Derek Shelton wasn’t given an easy job.
Pittsburgh is a town that demands winning from their sports franchises. You can see why, when you go back and watch the walk-off home run from Carlos Santana on Friday night. Watch the crowd celebrate. Where else in Pittsburgh are you going to find that type of energy when Taylor Swift isn’t in town?
Even on a night where the Pirates lose 11-8, after coming back from 11-1, PNC Park provides momentary escapes. Those moments can be fleeting. Eventually, Pittsburgh wants a winner. They want a team where they know they can pay to go to the park and at least see a competitive game. Even in a 100 loss season, you can see 34 wins at PNC Park. A winning team might offer you a dozen or two more wins, but the biggest benefit to the fans is the comfort going in that they might see a quality product. When that doesn’t happen for long enough, fans call for changes, and the manager is typically the first one to go.
This week, I wrote about the talent levels of the offense, focusing on present day grades. The reality of this team is that they’ve had very few starters. Most of the players that Derek Shelton has had to work with are part-time players. This has been one of the better years in talent at the major league level under Shelton. He’s largely been expected to win with the majority of his lineup on any given night grading out as MLB bench options.
At this stage in the rebuild, the Pirates are starting to introduce their long-term everyday players. They’re also trying to maintain the veteran presence they’ve established early in the season as those players arrive. Henry Davis isn’t expected to carry this team or be the savior like Oneil Cruz or other top prospects who arrived in previous years. There are other players who can allow the contributions from Davis to stand out, while allowing him to rest easy when he’s just one of the MLB players on the team who doesn’t come through in a big moment.
It’s frustrating, but nothing has really mattered to this point. The Pirates could have put more effort into adding to their MLB club in previous offseasons, giving Shelton more to work with. They didn’t, and it’s clear that they’re saving up to spend more in future years when they are competitive. You don’t need to live in Pittsburgh to see that window is opening. By the time Endy Rodriguez and Quinn Priester arrive, this team will have added four top 100 prospects to the roster this year.
The Pirates are 39-43 right now, in the first game of the second half of the season. At this point, they’re on pace for about 78 wins. I had them down for 79 wins at the start of the year, so this seems normal to me. I also think this team has hit its low point. From here, they’ve got returning impact players, rookies making their debut, and veterans who are still keeping the clubhouse vibe steady.
Part of the credit for that last part has to go to Shelton. He’s managed the team through their toughest stretch, and through a lot of injuries. He’s getting recognized with a spot in the All-Star game this year, and has already been recognized by the Pirates with an early extension. That has been criticized, as it’s easy to criticize the manager for all things going wrong. Shelton didn’t assemble a team of mostly 45-grade players. He’s just expected to compete with them.
As I said in my column the other day, there isn’t anything wrong with 45-grade players. You can trust these guys to start a few times a week. It takes good managing to get the best out of these players. The fact that Shelton has gotten 39 wins so far displays a good ability to shuffle these players in and out of the lineup. The fact the team has so many comeback victories shows that the clubhouse is never really defeated.
All of this is a credit to Shelton. It’s also encouraging for when Shelton has a team with a higher average grade of talent to work with.
Pirates Prospects Daily
If you’re one of our regular followers, you may have noticed that things have been confusing around here for some time. I stepped away from daily writing for a few years. The site actually closed down for one full year. The entire time, I’ve been working toward a new Pirates Prospects.
Over the last month, we’ve been testing the final format of that new site. The final changes will bring a more classic approach to the site.
I’ll be taking over Pirates Prospects Daily each night, similar to my role for years on this site. Anthony Murphy’s articles will move to stand alone features, where I think they’ll be better displayed. Anthony, John Dreker, and Wilbur Miller will all contribute to the Prospect Watch, which will undergo some changes that I will detail below.
Pirates Prospects Daily will go up each night around midnight. Read on to find out about the other two daily features on Pirates Prospects.
Over the last month, I’ve been working on a new format for Pirates Prospects Live. Out of simplicity for publishing, we’ve been including the MLB and minor league results into one article, complete with discussions. The minor league results will be returning to the Prospect Watch. That article has seen some changes over the last few weeks.
P2Live has been planned as a daily video article from me. My hope is to start this by the end of the year. Until then, it will remain a Pirates preview/discussion article, complete with the daily recap. This will be our MLB coverage.
The Pirates lost 11-8 last night, but staged a nice comeback, down from ten runs. Check out the recap below.
The Prospect Watch has been our nightly minor league recap for over a decade. I changed that over the last month to introduce a new format for the article. The new format will include a look at three players each day, which is a change that it’s seen over the last few weeks. The additions will be a list of the top performers from the previous day, Anthony Murphy’s Daily Video Rundown, and the nightly game recaps from John Dreker and Wilbur Miller. The Prospect Watch will go up each day at noon, with the first one running tomorrow.
**Looking for yesterday’s minor league results? Check out P2Live.
Endy Rodriguez might have the biggest impact to make on the Pirates down the stretch. Ryan Palencer writes about how his defensive focus might be impacting his hitting in a negative way. This wouldn’t be a long-term concern for me, but would explain why his hitting has been lower than normal. He’s at an advanced level, but putting a lot of time and energy into his catching. Eventually, I think he will balance that out on the hitting side.
PIRATES PROSPECTS ARCHIVES
Catch up on all of the latest updates around the organization.
6/30: Williams: Tathata and the Present Day Grades of the Pirates Position Players
6/29: Jared Triolo Has Positive Recovery From Negative Start to the Year
6/29: This May Be Exactly What This Team Needed
6/28: The Key To Success For Nick Gonzales
6/28: Williams: The Pains of Part-Time Players Getting Too Much Playing Time
6/28: Gallery: Pirates Unveil City Connect Jerseys
PROSPECT WATCH ARCHIVES
6/30: Owen Kellington, Alika Williams, Jackson Grounds
6/28: Lonnie White Jr., Kelvin Diaz, Yojeiry Osoria
6/25: Quinn Priester, Canaan Smith-Njigba, Jhonson Pena
6/24: Nick Gonzales, Jared Triolo, Adolfo Oviedo
6/23: Michael Kennedy, Po-Yu Chen, Wyatt Hendrie
6/22: Braxton Ashcraft, Jase Bowen, Maikol Escotto
6/21: Termarr Johnson, Connor Scott, Enmanuel Terrero
6/16: Is This The Year For A Solomon Maguire Breakout?
6/12: Pirates 2023 Minor League Preview: FCL Pirates
6/11: Pitching Depth Continues To Grow With Jun-Seok Shim Debut
6/8: Pirates 2023 Minor League Previews: Dominican Summer League Pirates
Song of the Day
Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.