What role could utility man Phillip Evans play for the Pittsburgh Pirates during the 2021 season?
During the 2020 season there were few players in baseball who appeared to be on their way to a feel good story type season more than Pittsburgh Pirates utility man Phillip Evans. After earning an Opening Day roster spot for the second time in his MLB career, Evans hit his way into extended playing time with the Pirates.
Through his first 45 plate appearances of the season Evans had hit for a .359/.444/.487 slash line to go with a 159 wRC+. He walked 11.1% of the time and struck out at just a 15.1% clip. Between third base, first base, desiganted hitter, and right field, Evans was starting to play on a near daily basis for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
During the 2018 season the New York Mets appeared ready to give Evans an extended look at second base. However, after suffering an injury in the field his season was cut short. This also spelled the end of his tenure with the Mets.
After spending the entire 2019 season in the minors with the Chicago Cubs, Evans appeared to be breaking out with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2020. This what appeared to have Evans on track to be one of the best stories of the 2020 MLB season. Unfortunately, injuries would strike again for Evans.
On August 8th against the Detroit Tigers, Evans collided in shallow right field with Gregory Polanco. A concussio and fractured jaw later, the 2020 season was over for Evans.
Evans will be full go by the time spring training rolls around. Barring any lingering issues from his injury, Evans should be a lock to once again make the Opening Day roster for the Pittsburgh Pirates. So, what role(s) could Evans play in 2021?
Entering the 2021 season fans should expect to see plenty of Evans against left-handed pitching. It could in right field in place of Polanco or first base in place of Colin Moran. Either way, Evans should get plenty of starts against LHP.
If the National League does keep the designated hitter in 2021, this could also benefit Evans. That could open the door for Evans to play on a near daily basis, rather that be as the DH or in right field with Polanco serving as the DH.
In the case there is no DH in 2021, Evans will likely be a key pinch hitter for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Manager Derek Shelton will likely go to Evans any time he is not in the line up as the opposing team looks to go left-on-left in a high leverage situation in the late innings. Evans should also get plenty of opportunities to pinch hit against right-handed pitchers.
Evans will likely be given the opportunity to play a role for the Pirates in 2021. A platoon man, go to bench bat, or a late inning pinch hitter against lefties are all roles Evans could serve. If Evans can continue to hit the way he did in 2020, he could see his role potentially grow as well.