Since being recalled on Aug. 28, Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Jordan Luplow has made the most of his time in the majors. Luplow has filled in as the regular right fielder and has succeeded thanks to consistent playing time.

For many minor leaguers looking to break through, opportunity can be the hardest thing to find. For Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Jordan Luplow, injuries have created opportunity.

Gregory Polanco hasn’t played since Aug. 12 thanks to his third hamstring injury of the season. John Jaso, Jose Osuna and Adam Frazier saw extended time in right field since Polanco went down, but manager Clint Hurdle did not have a go-to option.

Enter Luplow.

In the past six games, all starts, Luplow is hitting .318 (7-22) with a .375 on-base percentage and two home runs. Wednesday night marked the first of the five games in which he did not collect a hit, but he did reach on a walk.

With his strong start, Luplow already is putting his name in discussions for an Opening Day roster spot in 2018.

Early impressions

Since cracking the regular lineup, Luplow has jumped around in the batting order. Not once has he batted in the same spot three times in his six starts this month.

Batting order position Results

Sep. 2 vs CIN

7

2-4, 1B, HR, 3 RBI

Sep. 3 vs CIN

5

1-4, 1B, 1 RBI

Sep. 4 vs CHC

6

2-5, 1B, 2B, BB

Sep. 5 vs CHC

6

1-3, 1B, HR, 2 RBI

Sep. 6 vs CHC

2

0-4, BB

Sep. 7 vs CHC 5

1-4, 2B, RBI

Despite not consistently hitting in the same spot, Luplow has still found ways to be productive. He hasn’t been perfect over this six-game stretch (nine strikeouts, at least one in every game), but he’s been effective. As a young hitter, there’s always things to improve, no matter how successful you are.

Thus far, Luplow has done a solid job at attacking the inner and lower parts of the strike zone.

As successful as he has been on the inner half of the plate, his struggles on the outer edge of the plate are obvious. As the data continues to build and the trend continues, more teams will attack Luplow on the outside of the plate. Opposing pitchers will hope to generate soft contact or strikeouts based on Luplow’s poor showing there.

On the farm

September is fantastic for young players because it gives them a chance to play in the major-leagues. Whether a team is contending or looking to the future, it welcomes the expanded roster in the final month of the regular season.

Jordan Luplow falls into the category of players knocking on the door and finally getting an opportunity. This year, Luplow began the season at Double-A Altoona. After slashing .287/.368/535 over 288 plate appearances, Luplow was promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis on June 29. He spent a month there before spending five days with the big-league club, then returned to Triple-A again until Aug. 28. Overall, Luplow slashed .325/.401/.513 with Indianapolis.

All of this impressive considering that the former teammate of Aaron Judge didn’t receive appear in major league Spring Training until late in March. Luplow only got eight at-bats and wasn’t on the radar of the Pirates top prospects. Now, MLB.com has him at No. 20 on its Pirates top prospects list.

Luplow;s breakthrough season is a testament to the talent in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization that is not necessarily immediately noticeable. At the beginning of the season, he’s an afterthought. Now, he’s a legitimate candidate for Pirates minor league hitter of the year.

Fighting for a roster spot

If Luplow continues his solid cameo, he could earn himself a spot on the Pittsburgh Pirates Opening Day roster spot next season. He will still need to have a strong Spring Training, but he also has already put his name among the favorites to be a backup outfielder.

The job seems to be Luplow’s unless Polanco returns, which could be soon.

Because of this, Luplow needs to keep up the hot hitting to ensure he receives playing time even when Polanco returns. He’s been solid so far when starting, but a cold streak is inevitable. Whether Luplow will continue to get those opportunities or not going forward depends on Polanco’s health.

Joel Norman

Joel Norman is a journalism major at West Virginia University. In addition to writing for Pirates Breakdown, Joel covers WVU sports for the Daily Athenaeum and writes game recaps and features for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Joel also does play-by-play broadcasts of WVU hockey and baseball for WWVU-FM in Morgantown.
  • GN

    Luplow has looked better in the outfield than Osuna which may give him a leg up as the backup outfielder next. He will have to learn to play the high wall in right field better but he looks more confident. Frazier looks better to me in left field. Osuna may be the odd man out. It will be interesting to see how much time the young players get now that Polanco and Frazier are back on the roster. My bet is Luplow starts at Indy unless McCutchon is gone.