Much fuss has been made about the Pittsburgh Pirates first base situation leading into the spring. Names such as Kendrys Morales, James Loney, Adam Lind, Mitch Moreland, Justin Smoak and Ike Davis have circulated around the team since the onset of the offseason, but with Spring Training now in full swing, the team is left with the same situation at first that they were left with after the departures of Garrett Jones and Justin Morneau with Gaby Sanchez and Andrew Lambo being the top two options at the position.
In regards to Lambo and Sanchez, the talk this offseason has been of a platoon between the two much the way Jones and Sanchez did for the majority of last season. However, could the Pirates be planning on Sanchez being the everyday starter, as he was with the Miami Marlins?
According to Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sanchez, as any ballplayer in a similar situation, is aiming for this to be the case.
"If it turns out that we're back in that platoon, we're back in that platoon," Sanchez said. "I'll help the team do whatever I need to do. But of course my goal is to always be an everyday guy."
With a .361 OBP in 320 plat appearances in 2013, Sanchez was one of the most proficient Pirates at reaching first base. He actually had more plate appearances against right-handers than lefties, as he maintained a .987 OPS against the later. While he still managed a .304 OBP against righties, his .315 slugging percentage left much to be desired.
"I think I did somewhat OK going in against righties playing every third game or whatever it was," Sanchez said, adding he felt more comfortable against right-handers when the team visited American League teams and he was able to string five or six consecutive starts together.
"For me, it's just that consistency of at-bats," he said.
Sanchez is apparently in good shape entering camp after a new offseason workout plan that included exercises similar to what he will need to do on the field.
"He's a smart guy. He understood what he needed to do leaving and, as the winter's played out, the opportunity that's in front of him," manager Clint Hurdle said.
Pirates' general manager Neal Huntington has been supportive of Sanchez potentially being an everyday starter this winter. Prior to his atrocious 2012 stint playing everyday with the Marlins before being demoted to the minor leagues, Sanchez actually had a .331 OBP and hit 14 home runs against righties in 2011.
"Knowing that they have the trust in my ability to be able to go out there and be an every-day guy, definitely sparks something in you," Sanchez said.
Entering his age-30 season, Sanchez will have to hit for more power in order to start everyday — he hit just three home runs against righties in 194 plate appearances and only had seven total all season. However, one number that should improve for Sanchez is his batting average on balls in play against right-handed pitching, which was an astronomically low .231 —including just .212 against right-handed starters. While his batting average on balls in play was very high against lefties at .361, he is likely to see more improvement in the right-handed number than he is regression in the left-handed category. The Pirates are also a fan of Sanchez's defense at the position, as Hurdle would enter him into late game situations for defensive purposes.
If Lambo is to struggle in Spring Training, don't be surprised if Sanchez is able to capitalize, and become an unlikely everyday player for the 2014 team.
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