P2Daily: A Different Approach With Prospects in the Majors

Jack Suwinski has hardly spent any time in the majors.

The outfield prospect, called up from Double-A Altoona at the end of April, has 49 plate appearances so far with the Pirates. That’s still very much in small sample size territory. This is highlighted by the fact that Suwinski entered the week with a .515 OPS and currently has a 715 OPS after hitting two homers in his last four games.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I remain surprised at how the Pirates are using their prospects. Last night, Suwinski continued getting starts, even though he’s skipping Triple-A. The Pirates also went with Cam Alldred for an inning of relief, rather than opting for a more experienced pitcher on the roster.

Suwinski earned his chance by crushing in Altoona early in the year. Alldred got here by being a dominant, multi-inning lefty reliever in Indianapolis. Both got here on merit, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see them starting so often.

Perhaps that’s a holdover from how the Pirates handled prospects under Neal Huntington and Clint Hurdle. We’d often see players come up in an emergency role like these two, only to never play unless it was an actual emergency. It’s as if there was a fear of using the unknown player, rather than seeing what they could do.

What we’re seeing from the Pirates now is almost the opposite approach. Suwinski spends his first ten games with a .515 OPS, and still gets four starts in a row. In fact, Suwinski has started six games in a row, spanning back to when he had a sub-.400 OPS.

The Pirates took this approach last year with Rodolfo Castro and Max Kranick. I thought at the time that this might devalue those players, signaling that the Pirates don’t really like them as much, indicated by the usage. That may have just been leftover thinking from the old front office.

It’s one thing to take this approach with two prospects who were added by the previous front office, who both universally grade as bench and bullpen guys more than starters in the majors.

It’s completely different to see this approach taken with a guy that Ben Cherington acquired last July for one of his biggest deadline trade chips, Adam Frazier.

It seems that this version of the Pirates isn’t afraid to let their prospects play, and show what they can do in the majors while they are up.

And I’m all here for it.

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1979andCounting

The Suwinski promotion was just a stroke of luck, when Reynolds and Tucker both went on the virus injury list BC had to quickly get two bodies to PNC from Ohio where Altoona was playing. In came Jack and Marcano. It also happened that Alford had been DFAed two days earlier, which further kept the door open for Suwinski to stick around even when Reynolds was re-activated. So calling this a “new approach” by BC just doesn’t quite add up.

docdon385

Just announced, or at least I just heard it, that Kumar Rocker has signed with a independent Frontier League team to show he’s healthy. Was joking a few days ago that if the Pirates want pitching in the draft and Rocker’s healthy (big if) they could potentially get last years best or at worst second best pitcher with pick #4 .

Who knows what he’ll show or even if he’ll sign if drafted given that Scott Boras is his agent, but it’s an interesting thought for me at least. Also the NY team that he signed with plays the Washington Wild Things in Washington, PA on May 24-26th. He might not even pitch in one of those games, but if he does it could be a nice short road trip.

adicesa14

As much as I liked Clint Hurdle, his refusal to play prospects was baffling and infuriating. It’s good to see this management provide prospects development time in the majors. Wouldn’t it be optimal to see as many of the prospects play at the major league level before they reach minor league free agency? It’s a way to reach an informed decision on who to protect, trade, etc., and currently it costs nothing regarding contention.

NMR

It would be optimal to build actual good baseball teams filled with actual good baseball players.

For all the complaints of Hurdle’s prospect usage, can’t we at least acknowledge that not a single one of them actually caught on with another of the 29 Major League clubs and succeeded?

The Pirates became well-known for a series of developmental failures towards the end of the Huntington Era, none of which was Clint Hurdle’s prospect playing time.

agent00

here’s a question. BA is reranking their top 30 lists. will nick gonzales still be a top ten prospect?

kja1970

I would think that Nick Gonzales would still be in the Top 10.

It wasn’t that long ago that they showed NG91 with one of the highest average EV in the BA100.

Only player with a higher average EV is the 6’7” SS who had a 121.7 mph EV this week

jaygray007

Is Nick Gonzales *actually* a top 10 guy for the bucs? debatable, IMO.

Will BA reflect that in their rankings? nah

Last edited 2 days ago by jaygray007
NMR

The worse question may be what prospects are more worthy…

jaygray007

honestly a great q lol

spitballin… i’d bet on the following to have better careers than Gonzo…

Oneil, Roansy, Castro, Priester, Liover, Mitchell, Bae, Davis, Castillo, Swaggerty

Castillo has done all of the things that Gonzales is supposed to do, but at a higher level. Still think Swaggerty is a no-shit CF who can hit a bit. both are things that i dont think Gonzales will do. I’m sure you can imagine my logic on everyone else here.

Also, hope nobody takes this list too terribly seriously. it was very very spitballed.

Arky Wags

Wait I chiseled this list in stone, Jay!

adicesa14

It’s too soon to ‘give-up’ on Nick Gonzales but it’s beginning to feel similar to the Cole Tucker saga.

WTM

Sam Howard claimed by Det.

agent00

oh no!!….anyways

WTM

NMR

Depending on players figuring it out at the big league level straight from AA six weeks into the season is an abject sign of failure to build a competent ballclub and we’re gonna get absolutely smoked if and when we ever try to actually win major league baseball games if this is what we’re supposed to be getting excited about.

Terminal case of prospect brain, fellas.

The Cobra

I agree that this shouldn’t be a long-term game plan for the organization. But for this year, I’d much rather see the kids try to “figure it out” in the bigs verses seeing Alford, Van Meter and the like constantly getting AB’s. It’s time to see what these 23-24 year olds got, hopefully a few actually swim.

NMR

Absolutely agreed!

My skin just starts to crawl a bit when this narrative gets built about this somehow being a new way of doing business.

I have no doubt that plenty of guys, if given enough time, may be able to skip a level and not completely suck.

But it would be nice for Tim to make an actual argument for how this strategy will lead to beating good baseball teams.

Scranton

I’ll believe it when they stop doing things like claiming Tyler Beede off waivers instead of letting Yerry De Los Santos or even Sulser pitch in the majors.

jaygray007

Wasn’t Suwinski supposed to be a horrible fielder? I know fangraphs had him being barely playable as a OF at some point.

Maybe his defensive steps forward are a good story to track down 🙂

skliesen

I guess I might be more in agreement with this sentiment if Cruz had started the year in Pittsburgh playing SS. This approach appears like a kid dipping his toe in the pool. I suppose it’s progress, but it’s far from being an aggressive approach to prospect development.

Scrappy2499

I am glad that they did not take this approach with Cruz. He has had a big hole in his swing since the beginning of the season. He hasn’t remotely showed he is ready to come up yet.

NMR

They brought this on themselves with that dog and pony show they pulled last summer, but yes, it’s still extremely obvious that Cruz is a very raw, undisciplined baseball player.

It shows both at the plate and in the field. It takes an immense amount of focus and attention to succeed at the highest level, and Cruz’s game is still too immature for the moment. Time and experience is all that will help, and they have plenty of it.

tedwins

I’m so glad we didnt do this approach with Cruz, could have been very embarrassing, hurtful long term…

JoeNastasi

Cruz needs to learn how to play the OF, I’d prefer to see him in CF, but LF will do & he needs to do this in Indy not Pittsburgh.

tedwins

I, personally, dont think it it is manipulation, just readiness, kinda the heart and debate of this thread🤷‍♂️😅

tedwins

Thanks Tim W., nice article and appreciate this view. I’m not sure the takeaway is on your examples, Suwiski seemed to be available, on 40man, so in desperate times we had to take desperate measures for a MLB OFer, glad he is having success. Too early to opine on Aldred and his ongoing role, again we are all desperate for guys to trickle up and show hope… I know im the optimistic guy on this site, still miss NH, but not sure there has been some aggressive change in philosophy, more just patching together a 26 man roster to me, and who knows, we will see shortly, we better with others hopefully knocking down the mlb door🤷‍♂️

Last edited 3 days ago by tedwins
TNBucs

With Aldred, I’m concerned he’ll follow the Sulser path–a quick cameo where he looks decent followed by a DFA when a roster spot is needed.

And I’m glad to know that there is someone else on the site who misses Huntington. I’m okay with Cherington but will always like NH. He made a terrible trade but I feel like too many people forget how miserable this organization was before he turned things around.

tedwins

Yuppers mate on NH, but we are not alone, others get his successes without being so focussed on one trade, I hope🤣🤣🤣

JoeNastasi

That 1 trade did cost this organization about 4 years of rebuild.
Without knowing the details on the trade discussions with LA on Vazquez, not pulling the trigger on that one may have been as bad for the team as him pulling the panicked trade for Archer.

jeffw3000

I do not think you can hold the Vazquez trade against anybody. It is always easy to second guess. Yes. Knowing what we know now it would have been great if they would have made that deal, but no one expected Vazquez to go to prison at the time. They did not have to deal Vazquez right then, and nothing is wrong with holding out for a big return, if they did not feel the return was enough.

tedwins

Yes Jeff, and nobody knows what LA offered, if anything?

tedwins

Yes Joe, you comment on the Archer trade everytime I see you post here… it was a bad trade, we get it but old news… Glasnow has given TB some very good, limited innings (check out his innings in TB over those yrs), Meadows already swapped as he is one dimensional, Baz is the concern, if he is great then all good for reminding us, but hurt now… The trade helped the rebuild, made us stink more and focus on such.

Last edited 3 days ago by tedwins
docdon385

Optimism is fine, and it’s certainly true that there’s nothing to be done about mistakes from the past except to try to not repeat them, but suggesting that a terrible trade has been good for the team because (what?) it dragged them down even further and gave them more chances to make better future decisions, is way out there and closer to denial than optimism.

I remain convinced that infamous trade was almost totally the decision of one Robert Nutting and that his employee NH simply had to fall in line and do the dirty work ordered by his boss. He was made the fall guy when it became clear what a fiasco it had been. It’s what big bosses do to deflect the blame.

I’d like nothing better than to push that trade aside and never think about it again, but unfortunately the name of at least one of the four players involved keeps coming up and reminding me and everyone else about it. Perhaps that will fade with time but the only way to really put it in the past and make it not matter is for the Pirates to start winning.

tedwins

I didnt think i had to put a smiley face at the end of my last sentence but it probably did facilitate our blow up docdon🤣….the rest i dont care abt, i wish i never responed, big mistske by me…..but currently glasnow is healing (wake me in 2023), same with Baz (this the scary part of the trade i mentioned), and Meadows has 0hrs in detroit, sorry if this trade doesnt bother me more right now👍

agent00

your persistent defense of the trade is impressive, to say the least

tedwins

Not defense, i state such, that the trade was bad, just deflection back to the thread we are discussing and reminder of where that trade stands…

Last edited 2 days ago by tedwins
agent00

reminder that the trade is still one of the worst trades of all time? despite not pitching a lot of innings, glasnow is a yearly cy young contender. something the pirates sure could use right about now. meadows may not be that good defensively (less of a concern with the dh now) but he’s still an above average hitter, again, something the pirates sure could use.

and i’m not even going to include baz because his inclusion in the trade is one of the most idiotic and absurd things i’ve ever seen in sports.

anyways. sorry, i just hate when people try to claim, ‘well the trade wasn’t actually that bad’, in some weird defense of neal. it was a bad trade, will continue to be a bad trade.

tedwins

I get it, trade was bad, my point is clear, move on and Glasnow is not a yearly CY Young candidate, wasnt in 2020, 2021, and wont be in 2022… Meadows is fine, nothing special, again, we wait on Baz…but, again, moving on can be an opinion, not agreeing it was the worst trade ever can also be an opinion, it is mine….

agent00

okay bud

tedwins

I hate this conversation mate, why did i respond to Joe😢😢….👍👍

agent00

it’s whatever, man. we’re all pirates fans here. we just want to see them succeed.

Ethan Hullihen

No respect for Yoslan Herrera I see

TNBucs

Jumping Suwinski over AAA is new, but how much of that is opportunity (as you note, it was probably a choice between CSN and Suwinski and Suwinski had much better numbers) and how much of that is a change in organizational philosophy?

I’ll be more of a believer if we see, say, Burrows jumping straight to MLB in June or July. The stuff would seem to play right now.

tedwins

Yes, of course, my initial comment implies such, it is a good article and im thankful for Tim W. posting it, but not sure I see this as a new philosphical direction, again, what do I know…. I still miss EGon, Overton, Kuhl, and Moran, kidding, abit🤣🤣 Also I noticed my guy Alex Wood is hanging in there, nothing great but what I was hoping for to stabilize a 2023 competitive rotation/team🤷‍♂️

Last edited 3 days ago by tedwins
tedwins

During NH reign, from 2012 thru 2019, we were competing, for the most part had MLB depth, of course not always. This is different situation, guess that is my point on reaching to AA and the articles narrative, what do I know mate, nothing😇

Last edited 3 days ago by tedwins
NMR

I’m mostly fascinated by this because my old view — fueled by tradition and the old front office’s ways — was that prospects need Triple-A before the majors. Today, I think that view is wrong for simply thinking too linear.”

We get it, and you’ll obviously reach for any amount of “evidence” to defend your new position.

tedwins

I love seeing that avatar back, classic👏👍

tedwins

Understood my friend👍👍👏👏

TNBucs

This is promising. I was concerned with Castillo’s inconsistent opportunities in April but he’s now getting regular time and I really like how they’ve handled Suwinski. The pessimistic side of me wonders if that’s only because of Cherington’s failure to add major league players in the offseason, though Allen was looking promising before the injury.

Shame that Martin is struggling so bad because we could use a prospect at 1B right now.

kja1970

Probably no one wants to hear this but Mason Martin is having an above average season in AAA (wRC+ > 100) along with excellent defense

Last edited 3 days ago by kja1970
TNBucs

The problem is that he’s been terrible in May (.067/.194/.100 with a 37% K rate). It’s too soon to know if this is due to adjustments the league has made to him or if he’s simply a streaky player where you need to throw out monthly splits and take the overall stats, which as you point out are good.

But even when he was putting up big numbers in April, I worried that his high K revealed a weakness that pitchers would eventually exploit and so now I worry that’s what’s happening. But of course I hope tonight is the night he starts turning things around again.

Last edited 2 days ago by TNBucs
HeyFred

Appreciate this take on using these guys and really hope it continues. Always hated how Hurdle would keep guys on the bench in some misguided, outdated effort to have them acclimate or ‘watch and learn’. They’re ball players and the manager’s job is to find out how well they play ball. Let the kids play.

TNBucs

With Hurdle it seemed to depend on the quality of the prospect. For example, when Marte, Polanco, and Reynolds came up, they were everyday players from their first game. Even Mercer very quickly became an everyday player.

Hurdle was ineffective in the end, but the biggest problem in 2016-2019 seems to be the biggest problem now–are we getting the most out of the pitching we have or will we continue to see guys leave and get better elsewhere?

JoeNastasi

I agree with Marte & Polanco, but Reynolds at the time was the last man standing so to speak & he had no choice. Mercer definitely did not fall into that category, he outplayed Barmes by a wide margin but CH kept going back to Barmes anyway, including the playoffs

kja1970

Has anyone noticed that Suwinski has near elite sprint speed?

And his WAR / 162 games is the highest on the team (and it’s not due to a high BA)

https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/savant-player/jack-suwinski-669261?stats=statcast-r-hitting-mlb

WTM

Great find on the sprint speed. I had no clue.

jaygray007

Devil in a New Dress might be my favorite song of all time. The guitar solo and Rick Ross feature are just perfect.

tedwins

Tim W… you like Rush, Triumph, etc…?

tedwins

We have some similar real connections on music, as you know, Sixteen Stone / Kings of Leon…. you might dig Triumph (fight the good fight, never surrender, lay it on the line, magic power, etc.) but if you dont, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog can be a fall back, awesome🤣🤣🤣

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