Five Pirates Thoughts at Five

9-19-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

A sweep of the Reds quickly followed by a sweep from the Mets. Progress negated in a single predictable series. Thing is folks, as I’ve said countless times, the losing is one thing, losing as badly as the Pirates did in this series, that’s what makes you feel like nothing is improving.

For instance, The Pirates lost to the Cardinals right before heading to Cincinnati and because they were fairly competitive games, it was easier to look at what went right next to all that went wrong. When you lose badly, and do things like strike out 33 times in two of those contests, how can you talk about anything else?

Sure, I remember Cruz hitting that 3 run shot to tie the game off DeGrom, I also remember the hitters striking out 20 times and the beaten to hell bullpen imploding. It’s really hard to find any joy in that one swing when it’s placed next to all that other awful.

Let’s do this.

1. Seed-Gate

Couple things. First, I’m not going to repost the video, you’ve all seen it and hardly need a play by play from yet another commenter. Second, I’m in no way excusing it.

I also don’t see things like this, or the Will Craig play last year, or Hayes missing first last year, or Rodolfo Castro’s phone falling out of his pocket, or whatever embarrassing play you can think of as reflective of the entire team.

On the Hayes play in which he clearly had an insatiable hunger for more seeds (hope they were a good flavor at least BTW), I immediately heard things like, of course he doesn’t care, the front office doesn’t.

Silly.

In that very play, Jack Suwinski ran all the way from left field to back up the slightest possibility of a wild throw to a base in which the likelihood of throwing there was next to nil. Mitch Keller did his job too, running over to back up the throw from the outfield and good thing he did cause the throw was awful.

Hayes did something that according to every single player I talked to, and my final count on this subject was around 14, was a bad look, but something each felt they’ve done something similar too, they just didn’t get caught and have it highlighted.

One player told me “I know for a fact I’ve tied my shoes more than once on a ball hit to right field.”

Again, this isn’t an excuse, and that’s precisely why exactly zero of those 14 players made up of past, and current players, not just from Pittsburgh refused to publicly excuse it. They all know it’s a bad look, and they all know if it happened to them they’d be embarrassed.

Derek Shelton being dismissive of it too is worthy of embarrassment.
“The people that watch us play every night know that our effort is never anything that comes into question. We’ve had maybe three times all year long where effort has come into question, and we’ve dealt with it,” Shelton said. “People that don’t watch us play on a nightly basis, I can understand how you may have an opinion on that, but the opinion that matters to me is in our clubhouse and within our group.”

The first thing I’ll say here is, when you’re shepherding a team poised to lose the equivalent of 100 games for the 3rd straight year, how many people do you really believe are watching every game?

Further, I have watched every game, literally, every one of them, every inning. I see something once a week easily that makes me cringe. Some of it on good plays mind you. Like Rodolfo Castro’s homerun the other day where he admired it and turned to the dugout to keep his competitive thing with Oneil Cruz going. Dude, that was a wall scraper. One gust of wind and you are either out or standing at first with an embarrassing single.

Hayes isn’t the type to need punished to understand he did wrong, others are. The problem with not punishing Hayes is that simple fact, now you have a double standard set up for the next time you want to get on a guy for not hustling or whatever the situation is.

At the end of the day, we’ll probably never see this again, not from Ke’Bryan anyway, and if they were poised to win 100 games instead of lose that many, we’re probably laughing it off.

One final piece of advice here for Derek Shelton, your target audience IS those people who don’t watch everyday. This team has made sure over the past 7 or 8 years that they vastly outnumber the people who watch game in and out. Perhaps instead of telling them they haven’t watched enough, acknowledge that it’s your job in part to make them want to. Things like this certainly don’t accomplish that.

2. 20 Strikeouts in One Game, but it Gets Worse

When your team is setting records, you certainly don’t want them to be for things like this. The Pittsburgh Pirates now have 1,382 strikeouts on the year with 16 games remaining. This is already the most in franchise history.

Let me say that again. In 135 years, this is the most strikeouts they’ve ever had. The all time record belongs to the Chicago Cubs who struck out 1,596 times during the 2021 season. That record is safe, but man it’s not something you want to flirt with either.

It’s not surprising that of the top ten strikeout totals for the franchise most occurred in the modern era. 2012-1354, 2016-1334, 2013-1330, 2021-1328, 2015-1322, in fact I have to jump all the way to 14th place just to reach one that wasn’t in this century, 1999-1197.

The game has trended this way and it hasn’t happened in the dark. Anyone who has watched this game since at least the 1980’s still can’t wrap their head around how anyone could strikeout this much and be “good”.

The 3 true outcomes of a strikeout, walk or homerun have turned a game that used to be about strategy and speed into a max swing at all costs at all times pissing match.

I mean, just look at that list, the Pirates won 98 games in 2015 while striking out 1,322 times. I watched it and still can’t wrap my head around how that total equaled a good team.

Think about this for a second, this awful team, the one we’ve watched all year is currently sitting at 17th in team history for homeruns with 148. If they hit 13 more in these last 16 games they’ll wind up in 6th.

Universally this is accepted as one of the worst Pirates offensive teams we’ve watched, and yet here they are, with one of the better power hitting teams they’ve produced.

In all their years since joining the NL, there are 2 Pirates squads that had lower OBP. Currently at .287, they’re only beaten by the 2020 squad at .284 which I’m not even sure should count and the 1888 squad at .264 which was probably made up of about 7 guys they found scooping horse crap off the cobblestone streets.

How abut batting average? Currently at .221, one point above the all time worst mark set in again 2020 with .220.

If all that doesn’t add up to a change in the hitting coach, I’m out of answers. This has been a historically bad offensive team.

I say all this because you can expect Greg Brown and company to make sure you know about that homerun number as we finish this thing out, but you should know, it only masks some of the completely off the chain awful they’ve produced at the plate.

3. Luis Ortiz is Back for Round Two

The JT Brubaker injury will likely spell the end of his season, and bluntly, that’s probably not a bad thing. In fact, only once (2018-154) has he thrown more innings than he did this year with 141.1. He finishes the year with an ERA of 4.58, his best since becoming a MLB pitcher to go along with his worst ever WHIP at 1.458.

He’ll be back in 2023, and really whether you think it’s wise or not, he’ll be in the rotation, at least to start. Look at him as a low bar for others to beat out and a dependable innings provider. That’s really all he’s earned at this point.

Luis Ortiz is just beginning his journey and probably wasn’t expected to see another inning of MLB play this year before the injury. We all saw what he did to the Reds who are at least in competition with Pittsburgh for the most pathetic offense in the league, next he’ll get a shot at the Yankees. Deep breaths kid.

No matter what he does, Ortiz is likely to start 2023 in AAA. I say that for a couple reasons, first being Mitch Keller, Roansy Contreras and JT Brubaker are virtual locks. Next, they’ll absolutely be signing at least another starter, maybe two and then he has to get past Johan Oviedo who you just know they want to give a healthy shot to.

Ortiz will be firmly planted in the next wave, which thankfully this time includes more than just one pitcher. Quinn Priester, Mike Burrows, Cody Bolton, Omar Cruz and Ortiz himself will all compete for an opportunity and the thing is each and every one of them could legitimately be good.

That’s a far more promising list of possibilities to this year’s team.

For a player like Ortiz, this is an opportunity to give himself a leg up on his competition. He’ll head into Spring training with something most of those others don’t have, MLB experience, ok, and a 101 MPH fastball too.

He also represents something I think we all should keep our eyes on, if a player performs well, even if he’s in Single A, this team isn’t afraid to rocket them through the system. So maybe next time you see that highlight package of Po-Yu Chen or Anthony Solometo, perhaps shrugging it off like you won’t see them for 3 or 4 years is at least a bit cavalier.

We’ve seen already multiple times this club considers AA to be a step away from the majors, just like AAA. Now we’ve seen that they aren’t in any way afraid to let a kid scoot through the system like a hot knife through butter if their play warrants it.

There isn’t much to watch with excitement in these last 16 games, but Ortiz is one that I personally can’t wait to see more from. A franchise that in my mind still doesn’t have enough pitching in the system producing someone that I truly didn’t see being a factor yet gives me hope they have more that I simply haven’t acknowledged yet.

4. Amongst All the Bad…

As I think I illustrated in a fairly disgusting fashion up there, this has been a historically bad season. That said, they’ve found some kids who have at least bought themselves a chance heading into next year to be a part of this thing.

I’m not going to name them all here, you know who’s on this team and it’s up for you to decide who gets you excited and who doesn’t. Next year they have a real shot to add in as many as 5 players in MLB’s top 100 prospect list. Endy Rodriguez, Henry Davis, Quinn Priester, Nick Gonzales and Liover Peguero. Depending on which list you like, you could even toss Mike Burrows in there.

None of them should be seen as the savior. None of them should be counted upon to single handedly alter the course of this franchise. Collectively though, they all will add to the talent level, and competition to make this club a better and more competitive team.

I’m very aware that some of them had poor seasons or at least were injured, but this wave of talent is what we’ve been pointing to since they started amassing talent back with the first trade of Starling Marte.

I’m skipping right over some other players who we haven’t really even seen yet like Travis Swaggerty, Ji-hwan Bae, Matt Gorski, Matt Fraiser, Mason Martin, Malcom Nunez. Point is, there is even more talent on the way than there was this year, and despite the record, it’s hard to deny that youngsters had a positive impact this year.

Roansy Contreras, Oneil Cruz, Rodolfo Castro, Jack Suwinski, and you go as far as you want, again, personal preference for who got your juices flowing, but it’s kind of insane to see so many decide this whole thing is stalled with that much talent right there within shouting distance.

I absolutely get that in 3 years you’d expect to see material evidence of improvement on the field, and I truly believe with minimal investment they could have produced that for you. They chose not to do that, or more accurately those they chose to help that effort for reasons of ineffectiveness or injury didn’t produce that, but don’t throw out the baby with the bath water here.

5. Words I Don’t Like Using and Why

We see all kinds of buzz words thrown around, especially in all the hot take producing sect of Pirates media and honestly, I hate it. Today I’m going to name them, and explain why I don’t like them with one overriding reason that applies to each one of them, they’re lazy.

Tank – This is just stupid, and it was stupid before baseball put in a lottery system for determining the first pick overall. To “tank” one must believe that from the Winter preceding the season, everyone in management looks around the room and says, say, if we just get rid of this guy and that guy, we might suck enough to get that top pick! Think about that for a second. Imagine doing anything in life and deciding before you even start you were going to aim to be the worst at it. Now, Imagine doing it while rostering 7-10 players you honestly feel will play a role in a future winning team. It’s losing, not tanking. That’s it, The word and the sentiment are lazy beyond measure, so I guess I shouldn’t be so shocked to see it used routinely.

Punt – Define it. Calling what the Pirates will do next season a punt is so simplistic it’s literally impossible to be wrong. If they sign 2 starters, a catcher, a first baseman and a DH and still don’t get above .500, was it a punt? Well, if you said it was going to be the answer will of course be yes. That’s because there is no tangible definition for the word as it applies to baseball. It also has an inherently negative connotation and since it comes from football perhaps we should mention that while it’s not a thrilling play there certainly are times when it’s the best play to make. To some, punting could literally be not firing the hitting coach. To others, it could mean giving someone another chance in 2023, you know, cause if everyone had their wish Mitch Keller might already be somewhere else.

Competitive – I hate this one because you could lose every game by one run and lose 162 and be more “competitive” than they’ve been this year. What does it mean? To some, it means being within a game or two of the division lead in September, to others it means in the conversation for a wild card berth. Just say what you mean. If you think they need to be in the fight for the division to reach this designation, just say that. All this word does is give people room to argue.

The reason I hate all these things is pretty simple, it’s the same reason most of you hate the vagueness of everything the GM says, they all leave room for interpretation and really mean nothing.

I’m not being entirely serious here, but I always think we do better when we understand the way we’re being manipulated. The blowhards that use these words as part of their hot takes are doing so for one reason, there is always a way they can spin their way out of it. They’re tanking but finish 4th or 5th in the league, well they can’t even do that right. They manage .500 next year and you were told they were punting, well of course they were right, if they didn’t punt they’d have won 90.

When you see these silly things, force them to be more specific, you’ll see what I mean as soon as they absolutely go out of their way to not elaborate. Or they’ll try to turn it around on you, something like “so you’d say they aren’t tanking then?” which of course sets you up for being a shill.

It’s all a game. Don’t play if you can avoid it.

When Jack Does Jack, the Outfield Questions Flow

9-18-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

Jack Suwinski is universally seen as a virtual lock to be the Pirates starting left fielder in 2023. Hitting 16 homeruns in your first 90 games in your rookie campaign will do that.

But Jack has struggled to recapture the magic.

He went into a huge tailspin that caused a demotion to AAA, a demotion that was supposed to help him figure out how to cut down on the strikeouts, preferably without sacrificing the power he’d so admirably displayed after his emergency call from AA Altoona.

Unfortunately, the strikeout numbers in AAA were actually worse. In 117 at bats he struck out 49 times, folks that’s just brutal.

It makes you wonder if that’s ok and gets you penciled in as a lock to start in 2023, why isn’t Mason Martin up here? I mean if we’re going to excuse strikeouts in lieu of power numbers, what’s the difference right?

In 282 big league at bats, Jack Suwinski has taken the old strike 3 rumba back to the dugout 96 times.

There’s no denying his defense is where it needs to be. There’s no denying his power is sorely needed. The question is, how do you bat someone who can’t crack .200 anywhere near the middle of your order?

Again, don’t get me wrong, largely what Jack has done in 2022 has been good for a rookie. Rookies get better, and that’s what you have to hope here too, but the strikeout problem followed him even before his power emerged in 2021 so it’s not like the Pirates drew it out of him or something.

There can be a place for a hitter like that, and given the alternatives, the Pirates likely will make sure there is, but for Jack to really become a true and long term answer out there, he’s going to have to evolve.

I don’t believe he’s receiving the help he needs.

Regardless of your thoughts on Andy Haines, and as most of you know, mine are rather negative, Jack simply has to become less predictable. That means more than anything else, recognizing, and ultimately laying off the absolute glut of breaking pitches the find their way under his bat.

See it’s an oxymoron, he has hit several of his 16 homeruns by swinging at them.

Take a look at where his strikeouts have come from.

Folks, pitchers know exactly how to get him out, and until Jack shows he can lay off, he’ll do nothing but face even more of them.

Oh, he’ll hit the mistakes, but lets be really blunt here, pitchers simply don’t make enough mistakes to live on them alone. First and foremost Jack must force them into the zone and the only way to successfully do so is to stop swinging at the shear volume of pitches he’s seeing in places he can’t reasonably hope to contact them.

It’ll never be 100% eliminated, I mean not a week ago we heard on the broadcast as Bryan Reynolds sacrificed a bat he struck out with to the concrete walls of the runway to the locker room. Another he chased low, bottom line, it’s not like Jack is the only player to ever deal with it or indeed struggle with it.

This is hardly a disaster of a rookie campaign for Suwinski, but it is instead a really good foundation to build on. He’s shown some things that plainly put, most guys aren’t capable of. Unfortunately it won’t be enough if he doesn’t make some more adjustments.

The best thing about playing this many kids is the amount of room they have left to grow. Off seasons are universally accepted as the period of time in which all players take their biggest jumps.

Jack is in no way alone here, he’s got a team full of players who have their own issues to deal with. This is how a group of players, individually focused start to come together and form a team. Pulling each other up, pushing from below, encouraging from within and finally supporting in their lowest moments. All in an effort to one day do something special together.

We, not a single one of us, know exactly where this thing is headed, or who will be a part of it when and if they pull it all together, but suffice to say, improvement and minimizing weaknesses will play a very large role in that cause.

I focused on Jack because while he has already done enough positive things to captivate much of the fan base, he also very clearly has not reached the heights of what he can become.

The possibility of never moving beyond where he is surely lives too. That’s why continually harping on where so and so will find a place to play or who should be trade bait are truly premature. Jack may or may not wind up being a fixture on a team that matters, but truly nothing matters more than the process of allowing his play and the play of other players around him to answer those questions.

I’ll never forget what my high school baseball coach said to me when I was mired in an 0 for 17 streak during my sophomore season. He just said if you’ve never struggled in this game, you haven’t played it either.

Nobody likes hearing from the GM that the bulk of this teams improvement will come from internally improving. At this stage though, to say anything else would be a complete and utter bald faced lie. Players like Jack will be part of that.

And it continues with his next at bat.

Just like it does for all of these young players.

Is it OK to Get Excited?

9-15-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

The Pirates just had easily their best series since they swept the Dodgers in Los Angeles earlier this season. They hit, they pitched, they even played some defense. They took a double header and successfully debuted a kid most of us didn’t even begin to place on the peripheral of contending for a starting role with this club in 2023.

None of this changes the overall trajectory of their season, that’s simply been brutal.

Still, I was shocked today when more than one fan asked me simply, “Is it OK to Get Excited?”

Wow.

If the question were asked ironically, maybe I’d not have even paused, but this time it was different. What they might as well have said something like, am I going to get burned if I buy in to some of these kids? Or, Am I going to get made fun of if I show my excitement about some of what I’m seeing?

The Pirates have really hurt fans in this town was all I could think about. To the point it almost overshadowed what I was thinking an feeling about the series and the team itself. The other day, in between the two Pirates victories, I popped out to the grocery store and ran into a man who saw my Pitt hat and Pirates shirt and for some reason started just talking sports to me right there in the pasta aisle.

Wonderful man, total stranger, easily in his 70’s, started telling me about hanging out in the press box at old Pitt stadium and Three Rivers Stadium. He had a buddy who used to work the PA for both of those venues. His friend was disabled so he and another buddy would carry him up the stairs and back down and in exchange they got to hang out up there with him time to time.

After all those stories, after all that joy, he simply looked at me and said, “The Pirates broke my heart, and it kills me my kids don’t even care anymore.”

Should I tell him they just won two games? Maybe tell him about Oneil Cruz? Then again, why is my gut reaction to try to show this guy something good is happening?

I didn’t know what to say.

I know why though. It’s because of doing stuff like this, and it’s from hearing sentiments like that at a near constant level.

The Pittsburgh Pirates, through multiple owners, multiple GMs, countless players, a ton of coaches and managers have beaten the hell out of this fan base.

All ages, all sexes, every race, none of that matters, if you’ve been a fan of the Pittsburgh Baseball Club, even if you got to personally watch Roberto Clemente play rather than damn near resent the fact that the 2022 version of the club is still using him to sell the product they’ve put on the field, they’ve hurt you.

So is it ok to get excited?

Sure it is.

Most of what you’ve seen recently has been players who will be here next year and into the future. This isn’t like watching someone do well who is about to leave, hell some of them quite literally just started.

They all have room to improve too.

Folks, I’ve set out to do one thing here on this site. I never want to fill your head with fantasy, I’ve never wanted to make you feel like what this team is currently doing was a sure thing, all I’ve ever wanted to do is try as hard as I can to explain as much of what is happening as I possibly could.

For that reason, even right now I can’t sit here and tell you this is going to land in a championship team. That said, if you worry about being excited because some ass hole on social media is going to make you feel stupid, forget that. When you feel it, you let it out. Don’t get hung up on that stuff.

The Pirates didn’t treat you right over the years, some of the “fans” have been even worse.

Like it or don’t. No matter what you predicted. No matter who you think is going to purposefully destroy it when they get close. This thing is headed in the right direction.

It is going to get good, and it’s going to start happening faster now. Again, I’m not telling you it means championship, but I am telling you it’s going to get better, and soon.

Some of the players we’ve been waiting for are here. More are coming.

Some we never even heard of will rocket through the system and next thing you know they’re in your immediate plans.

This is different, even if we don’t like every move they made on the way here. Even if we’re still annoyed at their arrogance when dealing with our expectations. Even if they still can’t seem to coach up the talent as well as would like them to.

The story of this season to me, the one I’ll probably wrap this whole thing up with when the last pitch is thrown, is really what in my mind was this management team’s biggest mistake. Bringing back all the underperforming veterans from the IL at the expense of kids who at the very least mattered more. Because much of what we’re seeing now was simply delayed by the team itself.

All of that is still there, but what’s done is done. I’ll complain about it more, but…

Look, if you can’t find a way to get excited about these rookies hitting homeruns regularly, and young starters making a really promising showing this year, and positions that seem absolutely locked up, well, maybe we’re asking the wrong question here.

Why wouldn’t it be ok to get excited?

Top 15 Plus 5 More

9-13-22 – By Justin Verno – @JV_PITT on Twitter

A lot to go over as it all winds down, let’s get to it!

1Henry Davis-

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
CPX.000/.250/.000.250.000.200160%25%
A.500/.675/.1.0001.750.500.70634925%0%
A+.341/.450/.5851.035.244.4591788%18%
Week.190/.190/.286.476.095.207220%33.3%
AA.194/.313/.327.640.133.298829.6%22.6%

2-Termarr Johnson-

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%k%
CPX.230/.310/.217.528.087.2876720/7%27.6%
Week.273/.500/.6361.136.364.49220633.3%27.8%
A.275/.396/.450.846.175.38713918.9%24.5%

3-Liover Peguero

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
Week.261/.292/.478.770.217.3311044.2%4.2%
AA.258/.299/.385.684.127.302854.8%20.9%
MLB.333/.500/.333.838.000.39515525%50%

4-Quinn Priester-

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPBB%K%
A30.003.834.740.000%10%
A+2.216.887.522.652.636.7%20%
Week70.002.850.578.7%21.7%
AA71.22.133.103.891.126.9%24.1%

5-Nick Gonzales-

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBA+wRC+BB%K%
CPX.429/.429/.8571.286.262.5722350%14.3%
A.000/.250/.000.250.000.183925%50%
Week.111/.304/.222.527.111.2686313%30.4%
AA.259/.386/.414.800.155.36312514%29%

6-Endy Rodriguez

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
A+.302/.392/.544.936.242.41214811.4%20.8%
week.400/.429/.440.979.150.4301694.8%23.8%
AA.354/.440/.7071.147.354.48320412.9%15.5%

7-Matt Fraizer-

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
Week.235/.235/.235.471.000.212260%35.3%
Season.219/.284/.334.619.115.279707.3%23.9%

8-Jared Jones

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPBB%K%
week44.506.911.7516.7%11.1%
season122.24.624.854.271.359.6%26.7%

9-Bubba Chandler

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPBB%K%
CPX150.002.333.090.8516.945.8%
Week46.754.521.755.3%31.6%
A264.154.794.391.4615.8%28.9%
BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
CPX.231/444/.6541.098.423.49018725%16.7%
Weeks
A.184/.284/.289.574.105.2776912.5%39.8%

10-Ji-hwan Bae

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwWRC+BB%K%
week.231/333/.308.641.077.2876913.3%6.7%
season.296/.366/.440.806.144.3581159.8%17.1%

11-Mike Burrows -ON IL

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPBB%K%
AA522.942.733.991.108.9%32.4%
Week
AA41.24.103.604.181.226.4%24.4%

12-Travis Swaggerty

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
week(AAA).000/.000/.000.000.000.000-1000%0%
AAA.261/.357/.423.780.162.35011013%25.3%
MLB.111/.111/.111.222.000.099-420%44.4%

13-Anthony Solometo

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPPBB%K%
Week50.003.320.8017.6%29.4%
Season47.22.642.833.571.0510.1%27.1%

14-Kyle Nicolas–

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPBB%K%
week2.26.003.761.3314.3%28.6%
season854.244.475.041.3212.5%25.9%

15-Luis Ortiz-

IPERAFIPxFIPBB%K%
AA114.14.644.453.777.3%26.9%
Week60.002.0013%39%
AAA103.603.903.599.5%28.6%

MY FIVE

16-Po-Yu Chen-NO STATS

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPBB%K%
WEEK
A98.14.583.773.811.268.6%24.5%

17-Dariel Lopez-

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
week.375/.444/.375.819.000.3941380%22.2%
season.286/.329/.476.805.189.3591165%25.5%

18-Hudson Head-

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
week.000/.500/.000.500.000.36812250%50%
season.234/.343/.387.730.153.33910411.2%33.6%

19-Connor Scott-

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
week.333/.353/.467.820.133.3501175.9%5.9%
season.247/.307/.377.683.130.304867.7%22.1%

20-Lonnie White Jr-NO STATS THIS WEEK-

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
Week
CPX.286/.286/.8571.143.571.4921080%42.9%

A Few quick thoughts-

Call it a day..

The season is over for Bradenton and the Greensboro affiliates.

The Grasshoppers would have needed to sweep a doubleheader that was scheduled for Saturday to make the playoffs. Unfortunately, the games were rained out and with no scheduled make-up dates left, they officially finished on the outside looking in.

Altoona and Indy still have some schedule left here, but we are quickly running out of time for this year’s weekly updates.

The rook-

Termarr Johnson was said to have an advanced approach going into the draft. Some said he was the best prep bat to come along in a while. It’s only 53 plate appearances in A ball, but the approach is easy to see so far(and yes, this is a really really small sample size). Walking 18.9% and striking out at a solid enough 24.5% clip has led to a strong .396 OBP. The approach passes the eye test as well. TJ is willing to take some close pitches .

Let’s not get carried away here–please realize this is a really small sample size, but here’s the catch: the average age of the players in A ball is 21 years and 4 months; TJ is 18.3. He’s 3 years younger than the competition. So even with a small sample size here we can allow ourselves to dream a little on the youngster.

Will the real Hudson Head please stand up…

Hudson finished the year on a bit of a down swing after an extremely hot streak that raised his batting average and peripherals 30-40 points on average. It’s no understatement to say this off-season will be HUGE to Hudson. He has a lot of work to do here. Shrinking the zone, pitch recognition, and more consistent contact.

If there’s a player in the system that could benefit from choking up, it’s Hudson. I know nobody chokes up anymore, but Head has the bat speed and power that would play if he choked up. I wonder if they have suggested this to him?

Endy, Endy, Endy!

Are we sure he’s even human? We can actually say this was his ‘down’ week in AA and he had an OPS of .979, (which is ridiculous)nobody in the system is more deserving of a late season cup of coffee than Endy…not even…

Louie…Louie…

First off, a big congratulations to Luis Ortiz who got the call to the Bucs taxi squad on Monday. I have to believe he will be moved to the 25 man and given a start here. They had to add him to the 40 man for this move, so I’d be very surprised to see him not get the ball with this in mind.

At one point a few weeks ago things slowed down for Ortiz and he’s been on the move ever since. I’m not sure if it was mechanical or mental, but whatever it was it has worked. Over his last 7 starts he’s striking out 32% with an ERA of 3.08 a FIP of 3.08 and WHIP of 0.81 .

His velo is up, the slider is sliding, and the change up has played. In his last start he hit 100 on the regular, hitting 101 more than once. But the most impressive thing here? With his 86th pitch he tickled triple digits, 100 MPH. Ultimately the change up, his third pitch, will determine if he’s a starter or a bullpen arm. The change seems to look better every week, so I’m not betting against him.

If Cherington does move him to the 25 man and he gets a start do yourself a favor and clear your calendar, he’s extremely fun to watch!

Cherington Focuses On Pirates Getting Better

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-j6t9x-12c292d

Ben Cherington preached about getting better, and then added another cast-off to the Pirates roster in Zack Collins. Listen as we explain that players like Collins can no longer be the answer if the goal is to get better, even if you found some answers this season. Oneil Cruz certainly looks like one. His last month should make all Pirates fans happy! The new rules next year also may benefit a few players. We break it all down in “30 Minutes of Bucs!”

Brought to you by ShopYinzz.com! 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

9-13-22 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement on Twitter)

By my count 12 Pirates Prospects have made their Major League Debuts during the current season; with a total of 28 doing so since Ben Cherington and Company took over in November of 2019. Yet somehow, there are still Pirates Fans that don’t seem to be satisfied; because the right guys haven’t been promoted. Or more succinctly put, the players that they want to be on the Pirates Active Roster; specifically Quinn Priester, Endy Rodriguez, Ji-hwan Bae and Mike Burrows.

Yes, the same Mike Burrows that I mentioned was on the IL last week; and, the one who Cherington was not exactly confident about returning before the season ended.

Clearly much of this general dejection, and overall despondent attitude surrounding anything the Pirates do is deeply rooted in an overwhelming animosity toward the team’s owner-Billionaire Bob Nutting; along with the aura of another potentially impending 100 loss season.

Regardless, it would nice if there was a little bit more recognition of all the players that have been-and will be-called-up for before October 5th; not just the ones that we are truly in favor of.

Also as a gentle reminder…Altoona still has a week packed full of games against the Reading Fightin Phils, and Indianapolis doesn’t finish up until Wednesday September 28th; which is a little bit different than the way things have gone in the not so distant past.

1) Endy Rodriguez-C/2B/OF (Altoona)

I am sorry. I had to go back on my word. Just last week I stated, “It’s not even fair to keep putting him in the Top 5 anymore. What this young man has been doing this season is beyond this, and nearly any list that you could come up with.” However, with a number of game’s being cancelled in Bradenton and Greensboro due to inclement weather, the pool of players to choose from was a little bit shallow this week.

During the Curve’s most recent series against the Erie Seawolves-who along with the Bowie Baysox are fighting for the Eastern League Southwest Second Half Division Title-Rodriguez continued his hot streak by going 8 for 20 with three doubles in five games.

He is now slashing .354/.440/.707 with 8 homers, 11 doubles and a 204 wRC+ in 116 plate appearances, which could earn him sometime in AAA before the season ends. However, I don’t see even a cup of coffee in MLB as a likely possibility. Not with the sheer number of catchers in front of him between Indianapolis and Pittsburgh.

2) Blake Sabol-C/OF/DH (Indianapolis)

One such catcher that lies in front of Rodriguez-as somewhat of a surprise-is Blake Sabol.

Over the past two series, since being promoted to the Indians, he has collected 13 total hits-1 double, 1 triple and 3 homers-good for a .342 AVG, an 1.126 OPS and a 195 wRC+, all while splitting time fairly equally between catcher, left field and DH.

3) Anthony Solometo-LHP (Bradenton)

In previous years-especially prior to 2021-it is unlikely that Solometo would have gotten the extended look in Low-A that he has over the past few months. In essence, without the reorganization of the Minor Leagues it is probable that his 8 starts would have taken place between the FCL and Bristol.

Nevertheless, in these 8 starts-across 47.2 innings-Solometo has taken advantage of this opportunity by posting a 2.64 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP with 51 strikeouts at only 19 years of age. This includes a scoreless, one hit, 5 strikeout, 3 walk performance over 5 innings, in his most recent outing.

4) Luis Ortiz-RHP (Indianapolis/Pittsburgh)

Prior to his placement on the Fangraphs Top Pirates Prospect List at #15, not many outside of the Altoona Beat Reporters were talking about the progress of and the potential for Ortiz as his season proceeded in an Altoona Curve uniform.

This included myself, as he didn’t find his way onto the Top 5 until the week of 8/9 to 8/14. Yet, since that time he has made the list for a second time, been promoted to AAA Indianapolis and is reportedly on his way up to Pittsburgh to start one of Tuesday’s games against the Reds as the team’s 29th Man; following 6 no-hit innings for the Indians this past Thursday.

Oh, and he was also named the International Pitcher of the Week for this 9 strikeout performance.

5) Quinn Priester-RHP (Altoona)

If we are being completely open and honest, it is completely possible-to at least a certain degree-that Priester might have followed Ortiz’s path to Indianapolis and then Pittsburgh had he been healthy the entire season.

Unfortunately for Priester he wasn’t, so I still see one more start in Altoona, another one or two in Indianapolis and then the Arizona Fall League as the most feasible outcome to end his year.

Yes, he just finished a 7 inning, 2 hit, 5 strikeout game against Erie on Friday; but, he also is quickly approaching his career high for innings on the season-71.2 to 97.2. Sure that doesn’t seem like a lot; however, after dealing with an oblique injury to begin this season I see them being very cautious with their Top Pitching Prospect.

On a side note, Priester also won Pitcher Of The Week Honors for the Eastern League for his efforts.

Bonus: Jared Oliva-OF (Indianapolis)

Back in 2019, when he was with the Altoona Curve, Jared Oliva turned the literal page on his season, beginning on June 1st. After slashing only .199/.292/.294 with 2 homers over the first two months, he went ahead and slashed .312/.378/.444 with 4 homers and 28 extra base hits during the rest of the year; earning Player Of The Year for the Curve along the way. He then went on to hit .312 in 109 plate appearances in the Arizona Fall League to cap things off.

Sadly without a 2020 MiLB Season Oliva was sent to the Alternate Site, and participated in a fairly forgettable 6 games in the Majors slashing .188 across the board.

Then came the 2021 Season, his extra month in Florida with Jon Nunnally-who had helped him get back on track in 2019-and Cole Tucker. This was followed by a .249 season in Indianapolis, with a .175 output in 43 plate appearances with the Pirates; and ultimately, a DFA leading up to 2022.

For the first four months of the season 2022 looked much like the beginning of 2019, as he limped to a .214/.269/.359 slash line with 5 homers. Without warning the page turned again.

Over the last 22 games and 86 plate appearances Olivia has posted a .397 AVG with an 1.019 OPS and 10 total extra base hits.

What does this mean? Possibly nothing. Olivia is now 26-going on 27-and has an abundance of competition in the outfield, where he once was an automatic starter in Indy.

It’s an uphill battle, with a potential for a change of scenery in the off-season-Rule 5 and/or as a Minor League Free Agent if he chooses.

There you have it! My Top 5 Pirates Prospect Performers for the 23rd week of 2022; with a little bit of a bonus!

Now remember, let me know I missed, who your Top 5 is and be sure check back each and every Tuesday (or Wednesday Night/Thursday Morning) hopefully-during the Minor League Baseball Season!

Five Pirates Thoughts at Five

9-12-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

When you choose to be an opinion writer for any subject really, you should plan to be wrong, and more importantly, be ready to accept it with some humility when it happens. Oh, there are caveats of course, for instance, should an opinion writer be wrong half the time, chances are you just aren’t very good at it.

One of my biggest instances of this has arrived this season. I very much so said the end of this season would be “fun”, and “you’ll like how this team looks in September more than you did in April”. For a few months now I’ve had these quotes thrown in my face, expecting me to take them back or admit I was wrong, and I’m sorry, I’m just not there.

Fun is subjective, I’ll give you that one. If the only way you perceive fun is when winning happens, hey, I can’t argue that out. You win. If you honestly don’t like this team better now than you did in April though, yeah, I’m not sure what you’re watching.

Oneil Cruz is finding it now. Mitch Keller has completely turned his career around. Roansy Contreras has become a solid top of the rotation pitcher and done so in his rookie campaign. Rodolfo Castro upon being called back up to the bigs has been nothing short of impressive. Jack Suwinski is still hitting homers. Cal Mitchell has really experienced some of that AAA success at the MLB level recently. And I could go on, pretty easily too.

The record is awful, I’ll absolutely give you that, but for me, seeing the kids come up here and start to forge their path, coupled with seeing some important players taking a step, yeah, I’m gonna stick with what I said and run through the tape.

Let’s do this.

1. Luis Ortiz, Call Up Out of Nowhere?

Well, certainly not. He may have eluded you if you don’t read or listen to a lot of prospect heavy coverage because he hasn’t caught the eye of many national publications, but he’s been on the radar most of this year, and it really ramped up in August.

In fact, here is the second time that our very own Craig Toth included him in his Top 5 Prospect performers piece. Justin Verno has mentioned him countless times in his Top 15 Plus 5 more piece too.

Anthony Murphy has been all over Ortiz too, following along as he continues to quickly rise through the system.

Now, this promotion is likely to be a cup of coffee, not a permanent call up. Not to diminish the meaningfulness of this promotion but he’s not a finished product.

First of all, he’s got triple digit velocity and a wicked slider, problem is, he doesn’t really have a reliable 3rd let alone 4th. That usually is the calling card of a relief pitcher, but the Pirates still want him to start, and for him to be successful in that role long term he’ll have to develop another off speed option. Again, it’s not as though he doesn’t throw one, it’s just very inconsistent.

His overall numbers aren’t going to impress you, and again he’s likely just going to pitch in the double header against the Reds and go right back down, but he’s 100% locked up being a 40 man addition to protect him from the Rule 5 draft at this point, so it makes sense that they’d want to just take this step especially after seeing what the last double header with no actual starters did to the bullpen.

Things to look for, first, the stuff. He can hit 102 on the gun, his slider is just gross (when he can control it) which isn’t a given. The likelihood that he goes deeper than 4 or 5 innings isn’t high. In other words, look for potential here more than his actual results. I know that’s not “fun” for many of you to harken back to the cold open, but it’s reality. This is a kid that started in low A, skipped High A all together, struggled early with the Curve then caught fire in August and got the promotion to Indy two starts ago. One was bad, one was a 6 inning no hitter.

He’s had some issues with the longball, giving up 19 but much of that has to do with the lack of secondary pitch mastery and control of the slider. If the slider doesn’t bite, well, it bites if you catch my drift.

Regardless, at 24 the Pirates identified a player with a special skill and promoted him quickly rather than keep him on a traditional schedule.

At the end of the day, when he pitches this week, keep in mind 4 months ago he was facing Low A competition. If he gets bombed, don’t get too low, if he is electric, don’t get too high.

This is an exciting prospect that most, including me, didn’t even have on the radar at the beginning of the season, and if they turn him out, a huge win for the system.

Congrats Kid, well earned.

2. Why is Oneil Cruz Suddenly Hitting?

Clichés are often not what people want to hear, but they exist largely because they tend to be based in fact. The fact is that Cruz is just settling in and it is resulting in improved performance, both in the field and at the plate.

The game is slowing down for him a bit. You can visibly see him realizing he has more time in the field than he thought he had when he first arrived. Well, at the plate, same thing. He’s finally realized his bat speed gives him a bit more time to recognize breaking pitches and still catch up. In fact he’s been keeping more of those mistake breaking pitches fair because he’s not 2 weeks early with his swing when they come.

Beyond just recognition, something has clicked and he has actively realized he can hunt pitches all over the zone. Hitting the ball hard to all fields works just as well as pulling the ball hard.

Recognizing the off speed stuff is one thing, understanding it’s going to be low or inside is another, and that too has increased the danger of facing him for opposing pitchers. Another thing that I just can’t help but factor in, man it’s just different having Bryan Reynolds and a hot hitting Rodolfo Castro hitting behind Cruz than Jason Delay and Kevin Newman.

Credit to Derek Shelton (that’s right, I think he did something right here), I wanted Cruz to hit leadoff just to get him seeing more pitches and getting more at bats. I can’t speak to Shelton’s motivation for the move but it’s turned his season around entirely. He’s actively seeing more pitches, being more selective and confidently taking walks if they come his way knowing Reynolds could make them pay for doing so. Pitchers are not anxious to walk the leadoff guy so chances are if he’s patient, he’ll get a pitch to work with, and for a guy who can cover the entire plate that’s going to lead to more offense.

This is still a developing talent and eventually I think we’ll want to see him hit 3rd or 4th in the lineup, but right now building his confidence and seeing pitches is far more important than where he’s supposed to be or the position he’ll man one day.

It’s very safe to say he’s started to figure things out though.

I know he’s not popular and has made plenty of mistakes, but I’m also happy we’ve seen Shelton leave him in the lineup to face lefties more as well. This is a player who simply isn’t everything he can be if the team remains afraid to let him face them, so that too is encouraging.

All part of the game, all part of evolution. The biggest issue with the Pirates isn’t so much that all of their prospects aren’t panning out, it’s more than they’re all trying to acclimate to MLB at the same time.

There is noting consistent about that path. Some games they’ll look like the Pirates are setting up a core that can hit with anyone, others they’ll look like every single one of them belongs in AAA. Worse, they’ll feed off each other most of the time.

Cruz is largely the key to this whole thing, so it’s not crazy to think him figuring things out is the most important thing they can accomplish this season, at least on the offensive side of the ball.

3. Mitch Keller is Now Expected to Perform

It’s been a long road for Mitch.

He was an MLB top rated pitching prospect selected in the 2nd round of the 2014 draft out of high school, and made his debut in 2019.

Since then he’s be nothing short of disappointing and many were ready to give up on him. Through his first 3 seasons he managed 170.1 innings and really didn’t do much more than struggle. This year started out largely the same, minus a bit more expectation he piled on himself by posting off season bullpen sessions in which he showed an ability to throw the ball triple digits. Of course that’s what everyone expected to see from the jump, but Mitch still had a very familiar problem.

He could throw the hell out of the ball, but his pitch mix didn’t work together. His 4 seam fastball which he still throws simply doesn’t have a ton of movement, in other words, no matter how hard you throw, an MLB hitter is going to hit it just as hard if A. they expect it and B. it has no deceptive movement.

The revelation for Mitch came after being sent to the bullpen, where he worked with coaches (despite popular belief) to introduce a 2-seam fastball, AKA sinker into his mix. The velocity is still there, but it created something he really needed, a very same plane offering that many hitters think is the slider.

Yes, it’s also true that he reached out to former teammate Clay Holmes to help him out with some tips, but the idea was internally developed and he’s implemented it about as quickly as I’ve ever seen pulled off.

Overall, if he winds up this season with an ERA under 4, (currently 4.01) it’s a win. He’s shown that not only does he have the skill, he is developing something equally important, consistency.

Roansy has burst on the scene, experiencing instant success and making a name for himself quickly. Next year he’ll face an entirely new challenge, being known. I’m not predicting he’ll struggle, but I am saying Mitch’s path to being a counted upon player is far more typical than Roansy’s. As this whole thing is about watching youngsters become important pieces, keep that in mind, because who knows what path we’ll see Mike Burrows, Quinn Priester, Luis Ortiz, Johan Oviedo or any other pitching prospect who makes the jump.

Fans are gonna fan, I don’t expect anyone to deal with poor performance and have 3 plus years of patience, that’s excessive to say the least, but do realize a couple starts do not a career make. Good or bad.

4. New Rules, New Problems

MLB is poised to implement some new rules next year.

Feel free to follow the link there and read the full story from Jeff Passan, it’s well done.

For me though, the rules are one thing, I personally find it far more interesting to think about all the unintended consequences.

Professional sports are constantly trying to address issues in, alter the trajectory of, eliminate the advantages inherent in, their games. Even the best of intentions have ramifications that nobody intended, sometimes the end justifies the means, sometimes it winds up making the game suffer and still doesn’t handle the intended issue.

NCAA College football comes to mind for me first, a couple years back they instituted a new targeting policy. Get caught targeting an opponents head and you’ll be penalized and ejected from the contest. Thing is, it’s a totally subjective call most of the time. It doesn’t account for the target ducking down into the hit. It doesn’t account for a player being bumped off track and accidentally making that bad contact. It doesn’t stop the bad contact, it just stops the game dead in it’s tracks waiting for refs to confer and review the call they just made. Sadly they still don’t get it right all the time.

MLB is constantly trying to change rules, these ones are actually counter to each other. On one hand you have rules intended to speed up the game like pitch clocks and limiting the number of times a pitcher can throw to a base or step off. On the other hand, they all but ensure more baserunners by limiting the shift.

Drama in the late innings will suffer the most here and the souls most old baseball fans just can’t see how this will all function, more so most of us can’t see why batters couldn’t just fix the shifting nonsense themselves.

I’m not going to rip these rules apart right here, I’ll wait a bit here and think a bit more, but let’s call this a little homework assignment. Find me on Twitter (@garymo2007) or on Facebook comment under the story, and hit me with your concerns. All the best I’ll use in a future piece and on the Pirates Fan Forum this week on DK Pittsburgh Sports Podcast Network.

5. The Bullpen is Impeding Improvement

Don’t get me wrong, the offense still has issues. The starting pitching still has holes too, but nothing has caused more losses of late than the bullpen.

It’s important to note, this isn’t the intended mix of pitchers the Pirates would like to have there, obviously injury has played a role, but even that is an issue, a good bullpen has to almost be 10 deep and they certainly weren’t.

The sad thing is, a pitcher like Wil Crowe has had a great season but now he’s being asked to do things that simply aren’t to be thrust on someone. He’s not a closer, and it shows. Chase De Jong has also been superb this year, again, not a closer and again, it’s shown.

They’ve been forced to use guys in positions they really shouldn’t ever since the All Star Break, and let’s just be real, if your bullpen is gonna fall apart because one guy got injured, or eve two, well let’s just say you never had enough.

Next year, David Bednar, Yerry De Los Santos, Wil Crowe, Chase De Jong back together alone sounds like an improvement, but in reality it’s just clawing back to where they intended to be in the first place. It’s crucial that players like Nick Mears, Blake Cederlind, and Tahnaj Thomas at least become viable options.

Manny Bañuelos has been a revaluation from the left side but the Pirates will need to either be 100% convinced Dillon Peters can stay healthy and can handle some leverage or go get another lefty.

Suring this up will secure more wins, even as the offense continues to mature along with the starters.

Real improvement to the record in my mind runs through the bullpen and I can count almost 10 wins lost on the cutting room floor in just the past 30 games due to nothing more than running out of quality options back there.

Pirates Top 15 Plus 5 More

9-9-22 – By Justin Verno – @JV_PITT on Twitter

Another week week down, precious few left!

1Henry Davis-

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
CPX.000/.250/.000.250.000.200160%25%
A.500/.675/.1.0001.750.500.70634925%0%
A+.341/.450/.5851.035.244.4591788%18%
Week.267/.421/.267.688.000.34011021.1%26.3%
AA.195/.340/.338.678.143.3189511.7%20.2%
fang

2-Temarr Johnson-super small sample size alert

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%k%
CPX.230/.310/.217.528.087.2876720/7%27.6%
Week.412/.500/.5881.088.176.48620318.2%27.3%
A.276/.343/.379.722.103.33210411.4%26.1%

3-Liover Peguero

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
Week.286/.375/.381.756.095.34511312.5%20.8%
AA.268/.299/.380.679.122.300844.9%21.7%
MLB.333/.500/.333.838.000.39515525%50%

4-Quinn Priester-

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPBB%K%
A30.003.834.740.000%10%
A+2.216.887.522.652.636.7%20%
Week61.502.580.674.5%18.2%
AA64.22.373.123.911.186.7%24.3%

5-Nick Gonzales-

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBA+wRC+BB%K%
CPX.429/.429/.8571.286.262.5722350%14.3%
A.000/.250/.000.250.000.183925%50%
Week.478/.536/.8261.362.348.56225710.7%14.3%
AA.271/.393/.430.822.158.37113014.1%28.9%

6-Endy Rodriguez

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
A+.302/.392/.544.936.242.41214811.4%20.8%
week.250/.429/.7501.179.500.47319725%10.7%
AA.342/.442/.7471.189.405.49421214.7%13.7%

7-Matt Fraizer

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
Week.211/.250/.211.461.000.216285%20%
Season.218/.286/.338.625.120.281717.6%23.4%

8-Jared Jones

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPBB%K%
week44.500.921.006.3%43.8%
season118.24.634.794.241.349.5%27%

9-Bubba Chandler 

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPBB%K%
CPX150.002.333.090.8516.945.8%
Week0.127.0030.529.0075%0%
A16.23.684.844.771.4117.9%28.4%
BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
CPX.231/444/.6541.098.423.49018725%16.7%
Weeks
A.184/.284/.289.574.105.2776812.5%39.8%

10-Ji-hwan Bae

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwWRC+BB%K%
week.318/.375/.409.784.091.3541128.3%12.5%
season.300/.369/.449.818.149.3631199.6%17.9%

11-Michael Burrows

11-Mike Burrows -ON IL

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPBB%K%
AA522.942.733.991.108.9%32.4%
Week
AA41.24.103.604.181.226.4%24.4%

12-Travis Swaggerty

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
week(AAA).467/.579/.8671.446.400.59927121.1%15.8%
AAA.264/.361./428.789.164.35411213.2%25.6%
MLB.111/.111/.111.222.000.099-420%44.4%

13-Anthony Solometo

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPPBB%K%
Week4.12.083.291.1517.6%29.4%
Season42.22.952.773.541.089.4%26.9%

14-Kyle Nicolas

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPBB%K%
week2.213.506.792.6225%18.8%
season824.174.49 5.051.3212.5%25.8%

15-Luis Ortiz

IPERAFIPxFIPBB%K%
AA114.14.644.453.777.3%26.9%
Week109.14.694.553.927.6%26%
AAA49.006.754.745.3%15.8%

MY FIVE

16-Po-Yu Chen

IPERAFIPxFIPWHIPBB%K%
WEEK39.005.192.330%22.2%
A98.14.583.771.268.6%24.5%

17-Dariel LopezNO STATS

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
week
season.285/.327/.478.805.193.3581155.1%25.5%

18- Hudson Head

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
week.227/.230/.318.638.091.3017912%32%
season.235/.342/.388.730.154.33910311%33.5%

19-Connor Scott

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
week.200/.238/.300.538.100.240444.8%23.8%
season.243/.304/.373.677.130.302857.8%22.8%

20-Lonnie White Jr-NO STATS THIS WEEK-

BA/OBP/SLGOPSISOwOBAwRC+BB%K%
Week
CPX.286/.286/.8571.143.571.4921080%42.9%

A Few quick thoughts-

Event Horizon

We are quickly approaching the end of the MILB season. Some of the guys stayed hot, some cooled off. But as a whole it’s been a fantastic finish for the system.

Pitch me an idea..

Congrats to Luis Ortiz who had his first action in AAA. This wasn’t his best outing of the year, but let’s let him adjust before we flip our lid.

Chen, Nicolas and Ortiz were down.

Burrows was…well, out.

BUT, Priester, Jones and Solometo looked great.

-Jones did give up 2 runs in 4IP but he K’d 7(good for 43.8%) and only walked 1. He deserved a better result, as the FIP of 0.92 suggests.

-Priester still needs to miss more bats. He just isn’t giving up runs and this game. One over his six innings was no exception.

-Solometo went 4.1 while allowing one runner to cross the plate. Striking out 29.4% of the batters he faced(now sitting at a solid 26.9% on the year). I think at this point it’s safe to say the L will be seeing an FV bump, but I’ll save my predictions for after the MILB is over.

Bats will be Bats…

Temarr had a nice week and that advanced approach is easy to spot. He should be fun to watch down the stretch here.

Peggy finally had a good week. After being the most consistent bat in the system and earning a call up early on Peggy has struggled of late. It’s not unusual for a guy to get out of sync after the MLB debut, it’s normal to see a guy try to get back up with every swing. His drought lasted far too long so let’s hope he finishes strong here.

Endy. Enough said, right?

Since mid May Gonzo has been, well, who the Bucs hoped he would be. Slashing

.326/.431/.538 with an OPS of .969 a wRC+ of 165 and a nice acceptable K rate of 23.1%

He’s done work and deserves credit, could be earning a late season promotion as well? I can see a trip to Indy!

Joining Endy and Gonzo in their solid week is Bae(what else is new) and Swaggs. Solid work all around here.

Top 5 Pirates Prospect Performers

9-8-22 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement on Twitter)

I am so excited that we’ve finally gotten to the nobody is talking about so-and-so portion of the Minor League Baseball Season; along with the daily requests to call-up a player who is injured lightning bonus round.

First up in the former category-that I have seen floating around on the inter-web recently-is utility infielder and part-time outfielder, Andres Alvarez; who with his 20th home run of the season, became the only player in Altoona Curve history with 20 bombs and 20 stolen bases in a season.

Obviously this is a great individual achievement; however, the additional narratives are somewhat misguided.

Foremost is the implication that Alvarez has experienced a successful season based on two basic statistics. What if I told you that he has slashed .199/.327/.375 with a 96 wRC+ since his last appearance on this list, back on May 24th? Would that change your analysis of this particular player?

I am pretty sure it would. As would the complete breakdown on another player that had recently been mentioned cautiously in the Top 5, during the beginning of August. Aaron Shackelford-over the same time period-also has 20 homers, but is striking out at a 29.0% clip; and 31.4% over his last 100 plate appearances.

Does that sound familiar? Power lefty first baseman that has a high K-rate? How is that turning out so far? And that guy is a level higher and two years younger.

Clearly these are just two examples, of a much larger issue, but I don’t want to bore you; plus I feel like the other supposition(s) are slightly more misdirected.

With Duane Underwood, Jr. getting the nod as an opener for the Bryce Wilson 4th inning mini-implosion, some Pirates Fans have doubled down on the idea that not giving a player such as Mike Burrows the opportunityin this type of situation-much like another Tyler Beede start this past weekend-is a dereliction of duty. Which would be true, if Burrows wasn’t currently on the 7-Day IL.

See, I can excuse the general inefficiency of not digging into a particular players’ numbers beyond the dashboard stats. However, what I can’t rationalize is, not opening up a simple player page to see if they are active or not.

It’s fairly simple…do better. And if you don’t know any better, just ask.

Week of 8/30-9/4

1) Tres Gonzalez-OF (Bradenton)

Discussed in my Best Of The Rest blog post from the Pirates 2022 Draft Class, Gonzalez has lived up to every that was discussed in that piece. He has great bat to ball skills and speed, with limited power.

Over his first 21 games and 77 plate appearances, the former Yellow Jacket is slashing .324/.403/.382 with two doubles and a triple. Playing equally at every outfield spot, Gonzalez has been a solid addition to the Marauders daily lineup.

2) Nick Garcia-RHP (Greensboro)

Analyzing pitching prospects in Greensboro is not an easy task. Not for scouts, and surely not for an amateur prospect junkie like myself. For one the amount of video you can get on these guys is extremely limited. Then there’s the home/road splits between the not so friendly confines of First National Bank Field and every other ballpark around the South Atlantic League.

In Garcia’s case, all of his numbers are fairly balanced across the board-aside from the 11 homers at home vs. only 4 while away. At home he has posted a 3.92 ERA and a 1.194 WHIP, while his ERA is only slightly lower (3.35) and his WHIP is marginally higher (1.216) on the road.

In recent history, he has not allowed a single run last two starts-one home and one away-over the last 13 innings. During this time he has struck out 11, walked 6, given up 6 hits and posted a .915 WHIP.

3) Blake SabolC/OF (Indianapolis)

With the promotion of Endy Rodriguez, as well as Henry Davis returning from another stint on the IL, playing time would have been extremely limited for Sabol in Altoona. Plus, if we are being truly honest here, he truly earned the bump to Indy.

On the season he has been one of the more consistent hitters on the Curve Roster; slashing .281/.347/.486 with 14 homers, 23 doubles, 5 triples and a 124 wRC+ in 412 plate appearances; or significantly more than a small sample size.

Since his promotion to the Indians, Sabol has slashed .316/.458/.579 with a homer and triple in 24 plate appearances; which is an extremely SSS.

What I do really like to see though is the 4 walks being equal to his 4 strikeouts.

4) Quinn Priester-RHP (Altoona)

On the season, Priester has notched a 2.37 ERA, a 1.180 WHIP and a 9.05 K to 2.05 BB/9 ratio across 64.2 innings and 13 starts in Double-A.

The Altoona Curve Season ends on Sunday September 18th. The Indianapolis Indians finish up on Wednesday September 28th. The Arizona Fall League starts on October 3rd.

Do the right thing Pirates.

Get him a couple starts in Indy, and then let him get a few innings in the AFL.

5) Nick Gonzales-2B/SS (Altoona)

Most of the news surrounding Gonzales over the past couple of weeks has been his tumble down and off the Top Prospect Rankings. Meanwhile the dude has been raking since returning from the IL; and even before then if you are really keeping track.

Since returning from his heel injury, the Pirates first round pick is slashing .325/.442/.558 with a couple homers, 10 doubles and a triple. Add in the two weeks before he landed on the IL and you can tack on 2 more homers and 4 doubles, while not changing the line (.323/.432/.543) all that much.

Now you may ask, why I bolded the .442. Well, it’s because his walk rate remained fairly consistent-14.3% and 14.7% respectively-as his strike out rate plummeted-from 36.5% to 21.1%; which was pretty much the same pattern he experienced in Greensboro last season.

Look it up.

He’s a slow starter that takes a month or so to get going. BUT, when he does…watch out!

Bonus: Endy Rodriguez-C/2B/OF

It’s not even fair to keep putting in the Top 5 anymore. What this young man has been doing this season is beyond this, and nearly any list that you could come up with.

Between Greensboro and Altoona he has earned a .310 AVG and .987 OPS with 24 homers and 58 total extra base hits. He also walks at a 12.0% BB rate, while striking out 19.4 % of the time. Overall he has a 163 wRC+.

On top of all of this he has reached base safely in all but one of his 22 games since arriving in Pennsylvania. He has a 1.226 OPS with 8 home runs. He is walking more than he strikes out-14.1% to 13.1%.

AND he can really play catcher!

There you have it! My Top 5 Pirates Prospect Performers for the 22nd week of 2022; with a little bit of a bonus!

Now remember, let me know I missed, who your Top 5 is and be sure check back each and every Tuesday (or Wednesday Night/Thursday Morning) hopefully-during the Minor League Baseball Season!

Frequently Asked Pirates Questions

9-8-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

So much of what is going on with the Pirates right now just baffle fans. Believe it or not people like me, doing what we do, have a unique window into the mentality of the fan base.

It’s almost become politics on social media. If you believe in what the Pirates are doing or have a shred of positivity left in your mind you tend to hide in the shadows with few exceptions. If you’re angry beyond measure and go so far as wishing poor players would harm themselves or something horrible would happen to the team’s owner, out there loud and proud with it.

Let’s get started, because I’ve banked some really good ones lately.

It’s Year 3 of This Rebuild! Where is the Improvement?

The record sucks, but folks, this is exactly what I’ve been predicting all along.

This excerpt is from our season preview piece this year…
Well, since 2020 I’ve said 2022 would be more fun if only because we’ll finally start to see some of the fruit from this painful build process, and I see no reason to change that now. We predict a record because well, you kinda expect us to right? But it hardly matters, this year is all about getting some of that next wave up here and doing it again in 2023. I expect this team to have 10-14 guys currently on the roster not here come the end of 2023. Changes are going to start coming at us faster now, forced by talent, not money. – Gary Morgan, April 2022

If you want one reason why I’m not up in arms about the team on the field right now, that paragraph is the answer. I expected this. I expected youth to flood the team and with youth comes struggle. The biggest argument most will have with that statement is the word fun, but for me, this is fun. I don’t just watch prospects assuming they’ll always remain in the minors, at some point I want them up here, and the hit rate on prospects is a lot closer to 0% than 100%.

2022 will be the single biggest year of turnover we see in this entire rebuild. 2023 will build on what the team has brought in so far. Team improvement will largely depend on player improvement of course, but next year the Pirates have some areas they have to pay more attention to, and they happen to be the same as 2022. First Base, Catcher and Pitching.

Those areas are obvious because they don’t have a bunch of prospects beating the door down. You could make an argument that Endy Rodriguez and Blake Sabol have put themselves in position to take Catching off the list, but I’d argue, let’s be sure. Let’s not leave that position open to youthful struggle.

I guess I’m kinda avoiding the question though.

To me, rock bottom was last year. The team was bad, and the team was populated with a whole bunch of guys who weren’t likely to be here for long. This year started that way too, and now it’s a bad team populated with a whole bunch of kids who have improvement left to do and the big names are one year closer.

The team swung and missed on Yoshi Tsutsugo, and Greg Allen. They took a swing at Roberto Perez and he predictably got injured. Jose Quintana did well but he was always getting traded and he and Zach Thompson represented the only pitching pieces they brought in who did anything.

Short answer, if they were shooting for real improvement in regard to the record, they needed to bring in more players who had proven MLB track records.

Longer answer, if they brought in a bunch more proven MLB players we don’t see this many kids. Seeing this many kids was more important to this management group than a win total this year. Right or wrong.

I’m of the belief that a happy balance is out there and it starts with being honest with yourself. Catcher was going to be a very dark place this year because all the prospects who matter were too far away to be a factor. First base same thing. Starting pitcher, yup, same thing. The Pirates could have added big in these three spots and it would have helped the record and prevented no prospects from playing time. Next year, the same exact issues will be present.

I’ll have the same advice next year, and the only caveat I’ll add is likely that now I’m not looking for youngsters to arrive, I’m looking for them to improve or be replaced by other youngsters.

In other words, I expected this, but I also completely acknowledge it didn’t have to be this bad.

Make sense? Boy I hope so cause the team sure as hell isn’t going to try to explain it.

Do the Pirates Hate Travis Swaggerty?

First, lol. No, they don’t “hate” Travis Swaggerty.

They came into this season with a glut of unproven outfielders they wanted to get eyes on including Canaan Smith-Njigba, Bligh Madris, Cal Mitchell, Jack Suwinski, Travis himself, Tucupita Marcano, Ji-hwan Bae, and Diego Castillo. I don’t need to tell you that’s a lot of players to work through, especially if you don’t really suffer a ton of injuries out there.

Before the season started, I think it’s fair to say most everyone assumed when it came time to call one of these guys up Travis would be the first. He has the most pedigree, he’s a proven defensive commodity, and at 24 (now 25) you want to see what he is.

Now when he was called up early on, he spent all of 5 games up here, only received 9 plate appearances and was promptly sent back down. Weird to say the least. If you call up a former number one pick, you tend to not give him such a pathetic opportunity.

In his time in AAA this season, he’s played good defense, hit .261, with an OPS of .780 so it’s not like he’s looked like crap down there.

My best guess, is they didn’t like the fact he’s had all of 48 at bats in professional baseball since 2019. 2020 wasn’t his fault, 2021 he got injured and lost 95% of the season, so that kinda makes sense, but then you have that brief callup that just makes you wonder what they were thinking.

Again, at his age, I wanna know. More than that, I can’t fathom how they wouldn’t want to know. Nothing against Suwinski, Mitchell, or Smith-Njigba, but we had time here on some of them. Hell, Mitchell wasn’t even on the 40-man.

Short answer, I honestly don’t know why he isn’t up here or hasn’t gotten more of a look.

Longer answer, all I can think is they feel he might not do well at the MLB level, and in a trade Prospect Swaggerty is more valuable than potential Quad A player Swaggerty. As of this writing, I haven’t seen anyone with any real tangible say in the matter comment on why, beyond saying they’re happy with what he’s doing in AAA right now.

The Pirates Should Fire Every Scout They Have, Right?

First, almost none of you know more than a handful of the scouts names, let alone what they’re responsible for. Neither do I if I’m honest. I mean I can google them, some of them are trusted sources for me as well, but I’d be lying if I told you I intimately knew what each and every one of them bring to the table.

I kinda like to turn this around a bit. First, there are three types of scouts. Amateur, Advanced and Pro. Amateur lump in all the guys internationally, collegiate, and high school, basically everyone who isn’t already a pro. Advanced scout upcoming teams on the schedule, trying to get a handle on who does what and provide intel to the field staff to help game plan for when those teams play the Pirates. Pro are specifically looking at potential free agents, bubble guys in danger of being waived, even potential trade targets.

So right away, it’s hard to say ALL, right?

Let’s start with Pro, first of all, the Pirates haven’t been looking to trade for MLB talent so right away they have their legs chopped out from under them. That leaves the bubble/waiver guys and those are always about believing your team can “fix” whatever is ailing whomever the player is. I’m not sure it’s fair to judge them yet. If you want to get started though, Johan Oviedo is your first real test. He would have been scouted by both the advanced guys and the pro scouts. In other words, if the Pirates are successful or fail with this pick up you can point to scouting.

Advanced, well it’s hard to really blame them. I can give you the best intelligence in the world on how to get that girl to say yes to the prom invitation, but at the end of the day, if you stutter through it, don’t look at me.

Amateur, who knows. The Pirates have had 3 drafts under Ben Cherington and none of them are here yet. Had it been 5 years and I’m saying that, there’s an issue. Jury has to be out on this one for me. At least until some of the talent they’ve selected matriculates to MLB.

Short answer, no, I think it’s too early to assume scouting is causing any of what you’re watching.

Longer answer, no, and if you’re really honest with yourself you know this is grasping at straws looking or answers. The other thing I’d say, especially on the amateur level, some of these relationships formed between scouts and potential players go back multiple years. Firing the wrong guy could cost you someone your team has already at least mentally invested in for a long time.

Was the Ke’Bryan Hayes Contract a Mistake?

Whew boy.

Let me start like this, signing a kid to an 8 year 70 Million dollar contract, a deal with an AAV of 8.75 Million wouldn’t even warrant a press conference for many teams, for this one it set a record.

When you sign a lengthily deal with a player, sometimes you’re paying for past performance, in this case they’re paying for expected future performance. They’re essentially betting that he performs well enough that he’d earn more in arbitration and free agency than the number they are locked in to giving him through 2029.

His bat hasn’t played this year, at least not to the degree you’d hope. A 3rd baseman with an OPS of .654 isn’t ideal, and that’s apparent to everyone. Thing is, for that amount of money, and his defensive value, he’s easily going to meet the demands of that contract.

As Pirates fans, even if you don’t mean to do it, we’ve become conditioned to feel like this is a scary amount of money but again, it’s really not. He’ll be a bargain by the end even if he doesn’t ever develop further.

On this team he can’t continue to be a middle of the order bat though unless he improves. These types of contracts are smart, but only if the Pirates are truly looking to change the way they’ve done business. See, contracts like this are signed all the time and they lock in “good” players through their peak without constantly worrying about years of control. I say “if” because this isn’t STAR money. This is league average or slightly above money. This contract will look better when it isn’t the most they’ve ever spent, because in no way should he be looked at as the best player on the team. If he is, then none of this will really matter.

If Hayes works himself into being even a 20 homerun guy one day, he makes this contract a complete joke.

We often look at extension guys as just the stars. Well, sometimes locking in guys who are just above average makes sense too. Think of it this way, if you had a playoff team like say LA, and Justin Turner goes down with an ACL mid season, Hayes is a really intriguing addition right? He can handle the position at an elite level, and his bat can play even if not to Turner’s standard.

Well, the Pirates have decided at this one position, this is our guy. You’d like to see them do this with others too. Cruz, Reynolds, Keller, Roansy, whomever you like. When you spend 3 seasons looking for answers, you have to take the answers you get and consider it, well, answered. Not all those players have to be Super Stars, they just need to be above average enough that you know they won’t fall below the line of being an MLB starter.

Short answer, no, absolutely not a mistake.

Longer answer, no, but it’s also not something to bounce off walls clamoring that everything has changed either. Until we see them expand upon the plan and lock up more, we’ll never know whether they signed a guy who was so down on his own value he took less than he could get or if he was simply step one in a measured approach to build a team that doesn’t believe they can win by constantly churning prospects. It means they are committed to keeping some guys in town at the very least, now we just need to see how many (or more accurately how much) they are willing to commit to.