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Pittsburgh Pirates May Have One of the Best First Basemen in Baseball Already


Much has been written recently of the Pittsburgh Pirates and their lack of offseason movement.  The Pirates have major issues in right field and first base, neither of which has been addressed by any big time trades or free agent signings.  Instead, the Pirates have opted to add a minor league bat in Chris McGuinness and resigned Travis Snider.  One can hope that these moves have terrific long term ramifications, but at this point, that is all that is — hope.  Neither has a resume that proves that they can get the job done over the long haul.


This makes you wonder if it isn’t time for the Pirates to seriously think about moving Pedro Alvarez to first base.  I think the Pirates can seriously improve their defense and their line-up by this move.  This could have a cascading effect throughout their lineup:

  • Alvarez has a great arm, but he commits way too many errors to be considered a quality third basemen.  He is much better suited for first base.  There is precedent in this kind of move: greats such as Albert Pujols have done it in the past, and Miguel Cabrera is reported to be doing the same this year.
  • This will allow the Pirates to move Neil Walker to third base, where I believe he will be a much needed defensive upgrade in that position, while allowing the Pirates to put better defensive options than Walker at second base.  Walker also has the bat to maintain the 3rd base position.
  • On days with the ground ball pitchers on the mound, Barmas at short and Mercer at second would round out a formidable defensive lineup.
  • On days where you need more offense, Mercer at short and whoever is hot out of d’Arnaud, Harrison, Hanson, etc. can play 2nd base.


One of the major benefits of this is that with defenders up the middle that have increased range, the Pirates may elect not to shift so much to protect Walker’s lack of range up the middle.  The other nice thing about this move is it gives you a right-handed power bat off of the bench in Gaby Sanchez, and helps to keep Barmes on the field where his glove is valuable, instead of on the bench where his bat isn’t so valuable.


Consider the following lineups:

Offensive Lineup Defensive Lineup
1. Starling Marte 1. Starling Marte
2. Josh Harrison 2. Jordy Mercer
3. Andrew McCutchen 3. Andrew McCutchen
4. Pedro Alvarez 4. Pedro Alvarez
5. Neil Walker 5. Neil Walker
6. Jordy Mercer 6. Russel Martin
7. Russel Martin 7. Jose Tabata
8. Travis Snider 8. Clint Barmas


Obviously, ordering will change depending on who is hot at the time and whether they are facing left or right handed pitchers, but these lineups seem to have a lot more meat and consistency to them, than one where Gaby Sanchez is inserted into the middle of the lineup.  The other nice thing about these lineups is that instead of having to ride out Gaby Sanchez’s slumps, you can ride any one of 4 middle infielders who get hot (Barmes, Harrison, d’Arnaud, Hanson).  If one cools off, send him to the bench and bring the next one up.


Hopefully the Pirates work with Alvarez in spring training on the move, and pull the trigger sooner rather than later.  There is no reason to keep a gaping hole at first when they have so many benefits in moving Alvarez there.



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Tags: Pedro Alvarez Pittsburgh Pirates

  • Mark Ecklund

    You’ve got to wonder about the credibility of an article which includes Chase D’Arnaud as an infield option. Would he be included in the offensive or defensive line-up?

    • gwallace

      Chase d’Arnaud was included because he is currently on the 40 man roster. Please feel free to include anyone you like, as I don’t think it matters. Whoever is hot at the time should get the playing time…

    • TG22

      He’s still on the 40 man. That tells me they see something in him worth keeping. He was set to break camp last year with the Pirates before his injury.

  • Tj Streib

    While I won’t argue with the notion of moving Pedro to first some day, Walker moving to third is NOT an option. The whole reason Walker moved to second was because he was such a defensive liability at third that he had “first round bust” written all over him until he made the move – it saved his career

    • gwallace

      Actually, Walker was moved to second because there was no place for him at third. When he came up, Andy LaRoche was supposed to be the next greatest thing at that position, and they had Alvarez coming up through the system.

      You need defense a lot more at second base than you do third. Third base and right field are the places to put your slower guys. A lot more balls are hit up the middle than to third base. If you do not believe this, let me know and I will lookup the stats for you. The Pirates do an inordinate amount of shifting to compensate for Walker’s range, getting a better defensive option in there (like Mercer) would help quite a bit.

    • ResistanceIsUseless

      I didn’t initially get the Tavares for Foli trade, but that was because it seemed Foli started something like 0 for his first two weeks as a Pirate (looking back, I see it wasn’t really that bad). Once he started hitting that year he did pretty well.

      You may have been more in the loop at the time than me, but I don’t remember Berra as having great range. For a year or so I thought he was their 3rd baseman of the future. Then they got Madlock. It seemed to me like they moved Berra to short in an effort to get both on the diamond at once and it backfired. I couldn’t help but wonder if they messed him up by moving him to SS.

    • Tj Streib

      Berra was supposed to be more of a rare slugging infielder, but he didn’t hit either.

      Foli had minimal range, but was steady… and a feisty spark-plug the team needed. He started 0-19 between the Mets & Bucs that year, but had a major hot streak mid-season & hit a career-high .291 (and then .300+ in the Series)

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  • Jim Barbe

    Were you drinking when you wrote this article….let’s hope so otherwise you really don’t know baseball.

    • gwallace

      I was not drinking, but never claimed to be the sharpest tool in the shed, please, spell it out for me…

  • BD_Vlad

    You’re wrong, TJ. Walker was moved from catcher to third because of terrible defense, but his glove was extremely strong at third base. He was moved to second solely in order to fill the hole in the lineup that resulted from Iwamura’s implosion.

    See this quote about him from BA’s 2009 prospect guide (the last one for which he was eligible): “A good athlete who was recruited by college football programs as a wide receiver, Walker runs well for his size and has turned into an above-average defender at third base. He has quick reactions, solid range and a strong arm.”

    • Tj Streib

      He was alreadyplaying second that year in the minors prior to Iwamura’s implosion – he went to Spring Training asking Maz to teach him to play second – He knew he wasn’t going to make it as a third baseman

    • Tj Streib

      Walker moved to third in ’07 & had 27 errors at Altoona. The pressures of the new position took it’s toll on his hitting. He moved to second in Spring Training of 2010 under the tutilage of Billy Maz (well ahead of the Iwamura implosion) because Pedro was penciled in to play third at Indy. It was also his last shot – His stock had dropped to the point that the Bucs were about to give up on him

    • BD_Vlad

      Raw error totals are not a good proxy for defensive ability, since they penalize players for having good range and handling lots of total chances. His defensive reputation at third base was very high – in BA’s tools poll, the scouts and managers of the International League chose him as the best defensive third baseman in that league in 2008.

      Also, while Walker’s stock had dropped, he was not out of options, since his contract had not been purchased until the 2008/2009 offseason. As such, he was not sent through waivers.

    • Tj Streib

      Agree to disagree – He was not going to make the big leagues as a 3B with Pedro pushing him. Thus the move to second right before Iwamura’s failure. The bat, which had disappeared at the AAA level, responded with the move

      I’ll admit I wasn’t 100% sure about his options situation in 2010

    • BD_Vlad

      He wasn’t going to start over Pedro, but his fielding at 3B was absolutely ML-caliber. It was always the bat that was holding him back once he reached the upper minors.

      If you’d like to agree to disagree, fair enough.

  • rumbunter

    It’s an interesting thought, but not one I believe the Bucs are currently considering seeing reports on recent offers for first baseman. But at one point they did consider it. I had a discussion with Pedro and he told me the Pirates were going to move him to first base. When he was told why–(because of the player the Bucs were going to acquire) he laughed it off when he hung up the phone. He was right to laugh because the Pirates were never able to acquire the player.
    The bottom line is it’s rather comical that the Pirates can’t develop or acquire a legit 1B. My fingers are crossed in the short term for Lambo to be the answer.

  • Joe Nastasi

    With Barmes pitchers have to go 7 inn. & 2 runs or less. He has shorten the lineup & offense for 2 years. Can’t wait till he moves onto his life’s work as a tee ball hitting coach

  • ResistanceIsUseless

    Why do you think Pedro’s fielding issues will go away at first?

    Why is Snider part of the offensive lineup and Tabata part of the defensive lineup?