With less than a month until Spring Training, there is still some time for the Pirates to make additional moves. I don’t think they’re done adding to the team just yet. One of the moves they might need to make could involve the outfield, which is a topic that was brought up to me this morning on Twitter.
@timwilliamsP2 g'm! I'm a card-carrying PirProspector. Curious if u think Bucs need a 4th OF or do we have it covered with utility players?
— Cool Hand Luke (@tcoulie) January 26, 2016
My response on Twitter was shorter, but to expand on this, I think the Pirates could use some outfield depth. They lost Jaff Decker (recently signed by the Rays to a minor league deal) and Keon Broxton (traded to Milwaukee), which meant they lost two of their best defensive bench options for the outfield, and two of the only true outfielders they had.
Granted, there’s not much need for a defensive option with the current Pirates’ outfield. The bench options will get some starts, but you’re not calling for a late inning defensive replacement for the trio of Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, and Gregory Polanco.
So let’s take a quick look at the current outfield options, broken down by category.
The Utility Players
These guys can all play the outfield, although most of them are infielders. Josh Harrison leads the group in his super utility role, although this comes with the disclaimer that he will probably be a starter at second base until Alen Hanson takes over. Sean Rodriguez is another option as a utility guy. It should be noted that Rodriguez and Harrison combined for 30 starts in the outfield last year. The rest of the bench players throughout the year combined for 25 starts, which made up 5% of the starts throughout the year. So maybe the Pirates have their bench outfielders already.
The other utility options are more in theory. Pedro Florimon has received work in the outfield. There was talk that Hanson could get work in the outfield last year, although Hanson told me a few weeks ago that he hasn’t been approached about that for this year. Cole Figueroa has played a few games in left field, so he’s another guy with limited experience. Adam Frazier has the most experience after playing center field last year, but he wouldn’t be an option until the second half of the 2016 season, at the earliest.
And honestly, if you’re going to take a utility infielder and make him an outfield bench option, might as well go with the guys who already have the experience, and who have fared well at the position (Rodriguez and Harrison).
The first base situation has a few guys who can also play the outfield, although the defense here is alarming. Michael Morse played six games in left field in 2015, although none in Pittsburgh. He can play the outfield, but you probably don’t want him there. Jason Rogers spent 14 innings in left field last year, but is another guy you don’t really want playing the outfield, especially left field at PNC Park. In each case, you’ve got the potential for a good bat, with horrendous defense.
I don’t know if I’d classify Jake Goebbert in the same situation. He has played all three outfield positions before, suggesting that he’s not just a guy finding time in a corner due to the lack of the DH in the National League. I don’t know how good his outfield defense could be, but he seems like a top candidate to be the true bench outfielder, and that seems like a better fit for him than the first base platoon.
The Real Outfielders
With Broxton and Decker gone, the Pirates don’t really have any true outfielders. Willy Garcia is the top option, but comes with question marks about his strikeouts. He’s got two great tools with his raw power and his arm. His upside is a strong fourth outfielder, and he could be a starter one day on a weaker team. He probably won’t be ready on Opening Day, but if the Pirates need a guy to replace one of their starters, he currently looks like the best option if the strikeouts improve in Triple-A.
Beyond Garcia, there’s Danny Ortiz and Antoan Richardson, who are both non-roster invitees. Both project as guys who might end up on the bench in Triple-A, or filler for the level until the guys in Double-A arrive in Indianapolis. I’m not sure I’d put these two in the mix.
The Need For Another Outfielder
The Pirates will be fine for bench options if McCutchen, Marte, and Polanco stay healthy. They could go with Sean Rodriguez, Josh Harrison if Hanson is ready for second, and maybe even Jake Goebbert. They won’t need many starts, since the Dream Outfield© will get a ton of playing time.
But what happens if the Pirates do see an injury? Willy Garcia sounds like a great backup on paper, but this all assumes he will be ready in time, and he has more work to do than guys like Elias Diaz and Alen Hanson to be an option for the majors in the first half. Jake Goebbert is interesting, but is an unknown in the majors. And the Pirates haven’t been an organization that relies on just one or two depth options, especially if one of those guys might not be ready in the first half.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pirates add more outfield depth. They don’t really need it in terms of bench help when the Dream Outfield© is ready. But they’d definitely need someone better than the group they have now, just in case there is an injury to one of the starters.
**Pittsburgh Pirates 2016 Top Prospects: #9 – Nick Kingham. The top 10 countdown continues. If you buy your copy of the Prospect Guide, you’ll get all of the reports, along with our grades, and the reports of the 21-50 prospects and every other player in the system. It’s the most information you can find on the Pirates’ system, and the cheapest price you can find for a prospect book this time of year, especially with the Top Prospect and Annual discounts.
**Ke’Bryan Hayes Ranks Among Top Third Base Prospects. The Pirates get another player in the MLB.com top ten lists. Hayes is one of the guys to look forward to this year, especially if he makes the jump to West Virginia.