The Pittsburgh Pirates could make a few, simple promotions in June to give the offense the big boost it desperatley needs.
The Pittsburgh Pirates pitching staff hasn’t been terrible as of recently. Throughout the last month, they rank as the 9th best pitching team in terms of fWAR. They have a 3.78 FIP, showing that despite their overall sub-par 4.14 ERA, the pitchers themselves have done a good job. However, on the other hand, the offense has been well below sub-standard.
Pirate hitters have a .664 OPS, .297 wOBA, and 90 wRC+ in the month of May, making them one of the bottom five worst hitting teams in baseball. The team would look respectable if the hitting were even close to league average.
So, what can the Pittsburgh Pirates do to upgrade the offense as we approach June?
The first promotion is pretty simple: get Oneil Cruz in the Major Leagues. He’s finally hit the up-and-up at Triple-A after a sluggish start to the season. Since May 5th, Cruz has been batting .269/.380/.513, culminating in a .394 wOBA and 140 wRC+. He has walked 13 times to oppose just 19 strikeouts. The Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t gotten much power production out of guys not named Daniel Vogelbach, and having Cruz hit behind an on-base machine-like Ke’Bryan Hayes will bring in a ton of runs.
To get even more power in the Major League lineup, they need to promote Mason Martin. Martin is still striking out at a rate well above 30% but is hitting for a solid .241/.315/.556 line, leading to a .368 wOBA and 124 wRC+. The first base prospect already has ten home runs on the year and an isolated slugging percentage above .300. His strikeouts are always going to be a concern, but the fact he has light-tower power than only Cruz and Henry Davis can rival should give him the opportunity to hit some homers in the majors.
A guy who has had a very underrated power outbreak has been Ji-Hwan Bae. Bae is batting .297/.380/.493. He’s still walking at a healthy rate at 12.3% but has cut his strikeout rate below 20% at 17%. But Bae is hitting for power. He has a .196 isolated slugging percentage, a massive increase from .134 last season. Bae can play shortstop, second base, and center field, so the Pittsburgh Pirates shouldn’t have much trouble finding places to get him playing time.
An underrated outfield prospect who has recently turned on the jets is Travis Swaggerty. The former first-round pick has hit .333/.392/.510 since returning from the injured list. He and Cruz have nearly identical offensive numbers with an .892 OPS, .396 wOBA, and 140 wRC+. Swaggerty is yet another guy who has above-average power but also provides Gold Glove level defense in center field.
The Pirate offense could get a huge kick by just getting these guys in the Majors. Their pitching has been decent, but their offense needs a much-needed boost. If the pitching can keep doing what it has been doing, and the offense can put up even league-average numbers, the team wouldn’t be bad at all. A line-up consisting of Ke’Bryan Hayes, Bryan Reynolds, Oneil Cruz, Ji-Hwan Bae, Travis Swaggerty, Mason Martin, Diego Castillo, Daniel Vogelbach, and Ben Gamel is absoutley possible by the second week of June.