Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington told the media on Monday morning that the starting spots at third base and shortstop have been decided. Jung Ho Kang will be the starter at third base over Colin Moran, while Erik Gonzalez has beat out Kevin Newman for the starting shortstop spot.
The interesting decision now will be whether the Pirates decide to keep both Moran and Newman on the bench. Moran still has an option left, but the problem with sending him down is that Ke’Bryan Hayes will be the starting third baseman at Indianapolis this year and he’s going to play every day. You also have a similar problem with Newman and Cole Tucker. Newman can play second base, so if he’s the backup at two spots, he will get some playing time. Moran has played some first base in the past, so that appears to be an option for him to get occasional at-bats.
It seems like Moran is more certain to make the team according to this quote:
Colin Moran is going to get some work at first base in addition to playing third. Kevin Newman still has a chance to make the team as a backup middle infielder.
— Adam Berry (@adamdberry) March 18, 2019
The Pirates really like the defense that Gonzalez brings, but he’s going to have to improve his hitting to keep the starting spot. He has a career .681 OPS over three seasons as a backup for the Cleveland Indians. Gonzalez has a tough winter this off-season in the Dominican while playing full-time (.527 OPS) and hasn’t hit much yet this spring, so it appears that the defense pushed him over the top.
Kang has shown power this spring with five homers, plus he has played better defense than Moran, who has a .660 OPS this spring and put up a .747 OPS (and a -0.8 dWAR) as the full-time third baseman for the Pirates last year.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.