(Photo Credit: David Hague)

A Platoon at First Base Seems Most Likely For the Pirates

The Pirates have employed a platoon at first base in each of the last two years, trying to find a right-handed hitter to pair with Garrett Jones. Now it seems they’re in the opposite situation. They added Gaby Sanchez at the 2012 trade deadline, and saw Sanchez put up great numbers against lefties in 2013. However, Jones struggled, and was designated for assignment today. The move today didn’t really change any future plans, since Jones would have been non-tendered next week. Now it appears that the Pirates are looking for a platoon partner to pair with Sanchez, according to Travis Sawchik.

I don’t know how likely it is that Sanchez would improve against right-handers at this point in his career. In fact, I’d say it’s very unlikely to happen. In his career, Sanchez has a .700 OPS against right-handers in over 1400 plate appearances. Last year he had a .619 OPS against right-handers in a little under 200 plate appearances. That’s a small sample size, but it doesn’t give any indication that he’s trending in the right direction.

If the Pirates do go with a platoon, they have a few options. We heard that they were checking on Lance Berkman last week. I don’t think that’s a strong option. My preference would be James Loney, since he hits right-handers well, has a good on-base percentage, and has strong defense. If the Pirates wanted to stay internal, they could go with Andrew Lambo, who has been playing some first base in Venezuela this winter. Lambo’s long-term position, if he sticks with the Pirates, would be at first base.

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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.

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  • swampirate

    Tim, Can you please explain to me why it isn’t more feasible to platoon Gabby and Pedro at first? There seems to be only a few that make any sense at 1b but there are more 3b options that could even come more cheaply and be more effective than the lefthanded option the Pirates may try to find.

    I know a few issues include The Pirates not wanting to put Pedro in a platoon situation just yet. The fact that his Defense improved also. But it seems clear that Alvarez projects as a first basement sooner rather than later. It just seems to make sense to me but I am probably missing something obvious and wanted your take on this.

    • Tim Williams

      Who are the third base options?

      • swampirate

        Michael Young, Mark Reynolds, Uribe, Youkilis, Betemit, Hart, Polanco…
        PLUS if you sign a SS and move Mercer to 2nd then Walker to 3b or sign a 2b and move walker to 3b you have more options and very likely an improved IF Defense.

        • swampirate

          trading for 3b minor leaguers seems logical also. Heck, Cubs have 3 of the top 20 3b prospects in all of baseball. Surely one is available via trade?

        • csnumber23

          You just named a bunch of scrubs to play 3rd. All old and borderline useless. Hart? Is that Corey Hart you are referring? If so, he is not a third baseman. Oh and Reynolds is about the worst defensive 3B in the league.

          I would much rather go with Loney, Morneau or even Lambo than any of those scrubs.

          • swampirate

            csnumber23, I don’t disagree that they are not all top notch but certainly neither are the 1b platoon options being named. At least not for the price…Surely, they could be had cheaper.

            Also, the notion of moving walker to 3rd and signing a ss or 2b makes a lot of sense… at least to me. Improved defense being the main thing. Cost effectiveness being another.

            • swampirate

              uribe and loney put up almost the same numbers last season btw. Similar avg and HR and obp.. Similar.

          • buster09

            Plus a BIG 1 cs ! Not only would you be taking the best arm in the infoeld and putting it at 1st base ( as a part timer yet !!! ) but just take a good long look at that list of 3d base suspects. I might lose lunch over that.

        • Tim Williams

          The “sign a shortstop and shuffle the infield” basically means that you’re signing a shortstop to be your first base bat. Offensively, would you rather have:

          1B – FA/Gaby
          2B – Walker
          SS – Mercer
          3B – Alvarez


          1B – Alvarez/Gaby
          2B – Mercer
          SS – FA
          3B – Walker

          The infield defense is fine in the current formation. The offensive upgrade would be much greater when addressing first base, rather than adding a shortstop. And the defensive benefit wouldn’t be that great to make up for the offense.

  • Brian Bernard

    I have thought for some time that Pedro will play better at first than third for many reasons, although I feel he did improve significantly this past year defensively. Still, he has a wild arm and makes silly defensive mistakes with poor footwork and sometimes what seems like a lack of awareness.

    Who then to replace him with? Well I like a few options.
    1. Walker – better defensively and has enough power to play a Freese type game which allows a player like Harrison to move into a full time 2b role.

    2. Mercer – this would be an option if they decide to resign Barmes or Furcal type for SS.

    3. A riskier play would be to go with a Hauge/DeJesus option – both have proven they deserve a shot, but in this case I’d probably rather just leave Pedro there.

    • Matt Beam

      My perfect but un-sexy off-season plan

      1. Morneau for LH 1B: 1yr/$6-8M
      2. Barmes for backup SS: 1yr/$1.5-2M
      3. AJ: 1yr/$10M

      If not AJ, then Scott Feldman or Joe Saunders are the next best free agent pitchers that fit the Pirates System, their GO/FO is by far the best of this class. Neither guy is as good as AJ but both will work for less $

      Morneau caught flack for not hitting any HR’s but he’ll come cheaper than Loney and be just as productive.

      Barmes is not much of a hitter but he’s the perfect back-up SS, hopefully at the right price

      • johnrussellskinner

        This wouldn’t be a bad scenario. I would rather have Morneau over Loney any day!

  • johnrussellskinner

    I hope they stay FAR away from Loney. The guy just doesn’t provide that pop the bucs need at 1B. Seems like a more tested, lefty matt hague to me. Defense is a plus, but again, not a premium position. Defense at 1B did not seem to create many problems last year, and I wouldn’t predict it will be crucial in 2014. Give Lambo the shot, he earned it! He showed excellent power in HRs and 2Bs last year in AA and AAA. He just needs to adjust, and why not let him. The Bucs whole teams seems like they start slowly anyway. Go with the tabata/decker (Jaff? Wtf) platoon in right (unless a better 1 year deal comes along). In that scenario, you have more than enough $ to pay AJ. You have Taillon and Polanco by June, so your team is stacked by the playoffs when those guys have a chance to adjust. We have depth stockpiled in AAA too. From reading facebook posts, I’ll say the front office may wanna try to resign G.I. Jones to a bench role. The ladies are HATING it, hahaha.

  • Jared

    The Pirates aren’t going to move Pedro to first base and weaken the team…any of the suggestions of available free agents or internal options would be a terrible decision and weaken the team. Walker? He’s barely average at 2B…and we have no good options in the minors for either of the corner infield spots. The Pirates best bet would be a buy-low trade with the Mets for Ike Davis and platoon him with Gaby Sanchez. Davis has a 3-year average OPS of .850 against RH pitchers, 39 HRs against RH in 686 ABs, and Gaby has a 3-year average .879 OPS against LH’ers. The Pirates would likely get 20-25 HRs out of that pair and above average OPS from the two with decent 1B defense.

  • lsutton

    moivng pedro to 1st also lessens his trade value, and while that is never fun for fans to think about, it is a reality in a few years. pedro will be a tough, if not impossible, sign. so trading him with a year of control left could reap a big return. and he has more external value if he stays at third than as a platoon partner at first. easier to keep him at third, sign a 1Bmen and not shuffle around the entire infield defense. or add a SS.

  • Paul J Books

    I definitely would like to see Lambo be part of one of the platoons. A lot of pop in that bat. The Pirates did fine pre-Byrd last year.
    Lambo/Tabata in RF until Polanco ready
    Loney/Sanchez at 1B until Polanco ready
    When Polanco is ready, then you have given Lambo a half season to show what he can do and you have done what the Cardinals would do I think. Let it play itself out.
    Sign Barmes if you have to. Yeah he’s hard to watch at the plate, but we made it to the post season with him there and not much else out there.
    I think we can survive without A.J., but if we can sign him for Neal’s right number, then great.
    Number one thought here: Lambo needs a shot to show what he has. I liked his approach at the plate, he seemed loose and confident in those few at bats he had. Laced some ball into the outfield.
    Happy Turkey Day to all!

  • swampirate

    thnx tim and others too. Good points all. I think I agree.

  • CalipariFan506

    I think bringing back Welker and trading for Mikolas makes Melancon a guy they’re looking to trade. Texas doesn’t need Mitch Moreland. I’m hoping that is what NH is attempting.

    • Jared

      I hope he’d get more for Melancon than Mitch Moreland. Not a huge Mitch Moreland fan myself.

      • CalipariFan506

        Not am I a big Moreland fan. But Melancon is coming off a career high in appearances while faltering late in the season. His value may be peak level.

        • Jared

          That I agree with, but I still would want more than Moreland.

  • Chris Hale

    I don’t think Gaby should be overlooked so quickly as an every day option. He has struggled vs RHP but hasn’t got consistent AB’s against them. Anyone who’s ever tried to hit professional pitching of an kind know the importance of consistent AB’s. In his first full year as a starter in the big leagues in 430 AB’s against RHP he hit .256 with 27 doubles 13 HRs and 58 RBI with an OPS of .742. Sure that’s not fantastic but this is his first year as a starter. In 2011 he was even a little better in 443 AB’s he hit 258 with 14 Hrs 26 doubles and a .742 OPS again. Where he started to fall off was 2012 when he was injured and traded to the Pirates. Then in 2013 he didn’t get near the Ab’s needed to improve against RHP. But for me ,If Gaby is given a week or two full of starts his numbers will start to rise. This guy has 25 HR power

    • CalipariFan506

      Careful. Gaby is a favorite whipping boy of the yinzers.

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