Pittsburgh Pirates Mailbag: February 8th, 2019

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 05: Trevor Williams #34 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches in the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park on August 5, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 05: Trevor Williams #34 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches in the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park on August 5, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

Welcome back to the weekly Pittsburgh Pirates mailbag here at Rum Bunter

How will shortstop shake out? Who will start on Opening Day and in the home opener? And more in this week’s Pittsburgh Pirates mailbag.

Thank you to everyone who submitted questions to the mailbag this week and participated. Now, let’s dive in!

Jameson Taillon is a budding ace. Due to this, you can expect him to get the ball in Cincinnati on March 28th. After this, the Pirates could go a few different ways.

The team’s number two starting pitcher is unquestionably Chris Archer. However, could the team save him to pitch the home opener? It’s possible. But it’s more likely Archer starts the second game of the year in Cincinnati, while either Trevor Williams or Joe Musgrove gets the ball in the home opener. Right now, my money would be on Williams.

Shortstop still remains a cloudy situation for the Pirates. Neal Huntington spoke glowingly of Erik Gonzalez at Pirate Fest last month. He also expressed a confidence that remains in Kevin Newman, and said that Newman was exhausted and down 10 pounds at the end of the 2018 season.

Right now, I would put my money on Gonzalez winning the starting job. While Newman has the higher ceiling as a hitter, he still appears to be a league average hitter at best. While Newman may be the better hitter of the two, Gonzalez is the far superior defender.

Throughout his minor league career Newman’s defense at shortstop has come with a ton of question marks that have only grown as he’s risen through the Pirate system. Gonzalez, however, has the reputation of being a plus defender at the position.

When you have an average and slightly below average hitter battling it out at a position, and one of these players is a far superior defender, especially at a position where defense is as important as it is at shortstop, go with the better glove.

In my opinion, neither Jordan Lyles nor Nick Kingham should be the fifth starter. The team’s best bet would be to add another starting pitcher, sliding Lyles to the bullpen, and leaving Kingham without a spot. That said, if one of them is going to be in the rotation I would take Lyles.

While it may not be the best track record, Lyles, unlike Kingham, does indeed have a MLB track record. Additionally, Lyles has the better stuff of the two and is more likely to success. Lyles also made changes to his pitch selection last season that may have led to him turning a corner. You can read more about that here.

Since this question was asked, it has been reported that major rule changes will not take place before the 2019 season. That said, you can likely expect to see the designated hitter come to the National League in 2020.

Anyway, adding the DH would certainly allow Clint Hurdle to get creative. Against right-handed pitcher this is the lineup you would likely see a lot of:

2B – Adam Frazier
CF – Starling Marte
LF – Corey Dickerson
1B – Josh Bell
C – Francisco Cervelli
DH – Jung Ho Kang
3B – Colin Moran
RF – Lonnie Chisenhall
SS – Erik Gonzalez

Against tough left-handed starters, you would likely see Kevin Newman or Pablo Reyes at third base over Moran. Things would also change when Gregory Polanco returns. If Chisenhall was hitting the ball well, you would likely see Chisenhall get starts at DH while Kang splits reps at third base with Moran. It could also get Polanco back in the lineup sooner since his shoulder is already healthy enough to swing a bat.

As of now it would appear so. While the team still needs another starting pitcher and a shortstop, the start of Spring Training is less than a week away and the team has made no indications that they will make any more moves. It is frustrating that the team appears done and instead of spending money they have to spend they will sit one it, at least for now, but all signs point toward the current 40-man roster/non-roster invitees being the players competing to head north with the team at the end of March.

Next. Bucs Take A Worthwhile Gamble With A MiLB Signing. dark

That will do it for this week. As always, if you ever have a question for the mailbag look for our Tweet each week asking for questions. Also, do not be afraid to ask a question on Facebook.