The Buddy System

When you construct a lineup, everyone has a way. Analytics drives much of this now for MLB staffs, but I think there needs to be some old school protection talk built in there.

To get to my point, let me start by taking us into the world of Hockey. I know, I know, many of you only follow baseball, but hang with me here, I’ll make it make sense and you won’t have to understand the game.

Mike Sullivan, the Penguins head coach builds his lines differently than most. Instead of picking his forwards by sets of 3 he instead chooses pairs. So for instance, Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel are a pair, the 3rd skater, well, they like to leave that interchangeable. This ensures that the line always retains some chemistry even as things are shuffled all around them. The second line always had Evgeni Malkin and Jason Zucker. So on and so on.

Well, a baseball lineup is typically viewed through who’s the leadoff, who’s the cleanup so on and so on.

What I’m proposing here is a way to build some comfort into the lineup along with some protection in an effort to have all these moving parts start working together a bit better.

I’d pair players together.

Now I’d only do this for a few players, specifically players that I think I want to be in the lineup more often than not.

Rodolfo Castro & Jack Suwinski – Rudy struggles to hit righties, Jack struggles to hit lefties. We all know this and late in games, teams that have the ability always get a lefty in for Jack and a righty in for Rudy. Put them back to back no matter where and you always have a poison pill baked in.

Bryan Reynolds & Andrew McCutchen – Andrew will murder left handed pitching, Reynolds doesn’t get many opportunities but he hits lefties like crazy too. I’ve put this example in here to illustrate, it doesn’t always help. If you get Reynolds flipped around to bat left handed and ensure Cutch faces a righty, you’ve achieved the ideal path through these two. They’re good enough to overcome it, but they also don’t “help” each other when it comes to matchups. Basically, this is an idea, and maybe it only helps a few players, further, maybe some players don’t need the help.

Carlos Santana & Ke’Bryan Hayes – We all know Hayes struggles against right handed pitching, and from an analytics standpoint, so does Santana. Prevent people from flipping Carlos by backing him with Hayes. Helps both.

I’ll stop here, and I wouldn’t be ridiculously stringent. Like when resting Santana you don’t have to also rest Hayes, but when all active, lets let these bats help each other.

The league put in this 3 batter rule a while ago now, but I haven’t seen many teams try to take advantage aside from pinch hitting opportunities. Let’s instead get in front of it and forecast out the tough decisions we’re creating.

2. Sweep the A’s or Bust

This is where I remind everyone the 100 loss Pirates swept the LA Dodgers in LA last year while my drunk ass was at the beach.

The A’s will forever in 2023 be playing teams that know beyond a shadow of doubt they’ll get no credit for sweeping them, and face the shame of the baseball world if they lose to them.

This comes with pressure, and that pressure, well, a team like the Pirates aren’t accustomed to that kind of pressure. They aren’t used to punching down, instead usually trying to pull themselves into the collective consciousness of the league at large.

It’s a different kind of pressure and following the high of sweeping the Devil Magic Cardinals at home, well, the attention to detail it requires to topple your nemesis isn’t the same feeling as playing 3 against a team you’re unquestionably supposed to beat handily.

So, should the Pirates sweep the A’s? Of course, but if they do expect it to go over like Manute Bol beating Danny DeVito in a slam dunk contest. If they don’t, expect a full blown referendum on Derek Shelton’s inability to keep them focused.

In reality, anything can happen in baseball.

This series won’t define what this team is, but losing it sure would feel like it.

As it stands right now, this team is still middling. Hovering around .500 in a division where that mark is “in it”. They are every bit contenders for the division, but that doesn’t mean they’re to the point where they should be assumed to do anything in any series. I simply don’t think they’re machine like in that way yet and if you need proof, Patrick Corbin of the Nationals seems to look like Clayton Kershaw against them every time he gets a chance.

3. Decisions Are Coming Faster Now

The Pirates have no choice really. The 40-man crunch that will arrive in December is very real and coming like a freight train. The time for endless tryouts has come and gone. It ended at their own hands.

The Bucs hot start will get the blame, but in reality, signing as many vets as they did this season was an indication they were ready to set some measuring sticks and allow prospects to surpass or at least reach them.

We’re seeing them much less worried about losing players like Chase DeJong, Miguel Andujar or Duane Underwood Jr. when they underperform or when they see someone in the minors they think can outperform them.

Meaning specifically, say what you want about those two pitchers, but one ate a ton of innings for this team and the other was legitimately one of their best performers in 2023. Chase is back now after clearing waivers and honestly, DUJ might be too at some point, but the decisions are beginning to be made. Say what you want about Andujar but last year he’d easily have gotten a good 100 at bats before they entertained DFAing him.

When you see the wave that’s coming start to make their way to MLB, you’ll see even more. For instance, if Nick Gonzales were to earn a call up this year, it’ll be because they aren’t satisfied with the ceiling on players like Marcano, Bae, Castro, and instead are ready to see what Nick has. When that happens, the low man on the totem pole will likely find his way back to the minors or maybe out the door all together.

Heck, one could see this treatment when Cruz is back.

This is where team building gets really really interesting and for some painful. It’s also where most teams either destroy or start to sure up construction on what they’ve built.

Bottom line, when prospects get congested right on the edge, it becomes really hard to see enough of each of them in the Bigs before having to make a call. It should end the practice of bringing in guys like Chavis Young or Ryan Vilade.

That’s not the same as Non-Roster Invitees, but they’ll look to get less of the 26-29 year old “this guy didn’t get a shot” types, because over time, the Pirates will have plenty of those themselves. Like, do you see Connor Joe here and starting for the next 3 or 4 years? Maybe. Seems like a great guy, under team control for a while, but ultimately if this is a World Series contender, is he starting? Hey, maybe he is that good by then, but if he isn’t, don’t be shocked if one day he’s being said goodbye to, even if he’s an above average MLB player.

I recommend to everyone, root for the logo. I say this because truly someone you think is absolutely part of this thing at this moment, might not be next year. Did you think Cal Mitchell was just about a lock to make the club out of Spring? I know I did before they went ape signing guys.

It’s why way back when, I used to get so irritated by seeing people posing as experts put out lineups for 2025. You have no idea. None.

I can honestly say before getting called up last season, Jack Suwinski was never on one of those silly proposed lineups. Most of them never mentioned Castro, Bae, Marcano, heck even Endy wasn’t a popular choice before last season.

Love the players. Root for their success, but know this, upgrades don’t happen without someone else losing their opportunity.

It’s super easy to wash your hands of Austin Hedges for Henry Davis or Endy Rodriguez. It’s harder to see the possibility of Rodolfo Castro being relegated to a bench role because he isn’t as good as Gonzales, Peguero, Cheng, Alvarez, on and on.

This is very hard for many fans, and some will see these coming decisions as financially motivated when they come. That though is, situationally speaking, a fallacy. It’s going to be because by year 3 (AKA the year before Arbitration) you should know if keeping them is a thumbs up or down in many cases. Many of them will still have trade value because at some point the Pirates cast offs will start being a higher caliber than they currently are.

Thank god Mitch Keller wasn’t just coming up now right? Look how hard it is having a competitive team and onboarding rookie starters. It wasn’t the plan, but they now have 3 rookies starting, and man, that’s enough growing pains to be 100% sure we’re going to get irritated at some point. Remember that when Quinn debuts, or Ortiz struggles, this is why next season when it seems on paper they have no room, they’ll go out and again sign a starter or two.

In 90, none of us missed Tony Pena. OK, we missed him, we just came to appreciate the move.

Welcome back to relevancy, and maybe this time around, let’s be less about kicking guys on the way out the door. Check out what one of those quicker decisions is doing in Milwaukee, Bryse Wilson. In 18 games he has a 2.30 ERA and a WHIP of 1.085 with 3 saves to top it off. Maybe a longer look could have been in order. Maybe we should brace ourselves, cause he won’t be lonely when we make a list one day 5 or 6 years from now.

4. What Holes Need Patched?

I guess this is really two Questions. 1, what holes need patched? And 2, which ones can’t be patched internally?

The Pirates are hanging around, for how long, well, the division will help tell that story. If it manages to bleed into July though, this team has some needs, we should properly highlight them, and see what we can do internally or should look to address on the market.

Before I do though, Yes, I fully believe this team will try to add to the roster if they’re in this race reasonably. Yes, I think they can do that while still moving more guys like they just did with Robert Stephenson. More on this another time in a more dedicated piece.

I’m tempted to add a third question here, is this move for this year or this year plus a year or two? This seems key, especially since some of their needs are going to just show right back up in the Winter.

Let’s go.

Starting Pitching – This team is starting 3 rookies. All talented, all encouraging at times, but all inexperienced. Maybe that’s ok, but more likely this team makes a run with the addition of another veteran starter. Seems self explanatory but you kinda can’t get that internally. We know they’ll have to get one to replace Hill in 2024 minimally, so I say if you make a move here, you make it one that carries with it some years.

If you go rental, I question the use of prospects for the acquisition. You may very well need to take this approach in the winter anyway, but now you have less “cash”. I’d also think the rental market will be flooded by the bigger boys who giving a top ten prospect for a veteran is a yearly occurrence. Longer term targets might not get as much attention.

Lastly, even if Vince comes back, I’d think you want someone with a longer tradition of success for the role I’m looking at here.

Short Stop – Yes, I know Oneil Cruz should be back, but let’s just say they have to know thumbs up or thumbs down by like July 10th. And if it’s even a question he’ll be playing the field, go get one. Marcano has been fine, but that position is too key to allow it to be a question mark. This is absolutely a rental player, unless we’re still pretending Cruz is about to get pushed aside. Speaking of Cruz, he could be the biggest deadline acquisition in the game if he comes back and looks right.

Catcher – Obviously the Pirates have internal options here. Henry Davis and Endy Rodriguez are like all anyone can talk about. I can’t see getting one on the market but this sure as hell is a need. Feels to me like even if they truly don’t feel either of these are ready, they’re still both better than what they’d acquire.

Outfielder – I think this team could use another Outfield thumper. I don’t think it’s internal unless they were to use Davis in Right field for the season. Reynolds, Suwinski, Joe, Cutch, Marcano, Bae, Palacios, Mathias, I mean that ‘s a lot of guys who can play out there, but only one or two who you feel is star quality in this league, you typically need more than that in the playoffs or indeed to get there. I’d make this a rental, and I’d go nuts. Grab a Joc Pederson, or go get Blackmon, whatever, get an experienced bat, not unlike Marlin Byrd was back in the day.

Aside from that, I either really like the mix or feel they’re ok. I considered first base, but I think Choi coming back will solidify that along with Santana and Joe to a degree. Can’t help but feel they’ll need to address this in the offseason again, so maybe a move is the way to go now. Can’t do anything if both of these guys stay.

5. Henry and Endy at the Same Level?

I mean, eventually this is the goal is it not people? They’re both at AAA now, and one day they’ll both be in MLB. That’s what we all want right?

Couple things here. First, they’ll both still get at bats, I wouldn’t worry about that too much. Second, I believe the Super 2 date is going to be somewhere between the 15th and the 20th of June, so even if they’re conservative you’re talking about 2 or 3 weeks of overlap here.

We also don’t 100% know which one they’ll call up first. We’ve all assumed Endy because he was the one on the 40-man, and he was the one in AAA, and he was the one everyone was complaining about, but Henry has hit his way into this situation. As it comes to catching, both are and will be green, so to be clear, neither is getting called up to fix a defensive issue, they’d get the call for their bat.

Henry could very much so be the choice here. Endy has had some very good nights but his overall performance hasn’t been spectacular. Henry has been simply put, incredible. Endy was well, every season since he was acquired, until this season.

They’ll manage them and everyone will read into who does what.

Henry has started XX games in Right Field and Endy has Caught XX times! I can hear it now.

The bats will dictate this if the plan is to let them play elsewhere and warm up to the catching position at the MLB level.

Basically, don’t get sweaty about this, the goal is to have them be teammates for quite some time. If you see them both in the lineup together impacting the franchise, it’s a win, even if neither of them catch. (But one will, I’m being dramatic because I’m a writer)

Pittsburgh Pirates vs Oakland Athletics Series Preview

5-2-23 – By Christian Wolf – @CWolfPGH on Twitter

When & Who

Oakland Athletics (12-49) at Pittsburgh Pirates (31-27)

Game 1 – (6/5, 7:05 EST)

Probable Pitchers:

For the Pirates – Johan Oviedo (3-4, 4.50 ERA)

For the Athletics – JP Sears, (0-3, 4.37 ERA)

Game 2 – (6/6, 7:05 EST)

Probable Pitchers:

For the Pirates – Mitch Keller (7-1, 3.25 ERA)

For the Athletics – James Kaprielian (0-6, 8.12 ERA)

Game 3 – (6/7, 12:35 EST)

Probable Pitchers:

For the Pirates – Roansy Contreras (3-4, 4.82 ERA)

For the Athletics – Hogan Harris (0-0, 6.97 ERA)

Team Trends

The Athletics are bad. Worse than bad. Their owner is counting down the games until he can move to Las Vegas. The A’s fans no longer show up to games. They are on pace to win less than 40 games. Next question.

The Pirates are coming off a series sweep of the Cardinals, and have won five in a row. The bullpen was fantastic all series and the offense did just enough in each game to get the win. David Bednar completed saves in three straight games for the first time in his career.

Who’s Hot

For the Athletics –  Ramon Laureano – Laureano collected hits in each game against the Marlins, and struck out only twice in the series. He is hitting .400 (8-20) over his last seven games.

For the Pirates – Ke’Bryan Hayes – This is certainly a welcome site. Hayes had two three-hit games against the Cardinals, going 7-for-11 in the series overall and hitting two home runs. Hayes is hitting .310 (9-29) over his last seven games.

Who’s Not

For the Athletics – Aledmys Diaz –  Plenty of options here, and Diaz is one. He is hitting just .100 (2-20) over his last seven games and did not collect a hit in the series against Miami, and struck out three times.

For the Pirates – Jack Suwinski – Suwinski collected just one hit against the Cardinals, and had three strikeouts. He is hitting just .212 over his past thirty games.

Series Overview & Prediction

Plain and simple, the Pirates are the better team, no matter where you look. The Athletics pitching staff is historically bad, and their offense has been trending downward recently as well. This team is 12-49. TWELVE WINS, and we are in June.

The Pirates, really, should sweep the A’s, no questions asked. But because I feel personally like I am the great jinx master; I will settle for a simple series win in terms of winning two of the three games. But it really will not get easier for the Bucs again this season.

Hill Dominates Cards as Bucs Complete Series Sweep (31-27)

6/4/23- By Michael Castrignano – @412DoublePlay on Twitter

Following two games where the bullpen had to cover 12 innings of work, Rich Hill decided to give them as much of a break as possible, lasting 6.2 innings, allowing only 1 run off 4 hits with 3 walks and 6 strikeouts in his performance.

Bucs got on the board against starter Miles Mikolas early as Ji-hwan Bae took advantage of a first inning bases-loaded, 2-out situation to singled to center to score Bryan Reynolds and Jack Suwinski, providing all the run support the team would need.

Hill ran into some trouble in the 7th inning following two quick outs as Cards catcher Andrew Knizner homered to left cutting the lead to 1. Tommy Edman followed with a single to left and that was the day for Hill. Bullpen continued their tear of success as Dauri “Money” Moreta came on and struck out Paul Goldschmidt to end the inning. Yohan Ramirez pitched a 1-2-3 8th and David Bednar shut down the 9th, notching his 13th save in 14 chances, including 3 of 3 in the weekend series.

News & Notes

  • Ke’Bryan Hayes didn’t manage to homer in his third straight game but stayed hot going 3-for-4 on the day. He finished the weekend series going 7/11 with 2 runs and 5 RBI, boosting his batting average to .242 – up from .221 coming into June. He appears to have really figured something out lately.
  • Bae swiped two bags in the game today, now sitting at 17 stolen bases on the season, which is tied for 2nd in the National League.
  • Cutch sat for the Sunday game, still sitting on 399 doubles, 1,997 hits, 49 triples and 295 home runs. It is likely he will reach some milestones over the remaining games of this homestand.
  • This was the first time the Pirates have swept the Cardinals in a 3-game series since April 27-29, 2018. This is also the 4th series sweep for the Pirates this season.
  • Pirates stay home and hope to stay hot as the Oakland A’s come to town for a 3 game series tomorrow with Johan Oviedo looking to keep the momentum rolling. First pitch is at 7:05PM. Let’s Go Bucs!

Ke’Bryan Powers Bucs Past Surging Cardinals in 7-5 Win to Start Homestand (29-27)

6-3-23 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

It was just a couple days ago.

The Pirates had dipped below .500 at 26-27. Many wondered if they’d ever crest that mark again this season, and even if they did, falling below that mark really made sure everyone knew one thing, the collapse was complete.

Most of the great work they did in April had been erased and like it or not they’d fallen into a dogfight in an inferior division.

The team however, didn’t get the notes. See, they were supposed to just go away after getting punched in the nose by the Giants to open their final series of the road trip with a 14-4 loss and dipping below .500. Instead, they came out and took game two with a tight 2-1 victory the next day, and finally paid back their hosts with a 9-4 victory for the series win and the right to head home with a winning record.

Still, the Cardinals have been the cream of the crop in the NL Central, and even while the Brewers hold the top spot, the Cards have way more demons to remind the Pirates of.

To start this game, it looked like a strange, uncalled for pitcher’s duel. Roansy Contreras had been struggling and Jack Flaherty has too. Flaherty has much like his elder statesman buddy Adam Wainwright, absolutely feasted facing the Pirates, and last night would be no different.

Roansy was cruising early, velocity was back up, command looked good, I mean maybe we got lucky here and the Pirates wouldn’t pay a price for having to cut their Bullpen move with Ro short. Looked like he had gotten the message right? Well, maybe not.

In the 3rd inning, the Cardinals had little mercy on the struggling youngster.

Before you knew it, it was 5-0 Cardinals. A promising start, but we haven’t seen this offense look capable of coming back from a deficit like that, they’ve been scuffling as a collective for a month now. Game over right?

Well, Roansy would gather himself and pitch a clean 4th before being lifted for Rob Zastryzny. Lots of trouble on the bases, but he wiggled free in the 5th.

Cody Bolton was called on for the 6th.

Now, let me be very clear, Cody wasn’t “good” in this almost 2 inning outing. 4 walks, and 2 hits were somehow not enough to net the Cards a single run. Certainly happy with the outcome, but the execution, not so much.

Meanwhile, the Bucs bats were playing along to the script. Only netting one run against Flaherty.

And then…..the 7th.

Before it was close, it started like most uprisings do, slowly until guys started believing something was here. Carlos Santana, just returned from some time off letting his lower back heal up gave the Bucs a jump start with the bases loaded.

OK, it’s now 5-3, chipping away.

Still two runners on, and Ji Hwan Bae struck out so now the Bucs rally is coming to an end. 2 guys on, but Hayes has been struggling so badly at the plate, we’ll get ’em next inning or, you know, likely fall short.


No doubter to give the Bucs a 6-5 lead. Man did that feel good. Awesome to see that smile again. Awesome to think maybe he’ll remember the swing that helped it return.

Not done yet….

Now, you’ve been here, you know what happens when the Pirates have a lead through 7. Holderman and Bednar shut it down.


Pirates a half game out of first, 2 games over .500, open a 9 game homestand on the right note.

News & Notes

  • Before the game, the Cardinals placed Lars Nootbaar on the IL and recalled Jordan Walker.
  • Josh Palacios hit his first MLB homerun.
  • The Pirates used 6 pitchers to achieve this outcome, and none of them surrendered a run after Contreras left the game. The bullpen is no joke.
  • Robert Stephenson was traded to the Rays for a minor league short stop named Alika Williams. He is a defender, not a hitter. His floor is pretty established, he’s a glove first player, and while he’s been in the Rays top 30 pretty consistently, nobody is going to confuse him with SS of the future. Throughout the system, the Pirates feel they are light on good fielding SS, so there you have it.
  • Andrew McCutchen had 2 more hits tonight. He needs 3 hits for 2,000. 1 double for 400. 1 triple for 50 and 5 home runs for 300. I won’t ever tell you how to spend your entertainment dollars, but solid chance all of these happen on this homestand.

Pittsburgh Pirates vs St. Louis Cardinals Series Preview

6-2-23 – By Christian Wolf – @CWolfPGH on Twitter

When & Who

St. Louis Cardinals (25-32) at Pittsburgh Pirates (28-27)

Game 1 – (6/2, 7:05 EST)

Probable Pitchers:

For the Pirates – Roansy Contreras (3-4, 4.33 ERA)

For the Cardinals – Jack Flaherty (3-4, 4.81 ERA)

Game 2 – (6/3, 4:05 EST)

Probable Pitchers:

For the Pirates –Luis Ortiz (1-2, 4.35 ERA)

For the Cardinals– TBD

Game 3 – (6/4, 11:35 EST)

For the Pirates – Rich Hill (4-5, 4.76 ERA)

For the Cardinals– TBD

Team Trends

Who would have thought that coming into June, the Cardinals would be down near the bottom of the NL Central division? (To be fair, the bottom isn’t exactly real far from the top this year). But the Cardinals turned a dreadful start around and are now attempting to approach the .500 mark again after a horrible April.

The Pirates are coming off a dreadful month of their own, and are going to try to put the month of May behind them and work on a successful June. Somewhat amazingly, they are still right in the thick of things in the NL Central after a May that would put them far out of the division race in other years.

Who’s Hot

For the Cardinals –  Nolan Arenado – Arenado recorded a hit in each of the past three games, going 4-for-10 in that span, and also just striking out once.

For the Pirates – Andrew McCutchen – What an amazing comeback Cutch is having with the Bucs, as he closes in on 2,000 career hits. He collected four of those hits against the Giants, while also collecting two walks.

Who’s Not

For the Cardinals – Willson Contreras – Contreras got a bag in the offseason but hasn’t exactly done much to show it yet. He is batting .043 over his past seven games, .107 over his last 15, and .183 over his last 30. He has struck out 33 times over his past 30 games, and just went 1-for-9 in the Cardinals series against the Royals, with four strikeouts.

For the Pirates – Austin Hedges – You could make an argument for Hedges to be here pretty much every series, but I try to avoid him as it seems obvious hitting isn’t a strong suit, but alas, I can’t avoid it forever. Just one hit for Hedges in the Giants series, with no walks. He is batting .169 over his past 30 games and still is yet to record a home run.

Series Overview & Prediction

Pirates-Cardinals always is a lot of fun, especially at PNC Park. This feels like an important matchup, but more so to see really how these teams stack up against each other. The Bucs split with the Cardinals in St. Louis last time out, and a series win here would kick off June in good fashion, and truly, this is going to be a very important month for the team.

St. Louis is certainly a talented team and is making a comeback after a rough beginning to the season. I think the Cardinals take two of three from the Pirates here, only because the Cardinals seem due to begin to climb back up the division, and the Pirates are still trying to recover from some bad play over the past month. Either way, this series will be a good one to watch.

The Fallacy of the Best 26

6-1-23 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

It’s the battle cry of the wounded when it comes to baseball fan bases. The unquestioned barometer for whether your team is trying. The only way to truly be “all in”.

The best 26 players should be on the roster.

Trouble is, it’s almost completely crap.

Ok, that probably got half the readers to hate quit the site or close the app, but for those of you willing to give me a shot, I’ll explain what I mean here a bit.

Pick a team, give me 5 minutes and I’ll fairly easily show you who their worst Starting Pitcher, Reliever and position players are. Every team has them you know.

I’ll take that list and look to their minor league system and in 5 more minutes be able to tell you why whomever I identified from that list as “call up ready” likely isn’t getting the call over one of the “bad” players.

Today, let’s talk about all the reasons “best 26” rarely, if ever happens.


Simple, elegant, a perfect headline for the dirtiest discussion on this whole subject.

When a team pays a player, dumping them is often very difficult. You either have to find another team willing to take them, or you simply have to accept you’re paying them for nothing and move on with your life.

If you’ve been a fan of a baseball team for a decade, you have a player that popped into your head immediately. Sometimes, they weren’t always bad, but they sure are now.

Pirates fans sure as hell have. Yoshi Tsutsugo got about 100 at bats more than he should have, and he didn’t even get 200 people. Gregory Polanco probably shouldn’t have played his entire last season in Pittsburgh. I could easily go on, especially if I got into the far past, but I think you get the drift.

Jason Heyward wasn’t one of the Cubs best 26 for most of his contract, yet there he was, rostered and playing.

Money clouds this seemingly simple thought exercise doesn’t it?

When a team like the Yankees has this crop up, you’ll see it even give them cramps. Now, what’s “big money” to them, isn’t the same as what Pittsburgh would consider, but still, it happens. Players don’t work out and we love to point out the deal is an Albatross.

The proverbial Ben Folds Five – Brick argument. He’s a brick and we’re drowning slowly….

Yet they just can’t let go most times.

Trusting Veterans

When a guy has a substantial MLB career they tend to get some benefit of doubt. In other words, a really crappy month at the plate don’t tend to cancel out 8 years of statistical proof that the player will return to form.

The only way to truly know the answer is to let it and indeed let him play it out. The more seasoned and consistent the player’s career has been, the more likely the team will need to see a larger bank of evidence to move on.

Back to our examples, Yoshi had almost none so he only got about 200 plate appearances before getting flushed.

Pitchers might be even worse. There is such a leaguewide shortage of quality arms that the law of distribution tends to ensure every team has at least a couple arms they’d prefer to hide until being blown out. So when a guy has been legitimately good over his career, it’s hard to accept you just missed, so they stay, maybe getting a reduced role but try and try again teams do.

Even while they have that stud reliever or starter just killing AAA?!?, you’re surely asking. Yeah. Because to a man, almost every baseball coach would tell you they’d rather use someone who’s been there than someone who hasn’t with far superior stuff. It’s kinda like thinking you could drive a NASCAR because you handle I-279 just fine every day and cut people of routinely to be in the right lane of the bridge. Maybe you could, but nobody is going to sponsor you until they’ve seen you do it on their track at their speed and even then the owner’s fingers will be chewed to the bone fretting.

Veterans get swag and leeway because to a degree, they’ve earned it. With average career lengths of 5.6 years, meaning most players don’t even reach free agency who break into the league, when one does reach that territory, chances are they’ve managed to do something at least uniquely if not flat out well.

Another angle here most don’t think about, the team will likely need to sign veteran free agents next year too. So try convincing a guy you’re trying to sign why you only gave that vet last year 75 at bats before DFAing him. Vets like to know they are going to at least get a shot to turn things around before getting walking papers.

So yes, sometimes a team will actively choose a lesser player with experience over a kid with clearly more talent who has less.

Keep in mind, I’m not saying any of this is the “right” way to think, I’m just saying, it’s reality in MLB.

Playing time

There are starters, and there are bench guys. Everyone knows that. But sometimes this factors in on why guys do or don’t get promoted. Let’s say you have a guy who is proven to be as ready as you’re going to get him in AAA.

Simply nothing left to learn by most accounts. Looks like he has a good shot too, but you have a problem, you don’t have at bats to give. Meaning, the guy you have starting in MLB, well, he’s not sitting. You have two options, teach the kid to play elsewhere or bring him up and have him play off the bench.

The worst thing you can do for a prospect is to have them just sit around, at any level really. Yet, you do at some point need to onboard the kid. You don’t want to leave Spring counting on a kid most of the time, now we’re saying it’s not ideal to slow walk him either, so how the hell is a kid supposed to get a crack?

9 times out of 10 it’s an injury, but nothing helps more than being positionally capable of moving around. It’s why you see so may kids bounced all over the field in MiLB. When they don’t, well, let’s just say their landing strip isn’t well lit.

Positional Concerns

There are many things to consider when constructing a baseball team, and positional ability is one of the big ones.

When you look at a team’s top 10 prospects, you’ll see many times the guy at the very top is nowhere near ready for MLB. That’s because all these lists are based primarily on a player’s ceiling, not ETA, not Floor, not stats, just their Tool ratings.

Well, at least at first. That’s part of why you see so many top prospects jump to the top of these lists when they get drafted and fall off after a season or two. Once scouts see them in the better talent pools, they reevaluate and re rank.

If you have a top of your prospect rankings filled to the brim with starting pitching, first of all, god bless you, good chance your team will someday soon deliver, but beyond that, the likelihood that your best 5 starters, or most talented 5 are in your rotation is just shy of nil.

The Pirates as we speak have 7 players considered middle infielders on the 40-man. 8 when Cruz returns (OK if). Of those, 2 are seen as SS capable. 6 of them are considered Young players or prospects.

Now, for 7-8 of those precious 40 man spots to be given to one rather narrow position group is fine, but when you start pulling for them to skip all of them and try another like Nick Gonzales because he’s hitting in AAA or whatever let me tell you what goes through their minds.

Nick also isn’t seen as a SS. He can play it in a pinch, but it’s not where they want him. Adding another 2B only guy while still trying to find out if you have anything with Castro Bae and the like is kinda counterintuitive.

Is he better than the 2B options the team is currently rostering? Maybe. Sincerely maybe he is. But for the shear percentage this group takes up on the 40-man you really need them to be able to move on from someone.

Super easy. Cut Owings right? Fixes the whole ratio thing, gets more talent up here, helps the team right now right? Well, maybe, or maybe it just prevents you from learning what you have.

Nobody is going to lose sleep over losing a guy like that, but patching a hole right now with yet another maybe might create a situation where nobody gets a fair shake.

Reality is the Pirates don’t need a backup SS often enough to have that position filled by a player who matters. If Gonzales is called up, he’ll start, and he’ll start most games for a while. It’ll mean few if any opportunity for guys like Bae or Castro, and when Cruz does return it’ll mean one of them is back in the minors.

That’s fine, happens every day in the game but if it also means one of them loses their spot on the 40, you’re going to be talking about losing some talent you just worked your ass off to build up into depth.

Some positions like catcher, well they effect more than just the position. If the catcher is bad, he can hurt the pitching staff, he can hurt the defense against the run game and no matter how he hits he can’t entirely make up for it. At some point the Pirates are going to have a rookie backstop, so at some point they are going to find a way to be ok with that fact.

Even so, Catcher is not a position to jump the gun on. Under no circumstances to I see the Pirates cleaning house on the position and calling up both rookies, at least not before September.

Nobody has really in AAA with the exception of Josh Palacios, but say a position player like Matt Fraizer starts raking. Think of everything he’d have to jump over to get here. CSN, Jack, Swaggerty, Palacios Mitchell, Joe, Bae and I’m not even discussing guys like Young or even Vilade.

So define their best 26. Out of that number you get no more than 5 OF, so who is so bad they’re out right now? Palacios? He’s 27, surely not in the long term plans, but he’s also hitting .280 with a .757 OPS. Short sample size of course, but he’s done ok with his opportunity. Won’t be Jack, can’t be Reynolds, doubt it’s Bae, Positive it won’t be Joe. Point is, one of them has to go to upgrade, and if Palacios is the odd man out, so be it, but it’s also hardly a priority when he’s actually hitting, even if he isn’t ultimately one of the best 26.

All that position flexibility we love to laugh at, well, this is part of the why.


Everyone does it, nobody admits it. Well, ok, nobody who keeps their job admits it.

Super 2 and getting an extra year team control are two different functions. One has a defined time attached, the other has a formula that isn’t announced as correct for almost a full 2 years after the call up.

Players look ready in Spring all the time, and rarely do you see teams Go North with them. Why? The player is easily one of the best 26 right?

Sure, but if you can make sure that player is likely yours for an extra year, you do it. The rules make it legal, so teams take advantage.

Hate it all you want, it’s a thing and until MLB changes and both sides think it matters it’ll remain a thing.

Real examples of this being supposed to be true are far greater than real examples of this being undeniably true.

Let’s take Endy as an example. Looked 100% ready in Spring with the bat, showed some real world examples of his catching shortcomings, but nothing you couldn’t overcome. Simply hadn’t played much in AAA yet. Hadn’t managed a staff and been the everyday guy back there yet.

Still could have done it, but the Pirates maybe more than most value the defensive side of the catching position. Right or wrong.

He’s caught most games he’s played in AAA, and done ok, maybe a bit of trouble controlling the run game, a bit of trouble blocking balls, calling games is still a work in progress. Framing is coming along well according to scouts.

Problem is at least for making the manipulation argument, he hasn’t hit. Not like he has anyway. His career .295 AVG and .903 OPS are for 2023 at .234 and .726.

Way better than Hedges, yes, I’ll get there…

Point is, you know, I know, players know, Endy Rodriguez is in AAA because of first and foremost Super 2. Thing is, his stats give them an out. He isn’t embarrassing them. Certainly isn’t pushing them. In fact in a recent interview with Alex Stumpf at DK Pittsburgh Sports, Rodriguez had this to say, “The focus is very different, Now there’s just one position where I can put 100% of my time and try to do a better job for the pitchers.”

Even the player is giving them an out.

Is it manipulation? Oh my, no doubt, but if this were a court of law, sorry, you aren’t getting the conviction, maybe you can get them on tax evasion instead.

As long as he’s in AAA the team doesn’t have one of their best 26 on the MLB roster. Fact.

Team is Just Too Good

Granted, this doesn’t happen a ton in Pittsburgh, but it does happen in the league. The Yankees for instance had no patience for Miguel Andujar to return to rookie form. They had a good team and needed a sure bet at 3B, not a guy who didn’t look like he was the same player after being injured. They yoyo’d him and evenutally moved on. The team was too good to even see if he was good enough. Hell the Dodgers had Jose Hernandez in AA because for them signing a bullpen arm, even if a lesser talent with experience was better than onboarding rookies in front of him.

I won’t spend much time on this one, it may never happen in Pittsburgh.


At the stage of rebuild we’re in this is rarely an issue, but it sure will be. As this group grows together, we’ll get to the point where options have been exhausted by players like Marcano, Bae, Castro, Mitchell, you know what I’m talking about.

It happens all over.

In another season, we’ll see guys like this find their way to the DFA/Waiver markets. I’m not predicting doom for any of these players specifically, but the truth is, most prospects don’t turn out and as pressure builds from the minors, there’s less and less room to stash guys like this. The faster you push guys through, the faster you reach a boiling point, the more talent you could use you’ll see slip through the cracks.

Point is, this stuff gets harder when your team gets older. By 2025, every move not dealing with the very fringes of the roster will be painful for some. In fact, by 2025, the ritual calling for prospects to immediately arrive will quiet.

It’s because the team will be better, and have less holes, but it’s also because deciding to make a call will have real world consequences that directly effect the depth of the organization.


The best 26 don’t tend to all live at the MLB level because factoring in everything, it’s very hard to make the stars all align. Couple that with most fans not understanding a kid’s ceiling isn’t a guarantee of successfully reaching it and you have the complaint storm we see for the first 3 months of every season.

I get that this is far too complicated for someone who just tunes in when the Bachelor isn’t on and just want to see the best players in the org night after night, but for those of you along for the ride on this rebuild, you know I’m not lying.

It’s going to be much more intense in a year or two, and by then, most “fans” won’t even know more than 5 prospect’s names.

A good MLB product shifts the focus, as it should. A bad one brings the scrutiny and ignorance of pretending things done in AA directly translate to transposing those statistics to MLB.

Just like with Cruz, once they get here, you’ll see why they aren’t as “ready” as you thought, and they’ll then play above whomever your next “best 26” guy is for many of the same reasons.

Pirates Bats Back Keller In Series Victory: (28-27)

5-31-23 – By Craig W. Toth – @BucsBasement on Twitter

Keller threw 101 pitches over 6 innings of work-with 74 of them going for strikes. He’s putting the ball exactly where he wants it, while using a solid 4 pitch mix; with a couple other off speed pitches-a curve and changeup-to keep batters off balance.

On the day he generated 35 CS (Called Strikes) + Whiffs, on his way to 8 Ks and 1 free pass. Sure the stat line will show 10 hits and 4 earned runs; yet, how many of those came on legitimate hard contact? Maybe 3 or 4. The rest were infield, bloop and slow rolling singles.

Still, this wasn’t even the main storyline as the Pirates bats actually produced more than enough offense to make up for a somewhat less than clean outing from Keller; knocking in 9 runs on 14 hits.

And, if we are being honest the overwhelming majority of comments on my timeline were about DFA’ing Chris Owings ; which are totally justified, but kind of confusing in taking this opportunity-on a day the Pirates won-to address an issue with a player that has now accumulated 29 at bats during the month of May. That’s 29 at bats across the 20 games he has been on the active roster.

Sure bring up someone to replace him on the bench-most likely Mark Mathias, even though he can’t play shortstop; or even Jared Triolo, who seems to be the only Minor Leaguer they trust at position on a regular basis. However, be prepared for the same number of at bats to go to them. Because if you think it should be Nick Gonzales, Liover Peguero or another top prospect; who are the going to take at bats away from? Tucupita Marcano? Ji-hwan Bae? Rodolfo Castro?

Sorry for the tangent.

More importantly than anything-at least for today-is the fact that your Pittsburgh Pirates won 9-4; and actually took a series in the month of May.

News & Notes

  • Keller now has 93 strikeouts on the season, which makes him the only Pirates pitcher in history to have more than 90 strikeouts before June 1st. He also now has 8 Ks or more in 7 straight games; something no other pitcher has accomplished in the modern era. Oh, and his 7 wins are more than anyone on the team during 2022.
  • Hayes really needed a game like that; going 2 for 5, including a 2-run triple in the top of the 3rd.
  • McCutchen and Joe each went 3 for 4, while Reynolds totaled 3 RBI.
  • The bullpen put together another solid performance; allowing just 2 hits and zero walks, while striking out 3 more Giants hitters over the final 3 innings.
  • The Pirates did announce some Minor League moves as Travis Swaggerty returned to the Indianapolis Roster and Blake Cederlind was reinstated off the 7-day IL; only to be released after posting a 13.50 ERA and 2.000 WHIP in 6 innings with Bradenton.

Pittsburgh gets what has become a regular off day tomorrow-Thursday-before returning to PNC for a 9-game home-stand; which begins on Friday night against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The scheduled pitching matchup is Roansy Contreras (3-4/4.33 ERA/1.38 WHIP) versus Jack Flaherty (3-4/4.81/1.53 WHIP) for the Redbirds.

Top 15 Plus 5 More Update

5-31-23 – By Justin Verno – @JV_PITT on Twitter

1–Endy Rodriguez-


2-Henry Davis-


3-Termarr Johnson–


4-Luis Ortiz-


5-Quinn Priester-


6-Liover Peguero–


7-Mike Burrow-(season over)


8-Bubba Chandler–


9-Jared Triolo–


10-Jared Jones


11-Yordany De Los SantosNo stats


12-Thomas Harrington–


13-Kyle Nicolas–


14-Colin Selby


15-Carlos Jimenz-(NO STATS)



16-Anthony Solometo


17-Nick Gonzales


18-Hudson Head


19-Tsung -Che Cheng


20-Enmanuel Terrero


A Few quick thoughts-

When I’m feeling blue…

Hudson continues to slide–this week marks two weeks in a row he’s been down. I’m still encouraged by his K rate, which remains under 30%. Hopefully this points to just being in a slump and not regression to his old ways. Fingers crossed. Mr. Head, do not let there be a 3rd week. Pretty please.

Quinn Priester really struggled to find the zone, and I mean he could have underhanded from a foot away and still threw a ball. Shower well, Quinn, and get back to work.

Nick and his boom stick? More like Nick and his gloom stick, amIright? Man, rough week for a guy trying to push his way to PNC Park on the quick.

My main man, Endy? Still my dude, and no worries. Over the last week I think he’s expanded his zone a tad, a clear indication Endy is starting to push a little and this is normal. Why do I like the kid so much? Walk rate is still a nice 11.7% and he has such a great feel for the strike zone. Breathe, Endy. Breathe and let’s start over again!

Peas and Carrots…

Solometo and Chandler. Chandler and Solometo. I get they were drafted together, but I just don’t get the people out there that insist on making us choose which one we like better. Me personally? I’m just enjoying that both Bubba and the Funky Cool Delivery had a good week.

Solometo followed up his 7 IP gem with a 6 inning, 6 K and no run performance. Of the two, it’s fair to say Anthony is ahead in his development. (That’s not picking sides, by the way. It just is what it is.)

While Solometo was busy putting together a few solid weeks, Chandler was busy rebounding from last week. Giving up two runs (one earned) over 4.2 and raking up 7 K’s is a good way to get that bad taste off the palate.

I just keep on keeping on…

Guys that continue to impress-

Thomas Harrington. Enmanuel Terrero. Tsung-Che Chen.

No more needs said with those guys. Keep on keepin’ on, boys.

Keeping up with the Joneses’

Ok, there’s just one Jones I’m referring to there, but still. Man, he is coming along. Striking out 27.7% of the hitters he stares down while doing a better job of getting outs when he needs to, he’s progressing and he’s not slowing down. I’m not suggesting he’s ready to jump a level or he should be a top 100 prospect–his WHIP needs to come down. He needs work on his punch out pitch, and he still has extended innings. I’m driving the band wagon, when you’re ready to jump on let me know.

Why are you still here?

I get what the Buccos are doing. I really do. Henry Davis needs work at C. He needs work in the OF. But his bat is ready to move up, and I’d go as far as to say his bat is close to MLB ready (if not actually ready). I really think it’s time the FO asks itself, “how much more developing can happen with Henry’s C glove?” At 23 he was an advanced C from a ‘calling the game’ and leadership side of it. At least as far as an NCAA catcher can be, anyway. When they drafted him, his ability to move side to side (or lack of it) was known. That the plan is to get him some OF play seems to acknowledge that the Bucs tend to agree.

If the FO truly believes they can improve his mobility from side to side, then stick to the plan. But a lot of the issues Davis has are issues that I think can only be worked on in the show. Leadership comes with experience. Calling a better game comes with working with an experienced staff and studying MLB hitters. Simply put, there are certain things that can’t be taught at AAA or AA.

The Pirates need to get Davis the work he needs in RF and they need to do it now. When he looks comfortable out there, give the man his airline tickets to Pittsburgh.

I think this will be a position many will be passionate about no matter what side of the fence you sit on. So please keep in mind, I’m not saying this should happen tomorrow. Davis needs innings in the OF while continuing to get some looks behind the dish. But it’s time they got a move on with the kid.

Joe Homers Against Former Team, Castro Crucial Base-Running Propel 2-1 Over Giants: (27-27)

05/31/2023 – By Ethan Smith – @mvp_Ethan on Twitter

The Pittsburgh Pirates fell below .500 for the first time since the opening weekend of the season on Memorial Day on Monday, but a Connor Joe homer against his former team and some big base-running from Rodolfo Castro propelling a 2-1 victory over the Giants on Tuesday night.

Joe’s homer came in the top of the first inning on a 3-2 count with two outs, giving the Pirates an early 1-0 lead, something they have struggled with as of late.

Michael Conforto came right back in the bottom of the first to tie things up on an RBI single to score Mike Yastrzemski against Johan Oviedo.

Oviedo would settle in for the remainder of his outing, going 4.1 IP while only allowing three hits. He struck out five and walked five, but did enough for the Pirates bullpen to lead the rest of the game.

The top of the fifth would be the difference as a Jason Delay single led to a fielding error from Mitch Haniger, putting Castro on third base. A Sean Manaea wild pitch would score Castro and ultimately be the difference.

Manaea pitched well, going four innings with one earned run after John Brebbia opened the game.

The bullpen group of Dauri Moreta, Jose Hernandez, Colin Holderman and David Bednar would combine to go four scoreless innings while only allowing two hits and one walk with four strikeouts.

Bednar would get the save in the ninth, picking up save number 10 in 11 tries.

The Pirates look for their last opportunity to win a series in May on Wednesday, as Mitch Keller faces off with Alex Wood.

News & Notes

  • Connor Joe homers against former team
  • Rodolfo Castro only Pirate to have multi-hit game
  • Dauri Moreta picks up second win of the season
  • Pirates move back to .500, game three vs Giants last chance to win a series in May

How The Pirates Got Here

Craig and Chris discuss the first two months of the Pirates season, the possible causes for the bipolar play in May versus April and attempt to debunk two possible solutions that have been proposed to improve the team. 

Brought to you by! 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