Sunday, February 14, 2010

Buc Battles: Outfield Overload

Hey, no one can deny that the Bucs still have some holes to fill. But geez, they really went overboard on the outfield. They've protected ten guys slotted for pasture duty on the 40-man roster, and invited another pair to camp.

The only discernible logic behind the stockpiling seems to be the more, the merrier, although nightmares of Jay Michaels, Craig Monroe, and Eric Hinske certainly played in the decision.

The list of camp invitees: Ryan Church, Gorkys Hernandez, Brandon Jones, Garrett Jones, Andrew McCutchen, Lastings Milledge, Brandon Moss, Brian Myrow, John Raynor, Jose Tabata, Jonathan Van Every, and Delwyn Young.

Who's got dibs on a Pirate uni for sure? McCutchen, Milledge, Church and Garrett Jones are lead-pipe cinches to make the roster. The only question is whether Jones will move to first base and free up an outfield spot if Jeff Clement doesn't break camp with the team.

Hernandez, Myrow, Tabata, and Van Every will also just as surely start in the minors; Tabata is the only one will a better than even chance of making the jump to the show sometime in 2010, although Van Every does have the pedigree to be part of the mix if the stars align right.

That leaves four guys for at best two positions - Brandon Jones, Moss, Raynor, and Young. Jones is the latest addition.

The 26 year-old lefty was a minor league phenom, and one of the highest ranked players in the Braves' organization up until the past couple of season, being ranked in Baseball America's Top 100 going into 2008 and ahead of Gorkys Hernandez.

But a couple of so-so AAA seasons dimmed his star, and the Brave's DFA'd him. He's yet another corner outfielder, and he's projected now as a bench/platoon player. Jones has an option left, so while he's rumored to be trade bait, we think he's just another insurance policy destined for Indy.

Moss may be in for the fight of his Pittsburgh career. After given countless chances to put a stranglehold on right field, the likeable 26 year-old put up a .236/.304/.364 line in 2009 with seven long balls in 385 at-bats.

He's never shown the ability to convert his sizable potential into performance, and unless he becomes the second coming of Mickey Mantle in Florida, he's on very thin ice.

Raynor is the latest Rule 5 pick, and we think the last spot will come down to him and Delwyn Young. He's a pesky player, with speed, a good glove, and a .383 career OBP on the farm.

The 26 year-old also has the advantage of being the only true center-field type in camp, and we assume that McCutchen is going to need a blow every now and then.

But...and this is a big but...he had a largely forgettable year in AAA New Orleans last season, with a line of .257/.327/.360. So Raynor will need to come out guns a-blazing in camp to prove that 2009 was a learning year, not a regression.

That leaves Young. The switch-hitter was a brilliant bat of the bench, but all his stats took a big hit after the Pirates' ill-advised effort to make him a second baseman sapped him after the All-Star break.

He'll turn 28 in June, and the coin toss the suits have to make in camp is whether Raynor's glove outweighs Young's bat.

As far as team control, except for Brandon Jones and his option, the rest either make the team or risk a trip out of town. Raynor, as a Rule 5 dude, has to make the roster or get offered back to the Marlins. Moss and Young are out of minor-league options.

We lean towards McCutchen, Milledge, Church, Raynor, and Young making the team, assuming Garrett Jones goes to first. If not, we think because of age and limited defensive usefulness, Young will lose out.

But the picture may clear up; with their depth, the Pirates have given themselves some options if they pull off a spring deal.

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