MIAMI – Gift Ngoepe will be making his first MLB start tonight, playing second base with Josh Harrison moving over to third and David Freese out of the lineup. Freese is missing his third straight game with a hamstring issue, although he’s on the lineup card in the clubhouse as available off the bench.
The Pirates have moved Josh Harrison to third base in each of the last two games, with Alen Hanson and Phil Gosselin each getting starts at second base. Ngoepe will get a turn tonight, bringing his elite defense to the big leagues, with the hope that he can repeat his offensive performance from the other night when he went 1-for-2 with a walk in his pro debut.
Here is a look at the rest of the lineup.
— Pirates (@Pirates) April 28, 2017
The Best Option at Second Base
I wrote earlier today about how the Pirates are struggling defensively, and how they can’t afford to sacrifice any offense to boost their defense. With David Freese out of the lineup, they don’t really have a lot of options when it comes to fielding the ideal group.
I like the decision of moving Josh Harrison over to third base. He has a career 8.4 UZR/150 at third base, and while he’s also produced good defensive value at second base, it would be easier for the Pirates to find a good defender at second than third.
Gosselin, Hanson, and Ngoepe would all qualify as strong defensive options in their own way. Ngoepe is the best defender of the three, but has the worst offensive upside. Hanson has the best offensive upside, and is a strong defender, although mental lapses on the field reduce his value. Gosselin is a compromise, providing less defense than Ngoepe, and having less offensive upside than Hanson, although he hasn’t shown much of either yet this year.
The truth is that none of the options are strong all around, with no guarantee of offense from Hanson or Gosselin. So if the Pirates wanted to go all-in on defense, they might be best off going with Ngoepe, and just hoping that he provides some value at the plate.
When Freese returns, and when Adam Frazier gets healthy, the Pirates would have a question of which player to send down. I think it should be Gosselin. I don’t see much of a difference in value between him and Hanson, and by sending him down, you keep Ngoepe, giving a very strong defensive option off the bench.
At any rate, tonight will be entertaining to finally get an extended look at Ngoepe’s defense in the big leagues. He’s a smooth fielder with outstanding glove work and makes things look easy. And considering that Jameson Taillon and his staff-leading 54.9% ground ball rate is on the mound, we should see some opportunities for Ngoepe to make some plays.
Marte Arrives in Bradenton
After tonight, Starling Marte will have 71 games remaining in his suspension from testing positive for Nandrolone. But today, Marte arrived in Bradenton at Pirate City, according to our own John Dreker.
Starling Marte arrived at Pirate City today. #Pirates
— John Dreker (@JohnDreker) April 28, 2017
Neal Huntington said last week that the Pirates hoped to get Marte down in Extended Spring Training to keep him active before his 15-day rehab period begins in early July. Marte wouldn’t be able to return to the big leagues until July 18th, but with games going on in Extended Spring Training, he can still stay active so that he’ll be able to return at full force in mid-July.