Pittsburgh Pirates: Grading the 2013 First Basemen

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Even though the Pittsburgh Pirates had a good season in 2013, the first base position continues to be a sore spot for the team.

Garrett Jones underperformed in a big way, forcing an August trade for Justin Morneau, who will likely be in a new uniform next year before ever getting a big hit in a Pirates uniform.

There is no real answer next year as Jones is arbitration eligible and shouldn’t be tendered a contract and Morneau may not be retained. Sanchez performed pretty well vs. left-handed pitching, but the Bucs need a first baseman that can drive in runs consistently and neither of the current three first baseman seems capable of doing so.

Aug 31, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Garrett Jones (46) rounds the bases to score after Pirates catcher Russell Martin (not pictured) hit a three-run home run against the St. Louis Cardinals during the third inning at PNC Park. The Pittsburgh Pirates won 7-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Where do the Pirates go from here?

Alex Dickerson is at Altoona and not ready and while the thought of moving Andrew Lambo to first base could be intriguing, that’s not the answer either.

I fully expect Pirates’ general manager Neal Huntington to look outside the organization to improve the position in 2014.

But with that being said, let’s take a look back at the 2013 season and hand out grades to each of the Bucs’ first baseman.

Garrett Jones- .233 AVG/ .289 OBP/ .419 SLG, 15 HR, 51 RBI

Pirates’ general manager Neal Huntington hasn’t made many mistakes with this roster, but one of them certainly was not dealing Jones while his value was the highest after last season.

I had serious trepidations about Jones coming into the season. When a player has a career year at the age of 31 like Jones did in 2012 when he hit 27 homers and posted a .832 OPS, it is likely he is going to take a huge step backwards the following season, which is what we saw from Jones in 2013.

Jones only brings value to the Pirates if he is raking against right-handed pitching, something he did at a very high rate in 2012.  Yet Jones hit only .241 against right handers in 2013 with all 15 of his homers and 50 RBI (one RBI vs. LHP).

He actually got off to a good start to the season as he posted an .884 OPS in April, driving in 15 runs, But it was all downhill after there as he had an OPS in the .600 range in three months and bottomed out in the month of September when he posted a .167 OBP and .538 OPS. The Bucs had Morneau playing a lot in September, but Jones’ lack of production was a big reason for that. Grade: D+

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