Constructing The Pittsburgh Pirates Lineup

Mar 7, 2017; Bradenton, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle (13) before the start of the spring training game against the Atlanta Braves at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 7, 2017; Bradenton, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle (13) before the start of the spring training game against the Atlanta Braves at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports /

How should Clint Hurdle construct the everyday lineup for the Pittsburgh Pirates this season?

The Pittsburgh Pirates have been one of the National League’s best offensive teams the past three seasons. Since the start of the 2014 season, the Pittsburgh Pirates have scored 2,108 runs. This is good for the fifth most runs scored in the National League during this time.

In 2017, the Pittsburgh Pirates figured to have one of the league’s best offenses yet again. However, third baseman Jung Ho Kang was going to be a big part of this offense. But now it is unknown if Kang will be part of the 2017 Pirates or not.

For about a week now it had been known that Kang would not be ready for Opening Day, but it appeared he would be back at some point in April. On Friday, this changed. This is due to the Pirates learning on Friday that Kang had been denied a new work visa. Now it is unknown if Kang will play for the Pirates at any point in 2017 or not.

David Freese will now have an extended role with the 2017 Pirates. He already projected to be the Opening Day third baseman with Kang unavailable. Now Freese might be the team’s everyday third baseman for the foreseeable future.

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Even without Kang, the Pirates should still be a very potent offensive team in 2017. Last season they finished sixth in the National League in runs scored. This came in a season when Kang had multiple disabled list stints, Andrew McCutchen had the worst season of his career, Josh Bell did not spend the entire season in the Major Leagues, and Francisco Cervelli and Gregory Polanco battled injuries as well.

Getting Andrew McCutchen back on track, a full season of Josh Bell, and a healthy Francisco Cervelli and Gregory Polanco alone will be enough to help offset losing Kang. But the question that now arises is how should Clint Hurdle construct his lineup?

For starters, catcher Francisco Cervelli should bat lead off. The two best traits a lead off hitter can have is the ability to see a lot of pitches and to get on base. These are two things Cervelli does very well.

In 2016 he posted a .377 on-base percentage and a 14.2 percent walk rate. For his career, he owns a .361 on-base percentage and a 9.8 percent walk rate. Mix in the fact that Cervelli is a singles hitter with great on-base skills, and there really is no spot other than leadoff that makes sense for the Pirate backstop. This is why he should bat leadoff in 2017.

Even though a lot of baseball purist do not want to hear it, a team’s best hitter should bat second. The Pirates tried it last year with Andrew McCutchen, and, due to his poor 2016 season, it appeared to blow up on them. However, one poor season from McCutchen does not change what the data says.

Due to this, Andrew McCutchen should once again be in the two-hole for the Pirates in 2017. Now the Pirates have already said McCutchen will bat third in 2017. But this article is about what the 2017 Pirate lineup should be, not what it will be, and Andrew McCutchen should bat second.

The three hole in a Major League lineup is a very overrated spot. However, for the 2017 Pittsburgh Pirates, this spot should belong to Josh Bell. Bell is an on-base machine who posted a .368 on-base percentage and a 13.8 walk percent in 2016. Combine this with his power potential, and Bell is your three hitter in 2017.

Next up is the cleanup spot. While the cleanup spot is a tad overrated, it should still be your best hitter with power. If he were around this would be Jung Ho Kang, however, without him, this belongs to Starling Marte (remember, doubles and triples count as power too). After Marte, Gregory Polanco should bat fifth.

The sixth spot, belongs to the man that will repalce Kang. This is David Freese. To start the 2017 season David Frees will be the everyday third baseman and he should bat sixth.

Finally, there is the seven and eight spots in the lineup. These two spots should be reserved for the Pirates’ two worst hitters. This less than prestigious honor falls on Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer. Therefore, Josh Harrison should hit seventh and Jordy Mercer eighth.

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Ultimately, this is the lineup the Pittsburgh Pirates should field on a daily basis in 2017:

  1. Francisco Cervelli
  2. Andrew McCutchen
  3. Josh Bell
  4. Starling Marte
  5. Gregory Polanco
  6. David Freese
  7. Josh Harrison
  8. Jordy Mercer
  9. Pitcher (#FreeTheDH)