The Pirates are adding Andy Haines as a hitting coach, according to Jason Mackey. Haines was formerly with the Brewers, until he and assistant hitting coach Jacob Cruz (who was a former assistant with the Pirates) were dismissed last month.
It’s difficult to evaluate these types of moves. How do you judge the value of a hitting coach? Is it by the overall results of the team? That typically is what gets them fired in the end, and Haines was dismissed by the Brewers for a bottom-third offense.
We could point out players who did well and players who didn’t, but the same could be done for any coach. There will always be success stories and there will always be down years.
The Pirates have nowhere to go but up. They had one of the worst offenses in the majors last year, so even the lower expectation results by the Brewers would be an improvement. Haines will be the leader of the hitting approach throughout the system, and likely will get a few years to implement his system.
Here is a look at who he has to work with immediately, beyond the more established players like Bryan Reynolds and Jacob Stallings.
Hayes has shown he can be an MLB starter at third base, with a decent enough bat and solid defense at the corner. He was a top ten defender this year, but ranked bottom-third overall. A boost to his offense could make him an average or better starter. There are many levels that Hayes is capable of on that “or better” portion of the scale. A new hitting coach should get him to at least average, aiming for an overall above-average floor. Again, the defense is already driving Hayes’ value. New hitting coach Andy Haines will be the biggest impact on the potential cornerstone of the Pirates.
The Post Prospects
The Pirates have a wave of prospects set to arrive in 2022, with a lot of options set to fill the middle infield spots, as well as the corner outfield spots. Until those prospects arrive, the Pirates will likely take one last cycle through a group of post-prospects. They would include Kevin Newman, Cole Tucker, Anthony Alford, and Michael Chavis. The Pirates added Greg Allen on waivers, and you can be sure they’ll be active on waivers all offseason with similar moves. The Pirates will hope that at least one of these guys can break through and become an average or better starter.
Newman would be a prime candidate. Like Hayes, he already has the defense. He’s seen his plate patience and ability to take a walk disappear in the upper levels. He has good contact ability, but doesn’t have a lot of strength, so power isn’t part of his game. He needs to either add power, or become more selective with the pitches he chooses to attempt contact with.
The New Prospects
I would expect the 2022 season to feature a lot of prospects in the majors for the Pirates. We’ve already seen Oneil Cruz for a short time and Rodolfo Castro for an extended look. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Canaan Smith-Njigba, Travis Swaggerty, Jack Suwinski, Diego Castillo, Tucapita Marcano, and others getting the call by the end of 2022.
The Pirates haven’t had a great track record of their hitters translating their bats over to the big leagues. Haines will have a lot of prospects to work with in 2022, and even more in the following years, with top guys that include Henry Davis, Nick Gonzales, and Liover Peguero.