With the Spring Training schedule finally coming to a close, the long marathon of a regular season is set to begin on Thursday against the Cincinnati Reds.
As we close the books on Grapefruit League play, here are some final observations when it comes to the 2023 Spring season.
JT Brubaker, And The Importance Of Depth
I’ve already mentioned it once, and I will probably say it again this season, but with the baseball schedule being a marathon, depth is absolutely critical if you are going to get through all 162 games.
One of the standouts this spring was JT Brubaker, especially the amount of strikeouts he was getting. There was some hard hit balls still, yes, but it looked like the stuff was really starting to come together.
JT Brubaker in Spring:
1.10 WHIP pic.twitter.com/HxHgKYgfIt
— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) March 21, 2023
Unfortunately news came out that he would start the year on the Injured List due to elbow and forearm discomfort, which is always a scary reason to miss time for a pitcher. Hopefully it is a precautionary thing to make sure he can make it through the entire major league season.
It also highlights the importance of depth, especially on the pitching side. There were a lot that were upset about Johan Oviedo, and to an extent Luis Ortiz, potentially not making the major league roster, especially because it was a direct result of Vince Velasquez being signed.
The Pirates did the right thing in that, even if it doesn’t work out for Velasquez. There was no way they would only need the five original starters, and it gave some added development time for Oviedo and Ortiz, among others, who still have a few things they could have ironed out before taking on a full-time major league rotation spot.
Jack Suwinski Needs To Leave Spring Results In Florida
Spring Training is fun in the sense that we haven’t seen baseball in a few months, and a lot of the players are coming in with something new they’ve been working on and we get to see it for the first time.
Jack Suwinski came into camp with a new batting stance, but got a lot of the same results in the game. The 19-home runs were nice last year, and seems to be a big reason why his roster spot was basically secured, but weren’t really backed up by a lot of analytics. He also had a growing strikeout concern to the point he finished the season with a 30.6% strikeout rate.
Even going to Indianapolis didn’t do much, because he struck out 37.7% of the time there too. That’s carried over into spring, with him striking out 23-times in 50-plate appearances. Maybe spring stats don’t mean much, but I’d be more willing to buy into a swing and miss issue that was existent the previous year, over someone who is flashing more than their usual amount of power.
He’s a strong defender, although some of that value gets lost playing center. Despite the strikeouts, he still was able to hit plenty over the fence.
I’m just not sure hitting a home run and then looking lost over the next couple of days will be enough to keep his job going into the season.
Bullpen Still Has Question Marks
The bullpen has plenty of options to go with this upcoming season, but you would have liked to see someone step up and really grab ahold of a late inning role going into the season.
Jarlin Garcia would have been one of them, but there’s no time table when he will return. Jose Hernandez has shown flashes, but might need to be sheltered a bit early on in the season as he grows his sea-legs.
He may have started the spring on the outside looking in, but Dauri Moreta has really looked good this spring, and even if he doesn’t make the club originally, he could be one of the first options.
Pitching may be the side of things where stats may mean the least, shorter outings and small sample sizes mainly why, but there was just so much hard contact allowed throughout sprint.
For the sake of not burning out David Bednar for the second straight year, hopefully the results were due on the bullpen working on something new or something they’ve previously struggled with.
Some more rapid fire thoughts as spring closes up;
— Catching is the one position maybe where defense still beats out offensive production. That defense has to grade out high enough to make up for that drop off though, and not sure at this moment it is.
— Travis Swaggerty not making the roster had to be a gut punch for a lot of people, especially with the lack of a ‘true’ center fielder on the current roster. Between his performance in spring, along with his better-than-it-looks 2022 in Indianapolis, I get the feeling we see him sooner than later, and could still be among the plate appearances leaders on the team by the end of the season.
— Health seems like the last obstacle for Ke’Bryan Hayes, and if he stays healthy, and keeps pulling the ball the way he’s been in spring, this could be the season for him.
Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.
Until this management team can put a run producing lineup on the field they will lose 90 plus games. Maybe in 2024.
The Pirates are still a mirror of what they have been the last 5 years, so nothing to write home about, and if they do improve it will be nominal…
Big props to Anthony Murphy for downright prolific spring training content, especially since that bum Wilbur hightailed it for Hawaii. 😉
You’re just mad you weren’t invited. I know I am.
Did anyone bother to tell him that our farm club is no longer IN Hawaii?
That’s good, guys would refuse the promotion to Pittsburgh!
As opposed to Buffalo, lol
Say what you will about his overall game but Anthony keeps making this claim that Suwinski’s power wasn’t backed by analytics and it’s super bizarre.
Jack’s max exit velo ranked in the 85th percentile of all big league hitters.
His barrel rate ranked in 86th percentile.
He posted a hard hit rate 5% above MLB average along with an expected wOBA on contact 24 points above average.
Finally, his xwOBA, the smoking gun you look for when figuring out how “lucky” a hitter may have been, was damn-near exactly his actual wOBA.
None of this matters if he doesn’t make enough contact to translate raw power to game, but it certainly confirms without a shadow of doubt that his power is very much real.
Suwinski looks lost at the plate, and is below average in center. But give him a month and see if he can figure it out.
He should be working it out in AAA, not on the mlb club. I’m not confident in Swaggerty but at least he hit this spring.
Sometimes I get confused on which is the AAA club and the MLB club. But I agree. They could have sent a message that Swags earned it and Suwinski didn’t. I read what PP readers thought about Swags but I wonder what he thought when they said you are heading to Indy. Probably made him take a bus. Or Uber.
Seen too many guys hit well in the spring training and then face plant during the season to be concerned about him being sent down after a good spring. He follows it up with good triple a numbers then he deserves a shot.
There has to be a definition out there for what st really means. Is it only for guys who are guaranteed to start in the up coming season so they can stretch out and face live pitching…from who?
That’s a good question. I think mostly it’s just what you suggest. Most of the roster is already well defined and spring training is just getting warmed up for the season. For the small handful of other guys, I think the poorly-defined answer is that they look at things other that just the stats. I don’t know – whatever they saw in Diego Castillo last year did not work out..
So right about TSwags. HE was hands down the best OFer in ST, and the best option in CF with his arm talent.
Guys like Owings and Mathias aren’t really depth at Indy they are blockers and unless VV finds some magic mushrooms he isn’t going to move the needle.
Owings and Mathias are not going to block anyone. Every AAA carries a couple UT guys with past MLB experience, and that can be called up if you need that type of player quick because of injury. Prospects do not lose playing time for that type of player, and when the team is ready to promote the prospect, they will still be promoted over the UT player.
Two weeks in, Shelton will be pounding the table for Owings! Veteranosity!
One has a lot of mlb experience the other not so much and semantics aside if they are taking a roster spot they are blocking guys from moving up. Their mlb experience brings nothing to the table!
A very disappointing ST in addition to hating these new rules has thrown cold water on my bucco boner.
The collective offensive struggles, especially Brian Reynolds’ after working out continuously with Andy Haines through the offseason, has me really wondering what the hell Haines is preaching bc it ain’t working.
I finally pull the trigger and got an MiLB subscription 3 years ago, life changer. Indy has the best telecast and we have our best prospects there. On the downside, we have good arms in A+ and they don’t stream.
It is great except Greensboro doesn’t broadcast the games.
On the bright side, if expectations are low, it isn’t hard to exceed them.
PS- Not liking the new rules puts one in the Walter Mondale minority. Games will be 2 hours and 30 minutes of near continuous action as opposed to 3 hours and 30 minutes with almost no action.
I dont like the new rules for a couple reasons.
#1 if it aint broke, dont fix it, we were all fans/players of the game b4 the rule.
#2 this is an Owner’s rule, not by the players. Eff owners, they dont add any value, but want all the control. Leave the game to the players of the game.
#3 stats & games are going to be decided based on a player taking too much time rather than performance.
#4 there should be no restrictions on where players play defense. As absurd as the shifts were, that’s part of the strategy.
The worst thing about the low expectations is that it may mean we’re less likely to move on from Shelton–much harder to fire a manager when nobody expects him to win with the talent he has.
So I’m sticking with ~74 wins–about one more win every two weeks compared to last year. Also, I’m expecting at least one winning streak of 6+ games.