Pittsburgh Pirates: Three Players Who Should Be on the Bubble When April Ends

Mar 27, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Cole Tucker (3) reacts after hitting a home run in the third inning against the New York Yankees during spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 27, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Cole Tucker (3) reacts after hitting a home run in the third inning against the New York Yankees during spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Pittsburgh Pirates could option these three players when MLB rosters return to 26 players at the end of April

Due to a shortened spring training MLB teams were able to open with 28-man rosters this season. Rosters will contract back to the standard 26 when April ends. Eventually, when that date does come about, the Pittsburgh Pirates will have to cut two players from their MLB roster.

Among the 28 players, there are three that should be prime candidates to be optioned to the minors or designated for assignment. Those three are Kevin Newman, Josh Van Meter, and Cole Tucker.

There’s a good argument that all three will not be on the 26-man roster by May 1st. When the service time date passes and Oneil Cruz is promoted, there’s a good chance one of the infielders is optioned. Another reason is that the Pittsburgh Pirates have a multitude of middle infielders. Outside of Cruz, the team has Diego Castillo (who absolutely should be the starting second baseman), with Rodolfo Castro and Ji-Hwan Bae stored at Triple-A.

Between this trio, VanMeter would have to be designated for assignment as he is out of minor league options. The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired VanMeter at the tail-end of spring training from the Arizona Diamondbacks. VanMeter doesn’t carry the prospect pedigree that Tucker and Newman had, at the very least. He has a career .663 OPS, .290 wOBA, and 75 wRC+. Although he brings utility, he doesn’t grade out as a good defender anywhere in the infield or outfield.

Newman will, obviously, be in danger of losing his starting job when Cruz arrives in the majors. He’s currently the starting shortstop, and while he brings great defense to the position, he’s statistically been baseball’s worst batter dating back to the start of the 2020 season. He ranks last in the most important offensive stats, including OBP, slugging percentage, OPS, wOBA, and wRC+. Even with his massively improved defense in 2021, he still was roughly replacement level with a 0.4 fWAR and 0.5 bWAR.

Although Tucker hasn’t been given as much of a chance as Newman has to prove himself, he hasn’t been much better than Newman the last two seasons. Tucker has hit .215/.270/.327 with a .259 wOBA and 59 wRC+. Tucker has moved around the field the previous few campaigns. He’s a shortstop by trade but has logged innings at second base, centerfield, and right field. But he hasn’t been very good defensively in the outfield, and his best work has come up the middle.

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The only one that would have to be exposed to waivers is VanMeter, but chances are, he’d pass through waivers. Once rosters contract, the line-up will look much more improved. Cruz will be in the majors and getting regular playing time, none of these three will be taking playing time away from Castillo, and we finally start to see the young, talented guys get the playing time they need.

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