GAME 1: CUBS @ PIRATES
PIRATES OPENING DAY LINEUP
1. Starling Marte, LF
*Had a line of .257/.300/.437 last season with 5 home runs, 17 RBIs, 6 triples and 3 doubles in 167 at-bats. He’s a critical player to the Pirates success as the team needs him to continue to take that next step but there are doubts among evaluators about Marte being an ideal leadoff hitter which is a critical need for this team. Marte hit .285/.320/.486 from the leadoff spot last season.
2. Garrett Jones, RF
*Had a career season in 2012 with 27 home runs and 86 RBIs. Batted .289 with 25 homers and 76 RBIs vs righties and hit just .189 vs lefties. Provides versatility at first base and right field. Had just four at-bats in the No. 2 hole last season which is an interesting spot for him. Can Jones make a push for 30 home runs again and will he stick around past the trade deadline? Those are some burning questions surrounding him this season.
3. Andrew McCutchen, CF
*Has emerged as one of the best players in the NL after an MVP type season in 2012 hitting .327/.400/.553 with 31 home runs and 96 RBIs. McCutchen had a magical run in May through July, hitting .360 in May, .370 in June and .446 in July. As the Pirates faded late in the season, so did McCutchen’s numbers to some extent. He batted .252 in August and .260 in September. Overall McCutchen hit .360 with 18 home runs and 60 RBIs pre-All Star break. Post-All star break he hit .289 with 13 homers and 36 RBIs. McCutchen will be counted on for another MVP type season.
4. Pedro Alvarez, 3B
*Had a breakout season in 2012 with 30 home runs and 85 RBIs. Alvarez will be counted on to repeat that and take the next step into that 35 home run, 100 RBI territory. After hitting .203 in April and .207 in May, Alvarez went on to finish with a line of .244/.317/.467. Bigger responsibilities come for Alvarez this season as he moves into the cleanup spot. Last year he struggled mightily in the cleanup spot, hitting .140 in 86 at-bats with 1 home run, 9 RBIs.
5. Gaby Sanchez, 1B
*Sanchez had a hot spring hitting .317 with four homers and an 8:3 BB:K ratio. It’s earned him the opportunity to start opening day at first base and push Garrett Jones to right field. Sanchez is huge to the Pirates season as few inside the organization believe Travis Snider is an adequate starting right fielder. After back to back seasons of 19 home runs in 2010, 2011, Sanchez plummeted last season, hitting .217/.279/.341 with 7 home runs and 30 RBIs. He hit .195 last season in the No. 5 spot in the lineup.
6. Neil Walker, 2B
*A career .280 hitter, Neil Walker has evolved into one of the better second basemen in the national league. Walker hit .280/.342/.426 last season with 14 home runs, 69 RBIs in 129 games. The biggest thing with Walker is whether his body can hold up. He’s faded for two straight years down the stretch. As for Walker’s placement in the lineup today , No. 6 spot, it’s an interesting one as he had 208 at-bats as the No. 2 hitter last season, hitting .274 with 9 home runs in that spot. Walker had just 10 at-bats in the No. 6 spot last season.
7. Russell Martin, C
*The Pirates dished out a two year, $17 million contract to the 30 year old Martin who the Pirates feel will upgrade the catcher position significantly. At the plate, Martin belted 21 home runs last season and adds some more pop to the Pirates lineup. Defensively is where the Pirates feel Martin makes his mark. He’s a much better defensive catcher over Rod Barajas whose knees were shot but Martin struggled at throwing out runners in spring training, another sign that Pirate pitchers remain the issue.
8. Clint Barmes, SS
*The 34 year old shortstop was a whipping boy among the fan base and that will likely continue after hitting .229/.272/.321 with 8 home runs and 45 RBIs. Management, though, loves the glove at shortstop and leadership Barmes provides. While Barmes has a little pop in his bat, he does give the Pirates something at the plate against lefties. Barmes is a lifetime .276/.336/.451 hitter against lefties and batted .274/.373/.368 against them in 2012.
9. A.J. Burnett, P
*The Pirates ace and clubhouse leader was everything the Pirates could have hoped for. He really wants to see this group win and stick around for a few more years with them. Whether that happens, though, remains to be seen. Burnett, 36, had his best season since 2008, going 16-10 with a 3.51 ERA in 2012. Many believe expecting Burnett to match those numbers could be unreasonable.