Put Him in Right Field!

It’s quickly becoming baseball’s equivalent to hating the goalie, blaming the Offensive Coordinator or wondering why a strong safety doesn’t make more interceptions.

The flavor du jour as of late has been O’neil Cruz, the lanky short stop looks out of place in the middle infield, well, until you watch him deftly handle everything like the slick fielder he has worked to become. The idea isn’t insane mind you, Cruz could handle it just fine as he’s certainly athletic enough and it’s hard to argue that Liover Peguero and Nick Gonzales won’t soon be pushing from behind to find a new position for the young man. Add in Kevin Newman, Erik Gonzalez, Adam Frazier and Cole Tucker, the logjam is real.

In short, it makes sense to see where this young guy could play, but don’t take his ability to play short lightly, kid can play there. Third base would be another obvious place to move the young man, but his brother in arms for the next core of the club Ke’Bryan Hayes will have that position on lock down lord willing and the creek don’t rise.

Right now, Gregory Polanco is out there, and he’ll get a look. He is paid to much to not try, but Ben Cherington is on record saying they aren’t afraid to have a high priced player on the bench. Outside of the bubble of a 60 game season, we’ll see how true to their word the coaching staff and management team are when it comes to things like that.

The Bucs will most likely have more options beyond that for the honor of playing in front of the 21 foot Clemente Wall. Phil Evans, Jared Oliva, Cole Tucker, hell Adam Frazier might even make an appearance.

You know who’s name I’ve heard most as of late though? Josh Bell.

Right! That Josh Bell, the guy who usually plays First Base. This is driven largely because Colin Moran showed last season he was at least as scary as Josh at the plate and can actually pick it a bit over there. Another big factor is people remembering Josh grew up playing the outfield. It’s his natural position they shout as if you were arguing.

Here’s the trouble though, Josh wasn’t moved from the outfield because the Pirates needed a first baseman as much as the fact he wasn’t a very good outfielder. He was adding bulk from the time he was drafted and at some point that started to add up to an inferior fielder out there. So he and the Pirates decided to try first base in the Arizona Fall league.

Arguably his best professional season, and I should be clear, I’m not counting rookie ball or short season Arizona Fall League stuff, was 2015. In that season he split time between Altoona and Indianapolis, played predominantly right field and wound up with 16 errors and a .986 fielding percentage.

Since he made his MLB debut for the Pirates, Josh has played 476 games in the field and the perception has always been that he is a horrific fielder but what really made him a train wreck out there was his throwing. He’s made 36 total errors at first base for the Bucs, 20 in the field and 16 throwing. Too many to be sure, but hardly evidence that narrative is accurate. In fact one of those seasons saw him put together a .995 fielding percentage at first.

Numbers aren’t everything. I watch the games too, he isn’t great. Part of Josh’s problem in the field and at the plate for that matter is he doesn’t look comfortable. He makes most of his pick opportunities but you sure hold your breath. He’ll make most of the expected plays, but if the short stop isn’t Robin Hood with the baseball he isn’t going to bail them out most likely.

I say all this to get to the reality that Josh Bell while not ever to be confused with Anthony Rizzo at first, would make Gregory Polanco look like Willie Mays by comparison in right.

It solves a problem, but creates another. If the Pirates don’t trade some of these guys, they better have some inside information about the DH being back for 2020, because they have too many people at too few spots.

If you were just looking to make baseball trades that would be ideal would it not?

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

3 thoughts on “Put Him in Right Field!

  1. Big difference between Cruz and the others mentioned: they did not drive drunk and kill people this offseason. Does that matter to anyone?

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    1. The driving drunk charge didn’t stick. When it comes to news out of DR it’s important to remember how very corrupt the media and law enforcement can be. The story changed 10 times in the first three days and charges of driving under the influence were dropped altogether. I’ve written about that here, Jason Mackey has covered it, Alex Stumph as well. We aren’t guessing that he’s cleared.

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