BD commenter FriarFan32 asked me the other day about Pirates I thought were flying under the radar at spring training. I’d been thinking about that anyway, but the more I thought, the more I came to this realization:
The whole team’s flying under the radar.
In case you haven’t noticed (that’s sarcasm by the way), the Pirates don’t attract the attention of the big media outlets. Sure, they burbled about Ke’Bryan Hayes at the end of last season, but other than that it was like “oh, yeah, the Pirates played today. What are the Dodgers doing?” The Bucs have no household names, no players that bust out elite fantasy stats, none of the flashy stuff that MLB desperately uses to try to attract younger fans to an aging base.
At this point, the Pirates are two weeks into spring training, and as usual during this part of spring training, optimism rules. It is much too early to make any sort of prediction about anyone. However, a couple of observations can be made.
Much is being made of the “shortstop controversy,” but I really don’t think there is one. I believe it’s Kevin Newman’s starting job to lose despite last season’s stumble, and it’s mainly a matter of who’s going to back him up, Cole Tucker or Oneil Cruz. You might think Tucker has the edge since he’s had more big club time, but Cruz is getting time on the field. Tucker’s overall lack of offense is going to be a factor as well. Erik González is going to be the general middle infield backup, and I’m not seeing Cruz being tried out at other positions right now.
The only sure thing in the outfield right now is Bryan Reynolds. Gregory Polanco has to feel the breaths on the back of his neck from Dustin Fowler, Anthony Alford, and Phillip Evans among others. Whether he’ll look at that as a chance to prove himself or just sit back and collect his money remains to be seen.
Today, at least, we can start watching instead of depending on the media to tell us things, like the local guy claiming that Hayes will win the Gold Glove at third base this year. Really? REALLY? I’m an optimist, but not that much.