By Jason Shetler
The Pirates this offseason are considering the possibility of trading Pedro Alvarez. If indeed an Alvarez deal goes down, the Pirates are looking at a potential lineup next season which wouldn’t involve a platoon of any kind.
2009 was the last time the Pirates didn’t use a platoon. It seemed odd that more platoons weren’t used at that time when you consider that the Pirates were in rebuilding mode, and needed to find ways to maximize their lineup with less talent. In regards to the 2016 club, there really aren’t any spots to platoon with. Jordy Mercer does struggle against right-handed pitching, but does hit left-handers very well. Since good left-handed hitting shortstops are few and far between, and the fact that Mercer displays solid defense, he should be the everyday shortstop. Gregory Polanco’s first half struggles this year started up conversations about whether or not the Pirates should have placed him in a platoon. Polanco was able to silence those questions, as he not only performed much better in the second half, but hit lefty pitching just as well as he did right-handers.
When the Pirates acquired Michael Morse at the trade deadline this past season, he was brought in to platoon with Alvarez after Corey Hart really struggled. For his career, Morse owns an .808 OPS vs lefties compared to a .787 OPS vs righties, so he does perform well against both, and wouldn’t need a platoon if does become the first baseman next year. Then there’s Neil Walker. If the Pirates decide bring him back for one more year, I would expect him to play second base on a regular basis. Personally, if they bring in a utility infielder who has strong splits vs left-handers, then a platoon has to be considered there. Of course it’s speculation at this point with the chances of Walker’s return to Pittsburgh literally being 50/50. While I’m usually one who endorses the use of a platoon if needed, the fact that the Pirates may not have to use one in 2016 says more about the talent overall now than the last handful of seasons.