Pirates early season preview part 7: Centerfield

 As it stands now, here is the current centerfield depth chart:

 1. Andrew McCutchen

 2. John Bowker

 3. Matt Diaz

 We all know the Andrew McCutchen story and how he took over for Nate McLouth in centerfield. While McLouth did win a Gold Glove award, the criteria for the award is severly flawed and his range was not that great. McCutchen defensively is worth the price of admission, and a reason why I get centerfield seats as much as possible. He entertains the fans as a seemingly neverending human highlight real.

 Another thing that sets McCutchen apart is his offense. The Pirates love speedsters in centerfield, and Chris Duffy, Nyjer Morgan, Nate McLouth and others (obviously McCutchen) fit the bill. McCutchen goes against the grain however, because unlike many of these previous options, he has a bat to go along with the speed.

McCutchen also earned high praise from one of the best names in the game, Bobby Cox. “He’s an All-Star. This year, probably,” said Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox. “Hitting. Running. Defense. Throwing. He’s got it all. He catches the ball like Andruw Jones did when he was 19. You can’t hit a ball [past him] out there. He’s got lightning in that bat too.”

 The year started off slowly for McCutchen, however he slowly recovered and raised his batting average over .300. Both McCutchen and Garrett Jones had career days on May 14 vs the Chicago Cubs. The teammates were the first to both go 5 for 5 since Willie Stargell and Bob Robertson in 1970. “I guess we were just kind of competing against each other,” McCutchen said, laughing. “I don’t know. I’d get a hit, he’d get a hit. He’d hit a homer, I’d hit a homer.”

 The biggest surprise of the year was that “Cutch” was not named to the All-Star game. McCutchen was the most qualified of the Pirates to be named so it came as a little bit of a surprise to some fans that he wasn’t named to the team, but the Pirates usually only get one player on the team each year and Evan Meek made more sense as he was a solid reliever all season with a sub-one ERA for quite a bit of the time before the All-Star Game.

 McCutchen had a rough August hitting .226 but hit .326 after that. On his batting during these times, McCutchen stayed true to himself. “Honestly, I don’t think I’m doing anything any different right now. You swing, and the ball finds a hole. That’s it. That’s the game of baseball.”

 His second season with Pittsburgh was not a sophomore slump, as he hit .286 while hitting 16 home runs, batting in 56 runs and he also stole 33 bases.

 McCutchen is clearly the team’s starter in centerfield for this year, and for seasons to come. McCutchen did get a little banged up last season though so that could be a cause for concern.

 If Cutch does get injured, I have discussed a lot of the previous options in Matt Diaz, John Bowker, Josh Fields and Garrett Atkins. It is worth noting that Steve Pearce played the outfield as well for the Pirates, so there is a chance that he could play the position as well.

 One guy I have not talked about is Alex Presley. Presley was drafted in the 8th round of the 2006 MLB Draft. He was promoted to the Majors on September 7, 2010 and is a current member of the 40 man roster. Presley played in 19 games and got 23 at bats with 6 hits for an average of .273. He struck out five times and stole one base (and was caught stealing once as well). He often pinch hit for the pitcher during his time, and also would play the outfield in games where the outcome was essentially decided. He did start a few games due to injury or to give guys a day off, but he did not homer or drive in any runs. Presley was named a Minor Leaguer of the Year in the Pirates’ system. Presley would be able to play any of the three outfield positions which helps his chances, but it is likely that the Pirates want to see more of Presley in the Minors so that they can see what he has to offer, and plus he will get more at-bats that way as well.

 Here is what I see as the likely depth chart for the outfield:

 1. Andrew McCutchen

 2. John Bowker

 3. Matt Diaz

 4. Alex Presley

 It is likely that neither Fields nor Atkins could play the centerfield position and Diaz is more suitable for corner outfield position and Bowker has much more power than Presley.

 Tomorrow I will blog about the platoon scenario in right field. All signs point to Garrett Jones and Matt Diaz in a platoon but Ryan Doumit is waiting in the wings.

1 Comment

It is worth noting a huge mistake I made thanks to Brian Krepps, a Facebook friend of mine. If McCutchen does get injured, it is most likely that Jose Tabata would shift over to centerfield to play the position. To read more on Tabata, please read part 6 (the left field section) of my preview. I apologize for the mistake.

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