Spring Training Preview: Part IV - The Position Players
After three parts focusing only on pitchers we finally get to the position player side of things. A nice mixture of guys firmly entrenched at their spots and a few legitimate battles.
Russell Martin (R) - Martin comes in with the biggest free agent contract in Pirates history, which says a lot more about the Pirates history in free agency than it does about Martin's contract. Martin has struggled with his batting average, but has shown the ability to take a walk and drive a few balls. He had a lot of success with the short porch in right at Yankee Stadium the last two years, and those types of balls may be wall banging doubles at PNC rather than homers. Historically his power has been more to the pull side, though, which should also hurt him a bit. He should still outhit Rod Barajas fairly easily and is far stronger on the defensive side. He's firmly entrenched as the #1 catcher.
Michael McKenry (R) - The Fort looked fantastic in a limited role for much of 2012, but seemed to drop off a bit when he got more playing time late in the season. He has a decent bat with some pop, and a decent glove, particularly when it comes to blocking balls in the dirt. It's about what you'd expect in a decent backup catcher. McKenry should have no trouble making the team.
Tony Sanchez (R) - The Pirates reached for Sanchez with the 4th overall pick in 2009 as part of a larger draft strategy. Unfortunately it now looks like the whole thing has blown up in their faces. Sanchez got off to a great start in his pro career, but after some injuries and unexpected off field issues he had a disastrous 2011. His 2012 was better, but still not close to what you want from a guy you picked at 4th overall. He's at least a full year from being a legitimate major leaguer.
Others: Lucas May, Carlos Paulino, Ali Solis
Clint Barmes (R) - Barmes signed a 2 year $11 million deal with the Pirates prior to the 2012 season. He turned in a nightmarish offensive performance as he OPSed under .600. Since there are only about 15 guys who can actually hit and field the position, Barmes's defensive skills were strong enough to still make him a starting caliber player, though he's certainly towards the back of the pack. The Pirates don't have much else here, so he should continue in that role for 2013.
Neil Walker (S) - Walker started a bit slow in 2012, but really turned it on in the middle of the season, getting his average up over .300 at one point. He had injuries really slow him down towards the end. A healthy Walker should give the Pirates a top 10 type 2B.
Josh Harrison (R) - Harrison's only professional experience at SS prior to 2012 was a few innings at AAA in 2011. The Pirates decided to stick him out there in the winter and throughout spring, and he ended up getting into 25 major league games there in 2012. That's not to say he did well. The only places he really looks comfortable defensively are at 2B and 3B, and he doesn't have much bat to speak of. Clint Hurdle seems to like him for whatever reason, so he probably comes in as the favorite for a backup middle infield role.
Jordy Mercer (R) - Mercer impressed by hitting 19 homers between AA and AAA in 2011. He continued to hit fairly well at AAA at the start of 2012 and earned a call up to the big leagues. Unfortunately Clint Hurdle forgot he was on the team (which he also did with Pedro Ciriaco the previous year) and he ended up just sitting there most of the time. Mercer ended up with only 68 plate appearances, but exhausted his rookie eligibility by being on the roster for 118 days. He has a potentially league average glove at SS with a bit of pop in his bat, but 2012 was a completely lost year for Mercer. He really could have used more reps, even if they were at AAA. The Pirates did him no favors developmentally last year (although I guess he probably appreciated the $400k)
Chase d'Arnaud (R) - d'Arnaud is probably the best baserunner in the Pirates system right now. Unfortunately he doesn't do much else well. He's not a good fielder at short, and he really hasn't shown the ability to hit above AA at all. I don't think the Pirates are likely to give him much of a chance at making the roster, but he is still hanging onto a 40 man spot.
Ivan De Jesus (R) - De Jesus looked like a real prospect early in his career, but a missed season in 2009 really hurt him. He did bounce back with a solid 2011 and earned a big league call up, but it didn't go very well and he struggled in 2012. He was passed through waivers in the offseason and shipped to the Pirates in the Hanrahan deal after heading to Boston in the Gonzalez trade. If he can get his offensive groove back he has a good utility profile, but it seems unlikely at this point.
Others: Anderson Hernandez
Pedro Alvarez (L) - Alvarez should be pretty well locked in as the starting third baseman after hitting 30 bombs in an up and down 2012 campaign. Alvarez had a disastrous spring and a terrible start to the regular season, but he rebounded very well, including a tear where he just dominated NL pitchers. If he can improve on 2012 he's one of the top 3B in the league. If he has a similar year to 2012 he's still firmly in the top half.
Garrett Jones (L) - After a bit of a slow start in 2012, Jones ended up turning in his strongest performance since his unexpected rookie campaign in 2009. The Pirates decided they had plenty of evidence that he'd never hit lefties and played him primarily in a platoon role and he rewarded them with 27 homers despite not having a full time job. It's tough to say if he'll repeat as a 32 year old, as he already OPSed 80 points lower in a similar role in 2011.
Gaby Sanchez (R) - Sanchez had two decent seasons as a full time first baseman with the Marlins before a terrible start in 2012 that led to a demotion and eventually a trade to Pittsburgh. Sanchez had crushed lefties the two prior years, but didn't do particularly well in a platoon role for the Pirates. He'll look to put 2012 behind him and come in knowing he's likely a platoon option.
Clint Robinson (L) - Robinson may bring Garrett Jones comparisons as he's also enormous (6'5" 240) and hasn't had much of a chance at age 28. Robinson tore the cover off the ball at AA in 2010 and again at AAA in 2011, but never got a big league call. He had another decent campaign in 2012, but his power dropped off significantly. He did get an MLB call in 2012, but it was limited to 4 interleague pinch hit appearances, 3 against the Pirates oddly enough. He went 0-4 with 2 strikeouts. He'll look to prove himself in a new organization, but it will be tough to crack the roster here as well.
Brandon Inge (R) - Inge was once one of the league's top defensive third baseman and has always had good power, but was really never all that good a hitter. Inge was a late NRI and has an opt out clause at the end of the spring. He's an option to platoon at third, but his lack of ability to play elsewhere on the field really hurts him.
Others: Brad Hawpe, Matt Hague, Jared Goedert
Andrew McCutchen (R) - Not much needs to be said here. McCutchen looks to build off of a breakout performance in 2012, and avoid that late season fade this time around.
Starling Marte (R) - Marte got a call up late in the 2012 season and started things off with a bang as he launched a first pitch homer to lead off the game in his first MLB at bat. It was up and down from there. He showed off his speed with 6 triples, but also struggled through an injury and tons of strikeouts (50 K vs 5 BB). Marte comes in as the favorite to patrol PNC Park's big LF.
Travis Snider (L) - The Pirates picked up Snider at the deadline in exchange for Brad Lincoln - a straight challenge trade for the two high first round picks in 2006. Snider was seen as the future in Toronto for a long time, but they may have rushed him to the big leagues his first time around. He never quite found himself in the majors and dealt with a lot of pressure and off field distractions in Toronto including promises from the front office to discuss a long term deal that never amounted to anything. Snider struggled through injuries after being traded to the Pirates, and managed only 1 homer in the second half despite being known primarily for his power. He'll look to take hold of the right field job, though he may have to settle for a platoon role or a bench job.
Jose Tabata (R) - Tabata opened 2012 as the Pirates staring RF. He came into the year with a career OBP approaching .350, 35 steals in 49 attempts, and a decent defensive reputation. Somehow everything went wrong. He looked terrible in the field, finished with a .315 OBP only after a strong close to the season, and went 8/20 stealing bases. He looked to have gained a few pounds and lost a step, without adding any power. Tabata looks to put the year behind him and reclaim a starting job, though, like Snider, he may have to settle for a platoon or bench role.
Jerry Sands (R) - Sands is just 25 and has a very strong minor league track record. Unfortunately he's struggled in brief MLB calls. He was also shipped to the Red Sox in the Gonzalez deal before being sent to the Pirates in the Hanrahan trade. Sands looks to join the right field battle, and could also get into the mix at first if Gaby Sanchez struggles. His first concern, though, will be making the team.
Alex Presley (L) - Presley started 2012 as the Pirates left fielder after bursting onto the prospect scene out of nowhere in 2010 and having a very strong 50 games in the big leagues in 2012. Much like Tabata Presley seemed to struggle in every facet of the game in 2012, though he did at least manage 10 homers. Things got a lot more crowded in this picture, and Presley will really have to show something to break into this group.
Others: Darren Ford, Felix Pie
I'll wrap this all up with Part V, a roster projection some time soon.
Re: Spring Training Preview: Part IV - The Position Players
I completely missed IV going up!
Another solid write up again JNN :beer:
There's really nothing I can see to add ot even disagree with. The roster itself is what it is. The only position up for grabs is RF which looks like a 3 way battle between Snider, Sands and Tabata although I wonder if Sands is viewed as seriously for that position as Snider and Tabata?
I like Clint Robinson, but he'll be down in the minors. There's just no room for him right
Re: Spring Training Preview: Part IV - The Position Players
Nice job. I like not only the number of players the Pirates brought in but the fact that they are more than just "warm bodies" in competition for spots. They have accomplished things in the minors and have the ability /potential to be productive at the Major League level.
Guys like Jerry Sands and Clint Robinson intrigue me because of what Garrett Jones has done and they are in the age range of Jones when it clicked for him.
Travis Snider is also a guy we got a glimpse of last year who made a play that was an absolute defensive gem against the Mets. He showed he has a glove and has potential with the bat as well. Ideally, Jose Tabata, who came to S.T. 10 lbs lighter and with much better conditioning than last year, gets his game and enthusiasm back and plays to his capabilities.
I would love to see Jordy Mercer take the next step with his bat and become THE guy who can step in for Barmes if he gets off to another horrible start.
Re: Spring Training Preview: Part IV - The Position Players
Like you said, Reign... The one thing that Huntington did with Position players this offseason was stock pile a lot of cheap, low risk, good-high reward type of players. Guys that were blocked by phenoms (Robinson), guys with insane power they were able to get in a trade (Sands). you still have young potential guys like Tabata and Snider who could very well become late bloomers.
I think that the Pirates are at the stage in the OF that they have too many young "potential" based guys that need to play at the MLB level, need to gain experience, that adding a big veteran contract type guy blocks possible break out potential. Plus at around $70 million, getting a sure thing power corner outfielder would've put the Pirates WAY over budget.
It should be interesting. I think they have enough players where 2 of them can produce at at least adequate levels and of course it would be the Pirates luck if none of them do :facepalm:
The infield is pretty much set for now. Matt curry moving on to AAA, puts him about around 1-2 (2 is more realistic) years away from cracking the MLB roster (His Strike Out rate is FUGLY and needs to come down before he can make it to the MLB level)