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April 15, 2012 posted by Chuck Anderson

Fantasy Baseball Position Battles: Pittsburgh 1B-3B

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Casey McGehee, 1B/3B, Pittsburgh Pirates

Platoon players generally do not hit cleanup, but the small market Pittsburgh Pirates cobble together teams in interesting ways.  Casey McGehee has batted fourth five times and has ridden the pine in four games.  He is in a four-way platoon with Garrett Jones, Pedro Alvarez, and Matt Hague.

Standard practice thus far has Alvarez and Jones facing right-handed pitchers with McGehee and Hague rotating in against southpaws.  Jones played right field Friday night, allowing McGehee and Alvarez into the lineup.  Presently none qualify for the batting title, as they fall below the required 3.1 plate appearances per game.  McGehee leads the way with 20, Alvarez has 16, Jones 15, and Hague brings up the rear with nine.

McGehee is the most useful player of this bunch.  Aside from Andrew McCutchen he is the only Pirate regular or semi-regular with a wOBA over .300.  Qualifying at 3B, he brings some extra positional versatility to the table.  He was a well above average hitter in 2009 and 2010 before his BABIP plummeted to .249 in 2011.  His HR/FB ratio dropped from 12.5% to 8.6% as well.  His career wRC+ split is barely perceptible, 97 vs. LHP, 100 vs. RHP.  If he plays six days a week he can make noise in mixed leagues.

Garrett Jones was a force at the tail end of 2009 but settled into far more pedestrian levels of production since.  With 600 PA he can hit 15-20 HR with five to eight steals.  He can struggle to bat .250, but makes enough contact that with luck a .280 season is not out of the question.  In a bottom five offense the counting numbers are just not there.  As a 1B/OF he falls far below a mixed league threshold.

Pedro Alvarez needs to prove he can hit major league pitching.  The strapping Vanderbilt product managed to strike out over 25.0% of the time (30.5% in fact) while having an ISO under .100 in 2011.  The only other batter with 250 PA to combine those two dubious feats was notorious out maker and Mike Scioscia binkie Jeff Mathis.  Things have only gotten worse this year as Alvarez struck out in 40.7% of his Spring Training PA’s, walking once.  He has one hit against ten strikeouts in his first sixteen at bats in the regular season.  If he were an unknown 12th round draft pick he would be nowhere near a big league roster.

Matt Hague turned 26 before making his major league debut and profiles as a role player at best.  His playing time could be easily phased out, allowing McGehee to play every day.  It could already be happening, he has not started since Game Four.  Jones can flex between 1B and OF enough for Alvarez to sink or swim.  Look for this situation to clear up by the end of April.

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