Part two of our position by position look at the Pittsburgh Pirates takes us to the the first basemen in camp.
Last season, Garrett Jones was the primary first baseman, and while he could still see a start or two there this season, first base will have a different look to it.
Several Pirates got a look at first base last season, beginning with Jeff Clement. All together, seven different Pirates started games at the position. With the offseason signing of Lyle Overbay, first base is one position that should have a bit more stability during the 2011 season.
With that being said, let's take a look at who's in camp.
2010 Stats: .243 AVG, 20 HR, 67 RBI
2011 Salary: $5,000,000
Overbay was one signing that was a bit peculiar in the offseason. He's basically your run of the mill, average first baseman that's trending on the down side of his career. He doesn't amount to many more wins for the Pirates, but they could (and have before) do much worse.
Overbay will be pretty much the everyday guy and I will warn you now that he's streaky. If Pirates fans weren't happy with the streaky Adam Laroche, they probably won't be too happy with Overbay either.
Overbay will provide a solid glove and, if everything goes well, could have a bounce-back type of season at the plate. He likely will hit in the middle of the Pirates' order, so he will have run producing opportunities.
Fantasy Value: Not much. Overbay is the first baseman for those that miss out on the big guns at the position. At best, he likely will hit between .260 and .270 with 15-20 homers and 65-80 RBI. He will be given the at-bats, though, so if he produces early in the season, Overbay could be a mild surprise.
Overview: Overbay could help this young team both offensively and defensively. He's a solid pro. If he has a solid first half, he's likely trade bait at the deadline.
2010 Stats: .276 AVG, 0 HR, 5 RBI
2011 Salary: $414,000
Pearce is running out of chances in Pittsburgh, but keep an eye on him. He doesn't have a bad glove at first base and the one thing he can do is hit lefties well (.304 lifetime average).
However, the signing of Matt Diaz could spell the end to the Pearce experiment. Diaz is even better against lefties and will start in right field against them, freeing up Jones as a backup first baseman.
Pearce will need a strong finish to spring training, but if he gets hot, he could become a good right-handed bench option for Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.
Fantasy Value: None. Making the team will be tough enough for Pearce, finding suitable playing time will be tougher. Spot starts at best.
Overview: It would be nice to see Pearce make the team and contribute. It likely won't happen, though he will be given a long look the rest of camp though. He can at least force Hurdle's decision to be a very tough one.
2010 Stats: .214, 1 HR, 9 RBI
2011 Salary: $800,000 (non-roster invitee)
Atkins could be the guy to force Pearce off the team with a strong spring.
Atkins thrived under Hurdle while both were in Colorado, which is likely the only reason a team gave him another chance after watching his OPS decline by an average of 73 points the past four seasons.
The ideal thought would be that Atkins could provide some pop against left-handers, but even that may be stretching things a bit, considering he only hit .204 against southpaws a season ago.
He's only 31, so washed up may be too strong of a term, but Atkins likely has to have a big spring to head north with the Pirates.
Atkins is currently off to a good start in camp, so if he continues, then he could force Hurdle to keep him. If he makes the team, he has a chance to be a bit of a surprise, providing a right-handed power bat off the bench that can play both corner positions.
Other First Base Options
If Overbay falters, there are a few other internal options besides Pearce. Of course, Jones would be the logical guy to plug in there, but the Pirates could also look at Ryan Doumit (let's hope not), John Bowker and even Clement when he gets healthy enough.
In today's game, first base has become a position that needs to be a run producing position. Pirates' first basemen combined to hit under .240 a season ago. As far as run producing, the numbers weren't much better, though Jones didn't have a terrible season.
To be improved in 2011, Overbay having a bounce back season will be crucial.
Prospect to Keep an Eye On
Anthony Rendon: The Pirates don't have a true first base prospect in the organization, although Calvin Anderson's power potential is intriguing. Keep an eye on Rendon's season at Rice University. He should likely be the first overall pick in this season's amateur draft, eventually forcing a shift to first base for Pedro Alvarez.
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