Beer And Loathing In Milwaukee

1-21-22 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement on Twitter)

Each time the Pittsburgh Pirates travel to Milwaukee to take on the Brewers I get this knot in the pit of stomach; probably due to the trauma experienced from watching the Pirates immense struggles in the Brew City during the late 2000’s through the early 2010’s. From 2007 to 2010 Pittsburgh held an overall 13-37 record against the Brewers, including a 22 game losing streak in then Miller Park; which was almost extended to 23 if it had not been for a Ryan Doumit grand slam and a Ronny Cedeno solo homer in the top of the 9th in late April 2010.

Even when the Pirates were at their best from 2013 through 2015, they were 10-17 in Milwaukee; and, since 2019-the lean years-Pittsburgh is a combined 5-20 against the Brewers at now American Family Field. You could call it Puppies Rainbows and Lollipops Park, but things probably still would change. So, it was no surprise-in what has become somewhat of a self fulfilling prophecy-the Pirates were swept out out Milwaukee yesterday in a 4-2 loss at the hands of the Brew Crew.

Now, when you think of a sweep, it may be hard to imagine that there was any good mixed in with the bad and the ugly; however, in this series there were some good things that took place. This is where I want to start before I get to the obvious bad and ugly of the Pirates time in Milwaukee.

The Good

  • Roansy Contreras followed up his 3 inning, 5 strike out, 1 walk and hit performance against the Nationals on Thursday April 14th with another solid 3 inning performance in the second game of the Brewers series. The lone blemish coming when he hung one for Hunter Renfroe to deposit in the second level of the left field seats. Outside of that, he struck out 5 more batters and didn’t walk any. At the time I thought that if this continued on a consistent basis it was very possible that Contreras could find himself on the front end of a piggyback situation sooner rather than later. Yet, after him being optioned back to Triple-A within the last hour, this will obviously have to wait.
  • Daniel Vogelbach continued his hot start to the season by going 4 for 10 with a homer and a couple of patented walks to raise his average to .324 with a more than above average .924 OPS. Sure, I still shake my head when I see a 270 lb leadoff man make his way to the plate, but you can’t really question the decision to have him in the lineup.
  • Mitch Keller put together his first quality start of the 2022 season; and, for the most part, something definitely looked different. In 5.1 innings of work Keller struck out 7, allowed a run on a well placed-but well struck-pitch to Rowdy Tellez in the bottom of the second and didn’t walk a single Brewers hitter. As I was trying to figure out what was distinctive about this outing compared to the other two on the season, I found myself looking all the way back to his last official quality start against the Cubs on September 2nd; as well as blog post from last season when I examined Keller’s fastball control. At the time it seemed as if he was more likely to have a solid performance when his 4-seamer was operating in the zone more. However, in this years three outings the fastball has stayed fairly consistent, leaving the command of his slider as more of outlier in yesterday’s performance. Over his first two starts Keller’s slider had been something that opposing batters could potentially spit on, as they had no real chance of finding their way near the zone. However, yesterday was different in that his sliders-which average almost 8 mph less than the 4-seamer were almost impossible to distinguish because of their location. Maybe it’s something, maybe it’s nothing; but, it’s definitely an aspect of Keller’s overall pitch mix that I will be keeping an eye on.

The Bad

  • Miguel Yajure earned his first career win in his first appearance of the season back on April 10th in St. Louis, then in yesterday’s contest he gave up what would be the decisive 3-run homer to Keston Hiura in the bottom of the 7th. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was 2019 or 2020 Keston Hiura, but 2022 Keston Hiura is a player that hasn’t put one over the wall since June 28th of last season.
  • Bryan Reynolds managed only 1 hit during the 3 game series in Milwaukee, while striking out 6 times in only 11 at bats. I am obviously not panicking by any stretch of the imagination, still it isn’t an ideal scenario either.
  • Ben Gamel has continued to dive all over the place in the outfield to make a play, but has also been lunging all over the place at the plate as well. In 7 at bats during the series Gamel struck out 3 times and didn’t manage a single hit. On the year he has a .182/.308/.303 slash line with one bomb; looking more like the player the Guardians let go than the one the Pirates picked up last season. Hopefully, this comes full circle again.

The Ugly

  • Zach Thompson allowed 6 runs on 6 hits, including a Christian Yelich grand slam. He also walked 4 while using 89 pitches to get through 4 innings. It’s early in the season, but it’s also hard to look at a 9.00 ERA and a 2.00 WHIP and be optimistic.
  • JT Brubaker can’t seem to go even one game without an absolutely ugly inning. This time around it was the second inning. A walk followed by a homer and a walk followed by a double was all that was needed to ruin a potentially solid outing from Brubaker.
  • The Pirates were 1 for 16 with runners in scoring position during the series, struck out 32 times and walked only 6 times. Nothing like playing a team of the Brewers caliber to remind us just how far away Pittsburgh is away from competing.

Luckily the Pirates don’t have to return to Milwaukee until the beginning of July, so fans-including myself-can breathe a sigh of relief momentarily. Nevertheless, it’s not like there won’t be any other challenges for the team to face between now and then. My biggest hope is that when they do, they don’t take it on the chin as squarely as the did the past three days.

The Pirates Rebuild is Still On Track

4-21-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

I suppose I should start here, that headline up there still doesn’t mean it’s all going to work. It certainly doesn’t mean this team can expect to build a team entirely out of the system and win it all. What it does mean however is that the plan is working exactly as it was indented to up to this point.

Today, let’s talk about how and why I believe things are coming together.

The Path

Since 2020 I’ve said these things consistently. 1. They’re going to stink from 2020-2022, never once did I sugarcoat this for you, unpopular as it was. 2. They’re going to look better by the end of 2022 and it’d be a more fun season because of seeing more prospects come up. 3. In 2023 enough prospects will be here to potentially give the team a shot at .500 and the playoffs, higher percentage if they augment, higher still because MLB expanded said playoffs since my initial prediction. 2024 they better compete or Ben has failed his own intended target, spoken or not.

I’ve been called pessimistic by some, optimistic by others, and to be frank, I couldn’t care less which one you think I am, I’ll settle for consistent and honest.

Trading off from a weak pool of talent wasn’t going to return a bunch of can’t miss top 100 guys, and if we’re honest with ourselves, we’re kinda lucky they got 2 for Jameson Taillon and Starling Marte in the form of Liover Peguero and Roansy Contreras.

Drafts and pre GM change prospects hold the other top 100 spots in the system and that’s extremely typical in a build like this.

If you follow my stuff you also know I couldn’t possibly care less about system rankings. Most seem to have the Pirates in the top 5, yay, I don’t care. When I look at the system, I look for the setup, and duplication of efforts that increase the probability of successfully filling a Major League Spot.

AKA, Stacking prospects.

What’s Shaping Up Then?

Catcher – Henry Davis, Endy Rodriguez and Abrahan Gutierrez are three solid catching prospects. Endy in particular might well end up playing elsewhere, but until I see the team actually do it, the other two are right on track to emerge as catchers. I could toss Carter Bins in this discussion, but I really don’t need to. By 2024 at least one of these guys should make it and be a good player. Sure, more could, but one is enough to say this position will likely be filled.

Middle Infield – Geez, congested doesn’t begin to cover it. By the end of this season this mix could look like Oneil Cruz, Diego Castillo, Rodolfo Castro, Ji-hwan Bae, and maybe even Tucapita Marcano. Cruz aside folks this isn’t even the exciting group. Nick Gonzales and Liover Peguero should both be here by 2023 pushing for playing time. Obviously all those guys can’t start at two positions. More obviously not all those guys will make it. But c’mon, that’s enough to believe SS and 2B will be filled right?

Third Base – Um, Hayes and for once I can say he’s locked up and here. Well toss in Jared Triolo too, that’s another guy who already has an MLB glove at the position and the bat has come along as well. Covered? I think so.

First Base – This one scares me. They have Mason Martin. I’m specifically talking about right now through who I see making the club by 2023 here but if Martin doesn’t make it, they don’t have many ready made answers. This may be a spot they have to go get, or maybe Michael Chavis earns himself a spot on this club. Either way, this one isn’t based on stacking, as you’d have to move a guy over there or get one should the one exciting prospect not turn out.

Outfield – Reynolds is here, and will be. After that, it’s a whole bunch of guys who look like they could be players but someone will have to emerge and take it. Travis Swaggerty, Cal Mitchell, Canaan Smith-Njigba, Jack Suwinski, (maybe Cruz?), Connor Scott, Matt Fraizer, Lolo Sanchez, Fabricio Macias, all have a shot by the end of 2023 and it’s hard for me to imagine the Pirates not finding 2 out of that group. I could still see them needing or wanting to bring in someone else, but man that’s enough for me to feel a good base is being laid.

Pitching – Let’s face it, this is the real show right? More than anything else this is what the Pirates can’t afford. This is a franchise that has never in my lifetime had an honest to god top of baseball ace but once in the form of Doug Drabek so it’s not like they grow on trees here. Now, you look at today’s rotation, I can’t sit here and tell you any of them will be here when this team is good. All I can say is they have a couple with a shot. Keller, Brubaker, Wilson and Thompson all have pedigree and ability. They all have something else, time. We’ll know by the end of 2022 how many of these guys pan out if any.

Next you have to jump down to guys who aren’t in the rotation yet, or are in the next two levels. That’s Roansy Contreras, Miguel Yajure, Max Kranick, Quinn Priester, Mike Burrows, Omar Cruz, Kyle Nicolas, Luis Oviedo, Carmen Mlodzinski, Cody Bolton, and that’s were I’ll stop because someone could always emerge.

Is that enough? NEVER. Pitching is never enough, anywhere, no matter how much money you have. This team will not succeed by building a pitching staff 100% internally. That said, that’s a lot of guys to get through and not find 2-3 who you truly want to see in the rotation. Again, this is just by 2023. The system is far deeper than that in all these positions.

Bullpen is another issue but it’ll be made up of guys I just wrote in as starters and signings coupled with actual relief prospects.

You Know They Won’t All Make it Right?

Yeah, kinda said that like 30 times up there.

Again, it’s about the numbers game. This isn’t like looking at a prospect, pointing to the calendar and saying eureka that’s when we’ll be good. This is about looking at the ETAs of entire groups of players who should have a shot and supposing some of them will make it and become good players.

If you told me I could take 20 swings to land an island shot at Augusta National I’d like my chances a hell of a lot more if you told me I had one or two cracks at it. That’s all this is.

Again, not a guarantee, certainly not supposing this club will be able to actually compete without going out and spending actual money on actual MLB players, but the goal of a rebuild such as this is to create a system that feeds the initial core and provides ample reinforcements for years to come. Not to magically be the first team in MLB history to completely build their own championship club internally. It’s just not how this game works,and it’s foolish to pretend it every will. Even the Rays as good as they are go outside for help.

But Some of These Guys Aren’t Doing Well!!! Angry Face Emoji!

Right. The first thing I’d tell you is calm down, it’s been like two weeks. There aren’t many good decisions made in baseball based on sample sizes as small as what it takes to fill a fan with overt excitement or certain doom.

Many of these guys are playing in a new level of baseball for the first time, and for some that will be a huge jump. Some pitchers are working on a changeup for the very first time, or transitioning from a curveball to a slider. Some have just added velocity and get carried away with the new toy.

Some like Nick Gonzales are experiencing a fair ballpark for the first time. Well, at least on his home slate. It’s going to change some things folks. That’s really it. Some will fight through it and emerge. Some will stall out and never climb the mountain.

It’s why some of you would see me get so irritated when some idiot types up a 2027 opening day lineup. Not one person in the world knows what that’ll be. Nobody in the world could even guarantee Henry Davis will make it and thrive. He’s got a good shot, but nobody will know if he’s a star for a while. That’s how this works, and it speaks to stacking options. You never ever have too many Short Stops, or Pitchers, or Catchers. You just have too many guys who aren’t separating themselves.

For instance, in the span of 2 weeks we’ve gone from the collective fan base at large losing their minds that Oneil Cruz didn’t make the opening day roster, to everyone suddenly being really quiet about it because he’s had a rough start to 2022 in AAA. To nobody who bothered to really look’s surprise, he’s struggling with strikeouts swinging at breaking stuff (you know like he shouldn’t even though it resulted in a couple shoestring homeruns) and with his talent, he’ll come around.

Hell, I already had a dude on Twitter tell me he was worried about Bryan Reynolds start to the season. Guys, it’s baseball, it’s ok that you don’t know how an entire season will play out yet. If Bryan was hitting .676 right now I’d be telling you to chill out.

Doing good is always better than doing poorly, but talk to me in a month when we have some real data. Right now you can’t even quote an ERA or AVG without me laughing at you.

Why Should I Believe Your ETA When Cherington Won’t Give Us One?

Well, my job isn’t on the line. If anything He’s got more incentive to mislead you than I do. Look, my numbers, if that’s what you think motivates me, would be better if I told you they were going to be awful forever or terrific next season. The sweet spot I swing for is a slow burn.

Those of you who loyally follow this site or our podcasts, well, you don’t want to be given a line. I feel you wanted treated like the adult you surely are. That means being capable of handling the truth.

Truth is, this build has gone exactly as we’ve been telling you it would. And the timeline hasn’t changed one iota. I’d never ask Ben Cherington what his timeline is for one simple reason, I don’t really need his opinion to see for myself what’s happening and form my thoughts on when things will come together.

For some reason people convinced themselves that in 2022 this team was supposed to take some major leap, and while I’ll tell you they certainly could have taken steps to make this version better, more watchable, they didn’t, and that doesn’t effect this timeline at all.

More than anything, when you’re doing something based on drafting, scouting, development and deployment and historically the organization hasn’t been good at any of those, you’re going to wear the stink of what came before you until you show it’s different. I don’t expect many of you to believe it’s coming together any more than the team should.

I’m just reading tea leaves and to me, a competitive team is on the horizon, even with failure, injury and surprises baked in.

The Starting Rotation Should Evolve Soon

4-20-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

JT Brubaker toed the rubber in the Pirates unofficial house of horrors last night, confident everything would finally come together for him. He pitched with a good pace, firing the ball back to Roberto Perez seemingly seconds after receiving it and had genuinely good stuff all night.

As is course with a JT Brubaker start, there was an exception, last night it was the second inning. A four run explosion exacerbated by walks and an admitted “losing of the zone” for an inning.

This happens, I’m not going to pretend it’s just JT that struggles to find and then keep hold of his zone, but I will say it’s for many what seperates a guy from being a serviceable pitcher and a dude that at some point can’t hold down a spot.

The Pirates owe themselves and fans (whether we want to see it or not) answers. Answers only come from asking questions and for a pitcher, that’s throwing innings. The Pirates gave Wil Crowe all last season to prove he was a rotation piece, and instead he proved he was a bullpen guy, and potentially a damn good one at that.

This club right now has options on the club who could easily step in and take a slot that isn’t well guarded. Dillon Peters has shown well in the pen, Roansy Contreras has certainly looked the part, even Miguel Yajure has held his own.

Point is, a guy like JT who has been given an opportunity to start 2 straight seasons in the rotation relatively uninterrupted is probably going to struggle to hold onto the position much longer if he doesn’t turn it around and in a hurry.

He’s not alone mind you, Mitch Keller is also struggling mightily despite the promise of his off season and Spring performances.

I understand if the Pirates have seen enough of any of these guys, but I’d caution, make sure you’ve seen enough. Make sure you don’t have lingering questions because a guy like Keller in particular, well he’s had more opportunity than his performance has dictated he should already. I say be sure, because you certainly aren’t going to play musical chairs with him again. Actual options are coming (some are here) and as painful as it is, at some point you aren’t developing talent to hold it back trying to turn water into wine.

Some of these guys could move to the pen, I mean Keller’s velocity and Brubaker’s stuff make you feel that might work, but the propensity to not be capable of working out of a jam, and the inability to avoid the blowup inning aren’t going to fare much better on the back end than they do on the front.

As fans go, oh my, I totally get why you don’t want to see it anymore, but nobody wants to be giving up another hopeless cause like Charlie Morton or Tyler Glasnow only to watch them be unlocked somewhere.

As we enter year 3 of watching these two guys in particular struggle with many of the same issues, in fact I could argue Brubaker was better before they tried to ‘help’ him improve, it’s fair to start wondering if Oscar Marin is the right guy here.

I ask again, who’s improved?

Wil Crowe? Well he was put in a better position for him if you ask me, but in an effort to be fair I’ll give you him. Who else? OK, who else in his entire tenure?

Is it just talent and this whole line of questioning isn’t fair? I mean, I guess you could say that, but every tangible improvement a player has made, it’s come in offseason work. Max Kranick took a huge jump last year because of his own work. Mitch Keller got the fan base and staff excited because of his own work. Dillon Peters worked on his own as well.

So, really, can anyone point to what Oscar Marin has positively impacted? Are strikeouts up? Anyone who’s had a problem nibbling stopped the practice? Can you think of a pitcher that used to leave meatballs up in the zone who suddenly figured out how to avoid it?

I guess you can go back to lack of talent, but Keller and Brubaker are fairly on par with pitchers in the system right now like Bolton and Priester. When they get here, what if they don’t look good either? Do we just keep using the same mantra that we can’t expect a coach to make chicken salad out of chicken scratch? Or maybe do we finally have to look at who’s coaching them?

Something that happens with a complete rebuild that includes even the coaching is they tend to circle the wagons to protect each other. It typically means you’re going to stink for a couple years so everyone kinda just gets each other’s back as they wait for talent. Well, Marin has some talent now, and I’m not saying he has to make Bryse Wilson look like Max Scherzer, but he should look like a guy who can get through 6 innings in under 120 pitches right? I mean that’s not asking for the sun and moon, that’s just give us some innings kid.

I’m not going to sit here and pretend I understand every aspect of what a pitching coach, let alone a pitching coach in this organization does. I’ll just say this, I’ve never seen a successful pitching coach who couldn’t point to some success stories, and not all of them were hall of famers mind you. Some were like, damn son, how did you make Jeff Locke an All Star? Holy hell, Randy Tomlin is actually a decent number 5! Where are those accomplishments? It’s year 3 and the 2 starters I talked about most in this piece have been here the entire time. One of them was sent down to work with a fixer who has since quit even after being offered an extension. Knowing Joel Hanrahan a little bit, I’d assume he had more issue with the pitching program than the position or offer. He took the high road on the way out, so we’ll never know if I’m right, but it sure looked that way as he took a seemingly lesser role with another club.

Maybe the best way to sum this up, I’ve seen more warning signs with Oscar Marin than I’ve seen signs of improvement.

Before you ask, no, he won’t be fired mid season. He’ll be fired after the season if at all.

At the end of the day, I’m just some blogger. I pay attention, I know what I see, but I don’t know what’s being discussed in that room. I can tell you every player I’ve spoken to claims to really like the direction and think the progression is there. I’m certainly not qualified to claim any of them are lying, or wrong, but I think I’m eminently qualified to ask, why aren’t we seeing some of it on the mound at the MLB level?

Top 5 Pirates Prospect Performers

4-19-22 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement on Twitter)

If this was a list of top accomplishments, the feat of throwing a combined no-hitter-something achieved by Chase De Jong. Austin Brice and Yerry De Los Santos for the Indianapolis Indians this past Wednesday night-would surely find it’s way to the top. Unfortunately, De Jong and Brice are well beyond being considered prospects at this point in their career, so their place within the Top 5 has become an impossibly. However, their performances-along with that of De Los Santos-should be celebrated, which is why I couldn’t just ignore it while working to compile this week’s blog post; especially when they did it against a team that consisted of two of the Top 100 Prospect in all of MiLB-Jose Miranda and Royce Lewis-at the top of the order.

Now back to the business at hand.

During the first official week of the season only the Indians had a full slate of game, which led to an array of the ultimate small sample sizes in the inaugural Top 5 Pirates Prospect Performers. For instance, Endy Rodriguez earned a spot with only 13-albeit very impressive-at bats. Obviously these won’t grow exponentially with only a few more games added to the schedule; still, as the season progresses the picture of who players are-or who they aren’t-will become clearer.

1) Mason Martin

Martin made it onto one of my off-season Top 5 Pirates Prospect Lists-Slowing Down Or Speeding Up The Process-due to his power potential and the lack of MiLB options at First Base. However, the concern with Martin has always been his ever increasing strikeout rate; topping out at 34.3% in his time between Altoona and Indianapolis last year.

Now, it wasn’t just the K rate that was concerning. Over the course of 2021 Martin’s walk rate also fell below 10% for the first time in his career.

In an extremely small sample size-10 games and 40 plate appearances-Martin has a 30% K rate and a 2.5% BB rate. Nevertheless, on a ridiculously positive note he has also slashed .359/.375/.795 with 2 homers, 5 doubles and 2 triples.

2) Alexander Mojica

Mojica was in the group of the Pirates Prospects that peaked my interest prior to the start of the season. Last year at only 18 years old-3.4 years younger than the average player in Low-A-Mojica struggled mightily as his strike out rate rose to 26.5%, his batting average fell to .219 and his wRC+ dropped by nearly 100 points from the previous season to 87.

At the time my concerns weren’t as high as they would have been for an older/more advanced player at this level. Instead, I was more intrigued as to how he would perform in his second year wearing the Marauders uniform.

Thus far the answer to my curiosity has been a very positive one for this young man. Over his first 7 games and 30 plate appearances, Mojica is slashing .400/.500/.760 with 2 homers and 5 total extra base hits; including a 7 for 10 stint over the last three games.

3) Jackson Glenn

Last year Glenn was the classic cost saving, below slot signing when the Pirates selected him in the 5th round, and inked him to a deal worth $12,500. As a Fifth Year Senior at Dallas Baptist University his .366/.438/.732 slash line with 21 home runs was impressive, but his options were also limited. Still, this didn’t make him a throw away pick, as I pointed out when I wrote about him last September.

Between Low-A Bradenton and a few games in the FCL in 2021, Glenn batted .340 with a .944 OPS. So far this year his hot streak has continued as he is slashing .480/.519/.720 with a homer and 4 total extra base hits in 6 games and 27 plate appearances at High-A Greensboro.

4) Jared Jones

Once described by myself as a Victim Of Circumstance due to his selection during the 2020 MLB Draft-which delayed the start of his professional career-Jones spent 2021 as both a starter and reliever for the Low-A Bradenton Marauders. While his numbers weren’t something that would jump off the page by any means-a 4.64 ERA and 1.470 WHIP-I couldn’t help but see the potential in his 60 grade fastball, which consistently reaches around 97 mph, his 55 grade slider that drops of the map between 80-82 mph and a solid 85-88 mph change up.

In his two starts and 8.1 innings of work for the High-A Grasshoppers this season he has achieved that potential. During his last start for Greensboro on Sunday, Jones lasted 5 innings, struck out 8, walked 1, gave up 2 hits and didn’t allow a run. On the season he has a total of 15 Ks to 3 BB and has only allowed one run, good for a 1.08 ERA and .906 WHIP.

5) Two-Thirds Of The Jacob Stallings’ Deal

Yes I realize this is kind of cheating in order to get another player on the list; yet, for better or worse these two prospects will always be tied together because of how they were acquired.

  • Connor Scott-When the trade first took place my first impression of Scott was that he was a toolsy prospect; with all the pedigree, all the potential and who currently projects as a 4th Outfielder. During his second stint at High-A in 2021 Scott batted .276 with a .779 OPS, 10 homers and a wRC+ of 112. Since arriving in the Pirates Farm System, Scott has exceeded my original expectations. In 7 games and 29 plate appearances he is currently slashing .500/.586/.833 with a homer and 5 extra base hits.

  • Kyle Nicolas-Just like Mojica, Nicolas found himself on the list of prospects that peaked my interest. Last year Nicolas was promoted to the Double-A Blue Wahoos of the Marlins Farm System at the end of July. Following the bump his ERA fell to 2.52 and his WHIP dropped 1.220. Unfortunately, his K/9 also dipped from 13.0 to 11.4 and his BB/9 raised from 3.6 to 5.7 from his time in High-A Beloit, so it wasn’t all good news. So far, in his time with the Double-Altoona Curve, Nicolas has impressed. During his last start, the big righty tossed 4 perfect innings on only 46 pitches; striking out 5 batters along the way. On the season he has posted a 0.00 ERA and a .652 WHIP, with 10 Ks, 3 BB and 2 hits in 7.2 total innings and two starts.

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

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

Pirates Pitchers In A Predicament

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-fgpwm-120414a

Is there really anything you can learn in the first couple of weeks in a season? Are all of these Pirates starters really that bad? We examine manager Derek Shelton’s comments on pitching roles and explain why the early results match the club philosophy. Plus, we explain that while you may be tempted to worry about Bryan Reynolds’ new agreement it is important to remember it as a good thing.

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

Five Pirates Thoughts at Five

4-18-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

Hey, if you had the Pirates a game over .500 right now, I’d love to see the receipts. More than that I’d love to see the replies you surely got in return for your bold prediction. That’s baseball though, people often predict doom based on only looking at the roster in front of them, and ignore the horrors going on with some of the other teams they’ll be playing. Think Washington wouldn’t kill to swap pitching staffs right now? Minus those on IL of course.

Let’s dig in.

1. Attitude Will Get You Only So Far…

Look, this team isn’t going to get by on good looks and a wry smile all season long. That said, some of the players have been really vocal about liking not only what this club is building, but also what’s here currently.

Let’s start with Ben Gamel via Alex Stumpf, “No one really gave us a puncher’s chance, and we’re just going out there, having fun and playing baseball.” First of all, that sounds like the verbalization for how Gamel plays the game, but more than anything, why would Gamel care about what’s coming or who’s on the way? He’s here now, with no guarantee he’ll be here beyond this season, if all of this one. Uncertainty aside, he plays like every game is his last, and I have nothing but mad respect for it.

How about Wil Crowe, this one is from Mike Persak “Our key is to win. … That rebuild crap is annoying to hear. No one wants to hear it. We’re trying to win, and if that’s how we’re going to do it, that’s how we’re going to do it.” I LOVE this. It’s what I’ve written hundreds of times, put to near syphonic words by Mr. Crowe. These guys don’t believe they’re stepping stones and this player in particular, doesn’t care if he’s starting, middle relief, closing or throwing batting practice, he just wants to put on the ol’ Tennessee boy game face and give what he has.

Want one more? Sure ya do. How about Ke’Bryan Hayes? This too from Alex Stumpf  “I paid attention to [Starling Marte], Cutch [Andrew McCutchen], Josh Harrison. What was the first thing they did when they got to the field? Making sure you do that little stuff [right] is what I think is important to be a leader on the team.” The dude recognizes what came before him, knows what’s in front of him and more importantly, knows what he wants to do to attack it.

None of this means this team is going to shock the baseball world in 2022, but all of it means the culture is really coming together. The attitude is in the right place and when infused with talent, that kind of intangible stuff will act as the glue that binds this whole thing together.

This stuff may seem like just words, and bluntly, they are, but they’re also signals that some of the guys in that room aren’t waiting for Nick Gonzales or Henry Davis to walk through the door to believe they can win.

2. When a Guy Shows You Who He Is…

Believe him.

Michael Chavis was a top prospect in Boston and many assumed a pet project for Ben Cherington when he was acquired last year from the Sox. All Michael has done since is hit, well, when he’s stayed healthy that is.

Thing is, it’s not like Chavis bombed out in Boston. He had some injuries that slowed his progression and got pinged for 80 games for taking dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, try saying that one Mary Poppins, in 2018, but his initial entry to MLB was nothing short of impressive.

In 2019 he hit 18 home runs and 10 doubles in only 347 at bats for a slugging percentage of .444 and an OPS of .766. OK, he struck out 127 times too, but that kind of production overshadows K rate to a degree.

Boston would give him another look in 2020 where he played in 42 games, 158 plate appearances. He cut down the strikeout percentage a bit, but everything else fell too.

He’d never really be given a chance again before being moved to Pittsburgh and in his time here he’s proven to be a capable 3rd baseman, 2nd baseman, first baseman and DH. His OPS numbers in 2021 before getting injured were at .857 in his 42 PA and he’s doing what he’s doing this year which you’ve seen.

Next season he hits arbitration for the first time, and while many in this town have prospect fever, rightfully so, I look at Michael and ask, why not him? If given enough at bats which the DH should make more than possible, 20 homeruns isn’t out of the question by any means and the versatility makes him a valuable commodity off the bench even if god willing that’s not good enough to start here some day.

it’s early, I’m not saying anything has been decided or should be, but I am saying, this kid has taken an opportunity and run with it. I’d like to see this team show him and indeed others that means something in this town on this team.

3. The Pitching Staff, a Nameless, Shapeless, Unit

Derek Shelton has said he plans to use his pitching staff differently. I’m not sure any of us really knew how much he meant this when he spoke it to the media.

Sure the starters aren’t stretched out all the way, but what we’ve seen is there are no egos in the unit, and more than anything, no assigned roles.

If the Pirates want David Bednar to get the last out in the 7th because it’s an especially big time in the game then toss another inning on top of it, so be it. David doesn’t care about the save stat any more than Wil Crowe cares if he’s pithing the first five innings or the next three.

They’ll have a rotation, and sometimes they’re going to have it and give this club 6 or 7 innings, nobody has hard and fast ruled out seeing a lineup more than twice. But you aren’t going to see starters on this team lose their minds because they get pulled in the 4th with 65 pitches.

Part of that culture we touched on in thought 1 up there is evident here too. This team is a collective and it’s not going to look traditional. Every arm they have is capable of giving more than one inning. Every lefty is capable of getting righties out. Every starter could just as easily pitch the 6th, 7th and 8th.

We’ve seen things like this in the American league especially in Tampa Bay, but saying it and doing it are often two different things. If it were easy to get an entire staff to check their egos at the door, more teams would do it just to keep wages down.

I think this is a good approach for this season, but I’m equally curious to see how it works when more of the legit top end starting arms begin arriving.

As to this season, they have reinforcements who could slot right in to what they’re trying to get done. Max Kranick, Cody Bolton, Cam Vieux, on top of the couple we see already factoring in like Miguel Yajure and Roansy Contreras.

As we move forward this year, when a need arises, think less starter vs reliever and more arm.

4. Those Gold Gloves Weren’t Accidents

OK folks, let me fall on my sword a bit here.

I still don’t like the Stallings trade because of the hole I see in 2023. I love the return they got for him though, and they’re all performing.

Here’s the sword part. I thought Roberto Perez would be at best equal to Stallings behind the plate and I worried about his health, still do.

I was at least a little wrong.

He’s better.

That’s right, better.

Watching him handle this pitching staff has just opened my eyes. Early struggles from starters have universally been met by the starter getting their bearings and muscling through to wind up having a decent outing overall. It’s enabled the Pirates to win five games via the comeback already.

Roberto Perez is more responsible for this than you’d believe. He has a plan of course developed by the pitching staff and the analytics but really watch what he does behind the plate. Early on Bryse Wilson wasn’t hitting his spots and after nursing him through an inning of missing and getting whacked, Roberto made a subtle change in his receiving. Instead of waiting for Wilson to find his handle on breaking pitches, he just adjusted his target to adapt to how Bryse was letting it fly that day. Before you know it, curves that were missing low are now ticking the corner. Fastballs that were sailing are now nipping the top of the zone.

It seems simple and if that was the only example I’d leave it there. An anomaly. Then Sunday happened, and it was the second time I had watched Jose Quintana pitch in person this season, both times he was missing early, both times Perez adapted the targets.

Rather than stop calling a pitch that the guy is struggling with and rendering the pitcher predictable, Roberto adjusts the target to make today’s stuff work for the pitcher.

How many times have we watched guys thrive in Cleveland, then get traded elsewhere and never recapture what made them who they had become? Maybe there was a trick to it.

It’s also not a one size fits all adjustment. For David Bednar after watching 6 pitches Perez charged out to the mound. Not a slow walk to get a breather, not a job to let the guy think, a full charge out with ball in hand, even forgot to call time and had to turn around half way to the mound.

He covered his mouth, spoke quickly, handed the ball back and David didn’t miss another spot. What did he say, we’ll never know, point is though, he didn’t change where the glove was for David. Knowing the pitcher he knew parlor tricks weren’t going to get him where he needed to be. He’d get the save yesterday without his best stuff and emphatically point at his veteran backstop after completing the game as if to say, “You, did this”.

This guy is not just a catcher folks. Next game you watch really watch him, it’s different than what you’ve seen and you’ll notice this without having someone like me tell you about it.

5. 9 of 13

The Pirates to their credit ended their first three series of the season a game over .500, but the next stretch has them playing 6 against the Brewers and 3 against the Padres surrounding a 4 game set against the Cubs.

These are two legitimate playoff teams and after this stretch I think we’ll see a better representative of what this team can be this season.

One thing I can say is they won’t do much unless some power makes the trip. This team needs to his longballs, especially when they play in places like Milwaukee, Cincinnati and Chicago. You simply aren’t going to beat those teams at home without playing the long ball game.

Pair that with the pitching staff still giving up way too many gopher balls and this trip makes for a scary stretch.

Maybe resting Reynolds and Hayes yesterday will mean they’ll play the vast majority of these upcoming games, but unless they get some help from guys who haven’t hit for much power yet like Yoshi Tsutsugo it’s going to be a struggle.

Look out, because with a team like this the line between slightly optimistic and overt despair is very thin.

Pirates Late Surge Leads 5-3 Victory Over Nationals

4-17-22 – Ethan Smith – @ethansmith103098

Since 2019, the Pittsburgh Pirates are second in all of MLB with 27 comebacks victories after trailing by three or more runs and they had to do just that on Easter Sunday to pick up their fifth win of the season by way of a 5-3 victory against the Washington Nationals.

For all intents and purposes, this game was fairly stale for the Pirates in the early going as the offense could find no rhythm against starter Patrick Corbin, who had five scoreless innings to kick off his start before being removed and credited with 2 ER in the sixth inning.

The Pirates offense wasn’t expected to do much in this game seeing as arguably their two best hitters in Bryan Reynolds and Ke’Bryan Hayes were on a rest day, leaving the lineup to look undesirable from the start, but once the sixth inning came along, things changed for the better for Pittsburgh.

Once again the middle of the order has continued to be on fire for Pittsburgh, with Michael Chavis continuing his hot start(.500 AVG, 1 HR, 5 RBIs, 1.571 OPS) by picking up two hits and a RBI to his credit while also scoring a run.

Ben Gamel had himself a game as well offensively after showcasing some flashy defense Saturday night, also going 2/4 with an RBI. Yoshi Tsutsugo walked twice in this one along with a hit while Daniel Vogelbach also walked and scored twice.

The offense late was the biggest story here as starter Jose Quintana put the Pirates in a hole early on, giving up all three runs the Pirates surrendered in the second inning to Robles and Adams. Although his start wasn’t great by any means, the veteran hunkered down and pitched a solid four innings while only allowing five hits and picking up two strikeouts as well. Quintana walked three in this one, so watching his command moving forward is something I took away from this start.

Pittsburgh played a sound series against Washington largely due to their decision making and stellar defensive play from the likes of Hayes, Gamel and Chavis(the latter had a beautiful relay to save a run). Anytime you can win four of six in your own ballpark, its a good thing and hey, the Pittsburgh Pirates are over .500 at 5-4. Take the little victories, the team needs them.

The Pirates depart from Pittsburgh for a three-game set against the Milwaukee Brewers and a four-game set against the Chicago Cubs.

Zach Thompson is slated to face off against Eric Lauer tomorrow, while JT Brubaker and Mitch Keller will finish the series in Milwaukee against Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff.

Making the Most of Opportunity

4-17-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

In baseball, it can sometimes feel like everything you do is somehow part of a catch 22 situation.

It never really goes away either. Even if you’re a nailed on superstar who has never managed to make it to the playoffs, that first time you do, everyone will be watching, wondering if you’re one of the few that thrive in the added pressure, or one of the many who wilt.

When opportunity knocks, well, you best answer the bell, because in this game, it just might never knock again. You could get forced out by something as insignificant as poor timing.

Take a guy like Bryan Reynolds. He didn’t come up here with a whole lot of fan reaction. It was an emergency in fact, if I had to give you a comp, he was much like it would be if Jack Suwinski were forced into action this year. You’d hope he’d be good but given where he is in development you don’t expect it either per se.

Bryan’s likelihood of sticking when he was called up was lower than the Vegas odds for the Pirates winning the Series this year. He didn’t just need to do ok, he needed to excel. This was a team that felt good about their starting outfield when healthy after all, and he simply did everything in his power to force the team’s hand.

That’s not typical folks. Just isn’t.

More often it’s a player like Andrew McCutchen, who did have the expectation that he’d be called up. Enjoyed the status of a highly touted prospect and knew when his number got called he’d be given a fair shake at sticking. Now, as we all know, Andrew didn’t need the team to just be ok with him working the rookie out of his game, fact is it was there if he needed it.

Sometimes it’s a player like Wil Crowe. Wil grew up in the Washington Nationals system and wasn’t given a shot at the rotation until the weirdness of 2020 forced it. He didn’t really take advantage in the capital city and was shipped to Pittsburgh in the Josh Bell trade. His situation changed drastically. He went from a team that had some of the biggest names in starting pitching league wide blocking him to an organization mired deep in a rebuild with next to nothing to push him. This allowed Crowe to work all season and answer some questions about himself and potentially his role. On a team with more options, he’s either demoted or scurried to the pen last year.

Maybe he winds up resentful about the move last year. Maybe he thinks that’s still his destiny. Maybe he doesn’t embrace it like he has this year so far to make the most of the opportunity presented to him.

It’s really different for every player. Some like Jose Osuna for one reason or another just never ever convince anyone they deserve a shot. No, not you John at the bar who used to scream he could hit 30 homeruns if they’d only play him. Facts are, he never convinced an MLB manager he deserved more playing time.

Some like Jose Bautista take a change of scenery and a complete reinvention of his swing. I often hear him brought up as a huge Pirates miss, but the player he became wouldn’t recognize the player he was.

Some guys just seem to get an infinite amount of chances. Like Eric Gonzalez seemed to have two different managers believe he had more to give. They both marveled at the untapped power, and how close he was to putting it together at the plate. His glove was otherworldly according to Clint and Shelton alike. 2019 his injury cost him a shot and he was beaten out by Kevin Newman. 2020 he seemingly played everyday at some position and got the same pass everyone else did for that season. 2021, man it was getting hard to ignore that we were still trying with this guy, until one day the toy was removed from the box.

Cole Tucker feels like he’s on this track doesn’t he? With one big difference, he did come in with pedigree. He shows a flash of special every so often and it’s enough to tantalize just about everyone, but folks, at some point she always figures out it’s Cubic Zirconia and not Diamond. Have to feel like the club is about to go appraise this uncut gem soon.

Diego Castillo has been given sporadic opportunity thus far, but he’s done something positive every time out, even maintaining a 5 game hitting streak at this point. It’s really encouraging for him and the team I’m sure. He’s really the first example of this development system, and by that I mean the Cherington-Baker system specifically, coming up. He was starting to impress in the Yankees system, but not to the degree he took off and forced the issue since joining the Pirates.

Most fans didn’t even know his name as they rushed right past him and others to anoint Nick Gonzales and Liover Peguero (on the advice of the newly minted 100’s of prospect experts out there). Now they do in fact know who he is, and to his credit, that’s entirely due to how he’s performed. He’ll earn more playing time and he’s also part of the reason time is finally running out on guys like Tucker.

Michael Chavis knows well how this opportunity game rolls. A top pick by the Boston Red Sox, Chavis has experienced more MLB success than almost anyone on this roster, only to find himself phased out of the plans on the team that drafted him based on inconsistency and health issues. Pittsburgh is his second chance, and he’s made himself as versatile as possible to make getting at bats as easy to do as he could. More than that, when he gets his chances he’s making the most of them. He’s hitting, he’s playing good defense, he’s juicing up his team with energy and on a team where the very best players are quiet leaders that’s not an unnecessary component to bring to the table.

It’s too early to know if he’ll make this opportunity count, but he’s certainly giving it a go, and it’s certainly worth noting he has just about all the same challenges Tucker does.

None of this happens if teams are unwilling to practice patience. As incredible as Reynolds and Hayes bursts onto the scene were, those kind of introductions to MLB are incredibly rare. And ask Michael Chavis, sometimes you can hit 19 dingers and still get brushed aside.

Baseball is a hell of a hard game, it’s easily the hardest path to the bigs, one thing that is never a guarantee is that someone is going to give you a chance. Opportunity is earned, but sometimes a path to earn it itself is less opportunity than will be provided.

Think about how many shots Anthony Alford has gotten, while doing almost nothing. Now put that side by side with Bligh Madris who did nothing but crush the ball in Spring Training, is aging out and got himself placed in AA Altoona to start the season.

Nobody will ever accuse this game of being fair, it isn’t. There are probably hundreds of guys who could have had productive careers but just never got the shot, or if they did, it hit as the exact time a slump popped up. It’s always amazed me how aware baseball is that short sample size doesn’t work in this sport, yet they allow a few bad weeks of baseball to outweigh 5 or 6 years of hard fought development. At the end of the day, winning matters at the MLB level. Come up at the wrong time like when your team is in the middle of a playoff run with a stacked roster and become Albert Almora Jr. Never get a chance because who the hell is really gonna sit? By the time you get one it’s out of desperation and you’re too old to matter.

Hell of a sport. Hell of a hard thing anyone who makes it has accomplished.

And we get the opportunity to watch it all unfold.

Chavis and Hayes Ignite Pirates Past Nationals 6-4

It’s early in the season, but the Pirates have been nothing short of a rollercoaster through the club’s first eight games of the season. One day, the offense is stagnate and the pitching is awful. The next, they look unbeatable, but that’s the nature of the beautiful 162 game season that Major League Baseball plays and everything can be taken with a grain of salt, to an extent.

That statement reigns true tonight after the Pirates defeated the Nationals 6-4 on Saturday night, taking the series lead 2-1 and moving to 3-2 in the club’s first home stand of the season.

We saw great things from unfamiliar faces in the lineup, particularly outfielder Jake Marisnick picking up an RBI triple to score catcher Andrew Knapp, something I definitely did not have on my Pittsburgh Pirates 2022 bingo card.

The usual suspects did well also, as Ke’Bryan Hayes and Michael Chavis combined for five of the team’s 10 hits from the leadoff and three spot in the lineup, and when I thought about what I took away from this game, I thought to myself, Michael Chavis is damn good as baseball and deserve ample playing time.

To begin the season, Chavis has mainly been used against lefties, but today he showcased why he should remain a lineup staple, reaching base three times with two singles and a beautiful display of base running for a triple that ultimately meant a ton for the ninth inning and the Pirates securing the victory.

Of course other players like Hoy Park, Kevin Newman(who is dealing with a minor groin injury), and Diego Castillo need ample opportunities to prove themselves as well, but Chavis should be in the lineup everyday if he continues to play this way, period.

As far as pitching for Pittsburgh in this matchup, I loved what I saw from Bryse Wilson, especially working out of a bases loaded jam early in the game and only allowing two runs over 4.1 IP and he was followed up very nicely by Dillon Peters and David Bednar, who combined for 3.2 scoreless innings, allowing only one hit after a Juan Soto solo shot in the fifth inning.

Chris Stratton came on the finish things in the ninth and made things interesting, allowing two runs, albeit with a four run cushion, but Stratton is one of the better arms in the pen and could be a viable trade piece come July, so we want his stock to be as high as it can be.

Overall, it’s nice to see the Buccos compete and look like a viable MLB team. No one is going to try and convince you that this team is a contender, but if they can compete night-in and night-out, things should look promising with the likes of Oneil Cruz and other young prospects on the way very soon.

The Pirates finish up their four-game set against the Nationals tomorrow with Jose Quintana facing Patrick Corbin as the Pirates look for their first series win of the season.

The Pirates Options as May Approaches

4-16-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

When you operate a baseball team with more questions than answers many can assume easy answers are all around you. When it comes to demotions or cuts so much goes into every choice both individually and also for the team.

You can assume it doesn’t matter, but everyone in that room thinks they have the talent to win. That’s just the way it is in most sports, so if you just send down a guy who’s outperforming 3 guys you keep, trust me it’s noticed.

Let’s break this into two conversations. The Pirates have to cut the roster by 2 as of May 1st, and because the limit on pitching staffs is also back to 13 on that date, one of the cuts needs to be a pitcher. So let’s be really clear here what we’re looking for. 1 pitcher, and 1 position player.

The Pitchers on the Bubble

Before we start here, we also have to take into account that soon Duane Underwood Jr. and Sam Howard will be healthy, so this could easily wind up being 3 guys the Pirates have to send down in relatively short order.

Miguel Yajure (1 Option) – This is less about performance and more about wanting to have him continue to progress as a starting pitcher. There are times when you have to pull the trigger on deciding a pitcher isn’t best suited to starting at the major league level, like Wil Crowe, or for that matter the Pirates felt that way about Chad Kuhl. Make no mistake, Miguel is in the pen because he has to be. Injury forced it and this is probably for another piece some day but poor 40-man construction caused it too.

Roansy Contreras (2 Options) – Almost everything I said for Miggy. Roansy was the last, last resort again for injury. They want him to be a starter and that will take getting stretched out and a few cycles of the rotation for someone to prove themselves to be low man on the totem pole. He can keep stretching at this level but realistically, it’s much easier to just let him be part of a rotation and get going.

Aaron Fletcher (2 Options) – Aaron has not been impressive to be kind. If he stays it’ll be purely because getting those first two back to starting took precedence over getting someone who’s performed below the line off the squad. In the greater scheme of things I think everyone can understand this position here, especially if you keep in mind he won’t be long behind them, if at all with Howard and Underwood Jr. hopefully on the mend.

Anthony Banda (0 Options) – I include Banda because when Howard is healthy this bullpen will have as many as 4 left handed options, but only Fletcher and Howard have options. Meaning if the Pirates want to demote Banda, it’ll mean DFA and that’s not ideal for depth. They could also choose to leave Howard in AAA a bit until some other option proves themselves someone who should be sent packing.

Diagnosis – First, we have to assume there are no further injuries. If there are, we’ll see a pitcher added to the 40-man and complicate this whole thing. If everything goes according to plan I’d assume on May 1st Roansy Contreras is the guy. With an outside shot they choose Fletcher if he continues to look as bad as he has.

Position Players on the Bubble

This is a bit harder. (Get your that’s what she said jokes out of the way)

To be clear, it’s only hard because there are so many extra parts than any team with a DH could possibly need. Let’s talk through it.

Josh VanMeter (0 Options) – Want the main defense for not Designating Josh for assignment? They just bothered to trade for him like a couple weeks ago. That’s the list. He’s done nothing, and they’ve given him little chance to do anything either. He’s had 8 plate appearances but certainly hasn’t pushed for more.

Cole Tucker (1 Option) – He’s simply been, eh, ok. It’s getting old waiting for Tucker to become something and the Spring that was is fading into the rear view quickly. I think he’s shown himself to be a less than effective outfielder and middle infield is a clogged up path to playing time. In 19 plate appearances he has 3 hits and 6 strikeouts. How many more excuses or chances can you give the guy?

Hoy Park (3 Options) – Hoy has played all over the field, some good, some not so good. Hoy has 12 plate appearances with 2 hits and 5 Ks. Again, how many more chances to we expect him to get? His versatility is great, but he’s on a roster with 4 other guys who can do the same. (Interestingly, all of them are on this list)

Michael Chavis (1 Option) – Michael has fared the best out of everyone on this list. 10 plate appearances with no Ks a grand slam and a few more hits on top of that. If anything he could use somebody else going down to give him more opportunity. He’s on this list because he’s arguably the platoon DH or first baseman, and for some reason they haven’t been using him elsewhere.

Diego Castillo (3 Options) – I have him on this list, but I don’t think he’s in any danger. The kid has had 17 chances and has a .353 average. Nuff said. It’s safe to say these last two entries are more about fully getting our arms around this subject than merit.

Diagnosis – This one is probably not as hard as I’m making it. To me a team that’s really trying to show the team they aren’t giving up on 2022 moves on from VanMeter. That’s what I’d do, but I’d never have gotten him in the first place if I’m honest. Now, what do I think they’ll do? I think they’ll send Hoy Park or Cole Tucker down and since I’m trying to pretend I can predict it, I’ll go Hoy Park. Reality dictates those two are in a dogfight for the roster spot but neither should expect much playing time moving forward. I think what we’ll see here in the next couple weeks is a bunch of Hoy Park and Cole Tucker in right field, whichever one looks better either at the plate or field, hell even a combination of the two will get the nod.

With Alford lingering on the IL it feels like he’ll get another shot on this team and that will cause another to be sent down so the race to save their spot could wind up being fruitless in the immediate moment anyhow as eventually they’ll need another slot, or the team could simply DFA him again since they’ve acquired Jake Marisnick and he’s easily good enough to feel ok moving on from Alford.

We also all know Oneil Cruz will force his way on the club (cough, cough, wink, wink) soon too, and that might just spell the end for VanMeter IF he isn’t called up here for some injury.

Roster construction never stops. This is up to the minute stuff, and by May 1st we could have five new factors in this conversation. Let’s start here and see how it plays out.