Friday, March 13, 2009

Craig Monroe Getting A Shot At Starting?

In case you missed it, Craig Monroe thumped not 1... not 2... but 3 home runs yesterday in one spring training game for the Pirates. Now I tend to keep my impressions from anything that happens in a spring game pretty reserved, but this is a slightly different story.

If there is one thing that this Pirate team is definitely in need of, it is some more power in their lineup. They have several guys capable of hitting between 15 and 25 home runs if they are given 400 at-bats, in fact 8 by my count (McLouth, Doumit, Hinske, both of the brothers LaRoche, Moss, Monroe and probably Pearce). That may sound kind of encouraging, but when you really think about it and break things down, there is very little in the way of sure-fire power among those 8. Think about it:

McLouth's power came out of nowhere last year and could easily disappear again. Doumit has been injury prone. Hinske has had big-time inconsistencies and also may not get a ton of at-bats. Adam LaRoche doesn't wake up until June and is also a very good bet to be dealt this season. Andy LaRoche did his best impersonation of Roger Dorn last season and who the hell knows what we'll get from him. Brandon Moss is walking around like a real Pirate thanks to his peg-leg, and was a bit of an unproven commodity to begin with. Monroe is similar to Hinske in having inconsistencies and a ton of strikeouts. And Pearce can kill the ball in the minors but hasn't done much in the pros yet and I think is destined to be a righty pinch-hitter with some pop.

Not feeling quite as confident now, are we? Which brings me to the much-delayed point of this post. Hitting 3 dingers in a game, even if it is a gusty Florida day in March against subpar pitching, should be enough to throw Monroe to the temporary top-of-the-heap in the battle for left field.

With so many question marks in that starting lineup, I'd be more than fine with seeing Monroe and/or Hinske get a long look in left, even if their defense is below average and they may strike out a lot and give us subpar batting averages. That also seems to be the sentiment of some in camp according to this brief one-liner in the PBC Blog: "There are a lot of people here pulling for him, including some who want him to start."

If that isn't cryptic, I don't know what in the world is. Who are these "some"? I don't know, but I tend to side with them.

Now, I'm not saying to hand the guy the job. After all, there were some rather unflattering stories about Monroe not hustling and not playing hard early in camp, and I think giving him anything is probably a bad idea. But then again, that certainly wouldn't be worse than giving the job to Nyjer Morgan.

Look at Monroe's career stats, though. They are mildly similar to Hinske's, actually.

But my point is this: If the alternative is Nyjer Morgan, who can barely get the ball out of the infield most of the time and is getting serious consideration based on decent performances in very small sample sizes, then sign me up for a Monroe/Hinske platoon every day of the week. And if one of them starts to outperform the other, then do the obvious thing and start giving that guy more playing time.

It's not like Morgan is any sort of a prospect and that you are holding him back by skimping him on the plate appearances. All these guys, no matter how great they play, are really just holding the fort down for Andrew McCutchen's inevitable 2009 arrival. So instead of seeing what you have in Morgan and watching his likely failure, why not treat the fans with some more power and give us the best lineup you can put out there?

1 comment:

Jake said...

I don't see why Morgan doesn't deserve a shot. He has been good enough in the small sample sizes you site. The only way to find out if it is for real is to expand the sample size.
Your kind of thinking is the kind that led to brilliant decisions like Dave Littlefield keeping Nate McLouth as a reserve outfielder for a few years.