Pirates Prospects Daily: The Second Base Battle is Heating Up Down the Stretch

Rodolfo Castro is one of the more intriguing names still on the Pittsburgh Pirates’ roster. His boom-or-bust style plays out exactly how it sounds, there are times when he wows us, and other times he leaves you pulling out your hair.

That’s been the case for him for the majority of spring this year. He’s played in 16 games this spring, and has bookended a pair of home runs in the first game and the most recent contest. In between he’s struck out a total of 17 times (first/worst on the team) in his 47 plate appearances.

In a situation that likely doesn’t mean anything, but in the heat of a position battle that has several players competing for the same spot, Castro has been used as a late-game replacement in each of his last two games.

Again, that probably doesn’t mean anything, unless you’ve really had a rough stretch – both offensively and defensively.

Breathing down his neck is Ji-Hwan Bae, who is making a late camp push to at the very least, make the Opening Day roster. After reaching safely twice on Thursday, Bae has picked up six hits in his last five games, including his lone double and both RBIs.

Both seem to offer an intriguing skill set that really are polar opposites of each other. Bae relies on speed and contact, while Castro offers far more power. 

Mark Mathias provides some versatility, and potentially sneaky power, but may have jumped into the competition a bit late. Tucupia Marcano graded out as the best defensive second basemen last year, but is still struggling with the bat.

Most positions have been locked up with just under a week left to go before the regular season starts. Second base being the one that is seemingly the most wide open right now.

While how a player is utilized during a game in spring usually isn’t a clear indication of how he might be used, the fact that Castro has come in as a late game sub is interesting, especially after being used as a starter up to this point. 

This last week will be big for each of the players fighting for a spot. After getting an at-bat here and there, the starters will be playing more to really try to find their rhythm.

It may not have been an indication up to this point, but when and where Bae, Castro and others are used, could give a clue on what their plans are during the regular season. 

Pirates Prospects Daily

By John Dreker

The Pirates lost 7-4 to the Boston Red Sox on Thursday. Bryan Reynolds had three hits. Rodolfo Castro homered. Johan Oviedo allowed two runs over four innings. Here’s the boxscore. The Pirates are on the road against the Detroit Tigers tonight, with a 6:05 PM start time. Lineup will be posted below once it becomes available.

**The Backup Catching Battle Becomes a Two-Man Competition

**MLB Pipeline Ranks the Pirates as Having the Eighth Best Farm System

**Pirates Prospects Daily: Outfield Puzzle Remains To Be Solved With Week Left In Spring

**Pirates DVR: Anthony Solometo Strikeout, Draft Prospects Highlights

Song of the Day

Today’s Lineup

Roansy Contreras on the mound, road game tonight in Detroit (Lakeland). Radio only

Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.

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anthony i think somehow you overlooked Suwinski’s K’s when saying castro has the most of the team. He does not.


There has been discussion about cutting Choi, which I think is ridiculous and highly unlikely. but if given a choice between Choi and Santana, I pick Choi, not only do I think that he’s the better player, but a combination of him and Joe makes better sense especially with Cutch on the team.


I agree. Choi’s EV are elite. And the lack of a shift SHOULD benefit him as much as anyone in MLB. I think Choi is better defensively too. He’s sneaky quick footed and athletic. I completely agree, if anyone, Santana seems like the likely odd man out with Cutch and Joe.

Edit*** go down to the bottom and “under appreciated consistent hard hitters”


Last edited 2 months ago by pittsburghbob69

Bae manufacturers a tying run in 9th inning. Single, stole second, passed ball to third, scores on a fielders choice safe at home. Yeah there’s value in this, but that’s a luxury roster spot on a contender. I mean, if we can live with no slugging %, Shelty will like him for his defensive versatility (2B, OF).


He doesn’t have to slug. As long as he can just get on base, there will likely be 30+ times that a walk-single turns into a double or a double turns into a triple. To me, those steals are bases regardless of how you produce them.

not avail

I’m gonna need to see him in catcher’s gear before I can judge.


I’m sure some teener league has an extra set that will fit him, lol.


What will the pirates record be after 10 games? I got us 2-8


I’m skeptical that Contreras is gonna keep his spot in the rotation, so far is only slider and 4 seamer, the 4 seamer is in the 93-95 mph range…..that’s not gonna cut it. He needs to get back up to 97 mph top of the zone to succeed or add another viable pitch…..


its march. please air your concerns about velocity in may


Unfortunately the season begins March 30 not in May.


We are really knocking around an Opening Day starter tonite. And a LHer to boot. Hmmm……peaking at the right time (for once)?


And our pitching is getting knocked around too. 10 hits allowed thru 4 IP.


Ughh…..Bednar 25 pitches to go 2/3 of an inning.


Shelty is in over his head, these should be easy decisions
You need a CF who knows what he is doing, this competition with (CSN) should not be real he is not close to Swags defensively anywhere, same thing with Castro and Bae

End of 2022, FO had to be thinking find a backstop hitting .143 HEDGES
Next, find 4 position players to add to the core
Reynolds, Cruz, Hayes Suwinski

FO replaced Yoshie, Vogs, Chavis, Gamel, Newman & Van Weezer
with Choi, Santana, Joe, Cutch, Marcano and Mathias
Better? No doubt but how many more runs is that group going to produce

They should apologize to Keller, Contreras and Brubaker for doing this again and also to Hill who didn’t sign up for this.

Since they expect to be out-sticked on a nightly basis

Pitching and sound defense is the only way to compromise bats
CATCH and THROW the ball ACCURATELY, to do that

C- Hedges
1B- Santana
2B- Bae
3B- Hayes
SS- Cruz
LF- Reynolds
CF- Swaggerty
RF- Suwinski
DH- Cutch

Best Defensive line-up in a long time and
without giving up too much offense

When Choi and Castro are on the right side with Cruz at SS, defense is weakened
If Bae plays anywhere but 2nd base, especially CF, defense is really weakened

Left side – Hayes and length of Cruz can shut it down if positioned properly
Right side- Bae so quick his range is sick and Santana is strong

Reynolds- Back home in LF
Swaggerty- You will remember what a CF does in a hurry
Suwinski- Steady as it goes with glove and arm

Hedges- best in the business

Unsure why defense and fundementals have disappeared
Unsure why shelty would be retained if team plays like ST again
Unsure what shelty analytics has him batting .143 Hedges behind Cutch


These are not shelton’s decisions. That’s BC’s job.


teaching defense and fundamentals is sheltons job, as well as putting together a lineup


Swag optioned.


Wow, I’m really excited about opening the season with Owings, Mathias and Connor Joe!

No one ever said after watching a team with one winning season out of the last seven.


If it comes that at the expense of CSN and Bae, someone better come over to my place and calm me down. I see Mathias is starting at 2nd again tonight. If he gets the bulk of the starts there early on, there will be even more steam coming out of my ears. ENOUGH!

Scam likely

team go north position players
Santana 1b/dh
Choi 1b/dh
Castro 2b/3b/ss
Bae 2b/ss/cf
Mamel backup catcher.
A.hedges c
Reynolds lf/cf
Swaggerty cf/of
Cutch rf/dh
Joe rf/1b
Suwinski cf/of
Mathies of/inf.


Down to the wire for the 26-man! Gone from Opening Day 2022 are: Roberto Perez, Andrew Knapp, Yoshi, Vogelbach, Cole Tucker, JVM, Diego, Hoy Park, Chavis, Newman, Gamel, Marisnick, Quintana, Bryse Wilson, Zach Thompson, Hembree, Banda, Stratton, Peters, Fletcher, Yajure. Smh……I hope we never again experience the Tryout City that we’ve lived through for past three seasons.


Lets assume that Castro, Cruz and Suwinski make the team and each gets 500 at bats. Would it be out of the question to assume that that between them they can strike out 500 or more times? Sure they can hit 75 or more home runs between them but is it worth it?


I don’t see how you can give Castro and Suwinski 500 ABs each; they’re both platoon players at this point.


No problem at all with Bae over Castro based on K rate disparity alone. And that would be in keeping with some of the off-season FA moves trying to move away from the Diego Castillos & Michael Chavis‘s on the roster.

But if that’s the decision, Suwinsky should probably be held to the same standard because everything Shelton said about MLB track record counting has some applicability to Castro too. Just be consistent.

I like rolling the dice on a roster with attempted upgrades on OBP, better defense.& decreased K rates — trying to get ahead of the league on the shift restrictions, trying to reward more athleticism offensively and on defense.

In fact, the Huntington era “cheat codes” of largely inventing the defensive shift, abbreviating games with an effective bullpen innings 6-9, trading away stars before their age 27 decrease/FA years, landing the Josh Bells via the draft — were all ahead of the their time (arguably) and the Bucs had an advantage until the larger markets adapted —or changed the rules!

If this is our gamble this year, go all in : Swaggerty & CSN with BRey in the outfield, Bae over Castro at 2B, and we already have respectable upgrades at 1B. Throw in Endy at Super 2, keep the starters healthy, and cross fingers on innings 5-6-7 of bullpen and what do you know?

Bridge year!!!


Well said, although I don’t mind having a little Three true outcomes mixed in with suwinski.


My guess, based on last week’s playing time, and when they came into the game, is that Swaggerty has an MLB position (or they are going to send him to Indy for a few weeks to manipulate service time), because it seems they have already decided on him. So that leaves CSN and Suwinski to compete over the last outfield spot, which is why they are seeing a lot of playing time during the first 6 innings.

I think Castro is the starting second baseman, although he may not have a long leash. Bae is getting a lot of playing time in order to decided between which two of Owens/Joe/Bae go north, with Owens and Joe being known quantities.


My guess, based on last week’s playing time, and when they came into the game, is that Swaggerty has an MLB position

I’m worried it’s the opposite. Shelton, as he should, discounts performances from late in games against minor leaguers. However, if Shelton already knows who he wants at a position, then limiting the playing time of the “competition” to the late innings essentially keeps that player from proving himself. I hope I’m wrong about how/why Shelton is managing playing time the way he has.


Shelton works for BC, so i would think they talk everyday about who plays where and when and in the end BC has the final say. My concern about Swaggerty would be service time manipulation, given his age i would hope the front office would not manipulate that against him.


I don’t know how to ask this without it sounding condescending so I apologize in advance but how in the world can you guys convince yourselves that a player who was *already promoted mid-season* and has ostensibly just been beaten out by a player rostered Opening Day straight from AA is definitely having his service time manipulated?

My goodness, it must be miserable to be this insanely paranoid.


From watching a lot of spring training, and going to three of the games in person, it just seemed to me that it was obvious that Swaggerty was much better defensibly and offensively than Suwinski or CSN as a Center Fielder. I have no problem with Suwinski making the opening day roster as a Right Fielder. Nothing miserable, insane, or paranoid about it. In absence of a better reason, I can only come up with service time manipulation.

Last edited 2 months ago by EightMenOut

I’d offer an alternative. They’re not very good at assessing talent. Why else would this organization be in the spot that it’s in? This is just a different example of that.


They have to be better than us at assessing talent, so i can come up with no other explanation than service time. Those that disagree have yet to offer any other concrete alternative.

Last edited 2 months ago by EightMenOut

I’m sure they’re better than us at evaluating talent, but that doesn’t mean they’re good at it. As for evidence that they’re not good at evaluating talent…freaking look around. Have you been asleep since they took over? It’s not like they’ve made a slew of good decisions on talent since they took over. Some good moves, but a bunch of missteps too.
There also isn’t any evidence this is a service time issue either. The dude is 25 years old, it’s not like he’s Wander Franco banging on the door here.

Last edited 2 months ago by ArkyWags

You need to think harder; there are plenty of reasonable and logical explanations.


Service manipulation is normally done to young, top prospect, Swaggerty is not that anymore, that argument could be made for Endy, but no one else that came to ST this year.


Field managers have a lot more control and DMaking over their team than this board is giving them. BC rarely tells Shelton who and where guys play. I agree with you though about Swags. No service time manipulation should be involved with him.


In 1979, yes, you’d be correct.

That ain’t the game anymore tho, partner.


Maybe I need to wake up to the 21st century…..idk but I’d like to hear real anecdotal evidence from ex-managers and ex-gms. Maybe I’ve watched Money Ball too many times to see how Art Howe told Billy Beane to shove it, it was Howe’s team to manage! I get that analytics have changed everything. I could see the analytics dept sitting around the table with Shelton with or without BC. Maybe we’re both wrong and the analytics people are calling the shots!


The analytics staff is 100% involved in the decision making processes, but at the same time, they do not call the shots.


The Howe part of the movie was not accurate, but made up by hollywood, if my memory is correct


I wondered the same……Hollywood embellishment…….maybe?


Here is a quote from Howe, which I assume to be true: ”
“No. I learned that when they say it’s ‘based on a true story,’ it’s very loosely based. Almost every scene in that movie with me involved was a total lie. And it really hurt my reputation. Probably hurt my chances to get more opportunities to manage. But, what’re you gonna do?”


Haha now that I can unfortunately believe!


Shelton pretty much committed to Suwinski earlier this week. You should be able to find the quotes in an earlier column here.


Yeah, I guess I put more stock into the playing time than what Shelton said. They are either trying to get Suwinski into a better place both hitting and fielding, or they have not decided between him and CSN, because CSN has been hitting well.


I agree. I think Shelton simply tries to force BC’s hand with his quotes, but NC makes the decision.

b mcferren

I think a trade goes down before opening day so that Swaggerty, Suwinksi and Canaan all make the opening day roster


Well so far you have been below the Mendoza Line, and even below Luke Walker’s batting average, on trade predictions.

b mcferren

also we have had eight losing season in a row

coincidence? you decide


You say most positions are locked up, but OF seems as uncertain as ever.


Yeah, I think backup C (Delay/Heineman), backup MI (Owings/Bae/Mathias) and 4th OF (Swaggeryt/Smith-Njigba) are very much in play. And that’s assuming they roster Joe (although I think that’s 90+% likely).

I’d like to see them go north with Heineman, Bae and Swaggerty but I think Owings and Mathias have better than a puncher’s chance and either Bae or Swaggs goes to Indy.


Suwinski 19 ks in 34. woof. However I fully subscribe to spring numbers don’t matter. It’s fun to watch the “battle” but I prefer the evaluation to include the last season and the spring scouting and even piddly asset managing


I’d say that his ST number should matter more than most as far as Ks as he has struck out at a 30% clip in the minors as well. You have to assume that is what he is and decide if his other skills are sufficient to off set that.


Man would it be a shame if they ruined him with last year’s rushed promotion.


That’s not a thing. Come on. Correlation does not equal causation. If a player comes up early and has a bad career you can say that he was ruined but it can’t be proven and it makes no sense anyway. Never has.


Same with sending a guy down that had a good spring. If he stinks in AAA it’s because he’s sulking or something and not proof he needs more time or never had it anyway


Haha, you sound like Big Tobacco!!


Hahaha okay bro.


My thought at the end of 2022 and the start of 2023 ST was that 2B would be a tossup between Castro and Bae. I give Castro the edge due to RH power and more MLB experience, and Bae to be the Utility Player.

Both make the 26 and give the Pirates the ability to play multiple defensive positions – Castro at 2B, 3B, SS and Bae at 2B, SS, CF. Both start the season with less than a year of MLB Service – Castro 127 Days, and Bae 13 Days of the 172 needed for the first year of MLB Service.


I’ve been good with some level of split between the two since the start of spring training and hope that is still the case. I prefer Castro and Bae on the roster vs. one of the ‘vets’. Let’s get them some more ABs in MLB.


Make it Bae, Bae-bee.


I’m with you there. I got the need for speed


Gonzales should be ready by mid-season


James that means nothing, but fewer ST games do, oh wait he had a good ST too!


The other thing that’s maddening is the use of the Z-zone contact rate and other similar metrics

There are a few unfortunate problems there

1) the data are not publicly available
2) the Z and O require some level of manipulation to adjust the strike zone for the hitter

Obviously Oneil Cruz will not have the same strike zone as someone a foot shorter

We have zero evidence that this factor has been corrected for in the “calculations”

Last edited 2 months ago by James_Robert5

This is similar to the case when we hear a prospect in the FSL or GCL had terrible exit velocity data

First question, did you take out the bunts?

Answer, why? In any case it won’t matter much :/



The scouting reports on Gonzales are so strange

He had a bad season last year

I don’t think anyone would argue

Even so he had a wRC+ of 127 in AA

By comparison Jordan Walker had a 128 and Anthony Volpe had a 122

As you know both Walker and Volpe are Top 10 overall prospects


I think of it like this…

There’s now an entire cohort of pitching prospect who were scouting darlings with visually appealing stuff and wildly successful minor league track records who ultimately either failed in the show or had to overhaul their approach because their natural fastball and curveball characteristics were exploited by Major League hitters.

Minor league stats meant absolutely nothing to their eventual big league success, or lack there of.

Well, there now seems to be a budding cohort of hitter who, again, had been identified as scouting darlings with visually appealing characteristics and successful minor league track records who all, to a man, have failed or struggled wildly in the show.

Nick Gonzales is close enough to them that he’d been initially comp’d positively before time and experience had shown those similar traits to actually be flaws.

As the pitcher analogy shows, this does not have to be disqualifying. It does mean, though, that we probably should not expect better outcomes without some sort of overhaul to overcome the flaws he has.

  • Anthony Volpe age 21 AA 17.7 k%
  • Jordan Walker age 20 AA 21.6 k%
  • Nick Gonzales age 23 AA 28.5 k%

Context matters


That is an absolute best case scenario and I would be thrilled. But let’s cool the jets and look long and hard at his last full season results not just Fall league and spring training.


Those numbers in the link were from AA


Ready for what? To strike out more than Castro? I will believe it when I see it. If he DOES cut down on his K’s, I will be both surprised AND happy.


Gonzales K issues are overblown. He’s nowhere near as bad as Castro has been this spring. Gonzales has never Ked more than 28% at any level and was 21% in Arizona and 20% in spring. Yes 28% is bad. But no, not worse than Castro at his worst.

Nick G. Gets judged harshly due to his pedigree. That’s fine. But it has nothing to do with current reality which is that he appears to be progressing.

Last edited 2 months ago by sewer2001

The problem is that those upper 20 K rates are in the lower minors. They will only GO UP as he rises thru the system.

Let’s see how he does in AAA. This year will be the true test of what we actually have.


Yet we seem not to be concerned with it for Suwinski.


Who said that I am not concerned. It is just that we have no other viable options. CSN and Mitchell are below average defensively, as is Cutch these days.


Sorry but I missed it in all the fun of contract negotiations. Are playas now free agents after their age 30 season? If so they should be starting Swaggs from opening day. He is hands down their OF2. Wouldn’t make much of starters last week as they were giving challengers at bats to shin. Bae did help himself. Changed my mind on Choi. Keep him in free agency season cause Santana is toast.


It also adds some interest to Joe. He was a decent player last year and does not have drastic splits. Who knows, with all these OF battles, maybe he has developed into that good 4th – 5th outfield / bench guy. He has plenty of control. I am certainly not betting on this, but some guys develop late.


They are not, service time to FA was not changed in the new CBA. It is still 6 years of MLB service (1 year = 172 days).

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