A few links as we get set for the beginning of Spring Training:
-P- Spring Training hasn't started yet, but Rob Biertempfel is keeping track of players arriving at Pirate City. Here's Jung-Ho Kang.
#pirates Jung Ho Kang pauses during batting practice. pic.twitter.com/AhDaRPDsKX— Rob Biertempfel (@BiertempfelTrib) February 16, 2015
-P- In the FanShots, IsIt2015Yet? posted a link to a new FanGraphs piece on Starling Marte, and you should check it out. August Fagerstrom examines Marte's batted-ball profile, and what he finds supports a conclusion that a lot of us have reached intuitively -- that Marte can still be a very good hitter even though he doesn't walk much. With his speed, propensity for line drives, and avoidance of pop-ups, Marte has all the tools necessary to continue posting very high batting averages on balls in play. Some BABIP regression is still likely, and Marte's high BABIPs might come back to earth even more in the mid future as he slows down, but for now, he should continue to be productive even if he doesn't become more selective.
-P- Stephen J. Nesbitt examines the Pirates' position battles for Spring Training. There aren't many, of course, but fourth outfielder is one.
General manager Neal Huntington's winding answer to that prompt included no fewer than eight names: Sean Rodriguez, Corey Hart, Josh Harrison, Jose Tabata, Jaff Decker, Pedro Florimon and Steve Lombardozzi. Ultimately, he settled on this: "Really, it's going to be how that last spot on the bench best complements our existing club."
I think Nesbitt meant to include Andrew Lambo in that list, which only includes seven names, not eight. In any case, Rodriguez and Hart are ticketed for bench spots already, while Harrison is already in the starting lineup. And I have no idea why the Pirates would use Florimon or Lombardozzi as their fourth outfielder. That leaves Lambo, Tabata and Decker. If the key is complementing the Pirates' existing players, then Lambo is the obvious choice -- he's left-handed, while everyone else on the projected bench (Rodriguez, Hart, Kang and Chris Stewart) is right-handed. Decker is a lefty too, of course, but his minor-league profile is nowhere near as good as Lambo's.
Of course, as Nesbitt notes, there are also scenarios where Kang emerges as a real big-league contributor, and the Bucs end up having to move Harrison around the diamond. That would probably include playing him in the outfield a lot, which would leave less room for someone like Lambo.