Dear Pittsburgh Pirates: It’s time to stop unnecessarily delaying Oneil Cruz’s and Mason Martin’s 2022 MLB debuts with half measures.
One of my favorite TV shows of all time is Breaking Bad (and, by proxy, Better Call Saul). One of the popular quotes from the show is “no more half measures,” which is delivered by Jonathan Bank’s character Mike Ehrmantraut. However, no quote can more accurately depict my frustration (as well as many others) with how the Pittsburgh Pirates have handled Oneil Cruz and Mason Martin this year. They’ve taken half measure after half measure, unnecessarily delaying their debuts.
Cruz has been nothing short of phenomenal the last three-plus weeks. Since May 5th, Cruz is batting .280/.392/.549 He has walked at a 13.4% pace while only striking out 19.6% of the time. His remarkable performance in this period has led to a .411 wOBA and 152 wRC+.
Do you know what the Pittsburgh Pirates shortstops in the majors have hit since May 5th? They’re hitting .223/.298/.330 with a .285 wOBA and 83 wRC+. Pirate shortstops have been 17% worse than the Major League average and 13% worse than the average league shortstop. It’s also not as if they have some Ozzie Smith-level defender there either that’s making them hesitant from going to Cruz. Pirates’ shortstops have been -2 Defensive Runs Saved, -3 Outs Above Average, and a -1.8 UZR/150. Nothing overly terrible, but the bar isn’t very high.
The Pittsburgh Pirates had the opportunity to call up Cruz when Ben Gamel went on the injured list, but do you know who they called upon instead? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not another prospect who was also deserving like Ji-Hwan Bae or Travis Swaggerty. It was Hoy Park, who has a .680 OPS at Triple-A currently. It’s only that high because he has 22 walks in 105 plate appearances. But he only has 19 hits, and only two have been doubles.
We’re past the service time deadline. Calling up Park when we have Cruz in and of itself is a half measure. Heck, recalling Park with Bae is just as deserving is a half-measure. There are absolutely zero reasons Park deserves the promotion over Cruz. This is even worse when you look at Mason Martin over at first base.
Martin has been a quality hitter this year. He’s batting with a .373 wOBA and 127 wRC+. Sure, he’s struck out 33.3% of the time, but he also has a solid 9.5% walk rate. Regardless, he’s put up well above average numbers this year and deserves the call to the major leagues. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
The Pittsburgh Pirates recently lost their big power DH in Daniel Vogelbach. Then they placed Yoshi Tsutsugo on the injured list. Michael Chavis also is only being limited to pinch-running duties. That’s three 1B/DH options hurt. Who has been the alternative to try and alleviate the duties lost when you have three regulars on the IL who generally play the same position? None other than our favorite emergency catcher Josh VanMeter.
VanMeter has a .281 wOBA and 80 wRC+. He isn’t the worst hitter in Major League Baseball, but he’s far from even average. Again, the Pirates are taking an unnecessary half measure. Martin has to out-perform an 80 wRC+. 20% worse than the league average. There is nearly no chance that Martin could under-perform what VanMeter has done so far.
Look, I get the Pittsburgh Pirates aren’t going to go anywhere this year, but these half measures on big prospects like Martin and Cruz when they deserve it, and there is clearly a need for it is painful and beyond unnecessary. They didn’t do this with Diego Castillo, Jack Suwinski, Tucupita Marcano, or Cal Mitchell.