What did you expect from the 2023 Pittsburgh Pirates?
Fans of the 2023 Pittsburgh Pirates had very low expectations. With six games to go before the All-Star Break, have the Pirates met or exceeded your expectations?
Currently, the Pirates are 40-46. They are 7.5 games out of first place in the National League Central division race and 6.5 games out of a possible wild card berth.
Those are neither great nor horrible numbers. Before the season started, where did you think the Pirates would be with six games away from the All-Star break?
Are you satisfied with where the Pirates are compared to what the expectations were at the start of the season? It would be appreciated if you put your comments below because it would be interesting to see what the fan's reactions are on where the Pirates are or should be at this point of the umpteenth rebuild since 1979.
The most important thing at this stage of the rebuild is that the needle is consistently pointing up in that improvements should be made not only at the major league level, but throughout the system. That is the question that is at hand is and will continue to be until the Pirates finally win a post-season series, at least.
As one would expect with a rebuilding team, there have been positives and negatives throughout 2023. However, have there been more positives or more negatives?
Let's look at the teams from a winning perspective. Pittsburgh, as mentioned is 40-46, while Triple-A Indianapolis is 38-44, double-digits games out of first place is 42-34.
In rookie ball, the Florida Coast League Pirates are currently in first place in their division with a 16-6 record.
The only thing that matters at the major league level is winning. In the minors, development is, or at least should be, a higher priority than winning, so take those records as you will, but it seems the lower levels are having more success than the higher ones.
How about individual positives? At the major league level, one needs to look no further than Mitch Keller who earned his first All-Star selection after having a monster comeback season, last ight notwithstanding.
There is also David Bednar, who is headed to his second consecutive All-Star Game.
One can look at the resurgent performances of Andrew McCutchen and Carlos Santana as reasons for optimism. Both are veterans who could get some quality return in trades, but both want to remain in Pittsburgh, which helps increase enthusiasm amongst the fans and in the clubhouse.
Bryan Reynolds has struggled recently with only four hits in his last nine games, but just the fact that he signed a record contract extension should give comfort to fans and the Pirates themselves knowing that his spot in the lineup is secure for the next several years.
Then, there's the recent performances of the young guns that have been called up to the majors in the past two weeks. Henry Davis, Jared Triolo, and Nick Gonzales have contributed in big ways at the plate and in the field thus far.
On the negative side, one can only hope that the league doesn't catch up to those recent callups as it has with Ji Hwan Bae. After a torrid start, one in which Rookie of the Year thoughts were dancing in the heads of the fans, he has cooled off considerably to the tune of 10 hits in his last 65 at-bats, which is an average of .154.
To say the pitching has been inconsistent is an understatement. The poster boy to that tune is Roansy Contreras, who once was considered the future number-one starter that now has been relegated to the bullpen, and hasn't exactly set the world on fire there, either.
Of course, being only 23-years-old, there's no reason to panic as witness to Keller being sent to the bullpen a year ago and now he's an All-Star. It's just that more has been expected of Contreras at this stage of his development.
Another negative has been injuries, but what team hasn't felt those. A lot was expected of free agents Ji Man Choi and Jarlin Garcia, but Garcia hasn't seen the field as of yet and Choi has only played in nine games, thus far.
A lot was expected of free agents Ji Man Choi and Jarlin Garcia, but Garcia hasn't seen the field as of yet and Choi has only played in nine games, thus far. Choi is expected to return very soon, however, no one seems to know when, or if, Garcia will pitch for the Pirates. Garcia is only on a one-year deal.
Ke'Bryan Hayes is on the injured list again, which seems to be an annual event. There is no question that he is a Gold Glove-caliber third baseman, as it also seems that his replacement, Triolo, but he needs to stay healthy and become more consistent at the plate in order to justify his once record contract extension.
How about at the minor league level? There are too many players to list as examples one way or the other, so the stats for 2023 for the top 10 prospects, according to MLB.com, will be listed as at least a small guide as to whether the development needle points up or down at this stage.
First is infielder and last year's number-one draft choice, Termarr Johnson, who is in his first full year as a professional. At low-A Bradenton, he is hitting .236 with 7 HRs and 30 RBIs. He is also only 19 years old.
Second is catcher/outfielder Henry Davis and we all know how he's done so far in Pittsburgh. However, since his future is as catcher, shouldn't he be getting at least SOME experience behind the plate, especially if a game is a blowout?
Third is another catcher, Endy Rodriguez, who can play outfield and infield, as well. After early struggles this season with Indianapolis, he's come on lately and has an overall average of .254 with 5 HRs and 33 RBIs
Fourth, and seemingly the next Indianapolis player to be called up, is pitcher Quinn Priester. This season, Priester has a record of 7-3 with an ERA of 4.54 and has struck out 81 and walked 35.
Next is another pitcher, Anthony Solometo, currently tossing at Double-A Altoona. Solometo, a 20-year-old left-hander, has allowed only two earned runs in 15 innings on the mound since being called up to Altoona in mid-June. Overall between Greensboro and Altoona this season, Solometo has a record of 3-4 with an ERA of 2.08 and has struck out 86 while walking 28.
The second half of the list starts with Gonzales and he has started well for Pittsburgh thus far. It has to be seen how long he will stay with Pittsburgh when players like Choi, Bae, Hayes, and even Cruz return from injury.
Number seven on the list is infielder Liover Peguero, who, if you recall, spent a few games at the big league level a year ago and handled himself well.
This season, Peguero, while struggling early, has been on fire recently. In June, Peguero his .307 with seven home runs for Indianapolis. Will his return be imminent?
Eighth on the list is pitcher Bubba Chandler. While 2022 was encouraging, 2023 has been a different story for Chandler as he has a record of 3-3 with an ERA of 6.63 for High-A Greensboro. Of course, there's no reason to panic with him, either, as Chandler is also only 20 years old.
A lot was expected of the ninth prospect, pitcher Mike Burrows, coming into 2023 including a possible early callup to Pittsburgh. However, after only two appearances for Indianapolis this season, Burrows had to undergo Tommy John surgery and will be out until late 2024.
Finally, the tenth prospect is pitcher Jared Jones, currently throwing heat for Altoona after spending most of 2023 with Greensboro. Although his record is poor at 1-5, he has a combined ERA of 3.17 and has struck out 64 and walked 22.
So, is the needle pointing up in your mind or is it pointing down? You be the judge and, again, please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section below.