Pittsburgh Pirates Mailbag: May 8, 2018


Welcome to the Rum Bunter Pittsburgh Pirates’ mailbag for the week of May 8th, 2018

It is that time again. What time you ask? Well, time for Rum Bunter’s weekly Pittsburgh Pirates mailbag of course!

As always, thank you to everyone who participated by submitting questions this week. Now, let’s get started!

As anyone who reads my work knows, I hate bullpen roles. That said, Clint Hurdle is married to them and George Kontos is his 8th inning man. As I wrote about on Sunday, this needs to change because Kontos has been horrible this season.

As B-Ry suggests, Kontos needs to be taken out of the 8th inning role and replaced with Michael Feliz. Outside of a debacle on Opening Day that was far from being completely his fault, Feliz has been dominant this season. So, if Hurdle is insistent on using bullpen roles, the 8th inning man should be Feliz with Felipe Vazquez *gulp* ‘closing.’

All of that said, Hurdle has always shown in the past that your job is your job until you completely implode. Has Kontos completely imploded? Well, he has to be close. If Kontos continues to struggle through the month of May, I would expect a move to be made. This would align with the time last year that Tony Watson was removed from the closer’s role.

But, unfortunately, we will probably have to suffer through at least another two or three weeks of Kontos pitching in high leverage situations.

When Josh Harrison was placed on the disabled list on April 16th the team believed he would return to Major League action in approximately six weeks. Well, it’s been three weeks and he has returned to baseball activity.

At this point it seems the biggest hold up is his ability to grip and swing a bat. Assuming he can do that in the next 7-10 days, then J-Hay should be back at second base and leading off by the end of the month. Maybe even a little sooner.

Believe in Kevin Kramer. He is the second baseman of the future and I am driving that hype train. He also closing in on the Major Leagues. After posting a .388 wOBA and a 141 wRC+ at Double-A last season, he owns a .379 wOBA and a wRC+ of 139 at Triple-A this season.

This season in Kramer’s first taste of Triple-A action. So, the Pirates will want him to get plenty of at bats at Indianapolis. However, it would not be a surprise to see him reach the Major Leagues late in the summer or in September. Then in 2019, especially if Harrison would be traded between now and then, Kramer will be firmly in the mix to be the starting second baseman.

As for Kevin Newman, he is a player I am not as high on. In my opinion, the shortstop of the future is Cole Tucker, not Newman.

In addition to questions about Newman’s shortstop defense, his offense is very suspect as well. His walk and contact rates have dropped each of the past three seasons while his strikeout rate has risen each of these seasons. His slugging percentage and ISO have dropped each year as well, and it does not appear that he has much power in his bat. He is currently slashing .250/.273/.323/.596 at Triple-A with a .272 wOBA and a wRC+ of 66, and all of these numbers are career worsts.

For these reasons, Newman does not appear very close to the Majors.

This is a tough one.

Nick Kingham will return when the Pirates need a fifth starter again in two weeks, but that’s a different case since he’s already made two Big League starts this season.

I’ll predict that the next significant prospect call-up is Austin Meadows sometime this summer. Maybe it’s due to an injury, or maybe Gregory Polanco continues to struggle sparking a move. But I’ll predict that we see Meadows in Pittsburgh at some point this summer.

Next: A Look at the Broken Pirate Pitching Philosophy

That will do it for this week. If you ever have a question for the mailbag look for our Tweet each week asking for questions and do not be afraid to ask.