There was a time this offseason where I thought Max Moroff would be a lock for the Opening Day roster. At the very least, he would be a guy who would come up when an injury happened, and would get significant playing time if the injury was at second base.
This was partially the case. Moroff was recalled to replace Josh Harrison, who will be out for six weeks. But it looks like the playing time at second base will primarily go to Adam Frazier and Sean Rodriguez, with Moroff spending more time off the bench.
That’s surprising, considering how Moroff finished his 2017 season. He was recalled for a final time on August 18th, and hit for an .816 OPS for the remainder of the year. He began getting a lot of starts in September, stepping in for Harrison, and continued to look good in the process.
With Harrison out for so long, this would be a perfect time to get an increased look at Moroff, to see if he could be a future starting option, or at least a lock for the bench next year when the team moves on from Rodriguez. Moroff continued to hit well in his brief time in Indianapolis this year, and his defense at second base is strong.
So far the Pirates have started Moroff once in five games. I don’t think they need to start him every day, but it would make sense to give him more time than this while Harrison is out.
Frazier is going to be a bench player at best. He hits well enough off the bench that he makes you wonder if he could be a starter, even with bad defense at second. But when he’s a starter, you realize that his best role is off the bench, as his offense gets exposed with more playing time, and the reality of the defense kicks in.
Rodriguez isn’t a bad backup, with good defense, and offense that isn’t bad. His .731 OPS this year isn’t great, but you could do worse from a backup. If the Pirates are trying to win now — and they are — then Rodriguez isn’t a bad option to start at second with Harrison down.
And that’s a key point here. A big argument for Moroff starting right now is that it could benefit the Pirates in the future. He could emerge as a future replacement for Josh Harrison, or a replacement off the bench for Rodriguez after the season. The Pirates trying to win now means that finding next year’s bench player or starter isn’t a priority.
But I do think that Moroff can provide some value right now, to the point where starting him isn’t going to be completely about the future. He has shown that he can hit in the majors in a small sample, which should be good enough to trust him for a larger sample. His defense is the real deal at second. And I don’t think any drop off in production if he struggles would be significant compared to what the team would get from Rodriguez or Frazier.
At the least, Moroff should get added time at second base, more than he’s gotten so far, to see if he can work his way into a bigger role. Hopefully that will happen to an extent over the next six weeks while Harrison is out.
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 2-1 to the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday night. The Pirates will send Steven Brault to the mound for his fourth start. He threw six innings in his start against the Rockies this week, allowing five runs while striking out just one batter. In his previous start, he gave up four runs over five innings against the Cubs. The Phillies will counter with 24-year-old right-handed pitcher Aaron Nola, who has a 2.22 ERA in four starts, with 15 strikeouts and an 0.95 WHIP in 24.1 innings.
The minor league schedule includes the third start from Mitch Keller, who threw six shutout innings in his debut, then followed that up with one run over 5.2 innings. He’s holding batters to a .125 average. Braeden Ogle will also make his third start. He was limited to three innings in his debut due to control issues, then bounced back with one run over six innings in his second outing. Cam Vieaux and Austin Coley get the other starts, as they both look to get on track this season.
MLB: Pittsburgh (12-8) @ Phillies (12-7) 4:05 PM
Probable starter: Steven Brault (4.74 ERA, 11:9 SO/BB, 19.0 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (6-6) vs Charlotte (6-8) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Austin Coley (32.40 ERA, 0:0 SO/BB, 1.2 IP)
AA: Altoona (7-6) vs Richmond (11-4) 4:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Mitch Keller (0.77 ERA, 13:4 SO/BB, 11.2 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (9-6) vs Fort Myers (8-7) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cam Vieaux (6.30 ERA, 10:3 SO/BB, 10.0 IP)
Low-A: West Virginia (9-6) vs Asheville (3-12) 2:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Braeden Ogle (4.00 ERA, 8:6 SO/BB, 9.0 IP)
From Thursday night. There wasn’t much to choose from with Indianapolis off and the Pirates getting shut out. Here’s a strikeout pitch from Dario Agrazal, who threw seven shutout innings. He isn’t getting many strikeouts, but the results have been outstanding this season.
Heading to the seventh here in Akron. Dario Agrazal has fired six scoreless innings and we've got a 1-0 lead. pic.twitter.com/hxeoQYToqV
— Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) April 19, 2018
4/21: Sergio Cubilete placed on disabled list. Hunter Stratton added to West Virginia roster.
4/20: Pablo Reyes promoted to Indianapolis. Brett McKinney assigned to Morgantown.
4/20: Kevin Krause released. Bralin Jackson and Jordan George added to Altoona roster.
4/20: AJ Schugel assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.
4/18: Dylan Prohoroff placed on West Virginia DL. Matt Seelinger added to WV roster.
4/17: Brent Gibbs retired.
4/16: Jesus Liranzo activated from Altoona disabled list. Sam Street assigned to Morgantown.
4/14: Pirates claim Enny Romero off of waivers.
4/13: Kyle Crick and Richard Rodriguez recalled. Clay Holmes and Josh Smoker sent to Indianapolis.
4/12: AJ Schugel assigned to Bradenton on rehab
4/11: Pirates sign Denny Roman and Cristian Charle
4/10: Bryan Reynolds placed on Altoona disabled list. Jason Martin activated from DL.
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, with three of them playing during this century. Kip Wells, Ronnie Paulino and Jack Taschner all put in time during the down years between playoff appearances.
Others born on this date include shortstop Stan Rojek, who was a member of the Pirates from 1948 until 1951. Rojek didn’t have a career that stands out in the majors, but he did serve during WWII, missing three years of his playing career in the process.
Speaking of Rojek, the first year he served in the military was 1943 and that year was the only time the Pirates opened up a season on April 21st. Like every other team in baseball, the Pirates has players leave to serve in the military. The club was still strong enough that season to finish with an 80-74 record. On Opening Day, Pittsburgh won 6-0 in Chicago with Rip Sewell on the mound. He pitched a complete game and Vince DiMaggio drove in two runs. You can see the boxscore here.
On this date in 1916, the Pirates lost an appeal from a day earlier, but it brought about a rule change from the league. Runner Doc Johnston was called out at third base when he was touched by third base coach Jimmy Callahan, even though the ball wasn’t in play at the time. The league announced the next day that umpires will no longer call players out for making contact with the coach unless it directly helps them in anyway, such as a coach pushing them back/towards the next base.
We add a fifth birthday to the April 21st crowd this year. Recent research has updated the birthday of 1894 third baseman Fred Hartman from April 25th to April 21st. Hartman was a local player, who played in the minors all over Pennsylvania. He finally got a chance after five minor league seasons to play for his local Major League team, when the Pirates signed him to be their backup infielder. He ended up hitting .319 over 49 games, during his only season with the Pirates.