Last offseason I did a 15 part preview of the Pirates upcoming seasons focusing on what I expected to see out of various positions at the major league levels, the minor levels, the coaching staff and the front office. The series went over fairly well with my readers so I have decided to bring it back for a second year. I’m not sure how many parts this year’s series will include but I will do my best to cover every key player I can think of.
Barmes had a rough offensive season for the Pirates in 2012 but what most people don’t realize is that he was actually on terrible for the first two months of the season. From June 1st to the end of the season Barmes slash line was .255/.306/.344 good for a .650 OPS. Now that is still a bad line but given his strong defensive play it is an acceptable level. Barmes is not going to wow anyone with his bat but if he can be a .650 OPS hitter while providing excellent defense from the shortstop position he is a valuable player to have around. In 2013 I expect Barmes to continue to be a strong defender for the Pirates and I expect to see his offense have a slight uptick. I’m not sure he’ll reach the .650 OPS level I set from him but something in the area of .235/.295/.345 for a .640 OPS feels about right. Again I’m not trying to pretend that is great production it is below average even from a shortstop but Barmes game is not about offense. Last season with his glove alone Barmes was worth 2.1 WAR according to baseball reference and his UZR/150 was 15.3. Bottom line Barmes is an excellent fielder and should continue to be so in 2013. With his good glove and a bat that is non horrible it is reasonable to expect Barmes to be somewhere around a 2-2.5 WAR player in 2013.
I currently have Mercer projected as my 5th bench player but there is a good chance he begins the year in AAA. I tend to be a little higher on Mercer than most actually believing the Pirates should be giving him a fairly significant number of starts at shortstop this season. Barmes’s contract is up after this year and Mercer appears to be the only internal option who has shown some offensive and defensive ability. Mercer isn’t as good a defender as Barmes and isn’t a great hitter but he did lead the Pirates minor leagues in home runs in 2011 so he does have a little bit of power. Even if he doesn’t make the team out of spring training Mercer will almost definitely be with the team at some point in 2013 but I fear he will be seldom used much like he was last season. Mercer is an intriguing player who I believe has what it takes to be a passable starting shortstop for a year or two but I don’t believe the Pirates view him that way. My expectations for Mercer is that he’ll get about 125 PA this season mostly in a utility role off the bench and really won’t be able to do much with those limited opportunities.
I’m really rooting for d’Arnaud to somehow win a bench spot this spring training. He is the one player in the Pirates organization that seems to have some definite idea of how to steal a base. Others like Marte are decent at it but get caught too much for the speed they have. d’Arnaud’s speed off the bench would be a great asset for the Pirates in 2013 but in order to be able to carry him on the bench he needs to show that he can hit at least a little bit. d’Arnaud brought a lot of excitement when he was with the club in 2011 but really didn’t perform all that well. His speed is nice but his struggles both offensively and defensively made him a liability to play. If he can at least be respectable at the plate and average-ish in the field he would be a good 25th man to have because of the athletic ability he has. However I don’t think d’Arnaud can hit enough to hold down a bench position and due to that he is destined to return to AAA this season. Currently I have him slotted a distant 5th in the 5 person battle for the two infield bench spots and I don’t see how he claims one. He very well might get a short stint with the majors this season but I’m not expecting it to be as much more than a pinch runner. Hopefully he proves me wrong in AAA though as a guy with his speed could really help the Pirates bench.