The Pittsburgh Pirates have agreed to terms with infielder Josh Fields on a minor league contract, with an invite to Spring Training. Fields, who turned 28 last week, is a former top third base prospect, ranking in Baseball America’s top 50 as recently as the 2007 season. So far he has yet to put things together at the Major League level, with a career .234/.303/.421 line in 713 at-bats.
Fields missed most of the 2010 season due to hip surgery, but did see some playing time with the Royals in September. In 49 at-bats he hit for a .309/.320/.490 line with three homers. The numbers are better than his career totals, but come through an incredibly small sample size. So far in his career, Fields has hit for power, but has struggled to hit for average, and has put up high strikeout rates, with a strikeout in a third of his at-bats.
The Pirates added Andy Marte early in the off-season, who is another former top third base prospect who has yet to make it in the majors. Marte and Fields will likely compete for a backup infield role. It would be a long shot for either player to finally realize their potential, but it would be a huge boost for the Pirates if one of the two players did have a breakout year this year. The mostly likely outcome is that one of the two wins a backup infield role, and plays out the season backing up third base, along with some other positions.
In comparing the two, neither player has put up impressive numbers so far, although Fields has hit for power at the major league level. Marte doesn’t have the high strikeout numbers, and is good defensively at third, while Fields struggles at the position and has a high strikeout rate. Both players have played first base, although Fields has spent time in left field, and four games at shortstop in 2007.
Fields would have been eligible for arbitration in 2011, but was non-tendered by the Royals. He has four years of control remaining.