Earlier this week I wrote about the Pirates’ depth, specifically relating to two situations — Jose Osuna and Nick Kingham.
Jose Osuna is up for now, getting a well-deserved promotion based on his stats in Indianapolis. He hasn’t played much in his jump to the majors, but went 1-for-5 in his lone start, and had a pinch hit home run as well.
This isn’t enough to bump Colin Moran or Josh Bell from their starting roles. That’s especially true lately, with both players on hot streaks. In the last week Moran has a 1.132 OPS, which has his season OPS up to .818. Meanwhile, Bell had been struggling, but looks to be heating up, hitting for a 1.367 OPS in the last week.
There’s not an easy spot for Osuna on the bench either. David Freese is hitting for an .831 OPS, and is the top backup at the corner infield spots. The Pirates could send down Max Moroff and keep Osuna up, but it’s unlikely that Osuna would get much playing time as the number three option at the corner infield spots, and not a good defensive option in the outfield. Not to mention, Moroff has similar and better stats to Osuna in the last week, so it’s hard to make a case that Osuna’s one-week stats should keep him up right now.
The decision eventually with Kingham might be a little easier, especially on the surface. Ivan Nova has the worst ERA in the rotation at 4.84. However, he has the second best xFIP, and is due for better numbers going forward if he just keeps pitching the way he has been pitching. A lot of people point to Chad Kuhl as a guy who could be replaced, but Trevor Williams is the guy in the rotation with the worst xFIP. The thing is, he’s got the best ERA, so you can’t remove him until he regresses to that xFIP, or shows that he can avoid a regression.
So maybe it’s not an easier decision to keep Kingham around after his expected start next week. The difficulty in that decision would be figuring out who to replace, with no one really pitching their way out of the rotation right now.
The Pirates have these types of situations at other positions. Jordan Luplow has been hitting well lately, and has an .840 OPS after good results last year in the majors. Jacob Stallings has seen his bat cool a bit lately, but has a .762 OPS and solid defense, and could be a good backup option. Tyler Eppler and Dovydas Neverauskas are looking like potential depth options on the pitching side, with Neverauskas pitching well since going down to the minors last month.
But in all of those situations, you don’t really have a standout guy in the majors to replace.
This isn’t a bad thing. It’s why the Pirates are tied for first place right now in the NL Central. Almost all of their players are performing well, and while there are spots to upgrade on the roster, there aren’t many holes. George Kontos should probably be moved out of the eighth inning in favor of Michael Feliz. Gregory Polanco and Josh Bell are two guys who have been seen as struggling on offense, and after a good week they find themselves with an .808 and .731 OPS respectively. The league average for starting pitchers is a 4.22 ERA and a 4.17 xFIP. The Pirates have three pitchers in each category who are about average or better, with Nova’s ERA and the xFIP from Williams being the exceptions.
And unless you specifically want to see one player in the majors, depth isn’t a bad thing. It’s not a problem that needs to be solved by trading guys away to clear a spot, or by forcing a decision. Depth is typically a problem that solves itself.
Right now the Pirates would have a difficult time keeping Osuna and Kingham around when Joe Musgrove arrives with the team. If the worst case scenario is that both return to Triple-A, ready to be called up if the team needs them for an injury replacement, then that’s not a bad situation at all. And since baseball is a long season, that injury replacement will eventually be needed, probably in both situations.
Depth can be fleeting. It’s best to let things work out naturally, rather than trying to force an issue and trying to get your depth options to the majors. This is typically only a “problem” with teams that are contending, which would describe the Pirates are right now. And if they want to stay in contention over the next four and a half months, they are going to need as much depth as possible.
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates won 6-5 over the San Francisco Giants on Saturday night. They will send Ivan Nova to the mound today. He has allowed a total of ten runs on 17 hits and four walks over 6.2 innings in his last two starts. He threw eight shutout innings in his previous game. The Giants will counter with left-handed pitcher Derek Holland, who has a 5.66 ERA in 35 innings over seven starts, with 32 strikeouts and a 1.26 WHIP. He allowed three runs over five innings in each of his last two starts.
The minor league schedule includes Altoona starter Dario Agrazal, who leads the Eastern League with his 1.26 ERA and 0.81 WHIP. He was supposed to start yesterday but that games was rained out. It will be made up as part of a doubleheader on July 20th. Travis MacGregor starts for West Virginia. He allowed two runs over five innings in each of his last two starts. Indianapolis starter Austin Coley allowed one run over five innings in his last start to lower his ERA to a 7.91 mark. He had an ERA over 10.00 since his first game this year. Bradenton has off today.
MLB: Pittsburgh (23-16) vs Giants (19-21) 1:35 PM
Probable starter: Ivan Nova (4.84 ERA, 37:8 SO/BB, 44.2 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (16-16) vs Columbus (16-17) 1:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Austin Coley (7.91 ERA, 10:10 SO/BB, 19.1 IP)
AA: Altoona (17-15) @ Reading (12-19) 2:15 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Dario Agrazal (1.26 ERA, 16:6 SO/BB, 35.2 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (19-16) vs Daytona (22-13) 6:30 PM 5/14 (season preview)
Probable starter: Eduardo Vera (2.55 ERA, 23:8 SO/BB, 44.0 IP)
Low-A: West Virginia (20-13) @ Lakewood (19-15) 1:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Travis MacGregor (4.56 ERA, 17:6 SO/BB, 25.2 IP)
From Altoona’s game on Thursday, Jordan George drives in a pair. Through 19 games, he is hitting .302/.362/.340
5/12: Joe Musgrove assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.
5/10: JT Brubaker promoted to Indianapolis. Nick Kingham assigned to Altoona
5/10: Sergio Cubilete activated from disabled list. Jacob Taylor placed on West Virginia disabled list.
5/9: Brett McKinney placed on the Indianapolis disabled list
5/8: Pirates recall Jose Osuna
5/7: Nick Kingham optioned to Indianapolis
5/7: Sam Street released
5/7: Wyatt Mathisen promoted to Indianapolis. Logan Ratledge assigned to Altoona.
5/7: Joe Musgrove assigned to Altoona.
5/5: Braeden Ogle placed on West Virginia disabled list. Gavin Wallace activated from DL.
5/4: Pedro Vasquez promoted to Altoona. Sean Keselica assigned to Morgantown.
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus an intriguing pitching match-up from the early days of the franchise. The players born on this date include catcher Jack Shepard (1953-56), pitcher Frank Miller (1916-19) and catcher Jimmy Archer, who played for the Pirates in 1904, and then again 14 years later as a teammate of Miller. Shepard played two games in 1953, then increased that game total each year until he played 100 games in 1956. In February of 1957, he retired to pursue a career in business. Shepard briefly returned as a minor league manager for the Pirates in 1959 before retiring from baseball for good.
On this date in 1892, pitcher Elmer Smith of the Pirates lost 6-1 to Cy Young, who made his debut two years earlier. This was one of the last starts for Smith, who became a full-time outfielder in 1893 and made up one of the best Pirates outfields ever that season. Smith won 34 games in 1887 as a teenager, but just three years later, he was in the minors. The Pirates gave him a chance to start 13 games in 1892 before converting him full-time to the outfield. With the Pirates, he hit .325/.415/466 and stole 174 bases in seven seasons. Cy Young went 3-2 against the Pirates in 1892.
On this date in 1960, Dick Groat went 6-for-6 with three doubles in an 8-2 win over the Milwaukee Braves. Dick Stuart homered in this game, his first of the season in the 25th game of the year. He would end up with 23 homers that season.