It’s Pittsburgh Pirates mailbag time again here at Rum Bunter
What will the Pittsburgh Pirates do with an already crowded outfield when Corey Dickerson returns? How far away is Keone Kela from returning to the mound? What about JT Brubaker? And more in this week’s Pirate mailbag.
As always, thank you to everyone who submitted questions this week and participated. Now, let’s dive in!
When Dickerson returns, the Pirates are going to have some tough decisions to make.
Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco, outside of scheduled days off for the latter until his shoulder is completely healed, are going to play every day. When Dickerson returns, this will leave one spot for three players.
The Pirates already find themselves with a good problem on their hands in the outfield. Bryan Reynolds is slashing .320/.363/.533 with a 141 wRC+, +4 DRS in left field, and a 0.7 fWAR. 24 games into his rookie campaign he is looking like both a legitimate National League Rookie of the Year contender, as well as the future in left field for the Pirates. These two factors should lead to the Pirates looking to get Reynolds as many MLB at bats as possible.
Veteran Melky Cabrera is playing like a NL Comeback Player of the Year candidate slashing .341/.380/.473 with a 129 wRC+ so far this season. Without Cabrera, who has essentially been a starter since Opening Day due to injuries, there is no telling where this team would be. But it would not be 24-20 and in possession of a Wild Card spot.
While neither Reynolds nor Cabrera have done anything to be on the bench, Dickerson did not do anything to lose his starting job either. After all, he posted a 115 wRC+, 2.7 fWAR, and slashed .300/.330/.474, all while winning a Gold Glove last season.
In my opinion, when Dickerson gets healthy the team’s best option would be to go the trade route. Once he proves he is healthy, which he still appears to be a ways away from doing, I would shop Dickerson, who is sent to hit free agency at the end of the season, for help in the bullpen or the middle infield.
Now, what the Pirates will do, remains to be seen. My guess would be that, as raw of a deal as it would be, Reynolds would get optioned back to Triple-A while Dickerson plays every day in left field and Cabrera rotates in right field with Polanco.
As for Lonnie Chisenhall, the decision will be easier. If, or maybe we should say when, he gets healthy he will be a bench bat. He could get some starts in the outfield and possibly at third base, but for the most part he will be used as a pinch hitter.
During his radio show on Sunday, Pirate GM Neal Huntington said Keone Kela will throw a simulated game on Wednesday. This comes after Kela started to throw off flat ground last week. If the simulated game goes well, then a rehab stint and a return to the Bucs could be right around the corner.
Kela’s return, whenever it comes, will be a welcome one for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The team paid a heavy price at last July’s Trade Deadline to acquire Kela from the Texas Rangers. Entering the season Kela and Felipe Vazquez figured to give the Pirates a dominant 1-2 punch at the back of the bullpen, but that has yet to come to fruition this season.
After a slow start to the season (8.10 ERA, 3 home runs allowed in 6 2/3 innings pitched), Kela had pitched six consecutive scoreless innings before being placed on the IL. It appeared that he had fixed the release point issue he had been battling and his nasty curveball was back. Hopefully, Kela will rejoin the Pirate bullpen soon and it will be the dominant version of Kela.
There does not appear to be much news on pitching prospect JT Brubaker. Four starts into his 2019 campaign at Triple-A Brubaker owned a 2.57 ERA, 3.96 FIP, a 4.7% walk rate, and a 23.3% strikeout rate in 21 innings pitched. However, due to elbow soreness he was shutdown for 10 days on May 1st. Nothing else has been reported about Brubaker since then.
This is an injury that has hurt the Pirates. If he were not injured, odds are, he would be in the Pirate starting rotation due to injuries to Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams. That is unfortunate for both Brubaker and the Pirates. Hopefully, the 2018 Pirate Minor League Pitcher of the Year can get healthy again soon.
This is something that has long been on my mind.
When Jeff Banister was Clint Hurdle‘s bench coach I 100% believed he would be the choice to replace Hurdle. Even once Banister left the Pirates to become the manager of the Texas Rangers, I still felt he would be close to the top of Huntington’s wish list if Hurdle were to retire or be relieved of his duties.
In the offseason when the Pirates hired Banister as a special assistant to the GM, my first thought was that this was a move being done to groom the manager in waiting. Hurdle’s current contract runs through the 2021 season, and he has been open about wanting to retire a Pirate. It would seem to be a safe bet that he will not manage the Pirates past 2021. And Banister, who is in his 30th season as a member of the Pirate organization as a player, coach, or front office assistant, appear to be a safe bet to be toward the top of the list of candidates to replace Hurdle whenever his tenure as manager does end.
That will do it for this week. If you ever have a question for the mailbag look for our Tweet asking for questions each week. Also, do not be afraid to ever ask a question on Twitter or Facebook.