I was putting the finishing touches on my top 10 prospects piece for the Miami Marlins when a curious news blurb came across my feed. The Pittsburgh Pirates would be calling up RHP Roansy Contreras to start Wednesday’s game. “Blimey!” I shouted like a scurvy landlubber walking the plank. “We’ve been hornswaggled!” 

I was confused, in other words, and have been circling the briney deep in my mind ever since, sailing around the pros and cons like an old seadog scanning for land.

One shiny jewel is the reward it signifies for Contreras and every young player in that organization. The Pirates are going to need big hits on a lot of prospects if they hope to contend again. Might need a Fiona-Apple-Rays-level extraordinary machine in place given ownership’s demonstrated predilection toward penny pinching even in the golden days of Cutch, Cole and Taillon. Incentive is a powerful thing. 

Another pro is for Contreras himself. It could bring a significant boost to his off-season focus to get this look behind the curtain at big league living. On the other hand, this guy added about four miles per hour to his fastball during the lost 2020 season, so motivation might not be a problem for him. 

The cons are innings, service time, and shiver me timbers: injury. Because of the pandemic pause, Contreras has logged 58 innings more than he did last season. He did not pitch between June 30 and September 1 of this year due to elbow soreness. He’s been good this month at AA and AAA in two-and-three-inning stints, but that’s all he’s thrown, with 3.2 innings on September 22 representing his longest outing since June 22. Firing him up for four innings at the back of a lost season feels risky, to say the least. It also delays his arrival in 2022 by a week or so, assuming Pittsburgh plays the same service time limbo the league has incentivized especially for mid-market teams who need all the homegrown, prime-age seasons they can get. 

Flagging in the wake of this conversation is the Collective Bargaining Agreement that will expire after this season. Perhaps the Pirates know something we don’t? Buried treasure? Yarrr? Wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that some teams feel pretty confident about some aspects of the next CBA. 

End of the day, it’s just a handful of innings. I am probably overthinking this. Contreras has a 0.93 WHIP and 29.5 K-BB percentage in his 58 innings this year with 82 Ks against just 13 walks. I’m happy he’ll get one big league paycheck before Christmas, and I’m a little surprised at how thoroughly I have enfolded the capitalist constraints dictating minor league timelines. Dude has dominated all year. Good for him. Good for the Pirates. Who gives a shizz what it looks like six years from now? 

Seattle promoting their minor league pitcher of the year, RHP Matt Brash, makes a yarrr more sense than the Contreras conundrum. Just feels less rash to rush a player up when you’ve got something to play for. Here’s what I wrote about Brash last month in Prospect News: Jake Meyers Breaks Out in Time for Halloweeen:

“Brash looks a little like closer Paul Sewald due to the impossible angle created by his delivery that brings his lede leg well over toward third base before he crossfires back toward the plate. Will likely get hit with a reliever tag more than once as he climbs the org ladder, but he managed seven dominant innings in his last start. I’ve got a pretty open mind to his potential role, and I suspect Seattle feels a similar way. Brash is enjoying a loud breakout season, especially if you do the cool kid thing and remove his one big hiccup: 1.61 ERA and a 36.6 K% in ten starts since June 23, seven of those coming in AA.”

Cincinnati LHP Reiver Sanmartin has an interesting pitch mix. His fastball is not that. By which I mean it’s slow, averaging 89.5 mph in his big league debut. But it works, dropping 21 percent less than league average and breaking horizontally 85 percent more than average. His fastball has 13.7 inches of horizontal break according to statcast. The plate itself is 17 inches wide. This pitch is a real-life reaver like those space-pirate cannibals in Firefly

Except that those things were fast, if I remember right, and this pitch is not. His changeup, on the other hand, is pretty quick at 84.6 mph and was his weapon of choice in his debut, when he threw it at a 33.3 percent clip. His slider is also a little weird. Would be among the league’s slowest at 79.9 mph. His sinker (89.4 mph) pairs with the slider, and the heater makes scenes from a marriage with that quirky change. 

I like how the ingredients come together, and I like the idea of pitching coach Derek Johnson mixing this guy in with the flamethrowers they’ve been fueling down in the minors, but hurdles remain. The club will almost certainly pick up LHP Wade Miley’s option in 2022, and I’m not sure the rotation has room for two soft tossing lefties alongside RHPs Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle, Sonny Gray and Vladimir Gutierrez with rookies RHP Hunter Greene and LHP Nick Lodolo coming up early next year. 

Cincinnati 2B Max Schrock is similarly blocked at first blush but has all but locked in a roster spot for 2022, albeit in a super-utility role. His best function for dynasty purposes is as an up-and-down (minors-eligible in forgiving formats), filler type for deep leagues, but I’d be unsurprised to see him become more than the high-contact, low-power player he’s always appeared to be. Schrock takes great at bats and carries a preposterous 93 percent O-contact rate into the final week of the season along with his .294/.333/.468 slash line and his 3 HR in 109 at bats. Here we have a player who has posted averages of .321, .341, .326 and .308 at various stops along his minor league journey. If he ever learns to attack the pitches he can really damage and let the rest go, Schrock could push for 20 home runs in a cozy spot like Cincy. 

Washington OF Victor Robles closed his regular season with a slam and legs, his 4th HR and 7th steal over the past month. He slashed .330/.390/.667 in AAA this September, and while there’s something to be said for it being the end of a long, post-pandemic season, meaning the best pitchers are likely exhausted or in the majors, outcomes are outcomes, and Robles needed this successful stretch. I know I’m repeating myself from my September 15 article, Everson Pereira Punching Up, Victor Robles Reboundingbut I’m even more excited by the idea of acquiring his services now than I was when I wrote that piece.

Thanks for reading!

 

I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.

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Harley Earl
Harley Earl
11 months ago

Hey Itch,

Random question here but I need your thoughts on a guy I have some interest in. How much do you like Luis Peguero? Should I be investing in him now? I can still get him right now but when the league closes in a few days, I won’t be able to get him until draft day next March. How big are you on him?

Harley Earl
Harley Earl
Reply to  Harley Earl
11 months ago

Itch,

Also, besides Peguero, how high are you on Arol Vera? Do you like him better than Peguero?

Worm Burner
Worm Burner
11 months ago

Hey Itch, always good to read ya.

I’m thinking you have to really consider avoiding any cards not serial #’d until the fanatics takeover, you agree?

I bet Topps WAY over saturates the market even more than normal to try to screw the values.

I kind of hate it for the Wander flagship/chrome RC’s, but I’m sure I’ll still pick up a couple.

Have a good one buddy. Thanks for everything