In a lot of ways the Pittsburgh Pirates lack excitement right now, but that is something that could be a quick fix
Even the most die hard baseball fans will admit that, at times, the 162 game, 6+ month grind of a MLB season can getting boring. When you’re a fan of a team that is not expected to compete, such as the 2022 Pittsburgh Pirates, there can be a lot of lulls in the season.
Sitting at 12-17 overall and third place in the National League Central there has been a lack of excitement for much of the first 30 games of the season for the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, that is something that could be changed quickly and here’s how.
The 2022 season should be all about giving young players an extended look. By doing this the Pirates can better determine which of players could have a long-term future with the organization and who does not.
So what does this have to do with making the team more exciting? Well, it’s time to get more young players up to the major league roster from the minors. This needs to start with Oneil Cruz. Cruz is the organization’s top prospect and needs to be starting at shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
After a sluggish start to the season at Triple-A, Cruz has started to heat up at the plate. He slugging .458 in the month of May to go with a .387 on-base percentage. Few things would excite Pirate fans more than Cruz becoming the team’s starting shortstop, he would make the major league club better too.
Another player from Triple-A that has earned a promotion and MLB playing time is outfielder Cal Mitchell. In 93 plate appearances this season Mitchell has an .851 OPS and 9 extra base hits. With his ability to play all three outfield positions it would not be hard to get Mitchell regular playing time with the Pirates, even while continuing to give regular playing time to Jack Suwinski who has been a plus defender for the Pirates while flashing good things offensively.
Infielder Rodolfo Castro should also get another look with the Pirates. After flashing his power potential with the Pirates last season, Castro has recorded 9 extra base hits thus far with Indianapolis to go with a .799 OPS. Castro has earned another look in the majors.
As for players already on the roster, in addition to continuing to give Suwinski regular playing time the same needs to be done with Diego Castillo and Michael Chavis. With an isolated slugging (ISO) over .200 and a slugging percentage close to .500, Chavis needs to see playing time and this could be done at first base with Yoshi Tsutsugo struggling mightily.
Speaking of first base, despite a recent slump, Mason Martin has been one of the most productive Pirate minor league hitters this season and is the organization’s top first base prospect. The slugging first baseman has slugged .545 while recording 17 extra base hits this season. While Chavis has earned the right to get regular at-bats what Martin has done can not be overlooked. The Pirates could platoon the two at first base, Chavis can also play second base and the corner outfield spots in addition to first base. Either way, giving Martin a look is a win-win for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
As for Castillo, he can play both middle infield positions. Even if Cruz locks downs shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Castillo can still see regular playing time at second base.
Ke’Bryan Hayes is obviously going to continue to anchor the Pirate lineup while designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach will be in the lineup most days. However, a Pirate lineup that has some combination of Cruz, Castillo, and Castro in the middle infield every day, Mitchell and Suwinski mixing in with Ben Gamel to flank Bryan Reynolds in the outfield, Chavis or Mason Martin at first base every day is one that not only has increased potential it is also one that would be much more exciting to watch.
It’s not just the lineup that can have this sort of impact take place. It can happen with the pitching staff as well and the first step to making that happen is promoting Roansy Contreras to re-join the starting rotation. Giving Max Kranick, who has seen an uptick in velocity and overall stuff this spring, a spot in the rotation would do this as well. A starting rotation of Contreras, Kranick, Mitch Keller, JT Brubaker, and José Quintana would likely be a better starting rotation than one that includes the like of Bryse Wilson and Zach Thompson. Additionally, outside of Quintana, each of these starters could have a big future with the Pirates. Again, watching young players with potentially large roles ahead of them in the future adds a lot of excitement.
It can be dome with the bullpen as well. David Bednar and Wil Crowe are going to be shutdown arms out of the Pirate bullpen for a long time, but righty Yerry De Los Santos and lefty Cam Alldred could be in this boat as well.
De Los Santos and Alldred should be promoted from Triple-A to replace Heath Hembree and Beau Sulser or Chase De Jong in the Pirate bullpen. Give them opportunities to face MLB hitters, give them opportunities to pitching in important situations. Let’s see what they can do and if they too can become bullpen building blocks.
Making these moves, or even some of them, would instantly make the Pittsburgh Pirates a more exciting baseball team. If nothing else, it would give fans plenty of young players worth watching as they could be part of the team’s long-term future and next contender. These moves could also make the team better, helping them win more baseball games. No matter what, winning is aways fun and exciting.