At one point in the preceding offseason, seeing Jordan Luplows name in the Pittsburgh Pirates lineup on back to back nights wouldn’t have been a shock.
Following the Pittsburgh Pirates’ silent off season and prior to acquiring Corey Dickerson from the Tampa Bay Rays, the Bucs outfielder was projected as a potential starter in left field that would share time with Adam Frazier throughout the entire season. Then something happened; things worked out too well for the Pirates outfield situation.
The idea of anything going “too well” for any team, let alone a franchise that has made the postseason just three times since 1992, sounds ridiculous. After watching the Bucs play this season it’s almost impossible to spot “too much” good news anywhere on the field. However, for the first time in who knows how long the Pirates had something go better than they had expected and ironically enough this too, has put their team in a major hole both now and for the future.
Dickerson throws a wrench into things
When Corey Dickerson joined the Pittsburgh Pirates at the start of spring training many assumed that his time in Pittsburgh would be short. While I am sure a few Yinzers you will talk to after a game at McFaddens will insist the team can and will trade Gregory Polanco or Starling Marte this season, the reality has been and still is that those two will not be leaving anytime soon.
Knowing that Meadows was looming to make his debut in AAA this season Dickerson looked to be the perfect place holder. As an above average bat he could help be a solid part of the lineup while also easing the fans minds as they suffered Post-McCutchen depression. If worse came to worst and Meadows continued to have injury struggles in 2018 Dickerson could play for cheap (and well) until they could replace him with their second best prospect in the following year.
Yet, as I mentioned earlier, everything went well; too well. Dickerson has been the consistent hitter on the Pirates, posting a batting average over .300 for nearly the whole season. Marte has responded well from last years nightmare of a season and Polanco, has been good enough at times to not completely give up on. To top things off, not only has Meadows stayed healthy he has been one of the best rookies in the National League this season, hitting .302 with an .817 OPS.
This should be a good thing right? With all four outfielders on the roster healthy and playing well how could this turn into a problem? The answer: Jordan Luplow.
The forgotten fifth man has once again re-appeared on the Pirates major league roster after going on an absolute tear in AAA for the last two months. Now, because he like the other four played so well, the Pirates had no choice but to call him up to the big leagues thus creating the current traffic jam of outfield talent that club is currently experiencing.
While the idea of having too much talent (or potential talent) in on position group sounds ridiculous to label as a problem the current excess of outfielders on the Bucs active roster is concerning. Austin Meadows, a player who won rookie of the month in May has started just one game since July 4th.
Unlike Luplow, Meadows is an important piece in the team’s future. Having him miss starts to see how good Luplow is just doesn’t make sense.
I can understand the Bucs wanting to give Luplow his shot to show what he can potentially do at the big league level. However, if it comes at the cost of stealing playing time from Meadows or benching Marte or Polanco who are both red hot, then I am no longer a fan of the idea.
The final solution would be to either trade or bench Corey Dickerson. For someone who has had a career year in the field along with entering their game on Thursday, July 11 against the Brewers with a .309 batting average, moving Dickerson will be more difficult for the Bucs then some imagine.
The current demand for an outfielder isn’t that high. Especially for one that only has six home runs and 35 rbi. While at face value his 95 base hits and .806 OPS look nice, the month long streak where he only had one run batted in certainly didn’t drive up Dickerson’s asking price.
Given that benching him is also not an option because it will decrease his trade value even more, Dickerson is another outfielder who the Pirates must have in their lineup; creating an outfield fools paradise.
Having five players who need to play every day and only three spots to distribute is in my opinion the first problem that general manager Neil Huntington must address during the all star break. Though it has been great to watch Dickerson play for the Bucs, he must go. Meadows then must get the reps that he both needs and deserves. Then and only then can the club resume part two of the Jordan Luplow experiment.