We Have to Accept Some Pirate Prospect Demotions

Photo credit: Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

While the infusion of young Pittsburgh Pirate talent has been fun to watch, there are moves to be made to help both the team and the young players.

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Seeing the Pirates win, or lose, with young prospects like Oneil Cruz, Bligh Madris, and Roansy Contreras, among many others, is more fun than watching veterans that have no real future with the team.  Regardless of the results, this has been fun.  However, this many rookie callups for the Pirates was largely due to injuries to veterans that started the season with the team.

It appears that many of these injured players are on their way back.  Ben Cherington said on his radio show yesterday that Josh Van Meter, who hasn't played since June 1st, was the closest to returning.  According to Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Van Meter will join the team today in Washington when the Pirates take on the Nationals to start a 3-game series.  

It also appears that Yoshi Tsutsugo, Kevin Newman, and Ben Gamel are all on rehab assignments as well.  We should expect to see some, or all of these players, return within the month of July.  While this young Pirates revolution has been fun, we can't completely reject the notion that these veterans rejoining the team doesn't help both the team and all of the players involved.

With Van Meter being the first one back, let's discuss him first.  Van Meter was absolutely terrible to start the season.  In his first 26 games played, he had a .167 batting average, a .513 OPS and 21 strikeouts in 77 plate appearances.  I was firmly on the DFA Van Meter bandwagon.  

However, in the last 10 games before his injury, he had come alive.  Van Meter batted .333 with a .912 OPS.  He also showed the ability to play several positions competently without committing too many errors.  

Also, while Kevin Newman is, and forever will be, just an average singles hitter at the plate, he does offer a lot defensively.  He is a Gold Glove finalist and can play both middle infield positions.  Newman is also a right-handed hitter.  Both his ability to field and bat from the right side are skills that could come in handy for the Pirates in later innings.  He is a much better defensive replacement than Diego Castillo and would offer pinch hit opportunities against left-handed relievers among a roster loaded with left-handed hitters.

So what Newman and Van Meter's return means for the Pirates is most likely a DFA of Yu Chang, an option of Diego Castillo back to the minor leagues, or both.  Both, in my opinion, are good outcomes.  

While Castillo's homerun numbers have been fun to watch, he really isn't ready for the major leagues.  When he's not hitting homeruns, he's getting out.  A lot.  He has just a .192 batting average and a .575 OPS.  He has also committed five errors at shortstop this season.  So he could certainly use some regular playing time in the minors to refine some skills instead of getting tucked away on the bench at the major league level.

As for Chang, he doesn't deserve to be on a major league roster.  So far in 2022, he is batting .135 with a miserable .449 OPS.  He is also striking out over 42% of the time he appears at the plate.  Simply put, he is not a major league hitter.  

Ben Gamel is set to return as well.  While I don't particularly want to see Ben Gamel back because I believe he will add major production to the team, I don't want to continue to see outfielder, Cal Mitchell, benched.  

Mitchell is a young, 23-year old prospect that would benefit greatly from everyday at-bats.  With an already crowded outfield, Mitchell is failing to receive everyday at-bats now.  I think he'd benefit more from regular playing time at the minor league level than serving as a bench player at this point in his career.  Also, Mitchell isn't playing especially well despite being a great clubhouse guy.  So Mitchell being optioned for Gamel's return would be beneficial to both the Pirates and Cal Mitchell.

As for Yoshi Tsutsugo, the only benefit I see from his return is giving Michael Chavis a platoon situation at 1st base.  While not terrible, Chavis is only batting .214 against right-handed pitchers versus .300 against left-handed pitchers.  His power numbers are also significantly worse against right-handed pitchers.  So maybe the left-handed Yoshi could give Chavis relief at 1st base against right-handed pitchers.  

However, this is the move I'd like the least.  I really don't see any reason to bring Yoshi Tsutsugo back to the team and take away the opportunity for another player at the major league level.  The Pirates should consider DFA'ing Tstusugo and cutting their losses with him.  The offseason move of Jose Quintana worked, but the Tsutusgo one did not.  It's time to admit that.

So sure, while it has been fun to see this infusion of young talent at the major league level, the Pirates should bring back some of their veterans in lieu of the youngsters.  Especially because this helps both the team and some of the players being sent back down to the minors.