Pittsburgh Pirates Jordy Mercer: Forcing The Issue

The Pittsburgh Pirates made an unpopular, but necessary move to set the final roster coming out of spring training.  The club needed a shortstop and selected John McDonald and sent Jordy Mercer to Triple-A Indianapolis.

After Mercer was recalled in the middle of May, he tore apart New York Mets pitching, but was sent back down to AAA.  It wasn’t a popular decision to keep McDonald at the time.

Take it for what it’s worth, but here were our thoughts on the move back on May 14 in The Jordy Mercer Reality

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The Pittsburgh Pirates decided to send Jordy Mercer back to Triple-A Indianapolis. It was a hot topic among Pittsburgh Pirates fans. We have always had admiration for Mercer, but after a few emails and some discussion we thought it would be beneficial to try and determine some other reasons behind the decision.

Who would play you play at shortstop if Clint Barmes was hurt?

A. John McDonald

B. Jordy Mercer

C. Josh Harrison/Brandon Inge

D. Wow, this sucks as a question.

We have to guess that the answer would be Jordy Mercer. So, the five million dollar question becomes: how sharp would Mercer be filling in for Barmes? Well, if it happened today, he would think he would rather be okay.

It’s hard to put much credence into the ‘staying sharp’ argument. But let’s consider Mercer stayed with the club and settled into a utility role. How sharp would be playing sporadically–we thought he could come off the bench against specific left-handers.

When you look at how poorly certain players hit against lefties, it seemed like a no-brainer to keep Mercer on the club. McDonald is 0-for-8 against lefties.

The Pirates felt it more beneficial for Mercer to keep playing regularly at Indy than it would for him to knock off the rust offensive and defensively at the Major League level. If and when the Pirates need him to step in and be productive, the Bucs decided it would be best for Mercer to keep playing the shortstop position on a daily basis. They didn’t want him riding the pine in the bigs and gathering ‘rust.’

Some of you feel that Mercer should be given the starting shortstop gig, because some of you feel that Barmes should not be starting every day. Well, right now that’s a tough argument. Barmes is hitting the ball well.

Coming into last night Barmes had a .321 average, an .802 OPS in 5his last 59 plate appearamnces.

Mercer had put up a .258 average.894 OPS, in his 32 plate appearances. Before the Friday and Saturday games Mercer didn’t have such great numbers a .211 average, .684 OPS in 19 plate appearances.

But for us it was the fact that Mercer did provide that spark in those Friday and Saturday games. The guy played like he wanted to be on the roster. He plays with passion and even said he sometimes goes for it when he gets ahead in the count. When he went for it, he murdered a baseball off the upper deck wall at Citi Field. It was eye opening.

The devil’s advocate could also consider this factoid. What if Barmes and Mercer both were to get hurt? John McDonald would be needed.

The bottom line is McDonald is on the roster as the SAFE AUTO version of insurance policies. The guy isn’t such a great player this season, but there is nobody else they trust with the position.

If you think the possibility of Mercer and Barmes getting hurt is crazy, well remember when the Pirates went through eight catchers in a recent season. It’s a serious risk that seems even more heightened by giving Mercer daily opportunitites to stay sharp–but also get injured.

Having McDonald on the roster isn’t pretty, but when you consider the lack of depth at shortstop, sending Mercer down was about the only thing the team really could do—if they wanted to manage the roster risk factor of the shortstop position. Damn, it hurts to even write that…

We feel Jordy Mercer will be better than the 2013 version of John McDonald.

But, the reality is the Pirates don’t have the luxury of depth at the position. So what’s left is a roster without the best possible 25 players because McDonald is out of options.

And so are the Pirates.

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Fast forward to today.   John McDonald gets ready to begin an injury rehab at AAA Indianapolis.  On his radio show Sunday afternoon, Neal Huntington said that the team will evaluate where it is when McDonald wraps up his rehab.

So what’s that mean?  Chase d’Arnaud is working his way back in his rehab assignment batting .167 with four hits in 24 at-bats.  So with d’Arnaud now on his way back, the move that needs to be made is this.  John McDonald’s time as a Pittsburgh Pirates is complete.

May 26, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer (center) celebrates after the Pirates beat the Brewers 5-4 at Miller Park. Mercer had three hits in the game. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Mercer has shown that he’s ready for the bigs.  In his last ten games, Mercer has been fine as a big league player.  The defense is solid.  The severely small sample size of offense has been a bit of fresh air for the shortstop position and definently for a part-time bench player.  With his three hits today, Mercer is now hitting .355 in his last ten games.

The Bucs shorstop showed an unselfish approach yesterday against the Brewers in his third at-bat.  The Oklahoma native was desperately trying to move up Michael McKenry from second base with no outs.  A bloop single was the result and it looks like a line drive in the boxscore.  In his first at-bat, he tripled.

The numbers on the season show some nice pop for just 50 at-bats.  The 6’3″ Mercer has a .300 batting average, but it’s not hollow in the least.  The line shows  three doubles, a triple and three homers.

As we said two weeks ago, we have further evidence that Mercer will be better than the 2013 version of John McDonald.

The reality is the Pirates now have the luxury of a bit more depth at the position with the return of d’Arnaud.  So what’s left is a roster that will increase in quality with the addition of a maturing Mercer and the subtraction of McDonald.

The Pittsburgh Pirates roster will take another incremental improvement by keeping Mercer on the 25-man.  Sure, he still has things to learn as he showed late in the game when simply stopping in the basepath would have kept the Bucs out of a double play, but Mercer still got three hits in one game, that’s more than McDonald has all season.

It’s all about the little things and Mercer is a small improvement to the roster, but Mercer has an intriguing offensive upside.

That’s a lot more than John McDonald can provide.

 

 

 

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