Today I wrote about Jordy Mercer and how I think he’s going to bounce back offensively this year. He may already be in the process of doing just that, but I don’t want to put too much stock on his recent hot streak, which is a sample size of six games.
If Mercer doesn’t bounce back, then the Pirates once again find themselves in trouble at the shortstop position. That’s not an uncommon thing, as shortstop is the hardest position in the game to fill.
The Short Term
Jordy Mercer – The Pirates need Mercer to bounce back. If he doesn’t, then there’s no one for the position until mid-2015 at the earliest, and possibly later than that if Alen Hanson isn’t ready by then. It would be nice if the offense returns to the 2013 levels, and the defense stays with the good 2014 numbers. But the Pirates could settle for last year’s version of Mercer, without the defense.
Stephen Drew – If Mercer isn’t working out a month from now, the Pirates might want to consider signing Stephen Drew. If he is signed after the draft, they wouldn’t have to give up a first round pick. Drew wouldn’t be available until the start of July, at the earliest, since he’d have to get ready for the season. If the Pirates have no shot at contending by mid-June, then they might want to just ride it out with Mercer, give him the entire year to fail or rebound, and then act accordingly during the 2014 off-season.
The Long Term
Alen Hanson – He’s currently the top shortstop prospect in the system, and over the last month he has a .301/.339/.505 line in 103 at-bats. That removes his slow start during the first two weeks of the season, which is the same thing he did last year before taking off with his bat. Hanson could use some more walks, since he projects to be a leadoff hitter. He should remain with Altoona the rest of the season, with a chance to move up to Indianapolis at the end of the year. Best case, he could be in the majors by the middle of the 2015 season. A more conservative projection has him in Pittsburgh in 2016.
JaCoby Jones – He’s making a lot of noise right now due to his bat. On the season he’s hitting for a .259/.335/.420 line in 143 at-bats. That’s down, in large part, due to a recent slump that has seen him hitting for a .565 OPS in the last ten games. Jones has shown some power, with five home runs in 143 at-bats, and a .161 ISO. He’s a converted outfielder, and I’m not sure how he’ll handle the shortstop position over the long run. I think the best and most realistic thing to hope for would be that he ends up what you’d want Mercer to be — a guy who can stick at the position, won’t kill you defensively, and will provide a decent bat with some power.
Gift Ngoepe – He had an .822 OPS in April, but that has dropped thanks to his .690 OPS in May. Ngoepe is the best defensive shortstop in the system, although that title could soon go to Adrian Valerio, who signed for $400,000 out of the Dominican Republic last year (file Valerio under the long-long term). Ngoepe also has a ton of speed, and draws a good amount of walks. The problem is that he strikes out too much, and doesn’t hit for average. I’m not convinced that he can hit enough to be a regular. You might point to Clint Barmes as an example of a guy who didn’t hit and was a regular. However, if Ngoepe is striking out 25-30% of the time in Altoona, then he’s at risk of putting up Brian Bixler numbers in the majors.
Links and Notes
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.