Pittsburgh Pirates Need to Make a Change in RF
The Pittsburgh Pirates have gotten off to a terrible start to the 2014 season. Through their first 30 games, the Bucs are just 12-18 and tied for last place in the NL Central division. Among the many reasons the Pirates have started so poorly is the production the team has gotten, or not gotten, from the right field position.
The Pirates have used three different players in right field so far, with Travis Snider and Jose Tabata getting the majority of chances and utility-man Josh Harrison getting a few starts in May. Snider has been the best of the bunch, hitting .216/.301/.338 with a wRC+ of 84. The lefty seems to have a decent approach at the plate, as he is drawing walks 10.8 percent of the time. Tabata is hitting .247/.295/.315 with a 73 wRC+. In only 30 plate appearances, Harrison has a .241/.267/.414 line.
If only the Pirates had a MLB-ready prospect in Triple-A who could do it all. If only the Pirates had a guy in the minors who has been compared to Barry Bonds and Darryl Strawberry. Oh, wait. They do! Gregory Polanco is going to be promoted this season, barring an injury, but it won’t be until June due to financial reasons. Until then, the Pirates have the choice to continue going with the under-achieving options in Snider, Tabata and Harrison, or they could promote someone from Triple-A for the next month.
The Pirates have a lot of talent in the minor leagues. On their Triple-A roster alone, the Bucs have several players who should be considered for the right field position. Andrew Lambo, Chris Dickerson and Polanco all have a decent shot at being better than what the Pirates currently have. The problem is that they aren’t in the big leagues, they are still in the minors while the Pirates continue giving plate appearances to Snider and Tabata.
We can just forget about Polanco for the moment. He isn’t getting promoted in almost any scenario. Let’s focus on Lambo and Dickerson. Lambo was given a great shot to win the first base job out of Spring Training. All he had to do was show up and hit relatively well. Unfortunately, Lambo hit just .095/.174/.095 in 46 plate appearances, forcing the Pirates to start him in Triple-A. Now that the Pirates have traded for Ike Davis, Lambo has no immediate opportunity at first base. In right field, however, he is an intriguing option.
In 103 plate appearances this season at Triple-A, Lambo is hitting .356/.437/.589 with a 188 wRC+. His walk rate is up to 11.7 percent and he is striking out in just 20 percent of his trips to the plate. Unlike Lambo, Dickerson has had some significant time in the majors. He brings excellent defense, above-average base-running and a career .262/.339/.406 triple-slash line. He certainly isn’t an All-Star, but he would be a much more complete player in right field than the Pirates have now.
To call Lambo or Dickerson up, the Pirates would obviously need to make room for one of them on the 25-man roster. To do this, the Bucs could opt to trade one of Snider or Tabata or designate one of them for assignment and hope they clear waivers. With how much the Pirates have struggled, it seems like some moves need to be made soon before their postseason hopes are completely gone. Obviously, Dickerson or Lambo, or even Polanco, wouldn’t save the Pirates’ season, but they would certainly provide immediate help to a lineup that desperately needs a change.