Originally written on Raise the Jolly Roger!  |  Last updated 11/16/14
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Neil Walker has been activated from the DL and is back in the Bucs’ lineup tonight. He’s been out with a hand injury since April 26 and is obviously a welcome addition back to the club. Neil went 5 for 12 in four rehab games with Altoona so he should be good to go. To make room for Walker, the Bucs sent Jordy Mercer back to AAA – a move that has several fans upset. Mercer hit the ball well and impressed during his stint with the big club. He homered twice the other day and it’s pretty clear he’s got a much better bat than Clint Barmes, Brandon Inge, and John McDonald. Through nine games he posted a line of .258/.281/.613 with three homers. The 26 year old is the closest thing the Bucs have to a home-grown shortstop, and he showed the ability to play second with no issues and can also handle third. You could make a case that he should start every day for the Bucs right now, but at the very least he is clearly a worthy bench option (over the likes of McDonald and Inge). The Pirates rationale here is probably this: they see Mercer taking over shortstop next year when Barmes’ contract is up, so they want him to play every day in Triple-A to get ready. He’s only played 56 games there at short, so he should get every day reps there rather than mostly sitting on the bench in Pittsburgh. I disagree. If Mercer were to stay on the team, he could easily start every once in a while for Barmes (as McDonald does now) and play in place of Walker or Pedro Alvarez occasionally against lefties. In games he doesn’t start, he’d be the main infield option to come off the bench because he’s better defensively than Inge at short and second. Under that scenario, the Pirates are a better team in the present (which should be the main priority  because they’re attempting to contend) AND it still gives Mercer good experience that can help him towards a full time job in 2014. Instead, the Pirates are going with two bad veteran infielders – Inge and McDonald – to come off the bench and eat up at bats. Clint Barmes is not going anywhere, like it or not. His defensive value is legitimate and I just don’t see the Pirates giving up on him any time soon–plus he’s actually started to hit a little bit lately. I can live with that, and I can live with one veteran backup like Inge, especially since he’s so versatile and very well-respected. But keeping John McDonald around is just maddening. He can’t hit, at all. So far we haven’t really seen evidence that he’s still a phenomenal defender. Mercer could hold down his job (maybe with just slightly worse defense) while hitting much better and gaining valuable major league experience. This is another frustrating example of the Bucs failing to trust their young talent and instead putting way too much stock in to “veteranosity.”
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