The Pirates have lost two consecutive games to sub-.500 teams in which a key play was their right fielder making an awful defensive play. On Sunday, Garrett Jones air-mailed a throw that turned a routine single into a run-scoring triple. Last night, Josh Harrison turned a deep flyball that might’ve been a tough play but should’ve been an out into a rally-extending double. On Sunday, Jones’s error (along with Pedro Alvarez’s, let’s give credit where it’s due) keyed the Brewers rally. Last night, Harrison’s misplay resulted in at least one run and maybe two in what turned out to be a one-run game.
Early in the season, having infielders in the outfield was a necessary evil; the Pirates weren’t hitting at all and Alex Presley and Jose Tabata were prime culprits. Putting Harrison in the outfield or getting both Jones and McGehee in the lineup at the same time occasionally provided a much-needed boost while other guys figured things out and the Pirates waited on Starling Marte to adjust to Triple-A pitching. In June, Marte hit .325/.385/.558 with six doubles, five triples, and four homers. The Pirates said they wanted him to get more seasoning and to get used to the corner outfield spots. Given his plate discipline problems, that’s understandable even if it’s difficult to stomach for fans in a pennant race. The Pirates always have to give consideration to the future: at the trade deadline, with prospects, always.
Marte’s responded by hitting .333/.414/.667 with two doubles, two triples, and three more homers in 13 July games. His strikeouts are still high, but his walk rate has been creeping up. He’s obviously hitting everything hard and after hitting .276 in April and .236 in May, the pitchers aren’t fooling him the same way. I think he’ll have stretches where he struggles at the plate, but I doubt he’ll struggle moreso than Josh Harrison has lately and it’s a virtual guarantee that Marte will get to more balls and make better throws than guys like Jones and Harrison in the outfield.
I get that the Pirates have their own process. I respect that. But it’s getting increasingly harder to think that calling Marte up now would damage him in any way, and it’s obvious there’s a role for him on the Pirates. There’s actually more than a role for him; there’s a glaring need. I get that Marte will be up with the Pirates soon, it’s just that at this point I think I’d rather that instead of “very soon” it was “yesterday.”