There has been a lot of talk from various Pirates writers about having the “best 25” in Pittsburgh. You could make a strong argument that the Pirates didn’t always have the best 25 players on the active roster this year. In some cases the upgrades were minor, such as upgrading the last two spots on the bench by getting rid of John McDonald and Brandon Inge. In other cases, the upgrades were more substantial. I feel that’s what we’re seeing with the move to call up Andrew Lambo.
I’m not sure yet if Lambo will immediately step in as the starter in right field. I feel that he should. He’s had some impressive numbers in the upper levels of the minors this year. Meanwhile, the right field options in Pittsburgh have not had impressive numbers at all. Travis Snider had a great April, and has struggled ever since. Jose Tabata has decent numbers, but looks better as a strong fourth outfielder off the bench. Alex Presley is more of a fifth outfielder or a depth option, and with a first base platoon, there’s not much room for him with Lambo on the active roster. Of course that’s assuming Starling Marte isn’t hurt bad enough to go on the disabled list, which would be bad for the Pirates.
Assuming Marte is healthy, and based on his tweet after getting hit in the hand it seems like he is, it’s time to revisit the “best 25” concept. Obviously the best 25 aren’t in Pittsburgh right now, because guys like Wandy Rodriguez and Jason Grilli are on the disabled list. But both have a good shot of being back by the playoffs, so in the long-run they’ll be in the mix. As it stands right now, here is the 25-man roster, with thoughts on whether the Pirates could find an internal upgrade.
Catcher (2) – You don’t need to upgrade Russell Martin, and Tony Sanchez is a better backup than the recently signed Kelly Shoppach.
First Base (2) – The Garrett Jones/Gaby Sanchez platoon has struggled at times, mostly because Jones hasn’t been hitting right-handers consistently. But the Pirates don’t have an everyday option at first, and Jones is pretty much the best platoon option.
Second Base (2) – Neil Walker is the starter. Josh Harrison is the guy off the bench. Both have been performing well in their roles, and I couldn’t argue for anyone better. I could argue for a platoon of these guys, with Harrison hitting lefties.
Shortstop (2) – Jordy Mercer has better offense, and Clint Barmes has better defense. They are the top two shortstops in the upper levels.
Third Base (1) – Pedro Alvarez is the best option, and pretty much the only option in the system.
Left Field (1) – It’s hard to beat Starling Marte. Let’s hope he’s healthy.
Center Field (1) – MVP, Andrew McCutchen.
Right Field (2) – Andrew Lambo and Jose Tabata. I’m guessing Presley will go down. I don’t know if Lambo is going to come up and immediately carry his power over to the majors, but it would be hard to do worse than the right field trio this year. He was also the top option in the minors.
Starting Rotation (5) – Francisco Liriano, A.J. Burnett, Jeff Locke, Gerrit Cole, and Charlie Morton. Some might argue that Charlie Morton shouldn’t be in the rotation. I’d say they’re wrong. Other than that, I don’t think the rotation gets any debates.
Bullpen (7) – There’s no debate on Mark Melancon, Justin Wilson, or Tony Watson. I also think that Vin Mazzaro and Jeanmar Gomez have played themselves into “best 25” territory. When it comes to Jared Hughes and Bryan Morris you’ve got two guys who are as good or better than the Triple-A options, so there’s not an obvious upgrade available. However, when Wandy Rodriguez and Jason Grilli return, those are the two guys who look like the odd men out.
At this point I’d say the Pirates finally have the best 25 *healthy* players in Pittsburgh. If everyone remains healthy, and Wandy Rodriguez and Jason Grilli return, the Pirates will have the best 25 in Pittsburgh. The best 25 doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no room for upgrades. In some cases above, you’ve got players who need to upgrade their own performance this year. In other cases you’ve got positions where the Pirates could get a better upgrade externally, if only the opportunity were there. The trade market was weak, and it will be hard for the Pirates to land an upgrade on waivers or in August trades.
So at this point, once Andrew Lambo arrives, we’re going to see the best group of healthy the Pirates can put on the field. And best case scenario, the Pirates will keep everyone healthy, get Rodriguez and Grilli back, and have the best group overall that they can have as the playoffs approach.
What are your thoughts? Do the Pirates have their best 25 in Pittsburgh with the Lambo promotion?
Links and Notes
**Check out the newest episode of the Pirates Prospects Podcast: P3 Episode 16: What Would the Pirates’ Playoff Rotation Look Like?
**Pirates Roundtable Live — Episode 5. James Santelli hosts, and this week’s guests include:
- Pat Lackey from Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke?
- Cory from Three Rivers Burgh Blog
- Travis Sawchik from Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
- Ed Giles from In Clemente Weather
- Michael Waterloo from The Punxsutawney Spirit