The Pittsburgh Pirates Are Not Fielding Their Best Possible Roster

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Right now the Pittsburgh Pirates are not fielding their best possible 25-man roster, and this needs to change ASAP if they are going to achieve their fourth consecutive postseason berth.

People who read my work with regularity know that I am a huge fan of Neal Huntington and Clint Hurdle. Shoot, a lot of people will even tell you that I am nothing but a front office apologist. I have even been called a ‘Huntington Enabler,’ still not sure what that is, before!

Anyway, the reason I mention that is because this article is not one that will speak to the great work Huntington and Hurdle have done during their tenure together in Pittsburgh. In fact, this article is going to be very critical of both of them. That is because the Pittsburgh Pirates are not currently fielded their best possible team.

Yesterday the Pittsburgh Pirates optioned right-handed relief pitcher A.J. Schugel to Triple-A Indianapolis to make room on the 25-man roster for Tyler Glasnow. While promoting Tyler Glasnow to the Major Leagues and having him in the starting rotation is the absolute right move, optioned Schugel to make room for him was not. As I wrote about here, the Pittsburgh Pirates should have either designated Jon Niese for assignment or optioned the struggling Jared Hughes to Triple-A to create a roster spot for Glasnow. 

The Pirate bullpen should consist of seven relievers. Those seven relievers are Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, Neftali Feliz, A.J. Schugel, Arquimedes Caminero, Jared Hughes, and Juan Nicasio. On top of those seven arms, Neal Huntington needs to be working the phone lines to try and find a reliever to replace Hughes, who had another bad outing yesterday, before the August 1st trade dead line.

Of course, this is now a moot point. Tyler Glasnow was placed on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder discomfort this morning, and A.J. Schugel was recalled from Triple-A. However, Ryan Vogelsong could return from the disabled list as soon as Tuesday and it would not surprise me to see Schugel optioned yet again. This time to make room for Vogelsong, and that is why I still mentioned this.

The Pittsburgh Pirates also do not have the best collection of position players possible on their roster. Right now the Pittsburgh Pirates bench consist of Adam Frazier, Eric Fryer, Matt Joyce, Sean Rodriguez, and whoever is not at third base between Jung Ho Kang and David Freese. The only problem is the Pirates’ roster is missing one key hitter, Josh Bell.

In no world should Josh Bell be at Triple-A. The Pirates’ top hitting prospect is dominating Triple-A pitching this year with a .318/.406/.524/.930 slash line, .206 ISO, .411 wOBA, and a 166 wRC+. Basically, Bell has absolutely nothing left to prove at Triple-A.

Josh Bell also found success during his short stay in the Major Leagues this season. In four plate appearances for the Pirates Bell is 2-for-2 with two walks and a grand slam. Even though his defense could still use work, Josh Bell should be the Pittsburgh Pirates everyday first baseman.

Next: Pirates Make Wrong Roster Move

In order to make room for Josh Bell on the roster, the Pittsburgh Pirates should designate Jeff Locke for assignment. The Pittsburgh Pirates only need four starting pitchers between now and late August, and Jeff Locke should not be one of those four. Three of the four should be Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, and Francisco Liriano. The fourth, with Tyler Glasnow on the disabled list, should be Chad Kuhl.

However, Chad Kuhl left his start at Triple-A last night with a tricep issue. So if Kuhl is unable to do it, then it should be Steven Brault. Like the bullpen, Neal Huntington needs to be working the phone lines to add a starting pitcher between now and August 1st.

Jul 17, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Adam Frazier (26) gestures to the Pirates
Jul 17, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Adam Frazier (26) gestures to the Pirates /

Another issue with the Pittsburgh Pirates position players is the way the lineups are currently being constructed. Since coming to the Major Leagues in late June Adam Frazier has done nothing but hit. Frazier has posted a .381 wOBA and a 143 wRC+ in 41 plate appearances. Both of these numbers dwarf the .292 wOBA and 83 wRC+ that Josh Harrison has this season. Against right-handed pitching, Adam Frazier should start at second base and bat lead off.

Speaking of that lineup against right-handed pitching, the fact Matt Joyce does not start every single time the Pittsburgh Pirates face a right-handed pitcher is a joke. Against right-handed pitching this year Matt Joyce is slashing .271/.399/.542/.941 with a .397 wOBA and a wRC+ of 154. These numbers are far superior to Andrew McCutchen‘s .249/.321/.412/.733 slash line, .316 wOBA, and 99 wRC+ against right-handed pitching this season.

When the Pittsburgh Pirates face a right-handed starting pitching Gregory Polanco should be in left field, Starling Marte in center field, and Matt Joyce in right field with Andrew McCutchen on the bench. I realize this will never happen, unfortunately. But the fact is Matt Joyce has been a far superior hitter to Andrew McCutchen this season and he needs to play every time the Pittsburgh Pirates face a right-handed pitcher.

Right now, these are the starting lineups the Pittsburgh Pirates should be fielding. Against right-handed pitching: Adam Frazier (2B), Gregory Polanco (LF), Starling Marte (CF), Josh Bell (1B), Matt Joyce (RF), David Freese (3B), Francisco Cervelli (C), and Jordy Mercer (SS). Then against left-handed pitching it should be: Jordy Mercer (SS), David Freese (3B), Starling Marte (CF), Josh Bell (1B), Francisco Cervelli (C), Josh Harrison (2B), Gregory Polanco (LF), and Andrew McCutchen (RF).

The Pittsburgh Pirates should currently have a bullpen of Juan Nicasio, Jared Hughes, Arquimedes Caminero, A.J. Schugel, Neftali Feliz, Tony Watson, and Mark Melancon. Their starting rotation should be Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Francisco Liriano, and Steven Brault. Meanwhile, Neal Huntington needs to be working the phones looking to add pitching help by next Monday’s trade deadline.

I realize some of these moves will never be made. Especially McCutchen being benched. However, this is how the Pittsburgh Pirates can field their best team possible. And if the 50-47 Pirates plan on making up the three game deficit they currently face in the National League Wild Card race, they need to be fielding the best team possible.