Is ivan De Jesus, Jr walking away with the Pirates final roster spot?

The Pirates Final Roster Spot: Ivan De Jesus Jr Are You Buying It?

It’s hard to get excited about a player that a few months ago cleared waivers. Yeah, nobody in Major League baseball needed a free former top prospect.  But Ivan DeJesus, Jr., the former batboy for Lance Berkman, not only cleared waivers and was sent to Triple-A by Boston, but was then traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

So… before you get pumped about his sparkling start in spring training, remember that DeJesus has had a solid spring for a few years now and then the injury bug hits.

But it’s also hard to ignore anything Donny Baseball says.  And back in June, Don Mattingly said this about that De Jesus:

“He’s been playing longer than those guys. He’s more established in who he is and what kind of hitter he is.  He’s always had a real good understanding of the strike zone. Hitting’s always been the easiest part, it seems like.”

The hardest part for the Pirates utility players has been the bat over the past few years.  So is DeJesus the answer forthe Buccos bench in 2013?  So far, it appears that way.   The Bucs bench has struggled with players who were supposed to succeed in platoons and in the pinch hitter’s role–Matt Diaz stands out for us.  Players like Josh Harrison, who Clint Hurdle called the ‘sparkplug,’ but the only thing that really stood out for Harrison was his inability to get on base, and his Mom’s famous Zoltans.

Struggles with the bat have been visible early in spring training, as most of the Bucs utility players haven’t exactly excelled at the plate.  Does Brandon Inge even have an extra-base hit yet?  Jordy Mercer is making Inge look really old–Mercer has six walks and an OPS over 1.000 thus far.  Early in the spring, DeJesus really stood out to us as an exception as Harrison and the rest of the same old, same old struggled.

DeJesus seems more aware at the plate over his career, a player with total control when he steps into the batter’s box and some pop in his swing.  If Josh Harrison’s recent revival in the utility race hadn’t occurred  the job seemed all DeJesus, Jr. and Jordy.  Now with Chase d’Arnaud out, Inge floundering and practicing choreographed walkoffs, the race seems like Mercer and Harrison trying to catch DeJesus Jr.

If DeJesus, Jr. could only remain injury free, it would be really interesting to see just what he could produce at the big league level.  Of course, if that were the case, he wouldn’t be in Bradenton, either.  Donny Baseball went to DeJesus, Jr as his pinch hitter almost exclusively after he was called up to the big leagues last May.

For Dodgers fans, it was a long time coming. The 2005 second-round pick moved through the minors quickly and had a career year in 2008.  He hit .324 and had an on-base of .419, earning him an All-Star Futures Game selection as well as being on the second team for Baseball America.

Unfortunately for DeJesus, a broken leg derailed his 2009 season and the young prospect hasn’t been the big leaguer most scouts predicted back in 2008.  So far this spring, he’s done everything asked of him and is hitting over .400.   After the Yankees game yesterday where JHay went 0-for-3, DeJesus collected another hit in his only plate appearance, pushing his ‘hit safely’ number to seven in his last eight games.

The Bucs have plenty of right handed ‘options’ off the bench (presumably) with Michael McKenry, Gaby Sanchez and Jose Tabata all but having spots wrapped up if they stay healthy.  So, with one utility spot open,  2013 could be the last chance for DeJesus.  By our eyes, he’s taking advantage of the opportunity.

It’s pretty easy to see that the MLB teams had their rosters set when DeJesus cleared waivers, and a player like him just wasn’t a risk most GMs were willing to take.

If he can continue his pace, it’s going to be difficult for the Bucs to ignore what he can do with the bat.  Although he’s not of the pedigree of bench players of the past, he won’t be nearly as hard on Bob Nutting’s wallet.

Down the stretch this spring if DeJesus can reduce those strikeouts (7 in 27 at-bats this spring) maybe, just maybe DeJesus is just what the Pirates need.

And Brandon Inge

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