Behr: Pittsburgh Pirates Rosterbilities At First Base

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Each week, Rosterbilities will list depth options for the Pittsburgh Pirates, whether those options come via free agency or by trade. Today, we’ll take a look at available first basemen that may fit the Pirates payroll constraints:

Derrek Lee

547 AB, 80 R, 19 HR, 80 RBI, .260/.347/.428, 7.2 VORP*

As RumBunter posted on Sunday,   Lee could be very beneficial for a Pirates team looking to acquire a right-handed bat. He’s belted 74 homeruns over the past three seasons and is second among active first basemen in errors uncommitted. Lee’s recovering from offseason surgery, which repaired a ligament in his right thumb, and is expected to be ready for spring training.

Lance Berkman

404 AB, 48 R, 14 HR, 58 RBI, .248/.368/.413, 7.8 VORP

The Bucs have reportedly “kicked the tires” on the veteran switch-hitting Berkman. He has great patience at the plate (career .409 OBP) and has put up consistent HR and RBI totals throughout his career (with the exception of 2010). Unfortunately, Berkman has become injury-prone, landing on the DL three times over the past two seasons. He’s an average defender at first, but may still improve the Pirates infield (3 DRS, defensive runs saved.)

Troy Glaus

412 AB, 52 R, 16 HR, 71 RBI, .240/.344/.400, 8.5 VORP

While Glaus isn’t the perennial power threat he once was  (47 HR in 1999, 41 HR in 2000), he’s still a very good run producer that the Bucs desperately need in their lineup. He takes a good number of walks and has transitioned smoothly across the infield. If healthy, Glaus could be a productive first baseman.

Russell Branyan

376 AB, 47 R, 25 HR, 57 RBI, .237/.323/.487, 8.8 VORP

Branyan has fantastic power, but like most “big-swinging” hitters, has issues making contact.  He’s not as patient at the plate as he should be, and is limited defensively at this point in his career.

Jorge Cantu

472 AB, 50 R, 11 HR, 56 RBI, .256/.304/.392, 1.5 VORP

Cantu has shown signs of power (28 HR in 2005, 29 HR in 2008) but has not been consistent with his numbers (14 HR in 2006, 16 HR in 2009, 11 HR in 2010). He is however a reliable RBI producer, with back-to-back 95+ RBI campaigns in 2008 and 2009. Cantu can play any position in the infield, though his strengths lie at the corners.

Ty Wigginton

581 AB, 63 R, 22 HR, 76 RBI, .248/.312/.415, 7.3 VORP

While Wigginton’s the quintessential utility player, I see him as a starting first baseman or right fielder for the Bucs. An All-Star in 2010, Wigginton has posted four 20+ HR campaigns and five .460+ SLG seasons. He’s a free-swinger and has the tendency to be very streaky at the plate. 

GM Behr would pursue Derrek Lee, though any of these options should work and start a platoon in right field. Here’s an updated version of the Bucs depth chart, according to Rosterbilities (special thanks to Jason Martinez at

C: Chris Snyder, Ryan Doumit, Jason Jaramillo

1B: Player(s) above, Garrett Jones, Doumit, Steve Pearce

2B: Neil Walker, Argenis Diaz, Pedro Ciriaco

3B: Pedro Alvarez, Cantu/Wigginton, Walker

SS: Ronny Cedeno, Diaz, Ciriaco

LF: Jose Tabata, Lastings Milledge, Alex Presley

CF: Andrew McCutchen, Tabata, Presley, Gorkys Hernandez

RF: Jones, Branyan/Wigginton, Milledge, Doumit, John Bowker, Pearce

*Read more on this term at Baseball Prospectus’ glossary

Next week, we’ll examine options at shortstop and second base.

Jesse Behr is the executive assistant for Baseball Prospectus.  Follow him on  Twitter

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Tags: Derrek Lee Jesse Behr Jorge Cantu Lance Berkman Pirates Blog Russell Branyan Troy Glaus Ty Wigginton

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