Pittsburgh Pirates Mailbag: April 17th, 2019

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - APRIL 08: Nick Burdi #57 of the Pittsburgh Piratespitches against the Chicago Cubs during the home opening game at Wrigley Field on April 08, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Pirates 10-0. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - APRIL 08: Nick Burdi #57 of the Pittsburgh Piratespitches against the Chicago Cubs during the home opening game at Wrigley Field on April 08, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Pirates 10-0. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Welcome back to Rum Bunter’s weekly Pittsburgh Pirates mailbag

What will the Pittsburgh Pirates lineup look like when Gregory Polanco and Corey Dickerson return? Could Nick Burdi‘s role grow? And more in this week’s Pirate mailbag.

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

Gregory Polanco is now seven games into his minor league rehab stint and must be activated by April 27th. That said, it would not be a surprise to see him return earlier than that. As for Corey Dickerson, there is still no word on when he may begin a rehab stint after being placed on the injured list with a sore shoulder earlier this month. When these two players return, the Pirates will have decisions to make with their lineup.

When they both return, the Pirates should have a strong lineup. The question will then become how should the Pirates construct this lineup. This is what I would like to see from the Bucs once healthy:

Adam Frazier (2B)
Starling Marte (CF)
Gregory Polanco (RF)
Josh Bell (1B)
Corey Dickerson (LF)
Jung Ho Kang/Colin Moran (3B)
Francisco Cervelli (C)
Erik Gonzalez (SS)

Speaking of those injured outfielders, who will be the odd men out when they return?

What should be done and what the Pirates will likely do are two different things. It appears the first injured outfielder to return will be Polanco. When he does, Pablo Reyes should be optioned to Triple-A. When Dickerson is back, the smart move would be to designated JB Shuck for assignment. Finally, when Lonnie Chisenhall is back the Bucs should then option impressive rookie Jason Martin back to the minors.

That’s what they *should* do. But, what will they do?

Well, my guess is that Martin goes first. I’d then put money on Shuck following, with Reyes being the last to go. The reason for this is that Reyes can play the infield as well as the outfield and Clint Hurdle loves positional flexibility. As for Martin before Shuck, Martin has options and Shuck does not. The Pirates value, sometimes over value, assets.

In the long run? Absolutely. Nick Burdi has been absolutely filthy for the Pirates so far this season.

6 2/3 innings into his 2019 season Burdi has faced 27 batters. He’s allowed six hits, one walk, and has struck out 13 batters. This is a healthy 48.2% strikeout rate. All of this has led to Burdi owning a -0.31 FIP, which is the lowest among qualified pitchers in the Majors.

Burdi’s power fastball/wipe out slider combo has shown why he was once the Minnesota Twins top pitching prospect. There is no doubt that the Pirate bullpen is struggling right now, although Richard Rodriguez appears to be righting the ship, and that Burdi is a big part of the future of the bullpen.

Hurdle has already trusted Burdi in multiple high leverage situations so far this season thus far, which has been awesome to see. All of that said, for now at least, Burdi will remain behind Rodriguez, Keone Kela, and Kyle Crick in the bullpen pecking order.

Those other three relievers have a track record of pitching well in high leverage situations. If Rodriguez and Kela can get back on track, to go with Burdi and Crick, then the bridge to closer Felipe Vazquez should be among the absolute best in all of baseball. But if Rodriguez and Kela continue to struggle, then Burdi will find himself pitching a bigger role sooner rather than later.

Well, Tuesday night’s 5-3 victory over the Tigers appeared to be the first step to Jung Ho Kang getting back on track. Kang was in a major slump entering Tuesday night’s game, and this led to him getting three consecutive days off prior to the game. During Hurdle’s tenure as Pirate manager he has had success ‘unplugging’ hitters for a few days, and it may now be working for Kang.

After his three days off, Kang went 2-for-4 on Tuesday night. This included a well struck single to left field and his second home run of the season. That home run is why he will get long leash with the Bucs.

Kang has more power potential than any other hitter on the roster. Due to this, the team will give him every opportunity to figure it out. And, personally, I still think he will.

It certainly helps that Colin Moran is off to a hot start. Moran is slashing .308/.400/.615 so far this season, which has helped the team still record victories while Kang has struggled. If Kang continues to struggle, Moran will take back the starting job at third base. However, you can expect Kang to be given a long leash.

Next. Top Prospects Off To A Hot Startr. dark

That will do it for this week. If you every have a question for the mailbag look for our Tweet each week asking for questions. Also, do not be afraid to ever submit a question on Twitter or on Facebook.