Pittsburgh Pirates: Comparing Projected 2023 Lineup & 2013's Lineup

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First Base

The Pittsburgh Pirates used a two-player platoon at first base back in 2013 and will deploy a similar strategy again in 2023. Part of their two-player platoon a decade ago was Gaby Sanchez. Acquired at the 2012 trade deadline, Sanchez is somewhat of a forgotten but unsung hero of the 2013 team. In 320 plate appearances, Sanchez batted .254/.361/.402. Sanchez only had a .148 ISO, which is low for a first baseman, but was still above the league average in 2013. However, he struck out just 15.9% of the time with an outstanding 13.8% walk rate. He had the eighth-best OBP among 1Bs with 300+ plate appearances, outpacing standout hitters like Mike Napoli, Eric Hosmer, and Nick Swisher. But defensively, Sanchez had -5 DRS and -2.0 UZR/150.

The other part of the platoon was Garrett Jones. Jones didn't have as good of a season as Sanchez, batting just .233/.289/.419. Jones did hit for more power, with 15 home runs, 26 doubles, and a .181 ISO. But unlike Sanchez, his plate discipline was not good, having a 7.1% walk rate and 23% striekout rate. He was a slightly below-average hitter, clocking in with a .309 wOBA and 98 wRC+. Jones had -1 DRS and a -6.3 UZR/150 at first base. Jones also played a handful of games in right field, and although he was a better defender there than at first base with -1 DRS and -3.8 UZR/150, he still wasn't anything to write home about.

Jones had a .730 OPS against right-handers, and Sanchez had a whopping .987 OPS when he faced a southpaw. The Pirates will look to use a similar strategy this year between two players at the same position. The first is Ji-Man Choi. Choi has consistently posted above-average numbers and 2022 was no different. In 419 plate appearances, Choi slashed .233/.351/.388 with a .322 wOBA, and 116 wRC+. Choi had an above average .151 isolated slugging percentage, and a blazing hot start to the year. An arm injury he played through affected his play down the stretch, but had surgery to help coorect the issue. Choi graded out as a solid defensive first baseman with -2 DRS, but a +2.8 UZR/150 and +2 Outs ABove Average.

The other end of the platoon is Carlos Santana. The veteran is coming off a mediocre campaign in which he batted .202/.316/.376. While he had 19 home runs in 506 plate appearances and a .174 isolated slugging percentage, Santana had just a .308 wOBA and 101 wRC+. Santana has always been known for his plate discipline and he had a 14% walk rate and 17.4% strikeout rate. This marked the 11th season in a row Santana has had a walk rate above 13% and streikout rate below 18%. He's also consistently been an above-average defensive first baseman and last year he had +3 DRS a +2.1 UZR/150, and +3 OAA.

Between the two platoons, I would say the 2023 duo is slightly better than the 2013 duo. Although the 2013 pair may have the advantage when it comes to facing LHP, the 2023 platoon has the RHP advantage. Plus, they have the edge over defense. Another positive the 2023 duo has is the new limited shift rules. Both Choi and Santana were some of the most shifted on batters in 2022, and with the new rules, there's a good chance both see an uptick in performance next season.