Jim Sullivan's report from minicamp includes the following about Steve Pearce and Craig Monroe:
Neal [Huntington] said they could have sent Pearce to the Dominican Winter League, which is a "fastball league", and Pearce could have put up some impressive numbers, which would would have made him more marketable, but not more productive for the Big League Club.
Instead he opted to send Pearce to the Mexican Winter League, which is known as a "junkball league", to work on Pearce's weakness at the plate. Neal said "after a few games the Mexican pitchers realized Steve Pearce's weakness, and fed him nothing but curve balls and sliders as a steady diet"...
The GM said that until Pearce can handle a steady diet of curveballs and sliders at the plate, that he really can't help the big league club.
The general manager also stated that Monroe is a much better defensive corner outfielder than Pearce...
Anyways, though Neal Huntington didn't say so in so many words, IMO, Steve Pearce doesn't have a snowball chance of beginning the season with the big league club, until and unless he starts hitting the off-speed pitches.
For me, the important issue isn't Monroe vs. Pearce. I don't agree that Monroe is a better option than Pearce, but I don't really care if Monroe gets 175 at bats as a fifth outfielder.
My issue, again, is with Nyjer Morgan, who if the season started today would start as a corner outfielder. Given the number of free agent outfielders still available, it's possible the Pirates still believe they'll acquire one, which would relegate Morgan to bench duty or the minors.
But if not, I don't understand the idea that Pearce has issues that can only be resolved with a stint in the minors, and yet Morgan poses no real problem. Morgan has performed slightly better in the majors (Morgan has a 98 career OPS+; Pearce's is 91), but both the difference and sample are so small as to be virtually meaningless. In a much larger sample in the minor leagues, Pearce's performance record is markedly better and more interesting, since it suggests he might eventually have the bat to carry a major league corner outfield spot, while Morgan's suggests he'll never have the power to make it as a big league corner outfielder.
My apologies to those who feel this is a dead horse that has been flogged too many times, but I still can't wrap my head around the idea of Nyjer Morgan, starting corner outfielder. And it stuns me a bit that the Pirates feel Pearce's problems can only be corrected through minor league instruction, and so therefore they should instead start a guy who can't slide, run routes, or hit the ball over an outfielder's head. It's not as if Nyjer Morgan is a fundamentally sound ballplayer.