With the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton getting ready for the 2014 season, there are more than a few question marks that need to be answered for the Bucs to duplicate their success of last season.
There are questions in the starting rotation, but today I want to focus on the bats, most notably the first base and right field spots.
I was a fan of the Pirates not spending unnecessary money on a marginal right fielder with Gregory Polanco on the horizon and while I would still like to see them add a first baseman, given what is available, I like Andrew Lambo a shot and not giving up assets for a less than desirable option.
That begs the question though of whether the Pirates can get enough production from both positions in order to contend this season.
Last season, Pirates first basemen ranked tied for last in runs scored (58), tied for 25th in home runs (17) and 25th in RBIs (71) — although they did rank 10th in OBP and 13th in OPS.
Their right fielders ranked 27th in OBP (.299) and 26th in slugging (.385).
That simply can’t happen again this season.
I have no problem with the Tabata/Snider platoon, but it must be better this season.
Both guys fought injuries a season ago and while Snider didn’t have a great season, Tabata did some nice things in limited at bats. He should get a nice long look this year. However, while the duo won’t offer up much power or speed at the position, they have to prove that they can get on base more consistently.
Tabata posted a .342 OBP last season and has a career .339 mark. I’m fine with that. His .342 OBP would have ranked him 26th in the entire National League last year had he had enough at bats to qualify.
Snider is a different story.
While people keep waiting for Snider’s power to emerge, I’m more concerned with his abysmal .281 OBP. He boasts only a .303 career number and ideally you would like that number to creep into the .330 range for the Bucs to really have a solid platoon.
At first base, Gaby Sanchez will be fine, especially against left-handed pitching.
That makes it vital that a guy like Lambo, or an addition outside the organization comes in and produces.
You can almost make a case that Snider and Lambo are two of the most important pieces to the Pirates lineup in 2014. If they can prove to be effective, the Bucs will be deep up and down the lineup and on the bench.
Production in right field and first base would be nice for the Pirates this season.
But keep in mind that not every team in the National League has stacked lineups across the board. Almost every team has holes to deal with. For the Bucs, they just happen to be the same holes.
Also keep in mind that the Bucs won 94 games a season ago without getting much from either position. If both platoon situations improve, it could go a long way to repeating their success of 2013.