by J.T. Toth
Photo courtesy of WTAE.
With the season nearing an end, the Pirates have a chance to get valuable playing time for some of their younger players and elevate targeted prospects for their first major league experience. In essence, the season is over for the Bucs, so young guys will get 50 plus games to get their feet wet, make mistakes and as manager Derek Shelton said, get used to the speed of the game. The Pirates are hoping these next two plus months of baseball will go a long way in the Pirates' final step in their rebuild.
With many questions yet to be answered, Draft 412 has decided to go through each position and give our prediction on what may or may not happen when the Pirates step on the field March 28th in Miami.
A decision will have to be made soon on who the Pirates will go with as their long term catcher. Henry Davis, the former #1 overall pick from 2021, has been playing right field. And although he has looked shaky at times, he has shown off an arm that could be a weapon at PNC Park with the short right field wall.
Endy Rodriguez is getting the majority of the innings at catcher and has shown that he has a major league arm from behind the plate, throwing runners out. Yet he still needs to improve at blocking pitches and started off slow with the bat. Over the last month, Rodriguez seems more comfortable with his approach.
As a backup, the Pirates could bring back Jason Delay, or GM Ben Cherington may go with a veteran free agent signing.
Draft 412 choice- Endy Rodriguez, permanent starter
First base is a position the Pirates' front office has failed to fix long term. From 2016 to 2020, the Pirates depended on Josh Bell, a power hitting first baseman with some poor fielding numbers. Will Craig, Colin Moran, Michael Chavis, Daniel Vogelbach, Yoshi Tsutsugo, Yu Chang, Josh Van Meter, Connor Joe, Ji-Man Choi, Carlos Santana, and now Alfonso Rivas have all played first base with little success since Bell’s departure.
Draft 412 Choice- Draft 412 believes that the Pirates don’t have a permanent solution to first base in house and will need to make a trade or sign a free agent next year or the year after.
The Pirates have some flexibility and depth up the middle in their organization. It is just a matter of finding the right players at each position. Nick Gonzales was up with the big team for a couple of months and hit .216 with 2 homeruns in 102 at bats. He had moments where he looked locked in, but looked uncomfortable before being sent down.
Liover Peguero has looked strong in the minors and has started hitting for power. He seems to square up pitches and when he does, the ball jumps off his bat. In 32 at-bats, he is only hitting .219, but does have 3 home runs.
Rodolfo Castro was traded to Philadelphia at the trade deadline, and Tucapita Marcano will miss a majority of next season after suffering a torn ACL.
The winner of this battle at second is only temporary, because 2022 first round pick Termarr Johnson is starting to climb through the minor leagues.
Draft 412 choice- Nick Gonzales
O’Neil Cruz only got to play in 9 games this season before fracturing his fibula on a slide at home plate against the Chicago White Sox. He will be the Pirates' starting shortstop next season, and hopefully he will continue his rise towards being a superstar.
Liover Peguero, Alika Williams and Tucapita Marcano will bring some backup depth.
Draft 412 choice- O’Neil Cruz
Since signing his 8-year, $70 million dollar contract, Ke’Bryan Hayes has been a disappointment with his bat. His glove is strong, and perhaps one of the best in the game. But the Pirates need more from him at the plate. He’s hitting .249 with only 5 home runs in almost 300 at-bats, which just doesn't cut it at a power position like third base.
Jared Triolo has shown that he too can field but doesn’t hit for power either. He is hitting .276 with no home runs in 98 at bats.
Hayes is the third baseman of the future, and Draft 412 thinks he will improve at the plate, eventually becoming a 12-15 home run type hitter. With his glove that may have to be good enough.
Draft 412 Choice - Ke’Bryan Hayes
Please visit www.draft412.com for parts three and four of this article next week.