Who will get the last bench spot for the Pirates?
The last bench spot on the Pittsburgh Pirates’ team will likely be the last position battle decided this spring. With a recent injury to outfielder Jaff Decker, the spot looks like it’s coming down to two players: outfielder Andrew Lambo and infielder Pedro Florimon, who has been a pleasant surprise this spring. There are positives and negatives to each player, but whomever wins the job will be greatly important to the team’s success this year; with the number of injuries that happen every season, any number of bench players could see major time in 2015.
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The case for Andrew Lambo
Lambo was given an opportunity to win the final bench spot last spring, but batted .095 (4 for 42) en route to a trip back to Triple-A Indianapolis after spending some time in the majors the previous season. He’s been given another chance this spring, but once again, he is playing poorly, to the tune of a .160 average (8 for 50). If spring training stats truly mean anything, he hasn’t earned a spot on the team.
But spring training stats can be very deceiving, and often are not used to determine a player’s fate. The Pirates may have made that mistake last season, as Lambo went on to bat .312 with a .923 OPS between Indianapolis, Jamestown, and Pittsburgh in 2014. And it was only in 2013 that Lambo led the minor leagues in home runs with 32. He’s also still young, and is left-handed; the Pirates don’t currently have a left-handed bat slated to be on the bench at the start of the regular season. The Pirates have liked left-handed power off the bench in the past, as seen with former Pirate Travis Snider. If Lambo can get more regular playing time in the majors, and accrue a larger sample size, his power might eventually carry over.
The case for Pedro Florimon
Florimon’s name has been relatively quiet throughout spring training. The Pirates claimed him off of waivers from the Washington Nationals back in November, and the move was also a quiet one. This is because Florimon doesn’t have an impact bat; through time in four major league seasons, Florimon has a .204 average and a .565 OPS.
There are positives and negatives to each player, but whomever wins the job will be greatly important to the team’s success this year
But the Pirates didn’t claim him for his bat; they claimed him for his defense and his speed. He has 24 stolen bases to just 7 times caught stealing in his major league career, and in 2013, when he received regular playing time, he had a WAR of 1.3 (according to Fangraphs), thanks in large part to his defense. The current projected bench doesn’t offer much in the way to speed or reliable defense, as most of it is centered around power and versatility. Florimon adds to that versatility, and can be a late-inning defensive replacement in the infield, like Clint Barmes was last season.
So, who should win the job?
Each player gives something different to the team. Lambo with his power and upside, Florimon with his defense and speed. Then again, is it worth it to take a risk on a player who has had two poor spring trainings and whose power has failed to carry over to the majors yet in Lambo? Maybe later in the season, but right now, Florimon should get the spot. The main reason for this is due to Lambo having minor league options and Florimon having none. Thus, if the Pirates chose Lambo and wanted to keep Florimon, Florimon would have to clear waivers and accept an option to Indianapolis; Lambo could be sent directly to Indianapolis without having to clear waivers. For the preservation of depth, Florimon should be given a chance on the bench to see what value he adds to the team; it’s not worth it to risk losing him if he can be of value to this team.
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