The Pittsburgh Pirates will likely sell off many of their short-term veterans at the trade deadline, but what rookies could take their place?
The Pittsburgh Pirates have seen a handful of their top prospects at least make their debut with the team this year. Jack Suwinski and Travis Swaggerty both made their MLB debuts this year. Tucupita Marcano made his Pirate debut earlier this year as well. The Pirates should be sellers at the trade deadline, and once the deadline passes, what prospects get recalled?
Roansy Contreras is likely the first name recalled. Going into the season, he was the organization’s top pitching prospect. He’s pitched 50 innings in the majors posting a 3.79 ERA but a 4.90 FIP and 1.38 WHIP. Contreras has given up nine home runs, which is a bit worrisome, but he was good at inducing ground balls in the minor leagues. Plus, three of those home runs and a third of all the earned runs he’s given up all year all came in one short outing.
Once Ben Gamel and Jake Marisnick are out the door, Jack Suwinski will almost certaintly get the call. Suwinski was having a solid rookie season, batting .198/.288/.428 with a .312 wOBA and 101 wRC+. His production was only slightly above average, but he blasted 14 long balls and had a .230 isolated slugging percentage. He also displayed plus outfield defense, racking up +5 defensive runs saved, +1 out above average, and putting up a +8.9 UZR/150. Suwinski could improve as he had just a .228 batting average on balls in play. If he can get that up to a reasonable .280, he could be a .250+ hitter with plus power.
Travis Swaggerty will likely be recalled if both Gamel and Marisnick are dealt. When the Pittsburgh Pirates promoted Swaggerty in early June, he was on a blazing hot streak, posting a 199 wRC+ from May 17th through June 3rd. However, since being optioned, his wRC+ is just 72. Still, overall on the season, he has a respectable .740 OPS, .328 wOBA, and 96 wRC+. Recalling him for less than a week and then optioning again likely explains why he’s struggled so much recently. But if he can replicate something similar in the majors, his defense should more than makeup for it. He’s hitting for decent power with seven homers and a .167 isolated slugging percentage.
Josh VanMeter’s days are likely numbered now that Bligh Madris has seen an increasing amount of playing time at first base (and recalled to the majors with a good chance of staying). Because of that, Tucupita Marcano should be recalled to take his place. Marcano only received 78 plate appearances with the Pirates before getting demoted but put up just a .637 OPS, .281 wOBA, and 80 wRC+. Granted, he came out of the gates swinging, having 15 hits in his first 55 trips to the plate with two home runs, then went on a 1-for-23 streak before being demoted. Between Double-A and Triple-A this season, Marcano has a .885 OPS, .391 wOBA, and 142 wRC+ in 173 plate appearances.
Once healthy, Ji-Hwan Bae may also get the call to the Show if the Pittsburgh Pirates finally decide to take Yoshi Tsutsugo to the pastures. Bae is having a strong season, batting .297/.364/.450, having a .361 wOBA and 118 wRC+. Bae’s 9.5% walk rate might be a career low, but it’s still above average. On the plus side, his 17.6% walk rate is a career-best. Bae’s .450 slugging percentage and .153 ISO are also career bests. The speedy Korean prospect has 184 innings in the outfield this year, so he could be promoted over Swaggerty or Suwinski if Gamel or Marisnick are traded.
In the event that Chris Stratton or Chase De Jong are traded, the Pirates may turn to Cody Bolton. The right-hander has served as a swing-man type arm for Triple-A Indy. He has appeared in 17 total games, with ten being starts. All told, he’s pitched 43.2 innings, posting a solid 2.76 ERA, 3.76 FIP, and 1.32 WHIP. Although Bolton’s 24.6% strikeout rate and 0.18 HR/9 stand out, his 14.5% walk rate is concerning. However, I think he’d be a good guy to get Chris Stratton’s role or De Jong’s role if he happens to be traded.
The Pirates need to go full youth movement after the deadline. No more Yoshi Tsutusgo, no more Josh VanMeter, no more Chris Stratton, and no more Ben Gamel. It’s time to give the kids a shot in the major leagues. Many have already made their debuts but haven’t gotten a chance to show what they can do in an extended period. Only Jack Suwinski has more than 100 plate appearances this year among all the rookies listed in this article.