A lot of things had to go wrong last year to get Michael Martinez, Jayson Nix, and Brent Morel on the Pittsburgh Pirates’ active roster at the same time.
Andrew McCutchen went down with an injury on August 3rd, and didn’t return until August 19th.
Neil Walker was injured on August 1st, returned for a game on August 5th, and then was out until August 15th. He didn’t return to daily action until August 22nd.
Jordy Mercer missed four games from August 15th through the 18th.
Clint Barmes was on the disabled list from the end of June until the end of August.
Pedro Alvarez had struggled at third base all year, and wasn’t considered a viable option until the Pirates absolutely needed him at third.
From August 3rd through August 18th, the Pirates saw 17 starts from Martinez, Nix, and Morel. There were only two games where two of those guys made a start, and only two games where none of the three made a start (those games saw Alvarez starting at third base, which wasn’t a good situation). The Pirates went 5-10 during this stretch.
You can imagine what might have happened if just one of the things that went wrong didn’t go wrong. You probably only have two games that see one of the trio of Martinez, Nix, and Morel starting, and one of those three players would have been in Indianapolis.
It’s hard to fault the Pirates for this series of events. Injuries happen, and certain players will have down years. Sometimes too many of these events can occur at the same time, leaving a team weak for a short stretch like the Pirates saw for those two weeks in August.
That said, it doesn’t look like the Pirates are planning on having this happen again.
They started the off-season by adding a ton of utility and infield bench options through waiver claims and minor trades. As the off-season continued, they made bigger moves, bringing in Sean Rodriguez and Jung Ho Kang. Corey Hart was also added for first base and the outfield.
Today that process continued when the Pirates acquired Steve Lombardozzi from the Baltimore Orioles for cash. The move was in line with the minor moves at the start of the off-season, and it’s no coincidence that the move took place today. Last night we learned that Jake Elmore, who was one of the minor additions earlier in the off-season, declined his outright assignment to Indianapolis and elected free agency. Lombardozzi looks to be the replacement for Elmore.
The current bench options in Triple-A include Justin Sellers, Alen Hanson, Gift Ngoepe, Gustavo Nunez, Deibinson Romero, Brent Morel, and Lombardozzi. A big difference this year is that there would need to be a lot of injuries to get one of those guys in the starting lineup (not counting Hanson, who is in a different class than the others). If two infielders go down, then Rodriguez and Kang could start. If a third goes down, then Alen Hanson could be called up. If an outfielder joins that list, then either Andrew Lambo or Corey Hart could step in. If both players are performing well, then that means two outfielders could go down and you still wouldn’t see the Triple-A depth starting.
That’s a very optimistic scenario, assuming that Rodriguez, Kang, Hart, Lambo, and Hanson would all be capable of stepping in. Then again, it’s unlikely that the Pirates would lose five of their eight starters at the same time. If that does happen, they’ve got several options ready to step in before they get to the minor league depth. And that minor league depth looks to be better than the depth they had last year.
The Pirates saw an extreme combination of injuries and poor performance stack up over a two-week span last year. It looks like their plan this off-season is to build up enough depth to counter another such event, were it to occur in 2015.
**Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 Top Prospects: #4 – Josh Bell. We have arrived to the cover player for the 2015 Prospect Guide. Only three more to go in the countdown, which will conclude this week. Buy the 2015 Prospect Guide to get write-ups on the entire top 50 prospects, along with profiles for 200+ players in the system.
**Pirates Acquire Steve Lombardozzi From Orioles. Keep in mind, this is NOT the PTBNL from the Travis Snider trade. All of the details, plus my thoughts on the move are in this link.
**Is Clayton Richard the Next Pirates Reclamation Pitching Project? He is already working with Jim Benedict and Ray Searage, and the article looks at how he compares to previous reclamation projects, most notably Vance Worley.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.