Second baseman Neil Walker will join the Pirates Tuesday for game two of three in Tampa Bay against the Rays. Walker will most likely be featured in the Pirates lineup at designated hitter while they finish their series in Tampa.
Where should Hurdle place Walker in the lineup? He has batted second for much of the season and has performed admirably thus far – batting .280 with 11 home runs and 35 RBIs.
It is hard to see a situation in which the Pirates would remove a surging Starling Marte from his spot in the lineup to make room for Walker. Presuming everything goes as planned the top three of Gregory Polanco, Marte and Andrew McCutchen is like set in stone for the next few years.
In the nine games that Starling Marte has batted in the second spot in the lineup Marte is 13-41 batting .317. As long as Marte swings a hot bat there is no reason to keep his speed at the bottom of the lineup.
Neil Walker who is batting an exception .333 with runners in scoring position deserves to be the cleanup hitter. He is second on the team in home runs and could really cause some damage batting behind the Pirates trio of skilled outfielders.
Here is the toughest thing for Clint Hurdle, once Walker is healthy what do you do with Josh Harrison. The do-it-all guy is batting .304 with five home runs and 22 RBIs and contrary to what I wrote in May, Harrison is showing no signs of slowing down.
Manager Clint Hurdle told reporters prior to the game today that keeping Josh Harrison in the lineup is a priority. So where does Harrison play in the field? Do Pedro Alvarez’s pats decrease to make room for Harrison?
For whatever reason, no one seems to want to give Harrison a chance at shortstop and with Mercer getting hot, the arguments to remove him from the lineup are getting more and more difficult to defend.
Hurdle should use Harrison as a fill-in all over the field. He can bat from any spot in the order and can be plugged in at the player that he replaces spot as to not alter the lineup each day. Harrison should be allotted five games per week at a minimum. He can play first base for a game or two, third base for a game or two, and give one of the outfielders a day off for the other two.
Harrison can play anywhere on the field and there is no reason to simply remove Alvarez from the lineup. If tonight’s home run was not a reminder enough, Alvarez’s pure power is threating enough to stir up opposing pitchers. If he can get hot, he can carry the offense.
The Pirates lineup should look something like this:
Neil Walker/Harrison 2B
Pedro Alvarez/Harrison 3B
Jordy Mercer/Harrison SS
The above lineup is a potent one, one that could cause a lot of damage as the Pirates attempt to ascend the National League Central standings. The top five alone are arguably one of the best in the division with the Harrison/Alavarez platoon at six having the potential to be especially lethal.
It’s amazing to think where this team would be in the standings if they had the same production from their pitching staff as they did last season.
At the end of May I posted a poll asking how you thought that the Pirates season would end. 59 percent said that they would finish .500 or better. Of that 59 percent, 25 percent predicted that the Pirates would make the playoffs. Those were relatively high percentages considering that the Pirates were 23-29 at the time and were not looking too good.
I ask again: