Last season, the Pirates moved McCutchen to the number two spot in the batting order. A move praised by fans of sabermetrics. The three spot sees two outs and no runners on, and the Pirates felt moving McCutchen up a spot would help the Pirates with their run scoring output.
McCutchen struggled early on last season, and no batting second was not the reason why. Consider this, before McCutchen had the series off against the Atlanta Braves, he had a .310 wOBA, 93 wRC+, 0.4 BB/K rate, and a 34.8 percent hard contact rate in the second spot (278 PA). Hitting third, McCutchen had a .305 wOBA, 90 wRC+, 0.2 BB/K, and a hard contact rate of 30.1 percent.
McCutchen is projected to be the Pirates best hitter according to Steamer. Projection a .363 wOBA. He is projected to have a high on-base of .378, making him a potential for the leadoff spot. But his power, .470 slugging, and .187 ISO is more beneficial with him hitting second in 2017, just like where he was for the first half of 2016. A high on-base player in Bell leading off with McCutchen second will help the Pirates most over the course of the season. Clint Hurdle should put McCutchen back in the two spot, permanently.