First Pitch: Repairing a Broken Factory

Today is the final day of our series of articles recapping and looking ahead at every position for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Later today we’ll have a post up with links to all 33 articles in the series, which is aimed at getting everyone to a good starting point for where the team is at heading into the offseason.

The final segment is some sort of analysis on the bench, and I don’t even know where to start.

The Pirates bench going forward will be…




It’s easy to dunk on this team by saying that every aspect of the team will be bad. That predictive approach will make you right more often than you’re wrong in 2021. The problem with this team isn’t so much that they’re bad. The problem is that they’re largely incomplete, with no clear path on how to complete the team.

Imagine for a second that you have taken over control of an empty factory. Your job is to rebuild it and get it back in business. The biggest question is where do you start when the windows are broken, everything inside is worn down, and there’s industrial waste to deal with?

You don’t need to re-build the factory, because it’s already built. You just have to hope it doesn’t fall over in the middle of the night.

But you’re not ready for business with the factory at the current state. You need to do something, even if you can’t call that building or rebuilding.

The Pirates have a factory. They bring players in from all over the world, turn them into top prospects, and release them into the majors. The only problem is that the factory has been malfunctioning for years. The players being sent out aren’t compatible with the majors, and aren’t what the factory advertised.

Other factories are doing good things not only producing their own players, but finding ways to fix players that came from broken factories.

The Pirates once had a factory that could at least repair the broken players. But their factory hasn’t consistently produced their own quality players for decades.

Neal Huntington took over and at least got the factory to a functioning level during his time. But a functioning factory isn’t enough to beat the Rays and Dodgers.

Ben Cherington will need to figure out what has been going wrong inside the Pirates’ development factory and will need to fix it to get them back to being contenders.

The biggest issue with the Pirates has been development. They’ve had no problem finding talent, whether it’s through the draft or international markets. They’ve been able to develop that talent into top prospects inside the game. And somewhere in that development they missed a piece, which made it so that the players didn’t work properly when they arrived in the majors.

That’s not unique to the Pirates. Someone missed a piece with Anthony Alford.

Phillip Evans might have been missing a piece of development before the Pirates added him.

The Pirates have plenty of their own guys looking for parts as well.

The bench in 2021 will be interesting because it will give a lot of cases for Cherington to work with, showing the Pirates’ abilities with getting prospects over that final hurdle to the majors. If they can do something with Alford, or Evans, or even the more internal guys like Erik Gonzalez, Kevin Newman, Cole Tucker, or Colin Moran, then it will give a lot of hope for their development abilities in the future.

Of course, the team is so thin on talent right now that any success from the bench would likely lead to the player moving into a starter role somewhere on the team. By the end of the 2021 season, the Pirates are probably going to have a bad bench, with their best bench players from the start of the season moving to bigger roles.

Their success beyond 2021 will be impacted by how many of those bench players they can elevate to higher production.

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First Pitch