Since 1999, the Pirates have gotten better production than most other teams from their starting left fielder. ’99 was the year the Pirates traded for Brian Giles, who was quietly one of the better hitters in the National League until 2003, when the Bucs traded him to San Diego for Jason Bay. Bay, for the most part, filled right in to Giles spot and while he wasn’t quite the same hitter, he was still an All-Star-caliber player every year he was with he Pirates save 2007.
This year is a different story. The Pirates, for some unknown reason, decided to come in to camp with a backup center fielder starting in left field. They seem to be leaning towards the conclusion that this was a terrible idea (and it was), so who does that leave? There’s Eric Hinske, Steve Pearce, who’s hitting poorly this spring and clearly not one of Neal Huntington’s favorite people in the world, Craig Monroe, who’s been washed up for a couple years now, Garrett Jones, a monstrous former semi-prospect from the Twins’ system, and Jeff Salazar, another guy with a decent minor league pedigree who’s likely best cast as a fourth outfielder.
The problem here is that each of these players are flawed and they’re not even particularly complimentary. Hinske and Jones are kind of the same player; lefties that can hit for power but without much to offer in the way of batting average or OBP. Salazar offers more in the OBP and defense category, but he’s left-handed, too. Monroe and Pearce are both right-handed, but Monroe played mostly against lefties last year and was miserable against them, while it looks like Pearce’s career might never really get off of the runway.
I’m guessing the team solution is going to be to platoon Hinske and Monroe while Pearce, Jones, and Salazar go to AAA and Morgan sits on the bench. It’s not ideal, or close to it, but I’m not sure there’s an immediate better solution, ether.