Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
Offensive production outside of Andrew McCutchen.
Promote outfielder Gregory Polanco from Triple-A.
A number of factors can be pointed to as reasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates' lackluster 10-16 start to the season. The starting rotation has not been nearly as dominant and the bullpen is without All-Star closer Jason Grilli, but a lack of offensive production looks like the biggest culprit.
The Pirates are currently hitting just .221/.296/.351 as a team and averaging 3.69 runs per game, putting them 26th in the MLB in that category.
Reigning NL MVP Andrew McCutchen (.286/.408/.500, 4 HR, 14 RBI) is off to a nice start, and the team does rank 10th with 28 home runs on the season, but it has to get more consistent production.
The right field platoon of Jose Tabata (.262 BA, .613 OPS) and Travis Snider (.227 BA, .665 OPS) has not been terrible, but team needs a spark, and calling up top prospect Gregory Polanco to be the everyday right fielder may be the way to provide one.
After a terrific season in the minors last year, Polanco claimed Dominican Winter League MVP honors in the offseason, and he's currently hitting .400/.457/.632 with six doubles, two triples and four home runs over 95 Triple-A at-bats.
The team obviously does not want to start his arbitration clock, but the Pirates need to get things on track soon if they hope to make a return trip to the postseason, and they may be forced to pull the trigger on a call-up.
GM Neil Huntington had the following to say about when Polanco will be called up, via Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com:
Our evaluation of a player's readiness mentally, physically, fundamentally and personally to compete and thrive is what drives the decision to call that player up or not. We will look to bring Gregory Polanco to the major league level when we believe he meets those criteria, not because we have a need.