Everyone knows what I’m about to write, spring baseball isn’t reflective of what your favorite ballclub is going to be. You can’t look at the Marlins record (4-0) here in late February and believe they will continue to post a +11 run-differential as we head into the regular season. You can’t believe the Pirates will continue to not hit the ball in any way based on these outcomes.
Most sure-fire major-league players have had only a handful of at-bats or an inning or two from the mound after all. On the flip side you can’t assume Derek Holland is now a lock for the rotation because he had a nice debut.
That said, one home run in the windy confines of spring training venues is frightening. John Ryan Murphy, a catcher who almost assuredly won’t make this club when they head north owns it. There have been only 10 extra base hits and it can’t be lost that the opponents are using just as many NRIs and AAA players as the Bucs are trotting out there.
The Pirates' pitchers have fared a bit better, but again they have been the beneficiary of opponents not fielding many of their stars.
So, does all this mean there are no takeaways we can trust from spring? Is there anything real here for us to sink our teeth into and really talk about? You tell me.
Trevor Williams got shelled, in his one inning of work he had a walk, four hits, four runs and it might have been worse than that. Now, it’s a first start in spring and, starting in spring is going to typically put better hitters in front of you, that said he is supposed to be a lock for the rotation. He changed his delivery slightly this off-season and it showed. He was wild in and out of the zone. He isn’t in trouble yet, but if he doesn’t get it turned around quickly, he certainly isn’t going to be a bright spot we look to for potential to overachieve. Trevor needs to have a nice season or could join the ranks of other half-season wonders like Jeff Locke or James Macdonald.
Ke’Bryan Hayes isn’t here to ceremonially accept his last week of spring demotion. In six at bats against a decent crop of pitchers he has four hits and a walk with a double to boot. He brought his glove too which was expected to be his differentiator, but if the bat came to play as it certainly appears in the early going, Hayes may very well push Moran to the bench or potentially off the team.
Blake Cederlind has put his mark on the early going here as well, pushing down the narrative that he has great stuff but lacks the control needed to challenge hitters. He hit 98 MPH on his first pitch this spring and, let me tell you, the coaches weren’t asking him to show how far he could crank it up in February. This is an interesting player and, if nothing else, a promising sign of depth the Pirates lacked last year. I’d call him a future closer if I thought it was an actual baseball position.
Edgar Santana and Chad Kuhl are back and they both look ready to go. Each of these players could look like key acquisitions as the season plays out. Edgar was a revelation in the bullpen during the 2018 campaign and Chad Kuhl is a talented four pitch starter with a plus fastball. Coaches have worked with him to solve his Achilles heel, getting out lefties. If he beats that issue, Chad is a beast of a pickup.
Richard Rodriguez will not be the beneficiary of Clint Hurdle’s patience this season. He can be an effective pitcher but spent half of last season throwing batting practice and auditioning for all-time pitcher at the Home Run Derby. His high fastball wasn’t high enough, and his low cutter/sinker wasn’t low enough. In the second half he found his game a bit, but the Pirates have more options this season than last and a half season of failure isn’t going to cut it. Interesting to see how much rope they give him.
Josh Bell changed his throwing motion in an effort to become a more complete player, but he hasn’t been tested. Dividends won’t be apparent for quite some time.
Cole Tucker much like Hayes, came to play. He has been aggressive on the base paths, patient with the bat and electric in the field. Boy is he going to be a hard cut to say the least and, quite frankly, Erik Gonzalez should not take his roster spot for granted. In fact, Kevin Newman shouldn’t take his starting role as a given. His most impressive at bat may very well have been a walk he drew while facing Gerrit Cole. The at-bat started 0-2 and Tucker refused to chase or give in against a pitcher that was really dealing with otherworldly movement on his pitches.
Four games. Zero outcomes that meant a damn thing. Endless storylines and position battles with a new set of eyes making the decisions makes for a truly interesting spring if you ask me. Here’s hoping moves are made based on merit rather than options or money.
Follow Gary on Twitter: @garymo2007