P2Daily: Trying To Solve The First Base Position

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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Cruz needs to be in Pittsburgh and frankly it doesn’t matter much where he plays or many errors he makes as long as he’s allowed to play. His play is not perfect but if you waited for that no prospect would ever make it. His development will continue and probably be faster than possible in Indy. Just do it!


Everything you say about Martin may be true but it shouldn’t completely ignored that he also has 11 HR and 43 RBI so he must be doing something right.


Sounds like they have some solutions at first if they are open to them. Catcher is the real black hole. Michael Perez for a second year – incompetent! Knapp – unacceptable! Heineman – at most an interesting option for backup. Surely, someone from the system would be better off getting some exposure to the majors.


I agree. They cannot continue with the catching situation this year. I liked R. Perez when they signed him, but he will not be back this year. M.Perez makes Mario Mendoza look like an all-star. Heineman is ok, but he is not the answer. Unfortunately we do not really have anyone at the higher levels to turn to. I might be tempted to bring up Delay or Davis and see what they can do. Davis could at least hit better than Perez. I know Delay and Davis would need to be added to the roster, but they could DFA Perez and try one of those 2.


Was mentioned on telecast yesterday by Brownie that Delay is already on the taxi squad with the team and has been catching bullpens. I guess he’s an injury or DFA away from being added.


I am not a Martin fan, but even HE might hit better than Yoshi. But Chavis vs RHPs would be better than both of them, I bet.




Long-term I think I would rather see Cruz at first base than the outfield but frankly, right now I would like to see him at shortstop. I like Castillo but his bat has gone from a bright spot in April to a black hole in June. Errors be damned, unleash Oneil!


I would ultimately like to see Cruz at 1b as well. As early as next year, Peguero will probably come up, and they will have to make a decision then with Cruz. I am find with him at ss until then, but they really need to solve 1b for this year only, because they can look at someone like Cruz as long term. If he did not work out, then they might need to look to someone else. I agree 1b has not looked good this year, but Chavis has not been bad. Yes he does not hit RH pitching great, but he holds his own until someone else comes along. Madris would be an interesting guy to bring up and platoon with Chavis. You could also look at Van meter there against RH pitching.


If they were open to Castro butchering the position, they certainly shouldn’t have any reservations about playing Cruz at short in the near term.

My guess is Cruz will be up in the next 7 – 10 days.


That’s where OOTP has him.


Been a couple years since I played that.


Cruz to first base.


This seems like it would be a good call long term, but madris for now to work on the platoon splits seems like a good solution. Would need to ensure he is passable there first so we can avoid any super basic defensive miscues


I mean Will Craig played first the whole way up the minor league ladder and we all remember that play so it happens. I just wanna see a 1b who can hit at this point. In my entire life Jeff King was the only above average first baseman the Buccos had. I wouldn’t argue against anyone adding Kevin Young to that short list but in my opinion he falls into the category of “best player on really bad teams” and I doubt that half of the other teams in the league would’ve had him starting daily which makes him average and not above average in my books.


In all fairness, yes Kevin Young was on some bad teams, but he was still a really good firstbaseman. Played great D, and except for his last 2 years hit well for us. I think you could also add Merced to that list as well. He was not a bad firstbaseman. One other guy who played well was Adam Laroche. He always had a horrible first half, but after the all-star break he would be one of the best hitting 1b in baseball. Generally speaking though in the 2000s we have not done a great job of finding firstbasemen. Even the years we were in the playoffs, 1B was probably our weakest position.


Young was really good at 1B. Gold glove level good.


1b is easy!

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