Spring Training Notes: The Roles of Andrew Lambo and Jordy Mercer

During yesterday’s meeting with the media, Clint Hurdle made two comments that really stood out to me as far as how the Pirates see two of their starting positions.

The first base position has been in question this off-season, with Andrew Lambo seeming to be the front-runner. The Pirates added Chris McGuiness, who has looked good in limited appearances so far this Spring. But Hurdle’s comments on McGuiness pointed to Lambo being the guy at first base.

“We’ve liked the kid. We got him here for a reason, to provide some depth,” Hurdle said. “An outside opportunity to possibly break with the club. Let’s see where he can take it.”

That’s not a big surprise, since I’ve been projecting Lambo as the starter and McGuiness as the backup. What was more surprising was when Hurdle said that Jordy Mercer was the front line guy with the Pirates. Mercer moved into the primary role last year, getting more playing time at shortstop than Clint Barmes after taking over in early June. It sounds like that playing time could be increasing.

“We’re pushing Jordy forward this year,” Hurdle said.

Barmes has been playing second base so far in Spring, and will also play some third. He also has a first baseman’s glove, so it looks like they’re preparing him as a utility infielder. His best asset is his defense at shortstop, so I’d expect him to continue getting starts there. However, it doesn’t sound like he will come close to the playing time he had last year.

Tim Williams

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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  • pittsburgh412

    Tim, what exactly is your feeling on mercer full time and how do you feel about his defense? Is he young enough he can still develope his defensive game?

    • stickyweb

      412, I know you asked Tim, but I’ll throw my 2 cents in. Jordy’s 27 so I don’t think we should look at his youth as a reason he could develop into a better fielder. However, I read something last year after he started getting more starts, that he really hasn’t played SS consistently through the minors. I just looked it up on BR, and his % of games played at SS per year is 84% in 2009, 16% in 2010, 74% in 2011 and 61% in 2012 before being there 77% of the time there last year.
      I think if he gets about 80% of his time at SS he could improve somewhat (not drastically), and I don’t think he was terrible last year, though some would disagree. The good news is many, many SS have played worse than he has in their first 100 MLB games and still gone on to be good defensive players. He could certainly end up somewhat above avg but not great.

  • emjayinTN

    Tom Singer had a nice piece on Chris McGuiness and the fact that he is calling a lot of attention to himself in Spring Training as the “other” LH hitting 1B possibility to platoon with Gaby Sanchez. Currently hitting .417 and was the MVP of the Arizona Fall League in 2011. Andrew Lambo is struggling at .077 (1 for 13), and that is definitely not enough to impress anyone. The next two weeks will be big for both of these guys, and I hope that one or the other does enough to make the trip North.

    • Lee Young

      emjay…you’ve been around long enough to realize that, as Keith Law has stated often, (paraphrae) “To make roster decisions off of ST stats is to make unwise roster decisions”.

      however, one OR the other WILL make the trip North….I doubt we’re making a deal unless it is a cheap deal from our end (aka, reliever and tier 2 or 3 prospect)

      • Y2JGQ2

        The only chance Lambo doesn’t make the club is if he injures himself or we trade for a starter

      • emjayinTN

        Lee: I agree that it is a small sample size, but these are two AAA players in their age 27 season. One is a career 1B, more of a doubles hitter, and a 68W/86K at AAA in 2013; the other is learning the position, hit 30+ HR’s, and a 44W/127K in AA/AAA in 2013. So, I consider it a tossup at best. The thing that is bothersome is that Andrew has not gone yard in at least the last 33 games, and he has to be a power hitter in order to be of value to the Pirates at 1B. I am trying to be objective, and I would love to see them both hitting .400+, but that is not the case at this particular time.

  • Lee Young

    As a big Mercer supporter, I applaud Hurdle’s decision. I’ve always compared him to JJ Hardy, and Hardy was NOT a good fielder at SS when he came up.

  • Y2JGQ2

    Thank God…..

  • Y2JGQ2

    I say we give Chad Hermanson a shot….. he never did get the chance to bring his minor league error record laden glove to the big leagues

  • Monsoon Harvard

    Bill Singer says Chris McGuiness was mvp of arizona fall league in 2011? Read the stats and see that he wasn’t. McGuiness played there in 2012. He lead the league in rbi with 27, but hit .285 with 5 doubles and 4 homers, not exactly mvp-like numbers. Still, he has shown an ability to drive in runs in a short sample.

    • emjayinTN

      MH: I remember seeing that he was the MVP one year but I never bothered to check that Singer had the right year. I think he won it on the RBI’s, and possibly HR’s and Defense. He seems to have an excellent eye at the plate so maybe he had a bunch of Walks also. Even as the MVP, he was not picked by BA as one of the Top 10 Prospects – go figure.