Pittsburgh Pirates: Options for Backup Shortstop
The Pittsburgh Pirates will enter the season with one of the most exciting shortstops in baseball. Who will be the backup?
For the first time in a long time, the Pittsburgh Pirates have an exciting starter at shortstop: Oneil Cruz. Cruz displayed raw power, speed, and arm strength last year in his rookie season while taking over the starting shortstop role from Kevin Newman. It is no surprise that he will be the starter there in 2023, but he will need his days off, so who will be his backup?
The Pirates have a couple of middle infielders on the roster that have experience at shortstop in Rodolfo Castro, who played the position in 155 innings in the majors last season, and Ji-Hwan Bae, who has yet to appear there in the big leagues. Castro had a -1 Defensive Runs Saved in his short sample at shortstop, committing 5 errors.
Behind them in the minors would be Tucupita Marcano, who appeared at the position last season for the Pirates, Jared Triolo, a stellar defender at third who had time there in Altoona, and top shortstop prospect Liover Peguero, who started at short in his debut this past season. Peguero, however, had a down year in 2022 with Altoona and it would appear unlikely for him to break camp with the team to start the season.
The Pirates also have a couple of non-roster invitees in the mix who could potentially break camp as the backup shortstop, starting with Drew Maggi. Maggi is a 33-year-old career minor leaguer who spent last season with the Phillies and Pirates. He was also drafted by the team in the 2010 draft in the 15th round. While a plus defender, Maggi did not perform well in Triple-A last season, hitting for a slash line of .212/.324/.274 in 346 plate appearances.
The other non-roster invitee with a shot to make the team is infielder Chris Owings. Owings is a 10-year vet who played most of his career with Arizona, the team that drafted him in 2009. He's played all over the field, including over 2,000 innings at short. The only positions he hasn't played are first base and catcher. He spent most of the season with the Yankee Triple-A affiliate, where he slashed .235/.303/.412 in 208 PA.
Out of all these options it might seem likely that the Pirates stick with Castro and Bae to backup shortstop at the start of the season. Ideally, Cruz won't need many off days as the team's starting shortstop especially at the beginning of the season, allowing the team to eventually fill that role later with Triolo, Peguero, or Marcano if needed.