One of the long term holes at the major league level is the shortstop position. The Pirates have several prospects in the upper levels of the minors, but do they have a guy who is capable of being a long term solution? The answer in each individual case is: maybe. There are several options, but all of them have at least one big flaw to work out in their game before emerging as a strong option.
Chase d’Arnaud will get most of the playing time in Indianapolis this year, and the infielder is currently working on becoming more fundamentally sound. He’s been working with Pirates’ infield coordinator Gary Green on funneling the ball to his chest, in order to cut down on bad throws to first. D’Arnaud has the skills to handle the shortstop position defensively. Offensively he doesn’t stand out in any one area, but is capable of good numbers across the board, with a decent average and some pop in his bat. His best tool is his speed, making him a spark at the top of the lineup, and a weapon on the bases.
Jordy Mercer is better than d’Arnaud at defense right now, although d’Arnaud has the capability to be the better of the two. Mercer’s value comes more from his bat. When he was drafted, he was called more of an offensive minded shortstop. We saw that last year when he led the minor league organization with 19 homers. Mercer struggled in Triple-A, carrying his power over, but hit for a .239 average and a .689 OPS. He will need to improve that hitting and do more than just hit for power.
The Pirates have been working Josh Harrison at shortstop a lot this Spring, and the infielder got in to great shape over the off-season. He’s capable of handling the position, although he wouldn’t be a strong defender, and would need most of his value to come from the bat. Harrison hit for a .310/.365/.460 line in 226 at-bats at the Triple-A level last year. He had a .272 average in the majors, but the average was empty, with a .281 OBP and a .374 slugging. He would need to draw more walks, hit for more power, and/or hit for a better average in order to justify starting at the shortstop position.
Yamaico Navarro has been listed as a shortstop throughout his career, although his size and lack of range makes him more of an option for second or third base. He’s a good hitter, with raw power. That hasn’t translated to the stat line in the same way that Jordy Mercer’s 19 home runs stood out. In 273 at-bats in Triple-A, he has a .267 average, a .797 OPS, and ten homers. Navarro is the youngest of all of these options. The only way he’d make it as a starting shortstop would be if he had the offense to counter his defensive skills. He has a better shot at this than Harrison, due to his power potential.
None of these guys profile as more than an average to above-average option if they pan out. However, the shortstop position is the hardest to fill, and considering the Pirates don’t have a long term solution, even an average starter would help for now. The question is: can one of these guys emerge to be that shortstop of the future?
Links and Notes
**The Pirates beat the Astros 9-7 in extra innings today. Game story is here.
**Prospect Notebook: Looking at Nathan Baker’s fastball command and Duke Welker’s improved control.
**Pirates Notebook: Pedro Alvarez will start the season in the majors.