Well..just last week I wrote about the loss of Starling Marte to an 80-game suspension and how that might have been the nail in the coffin for the Pirate’s season, but I’m feeling new life as these young guys are surpassing expectation. I should have known as the Pirates organization has proven in the recent years to consistently find a way to build depth on the bench through young talent and smart pick ups.
Gift Ngoepe, what a story this guy has been so far, stuff right out of a fairy tale. Not only is Ngoepe the first African native to make it to the MLB but he is showing signs of being the real deal. I understand it has only been two games but in those two games Ngoepe has managed to go 4 for 5 with 3 walks. His batting average will not be .800 for much longer but if he continues to show this kind of discipline at the plate combined with his powerful, quick, and compact swing, he may just find consistent success at this level. Not only has he displayed great potential as a hitter but Ngoepe has shown solid defensive play, as he has done throughout his entire career in the minors. Pirates fans should be excited for and about this guy and we can hope to see consistency from him, in the field and at the plate. I have a feeling we may see more and more African natives find their way to the big leagues now that Ngoepe has paved the way.
Along with Ngoepe, Jose Osuna has shown us why he deserves a spot in the big show. Osuna posted a .407 batting average with 5 home runs and 10 walks during spring training. With Marte’s suspension Osuna found a spot on the roster and has taken advantage of his opportunity posting a .333 batting average, coming a home run short of the cycle a couple nights ago against the Cubs, also going 4 for 5 Friday night against the Marlins. As for the field, he has shown improvement as a right fielder but has some clear room for further improvement as he lacks the speed and spent most of his minor league career as a first basemen. But overall, Osuna has helped Pirates fans somewhat forget about Marte in the meantime.
Let’s not forget about Josh Bell who still has the potential to be a superstar. Since Marte’s suspension, Bell has posted a .307 batting average with two home runs and six walks. After getting off to a slow start, Bell is kicking it into high gear as he has demonstrated his sheer power from both sides of the plate, his patience, and his ability to get on base. He has also shown improvement as the Pirates everyday first basemen. It would be a relief for all Pirates fans if we could finally have security at the position of first base as the recent history of first base for the Pirates has had shades of, well..the quarterback situation in Cleveland…
The Pirates finally seem to be clicking offensively, especially in the past two days scoring a total of 18 runs. Prior to last night the Pirates had the third least runs scored per game which has resulted in poor run support for starting pitching that has proven to be stellar with the exception of Glasnow. Three consecutive 2-1 losses to the Cardinals were prime examples of this as an organization can not ask much more of its rotation after allowing only 6 total runs in a 3 game series against a solid lineup.
By no means am I suggesting that this Pirates team, absent of Marte and Kang, is in a great position to win the division or see the playoffs but I can say that the Pirates are taking steps in the right direction. This upcoming week is going to be crucial for the Pirates as they face the Reds and Brewers who gave the Pirate’s a hard time last year. The Pirates will need to find success in NL Central play if they want to see October baseball. I’m hoping to be writing with a similar tone next week as the Pirates take more steps in the right direction.
– Andrew Glaser
Photo credit: Gene Puskar