There was a play that stood out for me very early in last night’s wild game between the Pirates and Red Sox.
With one out in the first inning, Justin Turner hit a fly ball to deep center field. Jack Suwinski ranged over from left field, and it looked like he started to call off Reynolds. What stood out to me was that Reynolds deferred to Suwinski momentarily, rather than taking charge of the play.
That ball was the center fielder’s ball all the way. If Suwinski is calling off Reynolds, it’s Reynolds’ job to take charge and call off Suwinski. Instead, Reynolds was watching Suwinski, adjusted for the catch at the last second, and watched the ball snowcone in and out of his glove.
The play led to one unearned run, and possibly changed the pace of the game, which was about to be a 3-1 game with two outs in the first. The inning ended with the Red Sox up 5-3. Reynolds more than did his part to swing the pendulum back in the direction of the Pirates, launching a home run in the next inning, and hitting a second homer in the fourth inning.
There’s no question that Reynolds is the best player on the Pirates right now. He showed that last night, where he produced positive overall value even when clearly making a mistake that led to negative value. Not many players would be able to bounce back and even themselves out with the home run. The reason the Pirates and Reynolds are discussing an extension is because Reynolds is the type of player who has the talent to not only even out his mistakes, but to end up with positive value at the end of the night.
This isn’t a column about the Reynolds extension talks — though I encourage you to check out Ethan Hullihen’s latest article on the subject.
This is a column about how Jack Suwinski should be the starting center fielder.
Suwinski had 107 innings in center field last year, and his metrics were solid. The disclaimer is that defensive metrics typically require several seasons to be relied upon as an accurate assessment. While Suwinski’s metrics in a small sample were encouraging, those alone wouldn’t warrant giving him the job.
From a scouting standpoint, that play in the first inning on Monday night was Exhibit A of why Suwinski should be the starter over Reynolds. Here is Exhibit B:
Jack Jack is Mr. Incredible. 😱 pic.twitter.com/3vvKvzv9F8
— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) April 4, 2023
As shown with that diving catch in the bottom of the fourth inning, Suwinski’s awareness and focus in the outfield is worthy of center field. He’s got range and an all-out style, but watch that video again and notice how beautifully efficient his route was to the ball. Just like the play in the first inning, Suwinski had a track on the ball from the start of the play, was heading straight for where it landed with all-out effort and focus.
Reynolds should have called off Suwinski in the first inning. That’s the ideal way it should work, on paper. In the actual game, when the pressure was on, and when the fly ball was unexpected and reactionary, it was Suwinski who acted like the natural center fielder.
Suwinski never took his eyes off the ball, and was aggressive to make the out.
Reynolds took his eyes off the ball to focus on Suwinski, but wasn’t aggressive enough to call him off to make the catch.
When the play was live, Reynolds deferred to Suwinski. That’s not how it should work.
Reynolds is clearly the best player on the team from an overall standpoint. He led the way last night, powering the Pirates back from a rough first inning that was only partially his responsibility. His ability to lift the team and provide positive overall value, even when making mistakes, is Exhibit A on why the Pirates would be so deep into extension talks with him.
I don’t want to extrapolate one play too much further than I have, but that play is a microcosm of Reynolds. He’s naturally quiet, reserved, and doesn’t wear his enthusiasm on his sleeve. You can see that here in a video from Alex Stumpf, where Reynolds is very calm and reserved at the end of a day where he powered his team to victory in one of the most historic stadiums in baseball.
Asked Bryan Reynolds if being between the lines has been a refuge with everything else that’s going on right now.
The transcript doesn’t do this one justice. pic.twitter.com/9bpoN6IfPC
— Alex Stumpf (@AlexJStumpf) April 4, 2023
It’s not a problem that Reynolds is more reserved.
This isn’t a good trait to have in center field. That was shown last night in the first inning, when Suwinski’s anything-but-reserved play was enough to cause Reynolds to yield in the moment on a play that was his to easily command.
Reynolds is the best player the Pirates have, and he can play center field.
In this outfield, Suwinski seems better suited for the role.
It’s been several years since I’ve written a daily article on this site. I’m not sure if I’ll give this a name, but I will be publishing a column each day this season at noon. The column will include this section, giving three additional player thoughts that I had from games the night before.
**Johan Oviedo’s performance wasn’t that bad, even considering the first inning. Obviously, you don’t want to be throwing pitches down the middle of the plate. Especially in Fenway. He had one home run that might have been an out in a normal shaped park, where there isn’t a shallow porch protruding into right field. The Reynolds drop cost him a run and momentum, but Reynolds more than got that back on both counts. From there, Oviedo settled down and cruised the rest of the outing. He’s not the most comfortable pitcher to watch while pitching from behind. Red Sox hitters were teeing up on his fastball in the first. He took command and delivered a good start while the Pirates fought their way back.
**I love Dauri Moreta’s role so far: “Get a strikeout in this many batters.” He had two free passes to give away on Opening Day, and he made use of them, before getting his emotional strikeout to end the inning. Last night, he had one base open, and used another free pass, before getting Connor Wong to strike out swinging on a 1-2 breaking pitch. This isn’t a recipe for long-term success — loading the bases and winning a battle of adrenaline. Ideally, you want to see him getting those intense strikeouts against the first batter he faces, rather than when he absolutely needs the strikeouts. Still, it’s really encouraging to see him coming through in two moments when he absolutely needed the strikeout.
**The Pirates seem to be rolling with Colin Holderman as their eighth inning guy. I liked the open accountability he showed after the walk to put two runners on with one out. Even better, I liked that he followed settling down with two ground ball outs to exit the inning. Time will tell if Holderman can pull a David Bednar and emerge as a reliable high-leverage reliever. So far, he’s looked good, setting up Bednar for his second save of the year. Also, how reliable was Bednar?
TODAY ON PIRATES PROSPECTS
It’s Tuesday, which normally would mean an article drop. With minor league seasons starting, we have article drops hitting the site every day this week. We’ve got our season previews rolling out over the next few days.
**Williams: I’ve Got It – READING
You already got it! Check out the rest of the articles from today’s drop:
I’ve been having fun writing this series on my view of the tools of baseball. I have a feeling that the formatting style of these articles is leading to the death of at least two Boomers per article. Just like with COVID, we all have to make sacrifices to keep the economy going. In this case, the economy is thinking about the game of baseball like a game of chess.
**Five Sleepers to Follow in the Pittsburgh Pirates System in 2023
Kicking off our minor league coverage, I gave five sleepers to follow in the Pirates’ system this year. Deep tracks only!
**Cody Bolton Amped-Up For Move to the Bullpen
Cody Bolton has moved to the bullpen as a full-time reliever in Indianapolis. Ryan Palencer talked with the right-hander, who was amped up about the new, consistent role.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.
Well at least Colin has the name for the job.
Tim! Media guide EST?
If your point is that Reynolds is better off playing left field instead of center, I think that’s already been pretty much accepted by most people. Reynolds messed up that fly ball from Turner by taking his eyes off it regardless of whether anyone else was there or not. Suwinski coming over from right field, not left, should not have distracted him from making the play. It was his ball and he muffed it. It happened once and should not happen again. That does not however translate into Suwinski being the Pirate’s best center fielder. That title belongs to the guy now playing the position in Indy. Bring him up, put him in center and they’ll be no further need to debate it.
Hedges to 7 day IL with concussion. Non hitting catcher promoted. Well that’s 2 free agents that will spend time on IL this year and there only 4 games in.
Who is the everyday CF…??? that is who should be playing CF 162 games, it should not be a rotating carousel, and it should be the best defender…So I say again Who is the everyday CF???
Swaggerty. Reynolds is LFer.
Agreed, at least Swaggerty should get that chance sooner rather than later. Swaggerty could at least be a late inning replacement, both on the base pads and in the field. Given the current 26-man roster, why he isn’t with the MLB team is a mystery.
In general I would always prefer the younger legs in center if all other factors are relatively equal. So given the current roster I’d slightly prefer Suwinski in center over Reynolds. I just generally don’t believe in Suwinski’s bat enough to justify him having a spot on the roster in the first place. For all the “but 19 home runs” guys who are bound to respond, Swaggerty would get half or more of those in the same number of at bats plus a much better OBP, more doubles and the remaining missing homers can be replaced by having a full season of Cruz, McCutchen and anything better than the complete black hole that was first base last year.
You had me until Cutch. Lost me
I think this is exactly right. Swaggerty, if his on-base percentage is acceptable, is the future center fielder. Reynolds, if he remains in Pittsburgh, is the left fielder, which he’s proven he can play at a high level. Suwinski is in competition for right field/fourth outfielder with Smith-Njigba. One of them will be elsewhere this or next season, and a right-handed hitting outfielder will replace the exile.
Not sure that is how i saw the play, if Suwinski was calling for it, but then could not actually catch it, then it was not a good play on his part. I also don’t think an everyday CF can be someone who hits very poorly against left handed pitching. I think it is important to have an everyday CF, given the need for on field communication from that position.
Suwinski was calling for it, but he stopped. If he did not stop he could have caught it. Thought is, since he stopped, that Reynolds called for it also. They both called for it. If Reynolds called for it, then it is his ball, and Suwinski should stop to avoid a collision.
Reynolds belongs in LF and Jack belongs in CF when both are in lineup. On days Jack isn’t playing, Reynolds should be starting in CF. Both are better options than Bae, IMO.
Sure would be nice if they had an everyday CF, but they don’t. At least not a good one.
If you watch the replay, Reynolds is watching Suwinski, but doesn’t call him off. He then goes for the catch, last second. That’s his role, to navigate traffic in that situation.
But, did Suwinski call for a ball that he could not get to? He called it early and then could not get to it. First rule never call for anything unless you are sure you can get to it. He called it early so the other OF backed off instead of trying to call him off. And if he would have tried to call him off, was it too late? Having an over-aggressive OF is sometimes an injury waiting to happen rather than reasoning for why he should play the CF position.
Maybe a few more games together in ST would have helped prevent that play last night. Circumstances like you are describing are bound to happen when OF’s have not played a lot with one another.
And, how many games has Reynolds played in CF since the beginning of ST? Playing LF and DH – was that a negotiating ploy?
Reynolds would be the first one to tell you he was at fault there.
Reynolds just opt not to catch the ball, see what I did their.
I think that’s obvious by the home run he hit in the next inning.