2012 Expectations: Right Field
Jose Tabata: After starting the 2011 season as the everyday left fielder Tabata will shift over to the right field starter for the 2012 season. Considering his idol is Roberto Clemente the fit seems to be a perfect match. Typically right field is reserved for power hitters but obviously Tabata does not fit that description. Instead the Pirates will rely on him for his speed, on base skills and defense. Tabata will likely be the leadoff hitter this season and I expect him to fare whether well in that role. We should see a little more power from Tabata this season, I’m saying 8 home runs and I expect him to also post a solid OBP in the .360 range. If Starling Mart earns a promotion this season it could ultimately push Tabata in to a time share with Presley in right field but that would be a good problem to have and is not worth worrying over now. Tabata won’t put up the production of a typical right fielder but he will still be valuable to the 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates.
5th Outfielder: I’m not sure who will fill the role but the Pirates are going to employ a fifth outfielder to begin the role. There is an outside chance it might a traditional route with Gorkys Hernandez or Brandon Boggs filling the role but I doubt that will happen. It could also be by carrying an extra infielder like Yamaico Navarro or Josh Harrison who has experience in the outfield. If the Pirates went this route they could let Navarro or Harrison serve as the 5th outfielder or they could have Garrett Jones handle that role. My guess is that the Pirates will let Nick Evans and Jake Fox battle for the last bench spot. Both of these players have experience in both the infield and the outfield and could serve as a platoon partner with Jones at 1B if McGehee is needed to platoon with Alvarez at 3B.
Josh Bell: The best power hitting prospect in the Pirates’ system is Josh Bell. Drafted in the 2nd round last season and given a huge signing bonus much is expected of Bell this season. He will likely start the year in A ball and will be watched closely to see if he can put up dominating numbers. Seeing as this will be his first real taste of pro ball it is tough to know just what to expect from Bell but considering all we have heard about him it is not out of the question to think he will put up a very solid line in A ball and maybe even a promotion to A+ by the end of the season. Overall I am expecting him to be a legit candidate for the Pirates minor league hitter of the year.
Andrew Lambo: Once a highly regarded prospect, Lambo’s status has dropped considerably. Last season Lambo started in AAA but was demoted back to AA due to poor performance. After being demoted Lambo put up strong numbers in AA and should once again get a chance in AAA. At 23 years old he will amazingly still be a little on the young side for AAA. Even though he is young this season could still be his last chance to step up and prove himself. He does have some power potential and if he managed to put it together it would be a nice bonus for the Pirates. I however am not expecting such a turnaround from Lambo but hopefully he will do something in AAA to at least showcase himself as a somewhat valuable asset.
Willy Garcia: As of now Garcia looks more like a center fielder but he profiles to add power and since I already had three center fielders listed I decided to shift Garcia to right field. He may or may not ultimately end up in a corner but for now I am assuming he will. Garcia had a strong debut in the states last season and is the best of a group of toolsy outfielders the Pirates have in the lower levels. He should start the season in short season ball and I am expecting a strong showing from him.
Summary: None of the Pirates current options for right field fit the description of the power hitting slugger for the middle of the lineup. This does not mean the Pirates do not have good options for the positions though. For this season anyone from the group of Jose Tabata, Alex Presley and Starling Marte could do a good job handling the duties. For the short term future those same guys could fill the role or prospects such as Andrew Lambo or Robbie Grossman could handle the position. Like stated earlier none of these options fit the typical description but they all have the potential to be solid contributors and to hold down the position down. For the long term the Pirates have Josh Bell to handle the right field position and unlike the Pirates short term options he does fit the traditional mold of a power hitting slugger. Like the other two outfield positions, right field appears to be fairly settled both in the Pirates’ short term and long term plans.