By Matthew Kruth, The Burgh Blog writer, @theburghblog_mk
4. Strong, More Consistent Bench
PITTSBURGH – Last season, the Pirates bench consisted of the likes of Corey Hart, Travis Ishikawa, Pedro Florimon, Jose Tabata, Andrew Lambo, Jaff Decker, and Travis Snider at some point or another. The group was responsible for 281 plate appearances or the equivalent of about half the playing time of a normal starter. The group of seven combined for four home runs, 25 runs scored, and just 31 runs batted in. Only Jaff Decker was even a league average hitter. Andrew Lambo started the season with the major league team, and put up a minuscule average of .040 in 27 at bats. Pedro Florimon, who did have defensive value, had 25 plate appearances for the team last season and went 2 for 23. There is a whole lot of room for improvement from the bench during the 2016 season.
All of this is not to mention the fact that Sean Rodriguez took an additional 240 plate appearances. He put up a wRC+ of 79. Now, Rodriguez is not on the team for his offensive prowess. S-Rod’s value to the team comes on the defensive side of the ball where he can play five, maybe six, positions at about replacement level, so the fact that he doesn’t hit very well isn’t as big of a concern.
By replacing last years bench players with Michael Morse for an entire season, Matt Joyce, and David Freese when Jung Ho Kang returns to the lineup, you improve the club as a whole. Cole Figueroa will also be on the bench, but he will likely have a similar role as Sean Rodriguez as a late, defensive replacement, and may be DFA’d when Kang comes back. Based on how the bench players perform throughout the season, Neal Huntington will probably pursue an upgrade around the deadline for someone who isn’t performing, much like the addition of Aramis Ramirez.
In addition to Morse, Joyce, and Freese, there’s also the prospects covered in Part 1. These guys will likely either begin with partial bench roles or will start, and the players they replace will then upgrade the bench.