For better or worse, things have certainly been more entertaining as the Pirates start to call up the first wave of prospects they have in the system.
Roansy Contreras has been outstanding. Jack Suwinski leads all NL rookies in home runs. Tucupita Marcano and Cal Mitchell have pitched in offensively.
The current six game losing streak also speaks to what happens when you have so many rookies fighting for playing time in the lineup. This point in the process is about taking the lumps and learning how to come back from them. For the most part, the influx of youth and talent in the outfield has really made up for the sluggish start at the position at the beginning of the year.
One area that still needs to be addressed is at first base — or at least half of the position needs to be upgraded.
Michael Chavis has played great at first, and has certainly earned the majority of the playing time, even taking strides on the defensive side of things as well.
We saw on Saturday how big the Pirates are with analytics, pulling Zach Thompson after 67 pitches and five innings to avoid facing the Braves lineup a third time. The numbers also speak on how to best utilize Chavis at first base.
Chavis owns a very traditional righty/lefty split, with his OPS 300-points higher (.932/.632) against southpaws than their counterpart. The answer to the solution was supposed to be Yoshi Tsutsugo, but he has fallen flat before landing on the injured list. Tsutsugo owns a .434 OPS and 59 wRC+ mark this season, with only two home runs.
Not exactly the performance you wanted from the guy they gave a $4 million contract to, essentially choosing him over Colin Moran in the process.
The Pirates have Mason Martin in Indianapolis, but after blowing the doors off the wall in April, has really cooled off. Since May started, Martin has a slash of just .173/.253/.383, a wRC+ of 66, and has struck out 37.5% of the time he’s stepped to the plate.
With such a big potential hole at first, not the best of times to go into a long slump.
The answer may still be in Indianapolis, with Bligh Madris getting the start at first base on Sunday. It was his first time at the professional level he’s played the position, but he had played it in college.
Madris does present an interesting opportunity for the Pirates, his play in Spring Training made him one of the last cuts from camp, and he does provide the analytical edge they could be looking for. He owns a 1.004 OPS against righties this season for Indianapolis, as well as 15 total extra-base hits.
He also obviously plays the outfield, so he would provide some of that position flexibility the Pirates love.
Pittsburgh does have Ben Gamel returning soon, who had been working out at first before he was injured, but as a pending free agent it’s not a guarantee he ends the year with the Pirates.
Madris making the majors would be a big win for the system, and at the moment it seems like a good fit. If he continues to hit, especially righties, he may force his way up for a shot in the majors.
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