Cedeno is Starting to Struggle Again
Last month I wrote about how all of the shortstops at the top levels were having success in the month of May. Ronny Cedeno ended up with a .286/.368/.405 line, which combined with his great defensive play has given him some value as a starting shortstop. Chase d’Arnaud hit for a .329/.357/.456 line in AAA. Jordy Mercer hit for a .318/.372/.486 line in AA. I talked about how both shortstop prospects were blocked from moving up a level because of Cedeno’s strong play. I also wrote this about Cedeno:
Just like d’Arnaud and Mercer, 56 at-bats is not nearly enough to suggest Cedeno’s current run is legit. We’ve actually seen this out of Cedeno before. He struggles, the Pirates bench him for a lack of consistent play, and he comes back strong. The problem is that, in the past, the hot streaks haven’t lasted.
Cedeno was benched twice in a three game span in late-April/early-May last year, and returned to hit for a .329/.386/.468 line in his next 79 at-bats. However, the hot streak didn’t last, as Cedeno went on a big slump that lasted for most of the month of June, which saw him go 7-for-65 at the plate, with no extra base hits, and one walk.
That led to a three game benching at the start of July. Cedeno returned and hit for a .396/.439/.660 line in his next 53 at-bats, with 11 of his 21 hits going for extra bases. Again, the hot streak was short lived. Cedeno went on to hit for a .188/.250/.292 line in his next 48 at-bats.
He missed eight games with a shoulder injury that kept him out of the lineup, which was hardly a benching. From that point forward he was decent, with a .284/.306/.418 line in 141 at-bats, although those numbers are not what you dream about from your starting shortstop, especially since his defense totally fell off at the end of the season.
Because of his past, I wouldn’t be surprised if Cedeno goes on another cold streak. He’s playing well right now, but we’ve seen this out of him before. He’s also strong defensively this year, with a very impressive 18.7 UZR/150. We’ve also seen that. There were times last year where Cedeno was one of the highest rated shortstops in the league, according to UZR. His inconsistent play eventually led to a -4.0 UZR/150.
The Pirates should definitely ride Cedeno’s hot streak for as long as they can. Best case scenario, maybe something finally clicked with him and he’ll be able to put it all together. The more likely scenario is that Cedeno will once again go on a cold streak, which will eventually lead to him being benched. If Chase d’Arnaud is still performing well in Indianapolis when that happens, I wouldn’t hesitate to make the switch, bringing d’Arnaud up to the majors, putting Jordy Mercer in AAA, and moving Cedeno to the bench, where he might be able to provide some value to the Pirates.
Unfortunately for the Pirates, Cedeno started to struggle again. In fact, from the time of that writing, Cedeno finished off the month hitting for a .235/.297/.353 line in 34 at-bats. So far in June he has a .143/.182/.214 line in 42 at-bats. His hot streak at the plate has been surrounded by horrible cold streaks. He still has a strong 7.9 UZR/150, although even that is down from the level it was at almost a month ago. I don’t put much stock in short term UZR swings, and usually I want multiple years of data to make a conclusion. However, last year we saw Cedeno range from one of the best defensive shortstops, according to UZR, all the way to his -4.0 UZR/150, which is in line with his career -3.0 UZR/150.
Cedeno is struggling again, and that’s been seen on both sides of the ball. That’s not to say he’s playing poorly in every game. He had a nice diving catch last night to end the game, for example. However, he’s not playing well enough to hold back prospects in the lower levels.
Chase d’Arnaud is hitting for a .289/.360/.444 line in the month of June, and that includes an 0-for-15 performance in his recent four game series with Gwinnett. Jordy Mercer is also playing strong baseball, with a .311/.373/.644 line in June, and already has four homers in 45 at-bats, giving him 11 in 230 at-bats on the season.
We might see d’Arnaud in the majors soon. Josh Harrison is currently hurt, and will be evaluated today to see if he can swing a bat. David Todd of Extra Innings asked Clint Hurdle whether Chase d’Arnaud would be a replacement option, and Hurdle confirmed that the Pirates had talked about d’Arnaud. Chase has been playing third base the last two games, giving him 33 games this year at shortstop, 20 at second base, and two at third base. He’s played seven games at third during his minor league career, although he played the position in college.
If d’Arnaud comes up, it would give the Pirates a good look at him in the majors, with a chance to evaluate whether he’s ready to take over for Ronny Cedeno. The Pirates have Pedro Ciriaco on the bench right now, which you might have forgotten, since Ciriaco only has three at-bats this year. Even if Harrison doesn’t end up on the disabled list, the Pirates could bring d’Arnaud up to take Ciriaco’s wasted roster spot, and give Chase some playing time at shortstop. Maybe that even lights a fire under Cedeno again, although at this point I think it’s pretty well established that the fire will inevitably go out. Because of this, it’s time for the Pirates to start seeing what they have with d’Arnaud, rather than riding the Ronny Cedeno roller coaster and hoping that there are more ups than downs.