The Pittsburgh Pirates have used four different players in their attempt to replace Oneil Cruz.
Rodolfo Castro got the first crack at being the starting shortstop in the wake of Cruz breaking his left ankle on April 9. Ji Hwan Bae, Tucupita Marcano and Chris Owings have also gotten starts at the position.
In fact, it seems like the Pirates are a team that currently doesn’t have a regular shortstop. Over the last 13 games, the starting assignments have broken down like this – Marcano 7, Owings 3, Castro 3 and Bae 0.
What is telling is one player who has not been mentioned as a possibility at shortstop. That is Liover Peguero, who is spending a second season at Double-A Altoona.
Peguero was considered potentially the Pirates’ shortstop of the future at this time last year. If the 6-foot-7 Cruz was going to eventually need to switch positions, then Peguero seemed the logical long-term answer at shortstop.
The Pirates even promoted Peguero to the major leagues from Altoona for a day last season when they ran short of middle infielders. Peguero started June 18 against the San Francisco Giants at PNC Park and collected his first big-league hit before going back down to Altoona the next day.
Not much has been heard about Peguero since that pit stop in Pittsburgh.
Prior to the start of last season, Baseball Prospectus ranked Peguero as the 38th-best prospect in baseball while he was No. 78 on Baseball America’s list and ranked 79th by MLB.com. Peguero is no longer in the top 100 on any of those outlets’ lists, though Baseball America had him as the Pirates’ No. 7 prospect coming into this season.
While Peguero is still young at 22, it seems as if he has stalled in Altoona. He is hitting .230/.315/.345 with two home runs and nine stolen bases in 28 games.
The Pirates, though, say their primary concern with Peguero is defense. He made 31 errors in 113 games last season and has 10 miscues this year.
“We’ve challenged Peggy that what makes him a really good infielder is the range and the ability to get to baseballs,” Pirates farm director John Baker said. “We saw a bit of a regression with that last year. We’ve essentially asked him to take more risks defensively.”
Last season, Peguero had a .259/.305/.387 slash line in 121 games with 10 homers and 28 steals. While those numbers are down, Baker says Peguero is not regressing in the Pirates’ eyes.
“He’s walking at a 12% rate right now. He’s getting on base. He’s seeing more pitches,” Baker said. “These are things that we challenged him with. For Peggy to impact our major league team, he has to play excellent defense, get on base and run wild. He’s focused on those things. You always have turbulence at the front end of seasons. But since being challenged, he’s been significantly more aggressive playing shortstop. That’s what we’re looking for from him.”
Baker also rejects the idea that Peguero has fallen behind the development curve. Baker is quick to point out that Peguero is still just 22 despite repeating the Double-A level.
“There’s so much to know and do at shortstop,” Baker said. “Yeah, he’s still so young. He’ll be younger at the end of this season than guys who get drafted this year. I think one would argue that, on an aging curve, he’s probably ahead of schedule.”
The Pirates could use him to be even further ahead of schedule because they need help now.