The 2012 season for Alex Presley wasn’t what he, nor the Pirates expected from him. After an impressive rookie season in 2011, where he finished with a .298 average over 52 games in the Majors, Presley broke spring training with the starting job in left field. But the 27-year-old struggled in his sophomore year, and was demoted, not once, but twice to Triple-A Indianapolis to get back on track.
Presley started the season off strong with a .309 clip over the first 19 games of the season. But a 3-for-38 (.079 avg) slump in May sent him to Triple-A for the first trip to the minors to find the success at the plate that he had in 2011. Presley returned to Pittsburgh in June, but his playing time was cut drastically after the Pirates acquired Travis Snider at the trade deadline. The outfielder was sent back to Triple-A again in August to get some more at-bats and sharpen up his game.
Presley put up strong numbers while in the minors — a .307 average, and five home runs in 40 games with Indianapolis — but struggled to translate them into the Majors this season. And heading into the offseason, Presley has a check list of things to work on for spring.
“He’s one of the guys that we’ve talked to about a number of different things to prepare for next season,” Manager Clint Hurdle said. “All of our speed guys, first step quickness. Leads and breaks. Anything they can do agility wise to help from that standpoint.”
“The workouts that he does, the strength is there. He’s got eye opening power sometimes. We want him to get to the point where he’s covering away and reactive…He’s got very usable speed that we need to get into play more. There are a handful of guys that we talked about that needs to work on things. He needs to work on hitting the soft and spin better. How you get that done? There’s a variety of ways. Whether it’s hiring a guy to throw it in the off-season. Whether it’s winter ball in the offseason. Those are options.”
During the final home stand of the season, Presley said they decided not to send him to Instructs to work on bunting and base running like they did the year prior. But instead, getting some extra work in winter ball was something that was discussed. The Pirates currently have two Major leaguers in Kyle McPherson and Daniel McCutchen playing for the Tigres del Licey in the Dominican Republic (Triple-A skipper Dean Treanor is the Manager).
“Winter ball has been brought up,” Presley said. “I’m not sure if that’s going to happen or not. No Instructional league for me this year thankfully. It’s winter ball or just same old off-season routine. We’ll see what happens.”
“Just a lot of working out. I have a routine that works pretty good for me. Each year, I like to come in stronger than the year before. I’ve done a pretty good job at that the past couple years. I look to continue to do that this offseason. I’m not real big so I have to be strong. I try to be in the best shape I can be in.”
“We sent him down to Instructional [last year] to bunt,” Hurdle said. “That didn’t come into play as much as I would have liked this year, or he would have liked. That’s got to be a tool that’s usable for him next year.”
Presley finished the season with a .237 average, 14 doubles, seven triples, 10 home runs and 25 RBI in 104 games with Pirates. Presley led the club with his career-high seven triples, the most by a Bucco since Andrew McCutchen in 2009 (nine), and also hit double digits in homers for the first time in his career.
“I was happy to hit the 10th one,” Presley said of his home runs. “It was big to get double digits. I was pretty pumped. It’s not my game. But it’s always a bonus. The ability to hit it out every now and then. I was happy with how often I was able to do it this season.”
Presley will have to come into Bradenton strong, and put together an impressive spring training in order to break camp with Pittsburgh in 2013. The corner outfield spots are open heading into next year. Unless there are additions made over the offseason, Presley will be one of four guys battling for those two spots. Pittsburgh will also need a fourth outfielder off the bench, but one will have to be the odd man out.
“There’s no secret that Presley and [Jose] Tabata were challenged this season,” Hurdle said. “You’re talking about maybe two positions. And you’ve got four guys in-house right now that you’re going to look at in [Starling] Marte, Snider, Tabata and Presley for the outfield spot. That’s about as transparent and clean cut as you’re going to get.”
“How good do you want to be? How good do you want us to be? That’s something [I told him] to think long and hard about over the winter. What can you put into play this winter? Are you going to show up where we go, ‘wow.’ He didn’t have that when he left.”
“I didn’t stick to my approach to well at times this season,” Presley said. “I’ve got to get better at that.”