The Pittsburgh Pirates have some definite holes this season and the plan for this season doesn’t seem to include trying to fix them. Personally, I like the idea of bringing in some older players not unlike Jarrod Dyson. Someone like Jonathan Lucroy would have been nice to provide some depth behind the dish. There is no rule that they must play the whole season in Pittsburgh, and maybe you can flip them for some international cash or prospects come deadline time.
One area on the field they won’t encounter this possibility is the middle of the infield. The Pirates have an absolute logjam at short and second.
Just at the major league level, we have Kevin Newman, a lock to start at short and a good bet to lead off most nights. Adam Frazier, a sneaky bat and even further under-the-radar fielder. Last season he broke his finger and banged up his shoulder, played through it and still was a finalist for the Gold Glove at second. Now, that speaks volumes about how this club handled injuries last year, and also the level of trust at least this player had for his leadership. That said, it would be an upset if Adam didn’t start the season at second.
Moving down the depth chart Erik Gonzalez, a slick fielding defender who remains a question with a bat in his hands. He’ll make the club for his sure handedness at multiple infield positions and his lack of options. Next up is the intriguing Cole Tucker, who showed his leather was more than ready for this level but couldn’t handle MLB pitching with any regularity. He worked this off season to change his swing from both sides of the plate and hopes to crack the roster for good this year.
Kevin Kramer is officially listed as an outfielder now, but it shouldn’t be lost on any long-time fan how many games he played at second as Kevin Newman’s double play partner in Altoona and Indianapolis.
To add to the numbers Oneil Cruz put his hat in the ring, albeit a long shot, to make the club out of spring and carve a spot for himself with his promising power and freakish frame for a short stop.
I’m not even mentioning J.T. Riddle mostly because I really don’t understand this signing because of my previous four paragraphs. But sure, toss him in the mix.
So, what does all this mean? Its not like the Pirates can keep six players for two positions. More likely than not it means we aren’t done making moves here in Pittsburgh. They don’t have to move Adam Frazier and honestly, I’m not sure they should, but I suspect he could bring back a nice return and the herd needs thinned here at least a bit. Tucker is not going to be contained in AAA this entire season even if he is an option casualty this spring.
Even when you dig really deep in the organization you run into a squad of future middle infielders like Ji-Hwan Bae, Jared Triolo, Robbie Glendinning, and newly acquired Liover Peguero. This is a position of strength from top to bottom for the Pirates, and that is not something you hear every day.
What this could mean for the Pirates is an important item for small-market clubs, these positions can and most likely will be filled internally moving forward. Some will change positions and others still won’t make it to the show, but that is quite a list and I’m only mentioning those who currently profile well.
In the last iteration of a competitive baseball club the Pirates put on the field, they had a nice chunk wrapped up in Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison, nice players both, but neither were ever projected to be among the best at their position. In fact Jay Hay didn’t even have one. Neil Walker was drafted as a catcher, moved to third and finally brought up as a second baseman, partially to get his bat on the field and partially because the Pirates could not find an answer at the position. That will not be an issue for some time, and it could afford the Bucs to spend prospect capital or move on from players they previously would have been forced to keep even if their top end is less than desirable.
Pitching remains elusive, if the fortunes of the franchise are to ever turn the corner that fact will be addressed, this glut at a key position that has perplexed some of the best franchises in the game could play a key role in returning exactly that.
We’ve heard for quite some time how bankrupt the system is for the Pirates and, as a whole, that is very much correct, but middle infield and outfield depth are a strong suit. This season is all about evaluation and internal improvement, during that process keep this depth in mind because a trade of someone like Frazier will be much more about who he’s blocking and what he can return than it will be about dropping payroll.
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