Baseball Season Is Right Around the Corner Folks

I know everyone including myself is pumped for the NHL season next Friday. But baseball season may sneak up on everyone with this compacted season. In 46 days, the Pirates are scheduled to open up against the Rays for Spring Training. With many jobs solidified, there are several spots still up for grabs. There could be another starting pitching job filled with the recent news of Liriano’s injury to his non-throwing arm. Don’t expect top prospect Cole to fill that void! I also believe the platoon infielder job is potentially still up for grabs. There will be a battle for bullpen spots and corner infield.

Catchers:

Russell Martin: @russellmartin55

Hands down, biggest move to the offseason for the Pirates. Acquired via free agency and will make $6.5 million in 2013 and $8.5 in 2014. His average has declined over the past three seasons but his power numbers have improved. His defense will definitely be welcomed after watching players steal with ease last season.  He took home the Gold Glove Award in 2007 and has a career caught stealing percentage of 30%.  I liked this move a lot and don’t think we paid “too much.” He has played on winning teams having 135 plate appearances in the postseason. Although he has not won a World Series, he has been named to the All-Star Game 3 times and won the Silver Slugger Award. I’m not expecting him to be a difference maker but definitely will help in offense, defense, and in the clubhouse. He has played 12 games at PNC and holds a .350 average with 3 long balls.  He does hold a career batting average of .288 against our division.

Michael “Fort” McKenry:  @McKenry55

In 2011, the Pirates made an innocent move to acquire Fort. Seven, yes seven, catchers caught for the Pirates that year.  Although he is not too special with the bat, he is trusted in pitch calling and loved by the players and the fans. He is very timely with his homers, that’s for sure. He is a great ball player and gives his all. I expect him to get around 40 starts behind home plate assuming Martin stays healthy. Martin averages 132 games played a season and can see the Pirate’s giving him around 120. Also, looks like he switched his number to 19 with Russell’s signing.

First Base:

Can a platoon of Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez work? Well…I hope so but let’s take a look here. They have tried to platoon Jones in previous seasons with Diaz, and McGehee. (Did not turn out so well)

Garrett Jones:

He had a remarkable season last year. Career highs in just about everything. He played two less games in 12’ from 11’ and had 11 more bombs and 28 more RBI’s(thanks to Cutch).  He was a great signing by the Pirate’s in 2008 as he was blocked by Morneau in Minnesota. But let’s not forget, he is going to be 32 this season.  I see him primarily at first (if he is not traded). He looked solid at first but at times seemed lost. Lots of people, including myself questioned him being out there against lefties.  He could not pick up breaking balls too well up there and it was sad at some times but could really mash the fastballs (as should any MLB player).  A career .198 hitter against lefties has forced the Pirate’s to try another experiment at platoon.  I honestly would have traded him this offseason, but the price tag was relatively high and they are wisely holding onto him for now. A similar season would be welcomed by everyone in the organization and has a relatively good chance of putting up similar numbers in his next campaign.

Gaby Sanchez    @GabySanchez15

Real solid player in 10’ and 11’ but has been declining since.  Major reduction in plate appearances over the years could be a factor but he won’t win a starting position anywhere.  Sanchez was acquired for a pretty penny. They gave up Gorkys Hernandez (great defender, below-avg, avg bat) and 2013 compensation draft pick round A. But with the Pirate’s having two first rounder’s this year, they can spend on. A very good defender at first with a .994 fld%. A career hitter against LHP of .291 needs to become evident for this platoon to work.

It’s tough and impossible to get Jones out there every time against righties and Sanchez out against lefties but the main point is for them to do well against their splits. I would be extremely surprised but really happy if Jones put up the same numbers as last year but still expect a solid .260 20-25 HR’s season while Sanchez is more of a worry to me and all the fans. So will it work? I would say it will get the job done but won’t be anything off the charts. They can also use Jerry Sands at first if needed to be, but he should be in the OF.

Second Base:

Neil Walker  @NeilWalker18

“The Pittsburgh Kid” drafted as a catcher has amazed me with his glove at second base. For this team to be successful, they need Neil to return to his 12’ season form.  Over 3 seasons, it seems evident of what you’re going to get from Neil. One thing that is hopefully being addressed is his power against LHP or Neil batting righty. In his career, he has 4 home runs as a righty while having 34 as a lefty. Other than that, not too much to say about Neil. Just needs to stay healthy and the Bucs have an excellent chance of breaking the 20 season skid.

Shortstop:

Clint Barmes:

SS is my favorite position to watch. Barmes did deserve to be critizied on offense but not many people saw his value on defense. This man right here got me into sabermetrics.  I believe Barmes deserved the Gold Glove Award last year and I will tell you why. My first sabermetric as a blogger!!!!Total Zone Total Fielding Runs Above Avg The number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made. Barmes was the best among qualified SS’ in the NL. Barmes was at 11 while Jimmy Rollins came in at -4 and he won it. Rollins likes to make plays more difficult for himself. The Gold Glove Award is more of a popularity contest. We all know Clint is quick and simple. He does not have the best arm but he has the quickness to get the ball from the glove to hand. In 2011, he came in at 3rd in the NL and in 2010 Barmes came in at 4th among NL SS’ in 2010.  This is certainly something I appreciate and I hope more of you guys do now that you’ve seen depicted.

As for his hitting, there really was not any positives other than his grand slam off the left field pole. He has played in very hitter friendly parks. COL (8yrs) and HOU (1 year). He needs to be more patient at the plate. He seems very anxious all the time. Don’t get me wrong, some players are first pitch swingers and they can be successful, but not Clint. Believe some of our pitchers had more walks than him at the All-Star Break.  This year he will have a lil more protection with Martin or even Snider before him rather than Rod. The one bold prediction I will make here is that Barmes will bat at .250 this season and will be a huge difference.

Third Base:

Pedro Alvarez:

He can freakin’ hit the ball far. Other than that, he is super streaky both offensively and defensively. 30 home runs last year was very unexpected after 2011 hitting only 4 in 74 games.  After the first nine games of the 2012 season, he struck out 13 times in his first 27 at bats. Everyone was ready to give up, send him down, etc…This is why he stuck around. He used all of the field at times this year. He had some oppo shots with minimal effort and needs to continue doing so.  You could tell in his slumps he was just trying to pull everything and hit it 700 feet.  But when he was grooving, it was impressive to watch.  He is going to strike out but not as much as Adam Dunn or Mark Reynolds. It was nice to see him put together some nice at bats and get some walks every now and then but then his next appearance it will be three straight dirt balls and he would swing every time. Another aspect is against the lefties. A .209 career is a bit low with how much talent this man possesses.  Would like to see some improvement with him against the lefties cause platooning Pedro because of his splits would be awful.

27 freaking errors last season. Some games it was like watching a little leaguer play third. He has terrific arm strength but the accuracy….ehhhh not so great. Also, when there is a dribbler or a bunt towards his way and he is throwing that across his body, I would just rather him pick it up and throw it at Bob Walk and give them the extra base. Can’t see him getting worse at fielding. Who knows if they will ever make him a 1B but has to be discussed.

I expect a similar season but hopefully the strikeout’s come down a bit and few more walks here and there. He could easily hit 40 home runs this year but I’ll keep it at 35 max.

Utility Infielders:

Seemed like Holt had this position locked up after last season but we all know how that ended. I think J-Hay has the lead since he can play everywhere.

Josh Harrison:  @jhay_da_man

Last season J-Hay played 2B, SS, 3B, RF, & LF. This gives him an advantage to come off the bench or spot starts and gives the team more flexibility.  He can be a spark at times with his speed and being able to swipe a base here or there.  Average at all his positions and should open up on the Pirate’s 25 man roster this season.

Jordy Mercer:  @jordy_mercer

I really like this guy. Depending on what Barmes does, he could possibly start mid season. He played a small amount of games at 2B and 3B in his career. His numbers don’t show anything spectacular but when they kept him in the bigs for a while and gave him very few at bats thus throwing him off. He is just a guy that gets the job done. Think he will start at AAA Indianapolis unless an injury occurs. But keep an eye on him.

Chase d’Arnaud:

I can’t see him cracking the team out of spring training unless something really unusual happens. But hey, it’s the Pirates. Unusual, weird stuff always happens.  Another SS, but Mercer is well ahead of him but he has been up before.

–More coming the next couple days.

–It’s syllabus week for me so I’m trying my hardest to get this done

–Going to do OF’ers next, and then the bullpen and starters.

–Leave feedback please!

Andrew Berty

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