Pittsburgh Pirates season preview: A look at the first basemen

As the Pittsburgh Pirates prepare to head north to kick off the 2013 season, one of the positions that could turn out to be a strength for the is first base.

Garrett Jones if coming off a career year and Gaby Sanchez could turn out to be a valuable part of Clint Hurdle’s squad, as long as he gets enough at bats and general manager Neal Huntington doesn’t make a mistake and trade him.

September 30, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Garrett Jones (46) rounds the bases after hitting a two run home run against the Cincinnati Reds during the third inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

I look for the at bats to be split as this will be a true platoon. Jones will play against righties and Sanchez against southpaws. Ultimately I would like to see Sanchez get more at bats than Jones, but that won’t happen unless Jones is dealt sometime during the season.

With that being said, let’s take a look at how the first base position shapes up this season

Starter: Garrett Jones

Jones is coming off of a season in which he hit .274 with 27 homers and 86 RBI, also posting an OPS of .832, even though he only had an OBP of .317. He tore right handed pitching up though, having the second best numbers in bseball-.289/25/76.

With that being said, he’s still a liability against left-handers, where he hit only .189 with two bombs and 10 RBI.

However, Jones will turn 32 during the season and guys at that age typically don’t improve numbers wise. I foresee a step back, which makes the fact that the Bucs didn’t deal him while his value was high a bit puzzling.

Defensively I don’t particularly like his glove anywhere, but he has turned himself into an average first baseman.

2013 Projections: .255 AVG/.305 OBP/.500 SLG/ 22 HR/ 70 RBI

Backup: Gaby Sanchez

While Jones struggles against the southpaws, Sanchez rakes against them. He only got 116 at bats as a Pirate a season ago after the Bucs acquired him and hit four homers while driving in 13 runs. In 38 at bats this spring, Sanchez has hit four bombs and driven in 10 runs.

Against lefties, Sanchez has a career average of .289 and an OPS of .869, so he will get a ton of at bats against them this season.

I would like to see things get to the point where Sanchez is the primary guy as he offers a ton more upside that a guy like Jones, who other than last season has been pretty bad since his rookie year. But with that being said, Sanchez will just have to take care of the opportunities he gets for now.

2013 Projections: .270/.295/.455/12/45

Prospect to Watch: Matt Curry

Alex Dickerson is the likely first baseman of the future, but Curry is intriguing. He will begin the season in Triple-A and is worth keeping an eye on. If the Bucs decide to hang onto Jones for the entire season, there won’t be room to add any first baseman, buy a big season from Curry could change their minds.

He’s a guy who got off to a great start in 2011 where he hit 15 homers and drove in 73 runs (combined between West Virginia and Altoona). Last season, the homers dropped to 11 (combined between Altoona and Indianapolis), but the RBI’s increased a bit to 78. He’s a guy with some pop that knows how to get on base, posting a career OBP of .377 and an career minor-league OBP of .853.

I know Clint Hurdle loves his veterans, but production speaks volumes and eventually you have to give the kids a shot when the vets aren’t getting the job done.

My Take:

I’m not the biggest Jones fan in the world, with good reason. The Pirates need so much more out of the guy that he has failed to deliver in the past. But with that being said I was encouraged by his 2012 season and hope he can come close to repeating it.

I think the Bucs would be pleasantly surprised by what Sanchez could bring to the team, so he’s the encouraging part of this platoon for me.

It made great sense to deal Joes in the offseason, but making sense has never been a priority with the front office. With that being said, the current platoon will be fine, as long as Hurdle uses both guys correctly.

Not playing every day, neither guy will be great, but if you give me 30 bombs and 100 RBI combined, then I am more than happy with that.

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Topics: Gaby Sanchez, Garrett Jones, Matt Curry, Pittsburgh Pirates

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