Versatility should provide benefits
Between Pittsburgh and Triple-A Indianapolis, the Pirates have a group of eight position players fighting for about five spots in the everyday lineup. Obviously, not all will pan out, but it is difficult to determine exactly which ones will succeed long-term. Luckily, each player comes with some versatility, which gives management options when determining a future lineup.
Pearce plays a nice first base and a passable corner outfield, although he’s probably limited to right field at PNC Park. His most valuable asset is his ability to hit left-handed pitching. With lefties Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez likely to hold down starting spots for the foreseeable future, that skill will likely keep him in the team’s plans for the next few years.
Clement has good power, a narrow platoon split, and he can catch in an emergency. With the first base job slipping through his fingers, he has the look of an ideal bench player.
Jones has been surprisingly solid in right field this year. He may be an above average first baseman and could play left field in road parks. He mashes right-handed pitchers, and could be a force in a platoon situation.
Walker is an impressive athlete who can play virtually anywhere in the field. He would likely be at least average at third base, second base, first base, left field or right field. With some repetitions, he could fill in behind the plate, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he held his own at short or in center in a pinch. His bat has always been the question mark, but his 2010 start has been encouraging. Oh, and he’s a switch-hitter.
Tabata can play anywhere in the outfield, although he is better suited for a corner spot. He has the arm for right field, the range to play left at PNC Park, and could fill in for McCutchen on rare occasions in center.
Alvarez is obviously going to play somewhere. He is a capable third baseman that should settle in at first base at some point. His struggles against left-handers make him a candidate for an occasional day off against tough southpaws.
LaRoche is solid at third base, and could possibly make the move to second when Alvarez arrives. He will need to provide more offense soon, or he could find himself riding the pine.
Milledge is probably limited to a corner outfield spot, although he has played some center field in his career. He has just enough range to play left at PNC Park, but does not give the team much additional defensive flexibility. He does not really have the arm to play right, although that could be hidden somewhat in the smaller right field at PNC Park.