Although Tucupita Marcano may get overlooked and called a bust already, the Pittsburgh Pirates and fans shouldn't forget about the utility man
A guy that may seem to get overlooked in the Pittsburgh Pirates system is Tucupita Marcano. Formerly a top prospect with the San Diego Padres, he, along with Jack Suwinski and another minor league pitcher, was sent to the Pirates in the Adam Frazier trade. But Marcano shouldn’t be forgotten about.
The utility man has gotten off to an inferno-hot start to the year. It’s only been 29 plate appearances, but he has 14 hits. Over half of those have gone for extra-base hits. Seven are doubles, one is a triple, and another is a home run. He’s also only gone down on strike three, three times, and has a walk. Marcano’s great start earned him International League Player of the Week.
This was after a great 2022 minor league season. In 241 plate appearances, Marcano batted .291/.388/.443 with a .370 wOBA and 121 wRC+. Marcano is known for his plate discipline and walked just 14.1% of the time. He also had a strikeout rate under 20% at 17.4%. Marcano isn’t known as a power hitter but had a respectable .153 isolated slugging percentage.
Marcano’s great numbers in the minor leagues earned him a chance at big-league playing time. But despite the great numbers at Altoona and Indianapolis, he performed poorly with the Bucs’ big league squad. Marcano only slashed .206/.256/.306 with a .249 wOBA, and 57 wRC+. After posting a strong walk rate, he walked at a 5.6% rate. Even worse was his strikeout rate, which clocked in at 24.9%. Marcano’s ability to avoid the strikeout was one of his strongest suits when he was a prospect.
But one thing I think one thing that many people forget is that Marcano was rushed to the big leagues. In 2021, the San Diego Padres opened the year with Marcano on their major league roster. Fernando Tatis Jr. had started the year on the injured list, so Marcano was given the nod after a great Spring Training. This was after not playing in 2020 because of the canceled minor league season and last playing at the Padres’ Low-A affiliate. When the Padres optioned Marcano back to the minor leagues, he was sent to Triple-A, not High-A or Double-A.
If the Pirates started Tsung-Che Cheng in the big leagues this year, many would likely criticize the Pirates for rushing him, let alone expect him to be a productive player. It’s the same story for Marcano. He’s undeniably done poorly. A 55 wRC+ is unacceptable in regular play. But it’s not fair to call a player a bust after only 227 plate appearances, with most of those coming before seeing much time above Low-A. Marcano has since done much better at Double-A and Triple-A and could be pushing for a chance at more major league playing time.
It would have been nice for Marcano to get the call when Cruz went down instead of Mathias. Although Mathias has done great at Triple-A and did great in his brief major league cameo last year, seeing a young former prospect get the opportunity would have been nice. Still, if Mathias does struggle, Marcano may be the next in line.