Finding a Fix for All 30 MLB Teams' Biggest Hole Entering May
The first month of the 2014 MLB season has come and gone, and while it is too early for any major overreactions to problems that have cropped up, all 30 teams do have at least one hole of some sort that has popped up.
Whether it is a lack of production at one particular position, a vacancy opened up by an injury or something else entirely, each team has at least one area in need of improvement.
So with that in mind, here is a look at a potential fix (or the recommendation of patience in a few cases) for each team's biggest hole through the first month of the season.
*All stats courtesy of MLB.com, unless otherwise noted.
Inconsistent starting pitching.
Promote Triple-A SP Kevin Gausman.
Lack of a true staff ace and inconsistency from every starter not named Chris Tillman plagued the Baltimore Orioles last season, and it has been more of the same here to kick off 2014.
No starter has more than two quality starts to his credit so far this year, and while Tillman (3-1, 3.38 ERA) has been the best of the bunch, even he was shelled his last time out for nine hits and seven runs in 5.2 innings.
Behind him, Wei-Yin Chen (4.34 ERA) and Bud Norris (4.44 ERA) have both been passable, but Miguel Gonzalez (5.19 ERA) has struggled and free-agent addition Ubaldo Jimenez (0-4, 6.59 ERA) has statistically been one of the worst starters in baseball.
Jimenez supporters will point to his 5.23 career ERA in April, by far his worst month, but the rotation is a question mark nonetheless.
Gausman remains one of the more promising pitching prospects in the game, and he's currently pitching to a 2.53 ERA over 21.1 innings at Triple-A Norfolk. One more bad start from Gonzalez and it may be time to make the call.
Boston Red Sox
The struggles of Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront.
Move Chris Capuano to the rotation.
A case can certainly be made for the leadoff spot being the choice here, as the top spot in the batting order has hit just .191/.277/.261 on the year, but with Dustin Pedroia now slotted there and Shane Victorino back healthy, things should straighten out there moving forward.
That makes the starting rotation the biggest issue right now, and while the veteran trio of Jon Lester, John Lackey and Jake Peavy have pitched very well, the same can't be said for Clay Buchholz (6.00 ERA) and Felix Doubront (6.66 ERA).
Buchholz threw the ball well his last time out, allowing six hits and three runs in seven innings of work, and he has shown enough over the years to get a relatively long leash to sort things out.
Doubront, on the other hand, has lasted just 2.2 innings in two of his five starts this year and has just two quality starts. He has been effective as a swingman in the past, and it may be time to swap him with Chris Capuano.
The veteran Capuano was signed to add some depth following the news that Ryan Dempster would not pitch in 2014, and he has thrown 14.1 scoreless innings in 11 appearances to kick off the year.
New York Yankees
The back end of the rotation and middle relief.
Promote Alfredo Aceves from Triple-A.
With Ivan Nova lost for the year to Tommy John surgery and Michael Pineda currently serving a 10-game suspension and also dealing with a strained back muscle that could shelve him for a month, the New York Yankees' rotational depth is being tested early.
Vidal Nuno and David Phelps slide into the rotation in their absence. Nuno has looked good in two starts this year with a 2.89 ERA, but that move opens a whole new can of worms, as both guys were being used as middle relievers out of the bullpen.
A healthy David Robertson certainly helps the situation, but the Yankees could find themselves in need of a viable long reliever in the near future, especially if Nuno or Phelps falters after not being stretched out to open the year.
Veteran Alfredo Aceves was added on a minor league deal to provide some depth, and he currently has a 1.98 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 13.2 innings of work. He's not on the 40-man roster, but he could be the answer to any bullpen issues that may arise.
Tampa Bay Rays
The starting rotation.
Promote starter Mike Montgomery from Triple-A
A strength of the team since it first became a viable contender, the starting pitching has been shaky at best for the Tampa Bay Rays so far this season, as they currently rank 25th in the MLB with a 4.51 ERA.
Losing Matt Moore for the year to Tommy John surgery and Alex Cobb to an oblique injury has forced the likes of Cesar Ramos and Erik Bedard into the rotation.
Ramos has been decent, posting a 3.75 ERA in three starts, but he is only averaged four innings in those starts. Bedard has been hit hard, posting a 6.39 ERA in three starts of his own and also averaging only 4.1 innings per start.
Their ERAs and other numbers aside, those two are taxing the bullpen with their inability to pitch deep into games.
Add in subpar starts from David Price (3-2, 4.75 ERA) and Chris Archer (2-1, 4.11 ERA), and really, there is no one the team can rely on at this point.
Former Kansas City Royals top prospect Mike Montgomery, who was acquired in the James Shields trade, has earned a shot. He currently has a 2.81 ERA in five starts at Triple-A Durham, and he threw 8.1 no-hit innings in his last start before being pulled at 106 pitches.
Toronto Blue Jays
Give Chris Getz a chance, make a run at Stephen Drew in June if he flops.
With the slick-fielding Ryan Goins demoted to Triple-A after hitting just .150/.203/.217 over his first 60 at-bats and Maicer Izturis out four to six months with a torn knee ligament, the Toronto Blue Jays have set themselves up for a potential revolving door at second base this season.
Journeyman Chris Getz received the call when Goins was demoted, and he showed some potential in Triple-A with a .309/.382/.338 line through 68 at-bats. He's just a .252/.311/.310 career big league hitter, but even that would be a decent upgrade over Goins if he can just provide average defense.
Unless names like Placido Polanco or Ty Wigginton sound appealing, there's not much to speak of sitting in free agency, and the trade market is generally thin when it comes to second basemen.
The Blue Jays opted against signing a free-agent arm in the offseason, so it's unlikely they'll want to cough up draft-pick compensation to sign Stephen Drew now. He could be of interest after the June draft, but it will depend on whether or not he gives preference to a team willing to play him at shortstop.
Chicago White Sox
The starting rotation.
Continue plugging in arms until someone sticks.
With Chris Sale injured, Felipe Paulino also on the disabled list and Erik Johnson struggling to the point of being demoted to Triple-A Charlotte, the Chicago White Sox are already scrambling to put together a viable rotation.
Lefties John Danks (3.48 ERA) and Jose Quintana (4.00 ERA) have pitched well, but the strained flexor muscle that Sale is dealing with is a serious concern, and the trio of Andre Rienzo, Scott Carroll and Hector Noesi are far from proven commodities holding down the fort behind those two.
Carroll (W, 7.1 IP, 1 ER) looked great in his first start and Rienzo had a quality start his last time out, but Noesi didn't make it out of the fourth inning in his start.
At this point, the team just needs to keep throwing guys out there until a viable five emerge. Charles Leesman, Eric Surkamp, Dylan Axelrod and Tommy Hanson are all possible options currently in the minors, so the White Sox have some arms to work with.
The No. 5 starter spot.
Promote Trevor Bauer, and give him an extended look.
The wheels are already in motion on this move, as the Cleveland Indians announced that Carlos Carrasco (4 GS, 0-3, 6.95 ERA) had been removed from the rotation. Now, it's a matter of who the Indians decide to replace him with
Both Trevor Bauer (4 GS, 3-0, 1.50 ERA, 0.97 WHIP) and Josh Tomlin (4 GS, 1-1, 2.77 EA, 1.08 WHIP) have thrown the ball well for Triple-A Columbus, though Bauer certainly has more upside at this point in his career.
The No. 3 pick in the 2011 draft, Bauer had a 5.67 ERA in eight career major league starts heading into the season, and he lost out to Carrasco for the No. 5 starter spot in the spring.
He's made one spot start already this season, going six innings and allowing four hits, two walks and one earned run while striking out eight.
Control has always been his biggest issue, and his 7/28 BB/K mark in Triple-A may be the most telling stat of all. He has a chance to make a serious impact, and the Indians need to give him the job and then give him some wiggle room to make adjustments and establish himself.
Production at the shortstop position.
Sign Stephen Drew...after the June draft.
It's really beating a dead horse at this point to say that the shortstop position is a weakness for the Detroit Tigers, but that doesn't make it any less true.
With Jose Iglesias out indefinitely, the team has gotten a combined .184/.279/.224 line from its shortstops to this point, with Andrew Romine (39 AB, .205/.326/.231) currently seeing the bulk of the playing time after the Alex Gonzalez experiment failed.
Stephen Drew remains an attractive option sitting in free agency, but if the team didn't pull the trigger on signing him after Iglesias initially went down, it's unlikely it will do so now.
For the time being, it's not like the Tigers are a tailspin because of the lack of production at shortstop. They are still averaging a solid 4.52 runs per game and hitting .272 as a team, and with their plus pitching, that's been good for a 14-9 record.
However, big picture, this is a team looking to contend for a title, and once the June draft passes and there is no longer draft-pick compensation tied to signing Drew, Detroit should move aggressively to add the proven veteran for its second-half push.
Kansas City Royals
Production at third base.
Demote Mike Moustakas, give Danny Valencia everyday at-bats for the time being.
How much longer can the Kansas City Royals trot out Mike Moustakas as the everyday third baseman before they are forced to do something different? The 25-year-old was a big disappointment last season, hitting just .233/.287/.364 after a big spring training had him looking like a potential breakout candidate heading into the year.
Now he's hitting just .149/.219/.333 through his first 87 at-bats this season, making him far and away one of the least productive everyday players in the game.
The time may be nearing where a demotion to Triple-A is in order, and while it would certainly be a blow to his ego, it may not be the worst thing in the world.
Things finally clicked for Josh Donaldson after the Oakland A's demoted him in 2012. Will Middlebrooks looked like a different player when he returned from his demotion last year. There is some precedent here to suggest it may be a good idea.
In Moustakas' absence, Danny Valencia is more than capable of stepping into an expanded role, and that was the reason the team acquired him in the offseason to begin with.
The starting rotation, once again.
Don't be afraid to demote struggling starters, despite their contracts.
Despite the fact that they have the second-highest scoring offense in baseball through the first month of the season, averaging 5.46 runs per game, the Minnesota Twins find themselves as a .500 team heading into May at 12-12.
The culprit once again has been the starting rotation. The Twins ranked dead last in starter's ERA last year at 5.26, and despite a handful of offseason moves made to address the issue, they have actually been worse so far this year with a 6.06 mark.
What they did with their offseason signings is essentially back themselves into a corner as far as who will make up their rotation.
Phil Hughes (5.14 ERA), Ricky Nolasco (6.67 ERA) and Mike Pelfrey (7.32 ERA) were all signed to multi-year deals in the offseason, and as a result, the team will likely continue to run them out every fifth game.
Kevin Correia (7.33 ERA) is a free agent at the end of the year, but he is making a decent salary himself at $5.5 million. Kyle Gibson had been the lone bright spot, with a 0.93 ERA through his first three starts, but he has allowed 12 runs in 9.2 innings over his last two outings.
So, what are the Twins to do?
Top prospect Alex Meyer (26.2 IP, 2.70 ERA, 35 K) has looked very good in Triple-A, while lesser-known guys like Kris Johnson (22 IP, 2.86 ERA) and Logan Darnell (21.1 IP, 1.69 ERA) have also pitched well. Why not give them a chance and demote the struggling veterans, regardless of what they're making.
A lack of offensive fire power.
Promote first baseman Jonathan Singleton from Triple-A.
Hitting just .210 as a team and averaging 3.14 runs per game, the Houston Astros need to do something to improve their offensive attack. The team already called up one top prospect in George Springer, but he is off to a slow start, hitting just .182/.262/.218 through his first 55 at-bats.
One area the Astros could make an immediate upgrade at is first base, where the platoon of Marc Krauss (.130 BA, .476 OPS) and Jesus Guzman (.236 BA, .658 OPS) has not done much. Considering that neither player looks to be a piece of the future puzzle, the time may be now to promote another top prospect in Jonathan Singleton.
Perhaps the best first base prospect in the game, Singleton is currently hitting .293/.398/.646 with six doubles and nine home runs in 26 games for Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Los Angeles Angels
The back end of the bullpen.
Sign Joel Hanrahan.
A case can be made for third base being the Los Angeles Angels' biggest hole, with David Freese and Ian Stewart both off to very slow starts, and it may be time to consider promoting Grant Green (.365/.412/.529 at Triple-A) and giving him a look.
However, the Angels have enough offense to make up for those struggles at this point, and the back end of their bullpen is a far bigger concern.
Ernesto Frieri (0-2, 2-of-4 SV, 7.59 ERA) was recently removed from the closer's role in favor of Joe Smith (13 G, 2-of-3 SV, 3.00 ERA), and the team has struggled to find reliable arms as a whole.
Michael Kohn (15 G, 1.29 ERA) and Fernando Salas (12 G, 2.31 ERA) have both been good, but the Angels could certainly use another reliable arm or two.
Former All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan recently worked out for teams as he looks to make a comeback from Tommy John surgery, and while the Angels are not among the teams that have been linked him, it is risk that may be worth taking.
Look at the impact Brian Wilson was able to make for the Los Angeles Dodgers at a discounted price down the stretch last year. It likely won't cost much to land Hanrahan, and even if he's not used in the ninth, he has a chance to be a useful arm.
Sign RP Joel Hanrahan.
Saying the Oakland Athletics bullpen is their biggest issue may be a bit confusing on the surface considering they currently rank fifth in the MLB with a 2.65 bullpen ERA, but that number does not tell the whole story.
It's thanks in large part to middle relievers Fernando Abad (11 IP, 0.00 ERA), Dan Otero (12.2 IP, 1.42 ERA) and Drew Pomeranz (11.1 IP, 1.59 ERA) that that number is so low, as things have not gone as well for a the late-inning guys.
Jim Johnson (12 IP, 5.25 ERA, 1-of-2 SV), Luke Gregerson (14.2 IP, 3.07 ERA, 3-of-6 SV) and Sean Doolittle (12.2 IP, 5.68 ERA, 1-of-2 SV) were viewed by many as one of the best late-inning trios in baseball entering the season, but they have all struggled.
Ryan Cook (9.1 IP, 0.96 ERA) has been solid, and he probably belongs in the closer's role at this point, but there is still a lot of sorting out to do as far as bullpen roles are concerned.
Signing Joel Hanrahan, who was clocked at 92-93 and reportedly in great shape at a recent workout, could add another viable late-inning arm to the mix. The A's are admittedly not among the teams being linked to him at this point, but the move makes sense nonetheless.
Production from the shortstop position.
Recall Nick Franklin from Triple-A.
After signing second baseman Robinson Cano, the Seattle Mariners found themselves with a middle infield logjam, and in the end, Brad Miller beat out Nick Franklin for the starting shortstop job with a big spring training.
Shortly after the start of the season, Franklin was sent down to Triple-A Tacoma where he could see regular at-bats, and he has hit .350/.426/.633 with five doubles and four home runs in 60 at-bats.
Meanwhile, Miller is hitting just .174/.211/.326, and those numbers are actually boosted by a 5-for-15 start to the season, as he's hit just .141/.187/.225 over his last 19 games.
Miller still has a minor league option, and with the Mariners' retooled offense scuffling, there is seems to be no reason not to pull the trigger on a switch right now.
Best-case scenario, Franklin provides an upgrade and Miller sorts things out and returns strong himself, giving the team a valuable trade chip, regardless of who it opts to keep long-term.
The production of Prince Fielder.
Patience. They really have no other option.
Injuries left the Texas Rangers with a number of holes to plug heading into the season. While catcher and second base can still be pointed to as holes, with Robinson Chirinos (.232 BA, .634 OPS) and Donnie Murphy (.220 BA, .616 OPS) holding down those spots, they have done as a good a job as any fill-in would.
The starting rotation was also a concern, but a healthy Matt Harrison, the return of Colby Lewis and a huge start from Martin Perez has the group looking far better than it did a month ago.
That leaves the slow start of offseason pickup Prince Fielder as the biggest hole right now from a production standpoint. The slugger is hitting .206/.331/.314 with just two home runs and nine RBI.
Considering that the team is paying him $24 million and counting on him to be a key run producer in the middle of the lineup, it's not like the Rangers are going to bench him, so at this point, it's just a matter of playing the waiting game and hoping he gets on track.
Inconsistent run production.
Shuffle the batting order.
The Atlanta Braves are off to a great start this season, thanks to the surprise performance of what has been the league's best starting rotation. However, they are currently averaging 3.54 runs per game and hitting just .238 as a team, and if the pitching starts to regress a bit—which is to be expected—the offense will need to pick up the slack.
The Braves are essentially locked into their current starting lineup, but shaking up the order could spark things.
Moving Andrelton Simmons up to No. 2 in the order, where he has hit .319/.350/.436 in 94 career at-bats, and dropping the struggling duo of Chris Johnson and B.J. Upton could spark things atop the lineup.
That would make Atlanta's lineup look as follows:
1. RF Jason Heyward
2. SS Andrelton Simmons
3. 1B Freddie Freeman
4. LF Justin Upton
5. C Evan Gattis
6. 2B Dan Uggla
7. 3B Chris Johnson
8. CF B.J. Upton
Starting pitching depth.
Promote Andrew Heaney to Triple-A.
With a vastly improved offense and a terrific collection of young arms, the Miami Marlins don't have nearly as many holes as they did at this point last season. Second base is a bit of a hole, as the platoon of Derek Dietrich and Jeff Baker have not done much to speak of at the plate, but with an offense that is averaging 4.67 runs per game, that is far from the Marlins' biggest concern.
Instead, the No. 5 starter spot claims that title. Kevin Slowey (2 GS, 7.00 ERA) and Brad Hand (2 GS, 11.37 ERA) have both tried their hand at replacing the injured Jacob Turner but both failed to produce a quality start.
Luckily, Turner is scheduled to come off the disabled list Saturday, but the Marlins' struggles to replace him have raised some legitimate questions about the team's starting pitching depth.
Top prospect Andrew Heaney (28 IP, 2.25 ERA, 1.07 WHIP) is pitching very well for Double-A Jacksonville, and promoting him to Triple-A would put him in a position to contribute next time a rotation spot opens up. The team could also look to sell-high on 27-year-old Tom Koehler and move him at some point, which would open up a spot for Heaney.
New York Mets
Give Bobby Abreu regular at-bats.
The New York Mets are stuck with Curtis Granderson (.136/.252/.216) for better or worse, so there is no sense dwelling on his early season struggles.
With Juan Lagares (.314/.345/.471) on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, the team's outfield production has been horrendous for the second straight season.
Eric Young (.215 BA, .584 OPS) and Chris Young (.205 BA, .672 OPS) are currently starting alongside Granderson, but the team does have another option in veteran Bobby Abreu. After sitting out the 2013 season, Abreu turned in an impressive winter league campaign, and the Mets signed him to a minor league deal. A .395/.489/.576 line in 15 Triple-A games earned him a call-up, and he has a double and a home run in his first 10 at-bats.
The Mets struck gold on a minor league contract for Marlon Byrd last offseason. Why not see if they can get a similar return out of Abreu by giving him regular at-bats for the time being? He can't do any worse than the guys they are trotting out there.
Sign free agent Joel Hanrahan.
The Philadelphia Phillies currently sit last in the National League with a 4.84 bullpen ERA, and 12 different pitchers have already made at least one relief appearance on the season.
Among guys who have pitched more than five innings, only Jonathan Papelbon (11.1 IP, 2.38 ERA) and Mario Hollands (11 IP, 3.27 ERA) have an ERA under 4.00.
A healthy Mike Adams (4.1 IP, 2.08 ERA) could certainly make a difference, but this team is sorely lacking in reliable late-inning arms, and given how well its starting rotation has performed, it will need to shore things up.
Signing Joel Hanrahan, who is working his way back from Tommy John and impressed in a recent workout for teams, could be a solid move for a team that still does not look to have any interest in rebuilding. He's not been linked to the team to this point, but he would make a lot of sense.
Left field production with Bryce Harper hurt.
Give Steven Souza a chance at everyday at-bats.
The Washington Nationals were dealt a major blow when it was revealed that Bryce Harper needed thumb surgery to repair a turn UCL and would be sidelined until at least July as a result.
The team signed free-agent outfielder Nate McLouth to a two-year, $10 million deal in the offseason as an insurance policy for Harper, but he is hitting just .108/.298/.216 in 37 at-bats so far. He'll likely get an extended look to see if he can get on track with regular playing time, but if he continues to struggle, the team could opt to go with prospect Steven Souza as the everyday guy.
Souza got the call from Triple-A when Harper was placed on the DL after a .333/.463/.545 start to the season, and he entered the season as the team's No. 10 prospect, according to Baseball America.
The 25-year-old posted a .944 OPS with 24 doubles and 15 home runs in just 283 minor league at-bats last season, and he followed that up by going 11-for-31 with seven extra-base hits this spring. The potential is there for him to make an impact.
The ninth inning.
Name Hector Rondon closer, promote Arodys Vizcaino to Double-A.
So far this season, the Chicago Cubs have converted just two out of six save chances, and considering how rarely they enter the ninth inning with a lead to begin with, they really can't afford to be blowing games late.
Veteran Jose Veras was signed to a one-year, $4 million deal in the offseason to fill the void, but he was removed from the role after blowing his first two save chances. He has allowed at least one run in five of his six appearances and currently has a 15.88 ERA.
Pedro Strop has converted his only save chance, but he also has two losses and a 3.18 ERA, and the best option right now looks to be Hector Rondon (13.1 IP, 0.68 ERA, 4 BB, 15 K).
Waiting in the minors, Arodys Vizcaino is finally healthy after missing the past two seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery. He was sent to High-A Daytona to open the season, and he has a 1.13 ERA with eight strikeouts in eight innings. He has the stuff to be closing in the bigs by midseason, and he's shown enough already to be bumped up to Double-A.
A struggling Zack Cozart at shortstop.
Unfortunately, they are stuck playing the waiting game at this point and hoping he turns it around.
The Cincinnati Reds' shaky bullpen is certainly a concern, but with Jonathan Broxton shoring up the closer's role and Aroldis Chapman set to begin a rehab assignment Thursday, things should sort themselves out in that department.
That leaves shortstop as the team's biggest hole at the moment, as incumbent Zack Cozart is currently among the worst everyday players in the game. He's hitting just .180/.215/.292 through his first 89 at-bats, and his slightly above-average defense is not nearly enough to offset it.
The team doesn't have much in the way of an in-house option to replace Cozart, outside of veteran utility man Ramon Santiago, but if he doesn't turn things around soon, the Reds could be forced to look outside the organization.
They could kick the tires on Alex Gonzalez, who was a member of the team from 2007 to 2009 and was recently released by the Tigers. He was not much better offensively, though, and represents a defensive downgrade at this point.
Free agent Stephen Drew probably is not an option either, as the team likely won't be willing to part with the draft-pick compensation required to sign him.
Position player depth.
Cast a wide net in acquiring position players who are designated for assignment.
First base looked like a clear hole for the Milwaukee Brewers entering the season, but thanks to the veteran platoon of Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay, they have managed to get a respectable .741 OPS with six home runs and 12 RBI out of the position.
How long that holds up remains to be seen, though. Kendrys Morales could certainly be on their radar, though they would likely wait until after the June draft to make a run at him.
That leaves a lack of depth as the team's biggest hole, following a terrific first month of the season that saw the Brewers far exceed expectations.
Backup catcher Martin Maldonado (.294 BA, .807 OPS) has been productive, but the trio of Rickie Weeks (.476 OPS), Jeff Bianchi (.409 OPS) and Elian Herrera (.472 OPS) have done nothing at the plate so far.
The organization as a whole is thin on position player depth, to the point that a serious injury to a key player would be a huge problem. Hunter Morris, Caleb Gindl, and Jesse Rogers are the only three 40-man roster guys not currently on the big league club.
There is really no one for the Brewers to sign right now that would make an impact, and they likely wouldn't look to trade until after something happens. If a viable utility guy is designated for assignment somewhere, they would be wise to pounce.
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.
St. Louis Cardinals
An under-performing offense.
Patience, unless they think Oscar Taveras can play center field.
The St. Louis Cardinals wrapped up the first month of the season with a relatively disappointing 15-14 record, and a subpar performance from the offense is to blame. The Cardinals are currently hitting just .246/.314/.368 as a team, including just .226 with runners in scoring position after hitting a record .330 in that situation last year.
Jhonny Peralta (.196 BA) and Allen Craig (.220 BA) have been the biggest culprits to this point, but really, outside of Yadier Molina (.350 BA, .917 OPS) and Matt Adams (.321 BA, .816 OPS), no one has put up great numbers.
The team already made one change, demoting rookie Kolten Wong (.225 BA, .544 OPS) in favor of veteran Mark Ellis at second base, and really, there is not much else the Cardinals can do but wait for things to level out.
Calling up top prospect Oscar Taveras (.322/.378/.544 at Triple-A) would certainly provide a spark, but unless he's going to get everyday at-bats, which he likely wouldn't at this point, he's better off staying in the minors for the time being.
The entire starting rotation.
Promote Triple-A starter Bo Schultz.
The old Band-Aid on a bullet wound expression comes to mind here, but the Arizona Diamondbacks have to do something about their starting rotation if they hope to get their season back on track.
Top prospect Archie Bradley has struggled early and recently landed on the DL with a flexor strain in his elbow, so he's not a position to come help out as things stand right now.
However, the team's No. 29 prospect entering the season, Bo Schultz, is off to a nice start in Triple-A, going 2-2 with a 2.90 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in 31 innings of work. The 28-year-old has earned a shot, and at this point, he certainly can't be any worse than what the Diamondbacks are working with.
The starting rotation.
See if Jhoulys Chacin can stabilize things, promote Eddie Butler to Triple-A Colorado Springs.
The Colorado Rockies have one of the best offenses in all of baseball, and it's good enough to carry the team to at least a winning record if it can just get league-average starting pitching.
The Rockies' starters' ERA currently sits at 4.29 with 13 quality starts in 29 games, and while there have been some impressive performances here and there, consistency has been an issue.
Jordan Lyles (3-0, 2.70 ERA) has been the team's best starter to this point, while Jorge De La Rosa has been great over his last three outings after a rocky start. It's been a mixed bag from Juan Nicasio and Franklin Morales, though, and Colorado will need to figure out a fifth starter, with Tyler Chatwood recently joining Brett Anderson and Jhoulys Chacin on the DL.
Chacin could in fact wind up being the answer, as he looked sharp in his last rehab start for Colorado Springs, throwing 96 pitches and allowing just four hits and one run in six innings of work. If he can lock down a spot, the team will be in a much better position, but the inconsistency is Nicasio and Morales is still an issue. Promoting top pitching prospect Eddie Butler, who has a 2.87 ERA through five Double-A starts, could put him in position to make an impact by June if things aren't sorted out by then.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Offensive production in left field.
Promote outfielder Joc Pederson from Triple-A Albuquerque.
Rumors swirled this offseason that the Los Angeles Dodgers were in the market to move an outfielder. Nothing came to pass, but having too many viable everyday candidate has not been the issue to this point.
While right fielder Yasiel Puig (.835 OPS) and center fielder Matt Kemp (.814 OPS) have both been productive and are in no danger of losing their everyday jobs, the left field situation is far less cut and dry. The duo of Carl Crawford (.194 BA, .501 OPS) and Andre Ethier (.227 BA, .618 OPS) have split time there, and neither has done much to speak of offensively at this point. Benching them would seem like an obvious move, if not for the fact that they are making a combined $36.5 million this season.
Still, this is a Dodgers team with its sights set on winning a title in 2014, and right now, putting top prospect Joc Pederson in left field may give L.A. the best chance to do that.
After an impressive spring training performance, Pederson has lit up Triple-A pitching so far this year, hitting .398/.504/.663 with eight doubles and six home runs in his first 98 at-bats. If he keeps it up, the team is going to have no choice but to give him a look.
San Diego Padres
The league's worst offense.
Fire hitting coach Phil Plantier.
Let me preface this by saying that this is not meant to be a blatant attack of the coaching abilities of Phil Plantier. It's simply the nature of the beast, and the San Diego Padres have to do something to shake up their offense.
They are currently hitting .217/.270/.327 as a team and averaging an MLB-worst 2.66 runs per game. That's a full 0.48 runs behind the next-worst team, equivalent to about 14 runs through the first 29 games.
Chris Denorfia (.314 BA, .775 OPS) and Everth Cabrera (.284 BA, .679) are the only regulars hitting over .260, and key pieces of the team's future like Jedd Gyorko (.151 BA, .454 OPS) and Yonder Alonso (.167 BA, .427 OPS) are off to horrible starts.
I'll be the first to admit I know nothing about hitting coaches and have no suggestion as to who would be a better option for the team, but something has to be done.
San Francisco Giants
The production of third baseman Pablo Sandoval.
Shake up the batting order.
The San Francisco Giants' offense has been improved as a whole here in the early going, averaging 4.29 runs per game, up from 3.81 last season when the team ranked 11th in the NL. That is despite a very slow start from third baseman Pablo Sandoval (.177/.262/.302), who looked to be in for a big season after slimming down in the offseason.
Now that Hunter Pence has finally started hitting, and with Brandon Belt cooling off after his hot start, perhaps dropping Pence from No. 2 to No. 3 in the order and slotting Sandoval ahead of him in the No. 2 spot could get him some better pitches to hit.
That would leave the Giants lineup looking like this:
1. CF Angel Pagan
2. 3B Pablo Sandoval
3. RF Hunter Pence
4. C Buster Posey
5. LF Michael Morse
6. 1B Brandon Belt
7. SS Brandon Crawford
8. 2B Brandon Hicks
For the record, Sandoval is 5-for-14 in his career hitting in the No. 2 spot, doing so just six times.
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