The Pittsburgh Pirates front office has done a pretty good job of not doing a whole lot during the offseason, so it makes it quite easy to project what the Pirates’ starting lineup will look like coming out of 2014 Spring Training. Sure, there are a couple of question marks, namely at shortstop and right field, but there are some fairly safe and reasonable assumptions that can be made.
The lineup will look like this, provided everyone is healthy breaking camp:
Starling Marte LF
Neil Walker 2B
Andrew McCutchen CF
Pedro Alvarez 3B
Gaby Sanchez 1B
Russell Martin C
Jose Tabata RF
Jordy Mercer SS
So, a few explanations are in order here. Gaby Sanchez is going to get the chance to prove he can be the team’s everyday first baseman, mainly due to lack of a better proven option. Sanchez split time with Garret Jones and Justin Morneau last year, mainly getting his starts against left-handed pitching (which he destroys by comparison to right-handers). Andrew Lambo will see some time there as the backup in the short term, but it could turn into a full-blown platoon later in the season, with Lambo seeing starts against right-handed pitching if he can prove he belongs on the MLB roster.
Jose Tabata is going to win the right field position over guys like Andrew Lambo, Travis Snider, and Chris Dickerson. Though somewhat unproven, Tabata has a bigger offensive upside by comparison to the aforementioned Snider, Lambo and Dickerson, and can play all three outfield positions handily. In fairness, Dickerson can as well, but it’s time to decide on Tabata for the future and this is the only way to gather the information to support that decision. If and when Gregory Polanco joins the big club, Tabata could potentially become a trade target.
The only other area of question is at shortstop where Jordy Mercer will win-out over Clint Barmes. Mercer gets the starting nod because of his offensive potential, which is a superior benefit compared to the cost of his lesser defensive capabilities to that of Barmes. Barmes can be a late inning defensive substitution and used to give Mercer an occasional break throughout the season.
As mentioned earlier, the front office has taken most of the surprise and guessing out of the equation. No more Garret Jones, Marlon Byrd, or Justin Morneau to worry about, which, despite what you might think, isn’t a huge power capability loss. Byrd only hit three homers and Morneau zero, so the biggest loss of the three was Jones at fifteen.
The Pirates are going to need to need Alvarez, McCutchen, and Marte each to have a huge season if they want to repeat the success they saw in 2013, especially if the starting pitching wasn’t as solid as it was last year. The fans are going to be expecting big things from this team, and it would be a shame to let them down considering the twenty years of losing.