The Pirates Need to Lose Two Players By Next Sunday. Who Will They Be?

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Editorial (4/25/22 @ 11:10 AM): It was pointed out to me that per MLB's new rules only 13 pitchers are allowed on the roster once the 28-man roster period expires.  The article has been updated to recognize that.

Editorial #2 (4/26/2022 @3:04 PM): MLB and the player's association agreed that the max number of pitchers on a roster will be extended to 14 through May 29th.

The 28-man roster period in Major League Baseball is coming to an end.  Due to the shortened 2022 Spring Training brought on by the lockout, each MLB team was allowed two extra players on their rosters through May 1st.  That means the Pittsburgh Pirates have been carrying two extra players that will need to either be optioned or DFA'ed by next Sunday.

Which two will the Pirates send down or cut?

The Pirates are currently at 13 hitters and 15 pitchers.  However, per MLB rules, rosters are limited to 13 total pitchers between the start of the season (in a normal season) and August 31st.  While they need to get down to 13 pitchers, they may also option a hitter as well, and bring up someone from the minor leagues.

There are some easy picks as far as fans are concerned.  I'm sure many would be interested in seeing Kevin Newman disappear forever after his terrible tenure with the Pirates, and his even worse start to the 2022 season.  However, this is unlikely as the Pirates have made it clear Newman is their starting shortstop until the prospects are ready.  

Cole Tucker

One of the prospects who was supposed to be ready, and take the spot from Newman, is former shortstop Cole Tucker.  With little room in the infield once the youngsters do make it to the big leagues, Tucker has been forced into trying to become an outfielder.  The Pirates also entered the season with only two regular outfielders in Bryan Reynolds and Ben Gamel, so there was much more of a need there before the Pirates signed Jake Marisnick.

However, the Tucker experiment is failing.  Both in the outfield and at the plate.  Visually it appears no play in right field is routine for Tucker and his struggles at the plate are becoming insurmountable.  

On the season, Tucker is batting .171 with 16 strikeouts, zero walks, and just one extra base hit.  This brings his career strikeout total to 120 in 414 at-bats, and his career batting average to .213.  He also has a season OPS of .390.  I have never seen an OPS that low for a baseball player in a starting role.  

Tucker also has an option left, according to FanGraphs, so he would not need to be DFA'ed in order to shed him from the roster.  It is time to cut your losses with Tucker, and admit defeat.  I would much prefer they take this route instead of wasting an option of a player who may actually make a real impact on this team someday.  

Diego Castillo

Another utility man that could be on the hot seat is Diego Castillo.  While he has become a fan favorite since earning his spot on the team out of the Spring Training by mashing the most homeruns, he has started just nine of the Pirates' 16 games so far.  He also has the most options of those currently considered bench guys.

As much as I like Castillo, admittedly he hasn't played great.  He is batting just .244 with a .585 OPS.  Fortunately for Castillo, it looks like the one guy he'd be competing with for the spot is the aforementioned Cole Tucker.  Castillo has looked much more natural than Tucker in his three games started in the outfield so far and is hitting much better, which isn't saying much.  The Pirates have to decide if using one of Castillo's options is worth continuing the Tucker experiment in the outfield.  

Beau Sulser

I think the first pitcher to go is Beau Sulser.  Sulser was brought up to the majors just yesterday.  He has yet to debut, and I do hope he does before being sent back down.  However, with the most options available in the bullpen, he is an easy pick to be sent down.  

Miguel Yajure

I also think Miguel Yajure could be on the hot seat.  He had a great outing out of the bullpen to start the season, but has really struggled since.  His season ERA has ballooned to 14.04 and it looks like he could use some confidence boosting in the minors.  

While Wil Crowe and Dillon Peters have embraced their new roles in the bullpen, and should stay there, Yajure still should be a starter in the Pirates future rotations.  Therefore, I'd like to see Yajure get more work at the minor league level and sharpened some of the currently lacking aspects of his game.

We'll see how the Pirates lineups and bullpen use plays out as this week plays on, but they have two major decisions to make by the end of it.  It will be interesting to see the route they take.