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The Ballad Of Pablo Reyes

Pablo Reyes would provide a spark off the bench for the Pirates in 2019.
Photo: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

As baseball continues its slow progression into positionless baseball, where flexibility of a player to play multiple positions (and pitch, in some cases) is prized, the Pirates may have the chance to utilize such a player in Pablo Reyes.

The days of a defense-first shortstop or slow-footed 1B sitting on the bench are dying. The ability to produce offense is becoming valued over defense by many organizations. With the current setup of the Pirates’ roster, there’s a very good chance that Reyes can be the 25th man on the roster and be a high-energy bat off the bench.

In this scenario, let’s presume the Pirates carry a 12-man pitching staff of — Jameson Taillon, Trevor Williams, Chris Archer, Joe Musgrove, Jordan Lyles, Felipe Vazquez, Keone Kela, Kyle Crick, Richard Rodriguez, Nick Burdi (Rule 5), Michael Feliz, and Steven Brault.

That leaves a 5-man bench behind the 8 presumptive starters. There’s some chatter that the Pirates may carry three catchers in order to free up the bat of either Cervelli or Diaz as a pinch-hitter in late game situations. That’s out of the ordinary, but it would put Elias Diaz and Jacob Stallings on the bench. Assuming Erik Gonzalez is the starter at SS, Kevin Newman would be the backup middle infielder. Jung-ho Kang would probably start on the bench behind Colin Moran. That leaves one spot for either Jose Osuna or Pablo Reyes.

I’ve never been enamored with Jose Osuna, even during his time in the minors. He’s a very bland bat with not that much offensive upside and next-to-no defensive chops at 1B or the outfield. There was a brief experiment with 3B that didn’t go anywhere. Now that Kang and Chisenhall are both on the roster, that’s two other options at 3B ahead of him.

On the contrary, Pablo Reyes has already demonstrated he can play multiple positions with some degree of aptitude. He came up as a 2B through the minors, but flexed out to four positions (2B, 3B, LF, and RF) in his short 18-game debut in September. His defense in the outfield was a revelation.

Now I wouldn’t expect him to replicate his .293/.349/.483 triple slash line (832 OPS, 126 OPS+) over a full season, but he’s always had good contact with low strikeout rates in his ascent through the minors.

Giving the last spot on the bench to Reyes instead of Osuna would leave the Pirates without a ‘true’ 1B-type to spell Bell occasionally. And that certainly won’t fall to the 5′-8″ Reyes. But maybe Colin Moran can get a little work in or Lonnie Chisenhall, who has stood at 1B before, can fill in once or twice a week instead of having the non-dynamic Osuna occupy a spot.

Instead of the norms of bench construction, I hope the Pirates think progressively and include Pablo Reyes in the mix. If they’re going to carry an offensive black hole in Stallings on the bench, the presence of Reyes may at least counter-balance that. Who knows…maybe Reyes will eventually supplant Newman and/or Gonzalez at SS. Crazier things happen every baseball season.

Nerd engineer by day, nerd writer at night. Kevin is the co-founder of The Point of Pittsburgh. He is the author of Creating Christ, a sci-fi novel available on Amazon.

24 Comments on The Ballad Of Pablo Reyes

  1. Great article and a nice respite from the articles a lot of places complaining the Pirates don’t spend enough. I know they don’t so I get it but it’s nice to read about what we do have. I like Reyes too and am completely underwhelmed by Osuna.

    After his September call up performance, I can’t think of a single reason to leave Pablo off the roster. Maybe the only reason would be if Kevin Kramer had a great spring and forced his way on.

  2. Reyes reminds me a good deal of the early version of Josh Harrison–good speed, capable or better at a few positions, but a limited offensive profile (though Reyes will at least take a walk). I would agree that Reyes is a much more desirable bench option than Osuna, who really doesn’t do anything well. I would also concur with Murray that Kramer could be a better option; he strikes me as a Brock-Holt-type, and if he can turn that into some actual Brock Holt, you’ll take that over Reyes.

  3. Norm Cubellis // January 30, 2019 at 9:41 AM //

    I view Reyes like a breath of fresh air. He is somewhat unconventional and exciting and to your point, he has hit pretty well at every level. It would be nice to see a rookie actually outperform his perceived capability, since many of our hi-po guys have been less than stellar once they hit the majors. I am surprised that Osuna has not been traded to Japan or dropped from the 40 man roster. He is the perfect example of a AAAA player; good in the minors but close to terrible in the majors.

    • Bob Stover // January 30, 2019 at 1:07 PM //

      In a way Reyes reminds me of a young Josh Harrison, who when he burst on the scene in Pittsburgh was a revelation. That all around utility guy who just kept hitting and finding ways to compete. I miss that Jay-Hay.

  4. SalemPirate // January 30, 2019 at 11:57 AM //

    No Kingham in the pen? Not a big fan of his, but I’d much favor Kingham over Feliz.
    Reyes is a guy I’ve always liked. Versatile and good hitter. I wonder if the Pirates actually like him.

    • Kevin Creagh // January 30, 2019 at 2:10 PM //

      I think it’s a numbers game for Kingham. With Burdi in tow for the first 2 months, I’m thinking they want to try and stash Kingham at AAA. I can’t see him beating out Lyles for the 5th spot.
      Feliz is a reliever and did not have a good year, but I can’t see Kingham in a relief role. I think he’s a starter, whether in PGH or AAA. Frankly, I’m surprised he hasn’t been traded yet this offseason.

      • Silkychubs // January 30, 2019 at 7:19 PM //

        Kingham out of options. I can’t see him making it through waivers. I’m really shocked they haven’t traded him either. Feliz signed a split deal so they can stash him in AAA. With as bad as he was last season I assume he’ll start in AAA just to see how he looks. I would hope they wouldn’t hand him job based on ST numbers.

        • Kevin Creagh // January 31, 2019 at 9:57 AM //

          Now that I’m considering the split contract with Feliz, I can see a stash in AAA for the first two months until Burdi can be swapped out with him. That would enable Kingham to be on the Opening Day roster as a long-man/Lyles helper. I agree with your assessment.

  5. All this bench talk got me to thinking, who is the back up center fielder. Marte tends to get banged up during the year.

  6. Is it really worth it to carry stallings negative bat (blocking one of these better bats with position flexibility) just to get some pinch hits out of cervell or Diaz? I understand the concept, but unless one of the three catchers start taking enough reps (and doing a good job) at the 4 corners i don’t see enough upside. Also on a side note, i would love of they added a cheap veteran starter in Bucholz. If he can be had for a few million i don’t see any downside to bolster this depth with a solid veteran.

    • Kevin Creagh // January 30, 2019 at 2:11 PM //

      I think the Lyles signing was their attempt at signing a cheap vet. His curve rates out pretty well, so we’ll see. I still think the 5th spot is going to be a “you pitch 3, you pitch 3” situation between Lyles/Brault/Kingham (if on roster) until hopefully Keller is ready in June.

  7. Harry Schade // January 30, 2019 at 12:29 PM //

    In support of your proposal-Reyes and Stallings too.

  8. Bob Stover // January 30, 2019 at 1:03 PM //

    I’m not in favor of carrying three catchers. I realize that Stallings is out of options, but I personally think he’d clear waivers and the Pirates could re-sign him to a minor league contract or if necessary, bring in a third catcher that is not out of options from another organization. I think that Cervelli should get more playing time at first to spell Bell and to avoid concussion issues.

  9. Dickerson replacement // January 30, 2019 at 1:30 PM //

    I’ve considered Frazier a candidate to replace dickerson if needed maybe I shouldn’t count out Reyes. I think I’ve heard that Gonzalez can play cf fwiw. A little skeptical that osuna isn’t a defensive upgrade over Bell but I agree with the sentiment that Reyes brings more to the table and if we’re assuming Bell needs platooned osuna wouldn’t be my first choice..on a team starved for hitting and skewed towards hitting righties I don’t understand the pushback against having cervelli and Diaz in the lineup at the same time versus lhp they’re 120 and 150wrc per that split why the insistence on trotting Bell’s 100 out in that situation

  10. Kevin Creagh // January 30, 2019 at 2:06 PM //

    It is amazing to me that an article born out of a need for content today has this many comments on it. Who knew that teeny Pablo Reyes would engender such verve from the commentariat?

    • Given the constraints that payroll has, it is a team that is young and has tye positions filled so that the most debatable points now are the 25th man, bp, platooning, possible opener role, and the rest of these decisons that makes baseball unique and fun. What player is gonna break out?! More importantly, will they give the right players the right chances in order to do so

      • Phillip C-137 // January 30, 2019 at 7:29 PM //

        “What player is gonna break out?! More importantly, will they give the right players the right chances in order to do so ”

        That, Sir, is the crux of the issue. And do you trust the talent evaluators/decision makers to make the right calls?

        Frankly, my trust level in the talent evaluators/coaches is about 50%. Enough guys have fallen short of projections it makes me wonder who is dropping the ball – the talent evaluators or the guys who should “coach them up”.

  11. Not alone // January 30, 2019 at 2:15 PM //

    The frustrated tone of recent fangraphs articles and Rosenthal Heyman tweets is noticeable. There’s hardly anything to cover.

  12. Silkychubs // January 30, 2019 at 7:14 PM //

    As far as back-up 1B, it should be Cervelli. In fact depending on how batting order shakes out I would like to see them move Cervelli to 1B late in games to kind of preserve him against injury. Also defensively I don’t think he’s a step down from Josh Bell. If you could get him the same amount of ABs or more due to less injuries while declining the number of innings he has to catch, that can only be a good thing right? Also having 3 catchers that would give you ability to move Cervelli from behind plate in later innings more often.

  13. Phillip C-137 // January 30, 2019 at 7:16 PM //

    With the inclusion of Stallings and Burdi it looks like the Pirates are going with (in effect) a 23 man rooster at the start of the season. While I understand – how many games into the season before Cervelli goes on the DL(?) and if Burdi really has the forecasted upside (for 2020?) – it’s a gamble whether it will be worth it.

    However, honestly, what is the marginal difference between Stallings/Burdi and Osuna, Kramer, Kingham? Would Osuna, et al. be worth an additional 2 wins? 5 wins? over the course of April and May? It’s going to be a great opportunity for 2nd guessing (in which I will be participating).

    • Kevin Creagh // January 31, 2019 at 9:59 AM //

      I’m cautiously optimistic about Burdi. I think he can be a real asset for them moving forward. They’ll shelter him for 2 months up in PGH, then send him down to AAA for the rest of the year until September to hone his craft.

  14. JamosLN50 // February 2, 2019 at 3:58 PM //

    Given that Cervelli can play 1B better than Bell, the third catcher shouldn ?t restrict the bench optionality much given Frazier and Reyes ? flexibility. The added ability to unleash Diaz whenever Hurdle wants should be a fun subplot to the beginning of the season. Can double switch for Cervelli when you otherwise wouldn ?t have knowing Stallings is there.

    Regarding backup CF, with Osuna on the roster there isn ?t one. Would think Reyes is first up given what he showed defensively last year and then Frazier with Newman/Gonzalez moving over to 2B in an emergency (with Kramer getting called up for a Frazier/OF injury).

    Osuna either needs to be given a shot to figure it out or allowed to move on. I agree Reyes is the 25th man, but Osuna is a better defensive 1B than Bell but he personally needs a chance to get the bat right in the show. Osuna ?s 4th-5th on the 3B depth chart so it seems only a Bell injury would give him his chance… assuming the Bucs mgmt don ?t use Chisenhall/Cervelli/Moran to cover for Bell.

    SilkyChubs – good memory on Kingham. He ?d 100% get claimed and start on several teams. He ?s the only depth option if/when a starter goes on the DL or if Lyles sucks again until Keller is ready (assuming he ?ll be ready and won ?t get hurt… and ignoring Brubaker for a moment).

    Another reason for Reyes is that the 3B position could be a real weak spot if Moran repeats last year and Kang isn ?t the player he was 3-4 years ago. Reyes could take over at 3B (or RF if Chisenhall plays 3B) in that scenario.

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