Middle infield woes
When the Pirates lost Oneil Cruz to his fractured ankle it went without saying that it would be a major blow to the club. No player on the team has a higher ceiling than Cruz does. While Rodolfo Castro has done a fine job offensively stepping in for Cruz, the team is missing his defense big time.
Even with Castro hitting the ball well in place of Cruz, odds are, it's not truly in place of Cruz. With Castro putting together the season that he is he likely would have emerged as the team's primary second baseman. This would have created a regular middle infield of Cruz and Castro.
This is a middle infield that would be better offensively, as well as defensively. As he has shown time and time again, Castro is a much better defender at second base than he is at shortstop. The other players who have contributed in the middle infield have struggled offensively. Other than Tucupita Marcano, they've also struggled defensively.
Having a consistent middle infield who play off each other is important. The Pirates have such a revolving door between who has been making starts in the middle infield has prevented this. That was on display in Sunday's loss when the 1st inning defensive miscue of Mark Mathias is one that shortstop possibly should have fielded. With a consistent middle infield who know what each other are going to do, that could have been more likely. Later in the game Castro committed his 7th error of the season, the 6th of which that occurred at shortstop.
Something needs figured out with middle infield. That might be Castro at second base and Marcano at shortstop. Castro has proven that he's not an every day defensive shortstop in the majors, but he should be playing every day with his bat.
Right now, the middle infield is one of many issues for the slumping Pirates.