What Should The Pittsburgh Pirates Do At Third Base If Jung Ho Kang Is Suspended?
If the Pittsburgh Pirates need a third baseman, what should they do?
Yesterday, it was announced that Jung Ho Kang‘s DUI verdict hearing has been set. His verdict hearing is set for March 3 in his native South Korea. The Pittsburgh Pirates have announced that Kang will not report to the team until after his verdict hearing.
Due to his verdict hearing, the Pirates will not know Kang’s future until March 3 at the soonest. While I still believe it is unlikely that Kang will be suspended, it is certainly still a possibly. If he does end up missing time, what should the Pittsburgh Pirates do at third base?
What the Pirates should do is simple. If Kang is suspended, they should use a platoon at third base. This platoon should be between David Freese and Adam Frazier.
Last season David Freese was the team’s everyday third baseman to begin the season while Kang was on the disabled list. Freese played a very strong third base in 2016 finishing with a defensive runs saved (DRS) rating of +5. This came in 625 2/3 innings at third base and was a big reason for his 1.9 WAR.
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If Kang misses time in 2017 the Pirates will most likely play Freese everyday once again, but this is the wrong move. Freese struggled mightily against right-handed pitching in 2016. He hit just .252 with a .125 ISO, a wRC+ of 97, a .377 slugging percentage, and an alarming 29.2 percent strikeout rate against right-handed pitching.
Despite his struggles against right-handed pitching, Freese was very strong against left-handed pitching in 2016. He hit .337 with a .207 ISO, 159 wRC+, a .543 slugging percentage, and a 12.4 percent walk rate against left-handed pitching in 2016.
Simply put, Freese mashed left-handed pitchers last season. And this was nothing new to Freese as he owns a lifetime .301 batting average, .169 ISO, 135 wRC+, and 10.3 percent walk rate against left-handed pitching in 798 plate appearances.
David Freese’s numbers against right-handed pitching are not good enough to play everyday against right-handed pitching and that is one of two reasons why the Pirates should use a platoon. The other reason they should use a platoon is Adam Frazier.
During his 2016 rookie campaign Adam Frazier did nothing but hit. However, he struggled defensively. While he posted a DRS of 0, which is league average, at third base in 2016 it came in just 18 innings.
Last season Frazier hit .279 against right-handed pitching. This included a 109 wRC+, an 8.2 percent walk rate, and a .410 slugging percentage. While these numbers are just slightly above league average, they are a big improvement over Freese’s numbers against right-handed pitching in 2016.
Defensively, Adam Frazier may never be good enough to play everyday at the Major League level. But he is serviceable enough in the field that his bats warrants getting starts against right-handed pitching, and that is what should happen in Jung Ho Kang is suspended.
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If Jung Ho Kang is suspended the Pittsburgh Pirates will most likely play David Freese at third base everyday. However, that is the wrong move. If Kang is suspended, the Pirates should platoon Freese and Adam Frazier.