First Pitch: Top Ten Players by Position

Buster Olney at ESPN Insider has started posting his top ten lists, where he ranks each position in the majors. If you follow the Pittsburgh Pirates even somewhat closely, then you know these lists won’t be favorable towards them this year. Olney has already posted relief pitchers, starting pitchers, catchers, first baseman and today’s list is for second baseman. Here’s a summary of the lists.

Relief pitchers doesn’t have any Pirates, even among the notable section outside of the top 15. If Felipe Vazquez didn’t ruin his career/life, I’m sure he would have been mentioned in this article.

Starting pitchers has former Pirates, but obviously no current ones.


Skipping ahead for a second to second base, Adam Frazier got a mention in the “best of the rest” section, so he is somewhere in the top 11-15. Frazier has put up a 2.7 WAR in each of the last two seasons, though 2019 was the first time that he was a full-time second baseman.

First base has the only top ten player so far. Josh Bell ranks seventh on the list for Olney (I’ll point out here that he uses input from others to compile the lists, so it’s just not a personal opinion). Bell had a career year, so it’s no surprise that he made the top ten, even with poor defense and a significant drop in his second half numbers.

We will post articles for any other players who get mentioned in the last five positions. An average team should have three players make the top ten lists (that’s just math). Starling Marte should have a good shot for center fielders. I don’t know the competition in left field well enough to say Bryan Reynolds will make the top ten, but he led the Pirates with a 3.9 WAR, so you would think he has a good shot.

I mentioned those two specifically because MLB Network will be starting their yearly rankings of the top ten players, with hour long shows for each position. The first two positions this weekend will be center field and left field. I’ll probably post a live discussion article for anyone who wants to watch and complain about the rankings from the experts/hosts. They come on Saturday at 6PM/7PM.




By John Dreker

Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, starting with the most recent one first.

Jimmy Barthmaier, pitcher for the 2008 Pirates. He was drafted by the Houston Astros in 2003 and pitched for them in the minors until the Pirates selected him off waivers in November of 2007. He began the next year in the minors before getting called up for his big league debut, a spot start on June 27, 2008. Barthmaier returned to the minors, making 26 total starts between Indianapolis and Altoona before the Pirates recalled him in mid-September for two more starts. He went 0-2, 10.45 in 10.1 innings for the Pirates. In 2009 for Indianapolis, Barthmaier pitched to just two batters in his only start before he left the game. He missed the rest of the season due to Tommy John surgery. He returned in early 2010, pitching seven games in the minors before being released by the Pirates.

Brian Bass, pitcher for the 2010 Pirates. He was a sixth round draft pick of the Royals in 2000, pitching for them in the minors until the end of the 2006 season when he was granted minor league free agency. He signed with the Twins, making it to the majors in 2008 for 44 relief appearances before they shipped him to the Orioles in September, where he made four starts. In 49 games that rookie season he posted a 4.84 ERA in 89.1 innings. He put up similar numbers out of the Baltimore pen in 2009, posting a 4.90 ERA in 86.1 innings. The Pirates signed him as a free agent in January 2010 and his four appearances in the majors resulted in a 12.27 ERA over 7.1 innings. The Pirates released Bass back into the free agent waters where he was caught by the Phillies, spending the entire season in Triple-A.

Doe Boyland, first baseman for the 1978-79 and 1981 Pirates. Boyland was a second round draft pick of the Pirates in 1976. He hit .269 in 71 games with Salem of the Carolina League that year, then In Double-A the following season, he hit .330 with 11 homers and 30 stolen bases. Boyland followed that up with a .291 average in Triple-A in 1978, earning a big league call-up in September for six games. He missed most of the 1979 season, playing just 30 games at Triple-A and four September games for the Pirates. He hit well in Triple-A each of the next two seasons, earning 11 more games with the Pirates before being traded away in December 1981 to the Giants for pitcher Tom Griffin. Doe played just one more season in the minors before retiring. He played 21 games for the Pirates altogether, all off the bench, hitting .105 (2-for-19).

Lee Walls, outfielder for the 1952, 1956-57 Pirates. He was signed as an amateur free agent in 1951 and hit .342 with 16 triples and 14 homers that year in the minors. He made the Opening Day roster in 1952, but after a month of being used strictly as a pinch-hitter he was sent to the minors, returning in August to finish his rookie season with a .188 average in 32 games and 80 at-bats. Walls then spent three seasons in the Pacific Coast League, returning to the Pirates in 1956 after hitting .283 with 24 homers and 99 RBIs in 1955. In his first full season in the majors he hit .274 with 11 homers and 11 triples, playing a career high 143 games. Just eight games into the 1957 season, Walls was traded with Dale Long to the Cubs for Dee Fondy and Gene Baker. Walls would have a career year in 1958, hitting .304 with 24 homers and his only All-Star appearance. He played six more seasons in the majors before finishing his playing career in the Japanese League.

Phil Masi, catcher for the 1949 Pirates. Masi spent 11 seasons in the majors as a catcher for the Boston Braves before he was acquired by the Pirates in June of 1949. He was a three-time All-Star (1946-48), who started the 1949 season slow for the Braves, hitting just .210 with six RBIs in 37 games. With the Pirates he split the catching duties with veteran Clyde McCullough. Masi hit .274 in 48 games and ended up leading NL catchers in fielding % with a .994 mark. After the season he was sold to the White Sox, finishing his career with three seasons in Chicago. In 1,229 major league games he hit .264 with 417 RBIs.

Chuck Workman, outfielder for the 1946 Pirates. Chuck began his pro career in the minors in 1937 and saw very limited big league action in his first six years despite hitting over .300 four times in the minors. He played two games for the 1938 Indians, then got in nine more games for them off the bench in 1941. When the war opened up Major League spots for career minor leaguers, Workman took advantage of his chance, playing 432 games for the 1943-45 Braves. In 1946 he struggled to open up the season, hitting .167 through 25 games. The Braves then traded him to the Pirates in early June for Johnny Barrett, an outfielder with a very similar story to Workman. For the Pirates, Workman hit .221 with 16 RBIs in 58 games to finish off the 1946 season. He returned to the minors in 1947, finishing out his playing career in 1951.

George Grant, pitcher for the 1931 Pirates. He made his big league debut at age 20, pitching parts of three season for the St Louis Browns, where he posted a 1-4, 6.13 record in 38 games. After spending the entire 1926 season in the minors he returned to the majors for three seasons with the Indians, where he posted a 14-16, 5.39 record. He went 11-14, 4.58 in 39 minor league starts in 1930 before signing with the Pirates for 1931. He was used mostly in the mop-up role, making 11 relief appearances over a three month span before the Pirates sent him to the minors in July. Prior to the 1932 season the Pirates sold him to a minor league team from Fort Worth, which would be his last team in the pros, retiring after the year ended to take up umpiring in the minors. He had an 0-0, 7.41 record in 11 games and 17 innings with the Pirates.