Can Nick Evans Help The Pirates In 2012?
The Pittsburgh Pirates have quite a logjam at first base. Logjams are normally a good problem to have, however in this case, none of the logs would be very good choices to build a raft with.
One of those logs is Nick Evans, whom the Pirates acquired this offseason after he parted ways with his former team, the New York Mets.
Evans is 25 years old that was drafted in the 5th round of the 2004 amateur draft. The left-handed slugger came in and hit .258/.311/.462 in his first season in the Gulf Coast League. Through the next four seasons, Evans hit .272/.319/.479, .254/.320/.419, and .286/.374/.476 before making his major league debut in 2008. Since then, he has played 159 games (419 plate appearances) in the show and has hit .256/.314/.403 with 8 home runs, 15 walks, and 48 strikeouts. Those aren’t great numbers, which explains why Evans hasn’t been able to stick at the big league level and was released for nothing at the end of last season.
The most encouraging season of Evans’ young career was probably 2010, where he hit .300/.371/.536 with 23 home runs split between AA (88 games) and AAA (37) games. He also had his best big league season in 2010 even though it was in just 20 games. He hit .306/.324/.472 and had people thinking he was finally turning it around. However, a poor .256/.314/.403 big league performance in 2011 had the Mets giving up on him, even though he hit .313/.375/.462 in 64 games at AAA last summer.
Evans clearly wasn’t going to fit with the future of the Mets with Ike Davis over there, but the Pirates figured it would be a pretty nice player to sign. The Pirates seem to always go after these types of players, former big prospects that haven’t panned out. Lastings Milledge, Jeff Clement, Andy LaRoche, and Andrew Lambo are just a few such names. I’m sure that other teams would have had interest in Evans as well, but the Pirates were just the first team to use their opportunity to sign him when he was going through waivers.
Clement is actually a pretty good guy to compare to Evans, although Clement was a former first round pick, so the stakes were a little higher with him. Obviously he hasn’t panned out and probably never will. He’s 28 years old now and missed almost the entire 2011 season with injuries, he’s a long shot to ever even see the big leagues again. I like Evans chances better however. He has hit well at some level the last two seasons and PNC Park could be a nice place for him to hit.
His strikeouts are a concern, as is with most young power hitting prospects that struggle. If he can cut those down and work off his past successes, Evans could help the Pirates at first base this year.
Obviously, Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee are the two best first basemen the Pirates have right now, and they will almost surely be the two guys that get the most starts there this year. However, if something goes wrong and the Pirates need to call up another first baseman, Evans could be a serviceable guy. At the very least, he’ll continue to work in AAA and he will keep his upside at least through this year if not just because of his age.
The Pirates have at least one good first base prospect in Alex Dickerson, but none of the guys at the upper levels profile to be even average big league first basemen, but I suppose it’s nice to have a bunch of “ehhhhh” players then just a few of them.