Aug 18, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez (24) takes ground balls at first base before playing the Atlanta Braves at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Assuming not much changes from what the projected Pittsburgh Pirates infield looks like at this very moment, the offense should — and will have to — make up for the lack of range defensively in the 2015 season.
The infield looks like Pedro Alvarez at first base, Neil Walker at second, Jordy Mercer at shortstop and Josh Harrison at third base. Harrison is by far and away the best defender of the four and is the only player of the group who can actually match his offense with his defense. Neil Walker is a good defender when he can actually get to the ball, but he does not have much range. Mercer is similar to Walker in that manner, but because shortstop is a more important defensive position, his glove could be a problem. Mercer does rate well in defensive WAR, but his range is limited. The main reason Clint Barmes was fighting with Mercer over the spot at short was because of defense. Barmes was nowhere near Mercer offensive, but his defense is close to perfection. Mercer can be a good defender, but he will have to match, or hopefully exceed, his offensive production from last season.
Alvarez is quite possibly the biggest question mark on the team and his lack of defensive skills is just the tip of the iceberg. Alvarez could not make up for his terrible defense at third base last year on offense. He was a huge liability at third and it eventually transferred to the plate. There were some rumblings about trading him, but because he did not produce last season, no one made a serious offer. There is still a chance El Toro could be traded, but that seems unlikely. Alvarez will need to return to his 2013 form on offense, if he is going to be an everyday player in 2015.
The Pirates infield will be in the discussion as one of the best offensively in the National League next season and the team will need every bit of that to make up for a defense that leaves a lot to be desired.