One of the suggested topics for the pair of Moneyball-themed posts SB Nation has asked us to write is the most underrated member of the Pirates.
At this point, I think that's an easy choice. It's Ronny Cedeno.
When you don't watch the games, you miss a lot. But sometimes when you do watch the games, the amount of information can be hard to process properly, especially when what you see is pulling your emotions in one direction or another. (If, for example, you badly want to see the Pirates win, you'll see things differently than someone who doesn't care.)
It's easy to watch Ronny Cedeno and get the wrong idea. He makes ridiculous mistakes on a fairly regular basis. Like many shortstops, he's also not much of a hitter (although he's not a total zero with the bat, either). His defense looks good, but not spectacular, so it's easy to assume it's not helping much.
For all that, Cedeno is fourth among Pirates hitters, and seventh among all Pirates, in WAR this year. (He's behind Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Charlie Morton, Paul Maholm, Joel Hanrahan and Ryan Doumit.) That's primarily due to Cedeno's defense - his UZR ranks eighth among big-league shortstops.
He's not an exceptional player, and his questionable bat makes it possible that he'll fall off a cliff sometime in the near future. If that happens, he'll really be annoying. But in the meantime, it's staggering that there's even a question about picking up his ultra-reasonable $3 million option right now.
There are many shortstops in baseball who are better than Cedeno, obviously. But few of them are on the free agent market this winter, and the Pirates certainly don't have any in their organization. Chase D'Arnaud has a lot of work to do with the bat and the glove before he's nearly as good as Cedeno. Jordy Mercer's glove and power might make him an interesting option in the future, but right now he needs to work on his hitting. And let's not even get started on Brandon Wood, who's having his best year in the big leagues and is still barely better than replacement level.
Cedeno isn't an ideal starter at shortstop. But he's not the imminently replaceable player some Pirates fans - and perhaps even some decision-makers within the organization - seem to think he is. He's worth sticking with for another year, particularly at such a low cost.
Who's your choice for most underrated Pirate?