Spring Training 2013 Position Battles: Right Field

With pitchers and catchers reporting today, and Spring Training starting up this week, we will be previewing the position battles to follow throughout the Spring. To keep track of the players who are in camp, and the updated status of each position battle, check out the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates Spring Training Tracker.

The Pirates only have one established outfielder at the major league level, and that’s Andrew McCutchen. After that they have five players battling for the corner outfield spots. I’m approaching this assuming that Starling Marte has the starting left field spot locked down. That leaves right field open to a battle between Travis Snider, Jerry Sands, Jose Tabata, and Alex Presley.

Contenders: Alex Presley, Jerry Sands, Travis Snider, Jose Tabata

Travis Snider - The Pirates added Snider at the trade deadline, in exchange for Brad Lincoln. The outfielder used to be one of the top prospects in the game, but has never put it together at the major league level. Snider looked like he could have been seeing his power return prior to the trade. He had a .263 ISO in Triple-A with Toronto, and a .306 ISO in limited time with the Blue Jays in the majors. After being traded to the Pirates he suffered a hamstring injury, which plagued him the rest of the year. Snider is in a similar situation that Pedro Alvarez was in last year. He’s a former top prospect, just turning 25, but people are starting to write him off. It might be too early to do that. He was showing some positive signs before the trade and before his injury. He should get a shot in 2013 to see what he can do when healthy.

Jerry Sands - Sands was one of the main pieces added in the Joel Hanrahan trade. Throughout his minor league career he’s shown a lot of power. He hasn’t carried that power over to the majors yet, although he’s only seen 251 at-bats. Travis Snider and Jose Tabata are out of options, so they have to make the majors or be designated for assignment. Sands has one option remaining, so he could go to Triple-A to start the year. He had success in Triple-A last year, but that came in the PCL. Sending him to the International League would help to get a better idea of his true power, since that’s not a hitter friendly league like the PCL.

Jose Tabata saw his average and OBP drop in 2012.

Jose Tabata saw his average and OBP drop in 2012.

Jose Tabata - Tabata signed an extension two years ago which looked like it could be an incredibly team friendly deal at the time. Now it looks like he could be over-paid as a fourth outfielder. He hasn’t been hitting for power, and in 2012 his on-base percentage was way down. In the previous two years he was up around the .345-.350 range, with a decent average. Tabata doesn’t necessarily need power if he can hit for average and have a high on-base percentage. Last year he had neither of those things, and also wasn’t hitting for power. He’s out of options, so he will need to be in the majors. I could see him serving as a fourth outfielder, and getting a few starts a week to see if he can return to his 2010/2011 numbers.

Alex Presley - The other three players on this list were former top prospects — either in their organization, all of baseball, or both. Presley isn’t in that category. In 2009 he looked like he would wash out in high-A. Then he did a complete 180 in 2010 and broke out, going from Double-A to the majors in one year. He had a .298/.339/.465 line in 231 plate appearances in 2011. The power returned in 2012 (.168 ISO vs .167 in 2011), but his average went down by about 60 points. His walk rate dropped slightly, and it was below average in both years. The key thing for Presley is that he’s been hitting for power in each of the last two years. He didn’t hit for average last year, and will need that if he wants to stick in the majors. Presley looks like he has the upside of a strong fourth outfielder, or a starter in a weaker outfield. He has one option remaining, so he could start off in Triple-A and serve as an injury replacement if needed.

Projected Starter: Travis Snider

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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, 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.

Spring Training 2013 Position Battles: The Rotation

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Spring Training 2013 Position Battles: The Bench

  • The Dog

    The pirates don’t like losing players for nothing. It would appear to me that Snider and Tabata will battle it out for the RF job. The loser will be the 4th OFer and Sands and Presley will begin the year in Indy.

    • joe g.

      Prior to 2012, Tabata was one of the young players considered to be part of the team’s future success. He struggled early in the season and couldn’t handle the adversity. Did he learn anything from last year and will he embrace the competitive situation he is in? if the answer is yes, he could very well win a starting spot in the outfield.

  • jalcorn

    Not really a battle here, but rather a Tabata/Snider platoon.

    • jg941

      With the majority of SPs being RHPs, the majority of ABs will likely go to Snider, regardless of who the platoon is with.

      • jalcorn


  • Allyn Weimer

    What would happen if we would option tabata

    • Tim Williams

      They can’t. They’d have to designate him for assignment.

      This won’t happen.

      • Ed Ott

        Assuming the Bucs prefer Sands over Tabata, why wouldn’t they DFA Tabata. With his contract, it is unlikely he’d be claimed. The Pirates might actually prefer that he were claimed, then they are out from under his contract.

        • Tim Williams

          His contract is low paying right now. He’s only making $1 M this year. That’s a pretty low cost to see if he can turn things around.

          It could be a different story next year. If he’s in this same situation, looking at $12.25 M guaranteed over the remainder of his contract, then I could see him being a risk to be DFAd. But not when he’s only making $1 M.

          • Ed Ott

            But if they wait until next year and he’s still not performing, they are stuck with the $12.25. If they have serious doubts they should DFA him now and be willing to let him go.
            Of course it’s also very possible he would go unclaimed. So then he would end up in Indy.
            Either way, seems like DFA is a real possibility unless he has a great ST.

      • jg941

        If you go with the conventional wisdom that Snider will be the primary RF, then isn’t it inevitable (well, not inevitable, but…….) that the Bucs would need to keep Presley?

        If they don’t, then every bench bat – Gaby, McKenry, every utility IF they have (Mercer, D’Arnaud, Harrison, DeJesus, etc.) and whoever platoons w/Snider in RF (Sands or Tabata) – is a righty. Don’t you need at least one lefty bat on the bench?

        If not Presley, then who? (if you say the word “hawpe”, I will cry like a baby……)

  • atniup

    When the dust settles and the Travis Snider fixation ends within the organization, Jose Tabata will be the last one standing and he will produce.

    • jg941

      Wow! – that’s certainly alot of confidence based on the Tabata we’ve seen so far. Anything in particular that you’re basing that on?

      Personally, I’m hoping for new blood to step up and for there to be someone out there desperate enough for a RH 4th or 5th OF to offer us something/anything of value for Tabata. Unlikely (unfortunately), but we’ll see.

  • La Pirate

    I think the point being missed aside from who has options and who doesn’t is that Presley has the best skillset to be a 4 th outfielder and spot starter. He can play all 3 positions has great speed hits from left side and has pop Inbat . I think it should come down to Snyder and Presley and I still predict Tabata will be moved at some point

    • wkkortas

      I agree that Presley is almost the prototypical 4th outfielder–he has the assets you mention, but he’s not great in center, he doesn’t hit lefties, and he doesn’t have the power you’d like in a corner guy. That adds up to “real stretched to play everyday, but a valuable bench piece.” The only thing that would make him a candidate to go to Indy is the fact that Marte can play center.

      • Happydude1

        That, and he and Sands still have options.

  • piratemike

    Tabata was and always will be a head case . There is no doubt that somewhere inside there is a decent player but in the long run he will break your heart. Just when you count on him he will let you down. He simply is not worth it. The faster the Pirates get rid of him the better. The Yankees knew this but NH arrogance thinking that his superior skills can turn this head case around won’t let him give up on this loser.

  • Jeremy Ransom

    What ever happened to Andrew Lambo? He showed some promise until he got hurt.

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