October 3, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Clint Barmes (12) throws to first to complete a double play over Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann (16) during the fourth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Pirates Season Preview: A look at the shortstops

As the Pittsburgh Pirates inch closer to opening the 2013 season, I continue my trip around the diamond, as today I take a look at the shortstops heading north with the Bucs.

Clint Barmes  wasn’t the most popular player a season ago as his struggles at the plate got him on the bad side of fans, although he did turn in an outstanding season with the glove in 2012.

Mar 6, 2013; Fort Myers, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Clint Barmes (12) draws a walk in the second inning during a spring training game against the Boston Red Sox at JetBlue Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Barmes is back this season and instead of giving youngsters Ivan De Jesus Jr. or Jordy Mercer an opportunity, the Pirates elected to deal for 38-year old John McDonald.

McDonald won’t hit much but  he  brings an excellent glove, so at least the team has upgraded defensively from having to run Josh Harrison out there.

With that being said, let’s take a look at the shortstops.

Starter: Clint Barmes

To say Barmes had a disappointing year with the bat in 2012 would be kind.

The veteran only hit .229 and had an even worse OPS of .593, which represented over a 100 point dip from 2011. To his credit, Barmes didn’t take his struggles at the plate into the field, as he was outstanding with the glove.

Plain and simple, the Bucs need Barmes to hit more in 2013, although his slow spring doesn’t offer up encouraging signs. But given the fact that he is a favorite of manager Clint Hurdle and that he is making $5.5 million this season, Barmes will be run out there no matter how much he struggles.

At the end of the  day though I expect Barmes to be better in 2013, although not much better.

2013 Projections: .240 AVG/.290 OBP/.345 SLG/7 HR/40 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 Harrison and Mercer into the lineup when Barmes 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.

McDonald won’t hit much, but neither do any of the other options, however the jury is still out on Mercer and De Jesus Jr. Until they get an real opportunity, we will never know.

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

Prospect to Watch: Alen Hanson

Following Hanson’s breakout season in 2012, he gained national attention by making every Top 100 prospect list to be found. As a middle infielder with excellent speed and a good bat, including some power, Hanson is a very valuable prospect and the Pirates will leave him at short until he proves that he can’t play there. If he shows that he can, the 20-year old is the Pirates shortstop of the future.

Prospect to Watch: Ivan De Jesus Jr.

I only included De Jesus Jr. here because he had an excellent spring after coming over in the Joel Hanrahan trade. His glove needs some work, but if he  continues to hit and Barmes struggles, the Bucs may be forced to make a move. At the very minimum, De Jesus can open up 2014 as the leading candidate to win the shortstop job as there is no way that Barmes will be re-signed.

My Take:

I wasn’t  as down on Barmes last season as most people. Catching the ball at the shortstop position is very important  and Barmes did it as well as anyone. with that being said though, they have to get something out of him with the bat.

If he struggles, I don’t see how a guy like De Jesus or Mercer can’t get a long look. But you know how the Bucs like to stick with washed up vets before giving young talented players a shot.

Barmes will be a  little better offensively and the combination of he  and  McDonald will be  very good offensively.

But the Pirates will get nothing offensively from the duo so I expect before long that a change will be in order.

Follow City of Champions Sports on Twitter and Facebook

Follow Matt Shetler on Twitter and Facebook

Tags: Alen Hanson Clint Barmes Ivan De Jesus Jr. John McDonald Pittsburgh Pirates

comments powered by Disqus