The Pirate outfield depth is strong
Pirate general manager Neal Huntington has done an excellent job of accumulating outfield depth. So far in 2019, that depth has paid off.
The Pirates knew they would not have right fielder Gregory Polanco, who is set to return from the injured list this week, to start the season due to shoulder surgery last September. This knowledge led to Huntington signing veteran Lonnie Chisenhall to a one-year contract to man right field until Polanco returns. Chisenhall was then set to join Marte and Corey Dickerson, who have three Gold Gloves between them, as the team’s starting outfield to begin the season.
Despite having these three outfielders, utility man Pablo Reyes, and prospects Bryan Reynolds and Jason Martin at Triple-A, Huntington was not done adding outfielders. GMNH also inked veterans JB Shuck and Melky Cabrera to minor league deals prior to the start of Spring Training. Both of these signings now look key.
More from Rum Bunter
- Pittsburgh Pirates Prospect Stockwatch: Outfielder Tres Gonzalez
- Pittsburgh Pirates Podcast: Rum Bunter Radio Talks Winter Meetings Fallout
- Pittsburgh Pirates: Potential Leadoff Hitters in 2023
- Pittsburgh Pirates: The Rotation is not being Improved
- Pittsburgh Pirates Make Vince Velasquez Signing Official
72 hours before Opening Day Chisenhall was hit in the hand with a pitch in an exhibition game in Houston. This led to a broken hand an a IL stint to start the season. Due to this, both Shuck and Cabrera made the team’s Opening Day roster. Four games into the season, Dickerson was placed on the IL with a shoulder injury and is just now starting to resume baseball activities. Friday night, Marte joined the IL part with an abdominal wall contusion after a violent collision with Gonzalez.
All of these injuries have led to both Shuck and Cabrera playing a larger role than was ever envisioned, especially in Shuck’s case. Shuck is slashing .242/.390./.303 with a 100 wRC+ this season. He’s also been worth +1 defensive runs saved in the outfield. This offensive output is better than Shuck’s career numbers, and have come as a needed pleasant surprise.
As for Cabrera, the former All-Star has shown no signs of slowing down as a hitter. The 34-year-old has been one of the team’s best hitters thus far slashing .316/.339/.421. Also, his DRS being -1, while below league average, is still a pleasant surprise, especially with how many innings he has had to log in right field.
The true tests of the team’s outfield depth has come with their need for both Martin and Reynolds to start playing big roles. So far, both have impressed.
Martin is slashing .308/.357/.387 with a 101 wRC+ 28 plate appearances into his MLB career. He has consistently put together strong at bats and has not looked over matched at the plate. Reynolds made his MLB debut on Saturday after Marte was placed on the IL, and went 4-for-6 with a double over the weekend. He’s also shown the ability to play center field, which will be a big boost while Marte is out.
19 games into the 2019 season the Pirate outfield depth has been tested. Thus far, the outfield depth has passed this test with flying colors.