BRADENTON FL - FEBRUARY 20: Outfielder Alex Presley #44 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photo during photo day at Pirate City on February 20 2011 in Bradenton Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
Following up on the conversation in this FanPost, and also Pat's post about Indianapolis, it's worth asking whether Alex Presley deserves serious playing time in the big leagues right now, and if he does, how the Pirates might find it for him.
The problems with Presley are that he's almost 26, he doesn't have plus power, he's small, he had a very poor track record before 2010, and he's basically a tweener. So one can't really look at his minor-league stats and assume there's anything to build on there. Still, the minor-league stats are very impressive, with a line of .358/.404/.528 this year.
There isn't really a spot for Presley in the outfield - Jose Tabata and Andrew McCutchen are set there, for obvious reasons, and Garrett Jones has hit brilliantly this year. Both Jones and Presley are lefties, so there's no way for them to split time effectively. Matt Diaz hasn't carried his weight at all as Jones' platoon partner, but Presley can't help with that.
One possible way to find playing time for Presley would be to cut Lyle Overbay, move Jones to first to platoon with Steve Pearce, and put Presley in either left or right, with Tabata taking the other corner. There are a couple of potential problems with this idea, though. As bad as Overbay's bat has been, he is legitimately helpful on defense. And it may be a bit too early to pull the plug on him anyway.
Another potential way to get Presley into the lineup would be to trade Jones, perhaps for a young shortstop. I'm not sure who would be willing to pay much for Jones at this point, given that he's been mediocre for the vast majority of his career and that 2009 and 2011 have been the exceptions, not the rule. And dealing him could cause a P.R. nightmare for the Pirates, whose fans might be furious about trading a 'star' player while the team is anywhere near .500. Of course, Neal Huntington has never shied away from P.R. nightmares, Garrett Jones isn't really a star, and any fallout might be mitigated if the Bucs found a replacement for Ronny Cedeno. But trading Jones seems unlikely right now, and it seems especially unlikely that the Pirates would be able to get an honest-to-goodness MLB-caliber starting shortstop in return.
I wouldn't mind seeing either of these scenarios, but I don't think Presley is worth worrying about that much, either. If the Bucs can make a move that happens to create space for him, then great. If not, I don't mind the idea of him continuing to prove himself at Indianapolis.
In the meantime, the Pirates can get the most of what they already have on the roster by playing Pearce at first whenever there's a lefty starter. Not that Pearce has really done much with the limited playing time he's had, but Overbay has become a problem at first.