by J.T. Toth
Photo of Endy Rodriguez courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are off to a 21-17 record in 2023, though they are 1-9 in the past 10 games. Many would say that the Pirates have overachieved to begin the season, and I can’t say they’re wrong. The lineup has missed several opportunities to add some runs in close contests, and the results are showing in the standings.
When the Pirates signed catcher, Austin Hedges, this past off-season, it was a move to help with their young pitching staff. Known for his defense and handling inexperienced pitchers, Hedges was the Pirates' stop-gap receiver.
Hedges will not be mistaken for Johnny Bench when he comes up to the plate. Hitting a mere .143 in the first six weeks of the season, he’s become a rally killer on more than one occasion. Hedges is a lifetime .188 hitter; this puts him 2nd worst in MLB history with batters who have at least 1,800 at bats. For every pitch that Hedges frames (he is 3rd in MLB in framing), an at-bat is wasted when he comes to the plate.
Jason Delay—who is a wonderful story in his own right—is a suitable backup. Nothing more, however.
Delay has started the season hot, hitting .360 in 50 AB’s. At times during this 1-9 streak, it is a wonder why Derek Shelton was not going with the hot bat and using Delay until he came back down to earth.
That said, Ben Cherington also needs to take a step back and decide soon on how the organization will handle its catching situation. As bad as the catching situation is on the big club, the organization has a wealth of talent at the position in the minors. Endy Rodriguez at Triple A is coming off a 2022 campaign which saw him shoot up the Pirates' prospect ranks. Rodriguez hit .323 with 25 HR’s and 95 RBI between three stops and was considered a top 2 prospect in the Pirates'
organization coming into 2023.
Recovering from a right forearm strain that sidelined him for two weeks, Rodriguez is hitting .256 with 3 HR’s in twenty games and could be ready before the all-star break for his first promotion. Yet Pirate fans may not see him so quickly. The Bucs' management has Rodriguez learning to play first base. Though he only started one game there so far, he is practicing at first base daily. So, why would the organization move a top 2 prospect from his natural position?
The answer is Henry Davis. Davis, the number one overall pick in 2021 for the Pirates, has been tearing up Double-A pitching, and so far in 2023, seems primed for a promotion to Triple-A Indianapolis. Davis appears to be the future catcher for the big club, and leaving him at Double-A may not be an option much longer.
The Pirates have only scored three or more runs once in their past ten games and have no room for a wasted spot in their order. It is time to move on from Austin Hedges and embrace the beginning of the next wave of Pirates players. By moving Rodriguez to Pittsburgh and Davis to Indianapolis, the organization keeps the lineup moving, which is more than you can say about the Pirates' lineup these past ten games.