First Pitch: Where Will All of the 1B/OF Options Fit?

The Pirates have a lot of 1B/OF options, but plenty of room for all of them. -- Image Credit: Mark Olson
The Pirates have a lot of 1B/OF options, but plenty of room for all of them. — Image Credit: Mark Olson

The Pittsburgh Pirates have added a lot of 1B/OF options for their major league squad in the last year. They traded for Travis Snider and Gaby Sanchez at the trade deadline. They acquired Clint Robinson in a minor trade with Kansas City. Starling Marte made the jump to the majors in the second half of the 2012 season. They got Jerry Sands in the Joel Hanrahan trade. They signed minor league free agents like Felix Pie, Brad Hawpe, and Darren Ford.

Almost every move has been greeted with speculation that the Pirates are setting up for a Garrett Jones trade. I wouldn’t completely rule that out, since there have been plenty of rumors about Jones. Since most of those rumors involve other teams balking at the Pirates’ high asking price for Jones, I’ll just say that a trade seems unlikely. There’s also no pressure to make a deal. Despite all of the above additions, the Pirates have places for almost every player to play in the top two levels. Here is a look at where everyone would fit in.


1B – Garrett Jones/Gaby Sanchez Platoon

I’ve seen a lot of either/or discussions with Jones and Sanchez. Mostly it has been people worrying that Jones would be traded and Sanchez would be the primary starter. For now they’re set to platoon at first base.

LF – Starling Marte

RF – Travis Snider

BN – Jose Tabata

BN – Alex Presley

I’m certain that Marte will get a starting job. Snider would have the inside track out of the other corner outfield options. You could add Jerry Sands to this mix, although I think he starts in Triple-A. The guys who are out of options are Travis Snider and Jose Tabata, so both would have to be in the majors on Opening Day.


1B – Matt Curry

DH – Clint Robinson

3B – Matt Hague

I’d expect the Pirates to promote Matt Curry to Indianapolis, which already happened at the end of the 2012 season. Clint Robinson should start off in Triple-A, as he has an option remaining. Matt Hague was outrighted to Triple-A. What makes this easy is that Hague can play third base, and Indianapolis uses a DH, allowing all three to play.

LF – Brad Hawpe

CF – Felix Pie

RF – Jerry Sands

Pie can play center field, which leaves the corner outfield spots open. If Sands makes the majors then his spot would be taken by Alex Presley (assuming Presley would be the one going down, since he’s the only other outfielder with options).

The only person without a spot here is Darren Ford, who would probably take a bench role and get some starts when Hawpe or Pie need a break. With 12 other players, the odds are strong that Ford will see regular playing time at some point this season.

The only prospect who might be held back by this is Adalberto Santos. He had some great numbers in Double-A last year, then carried that hitting over to the Arizona Fall League. Santos can play second base, although the Pirates have their own jam in the middle infield (Jordy Mercer, Chase d’Arnaud, Josh Harrison, and only one of them is projected for the majors). The Pirates could still promote Santos to Triple-A, which would move one of Hawpe or Pie to a part-time role, assuming no injuries.

If the Pirates add another Jerry Sands/Travis Snider type, then I’d start to reconsider the chances of a Garrett Jones trade. If they add another Brad Hawpe type, that’s not going to change my opinion that a trade is unlikely. The biggest impact that a minor league free agent could have is keeping Santos in Double-A to start the year, kind of like how Brock Holt was kept in Double-A at the start of the 2012 season because there were too many middle infield options in Triple-A. For now they’ve got a platoon at first, a starter in left field, four players battling it out for a starting job and two bench spots, and a bunch of depth options in Triple-A. That’s a lot of options, but not too many options, and it doesn’t force a Jones trade.

Links and Notes

**The 2013 Prospect Guide is now available. The 2013 Annual is also available for pre-sales. Go to the products page of the site and order your 2013 books today!

**The eBook version of The 2013 Prospect Guide is also available through our publisher. They also have a discount code during the month of January that allows you to save 20%. Use the code JANBOOKS13 to get the discount. This code is only valid on the eBook on the publisher’s web site, and not the books on the products page of the site.

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2013 Top Prospects: #9 – Kyle McPherson.

**Winter Leagues Recap: Who Is Marte Hitting Against?

**Winter Leagues Recap: Johnson Brings Home Title, Marte Keeps Hitting.

**Speaking of Jones, Charlie had a good article about the possibility of trading him over at Bucs Dugout.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Leadoff, do you think it was a mistake to bring Hurdle back? Or the way he handles the bench is a minor flaw?

Obviously, NH must think fairly highly of Hurdle to hire him in first place and then bring him back for next season after two awful Septembers.


It does not really matter how you move these guys around, Hurdle does not manage bench players or days off for players very well, Hurdle is a bigger problem than figuring out who should play where and who should make the rosters at Pitt and Indy. Any manager that thinks Tabata should be a defensive replacement in RF for Jones when Presley and Snider are on the bench is crazy. Tabata is at best a poor defensive player.

Wizard of Woz

Brad Hawpe played in AA most of last year. I wouldn’t expect him to be higher on the depth chart than Santos.


i agree. i do think Hawpe sticks around, unlike Atkins. He will be in AAA for at least a while. Santos could start in altoona again.
Can Santos play 3B? he could be a much better version of Harrison if he can.


If Jose “Jumbo” Diaz can play SS for the Indians then Santos can play 3B for them.

Lee Young

Tim….you might need to add “Nor does he play 2b/Of very well either”


La Pirate

I think Tabata will be traded. Presley to me is a much better bench option, hits left handed, has some pop and can play all 3 outfield positions.

Kirk Lee

Presley may look a little better now, but keep in mind how well Tabata played his rookie year and how young he (supposedly) still is. Not to mention it would be somewhat of a betrayal and a poor show of faith to let a guy sign with you on a very team-friendly deal simply because he has always wanted to play for your team, then trade him one year later so that he’s stuck with that crappy contract and playing for some random team he doesn’t care for. I mean, for how many years have we all sat back and complained about the fact that free agents make us pay extra because they don’t want to play in Pittsburgh? Now we have a guy who, strangely enough, ONLY wants to play in Pittsburgh. It wouldn’t be very nice to ship him away at the first sign of disappointing performance.

Kirk Lee

*better option

Lee Young

I doubt they’d trade Tabby while his value is so low.


I hope he does; I just hope we can get a good return out of him.

Lee Young

Agree that Clint Robinson should start off in Triple-A. Let’s see what he does in a non-PCL ballpark.

I think Hawpe will end up being released. I’d NOT be pleased if Santos gets ABs taken away from him for him or another vet. Ford should be AAA bench depth.

Presley could either go to AAA or be a 5th OFer? Or they may keep Pie as the 5th OFer and send Alex down. Hurdle loves defense.

I was once a Hague supporter, but wouldn’t be surprised if he got released.


Robinson will be the best “hitter” on the AAA team. Sands, IMO, is the only one who gets a real shot over him.
i put hitter in quotations because i have seen CRob play multiple times and hes a legit quality hitter. Im not sure about his power potential because he doesnt have great bat speed. his power comes from physical strength more than anything. i think hes at least a LH gabby sanchez but his age and lack of other skills have him behind Sands right now.

Lee Young

WA…I’ve only seen him K twice as a KCR PH last year.



CRob’s 50% K rate makes Pedro smile.


I agree with most of the rest of the commenters. I see no way the Pirates start the year with only one MI bench player. I mean for that to be feasible there would at least have to be some emergency contingency plan in case Harrison already pinched hit and say Barmes had to leave the game.

The only contigency plan I can even think of revolves around what I heard about Martin wanting to play SS for team Canada this year. Would the Pirates consider him as an emergency option at SS?

I’m thinking Hawpe of Pie most likely goes away after Spring (opt out, Atkins like trade, whatever) and Presley replaces them in AAA. I know if Presley does go down though that leaves the Pirates with no LH bat on the bench on most days. So I would like to see a LH middle infield type added.

Also Hague very well may play 3rd but they also brought in Goedert and resigned Larish so I wouldn’t call it a sure thing. Although I don’t really think who plays there is a big deal.


What about one less OF, (Presley), and adding a backup 2B, possibly a FA like Jeff Baker? (Who also can play OF)


dont forget about dejesus whom we already have. mercer has the inside track at being the backup to Barmes/Walker and I believe dejesus is right behind him.


I just wanted to combine my favorite team with my favorite player… Then it would be perfect.

Lee Young

nothing wrong with favorite players. 🙂

Lee Young

WA…I think Mercer goes to AAA to make up for his ‘lost’ year.

He was treated like a Rule 5 pick.


you could be right. and if so, the AAA team will be loaded with talented players. the infield will have curry/robinson, mercer, hague, sanchez, d’arnaud, goedert… the outfield will have pie, sands, hawpe… rotation will have cole, irwin, oliver, maybe even locke… wilson, black…

i think the AAA team competes for another title this season.


What are the odds we could see a Sands/Snider platoon in right?

Lee Young

Tim…agree…Snider has actually hit LHPs fairly well or at least almost as well as he’s hit RHPs. (0.73 OPS diff)


decent chance, as well as a tabata/snider platoon. but if i had to bet money on it, i would agree with Tim and sands will be in AAA.

Kirk Lee

I agree that the logjam doesn’t necessitate or imply a Jones trade, but I wouldn’t expect (or at least not want to see) the Pirates to start the season with 3 of their 5 bench spots dedicated to guys who can only play 1B or corner OF. That would leave only Josh Harrison available to cover 2B/3B/SS, and his status as a pinch hitter might have to resemble a backup catcher’s: limited, in case someone gets injured later and they’re left with no one to fill in. If I could set the opening day lineup, I’d have it exactly as it is above, but with Presley in Indianapolis playing CF, and Jordy Mercer available on the bench to provide some middle infield versatility. Move Pie or Hawpe to the bench and work them in as much as possible.

Kirk Lee

Clearly it wouldn’t be unprecedented, but I would rather see them with more options in the infield than just Josh Harrison.


ivan dejesus was aquired with Sands. he is easily a better defender than Harrison and has a decent chance at making the team.

Lee Young

whiteangus….with you on that. In fact, I think Dejesus allows them to send Mercer to the minors to get some ABs.

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