First Pitch: Pirates Still Looking For Long Term Corner Outfield Solutions

After posting the 2012 corner outfield recap, I looked back at last year’s recap. The story was about the same, only with a few new faces. Last year the Pirates were relying on Alex Presley and Jose Tabata to be their solutions for 2012. They had Starling Marte and Robbie Grossman in the upper levels, and then a lot of guys with potential in the lower levels who were too far off to consider for the short-term. The hope was that Presley and Tabata could hold things down in the short-term, and then two of the four upper level options would emerge as long-term solutions.

At the end of the 2012 season, the Pirates are in a similar situation. Presley and Tabata both struggled in the starting spots this year, and both were demoted at times to Triple-A. Starling Marte made his debut in the majors. He showed a lot of his potential, but his debut wasn’t dominant. Plus, as we’ve seen with Presley and Tabata, having a good rookie season doesn’t guarantee anything for the future. Grossman was traded away, but Travis Snider was brought in.

Heading in to the 2013 season the Pirates are in the same situation as they were in last year. They’ve got some options in the majors who can provide a short-term solution, and the hope is that two of the four options can step forward and become long-term solutions. There are also still high upside guys in the lower levels who could factor in to the long-term plans, but not until 2014-2015 at the earliest.

If I had to pick two guys to start in 2013, it would be Marte and Snider. Both players have a lot of upside, and they’re the only two who could potentially be impact players. Presley seems to me like more of a strong fourth outfielder at best. Tabata did see some improvements in the final two months, hitting for a .284/.376/.370 line in 81 at-bats. The power isn’t there, but those on-base numbers would look good at the top of the lineup. The problem is that Tabata has been a streaky hitter. Those 81 at-bats are already a small sample size. When you consider Tabata’s history, they could just be chalked up to another hot streak, which might not continue in the long-term.

The one benefit this year is that the Pirates have options. It’s not Tabata-Presley and wait for Marte to arrive. Hopefully those options will spark competition. Most of these guys have shown that they have the talent to be successful in the majors. Tabata and Presley got off to good starts, but struggled after the league adjusted to them. Marte and Snider were both top prospects, and are both still young enough to realize their potential. Ideally the competition will push some of these players to realize their potential, knowing that if they don’t perform, there will be another guy to step in. Worst case scenario, Garrett Jones could get some time in the outfield, although that would require Gaby Sanchez or someone else to handle first base full-time.

The chances for the Pirates are slightly better. It’s less likely that four players will fail, compared to just two players failing last year. But the Pirates are in the same situation they were in last year. They’ve got some options, but still have two long-term spots open in the outfield, and no one has stepped up to claim those spots.

Links and Notes

**Arizona Fall League Recap: 10/16.

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2012 Season Recap: Corner Outfield.

**A few weeks ago we talked about the farm system that Neal Huntington inherited. R.J. Reynolds at Bucs Dugout did a WAR comparison of all 30 teams, looking at what each farm system has produced. That gives a pretty good idea of where the Pirates stack up compared to other teams.

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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