The Pittsburgh Pirates have begun their long road without Gold Glove outfielder Starling Marte, due to his 80-game ban for using performance enhancing drugs.
They now are without their top two hitters from 2016 (Marte and Jung-Ho Kang) and both are due to careless acts. Kang, for those unaware, was given a DUI over the offseason in South Korea and may not be allowed back into the United States this season.
Filling the Void Left by Starling Marte’s Suspension
So, how do the Pirates go about replacing their prestigious outfielder? It won’t be easy.
In the Field
There are a few routes they could take. On Tuesday night, they placed utility man Adam Frazier in left field. They followed that up by placing John Jaso there on Wednesday. This moved Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco back to their 2016 positions in center and right field, respectively.
Another route that they could explore is keeping Polanco in left and moving Josh Bell to right field. Bell played most of his minor league ball in right, so he’s comfortable at that position. He also made a few starts there since being called up to the major leagues. This would, in turn, allow Frazier to still become an every day player, something the Pirates really want to see happen. Josh Harrison would become the permanent third baseman, while David Freese would move to first.
At the Plate
Without Marte in the lineup, the Pirates lose a dynamic option at the plate.
They made the move to call up Jose Osuna after the news broke about Marte’s suspension. Osuna had a really strong spring for the Pirates and almost made the Opening Day roster, but was left off of it. He will likely get a good chunk of starts and hopefully build off of the high batting average he had in the spring.
The Pirates top positional prospect, Austin Meadows, is off to a cold start for Triple-A Indianapolis, as he has a .162/.220/.270 slash line. He is the likely replacement if a McCutchen trade happens at some point during the season. If his numbers improve, he could be given the opportunity to play at the major league level before Marte’s return.
Assuming the Pirates don’t have any games cancelled during the 80-game suspension, Marte would return on July 19 against the Milwaukee Brewers. This is right in time for the trade deadline, and the Pirates will likely have made a decision on whether they will buy or sell by that time.
The Pirates have options to replace Marte for the next three months. However, with an already weak bench, they will need to get more production out of the unlikely sources.