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Ask PBN: McCutchen, Gonzales, Swaggerty, Stargell Stars



Pittsburgh Pirates

Welcome to the first installment of Ask PBN where we will be answering questions that our readers submitted through social media.

With pitchers and catchers reporting to Bradenton, baseball is officially back and we will continue to answer your questions from here on out.

This week, we received several good questions surrounding a number of aspects related to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Keep an eye on our Twitter (@pghbaseballnow) and Facebook (Pittsburgh Baseball Now) accounts for upcoming Ask PBN prompts.

Until then, let’s answer this week’s questions!

Our first question is in regards the the return of Andrew McCutchen, who signed a one-year $5M deal with the club last month.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but entering his age-36 season, McCutchen won’t be the player he was a decade ago when he took home National League MVP honors. With that being said, he still is capable of providing value.

General manager Ben Cherington said the plan is to have McCutchen be used as a designated hitter while also getting him some reps in the outfield.

While McCutchen may not be the same caliber player he was in his first stint in Pittsburgh he still does some good things.

For one, McCutchen still has power and he still draws his share of walks. Last season with the Milwaukee Brewers, he recorded 25 doubles and 17 home runs while drawing 57 free passes in 134 games.

He was also in the 90th-percentile last season when it came to sprint speed.

McCutchen will likely see a lot of time against left-handed pitching and will be counted on to provide veteran leadership to a young roster.

Side note, as an avid Notre Dame fan, I love your twitter handle!

I actually just tackled this in an article which can be found here.

To summarize, there are a few factors as to why Gonzales has dropped on some prospects lists.

For starters, while he has been able to produce strong seasons at the plate, he is striking out at a high percentage.

Last season with Double-A Altoona, he managed a 127 wRC+ but was sat down on strikes in 28.5% of his plate appearances.

In addition to the strikeouts, Gonzales has been hampered by some injuries including a two-month stint on the injured list last season thanks to plantar fasciitis.

Defensively, Gonzales’ profile limits him essentially exclusively to second base which can be viewed as a negative in the eyes of talent evaluators.

In the article, I argue that for the time being, his devalued prospect status is an overreaction.

Brad Heasley, (Facebook): Why wasn’t Travis Swaggerty invited to the MLB camp? Has he fallen out of favor with the Pirates?

Swaggerty will be in camp as he is on the 40-man roster, but the second part of your question is quite interesting.

Last season, the Pirates used 25 rookies while they saw 14 players make their big league debuts. Among them was Travis Swaggerty, though unlike some others in the outfield, he didn’t receive an extended look.

The 25-year-old appeared in only five games in the middle of the season. He recorded his first big league hit, going 1 for 9 in those five games.

It does not appear that the 2018 first-round draft pick is looked upon as favorably with Cherington and the new front office.

This spring and the 2023 season are both the most important for Swaggerty in his career to date.

Rich Lockett (Facebook): Bring back the Stargell stars !!!!  These young guys would compete for the most stars throughout the season !!!!

I am all for this, even if it would be a different variation of the original “Stargell Stars” on those classic pillbox Pirates’ hats.

The Ohio State football team does something similar, for example.

A very neat idea to bring back one way or another!

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