PNC PARK – If all things were equal, Jordy Mercer would be on the Pirates’ 25-man roster. Mercer was mostly impressive during his nine games with the Pirates while Neil Walker’s hand laceration healed.
Mercer hit a pedestrian .258, but he provided punch with three home runs, including two Saturday in New York. In nine games, Mercer made just one error. He’s clearly a more dynamic player than veteran utility man John McDonald.
But when Walker was activated from the DL prior to today’s game, Mercer was sent down to Triple-A because he still had options. Other veterans did not. It can be debated, but the Pirates want to keep as many assets as possible.
(Jordy Mercer isn’t the next Honus Wagner, but he doesn’t need to be to be the Pirates starting shortstop in 2014 .. and perhaps sooner)
Said Hurdle during today’s pre-game press briefing:
“He’s headed to have his time and it very well could be again this season,” Hurdle said. “But right now I think you want to maintain, I think the term that is used it today’s game is ‘asset allocation.’ Chase (D’arnaud) is still working his way back. In three weeks we might have more shortstop depth. We might be able to look for a different combination or a different way to attack things. He added value to us, he added value to himself.”
With Barmes a free agent after the season, Hurdle said Mercer has a shot to be the every day shortstop in 2014.
“He could very well be the guy that gets the short to play shortstop,” Hurdle.
But for now Mercer must wait.
STARTING NINE THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
9. More Mercer talk ….
Before the fans run Clint Barmes out of town for a small-sample performance from Mercer, consider Barmes was rated as the second best defensive shortstop in the NL last year, and he’s playing above average defense again this season. Does that make up for a .219 batting average? It’s not ideal. But if Barmes continues to play above average defense, that’s the most important thing at the game’s premier defensive position.
8. I think it’s also better for Mercer to play every day in Triple-A than to be a utility man unless the Pirates creatively used him as a super sub, playing him a three infield positions. But I don’t think Mercer would add much value in a utility role.
7. The question for me going forward with Mercer isn’t his bat. I don’t think he’s the second coming of Alex Rodriguez, but I think he can hit enough to hang in the middle of the field. The bigger question is can he handle the assignment defensively.
“I don’t know until we send him out there for a big block of time,” Hurdle said.
Baseball Prospecuts is more concerned about his offensive ability: “Mercer may be only an up-and-down guy, but his ability to field and throw across the infield gives him a shot at a utility role if enough falls into place for him offensively.
The Pirates need to form a stronger opinion than that heading into the offseason as shortstop is one of the most glaring holes when looking at the construction of the 2014 roster.
6. What Mercer did do during his 9-game stay was this: he improved his stock. I think at the very worst he’s a utility option going forward. Ideally for the Pirates Alen Hanson sticks at shortstop but he’s not a realistic option until 2015, and he’s mostly a future second baseman.
OK, enough Mercer talk …
5. What more can you say about the Pirates effort against Matt Harvey, who entered Sunday’s game as a Cy Young candidate? The Pirates aren’t the ’31 Athletics offensively, but I think they have enough offense.
4. The offense will get better with the addition of Neil Walker’s bat. He was 5 of 12 at Double-A Altoona over the weekend and his bat will eventually get going.
3. I’m bullish on the Pirates’ pitching depth. I’m the president the Francisco Liriano fan club. Gerrit Cole should be ready in June. Charlie Morton was schedule to throw a bullpen, and Jeff Locke has offered quality starts in 3 of his 4 starts. I think the Pirates have quite a few options for the back-end of the rotation. My questions are more about the top of the rotation ..
2. I think AJ Burnett is a No. 2 on a playoff caliber team. Wandy Rodriguez is a 3 or 4. Burnett needs help atop the rotation. Can Liriano be that guy? Can Cole be that guy? The Pirates need another impact arm because St. Louis has like 127.
1. I’m curious to see if the league adjusts at all to Starling Marte. He’s seen a lot of of fastballs early in the season, but as we documented last week his improved ability to stay back and be an above average hitter on curveballs should offer encouragement. Might he see more changeups? Something in sequences will likely change.
STAT OF THE WEEK
The swing-and-miss rate on Francisco Liriano’s changeup Saturday at New York. We all know about Liriano’s slider, but his changeup is another potential plus pitch. The key is fastball command.
FACTOID OF INTEREST, PERHAPS ONLY TO ME
Three ACC catchers have been drafted in the five overall since 2007. The Pirates had a chance to draft any of the three. They drafted Tony Sanchez. The other two: Buster Posey and Matt Weiters.
If you missed season one of The Americans, which concluded two weeks ago. Go check it out on Netflix when it comes available. It’s in the Breaking Bad family tree of drama. Great stuff.