Rum Bunter’s 2020 Pittsburgh Pirates Staff Preview: Jack

(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /
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Pittsburgh Pirates, Josh Bell
(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

Strongest Position Group – Corner Infield

This Pirates team is filled with question marks, so deciding on the strongest position group is an arduous task. The corner infield spots probably provide the most depth, with a number of players who can play both third base and first base.

The obvious strength in this position group is Josh Bell. In 2019, Bell posted an impressive slash line of .277/.367/.569. He hit 37 home runs and drove in 116 runs as the team’s primary first basemen. However, he posted a defensive WAR of -1.8 and was largely disappointing at first base, so he will likely see a fair amount of time as the designated hitter in 2020’s adjusted play. If Bell can piece together anything like last year’s first half of the season for a 60-game stretch, his trade stock will rise higher than it already is.

Colin Moran seems slated to start the season at third base, but one could hardly say his starting job is secure. Moran, an average offensive player, hit .277/.322/.429 with 13 home runs and 80 RBI. His underwhelming offense and abysmal defense earned him -1.1 WAR, making him another candidate for the DH role.

Ke’Bryan Hayes, recovering from a bout with COVID-19, will likely join the team once he’s back to full strength. He had a middling offensive year in AAA last season but was hitting well in spring training before the world came to a halt. Offensive questions aside, Hayes will instantly be one of the best fielders in the majors and should supplant Moran as the everyday third basemen, especially given Moran’s ability to play first and DH.

Jose Osuna is another name that will likely see time on the corners this season. He has been an effective bench bat for the Pirates and played respectable defense at both first and third. Will Craig will likely see some innings at first, perhaps primarily as a late-game defensive substitution, as his bat leaves something to be desired. Phillip Evans is another depth option, added in the offseason after having a strong season at the AAA affiliate of the Chicago Cubs in 2019.