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As former Buccos make a splash in the postseason, what does that say about the Pirates’ future?

It’s never been about spotting talent, it’s developing it that’s the issue.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates
Hopefully soon we’ll see something like this in the postseason that involves current Pirates.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The main reason I love postseason baseball is watching a team or player I haven’t paid too much attention to rise to the occasion. This past weekend we all saw one of the greatest comebacks in postseason history, as the Seattle Mariners overcame an eight-run deficit to beat the Toronto Blue Jays in Toronto—and an ex-Pirate doubled in the game-winning RBI.

Adam Frazier, as we all remember, got traded before the 2021 deadline to the San Diego Padres in exchange for prospects Jack Suwinski and Tucapita Marcano. Last offseason, though, the Mariners, who had also pursued him, finally landed him, and Frasier jokes abounded. I personally didn’t know about the trade until I was watching MLB Network this past spring and it popped into a Seattle game and there he was, playing second.

Frazier wasn’t the only ex-Bucco to make a mark in the wild card games. Joe Musgrove, who could be maddeningly inconsistent during his time in Pittsburgh, also went to the Padres, his hometown team, and became a star, tossing the franchise’s first no-hitter, garnering a $100 million contract to boot, and shutting out the Mets in the deciding wild card game at Citi Field, much to my Brother the Mets Fan’s disgust.

Pirates fans lamented on Twitter. Why didn’t Frazier hit like that when he was here? Why didn’t Musgrove become an ace?

The Pirates’ problem has never been spotting talent. It’s been developing it into major league-caliber stuff. Frazier has stayed fairly consistent, he hasn’t emerged as a star the way Musgrove has. His numbers in Seattle this season look a lot like they did in Pittsburgh. He’s a solid major leaguer. Position players who started with Pittsburgh tend to stay at the same level on other teams; they don’t suddenly become superstars the way former pitchers do. Musgrove is far from the first to blossom away from Pittsburgh.

We did see development from Mitch Keller; he’s definitely the feel-good story of the 2022 Pirates, a team without a lot of those. His confidence, which wavered hard in 2021, was much more evident this year, even when things weren’t going well. He’s become the sort of pitcher you can build a staff around, even if he’s not a total ace. Development and consistency must be the watchwords of the 2023 Pirates.

2023 should also be the first year we see Cherington draft picks on the big-league team and see how they’ve developed. I’d also like to see Cherington bring some coaches up to the Pirates to help with development.

We’ll start looking back at 2022 tomorrow.