P2Daily: Piecing Together the Short-Term

After dithering around with deadenders for the first month or so of the season, the Pirates are finally starting to provide a bit of a look,  just a bit, at some players who might actually be pieces of the puzzle going forward.  Most notably, Jack Suwinski — an actual outfielder of all things — has played well enough to forestall any decision to send him back to the minors.  In fact, going into the second game of the Cincinnati series, his 107 OPS+ and 0.7 bWAR both ranked fifth on the team among players with at least 15 plate appearances.  Suwinski’s 49 plate appearances aren’t much to go on, but it beats Cole Tucker’s 15 OPS+.

In fact, the Pirates right now have something that resembles a real outfield.  No more of that sandlot look, where you put the little kid who’s terrible at sports in right field.  Bryan Reynolds is starting to come around and Ben Gamel’s been the team’s best hitter.  I’d hold off celebrating too much on Gamel, though.  He’s having a huge May (1.106 OPS, leaving aside the TOOTBLANery) after a terrible April (.629).  This isn’t new.  Last year he had one great month (July) and was a weak hitter the rest of the year.  Still, he’s been legit and, considering what the Pirates have been getting out of their outfield in recent years, it’s great as long as it lasts.

It should be possible for the Pirates to put together a team in the short term that’s made up primarily of players who have a reasonable chance to be useful to them in the medium or long term.  Not totally, because catcher as it stands now is hopeless, although the Pirates could certainly improve things a bit by replacing Andrew Knapp with anybody.  With the pitchers, I’m going to save my comments for later.  I’m going to assume that players keep playing more or less the way they are now, which of course won’t happen.  And I’m not going to look at longer term matters, like Oneil Cruz.  His bat coming around will dictate how things go for him, regardless of what else is happening with the team.  Once he’s been hitting for long enough, he’ll be in there somewhere.

Things could actually come together reasonably well in the next few weeks.  The Pirates should be getting two players back from the IL — Kevin Newman and Greg Allen — who at least have a non-zero chance of contributing in the medium term.  Newman was hitting well when he got hurt and, with Tucker gone, is the only legitimate shortstop available for now.  Allen had a good spring and deserves at least something of a shot before more outfield prospects arrive.  He’d give them four actual, honest-to-goodness outfielders, as well as a center field backup, which they currently lack.  I don’t have high hopes for Newman or Allen, but they might have something to add, which can’t be said about . . . .

Well, for this to work, the Pirates have to be willing to dispense with some tenured veterans when the injured guys return.  And to resist the impulse to send younger guys back for “more seasoning,” which is one of the emptiest, most meaningless phrases in baseball.  The most obvious choice is Josh VanMeter.  In the minds of certain elements of the local media, his one good day against the Dodgers somehow turned him into an All-Star.  In the real world, though, VanMeter has a terrible 66 OPS+, which doesn’t differ much from his career figure of 74.

The other players the Pirates need to be willing to part ways with are Yoshi Tsutsugo and, when he’s off the IL, Jake Marisnick.  Tsutsugo has a .553 OPS and is a liability in the field.  It’s looking more and more like his good month or so last year was a fluke, and that the Rays and Dodgers had the right idea.  Unless he starts to hit yesterday, it makes no sense to stumble along with him the way they did with Gregory Polanco, especially considering that he’ll be a free agent after the season.  Hopefully, they won’t delude themselves into thinking somebody will take a little bit of Tsutsugo’s salary off their hands, the way they did with Polanco.  Marisnick has impressed people with his defensive play, but he’s an outfielder with a 17 OPS+.  Only a team that’s perfectly OK with endless failure could find that acceptable, especially not for an outfielder.

In the infield, that would leave the Pirates with Ke’Bryan Hayes, Newman, Diego Castillo, Rodolfo Castro and Michael Chavis.  First base shouldn’t be a problem.  Daniel Vogelbach should never play there, but Chavis seems decent at the position.  Gamel could also get time there.  His experience is limited to 11 innings, but for a team willing to play Tsutsugo, why would that be a problem?  Castillo has struggled lately and Castro might, but if the Pirates decide either or both needs to go to AAA, they could bring up Hoy Park and/or Tucupita Marcano.  I’m not wild about Park and not a fan at all of Marcano, but they’re on the 40-man roster and now is the time to see whether they have any value going forward.  And Ji-Hwan Bae should also be a possibility.

With those infielders and an outfield of Reynolds, Gamel, Suwinski and Allen, the Pirates would actually have a group of position players, apart from the disaster the front office has created at catcher, who’d be worth watching at least in the short term.  Eventually, maybe very soon, they’re going to have to give Cal Mitchell a chance.  Somebody might struggle or they could just limit themselves to 13 pitchers, even though that would create work for the manager.  This wouldn’t be a good team by any means, but there’d be some purpose in all of them, other than the catchers, being there.

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Daily Video Rundown: Cam Alldred, Matt Fraizer, Taylor Davis

Pirates Discussion: Pirates 2, Reds 8

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THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS

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Oneil Cruz can play shortstop today, but later is a question

Oneil Cruz: Adjustments At Plate Led To Positive Results Against Louisville

Roansy Contreras’ windup change has shown results

Williams: What is a Shortstop?

Prospect Roundtable: Which Indianapolis Player Are You Looking Forward to in Pittsburgh?

Indianapolis Pitchers Who Could Help the Pirates in Long Relief This Year

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PROSPECT WATCH

DAILY VIDEO RUNDOWN

PIRATES DISCUSSION

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juniorkrz

Love the article and the sarcasm!

TNBucs

Maybe this was noted elsewhere, but Biertempfel is reporting that the Pirates have hired Kendall to help with player development in the minors. Can I hope that they might be bringing him in as a possible replacement for Shelton? Let the FO get to know him, let him get to know the prospects…

NMR

I’ve got a sinking feeling behind all this prospect/veteran talk that it just doesn’t matter much, because the dudes they’re bringing up simply aren’t very good.

The disastrously long rebuild has me to the point of accepting nothing short of multiple Division titles and at least one trip to a World Series. I cannot fathom anything less being worth the price of this decision and the harm its done to the franchise I love.

It sucks, I can feel myself getting bitchy with Tim on some development-related stuff that would’ve interested me in the past, but lord, it just isn’t close to being anything relevant enough toward that goal. I’m sorry. I just don’t give a fuck about Jack Suwiski kind of sort of doing well straight from AA. That just isn’t moving the needle.

Hurts even worse when you see how many legitimately good players they’ve sent away, and could still have. Look at the seasons Josh Bell, Jameson Taillon, Starling Marte, Clay Holmes, Chad fucking Kuhl (!), Joe Musgrove are having…these aren’t even the guys famous for “getting better after leaving”.

The club wasn’t good enough with them, and yet we’d all be fucking THRILLED to have our prospects simply meet the level of the dudes that were sent out for them.

It’s not too late to change strategy. They don’t have to stay committed to a rebuild that is failing to produce good enough internal replacements. They can transition to a more nimble, dynamic team-building process like the Brewers have successfully done. They were even THIS close to hiring a GM that would’ve got them there!

That’s the hope I have remaining.

juniorkrz

Thanks for bringing up Clay FN Holmes. Would much rather have him than another MIF prospect or two I always loved his arm and movement on his pitches.

TNBucs

It’s looking like they made a big mistake when they chose Cherington over Arnold but not surprising when you hire a hockey guy as president which then forces you to go with a search firm to find your GM, and search firms are notorious for picking guys like Cherington (safer choice because of his experience).

Stephen B

In order to make that transition, Nutting would have to consent to spending 8 figures on the free agent market for legitimate 3+ WAR players, something he hasn’t done since…always.

The franchise, this rebuild, BC’s reputation rest on the ability of Roansy, Cruz, Priester, Peguero and Hank Davis establishing themselves as above-average to All Star dudes almost from the jump, joining a still-productive Hayes and Reynolds, and getting lucky with the tier 3 free agents Nutting WILL pay for. Anything short of that and this becomes an Orioles situation. Endless rebuild.

Last edited 2 days ago by Stephen B
Stephen B

Moving on from Tsutsugo and Hembree will the the absolute last two things this front office does. In Tsutsugo’s case, you have the trifecta of 1) they paid money for Tsutsugo and Nutting’s dad never taught sonny the concept of sunk costs; 2) there isn’t a credible backup for Chavis unless they break the glass on Martin, which they don’t seem willing to do; and 3) as bad as Tsutsugo has been, he just can’t keep rolling an ISO of .062. He can’t. He’s hit for power before, in Tampa and in Pittsburgh. They’ll wait until July expecting he’ll tap into it.

Hembree will probably sink deeper into white flag territory before they give up on him – again, sunk costs being lost on Nickels. That’ll take until the All-Star Break at least.

I do think we’ll see some changes once Allen and Newman are off the IL. Allen will kick someone off the 40-man. There’s no avoiding the fact that it’ll be someone useless.

The first glimmer of changes have been nice, but I am far from sold that this FO is ready to take the major league squad seriously.

piratemike

Looking at the laundry list of names in this article just brings home what a horrible team this is. Hopeless, helpless, ridicules. It is hard to imagine a GM going out and putting together a worse bunch of so called “players” on purpose It is an embarrassment to MLB.

jon6er

Maybe when the Pirates are dead last we can get a look at Bae and Mitchell.

docdon385

Sarcasm or optimism? Either way it won’t take long to get there the way they’re currently playing.

jon6er

Probably misplaced optimism on my part but Bae is exciting to watch because he does a lot of things well and I think Mitchell’s left handed pull power will play well at PNC especially if he keeps his k percentage down.

NMR

Not at all saying you’re wrong but Bae fans seem to will this dynamic player into existence that I just don’t see. Mitchell, though, has been a favorite of mine for a while and I VERY much admit I’m probably equally as “guilty” of getting over my skis on his hot start. Funny how that works!

jon6er

Well I look at it like this since the criteria they used to justify VanMeter’s existence fits Bae much better and I’m fairly confident Bae could would produce much more than VanMeter. It’s baseball so nothing really counts till you get to the next level and prove you can play there.

Stephen B

Ha, I’m a fanboy for both.

Born4rf

Excellent breakdown Wilbur. I only wonder if Cal Mitchell might be ready before Greg Allen is. He really is hitting on all cylinders offensively.

MVParker

It’s unfortunate for Allen to have gotten injured when he did, as it looked like he would get an extended shot. My guess is he’ll get 4-8 weeks now and then get relegated to the bench or waivers.

Regarding the other guys, the one asset the Bucs have are at-bats and innings. Might as well use them all to try to find a few diamonds in the rough before the musical chairs of prospects starts. And I don’t see any reason to rush the AAA guys up. Eg) Why not let Mason Martin have a full year in AAA and see if Yoshi can figure it out mid-year?

Personally I’d rather wait on the window starting and have more prepared prospects when it does vs. rush them for the sake of avoiding eyesore at-bats in 2022… and run the risk of having a new Polanco situation.

RAS TN

The Pirates are a bad team PERIOD maybe not the worst team in major leagues but close…They lack the overall talent to really compete game to game, and will not spend monies to add even modest talent.

Now the 64K question after all the unloading of actual major league talent to get what at this point looks like a bunch of 40-man roster decisions from other teams is there help there?? Maybe if you are patient enough and or live long enough the answer could be yes…

skliesen

You know what would help this team more than any of the suggestions made in this article? Someone in this organization getting to Reynolds and telling him to start acting like the leader of this team.

His approach at the plate with RISP isn’t working. The fact he has driven in only two runners besides himself all year is the single biggest problem with the offense.

Along these same lines, Reynolds body language leaves much to be desired. He looks like he’s always sulking around. If the energy he gave off was better, maybe his results would be, too.

roberto

His BABIP is 256. Think that won’t change?

TNBucs

There may be some bad luck, but his BABIP is down primarily because his barrel percentage and hard hit percentage are down. His xBA is only .251, down from .293 last year. So yes, I think his BABIP will change because I don’t think he’s forgotten how to hit. But his BABIP is a result of his poor hitting more than an explanation for why his stats are down.

(That may have been your point, but usually when I see someone cite BABIP they’re using it as a measure of whether someone has been unlucky or lucky.)

roberto

He’s in a funk and been unlucky too. Both can change.

skliesen

Not if his approach doesn’t change. He looks like bad Kevin Newman with runners in scoring position. Weak grounders into the shift over and over again.

docdon385

Someone like who? Shelton? He seems to think managing amounts to staring into space and trying to look like he’s paying attention. I’ve always thought the manager’s job was to, well, manage and motivate not simply throw together a starting line up then show up to see what happens.

Players on this team, including but not limited to Reynolds, need leadership and guidance but are not getting either.

skliesen

Maybe the problem isn’t Shelton, it’s the fact there aren’t any veterans on the team who have the pedigree to help Reynolds get right mentally? Maybe Vogelbach tried to be that guy and that’s what caused the rift between them last month?

All I know is Bryan Reynolds is too good of a player to be playing this bad this late into May. And whatever he’s doing to change isn’t working.

PiratePrimate

The manager’s job is always to keep the guys who can’t stand him from having too much influence on the guys who’ll still put up with him

TNBucs

I think with all the talk about an extension and trades, Reynolds is pressing. Maybe dropping him in the order or batting him leadoff would help by shifting his focus just a bit. And I interpret the body language as him being down on himself, but I agree that it could start with his body language–play like you’re not obsessed with your own performance and instead focus on your teammates which of course is easier said than done.

Being able to help a talented player turn things around is something a good manager is able to do. Reynolds may not need that help, but I think being able to provide it is one of three things that distinguish the best managers (the other two being helping prospects transition to the majors and managing the bullpen) from the rest.

Lastly, maybe Reynolds’ struggles will get him thinking that his best path to stardom is to sign a Marte-like extension so that he can just focus on playing instead of proving his value.

1979andCounting

Idk, he just signed a 2-year deal……you would think the “business” side of the game, ie. a contentious arbitration, is behind him for ’22 and he shouldn’t even be thinking about it.
He’s never going to be a team leader imo just because of his reserved Colin Moran-like personality. Surely Haines is studying film from ’21 and with Reynolds is identifying any anomalies. My hunch is he’ll turn it around with warm weather here.

PiratePrimate

Maybe Reynolds is just having a bad two months. It’s baseball. It happens. You wake up everyday and it’s Ground Hog Day all over again with bad AB’s and worse results and an organization that is nothing more than a front to extract as much cash from the business as possible and your body language might start to display a hint of pissed off to the bone, too.

skliesen

Talk about 1st world problems. My employer is in business to make money…woe is me.

How about giving off the vibe you’re appreciative of the gift to play a kids game for a living? And maybe change your approach when there are runners in scoring position to help the team win? Especially if things aren’t going well.

Is that asking too much?

PiratePrimate

His employer is a snake who betrays the public trust and nickles and dimes to extract as much profit as possible. He abuses the trust and partnership between a community which funds his workplace and a team which he refuses to fund. He has shown absolutely NO desire to compete. He pockets millions and he produces shit. I can only imagine what it’s like to play for him.

skliesen

If he’s as bent out of shape about Nutting’s wallet as you are, no wonder he’s in the toilet.

Ever hear the saying, “control the controllable?” He, like you and I, have no control over how Nutting chooses to operate his business. But he can control how he plays and behaves for his teammates. And he’s failing at that right now. Badly.

PiratePrimate

Bent out of shape about Nutting’s wallet? Yeah, I am. It’s filled with money that should be players’ salaries.

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