Filling out the Bucco Bench

The Pirates currently possess a plethora of corner outfielders and first basemen, as they have now stockpiled eight capable players at those positions. The players include Starling Marte, Jose Tabata, Alex Presley, Travis Snider, Jerry Sands, Garrett Jones, Gaby Sanchez, and Clint Robinson; a trade involving one of these players could very well be in the works. Since there are only three starting spots for these eight players, we can’t help but look ahead to Bucs’ bench for the 2013 season.

Charlie Wilmoth at Bucs Dugout recently updated his hypothetical 25-man roster, taking the Joel Hanrahan trade and Francisco Liriano signing (which looks like it will fall through) into account. He predicts the bench will consist of Sanchez, Sands/Snider (based on platoon), Michael McKenry, Jordy Mercer, and Josh Harrison. Marte would start in left, Sands and Snider would share time in right, and Jones would get the nod at first. This seems pretty logical at the moment; a roster move could  potentially foil the plans. As we’ve mentioned before, we could see the Pirates trading Jones, even though that wouldn’t be the best move.

The hypothetical roster leaves Tabata, Presley, and Robinson on the outside looking in. Tabata is out of options, so the Bucs could deal him or try to slide him through waivers. Presley struggled through most of 2012 and fell out of favor, but could still be a decent bench piece. Robinson, who turns 28 in February, has been a career minor leaguer to this point; he’ll probably see time down at Class AAA Indianapolis.

If the Pirates somehow retain all eight of these first basemen/outfielders, nearly all of them may get the chance to contribute in 2013. There are plenty of injuries, slumps, and other issues to go around over the course of 162 games. This also applies to Chase d’Arnaud and Tony Sanchez, who are the only other two position players on the 40-man roster that haven’t been discussed in this post yet. With that, here’s a look at these potential bench players for the upcoming season…

- Gaby Sanchez came to the Bucs at the trade deadline last year after spending the start of his career in his hometown of Miami. He crushed 19 homers while hitting .273 in his first full season in 2010. Sanchez followed that up with another strong campaign in 2011, as he represented the Marlins in the All-Star Game. He struggled for Miami last year, hitting just .202 before coming to Pittsburgh. After the trade, he hit .241 with four home runs in 50 games. Gaby has decent potential to be a solid right-handed bat off the bench. He has been better against lefties in his career (.291 avg, .869 OPS vs. LHP), so splitting time at first with Garrett Jones should help him. Here’s Sanchez belting his first homer as a Bucco:

- Travis Snider was also dealt to Pittsburgh at last year’s deadline. He hit .250 with one home run in 50 games for the Pirates, while dealing with hamstring issues down the stretch. Snider has upside and raw power, so plenty of people around baseball like what he has to offer. His amazing catch at Citi Field was one of the plays of the year:

- Jerry Sands is the latest addition to the team, coming over from Boston in the Joel Hanrahan trade. Like Snider, Sands offers that potential upside, so he’s an intriguing bench player. While their upside comes with risk, they make a formidable platoon in right field. Sands still has a minor league option remaining, so the Bucs could stick him in Indy. However, they probably view him as the type of player that may figure things out over the course of a full season. Here’s his rookie hazing with the Dodgers in 2011:

- Michael McKenry comes off a 2012 season that almost landed him the starting job. However, Russell Martin will assume that role, so McKenry will slide to the bench. He showed surprising power last year, knocking 12 bombs and 14 doubles in 88 games. The Fort has potential to be a solid backup catcher, assuming he can contribute both offensively and defensively when he gets his chances. Despite being the backup, McKenry will still be an important piece to the 2013 club. His crucial RBI double against Aroldis Chapman in June was one of our top ten most memorable Pirates moments of 2012:

- Jordy Mercer appeared in 42 games for Pittsburgh last season, but had just 10 at-bats after taking a paternity leave in August. His bat needs some work at the big league level, but he’s currently the best backup shortstop option. His first and only MLB home run came against the Diamondbacks on August 8th:

- Josh Harrison doesn’t have much of a bat or glove, but he’s a gritty spark plug that Clint Hurdle seems to be a fan of. He made the highlights at the end of August when he barreled Yadier Molina (but Molina held on to record the out):

- Jose Tabata, who is apparently 24, hasn’t lived up to his hype and has yet to show any sort of power. He also struggled stealing bases last year, going just 8 for 20 in stolen base attempts. One plus to Tabata’s game is his strong arm; here he is gunning out Asdrubal Cabrera last June:

- Alex Presley possesses a much weaker arm than Tabata, but clearly has more speed and has shown more pop (10 HR last year). His walk-off infield single on April 7th helped the Pirates notch their first victory of the 2012 season:

- Clint Robinson was acquired from the Kansas City Royals a few weeks back. As mentioned earlier, he’ll probably see some time at Indianapolis in 2013. He’s been successful in the minors, but was blocked in the Royals system. Robinson has just four MLB at-bats under his belt, three of which came at PNC Park last year. Here’s former Pirate Joel Hanrahan striking him out to close out a Bucco win:

- Chase d’Arnaud appeared in 48 games in 2011, compared to just eight in 2012. He hit .252 with six homers, four triples, 24 doubles, and 34 stolen bases for Indy last year. He’s not much of a hitter, but he does have some wheels. Here he is nailing a triple into the North Side Notch back in 2011:

- Tony Sanchez, already labeled a “bust” by some Bucco fans, hasn’t been spectacular in the minors after being draft fourth overall in 2009. However, he’s still next in line if either Russell Martin or Michael McKenry go down with an injury this season. A quick scouting video on Sanchez:

Assuming they all remain with the club, most of these guys will get their chances in Pittsburgh in 2013 at one point or another. While not all of them can make the squad at once, there should be some openings between April and September where these role players can step up. Without much star power after Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates must rely on each and every player, from starters to bench players. These guys are going to have opportunities, but they must make the most of them. There should be a few solid battles for roster spots on the Bucco bench.

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