Predicting the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 2014 Opening Day Lineup

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Predicting the Opening Day Lineup for 2014 Pittsburgh Pirates

Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Opening Day Lineup
Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

Spring Training games for the Pittsburgh Pirates start in just two days, with their first game coming on Wednesday against the New York Yankees. The Pirates did very little to upgrade their roster over the offseason, but there is still a chance for the roster to end up being better anyway due to improvements from younger players. The start of Spring Training means Opening Day is getting closer and closer as each day passes, and the Opening Day roster is always something fun to discuss.

Last year's Opening Day lineup looked a lot different than it will this season. For instance, Garrett Jones batted second and played right field, but he is no longer a Pirate. Clint Barmes started at shortstop and batted eighth, but the Pirates re-signed him to presumably be the backup to Jordy Mercer. Oh, and one must not forget the Opening Day starter will change this season too. A.J. Burnett started the first game last season, but manager Clint Hurdle has designated lefty Francisco Liriano as the Opening Day starter for 2014.

Over the offseason, the Pirates made a few moves, but most were fairly insignificant. They traded for backup catcher Chris Stewart from the Yankees, they signed Edinson Volquez, they traded for a Jaff Decker and Chris McGuiness and they claimed Brent Morel from the Toronto Blue Jays. None of these players will have a real impact on the Opening Day lineup, but they certainly give the Pirates some more depth.

No one could have guessed what 2013's Opening Day lineup would have looked like, mostly because of Jones hitting second, but the 2014 lineup seems to be a bit easier to predict -- at least at this point. Time for me to give my best shot at predicting the lineup for Opening Day 2014. Keep in mind the Pirates will be facing a right-handed pitcher, Jeff Samardzija, so the lineup will be based on that.

Zach Morrison is a Pirates writer at Rantsports.com. You can follow Zach on Twitter, you can add him as a friend on Facebook and you can add him to your circles on Google+.

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1. Left Fielder Starling Marte

Pittsburgh Pirates Starling Marte
David Manning-USA Today Sports

The best defensive left fielder in baseball, Starling Marte brings great range and a cannon arm. Along with great defense, Marte brings some nice lumber to the Pirates' lineup. In 2013, Marte hit .280/.343/.441 with a 121 wRC+ in 566 plate appearances. He put up a very impressive 4.6 fWAR as well.

He doesn't walk enough to be the ideal leadoff hitter, but he is currently the Pirates' best option. His 41 steals and 7.2 base running runs above average are very valuable at the top of the lineup.

Related links:

Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Spring Training Profile: Starling Marte

2014 Fantasy Baseball Profile: OF Starling Marte

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2. Second Baseman Neil Walker

Pittsburgh Pirates Neil Walker
Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

Personally, I would hit Andrew McCutchen second, but that would be a bit too unconventional for Hurdle to try. Neil Walker is a nice option as well. He isn't a great offensive player, but he fits nicely as a contact hitter with good on-base skills. Walker hit .251/.339/.418 with a 114 wRC+ in 2013. He walked in 9.1 percent of his plate appearances, one of the best walk rates on the Pirates' roster.

I would love to see a platoon at second base between Walker and Jordy Mercer, with Barmes playing shortstop on the days that Mercer starts at second. Walker can't hit lefties and Mercer crushes them. It makes too much sense to not happen.

Related links:

Why are Pittsburgh Pirates Fans So Critical of Neil Walker's Defense?

Neil Walker Must Be Platooned in 2014 for Pittsburgh Pirates

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3. Center Fielder and MVP Andrew McCutchen

Pittsburgh Pirates Andrew McCutchen
Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

Like I said, McCutchen would be my second hitter, but I have to predict what I think Hurdle will do. Cutch hit .317/.404/.508 with a 155 wRC+ to go with 21 home runs and 27 stolen bases in 2013. McCutchen was great on the bases, at the plate and on defense last season, leading to a National League leading 8.2 fWAR.

Related links:

Rant Sports MLB Top 50 Players of 2014: No. 4 Andrew McCutchen

Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Spring Training Profile: Andrew McCutchen

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4. Third Baseman Pedro Alvarez

Pittsburgh Pirates Pedro Alvarez
Kim Klement-USA Today Sports

Power is much harder to find in baseball these days, so having a true power hitter is extremely important. Pedro Alvarez is a true power hitter. Last season, Alvarez hit .233/.296/.473 with 36 home runs. His average and on-base percentages are never going to be great, or even good most likely. However, the 36 home runs need to be in the lineup.

Related link:

2014 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper: 3B Pedro Alvarez

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5. Catcher Russell Martin

Pittsburgh Pirates Russell Martin
Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

The bottom of the Pirates' lineup against right-handed pitching isn't going to look very pretty due to the team not having a great left-handed hitting first baseman. The fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth spots could easily all be wrong, I'll be honest. Russell Martin hit fifth a lot in 2013, so I'm comfortable guessing he will start the season hitting fifth. Last season, Martin hit .226/.327/.377 with a 101 wRC+. His greatest value comes from him walking in 11.5 percent of his plate appearances and his great defense he provides from behind the plate.

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6. First Baseman Andrew Lambo

Pittsburgh Pirates Andrew Lambo
David Kohl-USA Today Sports

Barring a trade for Ike Davis or Justin Smoak or a Kendrys Morales signing, it looks like the Pirates will roll with Andrew Lambo as their left-handed first baseman. Lambo has very little experience at first base, but he is focusing on learning the position at Spring Training. He spent most of the 2013 season in the minor leagues, hitting 32 home runs in the process.

Related link:

Will Pittsburgh Pirates Begin the 2014 Season With Andrew Lambo as Their Starting First Baseman?

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7. Right Fielder Jose Tabata

Pittsburgh Pirates Jose Tabata
Kelley L Cox-USA Today Sports

Until top prospect Gregory Polanco is ready, it looks like Jose Tabata and Travis Snider will share time in right field. I think Tabata will get the majority of the playing time to begin the year with Snider likely needing to earn playing time from off the bench. Tabata was sneaky-good in 2013, hitting .282/.342/.429 with a 118 wRC+ in 341 plate appearances. He doesn't hit many home runs and he doesn't steal bases, but he does bring a steady contact hitter to the lineup.

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8. Shortstop Jordy Mercer

Pittsburgh Pirates Jordy Mercer
Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

As I previously mentioned, I would love to see a middle-infield platoon with Mercer and Barmes starting against lefties and Barmes and Walker starting against right-handed pitchers. I doubt the Pirates will do that since they are already platooning at first base. Mercer crushes left-handed pitching, but he isn't nearly as effective against right-handers. Overall, Mercer hit .285/.336/.435 with a 113 wRC+ in 2013.

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9. Left-Handed Starting Pitcher Francisco Liriano

Pittsburgh Pirates Francisco Liriano
Rob Grabowski-USA Today Sports

Fine, I'll humor you all by giving you Francisco Liriano's hitting stats from last season. I'll even try to take it seriously. The lefty pitcher hit .064/.137/.064 with a -44 wRC+ in 56 plate appearances in 2013. He actually walked in 7.1 percent of his plate appearances, but they usually resulted from him simply having no interest in swinging and the opposing pitcher being unable to throw strikes.

Related links:

Pirates' Francisco Liriano Enters 2014 With More Pressure Than Ever

Pittsburgh Pirates Can't Rely on Francisco Liriano Being Great in 2014

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  • david greig

    There is no scenario in which case Barmes would start over Mercer. Even if Jordy dosent hit Righties as well as he does lefties, he still hits them better than Barmes does. Pirates need bats in their lineup and I will take a guy who hit .285 over a guy that hit .215. The only way Barmes starts is if Jordy needs a day off or Jordy is playing second.

    • Zach Morrison

      It’s not about Barmes starting, it’s about sitting Walker versus lefties. Having Mercer and Walker both start against lefties is pointless since Walker is horrid against southpaws. At least Barmes brings elite defense alongside Mercer.