Pittsburgh Pirates: Carlos Santana Still Brings the Glove on Defense

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Pirates recently signed a veteran player who will fill in at first base and designated hitter.  How is his defense at first?

Having a capable defender at the first base position may not be something that stands out to people.  The Pittsburgh Pirates have had an issue at first base for some time, especially on defense.  The team went from Josh Bell, who was a poor defender during his time in Pittsburgh, to using Michael Chavis, a middle infielder.

So to see the Pittsburgh Pirates acquire some veteran players who can play the position is a relief. Having a true first baseman will be important for the development of Oneil Cruz, Rodolfo Castro, and any other infielders who are trying to improve their defense.  Having a strong defender at first can lead to even more confidence in a player making a throw.

So the question is whether or not the Pittsburgh Pirates actually upgraded the defense at first base.  Some questioned whether or not Carlos Santana, who is 36 years of age, will still be able to field the position.  The good news is that he showed this last year.

Santana played first base for the Kansas City Royals and the Seattle Mariners in 2022.  He played just over 655 innings at the position actually.  So yes, he is fresh at the position.  Even better is that he posted strong defensive metrics including still having good range.

In terms of Defensive Runs Saved, Santana posted a solid 4.  Furthermore, his UZR/150 graded out above league average as well at 2.1 The fact that he is still posting positive metrics is definitely something this team needs.  Last year, Michael Chavis posted a DRS of 2 and a below-league-average UZR/150 at -1.8.

I would expect Santana to be the Pittsburgh Pirates everyday first baseman in 2023.  Yes, the team brought in Ji-Man Choi who is a first baseman.  However, he is not as good a defender as Santana.  Could Choi be used more in the DH spot, than the older Santana?  Obviously, they will break up the innings at first for rest purposes, but it seems like this is the direction the lineup could go in.