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Halfway through Spring Training, who are the Pirates?

Keller, Cruz, Tucker among the bright spots while Quintana, Alford and Chavis are struggling

Pittsburgh Pirates Photo Day Photo by Mike Carlson/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Well, your Pittsburgh Pirates are halfway through Spring Training 2022, and it’s hard to know what to make of anything yet.

Among the position players, no one has gone all Matt Hague and no one is 0-for-March yet either. Although Anthony Alford gave it a good shot before running into a pitch Saturday for his first Grapefruit League hit.

A couple of players you would expect to hit are doing so; Bryan Reynolds is 5-for-18 with three extra base hits and Ke’Bryan Hayes has 4 hits in his first 12 at-bats.

Diego Castillo might be the biggest surprise offensively, as he’s gone 5-for-15 with a home run, and perennial prospect Cole Tucker is making the most of his opportunities, collecting six hits, including a pair of home runs, in 18 at-bats.

Oneil Cruz hasn’t disappointed anyone at the plate, going 5-for-15 with two home runs and some high-end exit velocity numbers. But whether he can beat out Kevin Newman (4-for-11) for the starting shortstop spot is anyone’s guess, and mine is that Cruz will start out at Triple-A Indianapolis and get reps at both shortstop and left field.

Yoshi Tsutsugo, who figures to share first base and the DH spot with fellow left-handed hitter Daniel Vogelbach, banged out three hits Saturday and now is 6-for-12. Greg Allen just might have earned himself a starting outfield spot by going 3-for-10 – including two home runs – and walking three times in 13 plate appearances.

Perhaps it’s too early to be disappointed, but the aforementioned Alford and Michael Chavis, both with 1-for-13 starts, might qualify. And while new catcher Roberto Perez will earn his keep by handling pitchers and keeping the opposition running game in check, he needs to hit more than .133 to be a legitimate big league backstop.

On the mound, Mitch Keller has given fans reason for hope, as he has allowed just two hits and a walk while striking out three in four and two-thirds innings spread over two starts. Perhaps even more impressively, his velocity is up over last year when he struggled mightily. But new acquisition Jose Quintana hasn’t been good, surrendering 11 hits and 9 earned runs in five innings over his first two starts.

JT Brubaker, who figured into the starting rotation, also has had his troubles, giving up four earned runs and five hits in four and a third innings over two appearances. None of the other starting candidates – Wil Crowe, Bryse Wilson, Zach Thompson and Dillon Peters — have been impressive, although Peters looked good in his latest outing.

Given the lockout and the late reporting date, it’s hard to know what to expect this spring. Perhaps the best we can hope for is that everyone remains healthy and gets as many reps as they can in the shortened Grapefruit League schedule. Expectations for the 2022 Buccos are low as it is, so it’s not like the truncated training camp was going to spoil anyone’s dreams of a World Series.

I’d just like to see the club use the 2022 season to start bringing up a few prospects who might be in a position to contribute in 2023 – Cruz, for example, and maybe Miguel Yajure and Roansy Contreras. Patience is a hard thing to expect from long-suffering Pirates fans, but that’s about all you can have right now. And it would be nice to reward that patience with a glimpse of the future hope at some point this summer.