If you examine the depth charts of the National League Central division, you will notice that the middle infield is solid for every team involved.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have some question marks when it comes to shortstop and second base. I look to analyze how the middle infield compares to others in the division.
With the departure of Neil Walker, the Pirates have a hole to fill. Many fans believe that Josh Harrison will be the everyday second baseman for the Pirates. Harrison has shown signs of both power and speed but can he consistently be productive?
I really liked Neil Walker a lot. Walker was a switch hitter and was an exceptional fielder. His attitude and ability really helped to shape the middle infield for the Pirates.
Chicago signed Ben Zobrist this off season and it was a great pickup.
The Cardinals will start Kolten Wong at 2nd to start the season. Wong surprisingly had a terrific year last year hitting 11 home runs and batting in 61. Those are good stats considering the position. I look for Wong to play even better to start the season.
St. Louis made a bizarre move with San Diego and acquired Jedd Gyorko who also plays 2nd base. I will be curious to see how Mike Methany makes it work.
The Milwaukee Brewers don’t have a lot of depth at 2nd base. Scooter Gennett is the clear cut favorite, but I don’t think he will have that great of a year.
Brandon Phillips name was talked about a lot this off season. He practically had a deal to go to Washington but he didn’t want to go. He stayed with the Reds but I expect a below average year for him this year.
Pittsburgh re-signed Sean Rodriguez to a 1-year deal. Rodriguez could see considerable time both at 2nd base and 3rd base depending on Kang’s return and Harrison’s play.
I predict Harrison will hit .280 with 10-15 home runs and 50-60 RBI’s. I like him hitting in the 2 spot and the fact that he has speed.
When we think about the shortstop position, one name comes to mind – Jordy Mercer. Shortstop has been a disaster for the Pirates for the last few years. When Kang started last year at shortstop and Ramirez played 3rd, it was the best infield lineup the Pirates could put on thr field.
A lot of fans either hate or love Jordy Mercer. He isn’t a good offensively player but periodically he does have spurts of offensive success.
The Cardinals have one of the best offensive shortstops in Jhonny Peralta. Peralta hit for 17 homers and knocked in 71 RBI’s.
Chicago has a star in the youngster Addison Russell. Russell can hit the ball but we haven’t seen him play enough to see his arm strength. When the Cubs traded Starlin Castro, that opened the door for Russell to become the everyday shortstop Chicago needs.
Zack Cozart will play the middle of the infield with Brandon Phillips for the Reds.
Meanwhile Milwaukee will have the young Jean Segura back and I look for big things out of him.
Jordy Mercer is a below average offensive player. However, he does deserve some respect for his defense. He has a terrific arm and covers a lot of ground at the shortstop position. I think Mercer will start a majority of the season for the Pirates. He really only has Pedro Florimon behind him and he isn’t all that good.
Most of the time middle infield means double plays. I like the Mercer-Harrison combination, but the Pirates also need them both to be productive offensively if the Bucs want to compete in the brutal national league central.
Projections (highest to lowest)
Average: Zobrist, Harrison, Wong, Phillips, Gennett
Home Runs: Zobrist, Philips, Harrison, Wong, Gennett
Average: Peralta, Russell, Segura, Cozart, Mercer
Home Runs: Russell, Peralta, Segura, Cozart, Mercer
LET’S GO BUCCOS!