Wilbur Miller had two great breakdowns of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ roster this weekend. The Pirates have a lot of “post prospect” types who are 25+, have struggled in their time in the majors in the past, and are probably on their last chance with the team. The final two months of the 2021 season should provide that chance.
When I think of this process, I think of Anthony Alford, John Nogowski, and shooting stars.
The Pirates just called up Alford, after the outfielder had been on a hot streak in Triple-A. Alford hit .356/.456/.704 in 160 plate appearances since the start of June with Indianapolis. In his first game back in the majors, he went 3-for-4 with two doubles.
There are two long-term outfield spots open in Pittsburgh, and nothing is stopping the 27-year-old Alford from claiming one of those spots — at least for the start of the 2022 season. To date, he has a combined 121 plate appearances in the majors, which shouldn’t be enough to disqualify him.
Anthony Alford has never really been given a chance.
At most, he’s had 30 MLB plate appearances in a single season in the majors. He could come up and start for a week and get as much of a look.
The Pirates have two months remaining of a losing season. The best thing they can do during this time is find out which of their post-prospect crowd can help in the future.
Give Alford two months and somewhat regular playing time and have no questions once the offseason comes around.
I wouldn’t pencil Alford into any 2022 roster projections without considering what we’ve seen from John Nogowski.
The Pirates needed first base help in early July, and turned to the 28-year-old who they purchased the rights to from the St. Louis Cardinals. In his first two weeks, Nogowski set the league on fire, hitting for a .438/.491/.583 line in 53 plate appearances.
The weeks that have followed are the exact opposite. In his last 61 plate appearances, Nogowski has just a .398 OPS.
With Colin Moran returning, there won’t be a lot of playing time available for Nogowski. It will be more difficult to justify that playing time after his last few weeks. That’s an unfair process for Nogowski, as his opportunity was limited, and his success was always viewed with an asterisk.
Such is the life of a post-prospect.
Such will be the life of Anthony Alford, even if he finishes the final two months on a strong note in the majors.
You can’t really predict shooting stars.
They light up the sky in the night momentarily. If you’re lucky enough to catch one, it’s an event that happens before your eyes, before you can even process what you’re seeing. By the time you know what happened, the star has burnt out in the night sky, never to be seen again.
Post-prospects are shooting stars.
They will “ooh” and “ahh” temporarily, and their run through the night sky will be over as quickly as it started.
Make no mistake, the Pirates need shooting stars.
Especially when they are contending again.
Injuries will happen in any season. In the future, when the Pirates return to being contenders, they’ll be hit by an early-July injury. Their hope during that time will be John Nogowski — someone who can come up and light the world on fire for a short time, as long as he can sustain it.
A run like we saw from Nogowski won games for a losing team, and it can win games for a winning team.
Anthony Alford can do the same thing. So can every other player mentioned in Wilbur’s articles.
They can all be shooting stars.
Kept in Triple-A — just out of space of an MLB roster — until they start to heat up. Then, they’re launched into the MLB atmosphere to see what they can do on their run.
We all like stars.
The constant type.
The ones that can shine consistently night after night.
The ones that ideally group together with other stars to form some type of identifiable shape that everyone looks up to as a guide.
Even in a night sky with 30 constellations to follow, a shooting star always shines brightest.
It all makes me wonder if the Pirates should use their Triple-A affiliate to give opportunity for shooting stars to heat up, before launching them into the majors. Use the Double-A affiliate to develop the prospects you hope can be part of your future constellation. That way, you’re promoting the long-term options from Double-A and the short-term help from Triple-A.
And hoping for stars and shooting stars, respectively.