March 14, 2013; Clearwater, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Neil Walker (18) at bat against the Philadelphia Phillies at Bright House Networks Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Pirates Season Preview: Looking at the Second Basemen

I continue with my season preview of the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates with a look at the second base position.

Neil Walker is looking for a long-term deal and continues to improve with the bat, although health is starting to become a mild concern as Walker played only 129 games last season thanks to back problems, which is something to keep an eye on.

When Walker isn’t in the lineup, his presence is felt as he has turned into one guy that is almost irreplaceable in the Bucs lineup as there is no one behind him and no help in the minors at the  moment.

March 20, 2013; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Neil Walker (18) during the game against the Atlanta Braves at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

With that being said, let’s take a look at what to expect from the second basemen in 2013.

Starter: Neil Walker

The Bucs have to have a healthy Walker and a productive one as well. For three consecutive seasons now, Walker has produced above the league average for second basemen and he is a guy that I think can have a breakout year with the bat. His power numbers could be on the rise as Walker could turn into a nice run producer in the Pirates lineup.

If he comes anything close to his torrid month of July when he hit .358 with seven homers and 21 RBI, then Pirates fans will be pleased.

Defensively, Walkers’ glove will always be there so that is a bonus

2013 Projections: .285 AVG/ .350 OBP/ .450 SLG/ 18 HR/ 82 RBI

Backup: John McDonald

McDonald was acquired from the Diamondbacks to add a solid glove guy that can play both middle infield spots. In the past, Clint Hurdle has had to plug the likes of Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer into the lineup when Walker couldn’t go, so in McDonald, the Bucs have upgraded a slight bit.

He will catch the ball, which needs to be the top priority for the Bucs middle infielders and even though he only played four games at second base last season, compared to 54 at short and five at third, I would expect him to be the first option if Walker isn’t in the lineup.

McDonald won’t hit much, but neither do any of the other options.

2013 Projections: .250/.300/.380/5/25

Backup: Josh Harrison

Hopefully the experiment with Harrison is over, but I included him due to the fact that Brandon Inge will likely begin the season on the disabled list, which likely means Harrison makes the Opening Day roster.

It’s nice that Harrison can play multiple positions, but the fact that he doesn’t play any of them well makes him a liability.

His career .280 OBP makes him an even worse option.

He’s a guy who just doesn’t help this team in any fashion, but hey, J-Hay was a television star last year and the Bucs likely won’t send a guy down who they featured in a commercial no matter how bad he is.

2013 Projections: .225/.270/.335/4/20

Prospect to Watch: Dilson Herrera

The cupboard is pretty much bare when we talk second base prospects after guys like Jarek Cunningham and Drew Maggi seemed to have flamed out.

That brings me to the 19-year old Herrera, who is more of a second baseman than a shortstop.

Herrera is likely the only guy that has a shot at the majors and impressed last season, combining to hit .286 with eight homers and 29 RBI to go along with 12 steal with the GCL Pirates and State College Spikes.

He is a long way away, but is worth keeping an eye on.

My Take:

I look for a good year from Walker and  the Bucs really need one from the local product. Adding McDonald helps with the defense, but I would expect him to play more shortstop than second base. Either way, if Walker can stay healthy then he will be out there almost every day. If he does, second base is a position of strength on this team.

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Tags: Dilson Herrera John McDonald Josh Harrison Neil Walker Pittsburgh Pirates

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