Whoever is not starting at third base
While the Pittsburgh Pirates enter the 2019 season with questions surrounding third base, there is also a lot of potential at the position. Between Colin Moran and Jung Ho Kang third base could very well become a position of strength for the Pirates. However, it could also be a position that struggled to contribute offense on a consistent basis.
During his first full MLB season Moran slashed .277/.340/.407 for the Bucs in 2018. Moran’s 8.4% walk rate and 17.6% strikeout rate were both encouraging signs for a rookie, but his power never flourished leading to an ISO of just .130. Posting a wRC+ of 103 Moran rated out as a slightly above league average hitter with the league average being 100.
After missing all of 2017 due to work visa issues, Kang got a new work visa late last spring. After hitting the cover off the ball in the minor leagues, Kang appeared close to a return to the MLB level during the summer. However, wrist surgery shut that down and limited Kang to just six at bats during the season finale series in Cincinnati.
If Kang can knock the rust off this spring and return to the hitter he was for the Pirates in 2015 and 2016, then the Pirates have a bonafide slugger at third base. This, however, may prove to be a lot easier said than done. Although, Kang’s .310/.408/.517 slash line in the minor leagues last season and his ability to pick up a pair of base hits in his six MLB at bats last season were both encouraging signs.
Both Moran and Kang will be on the Opening Day roster. Seeing a platoon of the two at third base with Moran starting against right-handed pitching and Kang against lefties may prove to be the way Hurdle goes at third base. But one of the two grabbing the bull by the horns at third base and running with it is a possibility, too.
Regardless of how it shakes out at third base, Moran or Kang may prove to become Hurdle’s go to pinch hitter. They also have the ability to make third base a position of strength for the Bucs in 2019.