The Pirate corners look pretty well set for next season if this year's lineup is any indicator. Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez will hold down first, while Pedro has a stranglehold on the hot corner.
Jones and Sanchez bring their own set of different dynamics to first base. GI had his strongest season as a Pirate, hitting .274 with 27 HR and 86 RBI and providing decent play as a right fielder, adding to his versatility. But he's pretty much proved himself to be a one way player.
GI grades out well against righties. In 434 PA against them in 2012, he put together a line of .289/.332/.556 with 25 of his dingers. Clint Hurdle tried to protect him against southpaws, but in 81 PA, Jones hit just .189/.235/.297, which fits with his lifetime lefty slash of .198/.237/.353.
He's also 31, not particulary gifted in the field at first, and earned $2.25M this season with three more years of arb ahead of him as a Super Two player. Will any of this be a problem in 2013? Nah. But it does point out that GI isn't likely to be a long term answer at the position.
Gaby is another of Neal Huntington's reclamation projects. He does have a history of being productive at first, and like Jones is stronger player against the opposite arm. Unlike Jones, he's never been protected against guys tossing from his bat side, having been an everyday player in 2010-11 for the Marlins before nosediving in 2012.
He didn't set the world afire last season, even as a Pirate, hitting .240 with four homers. But he does have a career slash of .291/.385/.484 against southpaws, showing more gap power than long ball muscle, averaging a long ball every 30 PA. Sanchez is also a decent fielder, and we'd expect the Pirates to work him at third in the spring to add to his versatility.
Gaby is 29 and just entering arbitration this off season. His ceiling has pretty much been determined, but he's due for a bounceback year, especially if limited to 250 or so at-bats against lefties. And he has seen righties plenty of times, with a lifetime .248 BA facing them, so a bench role would seem to suit his toolkit. It doesn't look like they'll be pressured by any up-and-comers from the system.
Matt Hague didn't impress in his Pirate stint this year, hitting .229 in a small sample in the show and .283 at Indy, but with just four HR. He'll be hard pressed to hold off Matt Curry at Indianapolis and Alex Dickerson behind him.
Third base is Pedro's job to lose after hitting 30 long balls last year with 85 RBI, albeit with a .244 BA and 180 K. Alvarez has the same problem as the other corner guys; lefties are his kyrptonite. El Toro's .207/.270/.349 slash in 2012 against southpaws with 58 K in 152 PA was his Achille's Heel.
But unlike Jones/Sanchez, there are no plans to platoon Alvarez; he'll sink or swim against lefties. He likewise doesn't have to look over his shoulder. Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer and Brock Holt offer various strengths, but none come close to profiling as a classic, power bat at third or one-swing difference maker at the dish.
The Pirate system doesn't have anyone groomed for the spot, either. Alvarez's arm and range are strong enough to keep him at third, but his 27 errors, half throwing misfires, keep the pot stirred regarding an eventual shift to first. Pedro is only 25, though it seems he's been around forever, and the Pirates have a $700K option for him this upcoming season which they'll surely exercise.
The corners aren't the strongest suit of the Pirates. But it does provide a middle of the order presence for the lineup card. Given the other holes in the team, it doesn't look like a spot where there will be much tinkering over the off season, unless a stud like Chase Headley comes onto play.